Saturday, 3 September 2016

Loosing our aural history

It's been a beautiful winter's night with spring on the way. I was outside cooking up dinner on the grill sampling the sounds of the suburbs. People coming home and noisy cars in the distance. As I listened and grilled, it struck me I was listening to a different soundscape than when I was growing up.

Now of course that makes sense. I'm 25 years into adulthood.

Even still, and maybe I'm being old and nostalgic, I felt that things have changed. The engines I heard in years gone by have, by and large, disappeared. So I thought I'd wheel a few of them out to reminisce.

A few of my friends will laugh their heads off to read this, but the first of them has to be Holden 202. It was available in red and blue versions. I've often complained how awful they were, but the sound of them was around us all the time. A good 202 had a HUGE droning exhaust and holley. Really good 202s had SUs or Webers and struggled to idle. It was usually attached to a torana 4 door or a one toner with cragars or welds wheels.

Often the car sounded like it was going to explode. Thankfully, the awful cylinder head design prevented that. There are plenty of good after market heads for them now. Sadly, it's apparently pretty hard to find a good engine block these days.

A similar but better sound came from this motor...

It's true that the 265 was the motor everyone pined after, but for most of us the 245 was a lot more common. It too had a drone. Much smoother than the breathless holden, the Hemi always sounded smooth and pretty effortless. Stock hemis sounded good too. This is one of the curious things about older cars; you could hear the engines. New cars, you can never hear. Hemis were attached to variety of things from trucks, the valiant sedans and centuras. Any centura with a Hemi 6 was an weapon. I'd still love a hemi powered car... with a turbo. They're famous.


The other 6 hanging around the place was of course the ford crossflow. It was a little better than the 202, but not as nice as the Hemi. People have done lots of good things with the crossflow, but mostly they were the second class citizens to the Ford V8s.


The ford crossflow was perhaps the most prolific six in Australia after the Holden 6. Occasional they got a big exhaust and a carb. Later in the piece, they got turbos and then things really got interesting. They were attached to falcons and the odd cortina. In a cortina, it was burnout machine. Which brings me to the biggest engines.

Although Australians love their V8s, they've always been pretty expensive to run and own. So, even though there were a few around, they were mostly small blocks. The most common of them this one. The holden 253...


People pile cowpads on the 253. Smaller, heavier and inferior to the Hemi 265 they were described as "boat anchors". It's a shame they're remembered so poorly because they were the most popular thing around my way. And I have to say, they could sound mighty good. Lots of exhaust with not much muffler and they were a favourite. VB Commodore SLEs sounded pretty great stock. Some extractors and it was fantastic. That popping, detached rumble was gold.

Which brings me to it's bigger brother. The 308. These were floating around in a variety of commodores, monaros and toranas. Invariably they were lacking mufflers and went hard. The top of the tree was the VN group A.


 A school mate of mine's father owned one. Let's just say we regularly heard the rev limiter.

Then there was the ford 302. It was in everything. Falcons, utes, F100s, etc and the occasional cortina. Like 253s, they often had a nice set of duals on them. Around my way lived a tow truck driver called, "Borgie". His 302 power F100 towie was a weapon and got thrashed outside the school every arvo as he picked up his younger brother.


Now, I know everyone will want to get carried away about 351s and the like, but there weren't many of them around. Like 308s and Chevy 350s they were rare. Having said that, you knew a small block chev when you heard one.

The other motor I heard over and over were rotaries. Again, the most common engine was a 12a or stockish 13b with a huge exhaust. I didn't really know much about them for a long time, but I remember them being around.


It's hard to describe the sounded of a modded rotary. There were regularly RX2s, RX3s and RX7s struggling to idle only to race off at 8000rpm and 130decibels. I'd still love to own a series 1 RX7 with an atmo 13b.

The other small engine running around the place was the L series Datsun engine. It's hard to describe how prolific the Datsun 1600 (510) was to so many petrol heads and racers. Yes, I know we had escorts and there were scores of them too, but the datto was more popular.


The L18 and L20 was the king of them all really. Again, open exhaust and webers if you could afford it. My parents in law had a 200B that did over 300,000km with this motor.

The most distinctive small car sound though, was of course the VW flat four. Whether it was powering a beetle, kombi or type 3, you could hear it coming a mile away.


Most of these engines were dead stock. The occasional one had extractors or a slight overbore kit, but compared to the US, VW speed parts were expensive and mostly left off street cars. Anything with anything more exotic than mentioned was always labled a, "Porsche engine". I never got why, but that's what people said. Over the exhaust, the whine of the fan always gave these engines away too.

There were other engines floating around, the odd twin cam toyota or alfa, 2 stroke diesels or suzuki sierras, but in my childhood these engines were the norm. In traffic, round the burbs or at school pickup they were the sounds we heard. I miss some of them, but then people probably don't give much thought to it. Newer cars are by and large quiet, efficient but somewhat soul-less. I guess it's just times changing.





Sunday, 19 June 2016

Flashbacks in Dattos

I've been hanging to get back in my car and do some khanas with the club again. Money, time and kids sport have been frustrating me, but the other day I got an offer I couldn't refuse. The chaplain of the club offered me a seat in his Datsun 1600 (510 for US readers) for a day on the skidpan.

Of course I said, "Yes please!"

The car in question is a pretty serious machine. It's nothing to look at, really kinda ugly, but it's got everything that needs to be there. The irony is, not that long ago, 510 shells like this went to the wreckers. However, as the price of these sky-rockets, more and more slightly bent shells are getting straightened and returned to use. Which is precisely what's happened here.


Pete, the owner told me, "it's been pulled completely straight". I smirked, but that's the truth for most of these old campaigners. Years of bingles and offroad exploits have made for tired, rusty shells. This car was mostly rust free, although it's recently had some surgery too. Along with all that, it's been plated, reinforced and stiffened up wherever possible. Underneath, it's as good as anything competing in the NSW and Australian rally championships across the 70's, 80's and 90's when Dattos reigned supreme. Added to that, it's got a completely adjustable rear end, proper springs and Bilstein shocks. The brakes are discs all round.

Pushing all that around is an L18 (1800cc SOHC, non-crossflow) engine with twin Italian Weber 45 sidedrafts and not a lot of exhaust. It's also got a HUGE 3 core radiator that will put up with anything (and a thermo fan). Pete told me it's a "Low compression, Southern Cross spec motor", "Don't be afraid to rev it, it'll sit on 6k all day", and "give it plenty of beans, you can't hurt it". Behind that was stage 2 racing clutch, a 5 speed gearbox of unknown origin and a 4:11 ratio, welded diff... I'll come back to that. Pete admits the 4:11 diff is a little tall for motorkhanas, but the car doesn't complain.

Amongst all the fun, we had the usual flat battery/running out of fuel/fan not working/didn't want to start dramas that go with a track car that isn't driven much. Sitting in dummy grids had the plugs starting to foul a bit, but a good thrashing fixed that quick.

It is bullet proof. 

At the beginning of the day, Pete took me out in the passenger's seat to get the feel of the car. We took off out of the start garage and on the first turn he reefed on the hydraulic handbrake. As the car threw me around in the seat, a childhood memory came flooding back...

It was nineteen hundred and eighty seven and I was at a scout jamboree. I was 13 years old and feeling mighty homesick. But there were plenty of cool things to do. One of them was a car club that was giving kids a ride in "rally cars". The weather was crazy hot, dry and to be honest, I found the car noisy, slightly violent and a bit frightening. I got thrown around in the racing seat and I couldn't see much. I don't know if I actually enjoyed it. For some reasons though, I went back for a second go. I don't remember if I got one, but I was smitten. I'd always liked cars, but now I was keen for a "rally car". Specifically, it was the beginning of a long love affair with Datsun 180B's (some people call them $1.80s). The car club was the same one I'm a member of now.

I found out, on telling Pete this story, that the car I rode in that fateful day back at the Jamboree, still exists! It's still in competition. In fact, last year it won the Alpine Classic Rally at the hands of Jack Monkhouse.


I'm sure it's had plenty of love since 1987, but I was pretty blown away to hear it's still so successful. Now back to the Datto at hand...


It is, a pretty agricultural piece of kit. The car has a control panel you can see to the left of the wheel. None, I repeat, none of the gauges work. If it's too hot, steam comes out of the bonnet. If there's no charge, the motor dies. If the fuel runs out, it stops. You get the point. It is however, pretty electrifying to drive. It doesn't idle that well and the timing chain tensioner is worn and rattles, so you can't let it sit on a low idle. The throttle is heavy and the clutch engages an inch from the top of it's travel. You have to push the brake a long way into the floor to get it to stop after using the hydraulic handbrake a few times.

But oh man! It's so fun. 

On a wet skid pan it's a hoot. I didn't get the hang of really drifting it, but it wants to and when it starts it's quite progressive. You think, "if I back off, it'll spin out", but it doesn't. It just looses a bit of drift angle. The steering is pretty darn heavy. It's got LOTS of caster and quick steer spindles, so it's only a few turns lock to lock. But you have to hold on, coz it kicks back. If you let go of the wheel it centres FAST! I stalled the car on the first test due to this, but by the end of the day I was used to it. It is a real arm workout at low speed, but it works well enough once you get going. I suspect it would be a lot easier to drive on the dirt where the rear end would do the steering.

My daughter and I had a tops time. She loved being thrown around in the passenger's seat. The motor is very loud in the car. Up near the top of it's rev range, the combo of induction and gears just screams. It bellowed like a mutant sewing machine trying rip it's way through the firewall. But it has nothing on the welded diff. I knew they were not great for the road, but man. At low speed even a gentle turn was met with a LOT of resistance, lurching, clanking and clunking. It felt like the car was twisting in the middle. I won't lie, it made me shudder every time (almost as much as the car did LOL). I raised this with Pete who told me, "yeah it always sounds like that". Again, once under power, both rear tyres lit up and it was in it's element. With more practice, the car easily dances around. Longer faster tests lead to big slip angles and lots of laughs.

There were a series of other interesting rides out at the track the same day. This Toyota 86 was hiding something sneaky. The owner was fighting under-bonnet heat.


At lunchtime in the pits, we came across this ancient Morgan 3 wheeler. Sensational stuff.


Check that steering wheel!

I've yet to receive the results from the day, but I just don't care. Getting out on the skidpan was rewarding enough. Being able to do it in the datto was a HUGE bonus. Thank's again Pete!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Poor old paint... and other adventures.

As with all things, stuff never happens when you expect it to. So on the one night when I left the car outside (due to having woodworking machines spread out) it decided to rain. Now, to be honest, it didn't stress me that much. I have an extremely "lasse fare" attitude to washing cars. I figure, the dirt helps protect the paint. LOL :)

Well hopefully.

There is another reason I don't often wash the beetle. Whenever I do, I literally wash paint off it. Unfortunately, after 60 years the paint has become powdery at best. Really I should expect it because the car has sat under the harsh Australian sun during it's life. Yes, it was garaged a lot of the time, but in the end, no paint can last that long without some bleaching and fading.

I was heartened to see a recent episode of Jay Leno's garage, where he described his practices of "wiping down" his cars rather than washing them. The gullwing mercedes in this episode is somewhat similar in paintwork to my beetle...


The upshot is that I've taken to waxing my car regular instead of washing it. Seems counter intuitive, but the car is a little dusty, but not much more. The rain shower washed most of it off the other day anyway. The problem with a shampoo/detergent wash is two things; it washes delicate paint off; the detergent/soap in the formula will penetrate below the paint in bad spots. Either way, it just speeds up the rust issues in a car with a suspect finish. What you really need is something that will seal the paint and metal again. Hence the wax. I've been using the first version of Nxt generation tech wax. The bottle is more than a few years old, but it works well enough.

The other day I did the roof/bootlid (the most worn areas) of the car and today I did bonnet and front guards. The other parts of car have been blown over. It always surprises me how well it comes up. The paint literally shines afterwards. You can see it's sealed. Which as I said, is pretty important...


Here's the bonnet after waxing. As you can see, it looks shiney, but you can see the pitting. There's also exposed rust on the left hand side along that ridge on the bonnet. You're may be thinking, "that doesn't look too bad", until you see the old nappy I polished the wax off with.


Now some of this is old wax and there is a little dirt there too, but mostly, the grey is... factory VW paint. Sadness. You can see why I have no desire to get soap and water near it in a concerted way. The bootlid has already been polished through in one spot. I'm pretty liberal with the wax too. Where there are chips in the paint of rust, I pile it on.


In the end, the car looks pretty good afterward. I took the liberty of adding extra wax under the edges of the guard as well this time. Hopefully that will slow the rot down there.

Too much crankcase pressure
In other news, I've been working hard to try and get the car to stop pushing oil out of the dipstick tube at higher revs. Various discussions with "Uncle Brian" led me to the conclusion that it needed more breathers than the one small breather car previous had...


There was a discussion about the merits of plumbing the oil vapour line in before the turbo in the intake. I was advised this was a bad idea for two reasons; Oil in the mixture will make the car ping; Oil is heavier than air and bad for turbos, just wears them out. So with no vacuum, we needed more breathing. One breather just wasn't enough, so off to the parts store (again) and I bought TWO more. Yes, the car now has three different breathers. Two come off the CB Performance breather/oil filler box. The other comes off the top of the fuel pump block off plate.


So welcome to "Pete's breather-o-rama". No they don't match and they look a little dodgy, but they do work. So far, the car is not puking oil on the exhaust and stinking like a nasty, nasty oil burning stinking thing. Is it however, still leaking oil from the sump. Which is part of the next challenge sort of.

Inadequate oil scavenging
As part of fiddling with various things, I recently pulled the intercooler piping off and found (to my horror) oil in the intercooler. Initially I thought it was coming off the filter, but no. It's coming from the turbo bearing. When you look at the bottom of the car, you can sort of see why...


The oil return from the turbo is the silver covered hose on the left hand side. You can see it reconnects to the sump via a brass fitting. The issue here is that when you give the car a boot load, some of the oil in the sump goes back wards into the turbo. Additionally, even when the car is sitting, the hose acts as sort of extension of the sump. Sure, the turbo is slightly higher than it, but not high enough to drain it properly via gravity. Another guy (fastie) warned me about this on a forum. I should have done things differently from the start. What I need is a scavenging pump. So I bought one off ebay...


I know what you're thinking, "that looking freakin huge!". You're right, and it is. Hmmm. It's actually a marine fuel pump for pump diesel. Apparently, it works fine as a scavenge pump too. It's also heavy. Extra hmmm. I've climbed under the car and there is simply nowhere to put it unless I move the water pump in the last update... yes, that's right. But that's ok, because it can move anyway. The upshot is, the oil return in the sump will be plugged up. This is good because I've worried since day one about a big rock knocking off the brass fitting and killing the motor. There's another reasons the water pump will move.

"Inter-warmer" radiator

I think I've mentioned this before, but the intercooler radiator is acting more like a heat sink for the engine/trans than evacuating heat from the intercooler coolant. Admittedly, winter temps have made it easier on the current setup, but once summer returns it'll be touch and go again. So the other day, this thing turned up.


For reasons I don't fully understand, it came without anything to hang it off. No flanges, brackets or whatever. I came with 4 small tabs with holes in them. I assume the idea is you have them TIG welded on. I haven't got around to that yet. The financial controller has told me to stop spending till we get reimbursed for a few work expenses. I spent a LOT of time laying under the car and surfing ebay for a cheap motorbike radiator to use. In the end, this was $200 instead of $40, but it's EXACTLY the right dimensions and seems far superior. I haven't sorted out water hoses for it yet, but I reckon I'm gonna use braided rubber hose. I could put steel or alloy pipe, but it's harder work and less forgiving to rocks and debris.

It will also mean I'm discarding the fan, which is a good thing. It couldn't cool an eskimo. I guess you get what you pay for and I didn't pay much. The wiring for the fan can run the water pump once I move it. And the wiring for the water pump can run the oil pump. Easy peasy.

More issues
I still have other issues to sort with a leaking deep sump. I suspect a permanent fix with silicon sealant might be the go. I also have to have better valve springs installed. Hopefully my mechanic can do that. The other continuing issue is ground clearance. I've got the new rubber for the torsion plates, I just need to jack the car up and I'm holding off til I do other things. In the meantime, "Ima grindin' on the muffler!"

As for tuning, boost is still at 5psi max. I'll look into that once I have these issues sorted. The car drives pretty well for what it is. It doesn't start great when it's cold, but it idles and drives well enough and I'm getting used to driving it. It must be pretty to run in now and there haven't been any real dramas.

Till next time...

Monday, 21 March 2016

Cavitation and other fun, part 2

After a day of waiting in Penrith for our golf to have it's seatbelt fixed, I came home to fix the beetle. Emil helpfully picked me up from the station and we came home and pitched into it. He's a master wiring man and we knocked it over in not long at all.



One of the main pipes coming from the filler neck runs about a metre of tube into the inlet of the pump. We filled the filler neck up with coolant with antifreeze. As soon as Emil turned the ignition on, the system started bleeding itself. In the end, we put somewhere in the vicinity of a litre of coolant into it.

I guess the next trick is to see what difference it makes to intake air temperatures now the fluid is actually flowing round the system.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Cavitation and other fun things

I've spent the last week or so trying to sort out a few things. Among them was a bunch of oil leaks. Some of it was me not tightening things enough, some of it was... werl, being an aircooled VW. At the same time I've been facing an ongoing issue with the intercooler system. It should be logging intake air temps (IAT) about 10deg higher than ambient. Instead, the other night when I went out driving on a 22degC evening, the IAT was 47degC. Head temps are fine, but the intercooler is not working as designed.

I came to the conclusion that the issue had something to do with airlocks or the pump. Today I ran the pump on it's own to see how much movement I had through the filler neck. The answer was, "none". I spent a while squeezing hoses and the like but still no luck. So then I started cracking coolant hoses at joints. A whole bunch of places had fluid but it wasn't moving. The outlet of the pump had foamy coolant coming out. This means there's air somewhere in the system and the pump is cavitating. Jacking up one side of the car helped it suck up some more coolant, but it still wasn't working.

On the advice of a friend, I tried this... getting the pump to pull water up out of the bucket.



No cigar. No cigar at all. Even when I put a garden hose into inlet hose it wouldn't pump water out at any pressure. So after a bunch of stuffing around, I pulled the pump out. The good news is, the pump actually works. It works well. I came to this conclusion... the pump is in the wrong place. First up, it's a centrifugal pump and doesn't self prime. Second, it was mounted with the inlet pointing down, halfway up the cooling system.



In short, it was always gonna be a fail. Sadface. So neat, but so useless.

So, what to do next? So I started climbing around the car and trying to figure out where to mount the pump and how to mount it so I could get coolant to it. Oh what fun. There wasn't anywhere in the engine bay I could find that the pump was going to fit. There's already so little space in there. Even if I could get it in there, getting the hoses connected to it and mounted is next to impossible. So I started looking under the car...

Oh man, so much junk under one car...

So after agonizing for a while I figured, "what about where I mounted the oil filter?". And amazingly it worked.



I'm beginning to understand how Porsche ended up with ridiculous tea tray spoilers and the like. I'd rather not put the pump in the rear guard except for a few things...

1. It's at the lowest point in system or close too.
2. It hangs directly off the bumper mount.
3. All the fluid should drain directly into it so it bleeds itself.
4. The oil filter is there on the other side and works ok.

Now all I have to do is run some hoses and re-route the wiring. Time to call Emil again.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

So that explains it...

So I just took the top of this intercooler system filler...



And it was empty. Yes, this pic is before I attached all the hoses. This is the second time I've found it losing coolant. Hmm. Now I get to figure out why.

Monday, 7 March 2016

More driving, tuning, beer and shiny bits

In an effort to try and fault find via datalogs, I was back out in the car again today. I only drove to the next suburb and back, got a bit of fuel and the like. Of course, with any VW, it's always an adventure. The first thing of course was getting out the driveway. The exhaust hanger scraped again.

Then off to my mate's place data logging on the way. When it's cold, it's got nothing down low... and I mean nothing. Just off idle it fluffs around no end. In traffic, it's better. Third gear is really where it all happens though. By then though, you're above 35mph and breaking the law. 1st is over very fast and 2nd isn't much better. I dearly wish I'd got a close ratio 1st/2nd set installed. The clutch is also a might too clampy. It's a touch chattery. I'm getting used to this, but it is hard to get it off the line at low revs. Be interesting to see how my 12yo daughter copes with this in a motorkhana. Hmm...

It's a hot week for the first week of March, and the car is feeling it. Just in traffic driving across one suburb I got intake air temps up near 55degC. Ie, too hot. I adjusted the fan and intercooler pump controls down, but even still couldn't get the IAT down past 50degC. I think I might have to revise the way air is getting to the radiator. It probably works well at 100kmh, but not so well in traffic and round 60kmh. Strangely, oil temps in the sump are still only 50degC. Head temps were 115degC. So hotter than the freeway, but then the engine fan isn't moving as much air. This is the weird thing, the motor itself is running quite cool but the intake temps are not so much.


The other frustrating thing about driving the car (that I'd forgot) is the position of the gearstick and steering wheel in 4th gear. You can see it in this pic. My 6'4" knees are jammed in between the two. I had the same issue with test driving a subaru liberty some years back... only it was the handbrake in the liberty.


 
Having picked up a few things and dropped my wife's phone off to be resuscitated, I drove back to the local petrol station to get some fuel. The first one wasn't selling 98 octane so I left for a truck stop round the corner. Having filled the car and turned the laptop back on I was accosted by a friendly truck driver. "Darren", least that's what his shirt said, tried to stick his head through my window to talk to me.

Why do people do this?

The conversation went a bit like this...
Darren; "is that a 1956?"
Me; "yes"
Darren; "I have a transporter. Do you drink beer?"
Me; "does the pope wear a funny hat?"
Darren; [lots of talk about beer, most of which I'll pass over] "...you've got to get this beer, it goes with the car".
Me; [being polite] "ok"
Darren; "when you have you're first mouthful of it, you'll go [f-bomb]!!!"
Me; "right"
Darren; [tells me where to get it and waves me off]


This is the beer, I think... Now don't get me wrong, I like beer. I like German beer, well some of it. What I'm struggling to understand is how it goes with my 56' beetle beyond being German. But what the heck, I'll pick some up and try it. I'll take one for the team.

After that I headed off home with the laptop on autotune. I pulled up to the first corner and it started misfiring. Grr. I guess it's been running rich for so long the plugs have fouled. I got it running on all 4 again, but it's not great. Hopefully all my logs can help some experts help me to sort this all out.





When I got home, my latest purchase arrived. Direct from China and just $8.80.



Wheel nut caps. Plastic with chrome coating. I even got 2 removal tools. Some of you might be thinking 'what the heck is he doing?'. Well there's a few things going on.
Firstly; everything has been done to VWs wheel-wise. Ev-ry-thing. So, how to be different?
Secondly; I don't want expensive, wide, shiny, alloy wheels on the car.
Thirdly; I want to keep stock width wheels and skinny tyres. My only other option is steel 356 replica wheels. They look great, but I'd still want to paint them black and that means the price of alloys anyway.
Fourth; I love that 1950's hotrod thing. Simple, different, innovative and cheap. That's the thing about the original hotrodding. The cars weren't that wild looking often, they were very clever and well thought out. Cal-look VWs looked the same to begin with. No BRMs or EMPI 5 spokes.


So, I hit the garage. Here's the result. It's super subtle, but I reckon it works.




I still think I'm not done yet. I reckon there's more I can do with the wheels. That'll come in the future.