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Sterling #310 "ratrog" Build in Florida


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I guess I'll start off with a quick introduction. My name is Roger, aka "ratrog". I live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. 46 years old and a true VW guy.
I saw my first Sterling in about 2005 and it was love at first sight. I have owned a VW pretty much all of my adult life, but only went off the deep end of buying cars, parts and what most would say is junk over the last 4 to 5 yrs.
I found my Sterling during a routine parts buying mission one afternoon after work. I showed up to buy a set of VW rims and what ever else VW I could talk the guy out of. Typical for me is to show up to buy one part and leave with the tailgate open and straps holding the crap in the bed of my truck. This day was no different however this time I needed a trailer and 2 additional trips to bring home my prize.
The previous owner was a cool guy who had dabbled with VW's among other projects however his first love was motorcycles. He had a new bike and a full garage and no where dry to park it. I think the timing was just right.
The PO bought it a few years before just a mile or so from his home from a guy who had brought it out from his home in Vegas. This owner had bought it from a guy in Cali who was the original owner and builder. I have also met owner #2 and he was a great resource as to the history of the car and an all around cool guy. Both previous owners had plans for restore and drive the Sterling but as it does often, life gets in the way. The original donor car was a 68 beetle (though the original builder swears it was a 67) swing axle chassis. Car body #310 and all built somewhere around 1974 / 75. The first owner put about 5k miles on the car then let it sit for 25 or so years in his garage. Owner #2 & 3 never really had a chance to get the car on the road and thankfully it was stored inside most of its remaining years. I owe them both a ride when I have completed my restoration.
Now this is where I come into the picture. I bought the car in the beginning of July 2010. Kind of a Birthday present for myself. I paid more for the car then I have for any other VW I own except 1. My plan is to do a complete pan off restoration and have the car ready for BugJam in November 2010. I don't know that I'll make the date, I get easily distracted with other projects I have going (always have several irons in the fire at one time) but thats my goal none the less. I have worked on the car on and off since the purchase in July, not as much as I need to to meet the goal, but still quite a bit. I have a 1 car garage and a covered 2 car driveway / carport. I do most of my work in the driveway and pretty much do all of my own work. In the past 2 months I have only worked on the car a total of about 2 weeks or so. Its been a very wet summer and work has been pretty busy. So now is crunch time. Time to kick ass and take names! Or maybe just get out there and get busy.
Today is Sept 8th 2010. I'll start here and try and figure out how to post photos, explain some of what I'm doing and why. Here we go.


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The first meeting!

When I first got to Jeff's house (owner#3) to buy the VW rims I spotted this from about 75 yards away. I asked my brother if he knew what that was ....... he said " what is what?" Yup, I knew that rear section like I know ...... think of something clever ....... the dimples on the top my girlfriends butt. You get the picture.


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A closer look.

Here is a closer look at the car as it sat in Jeff's garage. Like most, it had become a place to pile things. No different then some car projects I have had in the past. A hole in the roof above the car didn't do much to the car other then let some rain and leaves in and on the car. I was pleased to see it was for the most part out of the weather.




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Getting it loaded up.

The front tires were off the car and the front end was flat on the ground. I was wondering how I was going to get a jack under the car when Jeff walked over, put his ass against the fender and hands in the wheel well. Before I could say don't do that, he had lifted the front end up for me to slide the jack under the car. I nearly shit a brick thinking there are 10 more spider cracks I'll have to fix! Thats when I first realized just how stout the fiberglass body of a Sterling is. So yup you guess it, I grabbed the drivers side and did the same thing with Jeff sliding the jack under this time.


Say Good by to your old home.


I'm glad Jeff had a flatbed trailer and I was able to work the delivery into the price.


Can you tell I'm excited? What a dork!
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On our way home!

With the car loaded up and a few other misc parts strapped down, its time to bring her home. Fortunately Jeff and I only live about 50 minutes from each other.


This is my 66 Rat / Volksrod.


All I am thinking is I can't wait to get home and wash this thing.


On the way home, you start to realize just how much attention this car is going to get. Its a good thing I already had the bill of sale and title or I think Jeff would have turned around and brought it home after all of the thumbs he was getting. Oh and the hot blonde in the jeep who was all smiles didn't help matters either!


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Home safe and sound.

Got the car home without any problems. Always a good thing! I no sooner got it in the driveway and I was dragging out the hose. I was serious when I said I couldn't wait to wash it!


In the driveway and waiting on its first bath in a long time.


Looks better already.


Now its time to start figuring out what to do next.


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Time to disassemble.

I believe this is day 2 of ownership. I just cant leave anything together for very long. Time to dive in with both hands and start breaking this thing down.


Indoor outdoor carpet .... oh no you don't ..... got to go!


Messy messy! I hate to see wires all over the place like this. Good thing is that it has a Ghia disc brake front end.


Not easy to get to, but I found all of the bolts and am shocked to say I didn't have to cut any of them. Thank God because I don't know how I would have done that.


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Disassembly continues.

Everything seems to come apart pretty easy. Not everything is easy to get to but with some time and an extra set of hands (my bro) not bad at all.
My original plan was to not paint the car and try and buff out the gelcoat. The more I worked on it and the more I saw I came to realize this just ain't going to happen. I really didn't want to have to paint it. This just requires so much more time, and more I have to take apart. I really just wanted a retro, VW kit car daily driver. I was just going to do a quick chassis swap, since it needed new pans and I wanted IRS, and get it back on the road. Well like I always seem to do, just keep getting deeper and deeper. But what the heck, its a Sterling, its worth it! LOL
Actually, I'll back step just a bit. The night after I first saw the car, I came home and got on the internet. I found sites like this one and others to inspire me. I found some pretty awesome cars, got some good info on the cars and again realized just how cool these cars really are. I think in the back of my head I already knew this was going to be an all out restoration, but I was just trying to kid myself into thinking I'd have this thing on the road in a few short weeks and not another project in my driveway waiting on completion.
Ok, where were we?




I think you can tell what happened next.


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Time passes.

In the month or so that followed I got a bit distracted. The weather was very wet, I was busy with work and life was happening as usual. I worked on a few motors that I'm building. Yes even one for the Sterling. Worked on a Sandrail / Hotrod rail I'm building and need to get out of my garage. Did some roofing on the house and a few other VW and Sterling related things including some more research and reading on sites like this.



Honorary Admin
*thumbs up* Nice rescue, Roger! With the four bolt swingaxle rear the year would have been early in '67 before VW went to IRS. Somewhere on the forum here I posted a link to the Samba's registry of serial numbers where you could look up the pan VIN and find what year and month it was made.

The car looks remarkably intact and original. I have/had the exact same heim joints on the uppers of my hydraulic arms as well, and you have the "factory" steering wheel. Very nice!

Looks like the car is in good hands - I love the rat rod VW! Can't wait to see what you do with this one!!

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I'm sure for all Sterling owners its always the same. The first time you make the top go up you get a grin that last for days. After adding some fluid (hyd jack oil) and figuring out some wiring, I did it, got the top to go up on its own! (and down even!)

Pretty funny story ... I think it was the second or so day my bro came over and we were cleaning out the car. We both got in checking the fit and just being cool. I decided to use the pressure release to lower the top and see how it feels with the top down. Well it felt cool alright! Well actually not so cool because it was 94 degrees out and we were sweating bullets! AND NOT so cool because we were trapped inside the sweat box and couldn't get the top open! I didn't realize just how heavy and difficult it is to open the top from the inside. My bro has a bad left leg and arm from a motorcycle accident and he was in the drivers seat. I could get a leg up to start pushing but he couldn't. The seats weren't bolted in so they are trying to move around. The top seems to tweak and the 2 nubs kind of bind in the holes. We sat there for a minute, laughed at our selfs and he came up with what he thought was a great idea. Call 911! I said I'm climbing out the rear window before i ever let that happen! So we repositioned our selfs and gave a heave ho and got it to open.

Sorry to disappoint, I know the 911 call would have been a better ending.

Well now after reviewing all of the hyd hardware etc... I realize how cheaply this stuff was made. Most of mine is damaged to some degree also. The bottom brackets of the cylinders are 16ga maybe 14ga. Certainly not thick enough. Both sides have already torn at bolt holes. I don't like how the hinges arms and brackets are made. Again, to thin and the bolt holes have already elongated. I see on the Sterling site they sell new and thicker stuff, but they are also very proud of it. I'll have to work on what I got and try and reinforce it where I can. I have already fabbed up new bottom brackets (about a month ago), and started working on the hinges tonight. I will come up with something better later but right now I need to make what I have work.


I think I will be replacing all of the lines in the system. I figure no better time then when I have everything completely apart. I may be thinking differently after I price them. Let me know what you guys think about that and what you think it will cost to replace the lines. I also have to have both rams resealed. The passenger side does seep a little at the hole just below the top ring.


This is the new bottom bracket. The old bracket only bolted to one side and then a long bolt through the bottom of the ram and into the fiberglass. Now the bracket can do all the work and support and I don't have to worry about the glass flexing or the hole elongating like it did. Before when the top started to go up, everything twisted and shifted first. Doesn't happen here anymore.


Well-known member
Back at it again.

Well after playing around with the hyd and such things had slowed down for a few until about 2 weeks ago. I brought home a $50 POS 1970 baja bug with a severe case of body rot. Its not unusual that I drag home crap. For no special purpose or reason other then it was cheap and had a few good parts. As I had stated before, my plan was to swap the chassis over to and IRS chassis. I had a nice 74 chassis that I was going to use, but it was in the back yard of my second house across the street. Not an easy task getting it out, take down a fence, maneuver it between houses etc.. So as I sat there one afternoon in the driveway, I thought, why not just used the 70 chassis I just brought home. It was in the other driveway, it rolls nice, and I can start tearing it apart right away. Something I needed to do anyway since I'm pretty much out of storage room. So needless to say a few minutes later, it was under the carport and I was armed with some tools.


Crappy baja kit glassed to the body.


Plenty of rot. Once the heater channels are gone it needs to be a pretty special or pretty nice car to save. This was not either.


Now that didn't take very long!


Well-known member
Working the new chassis.

Time to start cleaning up the chassis, trimming out the old pan metal and looking things over for damage and rot.
This chassis is pretty good but not with out its problems. I did find some rot in the usual places. Both ends of the Napoleon hat and the under side below the master cylinder were going to need repair. I also found a few small holes under the frame head but just at the low points where water settles. These are all pretty easy fixes and not the world coming to an end. I don't mind patch work, especially if it not going to be a highly detailed undercarriage.
My plan is to drive this car, so the under carriage will be sealed up tight and under coated so a few small patches are not an issue. The rest of the chassis looks pretty good. The beam is coming off and I'll be using th original Ghia beam that came with the car.
I did cut open the top of the tunnel since I will be relocating the shifter. This is a good time to inspect the clutch cable tube.
It has been very common as of late to find the welds broken inside the tunnel. This allows the tube to flex and move around when the clutch is depressed. If you find that you have to keep adjusting your clutch cable, this is more then likely your problem.
I will be doing away with the e-brake and substituting a line lock in its place. Not always the best alternative but I don't know of any options in the case. Florida is pretty flat, I have 2 VDubs with out e-brakes and never have a problem.





Well-known member
Now on to the pans.

I have look over the seat pans for sale on the Sterling site. Pretty nice and also pretty pricey. I think I will make mine just alittle different. I did notice how with their pans, it appears the seat is just sunk into the floor. The way the original owner did this car he dropped more of the floor so there is an angled area in front of the seat. I think I like this better. Give you a place to sit things below your legs in front of the seat. For better or worst this is what I will do. I also want to make the pans as wide as I can at the rear for future seat options. It appears in the photos that their pans are only 16" wide. I will do 18 at the rear and 16 where it narrows in the front. Maybe they do the same .... I don't know.
I am making mine with 16ga sheet metal, same as they do for a nice strong and rust resistant floor. Well not really rust resistant but it will take longer to rust! I bought a set of replacement pans starting measuring and figuring thing out.


Quick layout and alittle cutting and then off to my buddy's VW shop where he has a brake I can use. (Aircooled Autohaus, Holiday, Florida 34691 # 727-943-7180 - Cheap plug!)


Pan bent and welded up.


4" drop overall length something like 41"


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More pan work.

After I was done with the first pan I set it in the chassis. I also set an original style pan on the other side. I realized, since I made my drop floor bigger then most, that i would be cutting away 80% of the original pan to fit in the drop floor. Now thats just stupid! Thats it, I'm just going to do it all with the 16ga metal instead of the cheap, thin crap readily available for replacements.


I used the outer edge of the original pan and duplicated its shape.


I used 1" x 2" 14ga square tube.


Weld it in place being careful to maintain distance from tunnel as the original.


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Even more pan work.


Do the same on the drivers side.


Cut and weld the front section.


Don't forget the bump down below the pedal assemble.


Well-known member
What? Still more pans?


I made the rear pan support from 1 1/2" angle iron.


Some numbnut had cut the rear support hooks off of this chassis so I had to rob a set off another damaged chassis I have. Welded up and now I just have some grinding to do.


I made a template for the last pan section and made 2 trips back to the shop to bend them up and fit in place.
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Please stop with the pans already!


These floor pans should last a life time. I'm pretty happy with the results and would do it again in a minute. Or two days since thats about how long it took.


I mounted a seat and realized I was a bit hasty with my shifter placement. No worries, just cut, reposition and weld.


Side view. I have some finish welding to do on the tunnel and some seam sealing to finish on all my welds and seams.

The floor pans all pretty much took place last weekend, 9-4 & 5-2010. I missed out on 2 VW shows to finish it (sorry guys) but once I'm in the zone I just don't stop.
Come Sunday night I really needed a break. Working on the floor pans a foot or so from the floor requires lots of bending. I'm freaking wooped!


New member
Very Nice!!*thumbs up*
I know about "The Zone" Its a twilight area I dont often come back from until I hear my wife calling in usually long after dinners gotten cold.*humpf*


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A new week.

Well we are pretty much up to date other then what was done this week. Monday was a holiday, I worked on the car some I'm sure ... just don't remember doing what..... maybe some pan work, who knows, was still pretty tired.
I had a short day with work on Tuesday and my bro available for a few hours to help (we work together). I decided to shift a few cars around and get the sterling back in my driveway for body removal.
Again I'm pretty happy with how it has come apart. The body needed alittle coaxing but all the hardware came right apart.


We took the canopy off first to lighten the load. Then removed the dash etc which was just sitting inside already unbolted. Disconnected a few wires and BAM!


Anyone looking for a nice 68 (late 67) chassis?
BTW, the chassis # is 11800 which means late in July of 67. I believe by VW standards this is a 68 chassis. NOPE I stand corrected, a July 67 car is a 67, Its not until Aug 1st is it considered a 68. Per this months (Oct) Hot VW Mag. My apologies to the 1st owner of the car who said it was a 67. Not that I talked to him, but I read it in his description of the car and disagreed.