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!
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'!