Friday, April 19, 2013

Quality time with Winston, Part 1

I've got quite a pile of projects accumulating at home, all waiting patiently for my attention.  Other than the occasional reminders from my wife, there's nothing really pushing me to get them done.  Good thing, too, because a definite imbalance has developed between my work-life and personal-life since last December.  The reality is that work-life responsibilities tend to fuel the ability to pursue the personal-life interests, so that's had to be the priority and work on the Volkswagens has had to wait.

So, it's been a real joy to have work and weather cooperate and allow me to dig into some Volkswagen repairs during the month of April.  My wife's Type 14 Karmann Ghia "Winston" has been patiently waiting for some engine and front end work, so I decided to start with this car.  It felt quite right to slide into the mustiness and decay of the Ghia's original interior.  There was just enough capacity left in the 6V system to allow the engine to sputter to life, and then stabilize to a steady purr.  Regrettably, there was no time for a joy-ride as interaction with the car on that day was intended to be all business, with a focus on repairs for what seemed to be a leaky main seal.  Moving the car about 2 feet closer to the center of the garage under its own power gave me room to manuver floor jacks and stands and came with the added benefit of room to work at the shop bench.

The engine in Winston has very low miles--maybe only 300 miles.  So it's way too soon to be seeing the issues we are with it.  During the original engine teardown in 2006, it seemed like an honest original unit, smoking just a little and suffering from a lack of power.  No outright oil leaks--just a little seeping here and there.  Tons of originality like the rest of the car.  Due to time constraints on my part, I decided to have a well known and reputable Volkswagen repair business here in Denver rebuild the long block.  It had been about 15 years since my last engine build and I felt rusty.  FIRST BIG MISTAKE.  That engine build lasted about 72 miles before an abrupt loss of power.  If I had pressed on, I would likely have thrown a rod and destroyed the original crankcase.  When I tore down the engine I predictably found that the #3 rod had a deathgrip on the crankshaft.  I suspect the shop put a rookie engine builder on the job.  The 40HP engine doesn't use self-aligning connecting rod caps and it takes light taps from a hammer to knock things into alignment as the rod nuts are slowly tightened.

At this point, I should have taken the rebuild on myself, but I again tempted fate by taking the parts to another well known and reputable Volkswagen repair business here in Denver.  SECOND BIG MISTAKE.  While the engine runs well, the oil leak that has developed is way more than a minor annoyance and is evolving substantially over time.  The sad truth is that if either engine builder had taken just a few minutes to look at the parts being used, they would have kicked some of them to the curb rather than use them for an engine rebuild.  I have to take a bit of the blame here because I sourced the replacement parts for the rebuild--but I didn't demand they be used.  The parts vendor I sourced parts from is no longer in business, but is still a regular on der Samba so names withheld to protect the guilty.  The point is...the engine builder is the final arbiter for quality.  The leak at the main seal would have developed soon after the first rebuild because the flywheel hub was severely pitted both inside and outside of the hub.  The parts vendor accepted a flywheel with a media blasted hub, then sold it on to me.  I should have called it out...but I was distracted and am now paying the price...time and time again.

This week I took Winston's original flywheel in for machining.  In the picture above, it's the flywheel on top.  It was a bit discolored on the clutch surface, but otherwise original.  And the hub surface was nice, as were the ring gear teeth.  I figured I'd also get a chance to check end-play and re-shim it correctly.  Good training for the Nautilus' eventual engine rebuild, but had to admit to the chance that the 'main seal leak' was actually a cracked case or cam plug issue.

The flywheel on the bottom, in the picture above, was the one I pulled from the engine.  Just look at the hub on that unit.  What a piece of garbage that thing is!

Once I got the original flywheel back from the machinist I discovered the flywheel shims for the 40HP engine are different from those more commonly found in the '66 and later VW air cooled engines.  How different?  The inner diameter of the 64mm 40HP crank end-play shim is larger than those shims used with the cross-drilled O-ringed 69mm cranks.  The engine in my wife's car uses a 64mm crank, so to find a mixture 64mm and 69mm end-play shims in the engine during flywheel removal was unexpected and disconcerting.  The early cranks need that extra slop on the inner shim edge because the crank does not taper between the #1 crank journal and the crank hub where the dowell pins live.  A lack of clearance here might actually cause the shim to seize on the end of the crank under operation!  This would also be true for those Type 2 and 3 early '69mm cranks used in the 1500cc engines that were the non-O ring type.  A mixture of shim types represents a serious lack of attention to detail during this engine build!  What else could be wrong within this engine?

Doubts about engine build quality intact, I moved forward with reassembly once the flywheel was back from the machine shop.  I found a beautiful blackened chromoly flywheel gland nut and washer, and after numerous attempts, found the proper assortment of three 40HP flywheel end-play shims.  Elring flywheel seal finished up the combo, and it all went into place without a hitch.

Too bad it didn't fix the problem!  I will next collect a set of rebuilt heads, a nice piston and cylinder kit and a NOS 40HP crank.  Looks like I'll be doing two engine rebuilds over the next year.