Sunday, September 30, 2007

DDR plate, 1989

I found this DDR country of origin plate recently. It's dated December 1989, the month after the Berlin Wall fell. The Deutsche Demokratische Republik wouldn't even exist a year later.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Another early VW 1500 engine found

Jason Weigel (aka Notchboy) sent these photos of an early '62 engine he's currently tearing down. The engine number is in the 0 038 XXX range, which would mean it was built a few weeks after mine, in late April. It still has many original parts in place, so it's worth a closer look.

More of the hard-to-find early parts are there than on most. Things are pretty much as they should be except the generator, which appears to be from a
Type 1, and the obviously missing parts like the coil, distributor cap, and plastic fuel pump cover. According to Jason, the carburetor is a later 32 PHN-1 -- not unusual as the early carbs were prone to trouble. Some things you almost never see are a correctly routed fuel line with the fuel line retainer still attached to the oil cooler mount, the early-style oil pressure sender, and the plastic plug in the crankcase breather port on the Mann air cleaner.

With the left side tin removed the early Type 1-style oil cooler is revealed. The heat exchanger appears to have sprayed on insulation, a 1962 "feature."

Here's the early oil cooler on the bench, getting a thorough cleaning. Next to it on the left you can see the spacer for the intake manifold, used temporarily as a placeholder for the thermostatic valve that was finally fitted on the 1963 models.

Jason points out that the intake manifold is a transitional part that was only used in the last half of the 1962 model year. It's the same one that my car has. Earlier manifolds had a steel bracket for the carb linkage that was tack welded to the intake tube (as seen here on the manifold from Jason's February '62 notchback, compared to a 1963 manifold below). This transitional manifold, with the carb linkage support cast into the aluminum jacket, was used beginning somewhere around March '62 and through July, when the manifold was again altered to suit the angled intake ports of the new cylinder heads that were introduced at the launch of the 1963 model year, at engine number
0 066 740.

One of the most surprising finds was an early plastic carb linkage, which was only used until chassis number 0 040 116, at the beginning of May. Most of these were replaced with the later metal link during routine service, so not many survive.

A little crusty perhaps, and exposed to a lot of moisture over the years, but this early engine is quite a find.

Monday, September 17, 2007

1958 Rometsch Lawrence coupe

My introduction to the world of coachbuilt VWs came 25 years ago. I had just wrecked my first car, a '65 Beetle, and was looking for a project car to transfer the mechanical parts to. I answered an ad in the paper for a '56 oval-window, but the seller also had a "hand-built aluminum-bodied VW" that he thought I might be interested in. I knew nothing about coachbuilt VWs, but was about to get a quick education. I drove way up into the mountains east of San Diego to Alpine, and at the end of a muddy dirt road I found this Rometsch coupe. It was a little rough and was partially disassembled but complete. He wanted $1000. I forgot all about the '56 oval I had come to see and started analyzing the Rometsch as a project.

Rometsches are now well known in the VW world, but back then in the pre-Internet days there wasn't much information available. The Berlin-based firm began building VW-based specials in the early '50s. Their best known product was a design by Johannes Beeskow that was nicknamed the "Banana," which was available in both convertible and coupe form. Interestingly, Beeskow was later responsible for the production engineering of the 1500 Karmann-Ghia for Karmann. In 1957 Rometsch introduced a new model designed by Bert Lawrence, who was influenced by contemporary American styling trends. As with the Beeskow model, the body was hand-formed aluminum over a wooden framework. These cars were completely handcrafted. Production of this model continued until 1961, when the Berlin wall went up, separating the East German workforce from the workshop in West Berlin. The Rometsch firm still technically existed after that, but in a much-diminished capacity.

So here was an extremely rare hand-built car, fairly complete, partially disassembled and left out in the weather. It had apparently never been in any serious accidents. Registered in California since the early '60s. Non-original '57 floorpan. No engine. I seriously considered buying it, but in the end I was scared off by the amount of work it needed and the dry rot I found in part of the wooden body frame. It's just as well -- it was far too big a project for me at the time, and what I really needed was transportation. I ended up buying a '66 sunroof Beetle, which served me well for the next few years. My interest in coachbuilt VWs was set, though: Within four years of looking at the Rometsch I had bought my first 1500 Ghia.

Prices for Rometsches have skyrocketed in recent years. An unrestored coupe similar to this one sold last year for a reported $40,000, and a beautifully restored '59 convertible is currently available for an asking price of $79,500. I wonder whatever became of that '58?

Friday, September 14, 2007

NOS Continental generator belt

I just picked up an NOS 1050mm generator belt, an official VW part stamped with a logo and part number (311 903 137). It only fits VW 1500s up through engine number 0 141 841 (December 1962), when the size of the crankshaft pulley was reduced to lower the generator RPMs. I realize "rare fan belt" is kind of an oxymoron, but that's just what it is. If you're restoring an early engine you've gotta have one.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Concentric circles

A VW 1500 design subtheme.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Round Hazet tool kit for the VW 1500

When the VW 1500s were introduced Hazet offered a new round tool kit designed specifically for them. Unlike the more common round tool kits for the Type 1 and Porsche 356, which were held in place on the spare wheel by the hub cap clips, the 1500 tool kit was designed to simply fit inside the spare wheel unsecured -- necessary because the new 1500 wheel design eliminated the clips. The case of the 1500 kit is considerably larger than the Type 1 kit and is made of plastic instead of steel. They're pretty rare, so I'm very lucky to have found one on eBay last year.

The tools themselves are in good, almost unused condition, though they are slightly rusted from humidity. Most of them still have their original Hazet water decals.

Wrenches in the kit include a 27mm open end, 13mm combination (Hazet 600), 10mm/14mm (450), 9mm/11mm (450), and 7mm/8mm (450):

Screwdrivers include a large and small flat blade (811-6 and 813-2) and a large and short Phillips (814-3 and 814-2):

Slip-joint pliers (760) and combination pliers (1850-6):

And from left to right below, a special 17mm hex head/21mm box-end oil plug wrench (2567), lug wrench (772), spark plug removal tool, and 13mm socket (2527):

Other than the 760 pliers I'm sure these are the original tools that came in the kit. This contents list from a 1963 Hazet catalog differs slightly, though, and also includes a point file, Hazet 2125, that my kit doesn't have but maybe should:

[This catalog image and the one at the top of the post from Anchovy via The Samba forums]

The page below, from the official VW accessory catalog, shows both the VW 1500 kit, which fit Type 3 VWs up through the 1965 model year (bottom), and the universal kit that would fit both the Type 1 and for 1966 and newer Type 3s (top). The list of contents for the 1500 kit is consistent with the tools mine has; there's no mention of the point file.

The kit I have, with the VW logo and "1500" molded into the case, is the version offered by VW dealers, but there was also a version of the same kit sold by Hazet labeled "Tourist 2".

Here it is in its native environment:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Tourist-delivery 1500S Squarebacks and option M249

The VW Fastback and Squareback were officially introduced to the U.S. market for the 1966 model year, but many VW 1500s found their way into the country before that, most through the gray market or as personal imports. These cars had to be individually modified to U.S. specification by the importer in order to be registered for use in the U.S. The tourist delivery program, however, offered a way for an American consumer to buy a real factory-built U.S.-spec 1500 before the official introduction. This 1965 brochure confirms that a Squareback could be delivered to a U.S. port through the program:

[Images courtesy of The Samba]

Interesting that the name "Squareback Sedan" was already in use well before the Squareback's official U.S. introduction. The main reason for the unusual name was to avoid confusion with both the VW Station Wagon and the Plymouth Valiant (the Squareback was known as Variant in Germany and most of the rest of the world), but it also worked well with VW's advertising of the time, which focused on the unconventional or ironic aspects of VW's products. "From the people that brought you a station wagon that looks like a bus, a sedan that looks like a station wagon."

U.S.-spec tourist-delivery 1500s, most if not all of which were Squarebacks, are similar to Canadian-spec 1964–65 models. They can be identified by the lack of side marker lights on the front fenders, sealed-beam headlights, dual-pole front indicators, and red tail light lenses. (The Canadian cars were usually if not always equipped with a gas heater too.) We used to own this one, a 1965 model:

It was an all original low-mileage car that we bought from the estate of the original owner. It came with all the original paperwork including one of the tourist delivery brochures pictured above.

A relatively little-known feature of these cars was option M249, a detuned version of the 1500S engine that allowed the cars to be run on regular octane gas. Bill Stone's Volkswagen 1600 Guide (Sports Car Press, 1966) explains:

"When VW considered the U.S. market for the big VW, it was faced with a quandary about its engine. Clearly, the 1500N was too gutless for U.S. tastes and traffic. Yet, with the Beetle's hard-won reputation for economy, could U.S. motorists be offered the 1500S engine—an engine that demanded premium gas? It seemed not. The solution to this problem was a clever compromise: a detuned 1500S engine—retaining the dual carburetors, but lowering compression to a point where the car would run on regular gas. Only 3 horsepower were lost in the detuning process."

These engines substituted the 1500N flat-top pistons for the 1500S's high-compression dome-tops, effectively lowering the compression from 8.5:1 to 7.8:1 and allowing the use of regular gas. They looked outwardly identical to the standard 1500S engines except for a metal plate attached to the crankcase breather stand and a letter "N" stamped on the case.

To avoid confusion, the standard high-compression 1500S engine cases were stamped "R" in 1964 and 1965, as this chart from the VW Workshop Manual shows (the highlighting is mine):

[go here for more information about M249 that has recently come to light]

But unfortunately there is a lot of confusion surrounding these engines, partly because VW's documentation of their existence was vague. For some reason VW decided to repurpose M249 as the option code for the automatic transmission in 1968, and later versions of the VW Type 3 Parts List deleted most of the information about the lower-compression 1500S. I would be interested to know how many U.S.-spec tourist-delivery Squarebacks were produced in 1964–65. I would guess a few thousand at the most, but maybe as few as several hundred. At this point there are very few original un-rebuilt examples still on the road.