Background

Volkswagen coated nearly all the plastic trim in the New Beetle with a soft-touch rubberized coating that may have appeared acceptable in the showroom, but hasn’t aged well. These surfaces scratch easily (just run a fingernail along it for example), feel tacky like someone spilled Coca Cola all over, and look depressing. Something must be done.

Pure isopropyl alcolhol

The bad news is that the soft-touch infection is everywhere — the dash, the under dash panels, the center console, and door handles, and so on. The good news is that this rubberized goo actually protects the plastic underneath pretty well. Removing it leaves a clear surface ready for painting.

The removal trick is to use a solvent that quickly takes off soft-touch without harming the underlying plastic part. Acetone, paint thinner, mineral spirits, paint stripper, gasoline, Goof Off, Goo Gone, brake cleaner, xylene … these all impact the ABS plastic to some extent.

Safe removal

Door handle comparison (cleaned on right)

The safe removal method applies isopropyl alcohol directly to the surface. Products like rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting pads typically dilute the alcohol to a 60-70% solution.

A back-and-forth motion with an abrasive pad like the green 3M Scotch-Brite strips off the rubberized material in a few minutes. Soaking the part may help as well. When cleaned up and lightly sanded, all the plastic parts can be spray painted.

Painted textured plastic example

Both the smooth and textured surfaces take paint well. Use spray paint especially formulated for plastic. The example on the left was first cleaned with a spray-on wax remover and then sprayed with two coats. Even painting over black looks good.

Design options

This opens up a lot of interior design possibilities.

Yellow replaces the icky black soft-touch in this vibrant interior

A bright red theme

Red highlight interior

Color scheme

The platinum gray exterior of our 2004 Turbo S combined with the gray/black interior opens up the possibility of a third color that could, in theory, be almost anything. We like the Porsche 356 Speedster red of the 1950s as a highlight color.

Platinum Gray, black, and Porsche Red (HEX codes shown)