As it was inconceivable to put back my beautiful engine in a dirty engine bay, I decided to get rid of the original sound deadening cardboard, as it was pretty banged up - and I much prefer that look, even if it means a louder engine. I also get rid of the little cushions hidden in each side of the body top, as they tend to promote rust.
Then I'm in for a long session of acetone cleaning to remove all traces of glue (they had kind of a heavy hand with glue at VW back then). I then grind off the pointy tabs that used the original cardboard...
I masked everything, protected the workshop around... Which won't be enough in the end, I had underestimated the overspray, the workshop floor will keep some marks...
The result is pretty neat actually, don't you think? (brand spanking new engine seals too, while I was at it)
Since the engine was out, I took the opportunity to replace the gearbox stands, including the nose one, a specific model for year 1960 (VW reference 111301265C).
I also replaced the gearbox drive shaft seal, split-case specific model (VW reference 111307113C) : it has a sort of lip around it as its housing does not feature any shoulder to hold it. I still have the original 1959 seal in place, which was hard as hell and screaming for a replacement...
Gotta be cautious when installing it, as because of the lack of shoulder to stop the seal, it's rather easy to tap it a bit too much and have it go too far into the gear case. It's then pretty difficult to get it out without damaging it - don't ask me how I know that. )...
The gearbox gets an oil change, the last time was 25 years ago...
The clutch lever spring on the gearbox was broken (no idea why/how, it broke on its own), so I replaced it too. Warning, it's specific to split cases too, VW reference 111415921.
I've replaced all the fuel lines, the fuel filter (installed under the tank), and the fuel tap under the tank that always leaked a bit since I had this car. I'm a bit paranoid about fire, I'll probably install a Blazecut too in the near future...
I replaced the spark cables with new Bosch ones, while installing the little rubber cable supports specific to 59-61 models (VW reference 113905451), with a dab of vaseline so they mount easier on the fan shroud. I keep the original distributor, I'll replace it at some point with a 010...
Well... I guess time has come now, the engine is now ready to go back in its bay. Which I manage to do alone in 15mn, one of the advantages of small stock engines...
I can then mount the VintageSpeed stainless exhaust I bought 6 years earlier (!). Nice piece! This model is designed for different widths of engines, which is a good thing for me as since I modified the cylinder heads (see "closing the block" post), the engine is 6.4mm narrower...
So for once that was pretty easy, at least something not fighting me!
With a bit of adjustment on the engine tins I fit them under with the heater boxes (see their restoration on my previous post), and finally connect everything to the exhaust.
Finally, April 13th 2021 (yeah, yeah, I know, I'm Hell behind my articles publication schedule!), everything is ready for a first crank... I wasn't feeling so sure I gotta admit.
Setting the ignitor at 7.5° static advance, adjusting the rockers, priming the fuel line and pump with a vacuum pump (one of those used to purge brakes, works great for fuel too)... I also primed the oil circuit by unplugging the ignition coil and cranking the starter until the oil pressure light blinked out (takes 20/30 seconds on a brand new engine). This will prevent the crankshaft from running dry on its bearings...
And then, well... A squirt of Start Pilot, deep breath, and...
Phew, that was one serious step crossed here! Gotta do some small crab adjustment, shoot my stroboscopic lamp to check ignition, plus a couple of small things here and there, and back on the road!
OK, my very first drive out ended up on a tow truck because of a failed fuel pump lever, see my edit from 2021/10/22 on the dedicated post... But since then it drives great!
Second gear cracks a bit more than I'd like when gearing down, but for now I'll keep drivin'!
OK, my "Workshop 2.0" is pretty cool, but without a "workbench 2.0" to go with, it's difficult to work comfortably. I've been tinkering around until now on the top of my rolling tool chest, but now it's time to shift gears...
I already had built a workbench in my previous workshop : you can find all the details of its construction here ; it had even gotten a lick of paint later...
But the main difference is that back then the workbench was squeezed in between two walls, fixed on each side : in my new workshop I can not do the same as the walls are made out of insulated sandwich steel panels, which is not structurally sound. Here, the only points I can affix the workbench to are the workshop steel beam in the right corner... and the floor. The workbench structure will therefore have to be very sturdy, so as not to giggle around when I'm struggling with something in the vise....
So this time around, it won't be made out of wood, but out of steel : I'll built the structure out of 40x40mm and 80x40mm tubing (#overkill). I had some 40x40 left from the workshop building, so I tried to optimize my stock... Yes, I know, I have a severe case of undersizophobia.
Design / Marking
Here we go : if it's not your first time here, you won't be surprised I started by a Sketchup design to find the best configuration :
The outcome is 315cm long, 80cm deep, and 1m high, because I'm tall and tend to break my back on standard-height benches..
I had initially planned on putting my rolling tool chest under the bench, but it would then have been too high, since I have a large shelf-like mezzanine above at 2m10. So I decided on putting the chest on the side, with a piece of countertop on it, to get a L-shaped workbench. OK, let's get to it!
I start by precisely marking, on the floor and the walls, where the workbench will fit, which I will use as a reference later (a laser level is perfect for this task). As the floor is not perfectly level, each of the 8 legs may have a slightly different length, so I'll build everything "on site" to ensure a square structure and a level top.
Additional reason to build everything in place : the walls in that corner are not at a 90°, because of a shared wall with my neighbor, so this section of the workbench will not be at a square angle with the back wall, gonna have to adapt...
I then proceed to order the necessary steel from a wholesaler nearby, namely Durcomfer in Villeneuve Loubet : the 6m long 40x40 tubes cost me 36€TTC, while it would have taken me back 15/20€ per meter in a DIY superstore. Cheap, delivered the next day (for a 30€ fee), very welcoming people, I'll gladly do business with them again.
To bolt them to the floor, each foot will be welded on a flat steel "sole" 40/8mm thick. Each "sol" is then bolted with two M8 70mm screws, into two Ø12mm steel pegs. That's a total of 16 M8 screws, I'm confident this bench is not going anywhere soon. #overkill4ever
The rightmost leg is a bit special, as this is the only one bolted to the workshop structural beams. To make sure I made good welds, after spot-welding in place, I took it away to finish welding. For all the other legs, I welded everything "in place", using a mason straight edge and a plumb-line to align everything.
Welding is like painting : prepping is 80% of the work... So before I even touch the MIG, every zone needing welding is thoroughly cleaned of paint and rust. Then only I can spot weld on each side, to prevent warping, before finishing the complete weld.
That being said, full disclosure : I'm not going to win any competition with my welds, but they should hold!
I had initially planned on unbolting the structure from the ground to move it and finish my welds, as well as paint, behind it... In the end, I did nothing of the sort, so much for the 3 missing welds, the result is so much sturdier than I ever hoped it would be ; even when trying to jiggle it as hard as I can, it barely vibrates a millimeter. I even bought rubber pads to put between the legs and the wall to avoid any impact, but there is absolutely no risk it will ever happen.
And my very OCD self will have to live with the fact the rear face of the structure is not painted (that one actually bothers me!) ).
The reason why I did not move the whole thing, is that the welds tend to put stress on the structure : if I had removed the screws from the floor, it would have been Hell to realign everything back in place... And this workbench is first and foremost a tool I wanna use as soon as possible, sue me for taking a shortcut.
Long story short, 4 layers of anti-rust paint (Syntilor Polyuréthane gris clair RAL 7035) later , I finally have a clean structure ready to receive it countertop.
The top of the back legs is left unpainted on purpose, as I will weld stubs on them to hold the back shelf.
I ordered 2 counter tops from Leroy MErlin (french DIY store), 315cm long and 38mm thick, instead of the 58mm I originally wanted, just because it multiplied the cost by 3. I prepared the fixation by drilling 22 ø5mm holes in the structure, so I can screw the countertop from below.
I just cut slightly the right end so as to adjust the top to the not-square wall, and I secured it with 70mm screws.
Then I added the back shelf on top of the bench : I find it super useful to be able to store stuff right above the work area, plus it provides a vertical plan on which to put two dual electrical outlets... I can't remember where I salvaged the two lengths of perforated angle iron from, but it was maint to be, exactly the size I needed!
Finally I add a piece of countertop on top of my rolling tool chest : the result is an L-shaped workbench, whilst keeping the tool chest mobile if required. I had calculated the workbench height based on the tool chest so they would end up aligned...
To keep the countertop piece in place on the chest, I routed grooves underneath that nicely fit over the tool chest flanges around its work area. It doesn't move at all, without any modification of the tool chest. The countertop is then cut to fit snugly around the steel beam.
And since I was left with another piece of countertop, I've put it on two sawhorses to get an additional, temporary/removable workbench (spoiler alert of the project I'm currently working on)...
Happy New Year everyone!
Well, let's do some expectations management here : let's wish for this year to be just slightly better than the previous one, that'd be a great improvement.
Spoiler alert, real life being ahead of my articles published here (which is a nice way of saying I'm late on my articles) : the '59 beetle is back on the road! The picture above was shot a couple of days ago while cruising around the cape of Antibes.
I'm currently finalizing an article about the engine installation and first start, but it takes time to write, translate, etc... You'll just have to wait a bit longer!
Another article to come soon is the putting the Thing (181) back on the road (again), which has been quite a rabbit hole... Brace yourselves for a lengthy article there.
Finally, Santa Claus has been kind enough to give me a 360° camera, so I'm experimenting... And I'll leave you with two videos shot the past couple of weeks. Have a good trip!
Elvira : Rebuilding the 36hp, episode 10 : Heater Boxes
episode 10 : heater boxes
I've never had any heating in this ride, which kinda limits its usage in winter (yes, even on the French Riviera!).. Even though I've owned it for over 25 years! It's high time I do something about it!
I initially only had J-Tubes on my engine ; so I started by sourcing a pair of used heater boxes. A bit of rust, a couple of dents and holes, a locked mechanism and a missing lever... But nothing patience, WD40 and a MIG can't fix.
So I start by thoroughly cleaning, followed by sandblasting all the parts. I protect with a bit of masking tape the part of the mechanism that can't be taken apart easily (as its welded in place), to avoid messing with it while sandblasting...
One of the mechanisms is seized by rust (articulated lever) ; WD40 doesn't help, and the bearing finally ripped off as I was trying to free the lever. I finally managed to persuade it to move after clamping it in the vise, so I plug-welded it back on. Done.
On the other side, the mechanism was not seized, but was missing the lever actionnating it. Using a piece of masking tape, I copy the shape of the one present on the other box. Two saw cuts, some filing and drilling two holes, I have a pretty good copy ready to plug weld in place.
All parts finally get a couple of coats of rattle-can Rustoleum hi-temp paint (supposed to handle up to 650°C/1200°F, but I won't hold my breath). All the hardware gets bead blasted, and it's ready for reassembly.
For the whole system to work properly, and for the heated air to be actually forced into the passenger compartment, it requires the under engine tins to be present with their moving flap to redirect the airflow. I did not have those tins on my original engine, and they are getting harder to find (and never built as reproductions). But with some patience, regularly checking online ads, and some bucks, I finally found a pair.
The ones I got were in an ok state, with just a little tab broken on one of the moving flaps. Thorough clean up with naphtha and brake cleaning fluid, then bead blasting to get rid of the flaking paint. And since those are below engine tins,exposed to road gravels, I brush two coats of Hammerite, as it will protect them better than any body paint. Here you can see the left on in its original state, and the right one after full treatment :
I can then focus on fixing the broken tab on the other heater box : only took some MIG persuasion to tackle it.
Bead blasting again it is, and a lick of paint again :
While I was at it, I also changed the flaps control cable, the little rubber boots back where the cable gets out of the chassis, and the fittings on the boxes levers ; next I'll put all this back in the car, and make sure the flaps actually move as expected!
But this will have to wait until the next episode!
It's all good and well that I've rebuilt the 36HP engine, but hey, I've owned this car for over 25 years now and I've never rebuilt the braking system...
Ok, I'll give you I've not driven that much in the meantime, but anyway, I don't feel secure driving not knowing what I got behind the middle pedal - especially with my almost 4yo son who can't wait to go for a ride! Additionally, the (much too) long immobilization of the car caused troubles, I already had the brakes locking while I was hand-pushing the car around the workshop.
So, here we go, the full Monty, let's rebuild everything new : master cylinder, wheel cylinders, drums, flexibles, shoes, springs... And while we're at it, bearings, and seals.
The wheel cylinders, just like the master cylinder, before being installed, are taken apart, cleaned with brake fluid (a toothbrush is great for that), and then slightly lubed with ATE brake grease (which is miscible with DOT brake fluid - do NOT use standard grease here!).
This important as these parts, when stocked for long periods of time, can get "sticky", and not work properly. So yes, that one additional step, but the difference in the smoothness of operation is really worth it.
Here we go, let's disassemble everything, it looks pretty oily... T'was high time to replace the brake shoes, don't you think?
While I'm a it, I clean up the whole rear axle, gearbox, chassis... WD40, a brush, and lots of elbow grease to get rid of 60 years of oil/dirt/stuff. It's always better to work on a clean base...
One bad surprise when taking down the right side, the flexible brake line was so tight I haven't been able to disassemble it (even after trying all the tricks in the book, heat, penetrating oil, vise grip on the brake line wrench...). I finally had to cut it and remake two rigid lines from scratch.
And since everything was out, I changed the rear bearings at the same time, cobbling together a tool to extract the original ones.
Then it's business as usual : cleaning, blasting, and painting to reassemble anew. The brake plates are surprisingly good looking under the dirt. I use Hammerite spray paint for the first time, to give it a shot, I've never used it before.
Finally, I give the new brake shoes a slight bevel with a file, degrease them with brake cleaner fluid, and put everything back together with a touch of copper grease on the friction points...
The rear drums had reached the wear limit (231mm), and they were pretty heavily marked by the shoes. Those were the original drums, stamped July '59, they were due to get a replacement!
The reproduction rear drum don't feature the original oil slinger hole, so I measure 12 times (you know the drill - pun intended - c'mon, I'm a dad now, I get a pass for dad jokes), and drill a Ø8mm hole on each. A bit of grinding/filing, and the oil slingers can go back in.
Now time for painting : degreasing, light sanding, re-degreasing, masking, re-re-degreasing, and three coats of Hammerite spray paint (hey, Hammerite people, I'm open to sponsoring! . The result is pretty neat, we'll see how it handles in time.
One trick when painting in winter : I'm putting all the parts in a large cardboard box, with a shop heater blowing in front of it. .. This way everything's at the right temperature for the paint to dry correctly. I actually even put parts before the first coat also, to prevent them from being too cold, possibly creating a condensation effect ; the paint spray itself goes in too, to get the paint inside more fluid before spraying.
While I was at it, I replaced the suspensions bumper that had been cut down at some point by the previous owner, as he was riding much lower... But I drive at original height now!
There were are, rear drums are ready to reinstall ; time to grab the big torque wrench to tighten the nuts at 30 mkg. Let's have a look in the front now!
Same treatment for the front brake plates, except I had to wire-brush them instead of blasting, as being in between workshops, I did not have my air compressor and blasting cabinet at hand.
And same as in the rear, I re-assemble everything anew, with a touch of copper grease on friction points. Note for self : the bigger of the two springs goes on the cylinder size... I had it wrong the first time.
Behind, same thing as in the rear, I had to make a new brake line on the right hand side, the original one being way too crusty.
Front drums were still within tolerance (barely), I could have kept them... But I finally decided to change them too, having everything new for my peace of mind. I'll keep the old ones if I ever need to go back...
The bearings were cooked : broken cage, balls falling away, steel filling in the grease... It was time to get them replaced. Those I mount instead feature conical rollers, which looks more "mechanical" to me than the original ball bearings.
I remove and re-install the bearings with the hydraulic press I found throw away on the curb - it's always worth having a look there, one man's trash being another's treasure and all this.
Drums go back on, and I replace the original nut+locknut setting with a split nut instead, like on more recent beetles, which is much easier to adjust.
In for a penny, in for a pound (make it cent & dollar if you're a yankee) : let's rebuilt the pedals assembly while I'm at it. The previous owner of this car repainted some parts with this ugly "vanilla-yellowish" color that I cannot stand anymore. So I repaint the whole pedal assembly, in L87 PearlWeiss, just like the wheels. Paint stripper, blasting, primer, 3 coats of paint : much better.
I'm using a rattle spray can L87 from Sprido, priced at 18.50€. Result looks clean, I'll probably use the same on the steering wheel when I get there.
To finally get rid of that God forsaken yellowish sh*t, I'll still have to repaint the seats frames, steering column, steering wheel, the bar below the rear seat, and the electrical circuit cover in the front trunk. But this will have to wait until another episode.
This yellowish horror had already been repainted on the hand brake lever, gear selector and wheels, back when I had given the whole exterior a lick of paint... in 1998!
And while I was at it, I change the clutch and throttle cables. They were still working, but not in a great shape.
But nothing being simple ever, the clutch cable wasn't the right model, too short, and the throttle one was kinda sticky... Anyway, after I took everything out, replaced the clutch cable, it finally works perfectly. Pumped some grease in the pedal assembly, and the feeling/touch of the pedals is completely different, much smoother. We'll see when driving!
OK, let's bleed the whole thing and we'll have enough to stop in security, enough for today... Safe trip everyone!