Parts is Parts
I looked out the window of my garage while cleaning off the workbench it occurred to me that January is a great time to be inside spending time working on my oval window beetle.
I had found this particular car on a road trip up Whidbey Island in Washington State. We were enjoying the local sights and looking for a good pub when we drove through a waterside neighborhood. As we were passing through I spotted a rust red VW parked in a yard with tall grass growing around it. I enjoyed seeing it but didn’t give it much thought as I saw that it had the turn signals on top of the fenders and knew that the car I wanted was an older one. As we passed it I gave it my customary second look in the rear view mirror and that’s when I spotted the oval window. I apologized to my friends for the emergency U-turn and went to have a closer look. I talked to the owner and inspected the car. Like many old cars it had an interesting story of its own. It had been purchased new by a school teacher and delivered to the island via the state ferry system. I even found the ticket stub in the paperwork. Its original color was polar silver with a brick red interior. Two options were installed, a Motorolla radio and a Dehne fuel gauge. After debating the pros (good core body, 36hp motor, original interior) and cons (bad floor pans, wheel house and fenders) of its condition plus a negotiation with my wife, I called the owner a week later and made a deal with the him for $850 cash. That was almost 11 years ago and I am still working on my rust-o-ration project as my wife likes to call it.
A friend of mine who has restored several cars told me once “don’t rush a restoration and put an artificial timeline on it, you will just make mistakes and have to redo it”
With that advice in mind I decided to get back to work on the VW and tackle some of the jobs I had been putting off. I was working on replacing the floor pans and had crawled underneath to scrape some more gunk clear of the area I was going to do some welding when I discovered it. “IT” was something I had seen many times while crawling around the car but because it was covered in gunk like everything else I hadn’t paid much attention. The “IT” in question was the transaxle.
What’s so odd about the transaxle you say? Well, when a rather large chunk of gunk was knocked off the transaxle, I noticed that in addition to the leaks which I knew about I noticed that the transaxle case was a one piece tunnel style case.
If you remember from the start of this letter, I said I was working on an Oval Window VW (a VW with a very small oval rear window, about 1954 to 1957).
An Oval window VW is supposed to have the older split case transaxle which bolts together down the center in two halves and has a non-synchronized first gear.
The pile of grease I was staring at was a later style transaxle. This discovery prompted me to do a bit more checking in my manuals to see what else I had missed. Next I examined the emergency brake cables and brake lines. Sure enough, the E-brake cables entered the wheel backing plates in the wrong places too. My collection of old manuals showed that if they were the correct backing plates the E-brake cables would enter the backing plates from the rear of the car, not the front. I did know that this trans was in good working order as I had driven it home and had done all the tests the manuals suggest to make it misbehave. I did miss the fact that I was able to shift down in all four gears (meaning that it was a fully synchronized trans) All it needed was a good clean up and some new seals.
So, the dilemma…Parts is Parts and if it fits and works leave it be?
This is the moment where you have to compare what you have with your over all goal and budget for your VW. In my case I am trying to rebuild it to as close to stock as I can, so I decided to try to find the correct transmission. I have a local contact who has worked on VW’s for over 30 years and was trained by VW. He managed to find me trans worth rebuilding that also matched my project budget.
On his recommendation however I decided not to go with original style backing plates and brake set up. He felt that the 1958-1964 plates are much easier to find parts for (wheel cylinders, brake shoes and drums) and the adjustment is easy as it is accessed through the drum, not from the rear of the backing plate.
In my case I have decided to make a few concessions in regards to my restoration. I decided to try to go mostly stock but I really want to enjoy driving this car in the future. So in cases where safety and maintenance are concerned, I felt a few changes were in order. (especially if you could change it back if needed)
For example I decided that I really want three point seat belts because that steel dashboard and windscreen are entirely too close to my face for comfort. ( I have a friend who is still picking glass out of his head from a crash 25 years ago)
Other changes that I feel will make it a safer car include a front anti sway bar, rear camber compensator and radial tires to improve handling. I also plan to add a windshield washer set up and defroster booster fan to improve visibility.
So, as they say “Parts is Parts” and I’m always looking to other VW guru’s for advice. I enjoy being part of a club where we can exchange ideas and learn new things about our cars. The VVWCA newsletter has helped me immensely with my project and I have saved many of the issues for reference later when I run into a problem and get stuck.
As a parting idea to share, when I come across an article that I want to save, I cut it out and put it in a plastic sleeve in a notebook. In the shop I have a book stand and can refer to the article without getting it all dirty.
Well, back to scraping gunk off more parts……………..