Archive for category The Car

From the fab files – kadron linkage

Fabrication files that is.

So we got a generous revalue for the car after the Yee-Haw It’s Texas race, and had enough left over after fixing the broken stuff that we decided we should probably make the car faster by adding power. At least it will increase the chances of a spectacular failure. Besides, this is racing, not grocery getting.

So after months of scouring ebay and craigslist, we finally scored an awesome set of Kadrons for $95. And by awesome, I mean horrible. We’ll now be able to use twice as much gas to make 5 more horsepower (if we’re lucky). Unfortunately, the linkage that came with them was rather ancient and worn out, so we decided to fabricate our own.

A quick trip to the hardware store and $10 of ball joints from McMaster-Carr later. I present to you – the LeMons Kadron linkage:

IMG_5318 Notice the high quality machine work that went into clearancing – this is not your average shade tree mechanic work here. This is something much more special. And by special, I mean short bus.

Yes, the bell crank is the old seat belt mounting tab, a door hinge, and a piece of square tubing.

Amazingly enough – this contraption seems to work ok. Will it hold up to the rigors of endurance racing? Who knows. I suspect it will fail sometime between leaving our paddock spot and getting to tech inspection. But if not, it will unleash an improbable amount of power. Probably.

Stay Hoopy.


Proper usage of an S2000 CR

It’s been a long day. I didn’t get off work until 9:45 and I got up at 7:30 to drive to Leander, TX. The guys got together to work on the Ghia for the first time since the race. We’ve all be mighty busy. I didn’t even clean up the garage like I said I would. I missed out though because I was on the way to pick up a type 4 motor. By the time I got back they were gone.

Maybe I’d better start at the beginning. During the last race, we were a little slower than the other cars. We did pass a few cars on Sunday when we had 4 cylinders (thanks to all you guys that broke down, you made our day 🙂 ). However we estimated (no speedo, we were worried it would scare the drivers) our top speed at 60-70 MPH and our buddies reported they were running 105-110 on the back straight. As you can imagine, a 40 MPH difference made us a bit nervous and we spent a lot of time looking in the mirror during the race. We only got tapped once so our “Mustang catcher” didn’t get tested.

At the end of the race we sent the email to judges and they told us “It’s a Karmann Ghia. How could it be worth more than $75 after a LeMons race?” So that means we have $425 budget to fix all the problems. So we made lists of what to fix. I won’t bore you with the whole list but the shocks that leaked sea water on race day were on the top. So adding power was down in the middle. We had seen the VW Fastback (the grey Armadillo) with the type 4 motor. They were actually keeping up with the rest of the cars. I didn’t see them much when I was driving because they got KO’ed in the rear right in front of the stands and it pushed the motor into the transmission and split the bell housing.

We have 3 guys on the team that are motor-heads. Doug and I just do what we’re told when we were rebuilding the old motor. So this whole process has been a real education for me. I knew that old VW Beetles have air-cooled motors and the first car I ever drove was a Chevy Corvair. But that was about the extent of my knowledge. So I took it upon myself to research all this motor stuff. It turns out that Beetles and Karmann Ghia have Type 1 motors which in the later versions were as large as 1600cc. VW Bus and the Porsche 914 had type 4 motors. I’m not sure what happened to 2 and 3. Type 4 motors were 1679cc or 1980cc, they have aluminum cases instead of magnesium and they are reportedly a lot sturdier, and have a lot more power. I still haven’t figured out how much, just more, and I do understand enough to know that we needed more. We need a working fuel pump and shocks more, but I knew we needed power.

So being the most ignorant has a certain advantage, it turns out. The other guys knew that we just needed to work on the current engine, like fix the pulley, actually tune it, and maybe find a way to upgrade the carburetor. But I decide to scan Craig’s list for the next 4 weeks. And lo and behold, I find a Porsche 914 being parted out. That’s all it says in the ad. So I call and it turns out this youngster is living with his grandmother north of Austin and was given the Porsche if he would get it out of the field. Some GI had gone overseas and not come back. It got towed to some field where it sat for several years (It had a 2000 license sticker). I’m not sure how he got it out of the field over to his grandmothers house, but it was settled down on the floor against the garage wall. Brandon said he was thinking he could build a sand rail out of it (whatever that is). So he removed the engine, transmission, and the whole rear suspension out , but then he discovered that building a vehicle would require money. So he and his friends decided that they should try that monster truck thing out. Unfortunately, the truck wasn’t quite tall enough to drive over the remains of the car, it just shoved it around. So now he had an engine in the driveway and needed to get rid of it.

This is where I come in. Somehow I have become some kind of collector of old VW parts. Brandon has an offer for $250 already so it sounds like this isn’t going to pan out. The next day Brandon calls back and said the deal fell through and he still needs to get this engine out of the driveway. So we agree on $200 after he sends me a few photos as long as I can come get it the next day.

The  S2000 CR is not quite as easy as a regular S2000 to live with. It has very stiff springs, which are great on track, but not comfortable on long trips. And it is even louder. Since it is the only vehicle I have, I attached the tire trailer and head up towards Austin. So my S2000 CR was now serving duty as a utility vehicle.

Brandon and his friends helped me get it on the trailer. With use of the car jack of us got the whole mess into the tire trailer but it took an hour of struggling. With the engine, transmission, suspension, mufflers, heater tubes, brakes, and what not still attached it hung over on 3 edges. Thank goodness Brandon has some good friends. It turns out that the Type 1 spare motor that my brother and I picked up only weighs 215 pounds. So I didn’t think this would be that bad. It turns out that the Type 4 engine alone weighs 311 pounds. I was so tired, my hands were shaking so bad I had trouble writing the receipt.

Brandon’s grandmother pointed out that there was a box of parts on the shelf. They weren’t all from the car, but we found several prizes including a fuel pump. Thank goodness for grandmothers. The motor-heads had told me that we needed the fuel pump because the type 4 was fuel injected. So I paid some extra for various parts including the pump, some kind of fan that was in the engine compartment, some instruments that looked almost new, and various electronic things. Brandon and I cut the relay box and what should be the engine “computer”. (I suspect the computer is not really a computer but I’m guessing that it actually a discrete logic device. That will give you an idea how old these vehicles are). Don’t tell the other guys but I forgot to get the shift linkage. I looked and it might have been inside that tunnel, but they had cut into the tunnel, and I don’t remember seeing it. There were some other cables though, so if a 914 uses cables, maybe that was them. Oh well.

After I told the guys I had found this engine, we did some quick searches. The type 4 motor is apparently easier to install, and a more common engine swap than we realized. If I had found a Bus Type 4 motor, then apparently we would have something that looked more like our original setup, with the motor in the back and the transmission under the rear seats. But since I had stumbled across a 914 Type 4 motor, then we have a mid-engine setup with the transmission in the rear. It appears that Ghia’s have been converted to mid-engine or the motor alone can be bolted to the original transmission.

The team probably won’t have time to install this Type 4 into the Ghia in time for the Feburary race, but stay tuned.

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Got engine?

This just in from one of the team – part of our plan is to have more than one engine in case something goes wrong, since swapping them in this car is pretty simple. So we’ve been looking for cheap engines to take to the track with us.

Master, Our plan to gain control of the market for the nasty humans “VW engines” is progressing. The nasty human we dealt with did not suspect a thing, even when I accidently switched the translator to Vogon. As planned, we approached him under the cover of darkness to avoid giving away our true natures. You were correct that their vision in the darkness is very poor. He did make the odd grimace as we’ve seen so often when we present the flat green things. It is sitting within the trailer right now and we are ready for our next acquisition.

Incidentally, Fudrup accompanied me to the humans domicile, and again, reiterated this rumor that the Emperor has no desire for VW engines and that this was just some practical joke being played on us by headquarters. I ran him through that odd contraption at the bottom of the sink a few times (after we got back naturally) that makes that delightful noise. Very satisfying.

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It all comes together

So we reunited the engine and car yesterday. It’s been a long and difficult process resurecting this glorious piece of crap, but it was all worth it when we actually drove the thing down the street in true LeMons fashion.

Of course, before we drove it anywhere, we had to go through the appriopriate checks to ensure that it was safe.

  • Does every wheel have at least three bolts holding it on?
  • Is the battery secure?
  • Check the fuel system for wobble
  • Drivers seat adequate?
  • Does the car have doors?

At least three lug bolts in every wheel - check


Bungee cords for battery - check


Gas can tied down securely


Drivers seat - check - well, sort of. You can sit on it.

Well, four out of five isn’t too bad. Who needs doors anyway? So – here’s a couple of short videos of the first test drive.

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Slow Progress is Slow…

… But the end is in sight!

I’ve been a real loser not posting anything, but just wanted to update. We were able to source a cheap used crankcase, and have the engine back together and running. Did you know you only need a battery and a can of gas to run a VW engine? It’s currently sitting on the floor of my garage, waiting to meet the car for the first time in months.

In the meantime, we’ve also been working on the car. For safety’s sake, we’ve replaced the brake system with new oem type components* and also put in a new gas tank and fuel line to the engine compartment. We also finished up the wiring, what little there is – kill switch, ignition, starter, brake light.

Next step is to get the engine in the car and get it over to the shop for a cage. After that we can install the windshield (would you believe that a sheet of lexan in the right size is cheaper than a glass windshield? I was shocked), doors, rear view mirror, window net, and the fire extinguisher, and we’ll be ready to roll!

Also, we’ve been accepted for the race at MSR Houston in October, so the time is right to get everything together.

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Step One – Engine Diagnosis

So, with a good chassis and suspension (I’ll post more on this later.), the only thing we really need to do is get the engine running. Apparently it ran before it was flooded by the storm surge from Ike, so I figured it’s just a little rust. No problem, we’ll take it apart and get it going in no time.

Well, as with most best laid plans, this turns out not to be the case. In fact, it’s the case that’s the problem. Apparently magnesium alloy and salt water don’t mix. Luckily for us, these Volkswagen engines are cheap. I’ve already got a line on a couple of replacement cases, just trying to get the best possible deal before I break the bank. Luckily, everything else seems to have survived unscathed. Or at least, survived to the point of being lemons worthy.

Here’s a few pics from the weekend.

Just a little dirty

Just a little dirty


First came getting into the top end. I’m pretty sure that sand and salt isn’t really the best thing for a valve train, but the heads actually look pretty good.

I’m sure if I was some fancy race car driver with a budget, I’d measure all the tolerances and realize that every single part in them is out of spec, but I don’t have that luxury.

And honestly, I don’t care. Looks good to me!

A little rust never hurt anyone

A little rust never hurt anyone


So pulling of the cylinders (well, more like beating them off with a 2 pound sledge hammer), revealed a little rust. So far so good! This is turning out a lot better than I thought it would. I mean, that should clean right up with a little sand paper. Maybe some CLR to get off the lime scale.

We're going to need a bigger hammer

We're going to need a bigger hammer

Opening the Case

Well, opening the case wasn’t quite as easy as I had thought. Apparently this is a relatively easy task with the right tools. I don’t have the right tools. Good thing this case is toast anyway, since it would have been when I was done with it. Never mind the 253 lb/ft of torque needed to get the flywheel off. These cases are sealed together with some kind of crazy permanent glue stuff that even the great Zaphod Beeblebrox wouldn’t drink over ice.

Seriously, it sucked. But I was able to finally accomplish my goal. Although we did give up Sunday evening and kill an 18 pack.

Once the great inner workings of the engine revealed themselves to me, I found this:

I'm pretty sure that white powdery stuff isn't any good

I'm pretty sure that white powdery stuff isn't any good

Answer: 42. What was the Question?

So it’s not brilliant, but everything inside seems to be okay, minus the cam gear. Well, that’s $10 right there, but we do kind of need one with teeth. As soon as we have a case that can hold oil, we’ll put this back together. I do have some secret plans for either more power or total detonation. Apparently the stock compression ratio on these engines is 7.5:1. I figure if we splurge and run 93 octane, we can get like 3 or 4 more horsepower if we leave off the cylinder shims and bump the compression up. Or it will explode. Not sure which would be better.

If anyone has a free or cheap case for a 1600cc aircooled VW, let me know!

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And So It Begins

While browsing craigslist one day, I stumbled upon this glorious piece of crap. I knew I had to have it. And I knew I had to turn it into a lemons car.

This is the original craigslist ad that started the whole thing.

This is the original craigslist ad that started the whole thing.

So I called a friend, we went and looked at it the next day, and thought, “What could possibly go wrong?” We talked the guy down on the price, boxed up all the parts, and towed that beauty home the next day. And so it begins …