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 …