My 1971 VW Superbeetle

Copyright © 2002 D.A.Kenney

Model: Volkswagen Superbeetle
Body Style: 2 Door Sedan (according to the title)
Model Year: 1971 (First year of manufacture for the Super)
Date of Manufacture: Unknown (The builders plate with the date code is missing)
VIN: Classified - Need to Know (you don't)
Color - Body: Yellow, Interior: Black
Engine: Air Cooled 1600cc 4 cylinder (original as far as I know)
Carburetor: Stock single barrel Solex (I think)
Transmission: 4 speed manual
Exhaust: Header going to a Cherybomb muffler - has heater boxes (Will eventually be replaced with a stock exhaust - I like the old putt-putt sound)
Electrical system: 12 volt DC (stock)

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What's so Super about a Superbeetle?
The main difference between a Superbeetle and a Standard, or "Type 1" as Volkswagen called them, is in the front suspension. Standard Beetles have what's called a torsion tube that all of the stuff that holds the front wheels is attached to. (I'll go into more detail as I get into rebuilding ol' Fritzy.) A Super Beetle, on the other hand, has a McPherson Strut front suspension. It's a totally different system that, from what I've read, makes for a smoother ride, more control and a four-foot tighter turning radius than a Standard Beetle. It's fairly easy to tell the difference between a Standard and a Super if you know what to look for. The nose of a Super is bigger to make room for the shock mounts and springs of the McPherson Strut suspension.

Another difference that was made possible by having the new suspension was repositioning the spare tire under the floor of the trunk. This gives a Super Beetle almost twice as much cargo space in its trunk than a standard.

Speaking of the spare tire - Volkswagen Beetles are the original Super Soaker. The spare tire in the trunk provides air pressure to the washer fluid reservoir to squirt the windshield when a valve is activated from the dash. Ingenious - until you need the spare on a stormy night when you've had to use the windshield washer a lot.

One thing they both have in common is something that even Volkswagen acknowledged in one of their classic ads: They have a lousy heater.

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Fritz gets a new caretaker
So how did I get to be Fritz's current caretaker you ask? It all started one day last fall. I was chatting with Dave Belanger, who was Fritz's caretaker at the time.

(We don't really own vintage cars. They own us and we are their caretakers for the time they are with us. Then either they move on to another caretaker or we move on and they get another caretaker. If cared for properly a vintage car should outlast even the longest-lived caretaker. The same holds true for any fine antique. The best will one day find themselves in a museum, if we take care of them now. - I'm pretty sure I read something like that in an editor's column in one of my Volkswagen magazines. That's the philosophy I've adopted towards them anyway. I'll eventually put a link to the original article here - if I can find it again.)

Dave was saying that he really wanted to get a nice medium format camera to use in a course he was taking in collage. I said that I happen to have one that I'm not using. After thinking about it a while I mentioned that he also happened to have a car he wasn't using. Maybe we could come to some sort of arrangement? Hmm... Car vs. Camera. Must be a hell of a camera! It is. The camera in question is a Mamiya RB67 Pro-S with the 127mm lens, two film backs, three viewfinders (including the metered prism) and a ton of other accessories. I was sorry to see it go when we made the deal, but I knew it was going to a good caretaker and Fritz was coming to me.

The test drives:

While we were debating whether or not to make the trade Dave had e-mailed me a large group of photos he had shot of the car. The photos that appear on this page are from that group, as a matter of fact. Meanwhile I had loaned him the camera to see if it would meet his needs. He actually took the RB67 to the top of (I think he said it was) Mt. Kataden! I've seen pictures of it sitting on it's tripod at the summit. (He also had a 35mm camera along for the hike.)

We rode to Nashua New Hampshire where the car was parked in Daveís blue New Beetle. It was the first time I had ever been in one. There were enough retro items, like the "Jesus Handle" on the dash to tell you that you are in a Beetle, but I had never seen a dash that long. You could land a Cessna on it!

When we got there we had to jump-start Fritz. He hadn't been run in about three years and the battery was dead. The muffler had rusted away so there was no back pressure which made him run rough and he was LOUD! I had to reset the throttle return screw to keep the engine from stalling. After taking care of several other necessities we set off for a quick spin around the block. That was a noisy and very un-smooth affair. But fun! I was having trouble getting used to the clutch and was paranoid about killing the motor. I managed not to stall the poor guy until we were back to within a couple of feet of where he was going to be parked. Fritz seemed to be glad to be back on the road, even if only for a few minutes. I was sold. Now would Dave go for the camera?

Yes. (!)

We signed the papers and I slid a one dollar bill across the table. Then Dave slid the same dollar back to me to buy the camera. A moment later he thought better of it and took the dollar back. My eyebrows went up at that. Was he backing out at this late date? He reached into his pocket and took out four quarters which he then slid across the table to me. He explained 'If I give you back the same dollar bill for the camera then we haven't sold the car for a dollar. We've traded it for an expensive camera.' Good point.

Having 'passed papers' I had to figure out how to get him home. The first and most obvious answer was to rent a car carrier and tow him home on that. Try to find one when you need it. Especially just before the start of school. Too many collage kids using them to get their BMWs to school. I ended up having him registered and insured and drove him home from New Hampshire. The lady at the registry didn't believe that I'd bought the car for only a dollar and I had to pay Massachusetts sales tax on the book value of the car. Oh well...

We met Dave and his fiancť - who was driving Dave's New Beetle - at Haywards Ice Cream Stand. (Gotta watch out for that, Dave! First they take over the car, then...) Then we followed them to his Mother's house where Fritz was parked. I installed a new battery and did some other maintenance to get Fritz ready for the trip home.

My buddy Jon who gave me a ride there and was following me home in case I broke down said later that I was leaving a trail of bread crumbs all the way home. The muffler wasn't completely missing when we set out, but bits and pieces were falling off at regular intervals. It was almost as if Fritz wanted to make sure he could find his way back home. Another problem I didn't realize I had was that the turn signals were not working. I had never driven a Beetle before and I didn't know (then) that the light in the speedometer was supposed to blink. It went on - steady - so I thought everything was working properly. What did I know? My biggest worry, aside from anything happening to the car, was being pulled over because of the muffler (or lack there of) and the fact that the inspection sticker was three years out of date. Going through Pepperell I did get stopped. Fortunately Officer Friendly was working a traffic detail and he stopped me to let some pedestrafoots cross the street. We saw two more COPs on the way home, but they didn't bother us.

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Restoration work done through 3-4-02
- So far I've replaced the battery, as I've already mentioned.
- I've repaired the turn signals and replaced several of the lenses which were cracked. (I had a little ritual going for a while: Activate the turn signals, then start the car, then 1) if the turn signals worked close the door and buckle my seat belt, or 2) if the turn signals don't go on (more often than not) open the glove box, pull the lever for the trunk release, get out and open the trunk, then jiggle the turn signal relay until they start working. It was occasionally necessary to repeat this procedure when the jolt from closing the hood caused them to stop. After I replaced the relay they haven't been a problem.
- I've also replaced various bulbs around the car as needed.
- I've got the back-up lights working, but I have to replace the harness in front of the fan shroud and I've already replaced the back-up light switch in the transmission.. My guess is that the wires got so hot from the switch being broken that all of the insulation melted off of them. Not a good thing.
- The Gas Hatch release lever has been replaced. If you look closely at the picture of Fritz's dash you can see the shoe lace that was there when I got him.
- I've re-installed the original AM only radio. There is a gaping hole in the dash where it should be in the photo. It works, but there is so much static from the alternator that I would only use it with the engine shut off. I find it funny how the worst draft in the car comes in through the radio around the station pre-set buttons.
- The drivers door Window Crank has been replaced, along with the knob to tilt the drivers seat back forward. I've also acquired replacement latches for the flag windows. The ones that are there work, but the knobs are all chewed up.
- The inside Rear View Mirror was dry rotted and about to fall out of the frame, so that has been replaced.
- I've temporarily replaced what remained of the muffler with a Cherybomb clamp-on muffler attached to the stump of the old muffler's tube - after hack-sawing off the old muffler, that is... This is going to eventually be replaced with a stock exhaust. I only moused it like this to get Fritz to pass inspection.
- I had to replace the plug in the side of the carburetorís barrel after it fell out and got lost. You would not believe how badly he ran without it. When I mentioned what was going on to Dave he said I should look to see if the plug was there. It had fallen out before and he'd forgotten to mention it. The new one, from a donor carb I bought just for the plug, is swaged in the way it should have been all along.
- I'm sure I'm forgetting any number of things I've done already. I'll add things as I remember them and new stuff as it gets done.

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A Sunday drive takes a turn for the worse
As I mention over on Galileo's page Fritz is feeling a bit under the weather at the moment. I was out for a Sunday drive with my Mother when something went horribly wrong. At first I thought a wheel might come off as we were driving across the bridge just above the dam by the mill in West Townsend. I pulled over and checked, but nothing looked visually out of place. We limped cautiously a little further down the road and I pulled over again. This time I got out the lug wrench and made sure all of the lug nuts were tightened properly. They were fine. So we headed home at a painfully slow pace. Fritz has been parked ever since. I refuse to drive him until he's fixed. It would be suicide to try! I now think the problem is with his brakes.

I periodically move him, to keep the COPs from thinking he's abandoned. The town already stole my Chevy Suburban. Not only did they steal it, I had to pay a huge ransom to get it back - just so I could junk it. They insisted that I was paying for the tow and a storage fee. According to MGL Chapter 93a I shouldn't have had to pay anything since I hadn't requested the tow or storage services I was "being asked" to pay. The Judge, who was no-doubt in on it from the beginning, didn't agree.

I'll have a genuine hissy-fit if they mess with Fritz!

Now all I need is some warm, dry weather on the weekend so I can get to work on all of those projects that it's been too (expletive deleted) cold to do. Like the brakes!

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Well that took long enough
Here it is the third of June already and it's taken me this long to get around to fixing poor Fritz.

The problem with the brakes had as its route cause the disintegration of the outside wheel bearing on the drivers side front wheel. Fortunately driving home didn't cause any more damage beyond the bearing that had already failed. Replacing both bearings was actually quite easy - once I had the proper tools. I had to take a run down to Sears in Galileo to get a bearing puller in order to get the inner race of the outer bearing (if that makes any sense...) off of the axle. In the incredibly detailed 'Compleat idiot's guide to Volkswagen maintenance'* they say to wiggle the wheel back and forth gently to remove the outer bearing. Unfortunately that only works if the bearing is in good shape. Fritz's was anything but! I did find four or five of the rollers in all of the grease inside the hub. The rest were ground to a fine powder that lined the dust cap all around where the speedometer cable is connected. (I expect that to be one of the next things I'll have to replace...)

* Yeah, I know that's wrong. I'm writing this at work and the book's at home. I'll fix it later.

After I got Fritz all put back together we went for a ride. A very short ride. We got all the way to the second house up the street from where he's parked when that big powerful 1600cc engine** conked out. Apparently the contents of Fritzís gas tank had evaporated and we were riding on what was left in the carburetor. We were just barely able to limp back to his parking spot, then it was off to Wal*Mart for a gas can so I could feed him. After filling my cheep new can and putting it in the trunk I looked over to Mom, who came along for the ride, and she said "I smell gas." I said "I thought the air in here tasted a bit like (riding in) Fritz." We were in Galileo of course since Fritz was out of gas. I said the air "tasted" like Fritz because I have a totally non-functioning sense of smell and my sense of taste often tries to make up for that deficiency.

** Compared to the kid in my neighborhood with the gas powered scooter...

I thought I'd kill the battery trying to draw fuel from the tank all the way up front in the trunk back to the engine. Finally, just as I was about to give up, he sputtered then roared to life. (I won't mention the cloud of smoke that accompanied this feat...) After just a few moments he smoothed out nicely (and the smoke cleared) and we went for a somewhat longer ride. I took him down to the gas station to give him a bit more than the three bucks that almost filled my new gas can.

It felt really strange driving Fritz again after getting used to cruising around in the lap of luxury in Galileo. No cruse control here! Or A/C. For that you have to roll down the windows. But what makes these cars so much fun is there very primitiveness. I like the fact that I can do the wheel bearings myself with a couple of tools from Sears. I like looking in the engine compartment (in the back end of the car where it belongs) and I can actually recognize all of the components. There is room to get my hands in there to work. And driving is so much different.

I managed to stall Galileo pulling into a parking spot yesterday. Naturally the power steering and power brakes both quit and I was left with non-power controls that were adequate, but not what I was used to. It was quite a bit more difficult to turn and stop than it would have been with those modern niceties. I didn't have a problem dealing with this inconvenience since I got plenty used to that sort of behavior from both my Jeep and my old Suburban. Try steering either of those without power assistance!

I had also lost power in Fritz when we were limping back from our aborted ride earlier in the day - he was flat out of gas. We coasted into his spot without a problem. He doesn't have power steering or power brakes. He was designed to not need them.

So the bottom line is that Fritz is finally back on the road. And I is a happy camper!

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Welcome to Prince William Sound
6/19/2 - I drove Fritz to work several times over the past couple of weeks. As I mention on Galileo's page he was feeling a bit under the weather, so it was Fritz's turn to be my daily driver for a while. Galileo is all fixed now, so I'm driving him to and from work again.

On Monday I did drive Fritz in, just for the fun of it. On the way I got to wave at "The Waving Guy." He's one of our local towns folk who takes a rather long walk along one of the main roads and waves at all of the cars that go by. We both get a big kick out of it. I love the big grin he gets when he sees me waving back. One of these days I may even get to know his name, but for now he's The Waving Guy.

After that things went down hill. Fritz and I made it to work all right, but there was a cloud of blue smoke coming from his engine compartment after I shut him off. I opened the engine cover and checked immediately and was horrified to find the whole passenger side of his motor soaked in oil. Just dripping wet. I think I've isolated the problem to the air cleaner having the front two latches unhooked and the bolt that holds it to the carburetor loose.

Oops... I must have left them undone when I was working on him. Curses!

On the way home I stopped at the local hardware store and bought a fire extinguisher - just in case... They were on the top shelf over the bins of loose hardware. One of the kids who was taking inventory over there reached one down for me. "For your car? OK, here you go." Then he hands me a tiny one pounder that cost fifteen bucks. I looked at that and at the one next to it that cost twenty and said "Uh, why don't you hand me that five pounder instead?"

I've had to use extinguishers on too many occasions to bother with anything less than a five pounder. Actually I consider that a bit small. Fortunately, I haven't needed this one - yet.

A little while later I stopped at a car wash along the way home and asked the guy there if he would hose down my engine bay. He spoke only broken English and I speak no Polish, but we managed to communicate what needed to be done. He must have thought I was a bit loopy, but if it prevents an oil fire in the engine compartment of my Fritz then I'm fine with that. I backed Fritz up to the entrance to the car wash and he hosed the heck out of Fritz's motor. I'll do a more thorough job of it over the weekend, but for now it's considerably better than it was.

Thank you. You may have saved my car!

After washing out the engine bay the oil light started coming on sporadically. I checked and he was about a half a quart low so I added that much. I didn't see any change in the behavior of the light. I am hoping that it was just a case of damp wires. I'll start him when I get home tonight and see if the light still comes on. If it dose then we have a more serious problem on our hands. It could even be that my diagnosis about the source of the oil soaking may be in error.

You know, once I thought I was wrong, but... Well, never mind.

Later, after diner... :-q

I started Fritz when I got home, now that he's had a couple of days to dry out. He fired up fine and the oil light went right out after it's standard self-test. So I guess he's OK. Now all I have to do is get the rest of that oil out of there. I'm a bit concerned about the heater box on the passenger side since one of the things I've found is that I need to replace the hoses to both heater boxes. I'm concerned that some oil might have gotten down in there through the ripped hose. I know enough fumes have been!

I'll have to ask Jack from Vintage Volkswagen if it would make sense to just remove the hoses and cap the openings or if that would cause problems. The heater isn't needed now and doesn't work very well anyway... The only thing I might miss would be the almost nonexistent defroster. I think I have some Fog-X kicking around here somewhere. If you haven't tried it you should. I don't usually make unsolicited product endorsements - but this stuff is good.

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7/8/2 - The holiday week was rather productive, in spite of my having to work Monday ~ Wednesday. Thursday, the Fourth of July, was too hot to do much of anything outside, but on Friday it cooled off nicely. I spent the whole day working on Fritz. Iím still recovering!

Fritz finally sounds like a Volkswagen.

As I have previously described, I had originally replaced the ruined remains of his not even close to stock high performance (chuckle!) muffler with a Cherry Bomb Turbo clamp-on muffler. I had to do something to get him to pass inspection and that was the most expedient thing I could think of at the time. The Cherry Bomb muffler hung down below the skirt in back and looked awful on my bug. It didnít sound too good either! I wasnít able to get the joint to stay sealed the way I wanted and it would scrape the ground sometimes, which didnít help matters any. This arrangement proved totally unsatisfactory.

Friday I removed the muffler and header and started the installation of a brand new stock exhaust.

That sounds so easy! Sixteen wordsÖ Take off the old - put on the new. Should take a couple of hours tops, right? Wrong! Nothing is ever that easy!

I had no major problems removing all the hardware, although I did break a stud in the passenger side head. Thatíll have to be replaced. The muffler came off the tail pipe (the cut-off remains of the old mufflers input pipe) easily enough. Then I went to remove the header. Iím not so sure that Fritz wanted to let go of it. Either that or the pipe was desperately clinging to life. The header just would not let go of the manifold that runs through the heater box. And not just on one side either! They were both frozen solid. I tried every trick I know to get it to let go. I was out of WD-40 so I dripped some 10W-30 onto the joint and let that soak in. Finally - after literally hours of prying and hammering and even using Galileoís jack to try to force it to release - it let go.

At one point after I had been hammering for a long time my Mother came to the window and hollered down to me ďShould I say ĎClang!í?Ē ďUh, no.Ē I said. (A story for another dayÖ)

Great! I can finally install the new muffler I got at Vintage Volkswagen.

That turned out to be a pain as well. The passenger side heater box was out of place by fully half the diameter of the exhaust pipe. Fortunately, it was too low. I was able to get all but that sideís heater box connection hooked up before the vampire bugs (aka: mosquitoes) forced me to abandon the project for the night and head inside. I didnít really want to be working by flashlight anyway. Saturday afternoon, after hitting several yard sales and the flea market in Lunenburg, I finished installing Fritzís muffler. Galileo helped out by loaning Fritz his jack again. I used that to lift the heater box up to where it would line up with the pipe on the muffler. Itís a rather disturbing sight to jack up a heater box and watch the whole back end of the car start to lift! I got it to line up and now the new stock muffler is all hooked up just like itís supposed to be. (Except for that broken stud of course.)

The pair of chrome tips went on like a dream and look great! If only the rest of the job had been half as easyÖ

After I picked up all of the tools that got scattered around the battlefield I took Fritz for a short ride around the block. There was still a muffler there when we got back. Nothing else had fallen off either. So although it was not exactly a textbook installation - I donít remember reading anything about a jack - it all worked out in the end.

Sunday morning we went to the Hollis Flea Market in New Hampshire and did a few errands (in Galileo) then I took Fritz to the car wash. I spent one whole cycle just washing the remaining oil out of his engine compartment and the start of the next cycle washing down his undersides. It turns out that thereís a lot more oil under there than I thought. The oil I mentioned in my last update may just have been spilled when I topped him off. This other mess may be from a much more unpleasant source. My latest theory is that he may have a blown main seal, judging by the amount and location of this mess. Or it may be something else entirely, since the trans-axle was as wet as the motor. On the way home from the car wash the oil light came on after about ten or fifteen minutes of driving. Time enough to get good and hot. My next steps will be to go through the Ďoil light on proceduresí from ďThe Idiotís guideÖĒ

Hopefully itís an easy (read: cheap) fix.

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On the road again...
Thursday July 18, 2002 - I drove Fritz to work today. He ran great! The only problem I had was when I stalled him at the light while turning in to the industrial park where I work. I may have to reset the idle. No big deal there.

Last night I replaced the oil pressure-sensing switch. Fritz had developed a new problem where he would not light the oil light on self-test before starting. Granted I was trying to get the light to stay out while he was running, but I didnít want to use the Ďblack tape methodí Iíve heard suggested for the blinking 12:00 on the VCR. With the new switch the self-test lights up nicely and the light stays out while running.

Problem solved. :-)

Among the other things I did while diagnosing this problem include working the thermostat bellows manually to see if it was free to operate the flapper valves. That may have freed up some sticking rod or something. Iím also running the engine at somewhat higher RPMs. I have the tendency to short-shift.* That causes the fan to run slower than it should and makes the motor run hot.

* I got used to big V-8s in my Jeep and my old Suburban.

This weekend Iím going to have an oil change done. Thatís something Iíll have someone else do while watching them like a hawk to make sure itís done right. This time Iím going to switch to a 20-50 synthetic oil. This decision is based on something I read on the Car Talk web sight. I hope theyíre rightÖ

So at long last Fritz is back on the road. Or should I not jinx myself by saying that?

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Whats that SMELL?
Friday July 19, 2002 - I think I shouldnít have said thatÖ

Yesterday at lunch I got a call from a coworker who was concerned about a gasoline smell coming from Fritz. I went out to check and thought I could detect a faint taste of gas in the air. As Iíve mentioned on Galileoís page I have a dysfunctional sense of smell and my sense of taste sometimes tries to make up for it. At that time I couldnít see any puddling on the ground under him, so I just figured it was the missing charcoal canister allowing the fumes to escape. At quitting time - actually I stayed until six fifteen, I usually work until five but Iím working on a hot project and needed the time - there was a rather large puddle under him. Welcome to Prince William SoundÖ This mess is about a foot across. It had a sheen like gas but also a coloration around the edges like oil. I donít know if it might be gas and has reacted with the driveway sealer to raise an oil slick from the pavement. In any case itís yucky.

One more thing to track down.

This morning at breakfast Mom said that Fritz would keep throwing roadblocks at me until I do a full pan-off restoration on him. ďDave, I want to be fixed all at once and made new. Not one piece at a time like you have been doing.Ē Well, Fritz, I havenít got a garage to work in and right now I donít have the money to do a full pan-off restoration. In time buddy - but not right this hot minute.

Itís like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. As soon as they finish they have to start all over again.

Anyway, this weekend - if the weather will cooperate - the plan is to install the charcoal filter and see if I can figure out whatís leaking now.

Oh by the way, I tweaked the throttle return screw some more last night to increase the idle and it seemed to help. Some day I probably should re-jet the carb and do a full tune up. Right now heís running. Why mess with success?

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Fritz springs a leak
7/24/2 - It's like Chinese water torture! Drip, drip, drip. Wait... this is a Volkswagen. It can't be water so what is it? Oh (expletive deleted)! It's GASOLINE! Drip, drip, every four seconds - drip... It turns out my co-worker was right to be alarmed when I drove ol' Fritzy to work the other day. He smelled like gas because he's piddling all over the parking lot. Do they make Depends that big?

It's been too hot to work outdoors the past week and there was a horrific thunderstorm yesterday. We lost power at work around three thirty and after an hour or so I went home. Today the cool side of the front that brought all the weather yesterday is hanging around and as far as I'm concerned the weather could stay like this forever. Weather is a vital concern when you're a shade tree mechanic.

I spent a couple of hours this evening working on Fritz. Although I didn't accomplish what I'd set out to at least I figured out from whence he's leaking. Apparently the fuel line runs from the gas tank in the trunk through the tunnel and out the drivers' side fork at the back end of the car. That's a metal tube. Once it's out of the tunnel it transitions to a woven fabric tube then back to metal at the firewall. It's the woven fabric part that needs to be replaced. I don't have the parts, so as much as I want to do that job it will have to wait.

The other item on Fritz's to do list that I'd hoped to get done tonight was replacing the charcoal filter. I have the parts for that one, but both batteries for my power drill were dead. Oh well. One has since charged and the other is in the charger now but it's nine thirty PM and the vampire bugs are out. I don't want to do anything that might cause a spark anywhere near Fritz's hinny right now anyway. That could have an adverse effect on his prospects for restoration...

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What Now Fritz?!
Sunday July 28, 2002 - Fritz is getting rather creative in the things he comes up with in order to stay parked.

Yesterday morning while we were out hitting the yard sales (in Galileo) I stopped at the parts store and got some modern flexible gas line of the appropriate size and more than enough length to replace the leaky old fabric gas line I described the other day. Around mid afternoon I finally got home and went to work on him.

The original line was held in place by crimped metal bands not any kind of removable clamp. I think it may have been original to the car from thirty-one years ago. When I went to remove the old line it ripped off at the firewall end and started pissing all over the place. I had a gas can ready and caught almost all of the gas as it flowed out of the tank under gravity feed. I had a second can ready to go incase I needed it, but one can was enough. Fritz didn't even fill that. I'm sure he wouldn't have even if I'd managed to catch the initial surge.

After the tank was drained I had to get the line off of the car. The end that had torn off at the firewall came off easily enough but the other end was a bit more difficult. The new line went on like a breeze. I used a modern screw-clamp to make sure it was as tight as could be. With the line replaced the gas that drained out went back in and we went off to the gas station to add some more. Only half a tank so I could test drive him and make sure he wasn't leaking any more.

We went to the gas station then to the car wash to get all of that gas off of his undersides then we drove to work so I could try to finish up a hot project I'm working on. At work there was no evidence of any further leaking, so I think I have that problem fixed. I made some progress on the file I'm working on, but while I was waiting for it to process (again!) the alarm went off. I swiped my security card on the pad by the door and it stopped. Then after waiting a little while longer I decided to head home. On the way home I realized that I hadn't picked up the magnetic sticker that I'd knocked off with the high-pressure wash wand so I went back to the car wash. The sticker was right where I expected it to be so I returned it to its spot on the car. Then as I was reaching for the seat belt I noticed some smoke drifting past the window. Not much - I wasn't even sure I wasn't imagining it at first. On further investigation I can only assume that I didn't get all the oil and crud out of the engine compartment. Hopefully it will eventually go awayÖ

Now at the beginning of this update I said that Fritz was getting creative. Well, the new thing he's doing is locking his right front brake when coming to a complete stop. The only way to move again is to back up until he releases the brake, then you can go on your way. He'll roll freely - most of the time - until you try to stop. As your speed decreases the brake will grab and try to send you into the ditch, but only when you're rolling too slowly to reach the ditch. Then he won't let go. I don't think he's actually suicidal. I think he wants to be restored to museum perfection then sit there behind the velvet ropes to be admired but not touched.

Hate to break the bad news to you Fritz, but, you're a car. I bought you to drive you.

Unfortunately it's raining so I can't take the wheel apart to find out what's going on in there. I have a couple of theories:

1) There is a bunch of schmutz in there getting jammed between the pads and drum preventing the wheel from turning.

2) The return spring(s) may have broken or disengaged from the shoe(s) preventing the brakes from releasing.

3) Something else entirely that I haven't thought of yet. (Like this sides wheel bearings failing like the other did last fall.)

So for now Fritz is happily napping in his parking spot and I'm waiting for a break in the weather so I can go wake him up. AgainÖ

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Fritz visits his Doctor, Part I
8/14/2 - I drove Fritz to work today in spite of the fact that heís not air-conditioned and itís the hottest day of the year. I have to drop him off at his doctor this evening for a visit scheduled for tomorrow. Iíll be taking the train home from there.

Over the weekend I removed the brake drum from his right front wheel and found out what his problem was. Itís a combination of item one from the list in the last post - schmutz getting jammed between the brake shoes and drum - and grease from the wheel bearing that has migrated onto the drum and shoes and mixed with the schmutz creating a gooey mess that locked up the brake. The grease probably melted from the heat caused by friction from the schmutz between the shoes and drum. The schmutz is a combination of brake dust and rust that has built up inside the brake assembly. I removed the schmutz as well as I can but I donít have the equipment to turn brake drums to get rid of the goo. Since the brakes are a moderately important item on any car I figured Iíd have a pro take a look at this.

Last night I decided to take Fritz out for a test drive since I hadnít driven him since disassembling his brakes - just to make sure weíd make it to work this morning. He started fine but when I went to turn on the headlights something didnít look quite right. I got out to have a look see and found that heís a padiddle.

Very creative Fritz. I wasnít expecting that one.

The vampire bugs made changing the headlight impossible. After my giving up on that and attempting to drive him anyway he didnít want to start again. Not very creative, just annoying. Eventually he did start and we took a quick spin around the block while using only the high beams. I was satisfied even if Fritz was not.

Once we got going this morning Fritz seemed to enjoy being on the road, although he didnít seem to be tracking as straight or steering as smoothly as I might expect. He seems a bit stiff and doesnít want to steer to the left as easily as to the right. Of course sleeping as much as he has been lately itís no wonder heís stiff! Actually the brake is probably still dragging. On the whole he was fine and we made it to work without incident.

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Fritz visits his doctor, Part II
8/16/2 - Wednesday night we made it to the garage without incident. There was another classic Beetle in the parking lot along with two vans, one a Westy. Unfortunately - or fortunately if youíre trying to save for a house - the Westy wasnít the van thatís for sale. Fritz seemed rather forlorn watching me walk away after leaving him in this strange place. I just barely managed to catch the next train heading home. Fortunately the South Acton MBTA Station is a short walk from School Street Garage. My cardiologist tells me I have heart disease and trudging to the train station in this ninety-five degree heat carrying my Ďgoín to work bagí I could really feel it.

Last night I went to the garage in Galileo to visit Fritz. Actually to pay the bill, which was quite reasonable I might addÖ By coincidence I happened to be right in back of one of my coworkers for most of the ride there. He turned in at one of Wal*Martís few remaining competitors while I continued on my way. By even more interesting (to me anyway) coincidence he happened to have just pulled out of their parking lot as I passed on my way back home. I waved. He waved back, and looked a bit perplexed.

At the garage Fritz had his brake shoes replaced and his drums turned. Also his front wheel bearings were inspected and repacked. The brake adjusters were all frozen and thatís been fixed. While we were at it I had the valves adjusted. Fritzís doctor said it looked as though they had never been. From what Iíve read that should be done every three thousand miles. Well, it will be from now on anyway. The good doctor also adjusted Fritzís timing and set his points. He says Fritz will need a new coil, steering damper, points, and something about the struts. I think there were a couple of other things on the list too, but his accent makes it very difficult for me to understand him. Heís a good guy, Fritz likes him, and I envision a good deal of my money going into his cash register for as long as my obsession with Volkswagens may last. Quite a while I would imagine!

This morning I took the train to South Acton and walked over to the garage. I got there shortly after eight and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were already opened. (I had been envisioning Actonís finest showing up just as I was pulling out of the parking lot and interrogating me at length about who I was and why I was there.) Fritz seemed glad to see me, though he took a couple of turns to get started. I think he liked hanging around with mechanics who actually know there way around air-cooled bugs. This morning we even made it to work on time. Will wonders never cease? I was dripping from the heat by the time I got to the front door at work just walking from the car. As long as we were moving with the windows rolled down the heat was tolerable. Of course that was this morning. I understand that itís brutal out there. I just checked on the web and itís 93 degrees right now here in Acton and it feels like 104 with the humidity. I hope we survive the ride homeÖ Fritz can probably handle it but I may melt!

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Getting ready for Inspection
9/12/2 - Fritz had another Doctorís appointment yesterday to have some wiring issues dealt with. He now has a working license plate light and both low beams. While we were at it I had his Doctor replace the faulty wiring to the back-up lights. They were working, but the wires were all crispy from the bad switch I replaced last year.

I like being able to get to the garage by train. Itís so much more convenient than trying to arrange a ride with a friend. Both for myself and for the friendÖ

A weekend or two ago I replaced the windshield washer nozzle. That was a bit more of a pain than I had expected. I had purchased a very long slender pair of forceps to try to reach down the hole in the cowling where the nozzle fits to retrieve the hose. No chance. I had to unbolt the fan and move it out of the way to get at it. Then it was a piece of cake. Feed the hose up through the hole - attach the nozzle to the hose - clip the nozzle in place - then reattach the fan box and youíre done. I should just have gone ahead and done that months ago. The worst part of the job was getting the ductwork back in place where it connects to the dash. Itís still not right, but Iíll live with it for now.

You may be wondering why this flurry of activity all of a sudden when heíll be put to bed for the winter soon. Well, it was just about a year ago that I bought him from Dave (the other DaveÖ) and itís time for his annual state inspection. So all of the lights and stuff have to work. Fortunately heís senior enough to escape the indignity of being Ďprobedí for emissions. The one thing I have to remember to do is fill his super-soakerí with air. The spare tire was a little low the last time I went to wash the windshield. (Details in a previous article.)

Since Fritz has been running reasonably well lately Iíve been driving him occasionally. Usually when Mom isnít going along for the ride. She says she gets nauseated from the fumes but she insists that the windows be rolled up because sheís cold. Unless itís raining I keep the windows down if at all possible. My feeling is that you can always put on more, but you can only take off so much - at least in publicÖ So put on a sweater and roll down the windows. Now that the gas leak has been fixed and the new muffler is in place I donít know what else to do as far as fumes go. Fritz is an old Volkswagen.

Speaking of clothes and cars I have had a rather sad development recently. At least two of my new pairs of trousers have been ruined by the springs from Fritzís front seat. Ripped beyond repair. This is a most annoying development. Itís always something.

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Fritz Gets Stuck
9/22/2 - Your probably thinking "Poor Fritz! What did you do to him this time?" Well, as bad as it sounds, we were both looking forward to it.

I had a test at the local hospital (a Stress EKG) and had to leave work early last Thursday. I figured that would be as good a time as any to get Fritz stuck so we left work a little earlier and went to the garage first. One of the guys was sitting at the door to the survice bay and as we pulled up he hollered "Failed!" Fritz just quietly (I had shut off the motor...) waited to prove him wrong - and he did. Fritz passed with flying colors. He did better than I did on my test, but I'm getting ahead of myself. So Fritz has a nice brand new inspection sticker on his winshield, valid through September of 2003.

And that's how Fritz got stuck. :-)

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