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!

  1. #1 by Vince on March 18, 2009 - 9:33 am

    A little acid bath might clean that stuff right up! How has it been to find parts so far? I was thinking VW might have used that motor elsewhere as well…

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