Chocolate Rain

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Old cars are full of surprises.

When I pulled out the rear seat of the ’64 Chevy Corvair project car I bought in the mid ’90s, I found a mini-bar from the ’70s – complete with cheesy disco-era decanters and shot glasses. The bar was made of wood – which had been cut to fit the metal that had been hacksawed out of the Corvair to make room for it. The car felt a lot tighter when the structure that was supposed to have been there was welded back in place.

Flash-forward to the ’72 Beetle I am helping my teenage protege fix up.

It was running decently as purchased but a closer look at the engine revealed a few obvious little things that needed attention, including usual suspects such as extremely AARP fuel lines in need of immediate replacement and a very low-rent and poorly fitting aftermarket “chrome” air cleaner – the “chrome” apparently applied with a paintbrush.

Such things are par for the course when dealing with a car pushing 50 that has probably had at least five and possibly a dozen different owners over its lifetime, many of those not shall we say mechanically gifted.

One such may have been the owner before the last one – who was a teenaged girl; my protege bought the car from her father and we are pretty sure neither she nor he are responsible for what we found. The thing we found had to have been caused by a Yeti angered by the sound of an air-cooled VW engine.

But it was not found right away. The Yeti was clever; he covered his tracks . . . with RTV. (See here for gory video exposition.)

The first clue was the Solex 28 carburetor – which isn’t the right Solex carburetor for a ’72 Beetle. Which is supposed to have a Solex 34 carburetor. A friend had the correct Solex 34 (Pict 3) and, after a cleaning and rebuilding, my protege and I affixed it to the Beetle’s engine.

The Solex 28; note the offset adapter plate . . .

Whereupon the engine would not idle.

Rev yes. As long you held it about about 1,500 RPM all was well. But if you let off the throttle, the engine would die. Weird. After all, the engine idled with the Solex 28. I figured – reasonably I thought – it had to be the Solex 34. I rechecked all the obvious things – even to the extent of tearing the carb down again to make absolutely sure the pilot and main jets were not in any way occluded, that all passages were clear – and all screws (idle and air bleed) adjusted within specs.

The correct Solex 34, without the adapter plate . .

They were.

Then I checked the idle solenoid switch. But it clicked when current was applied and the internal plunger operated as it was supposed to. Running out of ideas, I grabbed a can of Gumout carb cleaner to check for vacuum leaks.

And found one.

A big one.

To find a vacuum leak, spray the carb cleaner around the suspected area of the leak, such as the base of the carburetor, where it sits on the intake manifold. Sometimes a bad gasket or loose bolts will cause a leak. But the gasket was new and the bolts were correctly torqued down.

Post-Yeti fixed intake.

Still, the engine reacted immediately when that Gumout spritz contacted the area around the base of the carburetor. And so I began to wipe away what I thought was just grime around the base of the intake manifold . . .  .

And discovered something loose. On the side of what was supposed to be a solid casting, a single piece of cast iron/steel. The grime wasn’t. It was black RTV – Room Temperature Vulcanizing silcone – basically, form-a-gasket in a toothpaste tube, a product used to seal things. Normally, a thin bead of RTV would be spread around the perimeter of a thermostat housing or similar prior to re-installation, to assure a leak-free mating of the parts.

It was used for a different purpose here.

Sandblasted and coated manifold ends

Yeti – or whoever he was – had smashed off a chunk of the poor Beetle’s intake manifold; about an eighth of the flange – the flat surface the carburetor sits on – was gone and there was a gaping hole on the side of the flange – one upon a time, the EGR port – which had been artfully plugged with an old bolt smeared generously with RTV. To which more was added once the bolt was “installed,” the Yeti then carefully shaping the still pliable RTV, like cake frosting, into the former shape of the intake manifold.

The horrendous vacuum leak was further “fixed” by using the smaller Solex 28 carb, which – now I noticed it – had an offset adapter plate bolted to its bottom. In order establish a seal, sort of, with the damaged intake manifold.

And by the ghost of Ferdinand Porsche, it worked.

Ye Olde intake manifold boots . . .

Sort of.

The Beetle ran, but was down on power – for obvious reasons. It ran much better with the Solex 34 mounted – except for the problem of not idling, on account of that horrendous vacuum leak due to the Yeti-mauled intake. So we pulled the intake – which on the Bug requires pulling pretty much everything else (alternator/fan, fuel pump and of course, the carburetor) first to get at the thing and then get it off.

The manifold has a main center section (the Yeti-smashed one) and two cast aluminum intake sections (which, luckily, his paws were too big to get at and so weren’t damaged).

As it turned out, the Yeti did my protege a favor by mauling the center section, necessitating its removal in order to weld it back into serviceable condition. One everything was on the floor of the garage, it became quite clear that the rubber boots which connect and seal the intake end sections to the main section were in bad shape; they probably had leaks, too – or soon would.

New ones were ordered.

A Beetle heat riser – this one unclogged.

More seriously, the heat risers were as clogged as Dan Blocker’s arteries. These are the tubes which carry exhaust gas to warm the intake plenum – so that the gasoline doesn’t freeze on cold days. This is helpful in terms of getting the Beetle to run on cold days. Fixing this problem involved some home engineering; my buddy Tim chocked some flexible wire into a drill and used that to Roto-Rooter the built up rust. That plus a torch and some pressure washing – followed by the welding, sandblasting and coating – and the intake was functionally good as new and looking good, too.

Meanwhile, everything else got the once-over. Just in case – and just because. When you have an old car that was once in the hands of a Yeti, this is prudent – and also part of the fun.

There is discovery – it never ceases to amaze what people (er, Yetis) are capable of doing; of marveling at their home-engineering prowess.

And there is the fun of fixing all that – hopefully the right way, this time!

 

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Tay Zonday
    Chocolate Rain (remix)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMbz5qy38AU

    Chocolate Rain
    Some stay dry and others feel the pain
    Chocolate Rain
    A baby born will die before the sin

    Chocolate Rain
    The school books say it can’t be here again
    Chocolate Rain
    The prisons make you wonder where it went

    Chocolate Rain
    Build a tent and say the world is dry
    Chocolate Rain
    Zoom the camera out and see the lie

    Chocolate Rain
    Forecast to be falling yesterday
    Chocolate Rain
    Only in the past is what they say

    Chocolate Rain
    Raised your neighborhood insurance rates
    Chocolate Rain
    Makes us happy ‘livin in a gate

    Chocolate Rain
    Made me cross the street the other day
    Chocolate Rain
    Made you turn your head the other way

    [Hook]
    Chocolate Rain
    History quickly crashing through your veins
    Chocolate Rain
    Using you to fall back down again
    Chocolate Rain
    History quickly crashing through your veins
    Chocolate Rain
    Using you to fall back down again

    [Verse 2]
    Chocolate Rain
    Seldom mentioned on the radio
    Chocolate Rain
    Its the fear your leaders call control

    Chocolate Rain
    Worse than swearing worse than calling names
    Chocolate Rain
    Say it publicly and you’re insane

    Chocolate Rain
    No one wants to hear about it now
    Chocolate Rain
    Wish real hard it goes away somehow

    Chocolate Rain
    Makes the best of friends begin to fight
    Chocolate Rain
    But did they know each other in the light?

    Chocolate Rain
    Every February washed away
    Chocolate Rain
    Stays behind as colors celebrate

    Chocolate Rain
    The same crime has a higher price to pay
    Chocolate Rain
    The judge and jury swear it’s not the face

    [Hook]
    Chocolate Rain
    History quickly crashing through your veins
    Chocolate Rain
    Using you to fall back down again
    Chocolate Rain
    History quickly crashing through your veins
    Chocolate Rain
    Using you to fall back down again

    Chocolate Rain
    Dirty secrets of economy
    Chocolate Rain
    Turns that body into GDP

    Chocolate Rain
    The bell curve blames the baby’s DNA
    Chocolate Rain
    But test scores are how much the parents make

    Chocolate Rain
    ‘Flippin cars in France the other night
    Chocolate Rain
    Cleans the sewers out beneath Mumbai

    Chocolate Rain
    ‘Cross the world and back its all the same
    Chocolate Rain
    Angels cry and shake their heads in shame

    Chocolate Rain
    Lifts the ark of paradise in sin
    Chocolate Rain
    Which part do you think you’re ‘livin in?

    Chocolate Rain
    More than ‘marchin more than passing law
    Chocolate Rain
    Remake how we got to where we are

  2. Could you imagine if this had been a modern Rube Goldberg-mobile, instead of one of the simplest cars ever made?!

    Imagine the hours and hours it would have taken to find the problem; the disassembly that would have been necessary for access….and then repeated again…..

    This simplicity is why this car is still viable and practical 50 years after it was built….while the modern monstrosities are finding their ways to junkyards before they’re 10.

  3. Eric, you commented about this VW having “extremely AARP fuel lines in need of immediate replacement”.

    Good move mentioning this. When it’s old enough, the fuel line in Beetles likes to break or come loose from the carburetor when running. Then it will start a fire because of gasoline spraying all over the hot engine.

    Years ago I knew a man with a pristine early–1970s Beetle who lost it to fire because of the fuel line in the 1980s. He said that at the yard where it was towed, he saw another Beetle that had caught on fire the same way for the same reason.

  4. Dealing with a previous owner’s ghetto engineering job is an occupational hazard of working on old cars!

    Sounds like matters are well in hand though. I have not dealt with one of der Fuhrer’s KDF-wagens in quite a while. You should get a copy of the book “How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot” by John Muir. First published in the VW Bug’s heydey of the late 1960s, it is still readily available for not too much bread.

      • Though very much a product of its times that’s a great book! Should have figured you’d already have a copy. I still have mine around even though I have not wrenched on a bug in many years. (I remember when the streets were full of those cars.)

        It’s really a shame that Uncle Scumbag will not permit new vehicles of this type to be sold here any more. I think they were built and sold in Mexico into the early 2000s. You can’t bring a newer one into the US quite yet though due to the 25-year fatwa against private importation of “non-compliant” foreign cars into the U.S.

        • Hi Jason,

          Working on the kid’s Bug has instilled in me a strong desire to have one of my own again. They are such simple fun to piddle with!I never hopped any of the ones I owned up but that idea really interests me. Nothing crazy, just a bit more power.

          • eric, I think you’ll like a bug featured in the new issue of Hot Rod. It’s a custom job with a 215 Buick aluminum V8. You really should look at it, a beautiful job and a beautiful bill I’m sure.

            In the 60’s a guy known for his entrepreneurship started building copies of Meyer Manx dune buggies in Roby, Tx. For many years there were Meyer Manx’s all over this country. So a friend bought one and not being constrained by convention, installed one of the aluminum Buick V8 in it. That was a honkin dune buggy. To this day it’s hard to find a Beetle in this area due to so many being transformed into dune buggies.

          • Some of the modern hop ups make a vastly improved bug. One of the weaknesses of the air cooled type 1 (at least in the later 15/1600) is that the fuel economy is not really all that great by modern standards. The 1700 strokes I have on good authority make more torque and power than stock while getting closer to 40mpg

            Great project, got 3 in the big shop now. And some parts, grab those every time they pop up cheap on CL.

        • I could never be interested in something that used to be advertised as “fast enough” for freeway driving. The car is too slow for my tastes. Even with more power, its a rolling death trap. I am not against people owning them. Just not for me.

          • My thoughts exactly, Swamp!

            While I love the simplicity of the Hitlermobiles, I sure wouldn’t want to be in such a position of weakness on the road- being the slowest thing on the road….and flimsiest.

            Not only does the ug crumple like a wet paper bag, but due to the tight interior quarters, even in a low-speed minor crash, you’re banging your head on something hard! And no one goes through the windshield of a bug- they’re not big enough. You just impaled, as your body hits the dash/pillars/roof at the speed you had been going.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeMrOQfliCs

  5. Hi Eric,

    Sounds like fun. Are the parts starting to become hard to come by? I realize they made more beetles than Mother Nature produced them- but I honestly don’t see them on the road as much.

    • Hi CP,

      Beetle parts are still easy to find and inexpensive. Example: The set of intake manifold boots and gaskets I needed to put the fixed intake back on cost . . . $10. That’s for two boots with clamps and a pair of gaskets for the side sections. If you need one, you can replacement Solex carbs – these are brand new – for about $130. They install in 5 minutes. Two bolts hold them on.

      Body/trim parts are no worries, either.

      The chief drawback with these cars is that they’re prone to rust and every so often you’ll need to weld in new floorpans!

      • Are floor pans readily available. Are the newer ones more rigid? If I ever did get a bug, I would dynomat the whole damned thing. I can’t stand the sound. lol. But I suppose that’s the appeal. The only thing that appeals to me is the cheap cost of parts.

      • I hope the new clamps are not of the worm screw type clamp, those will tear the boots. There is nothing better than original clamps, and looking at the pic of the old ones, that’s what you have. If those originals are still functional, I would use them.

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