September 7, 2003

Into The Light! It’s been a while since my last update. Not so much a long time as far as time goes, but it seems like I got a lot done this weekend. Friday afternoon I took off from work to get started on the brakes. I backed the car out of the garage and was going to change the master cylinder when I realized that there was still fluid in it. I decided to see if I could just bleed the system and get away with that. All was going well until I broke one of the bleeders off the rear driver’s side brake cylinder. Nice. At least it was closed when it happened. I tightened it too much. I bought one of those cups with the bleeder fitting and tubing so that I could do the brakes myself. You should’ve seen the black stuff that came out of the brake lines. Why don’t I think to take pictures of this stuff? I should be documenting this whole thing, but I get into it and forget. Anyway, once the rears were done, I got an urge to start the car up and just drive it around the block, which I did. First drive – September 5, 2003. It was a short one, and when I got back to the house, I went to fill the tires up with more air and discovered that the front driver’s side tire was very hot. That’s a sure sign of a sticking caliper. Saturday’s first task then was to check the front brakes and see what was up. As it turns out, both calipers had locked the pads on the rotors. I ended up having to hammer each side off because of the layer of rust that had built up on the outer rim of the rotor. To get the pad past that rim wasn’t easy.

Shortly after I had installed the new caliper on the driver’s side, I realized that the pads I had bought off Ebay did not fit my new calipers. Because I had a late ’71, I thought I had ’72 brake calipers, but I didn’t. The later pads didn’t fit, so I reused the ones originally on there after cleaning them up with a little brake kleen. They were almost new anyway. The last driver must’ve gotten the brakes done pretty soon before he or she stopped driving the car. I put a little white lithium grease on the caliper pins, installed the pads and the spring plate, and bled the front. I still had a bit of rubbery feel in the brake pedal, but I know the system was not bled properly. I think next project is to replace the back cylinders and hoses along with the master cylinder, which probably had a certain amount of moisture in it, and then do a proper bleed of the whole system. Hopefully that will give me proper stopping power. That’s the thing that freaks me out most right now — wondering whether or not I can stop in time. I drove REAL SLOW to the gas station to put a little more gasoline in.

I also replaced all the shocks with KYB GR-2 gas shocks. I initially wanted lighter duty shocks in the front, but the GR-2’s were all that F Paul auto parts could get quickly. They turned out to be fine, except for the fact that when I started doing the fronts, I hit the driver’s side first and realized that the lower shock mount was too thick for the shock grommet. I actually went to Pep Boys to see if I could get a “correct” size. They only had the same size mount on their stock shocks (Gideons). I went back to the car and decided to tackle the passenger side first, and that side was fine! Shock mounted perfectly. I tried to see if there was a leftover shock sleeve on the driver’s side that was causing the problem, but it looked totally solid. I ended up drilling out the shock sleeve so it would fit over the mount. I’ll have to eventually get a bigger washer to make sure the shock cannot ever slip off.

So by this point I’ve taken a couple spins around the neighborhood and sort of gotten a feel for the car a little, minus the spongy brakes, and it’s really different. I guess I expected it to be a little like the beetle, but it’s much more “adult” than that. Much more solid. It feels like a heavy car, and feels like the engine has a hard time pushing it. I imagine that will change as the rings wear in. I don’t feel like anything’s wrong with it, as it has about what I expected in regard to acceleration, but I do wonder how it’s going to act with a full load, and I don’t know how people pull trailers with these cars. I guess I do have a lot of “stuff” in the car right now, probably 200 pounds worth or more, and I haven’t timed the car with a strobe light either. The dwell is at 46, which is right about where it should be. Actually, I think the car’s settings were all proper as far as idle settings and such, transmission stuff,… I didn’t mess with any of that and it seems spot-on. I can’t believe how smooth the shifting is, both up and down. Amazing. People on the list said it would be, but I thought, “well, it’s an old car… How smoothly could it shift?” I think I’m going to like the automatic.

I’ve started to come up with a list of things I have left to do… Things like change the oil again, brake stuff, valve adjustment, a few more engine compartment things, fix the fuel pump relay issue, change crankcase oil, change fuel filler stuff, remove carbon filter system, lube doors & front end… All in good time I guess. Hopefully next weekend. Then toward the beginning of the following week hopefully I can get the inspection done and have the VW guy go over everything and just double-check stuff for me… Oh yeah! I forgot! I got my plates and got the car registered. I was panicking at the DMV because all I had from the previous owner was her signature on a transferable registration. Turns out that was all I needed anyway for anything 1973 and older. Shame I won’t get a title for this car, but as long as it’s legal, it’s cool.