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  6. Classic: Apprentices restore a Type 3 Volkswagen 1600 TL

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The Two with the Type 3

Two apprentices from Volkswagen Osnabrück are restoring an automobile classic built in 1968 for the classic car trade fair Techno-Classica 2019. They are learning the basics of car construction in the process – before they start building the electric cars of the future.

Today it’s the headlights’ turn. Fábio Lopes and Marvin Wiethölter know exactly what they have to do. The two young men grab tools and the right spare parts from a shelf and screw them in place. Then they attend to the bumper, mount it and also attach the front hood. This is not uncommon work for two motor vehicle mechatronics technicians in the making. What’s special, however, is the car the two apprentices are working on this morning at the Volkswagen plant in Osnabrück: it’s a Type 3 Volkswagen 1600 TL, built in 1968. In diamond blue.

The car is still jacked up on a car lift, but Marvin Wiethölter and Fábio Lopes have even bigger plans: the vehicle is from Volkswagen Classic’s car collection and will be restored from scratch by the two apprentices from Osnabrück. “We got the body, freshly painted and with a new underbody, but that was it. And then we learned the ropes little by little,” says Fábio Lopes, 20. 

Vehicle profile

  • Volkswagen 1600 TL
  • Construction year: 1968
  • Engine: 4-cylinder boxer
  • Displacement 1,584 ccm (original)*
  • Performance: 40 kW/54 hp (original)*
  • Empty weight: 880 kg (original)*
  • Wheelbase: 2,400 mm
  • Maximum speed: 135 km/h (original)*
  • Color: diamond blue (color code: L50B)
* Actual values after retrofitting with a higher performing Type 4 engine (from a Volkswagen 412 S with 1,957 ccm displacement) will be determined on a test bench after completion at the Techno-Classica.
  • Type 3 – Entry into the Mid-size Class

    Model history
    The Type 3 represented Volkswagen’s entry into the mid-size car class after the Beetle (Type 1) and the Volkswagen Bus (Type 2). The Type 3 was first introduced to the public as the Volkswagen 1500 at the International Motor Show (IAA) in 1961. Two versions quickly went into series production: the sedan in September 1961 and the station wagon in February 1962. The hatchback touring sedan (also referred to as TL, for “Tourenlimousine”) was added between 1965 and 1969. All three models were exclusively available as two-door versions. A remodelling of the body into the so-called “long nose” with broad bumpers and large indicator and taillights followed in 1969.

    Many of the Type 3 features were adopted from the Beetle, such as the backbone chassis and the air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine. It was first available with a 1.5-liter engine displacement and 45 hp (33kW), then a 54-hp (40 kW) version was added in 1963. In 1965 the Volkswagen 1600 with a 1.6-liter engine appeared on the scene; it also produced 54 hp (40 kW), but had more torque than the Volkswagen 1500. Front disc brakes were introduced in 1965, and the 6-volt electrical system was replaced by the more powerful 12-volt version a year later.

    Volkswagen produced a total of 2,587,989 Type 3 units between 1961 and 1973. The Type 3 was the fore-forerunner of the Volkswagen Passat and paved the way for the successful station wagon, the Volkswagen Estate. Also based on the Type 3 were the two-seater sport coupe Karmann Ghia (Type 34), the large Karmann Ghia that was produced by Karmann in Osnabrück between 1961 and 1969 as well as a series of prototypes such as the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34 convertible, the Volkswagen Karmann Type 3 1500 convertible and the concept car Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34 1600 TL.

When the Techno-Classica 2019, the leading international exhibition for the vintage car scene’s collectors and fans, begins in Essen on April 10, Lopes and Wiethölter will be there. Working at the Volkswagen Classic stand, they will carry out the finishing touches and bring the Type 3 completely back to life. Eighteen-year-old Marvin Wiethölter has no doubt that they will succeed. He has already conducted a few initial, short test-drives on the plant’s grounds with the Type 3. “It runs. And it runs beautifully too,” says Wiethölter with a grin.

Lopes and Wiethölter with Dieter Landenberger, head of Volkswagen Heritage (center), Klaus-Dieter Ulrich (2nd from left) and Marcel Leifer from the Automobile Collection Osnabrück

The two apprentices and their project are being supervised by Marcel Leifer (28), the person responsible for supervising apprentices at the Automobile Collection Osnabrück, and his colleague Klaus-Dieter Ulrich. Ulrich, 63, is Coordinator of the Automobile Collection and has worked at the former Karmann plant in Osnabrück, which became part of Volkswagen in 2009, since 1973. To Leifer and Ulrich, their job is a lot more than taking care of automotive nostalgia. The collection of around 140 historic vehicles also figures in the training of new employees at the Osnabrück plant. The apprentices learn the basics of car construction here – before they start building the cars of the future.

Fábio Lopes and Marvin Wiethölter are both motor vehicle mechatronics technicians for systems and high-voltage technology. They are already being trained specifically to work on electric cars during their apprenticeship, thereby acquiring important qualifications for the future. “As soon as we get e-cars, we can be directly assigned to them,” says Marvin Wiethölter. 

His dad taught him to use a screwdriver

Why he and Lopes are now working on a more than 50-year-old Type 3, of all things, is explained by Marcel Leifer: “This is where motor vehicle mechatronics technicians first learn the basics of how a car is even put together. It’s all a bit simpler here. When they get to the assembly later, in production, everything is naturally more complex and modern.” Not every apprentice from the generation that grew up with smartphones can get really get into it right from the start, says Leifer. “But we also very often have apprentices who once they are here don’t ever want to leave the department.”

“I grew up working around cars with my father,” says Marvin Wiethölter, who comes from Ibbenbüren in North Rhine-Westphalia. “Here we still have to deal with actual mechanics, which is great,” chimes in Fábio Lopes from Hasbergen in Osnabrück county. Both their fathers are also employed at Volkswagen. The enthusiasm the young men each have for the Techno-Classica project is obviously also grounded in their genes.

While restoring the car, the future motor vehicle mechatronics technicians have experienced the need to improvise at various times. “Lots of parts can still be ordered on the Internet. But some just don’t exist anymore, and we had to reconstruct those painstakingly, from the seal to the screw,” Marvin Wiethölter explains. “When we put in the engine, we had to build completely new mountings,” Lopes remembers. 

They have now learned how to do that. How well they ultimately put everything together will be demonstrated in Essen and presented as part of a fascinating piece of car history, their Type 3. “We had to improvise a little in regard to the engine,” say Dieter Landenberger, head of Volkswagen Heritage. “It’s not an original engine on board, but rather a slightly modified Type 4 engine. We expect around 110 hp from it, and I’m sure that this car will provide our guests at the classic car rally with a lot of driving enjoyment.” 

  • TechnoClassica – Leading Trade Fair in the Classic Car Arena

    First-rate exhibits that for the most part will only be shown here, spectacular performances and always the latest thing from the scene: these factors make the Techno-Classica in Essen the leading international trade fair in the classic car arena. When the 31st edition of the fair starts on April 10 (through April 14, 2019), fans of both young and old classic cars will travel to Essen from all over the world. In 2018 there were more than 180,000 visitors from over 40 countries.

    Volkswagen at the Techno-Classica 2019
    Volkswagen Classic, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Oldtimer und Volkswagen Classic Parts will all be represented under the “The World of Volkswagen Classics” theme. The stand at the fair will be divided into three special areas. The “Records” area will host a Nardo W12, a Shell Marathon Volkswagen, a Corrado G60, a Lupo 3L, the “World Champion” Beetle and the “Alaska Feuerland” Golf. The “70 Years of Beetle Convertibles / 70 Years Hebmüller” area will feature a Karmann Beetle 1100 convertible from 1949 and a Hebmüller convertible built in 1950. The third special area will showcase apprentices from Volkswagen Osnabrück restoring – live – a Volkswagen Type 3, a Volkswagen 1600 TL, Volkswagen’s first hatchback sedan, from the year 1968.

    Additional highlights
    Visitors in 2019 will be treated to a special world-class exhibit with the title “Tour de France Automobile Legends”. Around the “Palais de L’Automobile” at the center of the fair, some of the most legendary participants in the road race, which was held between 1899 and 1986, then revived in 1992 as a racing event for historic vehicles, will be presented. On display will be, for example, a Ferrari 250 Tour de France, a Porsche 356 A, a 1500 GS Carrera, a Deutsch-Bonnet HBR 5, a racing version of a Jaguar MK II and a Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta (SWB). These classics can sometimes fetch tens of millions in collector circles.

    This year’s program will be more extensive than ever: for the first time Techno-Classica will occupy a total of twelve halls at Essen’s Grugapark. The exhibition has been revised significantly to ensure a clearer and more transparent layout. More than 20 car brands will have their own stands on-site. Around 2,700 collectors’ cars will be offered for sale by mostly well-known professionals. Everything that can inspire a collector’s enthusiasm will be on view at the fair: from the distinguished Rolls-Royce and pre-war rarities like Isotta-Fraschini to sports cars by Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and Maserati. The organizers have taken care to make sure the most appealing young classic cars will be available for purchase. Over 30 percent of the vehicles on offer will be affordable “plug-and-play” classics-to-be.