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.

September 2, 2003

Yesterday was Labor Day, and it was quite miserable out. I was planning on starting the brake job, but I figured that was best saved until a nice day when I could just take the whole day to do it. Instead I changed the oil. I took off the drain plate and found a layer of shiny, sparkly paste. I guess it’s a good thing I’m changing the oil so soon after the top-end rebuild. I planned to do it this soon anyway, since I didn’t know how much crud I might have accidentally gotten in the engine, and I plan to do it again after my first drive around the neighborhood. I was reading some of the tech articles on Aircooled.Net last night, and I realized that the one thing I never did during the rebuild was gap the rings. This could prove to be a major mistake. The article said the rings come tight, and that you have to slowly shave off progressive amounts of material until they are within spec. I’m not sure how tight my rings might be. They didn’t seem to slide in the cylinders with any amount of difficulty, so I don’t know how bad off I could be. I’m wondering if I should take everything apart again. I’ll probably leave it as is and hope for the best, and will consult the list to see how bad I futzed up here. If it turns out to be OK, all I have to do next is the brakes and then I can try to take Wilson for a quick drive. I still have to make sure all the nuts and bolts are torqued down well since the engine start and rev. Plus, I should adjust the valves once again. After I get the car insured and registered, I plan on taking it to a local aircooled VW guy to get it inspected and I think I’ll have him go through everything to do a quick check, and especially check the suspension components. I’m not ready to get into that quite yet. I’m looking forward to getting the car out in the open where I can get started on other work like cleaning out the airbox,… stuff like that.

August 31, 2003

It's ALIVE! Well, it’s running, and I can’t believe it. I finished hooking up the rest of the fuel injection connections, put on the new ignition wires (used a little of that dielectric grease) and and then went to reconnect the battery so I could time the engine. No juice. I guess I expected that since the battery had been sitting since April, but I had forgotten about it. I took a trip over to AutoBarn and picked up a 10 amp battery charger. I only had to charge it a couple hours, and during that time I did some more tidying work, like attaching the air cooling bellows, filling the oilbath air filter, put oil in the engine, took out the seatbelts so I can wash them, etc. When the battery looked like it was holding a charge, I put it back in and turned on the ignition to set the timing. It was at this point that I realized that the fuel pump was staying on, even though the engine wasn’t running. I suddenly had a pretty scary gasoline leak on the left side of the engine. I turned off the key and found out the leak was coming from one of the injectors. It didn’t appear to be coming from the hose, as it was all dry. The injectors were both soaked. I replaced the one that seemed to be leaking the worst, and put the injectors back on the engine. Turned the key and the other one was still leaking. It looked like it was actually leaking at the point where the plastic part of the injector meets the lower body part. I took my second NOS injector and replaced the leaking one with it. No more leaks… At least on that side. There was a slow leak on one of the right injectors, and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving that as it was. It seemed like it was leaking in the same place. I took one of the injectors I got in Connecticut on Tuesday and tried it. No leaks.

Setting the timing turned out to be fairly difficult as sometimes I’d turn the distributor and the light wouldn’t go on. Plus, the vacuum canister was hitting the generator. Eventually I opened up the distributor cap and made sure the points were opening and closing correctly. They were. I got to a point where I didn’t turn the distributor so much as try to make sure the light went on when I turned the engine past TDC. It took a while, but eventually I got it. I was still missing the oil breather hose, but I thought I could try to start it up. My wife and stepson had brought me dinner, so they came out to see if it would start or not. I turned the key, and it started immediately! Victoria and Christian were soon in a fog of grey smoke, so I turned off the car, eventually turning it back on to rev the engine up and down a little, like they say to do when you first start one of these engines.

Needless to say, I’m quite amazed that it started. I remember I used to have problems starting my go-kart when I was a kid, and engines used to always seem like this big, unlearnable thing for me. I know this is probably only the beginning, and hopefully I won’t be driving down the road someday and learn the hard way that I made a mistake somewhere, but for now, five months after I first picked up the car, I’m celebrating one small victory.

August 30, 2003

Started getting everything set in its proper place before the attempt will be made to start the engine. I was reading through the Bentley manual the other night and realized that I had assembled the rocker arms incorrectly. I had put the metal ring that the rocker arm bolts go through on upside-down. It was a good thing I had to take them off anyway, as I noticed I had also forgotten the seals that go on the rocker bolts. I also picked up a pack of white lithium grease and put a little on the pushrods as the manual suggested. Torqued everything down, then adjusted the valves again. When I went to turn the engine 360 degrees to do the other side, the engine would not turn. Eventually I realized it was probably because of the torque converter bolts not being put in. I got underneath the car and aligned the drive plate with the torque converter and felt something clunk into place. I had put a scratch on the drive plate and the torque converter itself so that I could line it up again when I put it all back together. I could hardly see it, but I think I got it in the right spot. I also finished connecting up the heater hoses and the vacuum hose for the auto transmission. While I was under there I also tightened up that last transmission/engine bolt, the left top one (which did, in fact, work infinitely better when the car was on a lift and when I had a long extension on the ratchet). After that I started reconnecting the FI harness and installed the new engine lid seal, which looks much cooler than the tattered bits of rubber that were there before.

August 28, 2003

Engine Back In! Haven’t written here in a bit… Running behind. Got a lot of work down this past weekend, since the weather was incredibly beautiful and my boss didn’t call me in. I finally secured up the exhaust, heater boxes and everything else and got the engine back in. It was quite a job doing it by myself, but with the help of some bricks, a decent jack from Sears, a lot of patience and a block of wood, I got everything lined up properly and pushed the engine in place. I got the nuts onto the transmission/engine bolts and then readjusted everything, including the engine hanger bolts, before snugging everything up. I still have that one upper bolt on the driver’s side to do though, the one that nearly killed my wrists for good last time. I have no idea how I’m supposed to get a proper torque reading on that one when I can barely get to it.

I still have to hook up the torque converter bolts to the drive plate, and also have to figure out a way to get one clamp on between the right-side heater box and the heat exchanger. Maybe I’ll get a wider clamp. I also need to get some kind of rubber innertube to seal the cooling elbow on the left side of the engine. The one that was there was completely disintegrated. The right one still looks good, even if it is slightly cracked. I also have to get some more tubing to hook up the vacuum connection to the automatic transmission. I forgot to order that, but I did get some other parts overnighted to me so I’ll have them for the weekend — new tin screws, an engine lid seal, bellows clamps, and a couple other small things. Depending on whether or not I forgot anything, I might be trying to start the car by the end of next weekend. That’s a scary thought. Luckily it’s a three-day weekend (Labor Day). Wonder if I’ll have to go in to work at all? Hopefully not.

Tidying Up I took Tuesday off to go up to Connecticut and pick up some free Type 3 leftovers. Met a cool guy named Conley who was trying to clean up his garage space. He was more into Type 2’s and “Things” and had ditched his Type 3, so I got a set of four side glass panels, a steering box, a muffler in pretty decent shape, two headlights, a trim ring, two fuel injectors (don’t know if they work), some fuel ring parts, four hubcaps, a license plate bracket… Hmmm… That’s about it… Gave the guy $20 for it all and hauled it away. Got a nice big rubbermaid box in the deal too, and now have a place for my extra set of heads from my car, along with the extra engine tin.

I’ve decided to sell my OEM parcel tray, since I don’t really like it. I’d rather have a clean interior with nothing to hit my feet or knees on. When pushing the brake pedal, I seem to hit the top of the package tray with my sneaker. I dunno… We’ll see. I’ll take some pics of it, maybe remove it, and then post it on the Samba.