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Super Project '71: Part 15
Wiring Harness and Electrical Components

By Ryan Lee Price

At West Coast Classics, our Super Project '71 was always in good company. For most of its two days' stay, the Super was flanked on the left by this beautiful '50 Split (soon to be featured in a future issue) and on the right by a yet-to-be-finished Hebmueller.
So you're at home minding your own business when a package arrives at your doorstep. Inside is what you've been waiting for, but upon opening the box, you immediately faint from fear. What did you see, nothing but a complicated, confusing, confounding collection of copper, connections and colored wires. Pulling out the bag, the now uncoiling mess on your workbench equals 392 feet of wires that all have to go into you car. Like baby snakes, there are 101 wires of various colors with 214 spade connections, and that means there are 21,614 possible ways to install a wiring harness...but only one right way. But don't worry, we'll help you sort through the mess and find that one right way. Granted, it isn't easy, but with patience and a clear head, you can do it and it should only take you the better part of the weekend.

For added assurance, we took our Super Project '71 to master electrician Rafael Gutierrez at West Coast Classic Restoration to show us the proper way to make sense of all these wires. He's done it so many times that a lot of his steps are second nature, making the whole process look deceptively simple. There are very few specialty tools you'll need to make this work, as the basic ones found in any nicely equipped toolbox will do the trick. In addition, get a good copy of the schematics for your year. The '71 Super is one of the more complicated diagrams (as far as Volkswagens are concerned), but not as bad as the '73, which has the most wires, the most connections and the most components to deal with.

This might be perfectly obvious to you, but for safety's sake, don't connect the battery until the very end, and this is only after you have double- and triple-checked your wires, the connections and the proper operation of all equipment. Start by laying out all of your wires; separate each harness from the pile and sort the individual wires into groups based on size and location.

You've got your harnesses ready; the schematics in one hand (for a copy of Super Beetle wiring schematics, head to and tools in the other. You're ready. Good luck, go slow and be sure. To provide you with additional help, on Page 23, we've included here a few diagrams that will help make sense of the original schematic, as some of the wires' colors have changed (and schematics aren't exactly the clearest documents to those of us in the world who aren't electricians).

Since we don't have a lot of space on these pages (and the results of this article could fill a book), let's get busy hooking up the juice to our Super Project'71.

Don't worry about the mass of wires. Once separated and planned for, each wire starts to make sense and the pile will recede to nothing.
This is the blank canvas we had to work with, the freshly painted underside of the dash. There are a couple of extra holes you wouldn't expect on a Super Beetle, such as the cutout for the standard fuel gauge and the oval hole for the gas heater.
This is a very important step. When you're tearing out your old harness, make sure not to remove the wires that go from the engine compartment to the left rear quarter panel. It is nearly impossible to reestablish this channel if the wires are pulled out.
Rafael starts any wiring project by taping the front of the main harness to the old wires in the engine compartment. Then, with the help of an assistant, pull out the old wires while pulling in the new harness.
Once the main harness is pulled through, match up the last cutout with the regulator and attach the wires #1 (connects to the fuse box via #75), #2 (to generator warning light on speedo), #12 (to the D+ terminal on the generator and #14 (to the DF terminal on the generator). On the left is wire #13, the ground.
The front half of the harness is fed along the floor, under two clips and up through the front "firewall."
Don't worry, the carpet kit will cover these wires. Don't forget this little rubber grommet on the "firewall."
If you're reusing the bulbs for the speedometer (and there's no reason why you shouldn't), it's a good idea to test them before they are installed. As well, you can hook up the components (wiper motor, fuel gauge, etc).
Since electrical components corrode as easily as metal parts, you'll want to give them a good scrubbing with solvent. Shown here is the fuse box with the attached relay console, a first for 1971 model VWs.
The front of the headlight harness consists of the headlight wires and the connections for the turn signals. The right side splits off and travels above the spare tire and under the fuel tank cross member. Farther back toward the dash on the harness is the cutout for the master cylinder harness.
These are wires #17, #20 and #21 for the right-side turn signal. The ground screws into the body near the spare tire well, shown here.
This is the connection for the brake master cylinder. Though a harness is included in the kit for the brakes, we decided to reuse the old wires because of the original plastic connectors (much like the connections for the headlights).
These are the original wires for the dome light. When the headliner was installed, a small slash was cut into the fabric to retain this location.
Treat these wires similar to the main harness, as they must be attached to the new dome light harness and pulled through the A pillar.
The headliner is cleaned up and a new dome light is installed. The red wire (#28) attaches on the left and ends up on the fuse box, while the brown wire with the white stripe (#30) connects from the right side to door jam switches. The brown ground (#29) is attached to the speedometer ground.
With the old speedometer nearby, it is easy to transfer the bulbs from one to another, along with the plugs for the lights that won't be needed. Included on this is a new fuel sender vibrator which screws onto the fuel gauge.
Probably the easiest thing we'll be accomplishing on these pages is the installation of the speedometer, simply two screws.
There are many ways of plumbing your wires as they come out through the "firewall," but there is only one right way, the way they did it at the factory and the way we'll show you here. The main harness loops over the fuse box while the headlight harness circles around and through the console.
This is the headlight switch. Most of the wires can be attached while the switch is out of the car, but for the full set up, you'll need to install the switch.
Because this is a general dashboard for most all early Super Beetles, there is no hole here for the headlight switch in the pad, so one had to be cut. The reason is that for 1972 and later Supers had the wiper switch on the column and the light switch is in its place.
The only special tool used to install the various switches is this wrench with a double pronged head. If you don't have one, use needle-nose pliers instead.
For most of the wires, if you are replacing the spade connectors, you'll need to clip off this retaining piece on the connector, except for those wires that attach into the relay switches. This clip holds them in place.
These are the quad connectors used to control the turn signals. They are attached this way so that power and function can act simultaneously, so your front and rear lights will flash at the same time. Wires in the connector on the left are for the right turn signals while the connector Rafael is working on is for the left turn signals.
After a thorough cleaning, the wiper motor is returned to the body. It is a good idea at this time to replace the rubber grommets for the wiper posts. The wires for the motor are straightforward and easily accessible. With a 12-volt battery we tested to make sure both speeds of the motor functioned properly.
Behind it goes the wiper switch in the same manner as the headlights switch. The water tubes to the reservoir tank and squirter can be installed later.
In the rear fender wells are the wires for the brake lights, turn signals and reverse lights. The rear tail light harness is attached to the main harness via single and triple connectors. This whole system is hidden behind the engine's firewall material.
The silver ground strap will be connected to the negative terminal of the battery while the positive wire goes to the starter.
This silver box is the relay for the rear defrost. The wire to the actual window contacts had been retained (the front wire) but wire #42 on the left is the ground to the body while the black wire (#6) goes through the main harness to the defroster switch. The thick wire in the foreground is wire #52 that goes from the starter to the main harness (#11).
As you can see, progress is moving along behind the dash. If each wire is taken one by one, slowly they will fall into place.
The door contact switches are installed in the door jambs. Normally on the left side is the buzzer unit that sounds when the door is opened while the key is still in the ignition. Since this is a most annoying sound it will not be included in our plans. Plus, original units rarely work after so many years.
Four screws hold the turn signal/horn contact plate.
This retaining clip holds the contact ring on the shaft.
Two small bolts hold the top to the ignition housing. Once the top is off, the ignition and steering lock slide out.
To make the new turn signal unit easy to install, the wires are splayed out like this and fed down the steering column.
It is installed with the same four screws and spacers that were removed earlier.

If you have done everything correctly--we mean down to the last wire, connection and component--and you have triple-checked everything, install the battery, connect the positive and negative terminals and turn the key. If the lights go on and the wipers start to swing, you've done it. Be warned: There is no more a stressing moment when you first turn the key, as it is the truly the point of no return. Because fire is the ultimate consumer, keep an extinguisher handy, and if you are ever in doubt, don't chance it. Bring it by West Coast Classic Restoration and have Rafael take a look at it.

Next month we're going to revisit our friends at Octavio's Kustom 1 Upholstery shop in Orange, Calif., and show the right way to install the carpet/rubber mat kit and the custom-made seat coverings. Until then, stay Super.

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