Thursday, November 25, 2010

Steering my way towards the truth

Style and form tend take a back seat to function for the features offered on most of the vintage Volkswagen models.  As classy as the Type 34 is by comparison to the Bug or Bus, the part selections made by Volkswagen for all the air cooled models were frankly rather consistent, straightforward and simplistic. I might even say bland. But as with most things Type 34 related, what at first appears to be a part shared with one of its Type 3 brethren or perhaps it's Type 14 Ghia sibling, is quickly revealed as unique and specific when scrutinized under the harsh light of the Volkswagen parts lists. Because sometimes the parts lists are not as accurate as they could be, and though not always feasible, physically comparing parts confirms any suspicion of differences. And so it is with steering columns. Luck prevailed some time ago when on a visit to one of my favorite VW haunts I literally stumbled over a complete '67 Type 3 steering column while sorting through a freshly delivered pile of used, but serviceable spare parts.  My wife quickly identified the overall pile as 'junk', until I yarded the steering column from the pile.  This steering assembly included the steering wheel, all the way down to the rag joint, and also included the steering tube. Not sure this unit was from a Squareback or a Fastback, but for $20.00 it was at least worth the price of admission for the ignition and turn signal switches that were present. The best part of the find for me was the knowledge that came from taking it all apart and comparing against the Type 34 parts I have on hand.

Steering columns in the Type 3 and Type 34 are similar, with some critical differences. The upper steering column housing that bolts to the bottom side of the dashboard edge encases several parts:  the steering column, steering column bearing, turn signal switch, ignition switch.  The upper steering column is also essentially the same for both the Type 3 and Type 34 from at least '61 - '65.  '66 & '67 housings are similar, with some external differences in that the top of the housing on the later part is a bit more rounded making the cast area where the ignition switch fits look a little less distinctly cylindrical.  Perhaps to camouflage the parts it encloses? The '67 ignition switch housing I have might not mount up exactly right in my '64 Type 34 because of the additional material on the topside that might not entirely clear the lower Type 34 dash pad.

What is uniquely different between the Type 3 and Type 34 columns is the turn signal arm, the turn signal cancelling collar that attaches to the back of steering wheel hub and the steering column tube.  The most important difference is the steering column shaft itself. Thinking it over, that's really whole lot of differences! If you start off your Type 34 restoration with not much more than a body shell and a pan, you might be in for some ugly surprises as you go along. The Type 34 steering column shaft itself is exactly 35 inches long, making it 3/4" longer that the Type 3's 34 1/4" length. Note also the semi-circular metal pieces on the Type 34 column, which were put there to support the Euro spec locking column. Cars shipped to the United States didn't get this feature, so are missing these pieces. The steering tube that encases part of the lower steering column shaft from the front firewall to the upper steering column housing is also longer on the Type 34, being exactly 20" long versus the 18 5/8" length for the other Type 3 cars. The turn signal lever collar is deep, requiring a turn signal cancelling collar that is just as deep to cancel the signals at the end of a turn.

Of all the parts unique to the Type 34 column, the turn signal arm is the most difficult part to find. Aside from their rarity due to the relatively low production numbers and lack of importation to some corners of the world, probably the best reason they are so hard to come by is that they seem to be cast in a way that makes them a bit more fragile that the standard Type 3 part. All Type 3 and Type 34 turn signal arms fit well around the central hub cast into the upper steering column housing. This is a small bit of good news in case you need to run the standard Type 3 part in your Type 34 for while, with the understanding that there will be a large gap between the turn signal switch and the steering wheel and a bit of a reach when operating the switch. Maybe a final bit of good news is that the high/low beam switch that attaches to the turn signal arm is identical on both the Type 3 and Type 34 signal levers.

Lastly, the steering components on the Type 34 differ from the Type 3 pieces.  The same steering box and steering box mounting clamp is used, however, the mounting clamp is reversed on the Type 34.  There's even some '34' numbers indicating the orientation if the steering box is used with that type of car.  The idler arm is Type 34 specific, and this is the part that bolts to the steering box, which both inner tie rod ends and the steering damper bolt to.  Finally, the inner tie rod end on the driver's side of the car has a 20 degree angle to it to help clear everything when the car is fully loaded and at full lock, both right and left.

Once again, I am dumbfounded by the subtle differences between the Type 3 and 34.  And while my wife might sometimes refer to my parts collections as 'junk', she also has come to realize that said 'junk' has a lot more intrinsic value than she would have originally allowed for.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Instrumentation for the Nautilus, Part 1

As much as I know about the Type 34, I'm forced to continue my education as I discover parts variations and detail changes that were made throughout the car's entire production run.  Actually, I've really been blindsided a time or two by changes made during certain model years, particularly during '64, '65 and '66.  Regardless of year, the ongoing changes are everywhere and the parts book doesn't go into too much detail about them.  These replacement parts tend to be considered continual improvements and direct replacements for the original items.  A prime example is this 90MPH speedometer, which was used in production cars until the arrival of the '1500 S' models, and appears to have also been available as an over the counter part until stocks were depleted.  It was then superceeded by the 100MPH version.  My car was a hulled out shell when I got it, so I was left to discover these finer points of authenticity on my own.  I've been aided in this by what I could glean from the Internet, from the workshop manuals and from fellow Type 34 enthusiasts.  I was uncertain for quite a long time if the 100MPH unit was correct for my car, but was finally able to confirm that it goes with the 'S' package on the Type 34, thanks to Lee Hedges.

This raises some other questions regarding the date code present on the back of each Type 34 VDO instrument.  Where the ink stamped date codes can still be found, the dates are as much as a month or two earlier than the actual build date of the vehicle.  I guess this makes sense because the factory would want to have parts on hand and ready to install on the assembly line.  The speedometer I acquired was made the same month my car was produced, and that's close enough for authenticity purposes.  The original unit for the Nautilus was probably made as early as September of '63 and was calibrated and labeled in KPH, which is correct for a German delivery car.  Honestly, I'm not entirely sure of my car's provenance, how it was delivered to the US, and by whom, but it's probably time to get a birth certificate from Volkswagen.  I think the US bound tourist delivery cars got a MPH speedometer installed by the factory, even though they were to be initially driven in Europe.  I suspect the clear plastic KPH overlays for the speedometer were handed to aid these folks in the MPH to KPH conversion while underway.  The 100 MPH speedometer is likely correct for my car because by the time the car arrived in the US months or years after production, it was the only speedometer available for installation from the Volkswagen Parts Counter.  I've probably over-thought this--and it really doesn't matter.

I'm thinking about having North Hollywood convert a spare clock to a tachometer.  For the Nautilus, maybe it would be appropriate to also have a speedometer rebuilt, calibrated and labeled in Knots!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Motorworks Restorations makes a house call

It's a truly great thing when a company stands behind their work.  In this case, Jeremy and Julio of Motorworks Restorations are taking this beyond the figurative sense and are moving it right toward the literal one.  The two stopped by last Saturday morning to finish up a few paint details I was afraid to tackle myself due to limited paint polishing skills and equipment.  Over two years ago, while Motorworks Restorations was still in their old location, the Nautilus was covered by overspray from another paintjob being done in an adjacent work area.  It's taken some time to locate the problem spots on the craft and get it all removed.  This overspray issue has always bummed me out, however Motorworks has always considered it a warranty issue that they are dedicated towards working through.  And when I report a problem, they quickly resolve it.  Regardless, this has stalled my progress on assembly because I have no desire to put freshly chromed or NOS chrome parts on the craft, only to later have to remove them to have paint buffed.  Counter productive for all concerned.  On this particular Saturday, great progress was made to address this annoying problem.

While working in the front trunk area, Jeremy had a chance to check out my 'spare-change alignment handiwork' on the right hinge.  He will fabricate an aluminum shim to shift the hood into better alignment.  Also, my search for acceptable front hood seal material continues, as the Type 14 seals are still not quite right.  In checking around, ISP West may have some better stuff available now.

The fore and aft compartments gleam again and I have no excuses to get started in there...unless some part is made out of unobtanium...which still happens more often that I would like.  Keep thinking I have everything I need, only to find that the parts I thought I had are either less than ideal, ill-fitting, or flat out wrong.  I wish I were just making excuses, but it's becoming another source of frustration.

Motorworks has undergone some relatively recent personnel changes.  Gone is Gary Turk, and this concerned me because Gary had a lot to do with the character of the work done by Motorworks.  My concerns were unwarranted.  Julio is the new guy at the shop and jumped right into the weekend work at hand.  He had several spots on the main body to polish and showed me what was required to work these areas.  You can burn through a clear coat quickly, so masking tape was used to prevent this at every 'sharp corner'.  The results of Julio's work are outstanding and I was quite relieved because it really looked like the problems were the result of sand scratching in the bodywork beneath the paint.  That the paint had two years to cure made it easier to work with, too.  Jeremy threw right in with Julio and together they knocked out this job in just a little over two hours.

I'll be picking up some 3M #1 Polishing Compound and microfiber towels to keep the finish on the Nautilus shining.  Knowledge breeds confidence and I feel I can definitely do some of the more minor and less visible cleanup work by hand at this point.

I snapped this shot right after the Motorworks crew shoved off, and right before the Nautilus went back under its car cover.  As a finished Motorworks product, I think this is as good as it's gonna get for this one.  I want to thank Jeremy and Julio again for stopping by and taking another pass at the car. 

Since last weekend, other aspects of the restoration are starting to move along, too.  The wiring harness installation is in progress.  The engine is starting to come together.  More brake work has been done.  Starting to wire up the upper steering column.  Chroming is in progress and nearly done.  Gauges are under restoration.  Yes, there's lots going on and hopefully there will be strong progress to show before the weather turns lousy and Winter sets in.  Hard to believe that Fall is only three and a half weeks away!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Two Cents on Hood Alignment

It's no joke, a picture is worth a thousands words--but that wouldn't stop me from writing another thousand to go along with this picture.  Bottom line, I've never really been all that pleased with the front hood alignment on the Nautilus.  It all goes back to having to use a replacement hood on the craft to create something presentable for the painters.  The original hood was a bit caved in from what apparently were two sets of butt cheeks, so I hesitantly provided a really nice spare to further the project.  I wasn't all that keen on its use because Karmann's own body build process for the Ghias matches up the hood and decklid to the main body shell very early on in each car's construction.  This is done because the dimensions vary from car to car, particularly in the trunk openings at the front and rear, mainly due to its hand built nature.  The same could be said for the doors, though to a lesser degree.  Regardless, swapping out any of these movable body panels results in a host of alignment issues that can be really difficult to contend with, but are nearly impossible to resolve invisibly after paint is on the car.  Knowing this well, I badgered all the guys at Motorworks very early on to make sure this particular alignment issue was addressed during the bodywork.

After opening and closing the front hood a bunch of times to test fit the hood seal, the right rear hood height issue made itself known again, along with my acute annoyance.  I let Jeremy at Motorworks know about the situation and he assured me that the problem could be resolved, but never really went in to detail on how.  I decided to 'logic' my way through the issue and what you see is the hack I came up with.  Literally, two pennies were used to model up a hinge shim to lower the right rear of the front hood.  To be completely honest, I actually put the two pennies to the back side of the hinge initially, which raised the hood twice as high as it was.  Either way, a wedge shaped shim will work well.  This change also resulted in the need for a change to the front hood latch hook by using a hammer to reshape it a bit.  For our Type 14 Karman Ghia friends, the hinge shimming would work similarly.

Jeremy at Motorworks Restorations has assured me that he will formalize my investment with a far less noticeable and far more presentable shim after I finish assembly and bring the craft back to them for final tweaks.  In the meantime, two pennies saved are two pennies earned.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Diving into the Past

I found some interesting pictures in a box in the basement late last year and digitized them for preservation purposes.  I don't know too much about my family history, but these pictures help shed some light on at least one common interest.  All of these people were around during the very formative years of my life and I am certain each of them ultimately contributed to my interest in Volkswagens.

My grandfather and grandmother on my dad's side, 'Tex and Momsie', are both pictured here in front of their home in Milbrae, California, with what I believe to be a Euro spec '55 Oval Window Beetle.  They drove and loved this fine automobile for about three years in the mid-fifties.  I particularly like Tex's jaunty pose, with the right foot making full contact with the running board.  'The Folks' were definitely proud of this car--and as it turns out, my dad was, too.  My mom remembers a time where the two of them sat in this car and he took much time to point out the high build quality of that Volkswagen.  In painstaking detail.  I smile to think just how bored out of her mind she must have been.  Her eyes probably glazed over in much the same way my wife's do when I pontificate over some triviality on the Nautilus.  Honestly, I never thought of my dad as a 'car guy', but my grandparents certainly owned some classics over the years.  There was an MG TC and Nash Metropolitan, amongst many others, but the Volkswagen experiences were definitely the most remembered and longest lasting.  For better or worse, my dad got to drive them all.

Tex was a chef at various San Francisco restraunts and Momsie a nurse at the Shriner's Hospital in San Franciso.  I believe these to have been good times for the two empty-nesters, and what a great car to share those times in.  This was at the first of three Beetles these two would own, the third of which would not be so fondly remembered.  That third car was probably a '60, which I actually have no pictures of.  Sadly, my grandmother would die as a result of injuries sustained in the '60, effectively ending all families ties with the marque for nearly 20 years. The story goes that she worked a late night shift at the hospital, and on her way home that night behind the wheel of her beloved Beetle, traveling along a well known winding two lane road, swerved into the oncoming lane to miss hitting a possum and struck another car head on.  She passed on three days later and my grandfather, fully devastated by the loss of her, forever swore-off Volkswagens.  I heard this tragic tale re-told many times during my childhood, and it left a lasting impact on me on many levels.  The word Volkswagen was burned into my brain, Ralph Nader's "Unsafe At Any Speed" documenting their lack of safety, putting the final nail in the coffin for my dad.  Many times I remember him climbing on the bandwagon, berating the car.  There was obviously a lot of emotion tied to the incident and Momsie being the wonderful person she was had meant quite a lot to the entire family.  I was too young to know it then, but in retrospect I suspect that our family lost its 'anchor' that day in '64 when she passed away.

Meanwhile...on my mom's side of the family, my Aunt Irma and her husband Fred were just getting started with their Volkswagen Beetle.  The picture to the right and immediately below were taken in '60 in San Bernardino, California, before they moved north to Sonoma.  While growing up in Napa during the '60s, this was the Volkswagen I would get to know first hand during our family's numerous visits to their home. 

Comparatively speaking, Volkswagens need a bit more maintenance than their contemporaries and my Uncle Fred was definitely a do-it-yourself'er.  More often than not, upon arriving to their home in Sonoma we would find Fred out in the garage working over some aspect of the car, typically the engine.  My thinking is that he was adjusting valves and setting plug gaps...but he was more likely just trying to stay out of Irma's way by getting out of the house.  Out of his many apparent hobbies, driving my Aunt Irma nuts was but one.

Since in my mind's eye it was such a regular occurrance to find Fred working over the car, I pulled forward a visual picture of the engine compartment, containing that intriguing piece of machinery that needed tending to stay running well.  Fred was a retired machinist and welder and just kept his hand in by working on his car.  He loved to talk, tell jokes--and extoll the virtues of the Volkswagen automobile.  Nearly all of it sailed over my head, but what stuck and sunk in became the germ of an idea that I really should own one of these intriguing cars someday.  Much too soon and right when things were getting interesting, someone in the house would wonder where I'd gotten to and head out to the garage to rescue me and my impressionable mind, always by taking me quite well away from the fun.  I loved the backyard at that house in Sonoma, but exploring the garage and my Uncle Fred's projects are highly treasured memories.

I think what finally formed the foundations of my automotive bond with Volkswagens--and Karmann Ghias in particular--was the car my Elementary School Principal drove in the late '60s, a red Type 14 Karmann Ghia.  Walking past that car on my way to class was a ritual that was also a continual source of amazement for me.  I suspect the car was a '67, but what I remembered best was its shape and styling, the paint being very shiny and that the one time I dared look inside I found a black interior with a wood grained dash.  I have no picures of it, but I do recall the noise the engine made when it pulled up into the school parking lot one morning and recognized the Volkswagen engine sound instantly.

It wouldn't be until '83 that I would finally own my first Volkswagen, a '73 Type 14 Karmann Ghia.  Since then, I've duplicated my Uncle Fred's hunkered pose in garages and roadsides across America more times than I can count while maintaining the various Volkswagens I've owned.  Good maintenance practices aside, I also like to think of it as a ritual that carries on a sort of family tradition.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Now...where was I? I remember...I am now a delighted Motorworks Restorations customer!

In case there's still any doubt, I'm picky, always insisting on my money's worth. Just like everyone else. Primary reason I took my car to Motorworks in the first place. Some of you have seen their work take home the 1st Place Awards at The VW Classic in Southern California, or possibly other shows in Colorado. Maybe elsewhere. So my expectations were high going in, and perhaps made me difficult to deal with during the bodywork and paint process. No apologies, there. I now want to assure all that the finished results exceeded all expectations. All I'm waiting for now is a bottle of touch-up paint...because I will end up damaging paint during the assembly process.

So, the craft is once again out in the garage, this time resting on wheel casters to make it easier to move about. The finish is polished to the severest depths, proudly wearing a fresh sheet of Meguire's NXT Generation Tech Wax 2.0 Paste. I didn't specify this wax be used, but if I had it would have been at the top of the list. Techwax is really awesome stuff and I used it last summer to freshen up the original 45 year old paint on the wife's Type 14 Ghia. I also used it just last night on her '93 Nissan Sentra SE-R, so it helps any finish. Again--highly recommended.

The Nautilus' absence did not stop other restoration related activities, however. An opportunity to acquire improved brightwork for the craft occurred about 4 weeks ago when a bona-fide-NOS-in-the-box Type 34 foglight popped up on der Samba. Flash traffic from tipster Rob Kingbury set pursuit into full-on take-down and acquisition. Despite my best intentions, I still would have not brought home the chrome without the kind and timely assistance of fellow 1500 Club Alumist, Charles Harlock. With the part located in England and a seller with no Paypal account, this transaction could have quickly degenerated, sounding a death-knell for a smooth and secure global transaction. Fortunately, Mr. Harlock deftly brokered the purchase and I received the part last week, sans further drama.

Never before had I seen a NOS in the box Type 34 foglight. Breathtaking. Even with my apparent enthusiasm, my wife appeared far more excited about its arrival than I. Some time ago, I received a pair of NOS Type 34 foglight lenses from Germany that were genuine Hella--but were plastic, rather than the expected glass. Imagine my dismay. Having remembered this, my wife immediately took this new and unshrouded NOS assembly and knocked the lens gently against her upper front teeth, and promptly informed me the lens was made of glass. Have I mentioned before what a jewel of a wife I have??? Probably not often enough, because despite all, her support for the Nautilus has remained constant, throughout. And she cares almost as much as I about getting the details just right.

Anyway, foglights are just one in a long line of NOS Type 34 parts that I'd categorize as really scarce. Over the past 7 years I've located NOS headlight rings, headlight adjuster assemblies, front and rear signal housings, and nose badges. With sincere regret, I've passed on horrifically priced rocker trim, sill plates, roof drip rail trim and bumper parts, opting to restore what I have, rather than take out a 2nd Mortgage. While I have been able to locate two NOS foglight rings and a pair of those less-than-cool plastic foglight lenses, I have only this once had the opportunity to acquire a complete NOS foglight assembly. While I'd really like to find another, I seriously think I've run my luck by managing to secure the one I did. I have to say that it could be worse...I could be trying to find the badging for an early '62 Type 34.

With the rarity of these things, I guess I could add a few words about it. First of all, it's a late unit, indicated by the plastic bulb holder and the flat profile of the bulb holder keeper spring. The label on the back of the reflector is a paper label, rather than a blue stamp. It was good to get confirmation on there being five springs holding the lens to the main housing to the chrome foglight ring, which corresponds to number indicated in the parts book. On this example, three clips are used at the top of the chrome ring, two clips are used towards the bottom. The finish on these spring clips are black oxide, which explains why they don't always hold up well over time. The spares I have were all really rusty originally, but are now very nice and all plated in zinc. This may allow them to last longer when used in rebuilt foglight assemblies.
To those just becoming acquainted with the Type 34, get ready for some very Porsche 356'esque pricing on the extremely desirable rare stuff. Some of the parts are shared with the other early Type 3 cars, adding to their rarity. All things considered, I could probably have done a nice 356 sunroof car for the price I've paid so far to get my car as far as I have. Was it a good decision...? I love the car. It's been fun chasing parts. The Type 34 is starting to come into its own. Time will tell about the resale/collector value of the car. Regardless, it'll be a hell of a lot of fun to drive this very unique car, once it's back on the road. I can't wait for the onslaught of "Nice Covair!" comments.
I'd like to raise a nice dram of 10 year old Ardbeg to those just getting started and offer my sincerest best wishes in your restoration efforts. Slainte!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Karmann Ghia, v1.0

I felt a little low energy last weekend, so put in a classic flick and put up my feet. The choice was a favored Hitchcock classic, "Vertigo". My wife eventually joined me and we watched as though seeing it for the first time. At one point, I felt like I was back in movie appreciation class in college, where we dissected the Hitchcock thriller, "North by Northwest". While I like both movies, I've always preferred Jimmy Stewart's ragged edge everyman to Carey Grant's smooth commedic gentleman in Hitch's films. Stewart's psychosis laden role in Vertigo gets the nod with me, and the movie visuals are further enhanced by the San Franciscan street scenes with all the classic cars, which definitely helps puts me in the movie's 'moment'. As for the segments that feature the Karmann Ghia...well....this time I actually stopped the film, grabbed a camera and snapped this shot of Barbara Bel Geddes in her role as 'Midge'. Midge is shown here behind the wheel of her '57 L-330 Trout Blue Karmann Ghia Coupe. In the scene, she's wryly muttering over love lost...but if I was there, I'd tell her she doesn't need that. As long as she has her Ghia, everything's going to be ok. Because EARLY Ghia Girls ROCK!!! Need further proof? Molly Ringwald in 'Pretty in Pink'.

Midge's car is an early Karmann Ghia with a body style commonly referred to as a 'low light Ghia'. Volkswagen's own description of the car includes the word 'pontoon', which has always amused me because the car is anything but watertight or sea-worthy. A good rain storm exibits a leaky design at every corner and unintended fresh air ventilation through any available dash gap. Yeah, as if the Nautilus will fare any better, LOL! Anyway, what I think they were really getting at is the way the front fender bodywork is shaped so that the headlights are actually in a lower position than those on the front fenders of later Ghias. This makes for a more dramatic arc atop the front fenders and a more abrupt treatment of the trailing edge of the front wheel openings. I quite prefer the looks of the older cars--but then I can hardly fault the changes introduced on the 1960 Ghias. I once again spent a few minutes describing the Ghia body changes to my wife, but her rapt attention rapidly waned into glazed expression and thinned patience at my umpteenth repetition of the details. I referred to Michael Gregory of the House of Ghia's car, pictured at left. Then, sensing my point was quite 'over-made', restarted the movie.

Midge's car is definitely way high up on my list of all time favorite Ghias. While the pretentious and purist might furrow brows, I still mentally refer to the early cars as the 'droop snout' Ghias.