VW Restoration "Period Correct"
No one is quite sure how we got to the point where we are today, but those of us who pursue a "correct" restoration of a vintage VW all agree: "function" is not the whole of it.....
The fact is that VW parts from so many different years and models, in many cases, are interchangeable and the fact that so many VW's were produced, hasn't helped the vintage purist in the strife for a period correct vintage ride. For millions of people, decades in time and miles of roadways, parts were parts, a door was a door, a headlight a headlight, and a newer, bigger engine was usually a bonus to get you there faster than that 36hp engine would.
But times, philosophies and the number of nice early VWs still around have changed. Today, many have realized that rust and neglect and numerous modifications have taken more of these early icons of German automobilia than we would like, and for our own, the time is now to take them from everyday, disposable vehicles, to the shining replicas of a time long ago and restore them back to an original and very important part of our history that they deserve to be.
Our goal here at Simon's Speed Shop, LLC is to provide the Classic VW enthusiast with the information to find and purchase the correct parts that are original or as good, if not better, than the originals. Parts that we use and become part of our restoration efforts, and that will meet your own high expectations. A car you will love to drive and pass down from generation to generation.
NOTE: This site is not affiliated with Volkswagen AG, Volkswagen of America nor any of its agents. The terms "VW", "Beetle","Ghia", "Thing", "Squareback", "Notchback", "Westfalia" etc. are trademarked by Volkswagen AG and used here only for descriptive purposes.
FOR THE HOME BUILDER:
Who we purchase VW parts from and recommend to our friends.
California Import Parts LTD, they offer good prices and service they even offer free shipping on many items. http://www.cip1.com/
California Pacific/JBugs, Good prices again good service but it took me 4 months to get a bubble top case, they usually have really good service this was an exception. http://www.jbugs.com
Moore Parts Source. Decent prices unique items and good service. http://www.mooreparts.com/store/
CB Performance. Quality parts and service to back them up, there tech support is one of the best in the business. You can't go wrong buying quality CB parts. http://www.cbperformance.com/
LowBudget.com. Good source of information quality parts and turbo kits. Check them out http:www.lowbugget.com/main_page.html
AirKewld. If you are going to lower your VW (Bag it) or put on disk brakes and want to use the best componants these are the guys to talk with. Their kits and parts are high quality and much easier to install and the ride is superior to others we have tried. http://www.airkewld.com/pages/welcome.php
The Samba.com This is the place to find those hard to find new or used parts and to chat in the forums. There is also a lot of techinical information on the site as well as a VW history lesson.
Kawell Racing Engines Dave and Judy Kawell are the who to go to people when you want a serious top of the line built turbocharged engine. They are Located in Friendship TN, by way of sunny California. If I ever let someone else build my motor these will be the people. You won't find anyone nicer. www.kawellracing.com
Fisher Buggies www.fisherbuggies.com Home of one of the fastest VW's in the world and a large showroom of parts. If you ever go to Tampa it's a must go too place to spend a few hours.
Scat www.scatenterprises.com (310)370-5501
West Coast Metric https://shop.westcoastmetric.com/index.php
Chirco www.chirco.com They have great customer service also and back what they sell,
Gene Berg http://www.geneberg.com/ Home of the finist quality parts for many many years. Through the 80's it's all I wanted to run in my engines and I'm happy to say as I'm re constructing my drag car to drive on the street this year 2020, Berg Enterprises is one of my main go to shops for information and quality parts.
Mid America Motorworks www.mamotorworks.com They have a monthly catalog that will keep you buying. Some parts will be shipped direct from the manufacturer. I have found them to be a little higher priced on most parts than the companies on the West Coast. But they are doing good things in the VW community.
Sew Fine Interiors www.sewfine.com complete stock and custom interiors.
East Coast Shops and Suppliers:
Fisher Buggies: Located in Tampa Florida Ken Fisher has been around for a long time and is a great supporter of the VW community. If you go to Tampa you have to visit his store and shop.
Raleigh ( Triangle Area) North Carolina Shops:
Transporter Werks- Raleigh, NC.
Gary's Aircooled Service- Raleigh, NC.
Hicks VW - Durham, NC.
VW How Too's and what to Do's
Easy Bolt ons to obtain the greatest HP and Reliability for your money.
Ignition: One of the easiest and ways to increase your VW's Performance and reliability is to convert your points system over to an electronic ignition system. There are systems are out there for as little as $39 for a bolt in point replacement to complete systems that costs a few hundred dollars. A few of my recomendations include the Patronix systems, MSD and the Compu-Tronix Perfomance Systems. Time to install 15-45 minutes. 1-3 HP gain on stock engines and no points to foul.
Exhaust system: To create more HP and better fuel economy an engine must breath. So moving those exhuast gasses out of your cylinder heads with the least amount of resistance will help improve your motors performance. Match porting your cylinder heads and exhaust system will add aditional benifits. If you can get away with it in your area a 1 5/8" header for a 1914 or smaller motor will work great, 1 7/8"-2" for bigger motors. If you can afford the ceramic get it. If not wrap your exhuast to help keep the temps around the engine down. We have seen increases of 3-14 HP on stock engines from simply changing an exhuast system. Takes about an hour and a half.
Carburetion: Carburetors, there are many different types of Carburetors on the market. Think about how you drive and what you expect to achieve by changing the carberation on your ride. Many people purchase the progressive carburator and are disapointed with it. Many of these set ups have flat spots and need modified to be corrected. Once modified these can actually be a good mild/stock motor carburetor.
Duel Solex carbs, Solex makes a good carburetor but if I'm going to spend the money on these I would move up to the new EMPI 40mm carbs for about the same cost. These can be tuned to get better gas mileage than a stock carb and give you some additional horses.
With any carburation change also change your plugs, drive the car for about an hour, pull over and pull out your plugs to check them for rich or lean running conditions and readjust or jet your carbs accordingly.
Fuel Injection Systems: Well I never keep an original fuel injection system on a car once we have a few problems with it. I like to convert to dual carbs or better yet if the customer can afford them CB Performances fuel injection systems. I love these set ups and tuning is a breeze. If there is ever a problem their only a phone call away. It's hard to get good customer and tech support these days but I always have great service from CB. Anytime I can run parts hard for 15-20 yrs and not break them, I know I can trust putting them in any VW driven in any situation.
Suspension: The first thing I recommend when people purchase a used VW is check the brakes and update the suspension. There are several shocks and strut makers but stick with KYB or another good brand don't go cheap and if you have lowered your car use shocks for a lowered car so they don't bottom out. Check your tie rods, rod ends, steering dampner etc before putting your foot throught the floor. Simple jack the car up and try to shake the wheels back and forth. If it moves before the steering wheel does you have bad components. Replace them!
Tires: This is simple buy tires that are compatible for your vehicle, check the load limits and other limitations of the tires. I use to drag race my daily driver and leave the Moroso Drag specials on the front during the week. I'll put this simple Drag tires are not made to corner at 75mph. If you have a Westy "Please buy the right tires" they are getting harder to find but a blow out on your camping trip doesn't start the weekend out well.
You also need to think about the added weight if I have installed a watercooled 4 or 6 cylinder in your Bus. Light Truck tires don't cut it.
Paint: Paint your tins, don't chrome out your entire engine. It's going to run hotter if you do and the cheap chrome they are packaging from China these days will be rusting within a few months if not sooner. I resently tested some of Empi's chrome becuase it looked so cheap. I put a crank pulley under the hood of a car outside the shop and checked on it two weeks later after a few rains, and sure enough rust had started to form all over the pulley. If you must have Chrome make sure it's triple plated in America. The same goes for the $40 bumpers don't buy them unless your sandblasting and getting them rechromed or powdercoated and even then still be careful because it's thin metal.
Engine Temperature/Cooling: If you have been around VW's very long you should already know that the #3 cylinder runs hotter than the others. If you suspect a loss in compression more than likely it's this cylinder. Mount an externall oil cooler with fan to eleminate the original oil cooler from blocking air flow to this cylinder. If you don't have the money to buy an oil cooler? Go visit your local junk yard there are many transmission coolers, intercoolers etc that you can make work and pick up an electric fan while your there. most times you can buy everything you need for around $30 and save some cash. Next mount it where there will be no chance of it bottoming out or being hit by crap flying up off the road, spray it off regularly to keep the dirt from clogging the air passages and always check your lines for leaks and cracks. Then buy a deep sump 1.5 to 3 qts. Remember more oil, lower oil temps and good oil pressure mean a longer lasting engine.
Q:Why not use Chrome on an engine?
Answer: Chrome can make an engine run hotter. Not good for aircooled VW's and most chrome goodies produced these days are dipped only once in chrome so it only lasts a few months before rusting if exposed to the elements. I use chrome but sparingly and not over the cylinder heads.
How much will it cost to build a High Performance motor?
It depends on how fast you want to go or how much horsepower and torque you want? How much you or how you are going to drive it, city or highway mostly, daily driver, weekend racing?. I can get a 1600cc DP motor running in the 8's in the 1/8th mile with only a few modifications and pulling the wheels up but a bone stock 1600cc DP runs the 1/8th mile in 11-12.5 seconds. I have also built several low 7 second and high 6 second carburated street cars and a few 6 second turbo street cars that are driven daily. Just buy quality parts! I think lowbudget.com says it best, "Good motors are not cheap and cheap motors are not good!" If you are starting from scratch a minimum would be around $3500 for a quality motor with dual carbs. Expect $7000 and up.
Do you do any charity work or freebees?
Yes, everyone knows how much I love these old VW's so every year, even now that we are not trying to make a profit we will donate parts, money and engines to worthy causes. We ask that request be put in before September 15 for the next years requests or at least 2 months out the exception would be to help people that have got hurt or became seriously ill. We also build/rebuild up to three engines for free every year for the VW enthusiust and this includes custom painting the tins. Just our way of giving back to the VW community. Shipping cost is paid by the recipient. We also do the magazine builds and articles for free and most of the time ask that our name not be mentioned.
Why do bigger engines cost more in labor charges?
Stroker builds run more on labor due to the extra work that must be performed and that most customers don't think about. Things like clearencing the case and rods for the stroker cranks and the longer rods, adjusting compression to your use, cc'ing the heads, setting up all the Valve train components. Balancing and blue printing, match porting and polishing the heads and final tuning.
Engine Specs and Torque Recommendations
Please go to www.cbperformance.com for additional information and quality parts.
Crankcase 12mm nuts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 ft/lbs.
Crankcase 8mm nuts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 ft/lbs.
Cylinder head nuts
Stock 8mm studs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 ft/lbs.
Chromoly 8mm studs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 ft/lbs.
10m studs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 ft/lbs.
Connecting Rod Bolts
Stock T-1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 ft/lbs.
UniTech. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 ft/lbs.
Uni Tech HD w/ARP 3/8" bolts . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 ft/lbs.
CB H-Beam/ARP Bolts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 ft/lbs.
(consult with other mfgs)
Generator Pulley. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 ft/lbs.
Spark Plug. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 ft/lbs.
Oil Drain Plug . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 ft/lbs.
Rocker Arm Shaft Nut. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 ft/lbs.
Clutch Pressure Plate. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 ft/lbs.
Stock Gland Nut. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .250 ft/lbs.
Racing Gland Nut. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .350 ft/lbs.
Valve Adjusting Nut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 ft/lbs.
How to calculate Deck Height in CC's
the inch system
Formula - Bore (in.) X Bore (in.m) X Stroke (in.) X 12.87 = Deck in CC
Example - 90.5mm = 3.563" X 3.563" X .060" X 12.87 = 9.80cc
1mm = .03937
or the Mm system
Formula - Bore (mm) X Bore (mm) X Deck Height (in.) X .01996 = Deck in CC
Example - 90.5 X 90.5 X .060" X .01996 = 9.80cc
Deck Piston - Deck Height in CC's
85.5 87 88 90 90.5 92 94
.030 4.36 4.51 4.62 4.83 4.88 5.04 5.27
.035 5.16 5.34 5.47 5.72 5.78 5.97 6.24
.040 5.79 6.00 6.13 6.42 6.49 6.71 7.00
.045 6.71 6.95 7.11 7.43 7.52 7.77 8.11
.050 7.28 7.54 7.72 8.07 8.16 8.43 8.80
.055 8.03 8.31 8.51 8.90 9.00 9.30 9.71
.060 8.72 9.03 9.24 9.66 9.77 10.09 10.54
.065 9.46 9.80 10.03 10.49 10.60 10.96 11.44
.070 10.15 10.51 10.75 11.25 11.37 11.76 12.27
.075 10.90 11.28 11.55 12.08 12.21 12.62 13.17
.080 11.64 12.06 12.34 12.90 13.05 13.48 14.08
.085 12.33 12.77 13.06 13.76 13.82 14.28 14.91
How to calculate Engine CC's
Formula - Bore (mm) X Bore (mm) X Stroke (mm) X 3.1416" = Engine cc
Example - 90.5 X 90.5 X 69mm X 3.1416 = 1775cc
(to get the Volume of 1 cylinder in CC divide by 4)
Example - 1775 ÷ 4 = 443.75
Bore Stroke - Engine Displacement in CC's
64 69 74 76 78 82 84
77 1192* 1286* 1378 1415 1453 1527
83 1385 1493* 1601 1644 1688 1774 1818
85.5 1496 1584* 1699 1745 1791 1882 1929
87 1521 1640 1759 1806 1855 1949 1997
88 1556 1678 1799 1848 1898 1994 2044
90 1628 1755 1882 1933 1985 2086 2138
90.5 1646 1776 1903 1955 2007 2110 2160
92 1700 1835 1967 2020 2074 2180 2232
94 1776 1915 2052 2109 2165 2275 2332
*1192 = 1200cc Engine *1493 = 1500cc Engine
*1286 = 1300cc Engine *1584 = 1600cc Engine
How to calculate Compression Ratio
Formula - Head cc = Deck cc = 1 cylinder volume
Head cc + Deck cc
Example - 69mm X 90.5mm engine size = 1775 ÷ 4 = 443.75cc
.060" Deck = 9.80cc
Head = _____50.00cc
Compression Ratio Chart
1300, 1500, 1600cc Type I, II & III Single & Dual Port Heads CC in Head - Depth of Flycut
Bore X Stroke 37cc
stock Engine Size
85.5 x 69
9.68 9.31 8.98 8.67 8.25 7.64 1584
85.5 x 74
10.32 9.92 9.56 9.23 8.78 8.13 1699
85.5 x 78
10.82 10.41 10.03 9.68 9.20 8.51 1791
85.5 x 82
11.32 10.86 10.49 10.12 9.62 8.90 1883
87 x 69
9.91 9.54 9.20 8.88 8.45 7.83
87 x 74
10.56 10.16 9.80 9.46 9.00 8.33 1760
87 x 78
11.08 10.66 10.28 9.92 9.43 8.73 1855
87 x 82
11.60 11.16 10.76 10.38 9.87 9.13 1950
92 x 69
10.76 10.36 10.00 9.66 9.19 8.52 1835
92 x 74
11.46 11.04 10.64 10.28 9.78 9.06 1968
92 x 78
12.02 11.57 11.15 10.77 10.25 9.49 2074
92 x 82
12.59 12.12 11.68 11.28 10.73 9.93 2180
If you dont see it here you may always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or buy good quality manual.
Standard Beetle Production Info
Q. Who designed and built the Beetle?
The history began as a dream of Ferdinand Porsche. He had a vision about building a car that everybody could afford. In the early 1920s, while working with Daimler-Benz, he tried to convince them of the idea of a small, affordable car, but Benz cancelled the prototype considering it too risky. After leaving Benz, in 1932 he approached Zündapp, in which a 3 cylinder water cooled prototype was designed and tested very briefly – so briefly that because of severe cooling problems, the engine melted after only 10 minutes of testing! Zündapp promptly dropped the project and NSU subsequently partnered with Porsche to expand from their current line of motorcycle production into automobiles. During this period, a crude, but more recognizable shape of the Beetle was coming into view along with the now common but then revolutionary design of torsion bar suspension, engine being mounted in the rear, mated directly to a transaxle design. Three prototypes called the “Type 32” were built and tested, but due to the economical climate of Germany at the time, NSU withdrew from the project. With the German government becoming interested in a “Peoples Car”, Porsche worked with them to deliver three more prototypes in 1936 called the “W1”. The next series of prototypes were built in 1937 and called the “VW 30”. By this time final form of the Beetle we know today came into being. A number of engines were also tested before the decision was taken to go ahead with the flat four air cooled engine designed by Franz Reimspeiss. That engine was more or less to be unchanged until this day. Although a small number of Beetles and Cabriolets were built for German government officials and because of wartime conditions during World War II, actual production of the Beetle for mass consumption did not commence until after the war in 1945. Despite the fact that 2/3 of the factory was destroyed by the allied bombing the workers managed to assemble 58 cars during the remaining of 1945, mainly from spare parts found in the remains. Starting in 1946, the factory was ordered to produce 1000 cars a month. By 1955, Volkswagen was producing 1000 cars a day. From humble beginnings, the rest is history
Q. How many Beetles were produced?
On February 17, 1972, Volkswagen overtook the Ford Model T as the most produced single model car with over 15 million made. On May 15, 1981, the 20 millionth Beetle rolled off the assembly line in South America. When production ceased in July 2003 in Mexico, over 22 million Beetles had been made.
Q. When was the Beetle first sold in the United States?
In 1949, Max Hoffman was granted an exclusive right to distribute and sell the Volkswagen Beetle in the eastern half of the United States. A whopping total of 2 Beetles were sold. In 1950, that figure increased to 157 Beetles. By 1953 Hoffman had sold 1,139 Beetles in the United States at which point Volkswagen decided to distribute them through their own established distributorship and dealer network.
Q. What was the first year the Beetle upgraded to a 12 Volt Electrical System?
The 12 Volt Electrical System was available as an option in Europe for the 1965 and 1966 model year. In the 1967 model year, it became standard and was introduced in the United States at that time.
Q. What were those funny looking turn signals called semaphores?
Volkswagen did not introduce flashing turn signals on the Beetles until the 1955 model year and it was primarily because of an American requirement. Prior to this time, the Beetle used a type of non flashing turn signal called the Semaphore, which was essentially a finger shaped object that was lighted thru an amber/yellow colored lens. The Semaphore popped out the “B” pillar on either the left or right side of the car. Semaphore Turn Signals were what was prevalently used throughout Europe. Volkswagen continued to offer the Semaphore Turn Signal on Beetles and Type 2s (primarily in European markets) through the early 1960s.
Q. What is a “Zwitter”
A Zwitter is a Beetle manufactured between October 1952 thru March 10, 1953. The Beetle retained the rear window in two split halves, but had the newly redesigned dashboard more commonly seen in the Oval Rear Window Beetles thru the 1957 model year.
Q. Why is a Beetle called a “Type 1”?
In the beginning, Volkswagen assigned each model as a “Type” to indicate it’s characteristics. The Type 1 is actually a family consisting of the Type 1 Beetle, Type 14 Karmann Ghia, Type 15 Convertible/Cabriolet and the Type 18 “Thing” (also known as the “Safari” in some markets. This even extended into the water cooled production as the Type 16 Jetta, Type 17 Golf/Rabbit and the Type 19 Golf II. As a matter of information, the Type 2 is more commonly known as the Kombi, Microbus and Vanagon, the Type 3 is known as the Notchback Sedan, Fastback Sedan, Squareback Wagon (also known in Europe as the Variant) and the limited production Type 34 Karmann Ghia. The Type 4 is known as the 411 (1969 thru 1972) and the 412 (1973 thru 1974) in both Fastback Sedan and Station Wagon (Variant) names.
Q. What is a Standard or Deluxe Beetle?
The Standard Beetle was a “stripped down” model of the Beetle without almost any body or window chrome trim. In fact, the door handles, hood handles and front turn signal housings were painted, usually in grey. These were sold primarily in Europe, but available in other markets such as Canada. The Deluxe Beetle is what was primarily sold in the United States with the familiar body and window chrome moldings, door and hood handles and chromed front turn signal housings. With the introduction of the Super Beetle in the 1971 model year, the Deluxe Beetle which continued in production was informally called a “Standard Beetle” to differentiate between the two models and continued to have all of the “Deluxe” trim appointments. When ordering parts, this can be important to know what model type of Beetle you have or you might receive the wrong parts.
Q. When was the last year the Beetle was sold in the United States?
1977 was the last model year the Standard Beetle Sedan was offered and sold in the United States (1975 was the last model year the Super Beetle Sedan). Production continued on the Super Beetle-based Convertible/Cabriolet which was offered and sold through the 1979 model year in the United States.
Q. Why doesn’t my 1968 Beetle have a Steering Lock? Wasn’t this required in the United States?
Technically, the US Federal requirement for Steering Locks did not take effect until January 1969. So for most of 1968 model year, Beetles were equipped with an “Intermediate Housing” between the Ignition Lock Cylinder and the electrical part of the Ignition Switch, even though the Steering Shaft was equipped with “Locking Clam Shells”. When the 1969 models were introduced in August 1968, a true Steering Lock was equipped, thus beating the Federal deadline by 5 months. As a trivia note, optional Steering Locked Ignitions were available on the Beetle as far back as the mid 1950s.
Q. What are “Push and Pray” Brakes on a Beetle?
On Standard Beetles not sold in the United States thru the early 1962 model year, all 4 wheel brakes were activated by cables rather than the more commonly used hydraulic fluid. Deluxe Beetles from the 1949 model year came with hydraulic brake systems.
Q. Were Beetles ever equipped with “Factory” Disc Front Brakes?
Disc Front Brakes were primarily available for the Beetle starting in the 1967 model year as an option outside of the United States and were never standard equipment. Disc Front Brakes were standard on Type 14 Karmann Ghias from the 1967 model onwards, as was the Type 3 from the 1966 model year onwards. It can be noted that from 1967 onwards, that Beetles could be special ordered from Germany through the US Dealership by the customer to be equipped Disc Front Brakes. This was essentially a Type 14 Karmann Ghia front axle system, using 4 lug wheels instead of the 5 lug wheels common to 1967 Drum Brake models.
If you have a question about VW's, American Muscle Cars, Automobile history, Pinstriping, Airbrushing, Custom Paint please send the question to email@example.com if it's a frequently asked question I'll post it.
Be Prepared for your Trip
I’m sure some if not most of you have had the experience or or know that owning a vintage vehicle of any kind takes quite a bit of time, patience, effort and dedication to keep it from leaving you and your loved ones stranded on the side of the road. Being broken down on some unknown stretch of road far away from home or help can turn a good time into a disaster, and will take away from creating a wonderful memory.
Many of us restore our cars to the point of being polished, perfect, show winning, reliable and if desired to drive daily. Some desire the original look while others like the custom or radical custom look. No matter what your style may be, (and though I understand the fear of a rock chip on that fresh paint job right before a show) I hope you build your car with the intention of driving it, and not just trailering it. While planning your mechanical restoration, consult with others and build it to be reliable. Fixing as you drive is ok if you only go a few miles from home and have a budy with a trailer or AAA to come rescue you. But it also helps to have tools, spare parts, knowledge and good friends along the way to help you out.
Back in the late 70’s when I started building VW’s with Jerry Goff and later Muscle cars with Ricky, Dwayne and the guys as a hobby and as transportation, there were countless repair shops in every part of the country that you could pull into and get help with your car. In those days, VW engine rebuilds fetched the huge sum of around $200! Now that our VW’s are considered “Classic Cars”, an engine rebuild or major repairs can cost thousands. If you are on the road waiting for parts that are not typically stocked by the local shop, you may even need a hotel room. Don't ever believe your part will be there tomorrow! Unless you’ve got the cash and the towing coverage on your insurance policy, we as responsible Volkswagen and vintage car owners who love our family and sanity should always be prepared. It doesn’t matter if you are a show winning reliable cruiser or seat of the pants fixer upper, tools, spare parts and a list of people to help out is a necessity.
In the spring of 1988 I started out driving my 70 Cal look VW Bug that I had driven daily and raced every weekend from my former home in Indiana to Georgia. This was to be the virgin long haul road test for my daily driver and weekend racer. I had only driven it around town and to and from the races, but never on the interstate for more than an hour or so. I never thought of breaking down. I knew my work and that I only use quality parts so I felt it was worthy of the journey. But before starting my trip, things started happening that I didn't plan on when rebuilding the car a year or so earlier. The old beetle had issues that should have been addressed before driving on the interstate for 14 hours.
To begin with, the car was built too low for interstate driving. A few scrapes and the dreadful blown tires in the road knocked off a line to the brake reservoir. So I tell myself "don't draft so close!" Then the cool clear distributer cap and matching spark plug wires I just bought before the trip showed faulty and were arcing out on the shroud. I had to find some electrical tape because no VW parts could be found. Never would I use those clear junk parts again. On the road again I was trying to make up time and had the pedal close to the floor. I buried the speedometer for hours and ran through one tank of gas. As I started on the next tank I hooked up with a husband and wife going the same way driving their BMW and new Porsche they just purchased out of Atlanta. About 30 miles into that leg of my trip with darkness falling, I hit a pothole. Yes, I forgot to grab a spare tire and I didn't keep one in the front. If you've ever pulled a front "wheelie" in a VW with the spare in place you know why I didn't carry one all the time. When I hit that hole the generator light came on and I popped a tire. I was hoping I only threw a belt. I found a tire shop that was about to close and lucky for me one of the guys working there was a VW buff. He actually had two 135's in stock. Talk about a learning experience. I was an experienced enthusiast who had been there, done that who had brought tools but no spare parts. Why did I do that? When the tires were fixed, I got back on the road. A generator could not be found, so we charged the battery and an extra was thrown in by the generous tire shop that loved the bug class people. The trip there was an awesome adventure, and a true learning experience for future trips. Then came the worst part of the trip. I was in Georgia, but both batteries had run down and I couldn't find a generator in stock nor the parts to rebuild mine. I was told it could be ordered, and it would be there tomorrow. I placed the order, called my friend and parked my Bug outside of the police station. My friend and I then went to Florida for the weekend. When we returned, we went to get my Bug and it was nowhere to be found. The officer on duty remembered seeing it on Friday night, but not Saturday morning when he got off. My worst fear was realized when we made all checks to see if it had been towed. It hadn't. It was stolen.
Trip preparation was key to prevent this from happening. A lot of things I could have done differently. During my next build and future trips across the US, I feverishly ordered spare parts and double and triple checked all of the systems on my new ride. I did my homework and studied my mistake to ensure I never had another trip like that one.
While doing the logistic planning for future trips, I not only planned hotel stays every night and fuel stops every 300 miles, but also searched for local clubs and VW shops along the way. Networking with local enthusiasts and clubs is not only key for critical issues, but adds an element of fun by meeting new people with the same hobby.
While searching the internet for repair facilities, I stumbled upon the “Air Cooled Rescue Squad”. This group of generous folks register on a list with their addresses, skills and ability to help any traveling air-cooled VW in trouble. Skills and abilities range from roadside help/parts to even offering a garage to repair your VW and a place to stay. They do encourage that you still “Be Prepared". I now keep an updated version of the list in my on-board tool box and run a GPS system. Here is their website:
http://www.type2.com/rescue/ Check them out!
The biggest preparation for trips is making a list of possibilities and packing the most I could to keep me from reliving the previous disaster. I packed a complete set of necessary tools, spare parts and fluids while at the same time trying to keep the load as light as possible.
I have generalized the list to cover all air-cooled models.
1. Spare tire (known good, aired up and balanced)
2. Tire changing tools ( hubcap puller, lug wrench to fit your size lugs)
3. OEM jack (if your jacking points are solid) or a good, light, small floor jack if not
4. Tire gauge and portable compressor
5. Tire plug kit
6. Fan belt and the proper wrench to change it
7. Extra generator pulley shims
8. Fuses, bulbs
9. Electrical tape
10. Fuel filter and clamps
11. Points, plugs, cap and rotor
12. Valve cover gaskets
13. Spark plugs "NGK" and new wires
14. German fuel hose, proper brake hose for your year and vacuum hose if needed for your model
15. Fluids = 3 Quarts of oil, brake fluid, W-D40 hand cleaner and Rain-Ex.
16. Small tool kit (I want you to think light and as quiet as possible here. Extra weight wastes fuel and loose tools jingling around drives you crazy. Wrap tools in shop towels to keep them from rattling.) Tool kit should consist of 6,8,10,12,13,14,15,17,19 and 21 mm wrenches as well as sockets, ratchet and assorted extensions, pliers, wire cutters,vise-grips, Phillips and slotted screwdrivers, medium adjustable wrench, large wrench to fit the lower pulley nut, axle nut “whacker” (and a BIG hammer to whack it with), feeler gauges (if you are still running points), knife, eletric tape, allen wrench set, an assortment of common nuts and bolts, cotter pins and wiring connectors, 12 volt electrical tester and multi-meter, zip ties, mechanic wire and electrical wire,
jumper cables, small 1 gallon gas can, hand cleaner.
17. Bentley manual for your year and model or a copy of “the idiot book”
18. Safety items such as road flares or chem-lights, reflective triangle, blanket, non-perishable food, first aid kit, flashlight and spare batteries. The new LED lights last much longer so consider one of those.
19. Fire extinguisher. Should be in every car.
20. Rain gear, blanket to stay warm.
21. Cell phone and charger.
I store the tools behind the drivers seat on the floor, the blanket in the rear well behind the rear seat, and the rest in a small rubbermaid container in the front trunk.
This list seems like a lot of extra weight to drive around with, but it could make your trip much more enjoyable and carefree if you can just “BE PREPARED".
For my preparations for a " Cross Country” trek, I packed many more parts than I really needed, including various rebuild kits, a spare carb and distributor, a fuel pump and even a spare cylinder head and rocker assembly. After losing my beloved VW, I feel I can never be too prepared as long as I have the space. I haven't broken down since that trip without having the right part on hand.
My last trip we had no breakdowns, got an average of 34 mpg, with 48mm Delortos, used only a ½ quart of oil and covered 3200 miles in 7 days.
I highly encourage all vintage owners who want to plan a long road trip to take the time up front to ensure an adventure filled with sights other than those seen from the side of the road. Make a list. The one above is just a starting point. Each car has it own personality, and your list will reflect your car’s temperament. Knowing that you have the part, the tool or you’ve got a friend in town makes a world of difference between dead on the road or a great adventure.
This Page is being updated to include additonal information on the VW Transporter/Bus/Westfalia. Please check back periodically. Sorry for the inconvenience. I have been asked lately about different rim sets for the Busses and Engine conversions for the Transporter/Vans since I have so many running around the country the name gets out. I posted some sites to help you decide if a swap is for you. I will also be posting part manufactures at the end of this article.
The following information has been obtained over the past 43 years through reading numerous publications from Volkswagen and other sources, talked about at shows, on forums and read or obtained from websites from around the world. Some was taken or copied from OEM VW publications and from other VW owners manuals and of course my personal and numerous friends experiences. If you have an original VW publication and information or a good copy with good information please offer the information to fellow VW enthusiast. It's impossible to remember which sites to give credit where credit is due. But most of the additional information I obtained was found over the past few years has came from www.thesamba.com, www.gowesty.com, www.type2.com and www.westfalia.org If you are a business or individual and use this information on your site please do not copy write it as people have done with other information obtained from my site. You may use it any way you wish to help fellow VW enthusiast as long as it remains free.
The VW Bus / Transporter / Westfalia
These days you can find damn near any bit of information about the VW Bus from hundreds if not thousands of resources on the internet, at the bookstore or from talking to folks you meet at a local VW event. You no longer have to read through countless magazines and books or search wanted adds hoping to score an original owners manual nor do you have to go to a local VW shop or Dealer to get the information you need. "Just Google or Bing it!" The problem with all this information is that if you have ever had to asked your local VW mechanics, the people on your favorite VW forum or at a VW Club meeting questions like which tires to use on your Bus or what size engine or gearing is going to get you down highway or around the country and up the mountains you know you are likely to get a hundred different answers. I only ask that whatever you do, do not let someone sell you on putting a tire rated for todays SUV's on your Westfalia or tell you a 1600cc motor is going to push your Westy around the country at 80mph no problem unless it is built right and pushes at least 85hp. You need a much stronger sidewall tire. These SUV tires will blow the sidewall eventually and there is a reason VW installed larger displacement engines in the later model Busses and Westfalias.
From here on out, when I refer to Bus it is in reference to all VW's built on the Bus/ Type II platform.
First we will get into the big problem with the VW Bus. Problem one is the fact that the Bus has a high ground clearance narrow wheel base and the overall height of the Body exceeds 6.5' in most cases. This combination makes them not only heavy but top heavy which puts a strain on the sidewalls of tires especially during cornering. The Transporter and Westfalia by todays safety standards would not even be allowed to be manufactured even if you threw in power brakes and airbags. The base models were originally designed for commercial use such as ambulances, fire vehicles and delivery of goods and people. So they can carry some heavy loads when you need them too, just don't stack it too high. VW should not have chosen a 14" wheel for the Bus platform in the 60's. They did so to try to bring the ride height down and back then who would have thought that we would be putting 16"-22" wheels on cars from the factory and 14" tires would almost become obsolete, especially ones that have such a high load rating.
The earlier buses did have 16" rims but in 1955 VW switched to a 15" rim and then in 1965 to the 14" rim to lower the ride height and increase acceleration from a stop when the people were demanding more power from their vehicles. Pre 1968 split window buses weighed around 2500 lbs comparable to a modern passenger car like the Toyota Corolla. However, the bay window busses of later years and like my 1970 Westy weighs in excess of 3300 lbs some exceeding 5000lbs. MY Westy weighs more towards the top end of the scale due to the VW Jetta engine conversion and other equipment that I've installed. Yet I still can run 80mph all day long. VW's tire selection was based on the need for reinforced sidewalls with a total of 6-8 plies. I choose 8 ply tires with the proper load rating on customer Busses. But getting the local tire shops now days to understand the needs of the VW Busses is sometimes impossible. They use reverse logic, assuming that any tire is suitable as long as the load rating is somewhere close to the information you provide them from VW specification charts. However, if you switch tires from what is required by VW to an under rated tire you will immediately notice the difference during braking, turning and driving in high winds. If your lucky you can get away with the incorrect tires for a short time, but eventually time will run out and tire will blow messing up your quarter panel or even totaling your Bus. When I had my son find the proper tires for my 70 Westy shortly after I purchased it many moons ago I couldn't believe the difference it made cruising down the interstates.
More about tires
As the standard rim sizes for manufacturers have increased in size over the years, tire selection for the Busses has dwindled even further. Until 1991 the VW Vanagons used these same tires so dealers stocked the 185R14 tires for years after production but they became harder and harder to come by as years have passed. Something you should know before you go to your local dealer. Most dealers get their tires from the local tire shops or a local distributor so why pay their marked up prices. Find a tire dealer and stick with them just like a mechanic that you can trust. If you go to your local big chain tire store and the salesman/woman behind the counter is motivated they will find you the tires you need. My son deals in tires so I know they are out there. He finds them for our friends and customers day after day at great prices.
Most tire dealers will be confused about what is the proper tire to fit on your bus. Don't get discouraged. It just takes a little bit of work on their part so stay on them and don't take "no one carries that tire anymore" or "I can't find your vehicle in our system" they can find it. It just takes more of an effort. Here is the problem when dealing with a tire salesman. He won't know that a 185R14 tire exists because they are not expecting a metric designation and they will argue with you up and down, they expect you to include the series (e.g. P185/80R14 or something similar to that). Of course the salesman will most likely try to sell you something in stock rather than send you away without a sale. Don't take the bait, your safety is important to all of us. Get the right tire and keep you and your VW safe. If your Bus still has its owner’s manual take it with you so you will have the specs on hand. Don't rely solely on the information that I have written below.
Remember no matter what the salesman tells you it does matter! You are driving a bus that was designed 20-30 even 40 years or more and weighs a lot and it sits up high, you’re not in a Toyota minivan or Corolla. The vast majority of 14" tires manufactured today are meant for small low to the ground passenger cars, light trailers and such.
On the later Busses (Bay Window) with 14" rims, only two types of radial tires are suitable to carry the weight and provide good handling on the highway. The LRC and LRD tires. These are rated from 1600lbs to 1800lbs. Reinforced means a tire has been reinforced mostly in the sidewalls by adding more plies to carry the heavier load. You need at least an 8 ply tire for your Busses.
Remember that "C" after 185R14C means commercial tire. This is similar to the "LT" or Light Truck tire designation that the salesman is more than likely going to try to sell you. LRC means load range C which is the carrying capacity. LRD is one up from C (greater load capacity at higher maximum psi). So what's the basic difference between LRC and LRD?
The SR in 185/70/SR15 does not mean sidewall reinforced. Years ago, tire speed was designated as part of the size so an H rated tire would have been 185HR14. Look for the word Reinforced stamped into the sidewall as the true indicator. Conversely, 94R as shown on the sidewall of a reinforced tire means 94 load index reinforced, not R speed rating.
Some tire manufacturers recommend exceeding the original rating by 10% for extra safety and even if you do find such a tire, its sidewall won't be stiff enough for the bus.
Buses can weigh 5000 lbs. Divide that roughly by 4 tires (there's a 47/53 weight ratio I'll ignore) and that's 1250 lbs per tire. Guess what happens during hard cornering when more weight shifts to one of the front tires? Did you exceed the load rating of your tire?
VW did not specify a particular min. load rating but from examining the original tires, the typical 185R14 reinf. tire inflated to 40psi had a 1540 lbs. load rating. When inflated to 30 psi, the load table says it can bear only 1310 lbs. Something to keep in mind when deciding whether or not you want a reinforced passenger tire. I would stick with 185R14C tires because the bus rides better and can carry more weight.
185R14 Bus Tires as of March 04:
Brand & Model Load Rating Max. Load Max. psi Diameter Tread Depth Category
Bridgestone 603V D 1855 lbs. 65 psi 25.7" 8.73mm Summer
Continental Vanco 8 D 1874 lbs. 65 psi 25.6" 7.93mm Summer
Cooper SRM II LT (Mastercraft) D 1875 lbs. n/a 25.5" 10.3mm All Season
Hankook RA08 D 1874 lbs. 65 psi 25.6" 11.5mm All Season
Michelin Agilis 61/81 D 1875 lbs. 65 psi n/a n/a All Season
Nokian NRC 2 (UK Site) D 1875 lbs. n/a 25.5" 10.5mm Summer
Vredestein Comtrac D 1875 lbs. n/a n/a n/a n/a
Yokohama Y356 D 1850 lbs. 65 psi. 25.7" 8.73mm Summer
Woosung SV-820 D 1875 lbs. 65 psi. n/a n/a n/a
These tires are virtually identical and mainly differ in cost and availability. Tire life, ride quality, road noise, etc vary from brand to brand and from person to person. Look closely at the specs and you'll notice that some tires have 45% deeper tread! If you search Type2.com's archives by brand name you'll find plenty of tire reviews. I recommend to always stay away from Goodyear tires. Just ask a good tire shop about them several won't carry Goodyear tires.
Bus Depot has an excellent write-up on seasonal tires designations that you should read before you decide against All Season or Summer.
Some tires have gone away or changed designation over the years.
Yokohama Y370 > replaced by Y356
Michelin MX > replaced by Agilis
Continental Contrans and Transport RS771 > replaced by Vanco 8
The Vanco 8 is the OEM tire on the Eurovan. Where as the older Conti's were LRC 6PR tires, the Vanco is a beefier LRD 8PR tire and is what I am running on my Westy.
1968 - 1970 Models:
1968-70 models were originally fitted with 7.00-14 bias ply tires. This isn't the only difference: the rims were only 5" wide (5JKx14) instead of the the 5 1/2" wide rims (5.5J x 14) used from 71-79.
7.00-14 means 7" wide tread (which is close to 178mm) and 14 is the rim size. According to old literature, the bias ply tires were 26.22" +/- 0.24" (~26.0-26.4") in diameter. Subtracting 14" for the rim size to compute the sidewall ratio gives us a 178/87R14 tire. How's that for weird radial equivalent? But this diameter contradicts the standards of the era that specified an 82 or 92 series tire.
If you fit 185R14 tires that were meant for a 5.5" wide rim onto a 5" wide rim you will bulge the tire but it won't change the diameter because it's the sidewall that flexes not the steel belts. However the contact width of the thread will change and the rule of thumb is that it will bulge 0.2" for every 0.5" decrease in rim width. In other words a 185R14 tire would lay 180mm of tread on the ground and this is very close to the original 7" tread of the bias ply tires. Some folks think wider tires are harder on the steering box. That's hard to dispute but who knows by how much? What's not clear is whether the improved 73-79 steering box was introduced to improve the original design or to deal with the wider radial tires introduced in 1971.
If you are looking for a radial similarly sized in diameter to the original bias ply tire look for a close match to a tire with a diameter of 26.2" meant for a 5.5" wide rim. One such tire is the Continental Vanco 8 in size 195R14, again what I use on my Westy. When you mount this tire on the 5" rim the contact width will be 190mm and you end up with a slightly wider tire with the same diameter as the original bias ply tire.
This tire sizing issue is one of the reasons that your speedo may be fast (it also means your engine is running faster) when running a 185R14 tire. But what happens when the tread wears? Take a tire with 10/32" of tread and let it wear down to the legal limit of 2/32". That changes the diameter by 0.5" over the life of the tire. If the speedo was calibrated properly then it would be running too slow at first, just right and then too fast but overall it would average out. Keep in mind that the experience of many seems to indicate that the speedo ran just a little fast from the factory.
Does it matter since the tires all vary is size anyway? Trying to "dial in" the speedometer is either impossible or not worth the effort. It's not accurate and was never meant to be.
So mounting a 185R14 tire to a 5" wide rim isn't so bad after all but the 195R14 tire is probably a better choice if you have a 68-70 bus with 5" rims.
Modern Tire Sizes for Split-Window Buses
Tires for your VW Bus or Van (busdepot.com)
Real world tire tests (motorcaravanning.co.uk)
Tire FAQ (Type2.com)
Tire recommendations (vanagon.com)
More Inflation Guidelines (Type2.com)
Load Inflation Table for Vanagons (roadhaus.com)
What Tire Pressure should I run? (gowesty.com)
New spares must be swapped to the rear wheels on RWD vehicles like the bus otherwise you may lose traction in an emergency. You must also give a new tire 300 miles to break in and get it's grip.
Most people are not rotating their spare tires along with the other four tires. As a result the spare tends to sit for many years unused. What you should know is that tires over a certain age are not safe to use. You don't want a 10 year old spare tire that was put on after a flat failing 20 miles down the road.
One solution to the tire selection problem is to use a larger rim to begin with. Keep in mind that the tire sidewall acts like a spring in the suspension. The shorter the sidewall the better the handling and crosswind stability will be but the comfort level will decrease because there is virtually no spring in the rim itself (more metal on a 15" rim vs. large flexible rubber sidewall on 14" rim).
Also understand that there is no power steering on any model year and as the tire gets wider the steering becomes harder.
To use a rim from another vehicle it must meet the following conditions:
the bolt pattern must be the same (5x112)
the rim must be designed for M14 studs or lug bolts.
the studs must long enough for the lug nut to cover every thread of the stud.
the lug nuts must have the same ball or cone taper as the rim because they are lug centric mounting vs hub centric.
the center bore must clear the front grease cap (58mm deep x 54mm wide)
...as well as the rear axle nut (64mm deep x 66mm wide at the base)
the wheel offset must allow the tire to clear the body and spring plate which may mean the use of spacers and possibly longer studs
A larger wheel might not allow the spare tire to fit in the spare tire cupboard in your Westfalia anymore
Several styles were fit to Vanagons and while these rims are getting harder to find as the Vanagon ages they are around at least as used rims. Many of the new rims are imported by several Vanagon vendors from South Africa where the Vanagon stayed in production until 2001.
Once you find a wheel with suitable strength (at least 1800 lbs - factory alloys naturally qualify), you need to select a tire for it.
The problem with bigger tires as the tire becomes wider you will eventually have to adjust the steering stops to prevent the tire from rubbing on the tie-rods. This is an easy change but it will increase your turning radius. The bigger problem using wider tires is clearance at the rear.
There is about 265mm of clearance between the spring plate and the lip of the rear wheel arch where the sidewall will contact first. Let's round it down to 260mm (10 1/4") for safe measure to keep the sidewall markings from rubbing.
When using another rim you have to work with the offset you are given unless you use spacers or mill the mounting surface of the rim.
Do's and Dont's:
Get a $15 "gorilla" 19mm lug wrench for the lug nuts. Those 4-arm tire irons are very hard to use at the side of the road and guessing the correct torque is even harder.
Get a VW scissor jack from Bus Depot or the local junk yard. The factory jack is unstable and was replaced on Brazil models by a more stable scissor version.
Carry a spare tire and keep it inflated to rear tire pressure and adjust for the front when you need to replace a front flat.
Always replace the valve stems when you replace tires because the rubber they are made from is not long lasting. They also tend to crack from age and bending during refilling.
Rotate your tires every 3-6,000 miles (5-10k km). Sooner is better than later because the front and rear suspensions have very different geometries. but whatever interval you initially choose, repeat for future rotations.
Follow the tire rotation guidelines in Bentley. Treat your tires as if they are unidirectional tires.
Rebalance your tires when you rotate them. As tires wear, age and change so does the balance.
Besides keeping tires properly inflated, use a valve stem cap with a rubber seal inside.
Get snow tires if you get snow for a few weeks each year where you live. Otherwise it's best to take the other bus (public transit :-). Summer tires which most of us have fare poorly in snow. The average M+S tire isn't much better as evidenced when I ended up in the ditch with my beetle.
Don't ignore the tread wear indicator on the sidewall/tread. When the thread is worn down to the legal limit of 2/32" (1.6mm) you best not stop suddenly in the rain because the stopping distance will probably be double that of a newer tire.
Don't inflate tires to spec unless they are stone cold. After a short drive the pressure will increase by 3 psi so inflating to spec will leave them underinflated the next morning.
Don't let sidewall cracks go unnoticed. This is the weakest section of the tire plywise.
At the Tire Shop:
Buses are atypical and taking them anywhere in the aftermarket service industry is always a pain. Here are some tips to make it go easier for you:
Put a note on the windshield telling them how to put the transmission into reverse (push to floor, left and then back).
They never get the torque spec right. Ask the tire store to torque your lug nuts by hand tool to 94 ft. lbs. Their air powered "torque sticks" only do 80 or 100 ft. lbs. for 19mm nuts.
Show them the owners manual or Bentley or sticker on the steering column that proves what the tire air pressure should be.
Most of their low rise lifts can't accomodate the bus underbody. Show them the jacking points (front is behind the hand jacking points where the frame cross members are; my advice for the rear is right under the torsion arm pivot plate in front of the wheel). Ask them to use a wood block on top of the jack's saddle.
I recommend using a large chain that offers free rotation and balancing. This is a service that is getting more expensive all the time at smaller shops as the big chains eat into their business.
If you have problems with a tire such as noise or handling mention this to the salesman after you request a rebalancing.
Inspecting the tire by hand mainly reveals major tire damage and sometimes flat spots. Only when the wheel has been spun up on the balancing machine will they be able to see how the tire has changed shape from uneven wear. Common with Good year tires so don't buy them.
If after reading Bentley you think adjusting the alignment is complicated, try finding an alignment shop that's VW friendly? That can be tough. All of the adjustments can be done at home assuming you have an accurate angle gauge, two special special tools and a level surface (shims) but for most owners it's too involved.
Setting the front tires to max psi will cause the steering to become very light and ruin the traction. There is a fine balance to be achieved and since the max psi written on the tire doesn't always match Bentley you have to figure out what's best after starting with the specs.
Why do new tires feel so good? Because they are round. It's also because the rubber is softer. As the tire ages the rubber becomes harder and the ride harsher.
Shocks and tires have the most effect on ride quality. Although some tires produce more road noise than others, the suspension determines how the bus drives. Use oil filled shocks over the KYB gas filled ones. If you need firmer handling, get a sway bar instead of making the shocks so firm because they don't affect the shocks until the body rolls which keeps the ride comfortable.
Handling is a function of the tires because they are responsible for grip. Handling will be terrible if the front tires are unevenly worn (rotate them to the back). Similarly, if the pressure is wrong. After the tire, the shocks are responsible for keeping the tires planted on the ground. Quick lane changes with a set of Koni shocks make the handling improvements apparent.
KYB shocks are stiff and may accelerate tire wear. This is because the wheel starts to hop on the surface as it loses grip. Further, these problems telegraph into the front end and wear out those parts as well.
Transporter Engine Conversion information sites
"it's easier than you think"
How to Buy an Aircooled VW
The first thing you want to consider when buying an Aircooled VW is how you will be using the classic VW. Will it be a show car, a daily driver, a weekend cruiser or used for racing. Unless you plan to fully restore your VW it's usually best to find one that is already built the closest to fitting your needs and in decent shape. So whether its one that has been totally restored, it's a barn find. one found on craigslist or one you purchased off of thesamba, or Ebay. You need to to really check it out thoroughly. The Aircoooled VW likes to rust and people like to hide it anyway they can. So take a list of common rust and problem areas on a VW so you know where to look for problems that have or have not been fixed properly. If there are things you plan to change or problems you will have to fix immidiately that needs to be figured in to your total cost. You may be better off finding one with fewer problems or closer to your dream ride and paying more. Don't impulse buy there are plenty of Aircooled VW's out there and as the economy gets worse the prices are coming down. It's not uncommon to find a restored VW that has had $20,000 or more spent on it selling for under $10,000 these days. So unless you are just loaded with money and can afford to spend the cash on an immaculate rare aircooled VW to drive everyday. You will probably be buying something in the $1,000-$7,000 price range and adding parts to make it uniquily your own. Over the past few years I had four different type VW's come to the shop that should have been checked out more thoroughly buy the buyer and if still purchased they should have been purchased for much less than what was paid. One was a Westfalia one a Superbeetle, one was a Convertible and the absolutely worst case I have seen of a buyer not having a damn clue what he was buying was a Karmann Ghia, that ended up at the shop for almost a year. I am going to use pictures of this Ghia because the car was obviously pulled out of a field, filled with bondo from front to rear, painted bright yellow, an engine slapped together and sold to a buyer that unfortunately didn't know what to look for or have a clue what he was really getting. This car should have never sold for more than $1,000 and the owner told us he paid around $7500 and says he now has over $20,000 in a car worth between $3,000 - $4,000. I go through this car in detail later in this article.
This is an example of a VW that many people would love to drive around and is one of my personal favorites because of it's simplicity and look. Its got the Cal look that many people desire to acheive. It's lowered, cloth sunroof, turbo charged and fast. These types of VW's can be extremily fun to drive and draw a lot of attention in any crowd. It is typically what you can find for around or under $8000. You know the owner may have more than that in this car especially with a quality turbo set up on board.
Consider your budget, how much does the VW cost and how much extra will I have to spend to achieve my goal. If you are spending your life savings you do not want to spend it all on a Hot Rod VW and drive the crap out of it. Something is going to break or need repaired at some point. You will need to have money in the bank to fix it. Ask the owner for the specs on the car or try to find the history of the car if it. I would easily pay $7000 for the car above because I know the owner has made changes in the engine configuration many times, it's maintained and drivable and cool as hell.
What to look for
1. No matter how well you know the person or how nice you think they are, they want your money! That's the simple fact. For one reason or another they are selling their VW and you as a buyer need to look it over really good before you spend all your hard earned cash. So wear some old clothes and make a list of questions to ask bout the car. It's best to use a check list of questions to ask the seller and things to look for on the VW.
What seems to be a great deal may not be so great. Take for instance a Karmann Ghia I purchase for $200 the car was pretty solid but neeeded floor pans, some work on the nose and has some dings all over it. By the time I stripped the car fixed the dings and a few holes and put in new pans, tires rims, rubber, seat covers, carpet, headliner, fuel tank etc and built my engine I had a few thousand dollars in the car. I could have easily purchased one for this amount and saved some time and money. But then again I wouldn't know how well the cars paint was prepped or if there was any hidden rust anywhere on the car. So think hard about your purchase .
2.Floor pans- VW floorpans are almost always rusty if the car has been outside all of it's life or spent it's life where there's snow. Raise up the carpet, crawl underneath look at the pans and check the frame head. If you notice a lot of undercoating it's probably covering something up, scrape some off if they will let you. Also raise the back seat or peel up the original tar insulation. Check the battery tray area really good, this is usually a bad area. Also check to see if the pan is fixed that it has been fixed properly, so it doesn't rust again. If you plan on doing a total restoration your not going to worry so much about their condition but it's usually an indication of how the overall cars condition really is. Cost of getting new floor pans installed properly can easily cost more than $500. I've always lifted the body off the pan to replace but you can wrestle around and get them looking pretty good without taking the body off.
When this Ghia was brought to the shop it looked like a a solid car in great shape it was purchased online. The seller obviously didn't expose to the buyer what was hidden underneath. I've learned not to bring a new buyer down of their high with the truth or they loose their faith in the VW. It can all be fixed, just how much do you want to spend doing it. Remember "Bondo on outside usually means bondo inside as well"
This is the floor pan after we peeled up all the tar, wire wheeled it and vacumed the car. As you can see there are rust holes spread out all over the pans and the pans are really thin and weak. We pulled up lairs of rust. However the owner didn't want the pans replaced so we spent many hours welding up hundreds of holes, adding rust bullet and masking the problem for a few years or maybe more. Sometimes it would be cheaper, better and easier to replace the pans $149each plus $300 labor! It will also add value back to the car.
2. Heater Channels- heater channels are another common place for rust. The channels start under the front wheel wells run along side the car to the rear wheel well area. They are a very important part of any VW's structural strength. As you see in this Ghia, the rust holes were through the heater channels from front to rear of the car and under the fender wells they had slapped bondo into rust holes about 3-4" thick to fill in the holes
You can see on the right of the picture is where this VW's fender well area was filled with bondo and undercoated or in this case overcoated to mask the bondo. It only got worse this type of rust repair was all over the car from front to rear to hide rust damage. I peeled away the one on the left treated it with rust bullet and welded in new metal. You can run into a lot of hours of work fixing all these areas so if you find these areas on a car you want to buy pluck around with a screw driver and or use a magnet on areas that look like they may have been fixed previously.
4. Interior-How bad is it? Does it need new seat covers, padding, carpet, headliner, door panals, dash pad and do all the gauges work? The interior in this one looked decent, but everything was soaked. The owner bought new seats carpet dash pad etc, and brought it to the shop. This one needed it all, so that just added another grand to the cost of the car. When looking at interiors imagine how you want it to look and how bad it really is. Getting a headliner installed alone can run over $600 so be cautious. Seat covers online run about $150 up and door panals and carpeting can run another $100-$150 up each kit. This Ghia's interior was soaked like the car had been under water. You can see how wet it's been and the mold on the backs of the door panals and carpet. No wonder the car is so rusty it's not been keeping any water outside the car. So check the window seals and door seals real good before buying. Seals can ad another couple hundred to the cost of a car real quick.
5. Rims and tires - Does the VW have good tires and are they the proper ones? Busses and Westfalias should not run the same tires. Westfalias need a heavy duty side wall to carry all that extra weight, LT tires will not cut it and will eventually blow out the sidewalls. Check out my page on tires as well. Smaller VW's are not so bad but if you want some low profile 135 or 145's figure on paying around $80-$100 for each tire and if you want custom rims around $100 or more each. Tires and rims can easily run $1,000 and up.
Don't forget you don't have to spend a fortune to make the rims look good. A little sanding powder coat or a good coat of paint and some whitewalls worked just fine on this one. Wheels really make a ride so don't skip adding this expense to your budget even if you leave it in primer
Now if you have the money there are some killer wheels out there, like the ones you see here. You can also special order and have them drill your drums or rotors to any wheel lug pattern, chevy, ford, toyota, honda etc. so you have an even larger selection of wheels to choose from but true aircooled guys don't like you doing that!
6. Front suspension-Check all the components and drive it. If it shakes or shoots off in any direction it needs fixed. "An unsafe car is a wrecked car." Also check the wear pattern on the tires. Check for free play in the stearing components and push down on a fender to see if the car goes down and stays or bounces right back up, this will tell you the condition of the shocks. VW's suspension parts are pretty easy to replace and also to re-align but ball joints will need to be pressed in if they need replaced which adds another $65 or so on to the cost. Also make sure the front beam is rust free especially around the shock towers or add another $200 for repairs. If it's a superbeetle or type 3 check the front end really good these get a lot more involved to fix.
7.Brakes- I rarely worry about brakes on a VW unless it uses a booster like on the Busses other than that you can put new lines, brakes and mastercylinder on in a few hours for just over a $100 bill.
This is a good shot of the front suspension, steering and how a front end looks on a VW. Well this one looks a lot better than most. Nice wiring too! You usually won't find one this clean on a daily driver.
8.Engine- If the owner says it's a rebuild, drive the crap out of it. Look for smoke, oil leaks, pull the drain plug and check for metal or trash, take a compression tester and at the minimum check the number 3 cylinder compression, hows the oil pressure? What modifications have been done and were they done correctly. Listen for knocking noises inside the case using a stethiscope on top of the engine block while it's running. Also if it sounds like a sewing machine, they probably don't have the valve train set up correctly. If the engine is running straight cut gears, they will be a little noisy. On one VW brought to the shop the engine blew after they owned it only a couple weeks and look at the trans below from the first time it was brought in. The engine had three connecting rods hung the wrong way, the wrong bearings installed and the case had already been lign bored 60 over, the thrust dowel pin was wollowing the case again. The case was also cracked behind the number 3 cylinder from over heating and the crank had also been turned 40 under and was totally shot due to it running it out of oil again, caused probably by the line boring causing low oil pressures. The thrust bearing seized on the crank when it was shut off. Needless to say my machine shop laughed and threw the case and crank in the scrap pile.
Bad picture but you can see on the right side of the thrust bearing at the case half where the thrust bearing had spun after the bearing stuck to the crank and the dowell in the wollowed out dowell pin hole couldn't hold it in place any more. The case was already bored 60 over and the wrong bearings were installed by the seller.
Other motors might be a little harder to check out, work on and to pull out of the car. You can also run into some major bucks if you have fuel injection problems as this Squareback did. Not all fuel injector problems are the injectors though.Make sure you check the voltage being supplied to the injectors.Low voltage will cause you some problems. As far as engine problems go, I also had three busses that came in immediately after they were purchased that had rods knocking and hardly any compression left. These engines can easily run $1,000 more than a type 1 to rebuild. If you need some good information on the Type 2, check out http://www.type2.com/.
9.Transmission- Check that it is shifting smoothly, the clutch is ingaging properly (3/4"), take a 17mm hex wrench and check the fluid level and condition of the gear oil (run the purple stuff). The trans in this Ghia was also damaged and needing replaced. The cross shaft holes that keep it secure were damaged causing the shaft to brake and the throw out bearing to come apart. The seller painted the transmission to make it look good and had been rebuilt. Oh the magic of a spray can! So beware of clean paint and new axle boots. This one was repaired for a short time until the owners new transmission came in, I then machined in new guides for the shaft and should last forever if it gets put in another car. You can pick up used IRS transmissions pretty easy for less than $100 and will take about three hours to install. Also when checking under the car check the condition of the transmission mounts. If the rubber is cracked, squashed or gone buy new ones. That's another $50.
As you can see the cross shaft, drive spline, case and throwout bearing are all damaged and cracked and now whe know why it wouldn't go! I prefer to buy new transmission set ups from Rancho transmissions in California they can be bought for around $500 and includes some better components than original. A transmission built to withstand over 150hp will run you $800 and up. A serious racing transmission like the one in our drag car will run you $3000 and up. Rancho guarantees all it's transmissions and have always given my great service.
10. Body- Take a magnet with you to check for bondo it's not always obvious when the body work has been done with care. Run the magnet on the quarter panels above wheel wells and on the bottoms of fenders. Or look for obvious places that have been fixed. Ask the owner if the car has ever been wrecked or repaired and then look for yourself for signs that it has. Most Ghia's have been smacked in the front and straightend back out, it's just a simple fact because the nose sticks out further than the bumpers. On all models open the trunk and look on the inside of the fender wells, apron and spare tire areas. On older cars that have been painted atlease once I believe the entire car really needs to be taken down to bare metal to fix the body properly and get some good paint adhesion. So here are the things to check.
Has the car been repainted and did they do the body work right? Replaced the metal instead of filling in holes with filler. Once again on this Ghia looked good in pics but in reality they just slapped the bondo in the rust holes sanded and taped it up and sprayed with some single stage paint in a bright color that would catch attention. In this case they even painted over parts of the window rubbers and when removed it peeled the paint. Sometimes a buyer is more excited about a color than the real condition of the car, don't get caught up on fresh paint it because if not done right it may not last. You can always repaint a car to a color that you like.
As you can see the Ghia looks good in a picture. Don't rely on a picture of any vehicle or take the owners word. I would buy the car if I had only seen the pictures. But upclose the car is full of bondo and damage from the front to the rear top and bottom. Within a year or so the car will be full of rust bubbles if left outside.I hope it doesn't discourage the owner and he takes it to a qualified shop to get the body done right when that time comes. VW can be a lot of fun for many many years they are well worth your efforts if you plan to keep and
Heres one I got taken on. Knowing we can handle any body work so I didn't bother to ask the questions that I tell everyone else to ask. I got caught up in the purchase as some people do and bought it from pictures at a car show. That's tin riveted to the underside front end and lots of bondo. We have since cut and welded on a new front end but the rest of the car needs a lot of attention also. It really needs a body off restoration to be right. Oh it also had steering and other mechanical issues that we didn't take into account. Always check the front nose of a Ghia for damage
This picture showns an engine compartment after we started cleaning it. This compartment is also rusted through and was fixed with bondo. It was sprayed black and the battery area on the left was covered with a plastic battery tray that covered cracks and holes. Even the transmission horns had to be heated and straightened 1.5". Engine was sitting sideways in the compartment. Check this area good it's one of the hardest areas to fix. If buying a Ghia or Bus, the engine compartment is a good place to check the rear quarters for previous repairs.
Add Westy Pics here also.
Check under the fuel tank these areas are common rust areas against the fire wall, where the body bolts to the pan and also where the brake fluid runs down and eats away all the paint. Also check for leaking brake parts and damaged front end components. This VW had many of these problems. You can also see if the car is not the original color or has been repainted. These areas don't lie so check them against what the person selling the car is telling you. It's also an indicator if someone really spent the time to paint the car right and not just decorate the outside for a quick sale.
On convertibles suspect the worst on the tops unless they have reciepts and pictures of the top restoration. To restore a top it will run you about $3000 if done by a qualified shop. That includes cleaning, powdercoating the frame and replacing the wood and padding.
Superbeetles are notorious for the front struts going bad and wearing out front steering components creating a violent shaking motion when you drive. The struts will also run you about $100 a piece plus labor. This Superbeetle had obvious damage to the front but don't always count on it being so visible
Here is a picture of a 67 I purchased. The car was really solid but had been smacked in the front. Notice the gap between the hood and front apron. It made the trip from west coast to east coast.
If you come across a VW that has some damage consider making it a baja, they are a lot of fun and will go anywhere if set up right. This was my son Matt's baja before being sold to a Marine in Florida. But beware Baja's usually don't sell for as much as a sedan.
Simon's Speed Shop
Airbrushing-Pinstriping-Screenprinting-Antique Restoration- Custom Painting and Fabrication - Classic VW and Motorcycle Restoration
This is a little History about how I started working on VW's, Airbrushing and custom painting and of course building award winning race and show cars. If you don't give a toot about this scroll past it for tech information on building your VW. Just remember always use quality parts or you will spend more in the long term of owning or racing your VW.
I started working on VW's in southern Indiana at around age 6 or so with Jerry Goff. Jerry owned Midwest Imports in Evansville Indiana, back in the day" and his famous VW race cars set several NHRA and IHRA records over the years. I grew up watching these 4 cylinder VW's doing wheelies, setting records and beating those old American made V8 Gasser muscle cars, so I naturally had to have one myself, as a teenager I had my share of cars but always had a bug to thrash around in, since then I've owned hundreds. At one drag racing event at Chandler Raceway Park / Greater Evansville Raceway that I will never forget, Easter Weekend. Jerry's VW's, The Bed Bug and Karmann Ghia, raced The Little Red Wagon three drag cars doing wheelies at the same time on a drag strip made to run two cars at a time, Jerry and Don lined up in one lane and the Little Red Wagon in the other, "pretty cool day" for our family to be a part of the show, but my favorite memories were just getting to go to the races with him almost every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. When I was a teenager Jerry helped me build my own VW street cars, I would drive them around for a year or so and then for some reason, I seemed to always cut them up into Baja's when deer hunting season came in. There were a few that I didn't but not many. I still have a 59 that I've owned for more than 35 years and has been driven in just about every state including Hawaii. Back when I lived in Indiana and I remember buying every little electric heater ever made trying to keep my family warm and the windows defrosted during the winter. During the 70's and 80's my friends and I were either hunting, working on cars, or racing on the street or strip, most of them had Mopar Muscle. Being around these cars and Jerry's shop, you can see why my fascination with the Aircooled VW has continued for almost 50 years. Over the years I have owned numerous VW's and classic cars, some were fast, some were just to drive and enjoy while we cruised. Some of those cars I wonder how I ever came up with the paint scheme, people would laugh then after a few months everyone was copying the designs or having me paint their cars. The point of me talking about owning VW's since I was a kid is, wives have come and gone, but my VW's always stay by my side and give me tranquility and enjoyment. The thing that I love about owning and driving a classic VW is no matter which one I drive, it always draws people to it. VW's have probably made their owners more friends than any other vehicle in the world. I can't tell you the number of stories I've heard while filling up at the gas station, or how many ladies have came up and told me they lost their virginity in a VW. It's so funny to hear these stories and always nice to make friends with other classic VW owners. All my children will have a story to tell about dad's VW's when I'm gone. Since I started racing my VW's on the street and strip, I can honestly say, there are not many cars that are going to beat it to the next light or in the 8th mile. Of all the national events I have attended over the years, I can probably count the number of VW's racing on both hands, which is really disappointing to me. I've laid off racing the last few years due to my coaching duties and trying to be the best dad I can be, but this year I am putting my drag car on the street, starting another restoration on the 59's and going to start driving the Westy as much as possible again. My youngest daughter just told me today (Dec 28) She wants to go camping in it again and would like to drive it to school sometimes when she starts driving to school. Just below you will find a few pics, I will continually ad more as the year flies by.