Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
BeetleBob asks: I read a quote from Ferdinand Porsche regarding the air-cooled engine in the Porsche designed Tiger tank of WW2 that sums up his design philosophy for engine cooling. “We always have the air,” as opposed to coolant leaks. True. a VW air-cooled engine with all the tin in place and heater system connected correctly would chase you out of the car. My 71 Type II camper would cook your feet set at half way. Most techs were too lazy to reconnect the heating system and folks just accepted poor or no heat as a normal condition. Air-cooled engines have a thermostat below the passenger side cylinders connected to vanes in the fan housing. You have to disconnect it to remove the fan shroud from the engine. Techs would leave the thermostat out and remove the vanes in the fan shroud when rebuilding the engine to “improve the cooling.” Yes, I rebuilt some engines and know how to set up the crankshaft endplay with a dial indicator gauge.
My reply: I can only amen all of the forgoing – as the former owner of several air-cooled old VWs, including two Beetles and a Fastback with the Bosch fuel-injection system. These old VWs are saddled with the false opprobrium of being mobile meatlockers, in the same way that old Corvairs were – and are – vilified as evil-handling death traps. People like you and I know better. You can’t fault a car design because some idiot mucked up the car’s design. In the case of the air-cooled VWs, it was – as you’ve described – people screwing with the tinwork and thermostat or not maintaining the cables that opened and closed the air doors, etc. In the case of the Corvair, it the “handling problem” was the result of people not adhering to the recommended tire pressure values.
In both cases, the “design flaw” was the same as a Corvette’s inability to rock climb.
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