Monday, July 21, 2014

Back in the local VW shop

This afternoon I headed over to what is probably one of the few remaining VW retailers in my area: Car Craft in Riverside, CA. Car Craft has been in the VW business now for probably over four decades now. I haven't done much business with them in the past, as I always tried to get my parts from the shop that I used to work for: Unique Supply Inc. of Redlands, CA. Unfortunately Unique as changed hands a few times and is now deceased. The building that housed Unique since the late '60s now appears vacant. I was sad to see it go, but it couldn't survive the changing market and no one seemed to have a vision on how Unique could successfully adapt.

Anyways, sorry for the sideline about Unique. Let's talk about my trip to Car Craft. As I pulled into the parking, I was greeted with a couple of beautiful sights: a nicely restored oval window rag top Bug and a mild custom Super Beetle cabriolet parked in front of the store. It's always a beautiful site to see some nice VWs in front of a shop and inspire the customers to what they can do with their VW.

As I entered the store, I spotted at the counter my former co-worker Brock Jones working the front counter! Brock had started in the VW business when he came to work at Unique back in the mid '90s when I was there. I helped Brock to learn a lot of the parts and we always got along great.

After doing some catching up, we got down to business. I explained to him what I was working on (the Bug and the Imp) and that I needed a few parts. Every part I inquired about Brock was able to supply me. It was a good trip!

The parts list from this run:
  • shift boot, quick shift kit, and shifter lockout plate for the stock shifter Ashleah will be working on
  • set of 16 lug nuts, washers, and screw studs for my Bug so that I install the Dan Gurney wheels that Erik and I will be polishing up

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Western/Gurney wheels refurbishment

Ok, the first project in front of me is one of many sets of wheels I have planned for my Bug. The first set of wheels I am going to work on is this style. So far my research has shown that there are two different brands that sold this wheel: Western and Dan Gurney. I also discovered that there are three different centers where the center cap goes. The first type has four holes on the face of the wheel for a center cap to bolt to. The second type doesn't have the bolt holes, but it has a bevel on the back side of the cap hole. The third type has no holes or bevel. 

So now I have to find a center cap with the proper diameter tabs and that looks nice with the wheels. According to an ad on TheSamba from a business in Stanton, the center caps I need have a flare out at the base and slip into the wheel from the back side. I'm going to have to get in touch with that shop and maybe make a run out to Stanton to check out these caps.

While I'm shopping around for those center caps, I'm going to cleaning up these wheels, giving them a really good polish (mirror finish), and some chrome lug hardware. They will be shod with 175/55R15 front tires and 205/65R15 rear tires. That should give the 'big-n-little' Cal-Look that I am looking for, but still give me some extra tread on the ground for driving the car. I intend on using these wheels for just driving around town, going to work, etc. 

I will definitely keep you posted on the progress of the Gurney wheels! 

My 1970 EMPI Imp dunebuggy

This yellow beauty was the result of coincidence and karma. During my time at the VW shop in Redlands, CA (Unique Supply), I learned a lot about the various products that were offered by the first EMPI company of Riverside. The original EMPI products are highly regarded in the VW scene.

Thanks to my co-worker, Jim Bangs, I learned about the EMPI dune buggies. The first buggy that EMPI offered was the Sportster, a metal buggy built on a Bug floor pan. The Sportster was difficult for the average enthusiast to build at home, so EMPI followed Bruce Meyer's lead and turned to manufacturing a fiberglass body that would fit on a shortened Bug floor pan. The new EMPI dune buggy was the EMPI Imp.

My Imp is a later model, in fact a 1970 model. It was a basic kit when it was first sold: it lacks a lot of the fancier accessories that the "Gran Sport" model had. My Imp features the original rollbar (it was later modified into a roll cage), chrome taillights, chrome headlight buckets, and front turn signal housings. I've done a few modification, the most obvious of which are the wheels. When I took possession of it from my brother, it still had a set of beat up Baja Bug steel wheels. Functional but really didn't add much to the car.

My change was to install a set of early 15" x 4" Bug wheels in the front and a set of widened Bug wheels in the back. My VW buddy Johnny happened to have a set of 7" wide wheels that he generously gave to me, so I had my wheels! I painted the wheels the stock two-tone black/white and added a set of stock Bug dome hubcaps. It made the car look so much better!

For the future, I have plans to freshen it up. A previous owner has cut up the back engine area and the rear fender wells, so I have some fiberglass work to do. I also need to repair the floorpan, as it has rust in a few areas. The transaxle works well (it already has a Super-Diff) and at the moment the 40hp (1192cc) Type 1 engine does well. I do have an engine planned (with some parts already collected) that will displace 1679cc (88mm x 69mm) and feature some periods pieces I've acquired over the years, including an original EMPI deep sump, Santana crank pulley, Bosch 010 (or 019) distributor, a set of Kadron carbs with original style stamped air cleaner housings.

So follow along here at The VDubGeek's Garage and see how my work progresses on the Imp!

My 1969 Bug

Summer 2010: my Bug sporting a Yakima bike rack at work.
This 1969 Bug has been in the Slider family since it was brand new. Yes, my parents purchased it straight from the dealer, Economotors (yes, that Econo!!) in January of 1969. They had just gotten married the previous fall, so it was their just major purchase together.

I grew up in this car. I have a lot of fond memories being driven around in this car. Things like being picked up from school, sleeping in the back seat area (when Dad took out the back seat) coming back late from my aunt and uncle's house. It has always been a part of my life. When I get to high school, my parent rejuvenated it a bit and got it running again so that I would have transportation to/from school and my swim/water polo practices.

When I graduated from high school, my parents' gift to me was signing over the pink slip to this family member to me. It was a monumentus moment to a teenager! Of course all during high school I dreamed of the things I could do to "fix it up". Of course I didn't have the money, so nothing much got done. It wasn't until I took a job with a VW parts place in Redlands, CA that things started to change.

A Selecta-Bug rendition of my vision.
At Unique Supply, I developed a keen interest and respect for the Cal-Look scene and the style. It was there that with the help with a co-worker (Jim Bangs), I developed my vision on how the Bug was to be.

Here's the basic description: stock body (no custom changes), stock Diamond Blue (light blue) paint, lowered front suspension, period custom wheels (EMPI Sprint Stars, 2 piece 8-spokes, or other such wheel), a built transaxle, and a beefy engine. Over the years, I've migrated from the standard Type 1 engine to the current plan: a 2056cc(96mm x 71mm) Type 4.

So follow along here at The VDubGeek's Garage for the latest work on my Bug!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Project Ashleah: got the shifter

My step-daughter (to-be) has been after me about giving her my Bug. Well, I think anyone who knows me knows that I am a generous man, but I'm not giving up my Bug! At least not until the day I die. :) For now, she's going to have to be content with working on it and getting to take a ride in it with me.

I do want to encourage and foster her interest in VWs and hopefully her ownership of one in the future. As any old car owner knows (and this applies to ANY old car, not just VWs), restoring and maintaining these beauties takes time and care to make sure things are properly fixed so that it remains in top shape. The fact is that these cars are old and things wear out.

Ashleah has come over a few times to help me wash the Bug and clean it up a bit, but she really hasn't had a chance to really "get her hands dirty". Her first chance to do this is going to be this shifter. Thanks to my VW buddy and friend Johnny, I was able to locate a stock shifter that I'm going to use as the basis for a shifter change in the Imp and in the Bug.

At this moment, the Imp has a revered early Gene Berg shifter and the Bug has a Scat DragFast shifter that I bought shortly after taking the job at Unique Supply in '91. My plan is to remove the Scat (I never liked the way it felt) and replace it with the Berg shifter. This would leave the Imp no shifter, right? That's where this shifter comes into the picture.

Ashleah is going to restore this shifter, with my guidance obviously. She is going to disassemble it (not many parts to these), clean, sand, primer/paint it, and then install it in the Imp. My plan is to restore it, with a stock shift knob and boot, but also include a short-shift kit (to make it faster shifting) and an accessory locking shifter base (which allows the car to be key locked into reverse).

At this moment I am tracking down the parts and supplies, and then get Ashleah to come over to get her hands dirty. I think she will enjoy it and she will take a lot of pride when it is finished, especially after it is installed in the Imp.

Stay tuned for updates!!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Car show: Devious Dubs Dealership Takeover 2014

Today a VW club from Riverside, Devious Dubs, hosted a show at the VW dealership in Corona. My fiancee Renee, my stepdaughter Ashleah and I headed over to Corona to check this show out.

This show also marked Ashleah's first VW show, so it was particularly memorable as it was her first peek at this hobby and community that I love so dearly.

Well thanks to a late start, we didn't make it to the show until about noon or so. The flyer I had seen on Instagram said the show was from 9am to 2pm, so we still had a few hours of the tail end of the show. Of course I brought my Nikon, but Ashleah wanted to use it, so most of the photos I have of the show came from her. I have to admit she did a pretty good job!

The VW that captivated me was this '61 Cal-Look Bug. The stock body, the color, the "just right" suspension stance, the black/polish Porsche Fuchs alloy wheels, and the DKP sticker all contributed to my admiration of this car. Unlike most of the custom VWs in this show, this nicely done custom wasn't drastically lowered, especially in the rear.

As it sat there, it looked like it was ready to go for a cruise down to the beach or to the grocery store. This is how I would build an early Cal-Looker! Of course my Cal-Lookers will all utilize a Type 4 engine!

Another car of note was this Bug with a lot of very custom modifications and parts. The part that really caught my eye was this cast iron plate. The plate was from a VW club in the Riverside CA area, dating back to the late 60s (or earlier, I'm not sure). I happen to know this because my uncle was a member of this club and gave my brother his plate. So cool!!

You can check out more of the photographs that Ashleah and I took over on my Google+ galleries.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Renewed inspiration to get Bug going again!

For the last eight years or so, my poor 1969 Bug has been neglected. Between work and school, and the lack of funds, it sat quietly and waited for me to get around to her.

My fiancee's 16 year old daughter has struck an interest in my old Bug. In fact she has stated that she wants it. Of course that isn't going to happen any time soon, but it has created an urge for me to start working on it again and getting my old friend here working.

One of the goals is to enlist my future step-daughter and get her in on the fun. :) My first task for her is to restore a shifter for my EMPI Imp dunebuggy. The Imp currently has a short Gene Berg shifter that I think is better suited for the Bug, so I'm going to show Ashleah how to restore a stock Bug shifter (sanding, painting, fitting, etc.) and then fit a "quick shift" kit and one of those stock accessory locking shifter bases. That will give me less travel and an added security measure for when I park the Imp in public.

Using a cool to-do/task management software called "Wunderlist" (ironically it is a German company... ) to lay out the specific tasks and goals I have ahead of me.

So right now I have used Facebook to contact my VW friends to find a good stock "angled" shifter that will be suitable for this project.

Stay tuned for updates on bringing the Bug back to life!!