I like to think that when I'm muttering and occasionally cursing to myself while troubleshooting a system like an old car, I'm actually in diachronic communication with the original engineers and various owners and tinkerers who have kludged the system since it rolled off the assembly line. "Ah!" I'll remark, discovering the beauty in a solution that was initially baffling, "you sly dogs!" Or hunds. Es macht nichts.*
With a one-owner car, there are fewer imagined parties to the conversation, but tonight I was saying WTF? a lot -- across time and space -- to one of the previous owner's mechanics (probably the guy at Furrin Motors) who, at some time in the past, bypassed the ignition/starter switch with a big push-button switch, like a giant's doorbell, mounted under the dash to the left of the steering column. Old-school kludge for increasing starter solenoid pull-in juice, though it's more like a Dog Island hack than something people with access to spare parts or Ford solenoids would do. So WTF, previous mechanic?
At any rate, this explains why turning the key was not actuating the starter: it isn't connected to it. Sho nuff, it cranks away just fine now when the proper button is mashed. OK, got it. Bonus: helps prevent theft if I ever leave the keys in it.
So it cranks over merrily but still wouldn't fire up. See-thru fuel filter was still bone dry after cranking for nearly a minute. Line blocked? Bad fuel pump?
Nope. Empty gas tank. The mechanical fuel gauge is a baldfaced liar.
Reducing the information in this system, one byte at a time....
*Edit: I now realize I went into this whole thing far more eloquently in a post from almost two years ago, with a different Beetle.