My Golf is a 10 Millionth Edition (or "Champ" in France), and this limited edition had several very specific options at the time, one of them being the fabric used for the upholstery, a stripped blue that's on no other model (pictured below, from the period leaflet).
Well, actually, this was what I thought, for almost 20 years, until 2 years ago...
I then found out that in 1989, a limited edition of Jetta (the "GLI Helios" edition), of which only 1500 units were made, exclusively for the american market, had also received the very same fabric on their seats.
With a major difference though : it featured very desirable Recaro front seats!
Needless to say, I started hunting for a pair of those, but they're rare as hens teeth, and whenever an ad is published, it' always in the US, with prohibitive shipping costs.
Being my usual stubborn self, I kept looking, for almost 2 years...
Until march 2016, when an auction pops up on eBay UK, a stone's throw away from one of my in-laws! God Save the Queen!
I won't bother you with the details of the organisation set up to retrieve and ship the seats to southern France, but here they are, even nicer than I expected them to be! (yeah, OK, spending that much time and energy for a pair of bloody seats, I know I have a problem, leave me alone!)
Here's the difference between the original "Sport" seats and the Recaro version :
But how the Hell these parts, exclusively made for the US market, made their way to Europe?
Actually, around a decade ago, a US soldier dispatched to an american air base in the UK, decided to import his Jetta Helios... He ended up selling the car there, but unfortunately it got wrecked and sold for parts. The seats got bought and stored for the next 9 years, until their owner decided to part with them. They got attacked by rodents in the meantime, but were neatly fixed by an upholstery shop, with a leatherette matching perfectly the original one.
You know what happened next...
I still needed the railings to install them... I found'em in Poland (damn, eBay is a hard drug), a complete G60 set with electric adjusting (too much? ). Let's do it!
Th passenger seat had that part ripped... That's pretty common on Recaro seats, resulting in the bottom of the seat caving in. Fortunately, you can find a replacement on eBay UK, under the name of "webbing" or "diaphragm"...!
Not that easy to replace though, as it's very tight! My solution finally was to grab each hook with vise-grips, then use a clamp to pull the grips towards the edge of the frame.
I still have to install a bit of wiring and a 20 amps fuse to use the electric adjustment thingy, but I can already enjoy the bloody things!
Dear Martin, thank you so much for your help securing the Glorious Seats!
Bonus : Gearbox linkage upgrade
Keeping on track with the improvement of both user experience and reliability, I decided to make a big update on the gear selector linkage.
The original bushings and links, made of plastic, end up wearing and breaking up (I think I changed mine at least 3 or 4 times). You then get a good 10cm end play on the gear stick, no matter if you've selected a gear or on neutral! You can still use the car if you're used to it, but forget about "race" driving. In the other hand, it's a pretty good anti-theft device!
Long story short, I ordered a "Smartshift 2" kit from USRallyTeam, which replaces all links with Unibal joints, and all bushings with Delrin-made ones (POM). No more end play!
I installed the kit on January 30th 2016, but it left a mark (literally) : as I was cutting off one of the joints with an angle grinder, I made a wrong move and sent the cutting disc into my left thumb. Cut down to the bone (got a nice gouge in it), tendon and nerves ripped... #ERsaturdayNight
Anyway, I spent a night at the hospital, but at least the kit is installed, no more end play in the stick, it feels great!
In the picture below, you can see the ugly original plastic joints and "ball", that usually wear off and break
Second picture is the kit form USRallyTeam :
now we're talking! I don't have a decent picture of the kit installed in my car, as it's not easily accessible to get a pic, but you can have a look on this page if you wanna know how it's installed.
I'll spare you the picture of my post-surgery, Frankenstein-like thumb...
As happy as I am with the result, and if I'd happily recommend that kit to others, it is not perfect either : the hardware is imperial threaded (doesn't make sense on a european car), I did not have the correct bolts (you need 2 left threaded, 2 right threaded,.. I only have 4 left threaded ones in the 2 kits I ordered), and the initial adjustment can be a bit tricky.
In short, not exactly a plug'n'play kit, but a great improvement nonetheless in the end.
Elvira : Rebuilding the 36hp, episode 5 : Fuel Pump
episode 5 : Fuel Pump
Let's continue with the "little things" ; well, "little", but essential! So, I giveth to you, ye Fuel Pump...
I've owned this car for 22 years now, and it has always run this very pump. It was long overdue for some TLC!
After thorough disassembling, I first give it a good cleaning with a brush and some brakes cleaning fluid, to get rid of most of the gunk. By the way, I can see that event though the pump's membrane is completely rigid, it's still in working order and not leaking! Pretty amazing quality part, I doubt the new one will last that long!
Next, just as for the carburetor earlier, I dump all the parts into the ultrasonic cleaning bath, filled up with lemon juice. It looks like new when it comes out after just 20 minutes at 80°C. I rince everything thoroughly with clean water to neutralize the acid action.
Before I put everything back together, I check that both pump halves are actually plane : 320 grit sand paper on my surface plate, a squirt of WD40, and I do 8 figures with each half. Right from the beginning, the sanding marks show it was far from being plane...
Ten minutes later, it looks much better! At least it should limit the risk of leaks right there...
I reassemble everything with a BBT rebuild kit. The membrane (main part) looks good, but on the other hand, I will not use the two small levers provided in the kit, they look cheap and flimsy, I'll stick to the original ones that still looks pretty good. The main spring is much longer and strong than my original one ; I don't know if it respect the factory measurements, but if so, my spring was in dire need of retirement!
In order to propermy install the membrane, you need to pre-load the pump ; this is supposed to be done using the VW328b tool (see it here on TheSamba), which I obviously do not own, so I make myself make-do one.
The 1958 workshop manual states that the pump's lever should be depressed by 35mm from the pump mounting plane ; so, a piece of laminated steel, three holes -one of which is tapped-, and there you go.
I finally just have to mount the membrane with a thin coat of grease, so that it slides smoothly in place, avoiding any "wrinkle" that may cause a leak...
And BAM, an as-new fuel pump ! The inside is packed with grease, and it goes back on the engine.
15 years ago almost to the day (yeah, I know, I'm running a bit late on this article) I fulfilled a child's dream... Ride a 911!
Obviously, that is not a reasonable purchase ; just finding an insurance that accepts you at 26 years old is quite an ordeal! Finally, I only managed to keep that car for a little over a year and a half.
Long story short, late June 2001, I went to Autobase (which became AMS78 since then), in the Paris area, a Porsche specialized garage where a friend of mine (Jérome V.) spotted a vehicle that might scratch that itch of mine... And as you can guess, beginning of July, I drove "Malicia", a 1986 911 3.2L , 1000km back to Southern France!
The end of the story?
March 2003, I lost my job, belt-tightening period : I had to sell, reluctantly. At least she went in the hand of an enthusiast, in a heated garage somewhere in Normandy, beside a very lovable Alpine A110 Berlinette...
I sold it back exactly the price I bought it (17.000€), I've not lost a penny at that time ; since then, the prices for these cars has skyrocketed, it would set me back more than double the amount to get one of these today! It is, and will remain, above my pay grade. That's a pity, I would have loved to slip back into one of those bucket seats... Well, it probably wouldn't be the same anyway, nowadays there are speed checking radars everywhere!
Just looking back at these pictures, sounds and smells come back to me... Ok, gotta leave you now, I'm gonne play the Lottery!
Elvira : Rebuilding the 36hp, part 4 : Solex 28 PCI
episode 4 : Solex 28 PCI Carburetor
Just to change things a little bit, I decided to take care of my carburetor next,
Histoire de passer un peu à autre chose, je m'occupe de mon carburateur, le petit Solex 28 PCI.
After 57 years, it was long overdue for a rebuild...
Actually, I just found out about a cleaning method on a vintage motorbikes forum : they clean their carbies by putting their parts in boiling lemon juice, directly in a sauce pan! And I have to say, I was pretty amazed by the results!
So I tried the same approach, but using my ultrasound tank, filled up with 6 bottles of lemon juice, heated all the way up to 80°C!
So after I disassembled the Solex, I let it soak in for 3 ultrasonic rounds of 20 minutes, after which I rince everything in clean water (ideally it'd have to be warm to avoid thermal shock) in order to remove any remaining acidity left by the lemon juice... Then a quick blow dry. I immediatly lube the rotating parts to avoid any oxidization...
And the result is pretty neat!
I think the ultrasound are pretty useless here, being dampened by the particles in suspension in the lemon juice ; but they still help agitating the whole thing, and it probably helps.
I reassemble the carb with a renovation kit - all the gaskets were dry, the accelerator pump diaphragm completely rigid... It was time to do something about it.
But obvisously, everything was going fine. Too fine. So as I was reinstallint the jet on the emulsion tube, lightly tightening it as I know it a fragile part... Crack. F*ck me.
Fortunately, this emulsion tube can be bought NOS online on eBay in Italy... So 10 days later, here we go again, I replace the cracked tube... (note : there's an alternative to the NOS tube : one can buy a brass made replica at Bob Services : thanks SebCore for the info!)
To extract the tube, I first tap it with an M3 tap, pull.... But only the brass part comes. Second try, I tap the remaining tube with an M5 tap, pull it... And this time it's out. Yes!
The new tube is inserted after heating the carb body with a heat gun (on "low", be gentle!). The tube itself is cooled down with a couple of squirts of brake cleaner fluid + compressed air blow. It's not settling in that easy, so it took some convincing with a small hammer and a drift punch, the carb being held in the vice. Again, gently!
Now I only had to put everything back together with new gaskets, replacing as well the small metal pins on the linkage, with were prone to breaking due to their age.
And there you go, a new-ish carb!
It directly goes into a plastic bag, waiting for the holy day it will make my engine come back to life...
It's been 4 years since I've gotten my lathe, so as one can expect, I've been wanting a milling machine for quite a while now... (and the hours spent on the usinages.com forum have not helped)
But the thing is, in my area, these kind of machines are scarce ; unlinke in northern or eastern France, areas that have and actual industrial past, and where you can find second-hand machine adds regularly.
But the main problem remain the sheer size of my workshop : it's really small (that's what she said), therefore I need a small milling machine if I ever want to fit it in... Ideally a Deckel FP1 (beautiful but so expensive I'll never be able to afford it), or a small Graffenstaden, a WGM... Or if I accept to go with shorter travels, a Schaublin (overpriced), a Crouzet...
Anywho, I kept an eye on adds in the area (because when it comes to transporting 500kg of cast iron, it better not be too far!), without putting too much hope in it...
Untill last July when one of my alerts popped up : years of patience finally paid as this appeared on LeBonCoin (our CraigsList) :
A cute little Crouzet-Valence FC100, (same band as my lathe), just 30 minutes away from my place!
If you're curious, here's the documentation.
I first quickly check in Sketchup that it will actually fit in my workshop, and I gave a ring to the seller, who told me he already had several calls (he was actually surprised) : first come, first served! So I jumped into my car and went to see the beast in oder to lock the sale!
Negative points :
Limited travels : X 220mm / Y 100mm / Z 330mm. That seriously limits what I'll be able to do with it. Still good to learn, and enough to work on cylinder heads!
It's missing the X/Y handwheels, and Z one has its handle broken. Shouldn't be too difficult to find new ones.
Rare W20 attachment, won't be easy no find tooling.
No automatic feed (not because it's been remove, as it's frequently the case, but because the machine was ordered specifically like that), but I don't really care since I have something in the back of my mind.
Positive points :
The FC100 is a good machine, rigid and heavy.
It's in a pretty good state, with almost no play : it quite obviously has not worked a lot. I've been told it was originally bought by the Aérospatiale (they have an important complex not far from here), and has only ever been used for smell jobs.
It has the universal tilting head.
As much as the W20 attachment is not ideal, at least it's the same as on my lathe, therefore I already have a few collets to fit in!
But mainly : the asked price! For 300€, there was no way I'd miss it!
Long story short, I transport it back to the workshop on July 29th : I had to transport the machine laying on its back, as my garage entrance isn't high enough to do otherwise... Not perfect, but I had no other choice. And it looks like the rental Citroën Berlingo was made specifically for that machine, as it perfectly fits in!
Loading the machine in the truck was just a 5 minutes job at the seller's place thanks to his forklift... But unloading it was a whole other story! Even with a borrowed workshop crane from a nearby mechanics, it was 2 hours of heavy lifting! Many thanks for lending me the crane, and a 1000 thank yous to Xav'Yeah, my partner in crime whom I manage to involve it these hassles! Ain't moving 450kg of cast iron in an overheated 1 car garage a fun task?
The machine will end up spending the next 3 months on its back, until I manage to get my own crane (I had a lot of delivery problems with this one) and free up some time to deal with it. So finally, November 8th, the machine is finally standing up! More heavy lifting, done on my own this time, but it's finally resting where it belongs!
Now I need to find some spare time to take care of that old lady. I don't plan on doing a complete restoration, as it's in a relatively good shape already, a good clean up should be enough (well, it'd look great in the same green color as the lathe, though...). And why not a few step motors to pilot the whole thing...