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Old 07-23-2013, 01:51 PM   #1
slowlane OP
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ADVW: 5000 miles from Texas to California and back in a formerly derelict '66 Beetle

Although my plans for a motorcycle trip this summer were shelved, some sort of cross-country road trip had to be taken, so I settled on the next best thing. I decided to drive my old 1966 Volkswagen Beetle from Dallas, TX to the bay area in northern California. I wanted to go visit a good friend from college who I had not seen in 4 years. I have long dreamed of taking a road trip using as little Interstate as possible, and since my VW’s pokey 40hp 1200cc engine is ill-suited for high speed travel anyway, this was the perfect time.

First I should probably give a little background on my ’66 VW. I bought it for $700 in June 2010. It had been driven into the ground and then left out to rot in 1990. Time had not been kind to the little car. It had been wrecked at least twice, leaving it with a mismatched right front fender and door, as well as beaten and bruised to the point that there is not a dent-free panel on the car. The body had several stress cracks including one between the left rear wheel tub and quarter panel that was about 6” long, probably due to the broken rear body mount on that side. I could stand with both feet on the ground through the rust hole in the rear floor area. Mice had chewed the wiring and upholstery as well as nested in many areas of the interior, leaving poop covering the floor and old nests hiding in seemingly every crevice. Many generations of mouse urine, as well as crumbling window seals, had rusted away several areas of the inner structure of the body. The only functioning things on the car were the steering and the parking brake on one wheel. The engine had a chunk missing from one of the exhaust valves which I would imagine was why it was parked so long ago. Speaking of the engine, it is a ’65 40hp 1200 instead of the 1300 that originally came in the car. It was a totally botched build with one early and one late cylinder head. The problem here was that the early head has a smaller intake port and they had just jammed the intake down and cranked the crap out of the fastening nuts, ruining the head and intake. The rest of the mechanical components on the car were in a similar state of disrepair or had been poorly cobbled back together. It had basically suffered the same fate bestowed upon so many other VW Beetles that have long been used up and left for dead.

After about a year and a half of cutting, welding, painting, parts replacing, rebuilding, and reupholstering, the VW was back into a functional state again. I performed all of the work myself except for the transaxle rebuild. It is not perfect looking by any means but it is mechanically solid and the thorough rebuild resulted in a satisfyingly low occurrence of breakdowns since I resurrected it. I remember when I cranked the engine over for the first time; it started right up like it had just run yesterday, instead of the coughing and sputtering before eventually smoothing out that has graced other engines I have rebuilt. I spent the next year and a half rotating between riding my Honda C70 and CB125S, and driving the VW. An incident free 700 mile trip from Dallas to Fredericksburg Texas gave me the idea of a cross country trip in the VW, and the stage was set.

Here are a few before and after pictures of the VW's slow return to life.

June 2010: You can see the sun shining through the rusted floor in the shadow under the car.


April 2012: Yes I did repaint all of the beige and still leave the mismatched door and fender. I am not right in the head and actually like it that way.


June 2010


April 2012


June 2010: Dead 1965 40hp 1200 engine complete with about 5 pounds of wasp nests lurking everywhere.


April 2012: All better, though if I remember correctly, the only original pieces left are the engine case itself, the distributor, cooling tin, and various hardware.

slowlane screwed with this post 07-25-2013 at 06:46 PM
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Old 07-23-2013, 01:57 PM   #2
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Old 07-23-2013, 02:10 PM   #3
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Old 07-23-2013, 02:28 PM   #4
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Old 07-23-2013, 02:30 PM   #5
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Old 07-23-2013, 02:35 PM   #6
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Now that's the way to do it!
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Old 07-23-2013, 02:36 PM   #7
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Old 07-23-2013, 02:37 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by slowlane View Post
...April 2012: Yes I did repaint all of the beige and still leave the mismatched door and fender. I am not right in the head and actually like it that way...


Epic.

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Old 07-23-2013, 02:40 PM   #9
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this thread seems


relevant


to my interests
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Old 07-23-2013, 02:46 PM   #10
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Old 07-23-2013, 03:07 PM   #11
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Love it! Seems like just the kind of car I would bring home and the wife would ask how much they paid me to take it away, only to find I paid them for the privilege. Can't wait for the rest of the story. Nice job btw.
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Old 07-23-2013, 03:27 PM   #12
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Though I know plenty of more scenic and ADV friendly routes out of DFW, I was eager to get out of Texas so I headed north on I-35E to Sanger where I exited onto Farm Road 455 and said goodbye to the Interstate until we would meet again in Utah. Then Farm Road 677 led me and the VW into Oklahoma, the first time in over 20 years the car had left Texas. I turned onto west OK-32 and in short order felt something on my leg above my ankle. Without looking I brushed at it and a wasp flew up at me. The wind sucked it out the window and all seemed well until a buzzing sound from the rear window area got my attention. It was another wasp! I pulled onto a side road, stopped the car, and mushed the wasp dead on the window. At this rate I was sure I would be inundated with bugs constantly on this trip but the rest of the day was blissfully bug-free. The VW’s little 40hp engine droned on as I past fence after fence and cow after cow. Towns of varying degrees of smallness came and went, and by late in the afternoon, I crossed into southwestern Kansas. My day ended on US-160 just shy of the Mountain Time Zone in Ulysses, Kansas. After a shower and a couple of bottles of Bud Light at the hotel bar, I went to bed.

When I woke up, I got dressed and went out to the VW to perform the daily maintenance checks. The air-cooled VW requires much more attention than any modern car or motorcycle, and as such, there are several items that I was diligent to keep a close eye on in an effort avoid a trip-ending failure. Being mechanically minded, I really do enjoy the minor tinkering to keep the car in good tune. I checked the valve clearances, the ignition timing, oil level, and generator belt tension every morning of driving on the trip. The only valve that required any adjusting on the trip was the number 3 exhaust valve. The design of the earlier air-cooled VW engine puts the oil cooler in the air flow to the number 3 cylinder and as such, the air is already heated before passing over the cylinder, resulting in slightly hotter operating temperatures on number 3. With this in mind, the number 3 exhaust valve would generally be the first to burn so exact clearance for it is a necessity, unless you want to be stranded in the middle of the Nevada desert with a dropped valve.

After eating a bowl of cereal, I fired up the little VW and set off into the cool morning air. Outside of Ulysses, I turned north on KS-27 to Syracuse, Kansas where I turned onto US-50 which would become my primary route for much of the trip.

Somewhere early into eastern Colorado, I downshifted into third and the generator light started to glow. Suspecting I had just thrown the generator belt, I quickly shutoff the engine, and coasted onto the shoulder. The generator belt on the VW is crucial as the cooling fan is connected the back of the generator, so if the generator isn’t turning, then no fan. At 60 mph, the engine wouldn’t last very long at all with no cooling before seizing into a worthless lump of uselessness. I popped the deck lid, but nothing seemed wrong. The belt was tight. I turned the car back on but the light is still lit. Further diagnosis is needed so I pulled onto a side road and got out my tools. Naturally when trouble arises the first tool to come out is the hammer, and I used it to tap on the generator and voltage regulator to no avail. I decided to repolarize the generator. This involves removing the belt and jumping it straight to the battery which turns the generator into an electric motor. It resets the magnetic field in the generator and if its good, it will start to spin clockwise. My generator started spinning easily. Maybe that’s it so I reinstalled the belt and started it up. The light went out! I don’t know how downshifting would cause a generator to loose polarity but it was working now and did so the rest of the trip. By lunch time I had buzzed into Pueblo, Colorado with the mountains in view to the west. Let the fun begin!

Not the best picture but it's the first one of the trip. Finally getting away from the DFW sprawl on Farm Road 455.


This abandoned school? in southwestern Oklahoma was strewn with broken cars, appliances and other junk. The "Victory" name on the building was comically ironic given the state of things.


I apologize for this second through-the-bug-splattered-windshield shot. It should be the last. Leaving Pueblo, CO on US-50 toward the mountains.
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Old 07-23-2013, 03:30 PM   #13
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I did a similar trip a few summers ago in a Caterham superlight -details here http://www.britishspeed.com/forum/sh...-(lots-of-pics)

Dallas to the california coast and back. Its different than on a bike but fun in a similar way. Anytime you get off the beaten path and are open to unexpected opportunities the good stuff happens. Love the bug and the mismatched door/fender. Have fun.
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Old 07-23-2013, 03:47 PM   #14
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More! More! More... Oh the ol' Type1
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Old 07-23-2013, 03:49 PM   #15
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I did a similar trip a few summers ago in a Caterham superlight -details here http://www.britishspeed.com/forum/sh...-(lots-of-pics)

Dallas to the california coast and back. Its different than on a bike but fun in a similar way. Anytime you get off the beaten path and are open to unexpected opportunities the good stuff happens. Love the bug and the mismatched door/fender. Have fun.
What kind of car is that?
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