Saturday, February 28, 2009

Silver 1500 Ghia fabric sample

I just received a swatch of the silver upholstery fabric reproduction, and it's a really good match of the original piece of 564 silver cloth I supplied to the manufacturer.

This photo shows the new cloth sample next to an NOS silver beige sun visor and e-brake button, an anthracite e-brake handle, and a sample of anthracite paint. I think I've decided what color the Ghia will be!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More than you ever wanted to know about early VW 1500 heater tubes

I recently bought an NOS early left side heater muffler (311 255 355 B). The seller has a number of them available, but only for the left side. I bought one in the hope that a right side one will eventually turn up somewhere. Hey, it worked for the sun visors, so why not roll the dice again?

This insulated duct (referred to by VW as a "muffler") fits between the left heat exchanger on the engine and the left heater junction box on the body under the car. It was introduced in January 1963 (chassis no. 0 141 008) and first appears in the parts book with supplement 11, superseding a simple metal flex tube. It will fit all VW 1500s from 1961 through the first few months of the 1964 model year. Even though it's not a part that my Ghia would have originally had when new, it was introduced just a few months after my car was built as an improvement on the original part, so I think it's an acceptable upgrade. I never did like the metal flex tubes, since they have a tendency to unravel themselves.

I had always assumed that the insulation in these mufflers was asbestos, but it actually appears to be industrial felt much like what was used to insulate the engine lid. Though since it was made in the 1960s it's more than likely the felt includes asbestos fibers. I may try to keep my heater use to a minimum.

I remembered a discussion about these heater mufflers on the Type 34 Registry mailing list a few years ago. The list archives seem not to be available online anymore, but luckily I never throw anything away, including old e-mail, so I was able to find it on my computer. Larry Edson did a pretty good job of documenting the confusing yet strangely compelling history of early 1500 heater tubes and ducts:

My earliest book, which I know to be really early because it still lists the 32 PHN carb instead of the 32 PHN-1) shows that the early cars had metal flex pipes with these part numbers -- left 311 255 357 A, right 311 255 358 A. But then my next oldest book with updates to 13/63 no longer shows the flex pipes and have mufflers in their place and are listed thus: left 311 255 355 B, right 311 255 356 B. The next book with update 1/64 tells the next part of the story: To chassis no. 0 221 974 -- same as previous book. From chassis nos. 0 221 975 to 0 280 370 gets a 60mm flex pipe (the same as the early cars) -- left 311 255 357 A, right 311 255 358 A. Update 1/64 gets this entry: From chassis no. 0 280 371 gets a 65mm flex pipe -- left 311 255 357 D, right 311 255 358 D. The latest parts book seems to have cobbled all of this together and botched it (just like the publisher botched the speedometer part numbers in the Type 34 parts book). This book mistakenly lists the mufflers up to chassis no. 0 280 371. This is the reason I have so many books. You just can't trust the publisher to keep the numbers straight over years of changes.

So true. This note in the VW Workshop Manual helps explain and leads to more confusion at the same time:

So either beginning with the 1964 model year at chassis no. 0 221 975 or at no. 0 238 920 (take your pick) the mufflers were discontinued and the metal flex tubes used in earlier years were reintroduced, but with an additional insulated jacket. This Workshop Manual note hints at why the muffler design might have been dropped (restorers please take note):

That's right: within a few weeks of introducing the muffler they realized the plastic and/or insulation would burn unless an insulating ring was added at the connection with the heat exchanger.

At no. 0 280 371, not long after switching back to the metal flex tubes, the heat exchangers were redesigned requiring a larger diameter tube (65 mm vs. 60 mm). This design change keeps the 311 255 355 B and 356 B mufflers from fitting any cars built after chassis no. 0 280 370 (September 1963). Alles klar? Long story short, if you have an early car with a later engine or newer heat exchangers you might have some trouble finding the right combination of parts to make the heater connections, as some have found out the hard way.

Anyway, if anyone knows of where I can find an NOS or good used right side muffler (311 255 356 B) please let me know!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

NOS tailpipe embellishers

There's a cache of NOS VW 1500 chrome tailpipe tips currently for sale in the Samba classifieds. They're very reasonably priced, so get them while you can.

This part was originally intended for the 1500 Ghia, as suggested by the 343 part number. I was able to confirm this by checking the early parts book. Later it was offered as an accessory for the other VW 1500s, and I think it may have even been standard equipment on the 1500S models.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

1961-64 1500 Ghia upholstery fabric reproduction

I just received swatches of the red and cerulean 1500 Ghia cloth reproduction, and they look great. They were able to match the original colors perfectly. It was worth the wait.

This cloth will be available in the next few weeks in red, silver (gray), and cerulean (blue). It's the closest thing to the original Karmann cloth that you'll ever find.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

NOS VW 1500 Karmann-Ghia visors

I just picked up a left side sun visor from Lars Neuffer, giving me a complete NOS set for the restoration. Expensive but worth it. No one is reproducing 1500 Ghia sun visors, and they would be difficult parts for an upholstery shop to replicate, so NOS or good used visors are the only real options. Before I found these I had neither.

While new old stock means the part was old inventory that was never installed and is essentially "new," in practical terms there can be a lot of variation in the condition of NOS parts depending on the life they have had in storage. Such is the case with the set of visors I have. The one I just got is very nice, nearly perfect. The other one had apparently been stored for years in a damp environment. The visor's packaging was very moldy and the visor was stained yellow-green from the mold, as you can see in the photo above. When I first opened the package the smell was so strong it nearly knocked me over. I've had it in dry outdoor storage to air it out. It also has a little compression damage from storage, but the price was right.

So I found myself with a matched set of new visors that didn't match. The right side one was clearly going to need some serious cleaning. I started with Simple Green, which did nothing. Then I moved to a diluted mild cleanser with bleach agitated with a soft brush. Nothing. Finally I moved on to a 1:1 solution of bleach and water, carefully applied with a soft brush and quenched with clean water after a few minutes of agitation. I didn't want to bleach to do to its job too well. It worked really well and while there's a very slight difference in color the visors look good together.

If you're restoring a car as uncommon as a 1500 Ghia and you come across an expensive part you need to complete a pair, a sequence of thoughts begins to play out in your mind:

"I would buy it if the price were a little lower. I've never seen another NOS one for sale in years of looking for parts, and it's the right color too. But it's too expensive. I wonder if I'll ever find another one for sale? I wonder how much it would cost to find a used one and have it restored? Or have a new one fabricated? Probably more than this one would cost, and it would never match the one I already have. What could I sell to cover the cost of it? How many hours would I have to work to pay for it? Would it be worth it? Will I regret not buying it if I don't? How much is the shipping going to cost? Can I afford not to buy it?"

All that within the few seconds between finding the part and buying it.