Matching manifold gaskets

Posted March 6, 2015 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

Tags: , ,

The weather is pretty nice right now here in the southwest.  The rains have passed and it’s in the mid 70’s while the rest of the country is knee-deep in snow and freezing temps.  My son Kai is helping me in the shop today.  We didn’t do much – just a bit tin installation / alignment, exhaust header stuff and sealing air flow around the oil cooler.

The gaskets are the round-port cardboard-like material – so you can see they’d restrict the air flow of the heads.

Kai helping out.

Kai helping out.

I cut a notch where needed around the bottom left edge perimeter with a sharp utility knife. Then install and hold flat to the ports while using a scribe to etch the actual port shape underneath the gasket. Knife that new ovalled shape and voila! Perfect air flow without restriction.  This image shows the cutting already done.


Next up was installing the headers with new gaskets.  I’m trying out these graphite-impregnated 1.5″ exhaust gaskets.  They’re pretty neat.  Slippery to feel.  ⅛” thick to start and say they’ll compress down to 1/16″ so they’ll conform to any imperfections. They certainly are easy to compress.  I had the usual fiddly difficulties in contorting the headers and banging them with a mallet and block of wood to get them to align on the studs.  I’m using the 1.5″ merged header with A-1 Sidewinder exhaust.  Great sound.. Nice tuck-away.

exhaust gaskets

In case you’re wondering about the checkered marks on the header – they’re from a previous cloth wrap I just removed.  It was black carbon-colored fiberglass wrap.  It looked cool at first then became less so when all the black wore off to natural yellow/white-ish.  My initial thought was to protect the oil lines and rear painted tin and apron from excessive heat.  I suppose, technically, it worked though not enough.  I noticed some browning of the paint on the apron – even though it is a double-walled thing.  Bummer.  At least the paint is partially hidded behind the rear bumper.  The fabric-covered header (as it swoops toward the merge point) touches the apron.  Nothing I can do about that unless I get a totally different header setup.  Gah!  I guess I should consider re-wrapping this again lest the burning get way worse.  Then there’re those precious oil lines, right?

Next up is fitting the doghouse tins so they actually seat.  Because, of course, they don’t on my engine. I went shopping at Lowes in the door/window sealing aisle.  This seemed easier than tracking down the seals only… and paying for shipping.. Most things I saw included the 2 tins as well (which I already have – and painted dove blue).  In the image below I replaced this seal with one ¾” longer so it could fill that lower corner gap.

oil cooler tin seal, upper image image

Narrowed VW bus Front Beam

Posted November 23, 2014 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

Tags: , , ,

The excitement built as I got closer to the date and closer to Oldspeed in Paramount, CA. My 4″ narrowed and adjustable bus beam is a beautiful work of art. Here it is being picked up.


I used my motorcycle lift from Harbor Freight to install it. Wood shims kept it level and vertical as I lifted it up into position. I scrubbed the frame first with a wire brush so it’d slide on smoothly. The top bolts locked it safely up so I could rotate the assembly a bit for the remaining bolts.

The spindles are my previous 3 1/2″ flipped and reconditioned ones. I can eat off them! The black tape is there to prevent rust. After the spindles I cleaned and painted the backing plates. Cleaned and re-greased the brake cylinders. What a sight!

The whole reason for replacing the front beam was to narrow (2″ per side) the wheels so they wouldn’t rub on the outer arch of the wheel well when carrying a passenger or any weight at all… The adjustability would allow me to raise the stance a bit, to mount taller profile tires so the speedo might read a bit more correct. I’m pretty happy with it so far. I haven’t driven it yet and I will readjust the height as it’s a bit too low right now. I was instructed to have the adjusters do a progressive tension – meaning the bottom tube was on the bottom spline and the top tube was centered nicely. This was done with the bus in the air and the wheels off.

Can o’ Worms

Posted October 12, 2014 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

Tags: , , , , ,

Months and months have been passing by with that nagging transmission mount problem.  I take naps under my bus now and then so it’s not like I didn’t know my mounts were cracked.  It’s just, getting at them…..  that is the not-so-easy part.  They’re the red urethane mounts (installed by the previous owner (PO)).  I ordered stock black rubber mounts from WW (the softer of the two options they offered).  Believe me, the front mount is WAY more cracked than the following rear mount pics.  It came apart in 20 diff pieces at least.

IMG_2716 IMG_2717

… To get at my mount-replacement I have to remove the engine and then the tranny.  While the engine is out I’ll replace the main oil seal behind the flywheel as that has been leaking for a while I think.  The flywheel removal is a dream now that I have the torque converter tool from Empi.  I mean, I actually enjoy putting it on and taking it off – which is exactly what I had to do to check and recheck my crankshaft endplay.  Several times I did this because I didn’t want to believe the 0.016″ figure I kept seeing.  It is supposed to be 0.006″+/- 0.001″.

Can o’ Worms has been cracked.

The other project I finally delved in to while the bus is up on blocks – my new, narrowed / adjustable front beam from Russ at Oldspeed in Paramount.  I took many measurements and photos of my current setup and drove down there to talk in person at length.  We decided a 4″ narrowed beam, appropriately-shortened tie rods and reconditioning of my current flipped kingpin spindles.  My wheels are aftermarket (new) Empi 5-spokes.  I guess the offset in the rear was just a tad further out than the previous widened wheels the PO had on there… and it rubs at the outer top of the wheel arch whenever I take someone larger than my 3 yr old in the front seat. It rubs really bad on the highway – to the point of jerking the steering wheel to the right in a scary way.

So out comes the beam (by myself, I might add).  I used a motorcycle jack and wood shims to keep it balanced upright.  I also kept the tie rods on so they could be extended out behind the beam to act as stabilizers and handles with leverage.  Cake. I also removed the drag link.  While noticing the extreme wear at the tie-rod ends of the drag link… I placed an order for a new one.  I’m hoping that resolves a lot of my unsatisfactory steering play.  (I’m sure I’ll be going into the steering box as well.

Connecting the two distant parts of the bus is the shift rod.  Has this one ever been removed and lubricated?  I’ll guess, “No”.  For one, the front coupler has been missing a grub screw for as long as I have had the bus (about 9 years).  Have I been worried that the shifter would pop out of the coupler and leave me stranded, unable to change gears?  Yes!  Has that worry come to fruition?  Not when the coupler is rusted… nay.. Fused with the strength of several fusion reactions of a nearby star.  Of course I read up on many articles posted on the samba on said problem.  I tried several attempts of heat and cold per day for four days at least.  Then I tried, with a dremel and disc, to take a lengthwise slot out of the coupler.  It still didn’t release.  Days and days I tell you!  This problem was only a problem because I wanted to salvage as much original metal as possible.  In the end I took my reciprocating saw and cut the shift rod behind the coupler in 3 seconds.  Done.  I ordered new couplers, front and rear, and both new shift rod shafts and bushings.  Done.  I have this awesome Gene Berg round-ball shifter up front.  Why suffer all this time with sloppy and yet, rusty linkage and cracked mounts to the tranny at the same time?


I might be missing some worms in this can.  It sure feels like it.  I guess I have to say that while I have my engine apart in my shop…. at the same time… a friend called and needed to use my space for his complete engine tear-down and re-build.  That adds up to chaos.  At least I won’t be installing my distributor drive gear 180 degrees backwards. hehehe.

Hopefully I’ll add some more posts on this matter… In the meantime I smell a nice beef stew in the crockpot that is ready.. and a chocolate chunk pumpkin bread that I’ve been making this afternoon.

Engine installed but won’t start!

Posted August 20, 2013 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

Ok – It’s been on the back burner for quite some time primarily due to my children.  Then there’s work.  Then there’s the ’60 panel that I like to keep going and improving on as my daily driver and weekend club vehicle.  Then there’s…  You get the picture.

When I got the engine finally ready to install my next step was to put the gas tank in.  Now thinking ahead to post-project when I’m driving it around and finally realize omg!  the gas gauge doesn’t work!  Now I have to remove the engine to fix it!  Ok.. so instead of going through that drama I decided to open the sender up and indeed, yes, it was stuck with old gas.   Keep in mind to be extremely delicate with the sender wires.. Notice in the 2nd pic how very thin they are!


Inside the fuel sender

Inside the fuel sender

It’s a pretty neat point of view to stick my iphone inside the opening with a flashlight next to it.  I certainly have never seen the inside of a vw gas tank before.  That shiny aluminum cylinder is the gas sender and the tube coming down from the upper left is the vapor recovery hose/tube thingy.  The bottom of the tank has a little bit of rust but barely enough to concern me.  I don’t think I’ll bother with “coating” the tank or even doing the shake ‘n’ bake length of chain thing.  I’ll just be sure to check my fuel filters now and then to see if anything is dislodged.

Rust of bottom of tank

Rust of bottom of tank

So I cleaned up the firewall and repadded it with foam tape.  This is where any vibration is stopped where it touches the gas tank.  The opening on the left is unfinished.  I need to still clean and mount the sheetmetal.  This bus has the m code for gas heater and that’s where the ducting passes through.  If you look to the left of the actual gas tank in the seat bulkhead behind, you’ll notice a piece of 1/4″ plywood glued in a hole where the duct used to exit.



Here’s the engine installed but before the apron and such.  It’s such a huge difference in cleaned detail-osity.  That word is good for this post 🙂


Here’s a closeup of the heat collectors.  Notice the original couplers that will connect to the flexible black corrugated tubing?  They’re sometimes difficult to find.  At least for me.  Sure I could buy shiny new ones at the store but I really don’t want to go that route.  Hey, I’ve been looking for nice-condition original sheet metal screws even!


Ok… I went to regrease the throttle cable before connecting it to the carb.  Removing the pedal assembly pan I found several old wasp nests (also throughout the entire vehicle) and a collection of various insects that have since departed this world.  What do I see on the throttle cable but what might be an original accordian boot??  If it’s not original then the previous owner or repair person took the time to crimp it on the wire.  I’m assuming it’s proper.  It looks proper!  It’s still in great condition so I won’t be replacing this cable – just lubing.  I used my red bearing grease.


Ok… I did the fuel lines, filter (by the bottom of the gas tank), added gas and oil (gaskets, new copper,etc) and decided to see if it would start.  The battery seems good.  It’s freshly recharged and holding it’s charge in the 12.5 ish range.  Turned the key over and nothing happened.  Not even a click of the starter solenoid.  Bah!  I wire-brushed the battery terminals and then looked under at these connection points on the solenoid itself.  Diiiiiirty…  I cleaned those up too – no start.  I put my multi-tester from ground to the starter wire (50) and asked my wife to turn it over.  It measure +6.3 volts.  Hmmm… seems a tad low for a 12 volt starter.  Next I’ll check all the groundstraps (tranny too) then perhaps replace the entire starter wire in case it’s losing voltage along it’s length somewhere.  Wish me luck!






New brake shoes for the ’60 panel bus

Posted February 12, 2012 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

I revived the panel the other weekend.. then worked 2 solid 14 hour/day weeks during which time I forgot I even owned any vw buses…

After the job ended I realized I had got the panel going around the block but she couldn’t stop very well… Ok… that’s something I’ll need to address.  Other problems I noticed were the pos Scat Drag Shifter.  I’ll maaaaybe attempt to readjust it but I just don’t like how short and tight the throws between gears are.  I really think I’ll end up back with a stock shifter I have in a box in the garage.  I also need to figure out why the rear lights / brake lights don’t work.

So.. the brake shoes ALL need replacing.  They’re all really thin and unevenly worn.  The brakes only started grabbing when the pedal was nearly to the floor.  I got my order of shoes in from Wolfsburgwest this friday so I can get started.

thin, uneven brake shoes at front, right of the '60 panel

Below is a pic where I have just removed the shoes.  I started at the top left bit by prying the tab out of the slotted adjuster.  I used a flat-bladed screwdriver to pry against the handle of a vise grip which was wedged under the star adjuster.  I didn’t want to bend anything I shouldn’t so this method worked ok.

Shoes removed and backing plate cleaned up a bit.

Next is the comparison between my pos shoes and the new ones I had delivered.  Wow is all I can say.. I drove on these before it was parked… somehow?  I never noticed.  On at least 1 wheel (right, rear) there’s barely any pad left.  I’m hoping metal against drum didn’t do any damage as I don’t want to turn the drums.  I hear removing metal from drums only serves to decrease the heat sink capabilities.  I suppose the other option would be to find another good drum.  Notice the 2 crescent slots on the new shoes… Why?  Maybe they served as spring / tension adjustment?

brake shoe comparison

I installed the springs first, followed by the top right tab, lower right bit, lower left tab then upper left bit.  Yes, those are my technical terms.  I just reversed the order from my removal of them.  I tried to figure how to use a screwdriver and vise grip as a lever, etc at first… but then with a little fiddling I gave up… and just use my brute strength.  It wasn’t that hard to just pull the final shoe into the top slot.  Make sure the slots in the rubber sleeves (against the pistons) are fully seated or the drum won’t slip over the shoes properly.  I chose random spots on those crescent slots because I couldn’t find out what the difference was… yet.  I’ll perhaps call WW tomorrow when they’re open and ask.

Reverse order for installation. No problem. Nice and clean.

Next I installed the drum bit.  Easy once I went back and fully seated the right shoe.  I packed the bearing a bit more with fresh bearing grease.  A 32mm socket set for 15 ft/lbs of torque was tightened up on the bearing/washer.  The manual says to rotate the wheel while tightening the nut so the bearings will seat nicely.  Then loosen the nut just a bit until a screwdriver just barely starts to spin the bearing washer under the nut.  Then retighten the nut again to 15 ft/lbs.  I did it a 3rd time for giggles.  I installed a new locking plate and bent the small tab into the axle groove baby.  I actually had to file it a bit narrower and such to get it to fit in all the way.  It was ok.. I had a couple glasses of wine while doing so.  The bottom fat tab was almost lined up with a full flat edge of that first nut… so I tightened the nut just a hair to line it up fully and bent the tab over.  I put the 2nd nut on until just snug and lined up with the flat edge so I could bend the top tab of the locking plate over it.

For some reason the Muir guide doesn't say what size socket.. So here you go. 32mm

Here’s a pic of the locking tab before it was formed/bent in place.  I actually reversed it after this pic so the internal tab slid under the 1st nut.  No big deal I think.. Either way probably works fine.

Locking plate looking new and pretty. I reversed it though after this pic.

After the 2nd nut I put the Grease Cap on.. Hammered it with my fist and collected my tools as it’s going to rain tonight.  Hopefully the other 3 wheels don’t take as long.  Although the rear wheels are different a bit… so who knows.

‘night all

Delving into the “Running of the VW”

Posted September 27, 2011 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

Tags: ,

Well I’ve done the exciting exterior stuff.. windows with new rubber.. lights reinstalled…

Now I’ve got to make this bugger run!  The engine is so dark and dingy… aka dirty.  I started with a before pic:

I disconnected the fuel lines that were leaking and varnish-coated… yes all of them – then plugged the metal line.  First off I removed the H30/31 Pict carb and I’m going to clean that first…  the jets are plugged and it’s really dirty.  That’s my starting point.  I have the same carb on my ’71 driver that has a ’68 bug engine in it but the “new” carb has this attachment on the front – I’ll need to figure out what that’s about.

A Quick Post Before I Read Watership Down to my Daughter.

Posted September 13, 2011 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

So.. I was out with Zoe today.  She was in the portable crib in the driveway next to me and the ’70.  She didn’t last too long sadly.  But that gave me enough time to install the sliding door rubber wrong.

Yes.. wrong.  My middle name should be “Trial-and-Error III”.  I don’t know who the two previous father figures of failure would be but the ‘III’ just sounded nice.

I removed the sliding door.  It’s heavy.  It swings out a bit in order for the bearings to release from the track at the bottom and then the top.  I placed it on a scrap of wood and leaned it against the rear hatch of the bus.  The rubber was acquired cheaply through my favorite samba site…  Here’s the beginning.

Beginning of rubber seal installation.

While the door was off I cleaned and lubed with grease the rear mechanism (the one that pivots and throws the door outward when you first open the door handle).  Installing the door was heavy and cumbersome.. so to make it easier I used an engine jack.  Technically, a motorcycle lift from Harbor Freight.  So, I’m done!  Looks great..  wait a sec.  I knew there was a chance I installed that rubber wrong.

So..  I waited ’till later when Zoe was able to hang out with me in her stroller for a quick re-do…  This is the way this particular rubber should be installed:

Upper left corner: flat flap is on the left side - beads on the other three sides.

Lower right rubber seal. Bead and bead.

Ok.. previous to this I did the 2 front doors.  I noticed right off the poor quality of the mold, particularly around the check-strap area.  Also.. You’ll notice the corners of the door aren’t covered with rubber.  It’s just a continuation of the thin mould.  I guess you get what you pay for.  People posting in the classified ads should REALLY remark on details like that!  Or at least their photo should show more than a jumbled pile of poop.  I mean foam rubber.

Upper right corner of passenger door. Note that it missed the corner.

Ugly rubber mould.

Driver’s door window/seal installation procedure

Posted September 10, 2011 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

Talk about trial and error.  I’m still not sure I have the order ‘proper’ but at least it finally works.  The driver’s door took me about two hours to do.  I’m guessing the passenger door will take a half hour or less.  /crossing fingers

The obvious thing to tackle first is the Vent Window.  Fitting the rubber and getting it to close and latch solidly is covered in a previous post I think.  So I first installed this complete vent assembly but had to remove it because the roll-up glass won’t go in. Blah, blah, blah…  I’ll skip the trial and error I guess … it’d be tedious on you.

Starting with a bare door:  you can keep the handle, locking mechanisms and window roller assembly.

Lower window channel guide thingy

1.  Install outer chrome trim with riveted rubber scraper.  Follow up with those spiked retaining clips:  3 up top, 2 on the side.  I left the 1 at top by the vent assembly OFF to make installation of that easier.

2.  Remove the lower window guide with it’s 10mm hex screw (then slide down to remove; it has a clip top).  This will give you more lateral room when you fit the vent assy.

3.  Throw in the roll-up window – all the way to the bottom.  Do not bother screwing it in yet.  Move it over as far as it goes (toward the B pillar).

4.  NOW put that vent assembly in.  Be careful of the corner of the window glass down there!  There’s a philips screw up top and a 10 mm screw down bottom.  Install that last spiked retaining clip at the top now (goes near that philips screw).

5.  Replace that lower window guide.  Fun fun…  This is the fiddly part I question – but it works.  I left the window in it’s lowest position (still not screwed in), slid the guide/channel along the side of the glass and up into it’s clip hole.  One hand down bottom and one up top using needle nose pliers and sometimes a flat-head screwdriver.  Again, careful of the glass.  There’s a piece of sheet metal (part of the door) that likes to get in the way.  So I flex the channel enough to get around it… the push up from the bottom to snap it in it’s clip hole.  I know.. Rude… Wipe your brow and move on.

6.  Next I stuck in the vent window felt channel, flush at the top and continuing on below as far as it goes…  Snap in with no glue.

7.  Install the inner window scraper (horizontal one that the roll-up window “comes out of”).  I used a combination of needle nose pliers and plastic putty knife to get those snaps in..  It doesn’t take much to bend them too much with the pliers so just squeeze enough to snap them in with the putty knife.

8.  Install the big L-shaped felt channel.  No glue.  You’ll snap it into the spiked retaining clips (3 up top.. 2 on the side).  Pre-bend the L shape by holding it up the door first.  Stuff the lower part down past the window glass into that pain-in-the-ass lower guide.  Then work with the top end and start it flush to where it meets the vent assembly.  Try not to prematurely push the felt into the spike retainers until it’s position at that point is good.  I don’t see adjusting it after those spikes get a hold of it to be very easy.  Work your way around the bend (don’t push it in too deep… keep it the same) and down all the way.

9..  Now you can screw in the roll-up window glass.  It’ll be stiff when you roll it up.  I used a hand below to help push it up the first time.. and am currently letting it sit in it’s felt for a bit to settle in.

I hope this helped.  I’ll try to post better pics in a follow-up post when I do the passenger side.  There will be no trial and error and I’ll be in a better picture-taking mood 🙂

Window installation finally!

Posted July 30, 2011 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

Wow… I can’t believe I’ve neglected this project for so long.  A whole year has passed?  I suppose at this time last year I didn’t have little Zoe to occupy my time though.  It’s a decent trade 🙂

So.. I recently got a bunch of new window rubber and I cleaned up the old Sekurit glass.  These jalousie windows were covered in really old, baked-on, crunchy tinting material.  Needless to say, it was tedious removing it.  These windows cleaned up rather nicely and were easy to install.

Jalousie window installation

Below shows my interior – Yes I have a complete knob (yay!) albeit only on 1 side of the bus.  I’m considering turning one on the lathe for the right side.  These windows also lack the interior seal – I have recently heard of 1 person making new ones lately… though I’m going to pass for now due to the added expense.

Interior of jalousie

Then there’s the rear window – I did this first because it seemed easiest.  Yes the rubber was easy (I use dish soap to seat it nicely in the sill and pop it over the lip with 300 lb test monofilament) but removing all the old, cracked stickers and window tinting without damaging the defrosting wires…. that was a pita….  But.. it all looks good now, right?

Rear window with new rubber

This is the left-side vent window assembly.  The rubber was difficult to find – Few people sell it (nope, not Wolfsburgwest) and it’s $50 usd…. figures.  It looks a tad rough where it’s joined at the seams but should do the job.  What would my options be anyway?  Here I’ve disassembled the assembly and cleaned and waxed it.  A little bit of rust is in the bottom where the window post goes through the frame.  Rubber on first, then window!  No rivetting… YAY!  Try saying that about my ’60 panel bus earlier in this blog…

Left side vent window assembly

Here’s a quick shot when I was taking the window apart.  I trust pics more than my memory for reassembly!  One screw tightens this clamp around the bottom post of the pivoting window.  Loosen it to make the window operate easier.. Not too loose though or the wind will flop it around!  Remove the clamp all the way to take the vent out.

Friction bolt for vent window

Well.. more to come later.. Zoe’s up from her nap and crying for my attention!  Perhaps I’ll take her out to the shop to watch me finish off the rubber installation on this baby!

Stripping the bay down

Posted July 24, 2010 by Panelant
Categories: VW bus restoration

Even though I haven’t found a body and paint place I want to hire yet – I decided to disassemble the bus while methodically photographing and writing down any and ALL information I can think of to make assembly quick and easy.  We’ll just see how that goes.

Today I managed to take out the cabinetry, seats and wall panels.  I took measurements of the panels so I can reproduce them later.  I kept a scrap here and there however so I can get the curves right for the wheel well arches and the bit by the cooler (passenger seat).  There’s no sense in trial and error when I can just trace out the proper curves to begin with.

The laminates are actually in great condition!  I think a mere soap and water clean-up will make it all better.  I’ll have to put a bit more work into the original upholstery.  There are some small tears here and there that will need some delicate patching.  I’m sure there will be a post dedicated to that when the time comes.

Apparently someone at some point had smashed a window to break in.  I see no apparent damage now though.  Some quick and dirty attempt at a rear bench seat belt lies on the floor.  That will not be making it to the final product let me tell you.

Next up…  I’ll remove the headliner and ceiling lights, upper-rear cabinet brackets seen below and then the glass and rubbers all around.  One thing you might be itching to do at this stage OR while the bus is getting it’s body and paint done – is to buy all your new rubber seals, etc.  Wolfsburgwest however delivers in 2 days to my residence (which is fabulous!) – I love them…. BUT during my first project the rubber was sitting in an area that got “some” sunlight and they started to change color and crack… especially the grey foam door rubbers.  I blame my paint/body guy for taking a year to do the project and NOT communicating with me when it’ll be done.  Then of course I did store them in a bad place thinking I’d be using them real soon.  I wont’ make that mistake again.

Below is where I sit at the end of the day today:  seats, walls and furniture is OUT.  Not bad.