Popular Beetle sign will return

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The Volkswagen Beetle that sat atop a 20-foot pole at Excel Auto Body along Route 66 in Salem Township has been missing for two years -- and motorists still miss seeing the blast from the past.

"Everybody's calls ... and asks when it's going to be back," said Al Furney, owner of the shop since 1979.

For the time being, the Beetle -- which is actually the front ends of two similar 1968 vehicles welded together at the doors -- is sitting on a frame mount in Mr. Furney's shop. He has no idea when he will able to have it remounted outside his shop near Delmont, but he's working on it.

Mr. Furney's vehicle is the second to be on the pole. The original was put there in 1970 by Excel's original owner, Ed Britz, who wanted to advertise his new shop along what was then a less-traveled Route 66 North.

"I had two VWs sitting there, just junk, and I decided to put the two front ends together and make a sign," the retired Mr. Britz recalled. "On that July day when the crane lifted the car onto its perch, "traffic stopped both ways."

"Back then that was really unusual," he said. "Now, anything goes."

Years of stormy weather, road salt and debris from passing trucks caused the original to rust.

"I put a brand new one together and switched them in a week [in the mid-1980s]," Mr. Furney said. No one knew it was a different car."

He is now patching up that second car, doing body work, putting new panels in the floor and painting the vehicle Hawaiian blue.

"It's a unique body creation," he said.

When he rebuilt his Beetle, almost 30 years ago, it was easy to find the body parts in junk yards. To refurbish the car now, he is ordering many parts, such as fenders, hoods and front nose pieces from a supplier in California.

Why the two front ends together?

"You have to cut [the two cars] apart and weld it all back together," Mr. Furney said. "It's easy, because that's what we do for a living."

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Laurie Bailey, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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