Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lowering the Nautilus.

The issue of Volkswagen ride height is quite a hotly debated one. I think this is due in large part to the ease and cost ($0.00) at which it can be done, coupled with the fact that it will be done by those who see no reason to leave well enough alone. The stock ride height is a good compromise between performance and safety, but it lacks something in the esthetics department, particularly on a Karmann Ghia. Whether we're talking about a Type 14 or Type 34, there's something strongly appealing to me about one that is slightly lowered. Conversely, where the Type 34 is specifically concerned, I feel there is nothing more insipid that a vehicle that emits a shower of sparks every time it hits bottom on the least little road imperfection, or high sides when attempting to navigate a dividing line reflector--or worse, puts out a foglamp lens attempting the climb up and over a driveway curb. If this happens to you...uh, well...dude...perhaps your 'sport tuned suspension' is a tad too dialed.

At the time of this writing, restoration plans for the Nautilus call for taking the craft back to a purely stock configuration. This is in line with my natural tendencies of 'purist'. In a seemingly contradictory stance, I'm also really not afraid to modify an original or stock restored car. Just as long as that modification can easily be reversed. There are a lot of nice bolt-on accessories available these days for Volkswagens and a resto-custom car can easily be built or undone. Or endlessly cogitated over. Obviously I'm quite torn on the subject.

I now have on hand some very interesting suspension components. BerT3 has recently introduced some parts to the Type 3/34 universe that I am having a hard time of the greatest temptations ever...something so outstanding that it really deserves it's own darksider approved 'M-code'. Maybe something like:
  • M 666 Special front suspension equipment package, Chassis 0 000 017 to 313 2500 000, consisting of lowered spindles, a tasteful 2.5" drop, 2 each.

Like them or hate them, these units are indeed lovely. Set #028 is currently in my good but ill-guided hands and I may have to use them. They're beautiful. It's a great Christmas gift idea. And at the time of this writing, there are still a few sets awaiting future owners, available only through BerT3.

Ok. We've establish that I like a slightly lowered stance on my cars. Having on hand both brand new lowered and original height powdercoated spindles seriously focuses in on the hideous appearance of that ugly, undercoating flecked, dirt encrusted, worn out-near death's door Type 3 front beam under that car of mine. Relax--I've got it covered. ISPWest is rebuilding me an early Type 3 front beam right now using one of their bushing kits. It's a custom order item that's gonna cost me big, but will result in a superior ride quality. And it will be powder coated 60% black for a luxurious long lasting finish, just like the rest of the undercarriage parts. I'm hoping it's done and in my grubby mits within the next 2 or 3 weeks.

With the front end more than overkilled, the opportunities for lowering the rear of the craft are manyfold. I could simply decide to re-index the rear torsion bars. Sure, I could do that--and have done that on other cars, but the despicably negative camber'ed results on a deeply and severely dumped swing axle car just doesn't get it done for me. If you didn't pick up on it earlier, then I'll say it again: I think it's quite a nasty hack, and I really mean that in a bad way. Not that there isn't a place for swingaxles, particularly for high horsepower cars. And regardless of my feelings on the matter, negative camber IS a classic stance that a lot of people dig. But I like my wheels and tires to be oriented nearly verticle to keep the tire contact patch with the road as large as possible, minimizing inner tire wear and tear and improving handling and braking. For these reasons, I much prefer IRS rear suspensions and the way this technology lowers down. That's just me and what I want for my cars...for you, whatever's cool.

Now, I've turned on 'Reader Comments' for this topic...not that I expect anyone's actually reading this. But if beyond all expectations you are out there and pawing through this dreck and also have an opinion on the subject, then please do let it fly. Just don't let me know if you have at any time in the past lifted and successfully raced a Baja'ed Type 34...unless you have pictures that you're willing to share and post here.

By way of review, the Type3/34 rear suspension has a subframe that unbolts from the pan. This opens up a ton of really cool bolt-on possibilities for the rear suspension, but in my opinion the best possibility for a street vehicle is to simply bolt in an IRS subframe. Better yet, modify a swingaxle Type3 subframe with the weld-in IRS trailing arm receivers to run the IRS trailing arms. This straight forward modification retains all the stock VW Type 1 IRS stuff, which is relatively cheap and plentiful. It removes the need to weld rear engine mount receivers for the rear engine mount bracket to the back underside of the car's body, which may not have been properly designed to handle the suspended weight of the engine, anyway.

A few years ago I had German Transaxle in Bend, Oregon build me a '73 spec Type 3 IRS transmission and it has the nice final gearing and nosecone to support backup lights. If I were considering a customization to the suspension, with or without an accompanying suspension height adjustment, an IRS rear suspension upgrade using this transmission is quite an intriguing option. What is even more intriguing is a Porsche 901 5-speed transmission upgrade, which I also have readily available.

Rest assured, the darkside has never offered so many temptations.