Precisely 25 years ago today, on November 23rd 1988, was put into circulation my daily driver, aka "Krapo Bleu"! (that would translate as "Blue Toad")
I thought it was the perfect time for a small tribute, to celebrate its quarter-of-a-century, including 16 years (and 120.000km) at my service : I bought that car in august 1997 for a whopping 23.000 Francs (around 3500 €)!
My "old friend" as I call her, is a Golf (it might be a "Rabbit" in your country) Mk.2, a limited edition created in 1988 to celebrate the production of the 10 millionth Golf, and named for the occasion "10 Millionen" (but renamed "Champ" for the French market, go figure)...
It featured specific rims, paint color, blue tainted windows and upholstery, that's quite a rare model! I recently managed to get my hands on the original brochure available at the time in the german concessions (collector!) :
The Golf went a long way since then, as the 30 millionth was produced last June!
I really did everything this one, and I transported just about anything with it!
It occasionally suffered a bit (I drove with low oil and/or water levels, without the water tank cap on, overloaded to the point the tires rubed in the fenders...), it made *me* suffer as well (interior radiator exploding and sending boiling water on my feet, clogged rain water drain holes getting a good 8 inches of water in the car, etc...), it sometimes got bumped into (along the years I had to fix 2 fenders, 2 doors, a bumper...), and it had to deal with the weather for 16 years (never slept into a garage), but in the end it has always been faithful and was always there for me! (well, almost always!)
I made some modifications to her, lowered it by 40mm with Apex springs, and installed Bilstein B4 shock absorbers (I rode adjustable Red Koni Sports for a long while, they're efficient but way too hard).
The original, model-specific 14" wheels were badly corroded, so I replaced them with a set of 15" ATS Cup (found brand new on eBay Germany, with their original VW/TÜV certification papers!), mounted on Yokohama Parada 195/50/15 (great tires, and affordable with that! I highly recommend them!). It has quite a impressive road handling capabilities!
I can't imagine parting ways with that old thing anytime soon... You get pretty attached to these buggers!
But well, it's getting old, I'll need to plan for a coat of paint one day or another... And if one of you had a spare 1.8l engine (carb 90hp) with not too many kilometers on it, I'm interested!
If you're a regular on this blog, you've already heard about "Krapo Bleu" (that would translate as "Blue Toad"), my daily driver for almost 19 years now (ouch, I'm not getting any younger, am I?) : a 1988 Golf Mk2, edition 10 Millionen (or "Champ" for the French market).
As I said in my November 2013 article, its angine was starting to seriously wear out (270.000km... and I'll have to admit, I did not always take good care of it!), eating more and more oil (like a liter a month!), used to leak water, overheat... It was high time to do something about it, and finally take care of my "old friend" that helped my so many times, before I actually end up stuck on the side of the road with a broken engine.
After spending a year looking for the right engine, I finally found in may 2014 a block on LeBonCoin (the equivalent of Craig's List in France), for 200€. It wasn't that easy, as several times people tried to sell me broken engines, with broken timing belt (the valves-in-pistons kind) or blown head gaskets...
This engine is strictly identical to the original one (OK, I know, therefore the term"engine swap" may not be appropriate : sue me!) : 1.8L, 90hp, Pierburg 2E2 carburetor, but scoring "only" 130.000km (barely broken in, right? ). Enough to give my old car a breathe of fresh air.
This engine will wait a little over a year before I finally get some time in my hands to get it in the car.
I've used that year to completely clean the engine, changed lip seals and head cover seal, etc...
It's already July 2015 when I head up to Laurent's (Dangerous) to use his hoist, car lift and roomy workshop (which is a much easier way than using a jack in an underground one car garage!)
So there I go, starting with removing the whole front mask of the car, all the accessories, strapping the gearbox... And the engine comes out easily(-ish)!
At this point in time, my Golf has its engine out, my Beetle's 36hp is still not finished, and the Karmann's engine is not even closed yet... Not very reassuring!
With the engin out, I had room to clean the whole engine compartment from the 27 years of stratified gunk.
Up to this point, everything's going as planned ; with a bit of organisation, it's even simpler than it looks.
Now is time to get the new engine in (after I transferred on it the carb, clutch, flywheel, exhaust manifold, and a couple of things more) : it goes pretty swiftly, except for the exhaust clamps that are a PITA to install when you don't have the specific tool. Nothing a ratchet strap can't fix, though (#ratchetstrappower).
And... That's when things went sour... Argh, why is nothing ever simple!
1st start : the engine starts right on, that's the good news! In the other hand, an heavy water leakage appears on the side of the engine, Bellagio fountains like. Probably because the engine got a shock while being stock or transported (that's highly probable, I had nothing to strap the black in the rental truck, it was a bump ride!)...
I've been told that "when you've got a mechanical problem, the best solution is to do mechanics" (is it Confucius or Plato, I can't remember?) : we get the head out, and put it on the mill, fearing it may have warped. The joint plane is cleaned with only 12/100th of mm, so no, the head was fine, and it can go back on the engine with a new head gasket. Let's give it another try!
2nd start : this time, the intake manifold leaks water (water goes through it to heat up the carb)... It's not the Bellagio any more, but still a solid Manneken-Pis.
I take the intake manifold out, order new gaskets, reinstall everything with sealing compound, making sure it's tight...
I'll have to admit, from this point on, I took way less pictures, I was too busy to play the paparazzi!
3rd start : intake manifold still leaking. Less than the first time, but still leaking anyway.
Re-removing it, re-reinstalling it with again new gaskets and compound...
4th start : the manifold is not leaking anymore! Alleluia!!!
But now, I have a water leakage on the side of the block, behind the timing belt cover... Once again, we remove the distribution, to find out it's a bloody core plug! Has anyone seen this before?? It's not an heavy leak, more like a fast drip, but still...
So we find a new core plug, extract the old one, install the new... And here we go again.
5th start : the engine is not leaking anymore!!! Woohooo!!!
But the radiator is. HOLY MOTHER OF FUUUUUUUUU...!!!!
I mean, not much, a slow drip, but it's leaking nonetheless. It didn't like being taken off... Classic.
Long story short, I order a new radiator, purge the coolant for the Nth time, replace the radiator....
6th start : IT IS NOT LEAKING ANYMORE! At all! Woooohooooo!!!
I was about to call that car "Pissing Bitch" instead of "Krapo Bleu"!
In the end, the operation that was supposed to take us 3 days took 3 weeks (counting the ordering parts back and forth). Oh joy!
A huuuuuuuuge thank you to Laurent/Dangerous for his help, his time... And his workshop that I made a total mess of pouring so much coolant everywhere!
As you can guess, I still had some work to do after this, as the bloody Pierburg 2E2 carb never misses an occasion to act up... It was working perfectly before, but it has a few hiccups : some air intake (even though the flange is brand new), the choke doesn't work any more, etc...
In short, it needed a bit more tinkering around to get it to work neatly : changed the choke dilatation element, put a thin film of sealing compound on the carb flange, changed the head cover gasket that was leaking oil (it was brand new too...), replaced the 3 temperature probes...
But here it is, finally! Working as if it was new! Well, almost!
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.
My Golf came equipped as standard with a Pierburg 2E2 carburetor. When this one works fine, it's a great ride...
But in the other hand, when it starts acting, it's a PITA : it's full of vacuum modules, dilatation elements,wax component, in which the cooling liquid goes through... Kind of a Rube-Goldberg machine, next to impossible to fix.
And you guessed it, mine started acting weird, it did not like last April's engine swap (I did write about it at the time already).
Around a decade ago, I had found on eBay Germany a rebuilt 2E2 for a fair price, but unfortunately the vendor doesn't exist any longer. There's a specialist in the UK (Bromyard) that offers complete Pierburg 2E2 rebuilding services, but for a hefty 395 £ + S&H (that's over 500 €), I wasn't too keen on going again with that same Hell-of-a-carb (that being said, looks like that company does a great job).
I also had the option of buying a brand spanking new Chinese reproduction of the Pierburg 2E2 : you can find them on AliExpress, and they will set you back around 100 €. I have to admit, I'm a bit skeptical on the quality of these...
Long story short, I finally bought a Weber DMTL 32/34 conversion kit from EuroCarb via eBay. It's cheaper this way than from national french re-sellers, 324.50 £ w/ S&H (which is 380 €, would have been 455 € w/o S&H at local stores).
It's a beautiful kit, very well engineered. Installation instructions are clear, it's almost plug'n'play... Even thought the french traduction is a bit sketchy (and the fuel line clamps are a bit small, but I'm nit-picking).
So now, no more faulty automatic choke, which functioning is a matter of voodoo sorcery, back to basics with a good'ol manual choke!
Installation note : the small bit at the end of the throttle cable cameinto contact with the vaccum element at the back of the carb, preventing the throttle from coming back to idle. I snapped it with a pair of pliers : fixed (on the middle picture below, you can still see the contact point before the modification).
I installed the bloody thing on 01/29/2017 and since then : pure HAPPINESS! Starts neatly, acceleration is linear, the engine doesn't die on me any more when cold, more torque at low revs... I definitely should have done this a long time ago!
I've finally resigned myself to buying a "daddymobile"; a vehicle more suited to my fatherly duties.
The little one loves the Golf, but I gotta admit that once loaded with a trolley and the baby seat, there's not much room left... And it's not that comfy (nor secure!) to drive long trips for our family of 3.
So there it is, "Krapo Bleu" (Blue Toad) finally goes into retirement after 24 years of daily use, at the ripe age of 32. Almost a quarter of a century, every day, behind this steering wheel, this car has almost become an extension of myself. I'm not gonna lie, I choke up a little bit when I pushed her back into the garage ; and on this last picture I took before I closed the door, looks like she had a bit of a teary eye herself too!
There, you can have a rest now, "my old friend". See you back for weekend rides... Or on track maybe?