This column covers topics relating to the Type 34 electrically operated sliding steel sunroof models. The main purpose of the column is to broaden the information out there on these very rare and endangered variation, and to give the 50 known T34 sunroof owners something to use as a reference for the maintenance and repair of their sunroofs.
All of the Type III models offered a sliding steel sunroof option. When opened, the sunroof section would retract into a tracked compartment to the rear of the opening, which was much different than previous VW models which had a cloth folding sunroof that sat on top of the roof once opened. The steel sunroofs offered more security and less drafts & leakage than the cloth sunroofs. Rubber drain tubes run inside both of the windshield posts and inside the post behind the rear quarter windows (on Notchbacks & Fastbacks) but between the two quarter windows on the Squareback. The Type 34 is very different than any of these models, since it has two small "weep holes" in the roof along the drip rails, that allow water that gets caught in the sunroof opening to drain out the roof. See drawing (above) for a better idea of drainage.
To open the sunroof on the other Type III models (without electric operations), a crank must be pulled down from within its permanent location in the headliner, just behind the rear view mirror. Turning the crank (several thousand times) opens the sunroof. However, the Type 34 sunroof is electrically operated, and the roof section is pulled open by an electric motor, with the laborious manual cranking. The driver simply reaches under the dash to the right of the steering column and touches a chrome paddle rocker switch (see right photo). Pulling on the paddle (to the rear) opens the sunroof, and pushing it (to the front) closes it. Although the Workshop Manual said the motor will shut down when closed, the driver usually released the switch to avoid unnecessary strain on the electric motor.
In the case of malfunction, a special crank was provided to operate the sunroof manually. In the rear of the headliner, running the width of the rear window, there is a tidy little zipper allowing access to the electric sunroof motor and crank gear. A rubber cap is removed from the motor so the crank can be inserted and used. Look at the parts diagram (bottom most photo) on the lower right side for the special T34 crank. If you thought the regular T34 parts were hard to locate, try search for one of the T34-sunroof only parts! Since they were not physically part of the sunroof motor, but just an added part for emergencies, they tended to get lost and misplaced over the years.
For those of you familiar with the sliding steel sunroof mechanism, the T34 type is very similar to the manual type. If you turn the manual system around 180 degrees but leave the opening and roof where it is, then you'd have the T34 setup, with the crank in the rear, hidden behind a cool zippered compartment. The original zippered headliners are really rare to see on sunroof models, but when you see one, you'll know it is an original! Cross your fingers and say a prayer...they're out there!
You might imagine that strong winds blowing into the sunroof opening would carry debris and rain inside the car. However, because of the unique design of the T34, the sloping windshield and the position of the sunroof takes care of itself, and no wind or water gets in. The wind forms an invisible arc over the roof, carrying debris and unwanted water past the opening. I can personally vouch for this because one afternoon I got caught in a sudden Houston rainstorm on the freeway. I just rolled-up all the windows and enjoyed the afternoon light rain. If the quarter windows are open, the roof acts as an exhaust fan, and the air inside the car (including long hair) tends to get sucked out the sunroof. However, the problem is not as bad as it sounds, and just owning and enjoying an electric sunroof T34 is a rewarding experience!