By Michael West
The Leitz Luggage rack is an easy to install accessory for the 356 which complements the unique shape of the car. They are still available new or used. I acquired one recently on Ebay in nice condition. It still had its original rubber strips which after 40 plus years had hardened and developed a wrinkled grey surface. The purpose of this article will be to show how I replaced these rubber strips.
My first thought was that you could simply cut the lengths and just push them in. On closer examination the originals are cut and shaped in a more complex way which requires some more thought, skill, and the proper tools to duplicate. As I write this, I haven't yet done the job, but I will document my procedure with the intention to help others who want to take on this enjoyable project. To start with, here's what I've found:
The tools required will be a very sharp knife such as an x-acto blade knife. To cut the correct 3/4" radius on the ends, some kind of cutting guide would be nice. I found that a coupling for 1" diameter P.V.C. sprinkler pipe has a perfect 3/4" radius on the outer surface. This can be used as a guide to cut the end by holding the knife blade vertically along the P.V.C. with the strip placed along the diameter of the coupling tube. The coupling tube can be held in a vise having pipe jaws. A 1/2" x 1/2" notch will need to be removed from one side of the coupling to accommodate the part of the strip that fits into the slots in the rack.
Now to proceed with cutting the first strip:
First, you will need to cut out a portion of the strip that fits into the rack slot. I'll start with the smaller lower strip on the left (driver's) side. The first cut will be on the outer edge. Looking at the bottom side of the strip, I will be cutting the left hand side. I used some small spring clamps to hold the wings together while I cut them.
Make the first cut horizontally through both wings of the strip. Looking down on the bottom side, cut to 1/2" on the upper wing and 3/8" on the lower, then cut vertically down at an oblique angle of about 60 degrees until you meet the previous horizontal cuts. Now you can place the strip in the cutting guide and cut the radius on the overhanging part of the strip. Place the x-acto blade vertically along the guide and slowly slice the curve. Now you are done with the first end and only have seven more to go.
But now let's get back to our first strip. I have cut this smaller strip to a length of 6 7/8" having decided to add 1/8" to my measurements. Again, looking at the bottom of the strip, I will be cutting the right end now. The horizontal cut will be 3/8" on the upper wing and 3/8" on the lower wing. Make the same kind of vertical cut at an oblique angle through the two wings until they meet your horizontal cut then finish off the end with your guide. Congratulations, you have now completed one of four strips. I finished the ends by shaving a small amount under where the ends touch the rack so they will lay flatter.
By this stage, I have developed a procedure that will work for the remaining three strips. The second strip I worked on is the upper strip on the left (driver's) side. Again adding 1/8" to the old length, I cut it to 9 5/8". Looking at the bottom of this strip, I cut the left end first with the top wing at 5/16" and the bottom wing at 5/8". The right end horizontal cuts are both 1/2". Using the small spring clamps to hold the wings together while doing this really helps. Now make the vertical cuts down at a 60 degree angle to meet them just as on the lower strip. Then you can cut the curves on the ends and you will have completed your second strip.
The other two strips on the right (passenger) side are just like mirror images of the left side strips, so you just make the end cuts match to the outside edge and the center line of the car. Now just insert them and you're done.