Saturday, February 16, 2008

NOS EMPI Camber Compensator

I found this EMPI Camber Compensator a couple of years ago after looking for a long time. Another vintage performance accessory that's eventually going to go on the Ghia.

The Camber Compensator was developed by Joe Vittone of EMPI around 1960, probably inspired by the Porsche Super 90's similar compensating spring. The purpose of the Super 90 compensator was a little different (to literally compensate for the use of softer torsion bars), but it also turned out to be an effective way to limit the travel of the swing axles on hard cornering, addressing a particularly dangerous shortcoming of the swing axle suspension design. EMPI's compensator was a big seller and helped elevate the company's profile among aftermarket parts suppliers in the '60s.

Here's a 1960 Camber Compensator brochure complete with a business card from the legendary Competition Motors of Hollywood stapled to it:

So it was possible to buy one at your local VW dealer right from the beginning, at least if you happened to live in Hollywood. And you could also buy a compensator for other cars with swing axles too, including Porsche, Renault, and Corvair. Unsafe at any speed? Not anymore!

The compensator shown in the brochure is the earliest version designed for the old split-case transmission. In 1961 a new mount to fit the synchromesh transmission was introduced, and most of the compensators available today still mount to the bottom of the transmission too, but in the late '60s EMPI introduced a completely different mount that clamped to the frame horns instead, eliminating the gear oil leaks that the trans mounts are prone to causing. Here a drawing of the later mount from Bill Fisher's great How to Hotrod VW Engines (H.P. Books, 1970):

This later mount is the one I prefer. It just seems like a better, stronger design to me. They're relatively hard to find, though, and it took me quite a while to track a used one down. Then about a week after I found it an NOS one turned up at a reasonable price. Wouldn't you know it. Here they are together:

The used one shows how they wear. The mount is slightly bent in the middle and all the rubber parts show a lot of wear, especially the center pivot. Looks like the car it came from was driven pretty hard.

Some close-up shots of the NOS compensator's frame mount:

New replacements for all the rubber bushings and straps are now available from Eric Outland on The Samba. He sells completely restored vintage EMPI Camber Compensators too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

I was lucky enough to purchase a 1961 Bug that came with this installed in 1970. I ordered new straps from EMPI in NYC and was very pleased with the handling of the Bug compared to my stock 1959.