Monday, May 30, 2011

VW+VW1500 has moved!

I've decided to move the blog over to the Type 34 Registry site, which now offers an integrated version of the powerful WordPress blogging platform. The new URL is All posts from the last five years (!) are archived at the new location. This version of the blog will also remain live, but new posts will only appear at the new location. See you there!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting reacquainted with the front brakes

It's been many years since I've done a front brake job on an old VW. The last time the front brakes were done on this car was about 12 years ago, when NOS wheel cylinders were installed by a local mechanic. Initially I thought I'd be able to get away with a brake fluid flush and adjustment, but the right front brakes were locking up. Stuck wheel cylinder(s)? Collapsed brake hose? The car has probably only seen 1000 miles since the brakes were done so how bad could things be?

I was stopped in my tracks soon after starting by an odd thing: Both lock nuts turned together when I tried to loosen the outer one on the right side. That shouldn't happen. I didn't have a thin 24mm wrench so had to source one. Luckily Lanner Kahn at VDUBEngineering in Canada offers a nice purpose-made 24/27mm spindle wrench, so I ordered one up. Once I got things apart the problem was obvious. Someone had used a larger diameter lock plate from another VW. This is the kind of hackery that can cause you to lose a wheel on the road. Not only that, all the expendable parts were shot—bearings, seals, the whole lot. Luckily, with a little help from Bill and Steve's, I was able to find everything I needed to put things right. Here are the old and new parts for comparison—it's as if the last bearing repack was done using only a crow bar and a sledge hammer. Nothing like seeing someone else's shoddy work to remind you that you're better off doing it yourself!

Turned out it was the wheel cylinders that were the braking problem -- gummed up from lack of use. I cleaned and honed them and I think they'll be all right for awhile, though I'm going to start searching for another complete set of NOS front cylinders just in case.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Early VW 1500 wheels: new and improved

A few years ago I found five NOS VW 1500 wheels. They're the early 4-slot version meant only for 1961–63 models. Unfortunately while NOS means "new old stock," it doesn't necessarily mean cosmetically perfect. While these wheels have never been mounted on a car they had picked up some surface rust and shelf wear in the many years they were warehoused. Off to the powder coater.

After some online research I decided to use Andrews Powder Coating in Chatsworth, California. They focus on powder coating for cars and motorcycles, and they are a supplier to ICON. That's good enough for me.

The wheels came back looking like new. I had Andrews match the OEM semi-gloss black. They masked the lug bolt and brake drum bearing surfaces at no additional charge, which saved me the trouble of scraping the paint off later. Wheels can come loose if these areas are powder coated, so it's best to keep them unpainted.

One interesting thing about these wheels is that they're all factory replacements made after 1964. The newest one has a September 1970 date stamp. Three of them are safety rims with additional bumps that keep tubeless tires from breaking the bead on very hard cornering. I really like the idea that VW was still making parts specifically for the earliest VW 1500s into the 1970s, and incorporating safety improvements into them too. I still have all five of my Ghia's original April 1962 stamped wheels, but I'll keep them in storage and use these newer ones on the road.

I found a very nice used Pirelli Cinturato CN 36 tire recently, and I had it mounted on one of the newly powder coated wheels as a test. Pirelli has reissued the early '70s vintage CN 36, and I'm thinking about buying a set of them for the Ghia, but since they're slightly wider than the original size (175-15 rather than 165-15) I wanted to see if there were any fit issues. There aren't. A bit more expensive than the comparable Michelin XZX, but with an extra helping of awesomeness. My car now has a very cool spare.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

We don't need no stinkin' badges...

...but we buy them anyway. Some time ago I found an ADAC enamel badge commemorating the 40th Internationale Automobil Austellung (IAA), the 1961 auto show where the VW 1500s were first shown to the public.

It's an enamel interpretation of the 1961 IAA poster. The poster looks great—I'd really like to find an original one someday—but the design was clearly hard to translate into enamel. Let's just say that it's the kind of thing that could only have been created in 1961, so in that way it's perfect.

The question now is: If I were to install it, where would it go? Normally a badge like this might be mounted on a car's radiator grille, but that obviously doesn't apply here. On other rear-engined cars like Porsches badges sometimes get mounted to the rear air intake, but the 1500 Ghia's flat rear deck doesn't really lend itself to that solution. What to do? Luckily great minds tend to think alike, so there are a few other 1500 Ghia owners who have already taken up this very same challenge.

Lee Hedges opted for the classic vintage VW badge location: low on the right side front fender between the wheel opening and the door. Looks good, and it's historically appropriate, but the downside is that it requires drilling into the fender, making the installation a fairly permanent decision.

Andy Holmes chose to mount his badge above one of the front overriders on a custom-fabbed bracket. This looks great and has the advantage of being close to the traditional location on a front grille or badge bar. But there's already a lot going on visually on the front of a 1500 Ghia, so I'm just not sure.

I'm currently leaning toward mounting it on the glove box door. I found a good strong magnet that will keep it in place. It's not permanent, it will keep the badge out of the weather, and I'll get to look at it (occasionally) while I'm driving and remind myself of where and when the 1500 Ghia had its debut.

[Photos by Lee and Andy of their cars "borrowed" from other sources.]

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Loved One

Ivan Pang sent me these great 1976 photos of his anthracite '62 1500 notchback at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Forest Lawn (a.k.a. "Whispering Glades" to fans of The Loved One) does a pretty good job of standing in for the old country.

Ivan has been a part of the vintage VW scene in Southern California since the early days, and he has also made it his practice to photograph interesting cars he has seen in Los Angeles' east side neighborhoods over the years. He has owned this particular low-mileage notchback since the mid-1970s. Other than the vintage Porsche 356 wheels and hubcaps (shod with what appear to be Michelin ZX radials) the car is unmodified from original. Ivan still has the original VW wheels and hubcaps in storage. He says the seats have been protected by factory accessory seat covers since the car was new, so the upholstery is in perfect condition. I asked about the clear taillight lenses and he says they were that way when he bought the car.

Here's Ivan at the wheel on a road trip to San Francisco back in the day. The notchback has been in long-term storage for many years and has seen very few miles since these photos were shot 35 years ago. I hope it sees daylight again this year for the 50th anniversary of the VW 1500!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Karmann-Post No. 25, October-December 1962

In this issue of Karmann-Post an article on the VW 1500 Karmann-Ghia reprinted from Auto Motor und Sport is illustrated with images of both Karmann-Ghia models along with photos of production in the Karmann factory. There are some rarely seen promotional images of the 1500 Ghia here, including an early '63 sunroof model (Type 345), alongside the usual press photos.

The Motor-Tourist review of the 1500 Ghia is also reprinted in this issue.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

You can take it with you: the Blaupunkt Derby 660

In the 1950s and '60s Blaupunkt and other European auto radio manufacturers offered portable "picnic" radios that had the option of being installed in a car as a dash-mounted pullout. Unlike more recent pullout systems that were intended for theft prevention, the idea behind these older pullouts was versatility.

The Blaupunkt Derby 660 was introduced in 1965 so it's a period-appropriate accessory for a VW 1500. It's larger and more modern-looking than the previous Derbys and offers shortwave, longwave, and FM bands. I bought this one many years ago and found the under-dash mount more recently.

Nice typography on the dial still has echoes of the 1940s.

The car mount was meant to be installed under the dash. It carries the Ideal brand. Ideal was the original name of the company, and the blue dot that was used as a quality control symbol eventually evolved into the company's trademark. The name was formally changed to Blaupunkt in 1938, but apparently the Ideal brand was still used for some components.

A plastic ridge on the top of the radio case guides the radio and secures it as it slides into the mount. The following sequence shows how a protective flap on the mount automatically opens to accept the radio as it slides in. When it's pushed fully home the power, antenna, and speaker are automatically switched over to the car's components.

The radio is then locked in place. A push tab above the radio unlocks it and allows it to be removed again.

The radio also has jacks for an alternate external power source and external picnic speakers or headphones for use away from the car. They thought of just about every possible need.

In the last few months I was able to find instructions for mounting a Derby 660 in a VW 1500 or 1500S:

I originally bought this Derby with the intention of mounting it in our '65 Squareback, but I didn't locate the mount until after I sold the car. I'm not sure if it will find a home in my 1500 Ghia or not. We shall see.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Karmann-Post No. 20, July-September 1961

The cover of issue number 20 of Karmann's promotional magazine featured a 1500 Ghia cabriolet prototype on display at the 1961 Frankfurt auto show (IAA). Other photos of the new 1500s were featured inside.

Mr. and Mrs. Wilhelm Karmann and Ghia's Luigi Segre with the cabriolet at the IAA.

Also at the IAA, the 1500 Ghia cabriolet is shown to German President Heinrich L├╝bke.

The issue also includes a spread featuring press photos of the new Karmann 1500s. The 1500 Cabriolet is referred to as the "four-seater" and the 1500 Ghia as the "two-seater." That's refreshingly honest — apparently Karmann didn't consider the 1500 Ghia's back seat a realistic place for anyone to sit.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It's an unusually wet winter for Southern California

You swingaxle drivers take it easy out there.

[1500S pushing the limit at Oulton Park, Cheshire, England in the 1960s. Source unknown.]