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Volkswagen Beetle

Volkswagen Beetle Published: 27th Apr 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
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Do you drive this great classic or are thinking of buying one? Here’s how to ensure that you get the best out of your car for years to come

The ‘Peoples’ Car’ has been one of the most reliable and long-lasting classics ever and the air-cooled Beetle family is also one of the simplest and satisfying vehicles to fettle at home, thanks to its quality build, ease of parts and an excellent spread of independent specialists. This article not only covers Beetles but also the Karmann Ghia spin-off and the rare Type 3/4 saloons, estates and fastbacks.

BODY & CHASSIS

MOD

Standard or modded the choice is yours? Stock panels both in steel or fibreglass are plentiful or you can go for a custom look that’s been around for so long. US aircooled.net sells complete GRP front ends for around £750, plus a variety of bonnets and engine covers with a smoother looking frontal for the Superbeetles. Aircooled.net advertises ‘Mexico’ frames at $1500 – but you have to sort out how to get it home!

MEND

Rust is a major worry all over the place but happily parts are everywhere new or second-hand, including new chassis frames.

Justaircooled.co.uk has new front wings from £60, rear quarter panels (£90) and genuine VW bonnets the thick end of £400. Floor pan repair panels for Beetles and Ghias sell for £137.99. Heater channels are critical because they rust and as a result allow exhaust fumes in cabin; repair sections cost £26-£100.

BOTTOM END

MOD

It’s easy to go large by sitting new barrels and crankshafts: a 1200 can be stretched to 1600 using 85.5mm barrels and pistons. With a 69mm (throw crankshaft) and 90.5mm pistons, 1776cc is achieved. The 1600 unit fitted with a long throw crank can make 1745cc or 1995cc using larger barrels or go for 90.4mm pistons and barrels and 2109cc-2276cc is on the cards depending upon crank choice. The ultimate is 2332cc but it’s pricey.

MEND

There’s a competitive market in recon air-cooled engines as it can be relatively inexpensive to replace a worn-out unit. For instance, VW Heritage sells a tuned 1776cc unit ready to go for £2999. Still not enough? Then turbocharge or fit a Subaru boxer engine! It’s more popular mod on Campers (American fitting kits available) but squeezes into the Karmann Ghia. Watch for oil leaks VW crankcases can crack.

ENGINE OUTPUT

MOD

Irrespective of capacity, better breathing comes from a Weber 28/36 or rarer Minnow Fish carbs; failing this you are looking at pricey twin Weber 40 IDFs or equivalent Solex types. With a typical sports exhaust, a ‘1600’ will yield 75bhp and perhaps around 150+ from a well tuned 2.1/2.3 engine. Head and camshaft upgrades are plentiful; one ‘trick’ concerning the latter are high ratio rockers which give a similar effect to a racier camshaft.

MEND

Bosch 009 distributor is considered essential – along with breaker-less electronic ignition – while extensive tuning means the air cooling needs to be improved; engine oil plays a significant role to stop engine cooking. Excessive crank end float is a concern and means a strip and overhaul. Manifolds air leaks cause weak mixture and uneven running. Pre-heat pipe can rust through or become blocked with carbon. On twin port heads, check rubber seals.

FRONT SUSPENSION

MOD

A popular modification is fitting a heavy duty anti-roll bar, to improve roadholding and stability. At the same time it’s worth upgrading the shock absorbers such as Koni, Spax or KYB types. ‘Slamming’ is popular; drop spindles are now the recommended route to lower a Beetle/Karmann along with shims to suit – drastic lowering can mean a bump steer kit due to new angle of the tie rods. You can fit better steering or even an electric PAS.

MEND

Torsion bars wear taking the ball joints and the shock absorbers with them. Luckily all are readily available. If you want to return height to standard it may mean a new beam at the front because the original one will probably have been cut down – unless you’re lucky enough to acquire a car with an adjustable beam already! On pre 1966 cars king pins were used and lack of greasing (there’s plenty of points to do causes seizure. A ‘poly’ bush coupling costs less than £15.

TRANSMISSION

MOD

The gearchange is usually sloppy but renewing the bushes in the linkage train makes a dramatic difference and, at the same time, upgrade to one of the ‘flashy’ gear shifters sold by specialists for around £80 for a nicer selection. Porsche five-speed 915 ‘transaxle’ does fit but needs IRS rear suspension and also a lot of work to do so; much easier is to fit a Rancho or ‘Beetle GT’ ’box both available from VW Heritage at under £1200 but can run to £5K!

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Boxes are available on an exchange basis – VW Heritage sells standard units from under £800, plus also offers a nosecone conversion kit at £142 which enables the later all synchromesh unit to fit. All are long-lived and if you need a clutch (an easy engine-out job) they cost between £27-£99 from VW Heritage. On IRS cars, a complete driveshaft sells for £112. Converting to IRS is doable but very hard.

REAR SUSPENSION

MOD

Swing axles can be tricky handlers. Like the similar-designed Triumph Herald, the VW’s stern can be tamed with a simple camber compensator kit costing £92 (Just Kampers) after uprating the dampers and springs. Lowering is simply done by turning the torsion bars on their splines after first de-tensioning. However, VW experts warn you should sort out the front suspension first before tackling the rear, except on IRS models.

MEND

Both set ups hold no real vices if regularly maintained but when worn replace with better parts. Standard and uprated dampers (Boge units £30 each from VW Heritage, for example), springs and anti-roll bars are widely available plus you can add spacers and poly bush (‘knobbly’ and smooth types produced) if you wish. Irrespective of engine tune, it’s vital the rear geometry is set up properly say VW tuners or gains will be lost.

INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR TRIM

MOD

VW Heritage has a variety of perches from a simple ‘poly shell’ more suited for buggies at £64 to more accommodating sport seats priced £210 (each) in cloth or vinyl. It also has period standard steering wheels in silver or beige and a line of dedicated wood-rimmed sports wheels. A TMI ‘refresh’ trim kit with all you need bar headlining (that’s optional) looks good value at £305.

MEND

Most trim are still available and a lot of the original styled products can also be purchased new, including complete trim kits for most models, making restoring old bits questionable. VW Heritage sells full carpet seats at £250, tailored overmats £33, window seal sets (£104) and, for the cabrio, German made replacement hoods from £471(canvas). Commonly worn KG dash tops, £317.

ROLLING STOCK

MOD

Many people choose to upgrade the wheels, especially those after the cool surfing dude look. If this is you, http://www.justaircooledco.uk will sell you a Porsche Fuchs style alloy for £94, or an EMPI five spoke for £80. Or a classic white wall trim for £50. Five or 5.5inch rims are regarded as most sensible sizes for most road cars; VW Heritage has a wide stock of styles including classic 60’s ‘Cosmic’ style – but large eight inch OE style rims are for custom looks only.

MEND

All are ‘wide five’ (5 bolt 205mm PCD) bolt pattern pre-1967, but disc brakes fitment on 1500 spelt a change to smaller (four bolt 130mm PCD) bolt pattern; all post ’67 models are fitted with four bolt wheels. Original-styles and trim are easy to get hold of. Just Kampers sells a basic black steel wheel for around £70, while a chrome dome-shaped hubcap costs some £20. Spacers and ultra wide wheels take their toll on the wheel bearings and bushes.

BRAKES

MOD

Disc brakes were first seen in the Karmann on 1966 models and you can go this route or fit aftermarket types, with or without a servo. Rear discs are also available but usually not needed unless you have really modded the engine. One trick is to fit a ‘Bus’ 22mm bore brake master cylinder which can improve pedal travel. For most purposes, top brand 175 section tyres are usually ample to handle the power without altering wings to gain necessary clearance.

MEND

Regularly check brakes for pulling, grabbing, undue noises, front calipers frequently seize on little used cars. Sagging to one side mostly means broken torsion bars. A popular and simple brake upgrade, if they need replacing anyway, is to fit flexible brake hoses with stainless steel pipes. Just Kampers, for example, sells a Goodridge Front and Rear Flexible Stainless Steel Brake Hose kit. Good quality drum linings usually suffice for mild tuning purposes.

AND ANOTHER THING…

Half a century ago, the Beach Buggy was becoming the ultimate Summer statement in America and they quickly became popular over here by the late 60s despite our wet climate and still boast a loyal following. Prolaminates.co.uk of Hertfordshire (01279 721035) offers a range of shells starting from less than a grand. Add a basket Beetle and you have the making of “Beetles make ideal starter classics; mods are insurance-friendly” another classic but ‘shell out’ just £35 first on the excellent Veloce book ‘Building a Dune Buggy’



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