Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Some of the Volks I've Known Lately

A great part of a blessed life is realizing that fact in itself.  Over the past handful of months, I have had the great fortune of wrenching with some pretty special people.  Some times I stand and gawk, other times up to my ears in Volkswagen unmentionables - but every time (most times) grateful for the experience.

Here are a few photos of some of the Volks I've had the pleasure to know in the past year or so.
If we have met, but you aren't represented, then please send me a photo!

Ruckman up to his own ears in Bertha Bus
Hal deep into the daunting task of re-topping his Cabriolet
Doug's perky '67 Beetle
With rebuilt engine (by yours truly)
Will's ageless Beetle, in for a tuneup
Stephan about to start his new engine
Sluggo bus, in for engine work
Randy and Stephan hamming it up
The Ruptured Duck AKA "Cloe"
(mothered by our dear Colin as he wanders the earth)
I had the great delight of helping pull the engine while Spring rain rolled down my neck
The real deal, formerly loved by my dear friend Mike AKA "Bookwus"
 before his passage from this Earth.  (check out that license plate...)
Randy again, CVs this time.
Yuck.  Dead on the table.
Gladys, who I completely rebuilt from a derelict wreck.  Sigh, the one that got away...
87,000 original miles!
oh you have no idea what I went through...
crazy Mark's "Clementine" shining in the Deschutes springtime
in for a tuneup, but I never got her name
the poor stray cat with leaky injectors, featured in a previous post
(I never got her name either, and I assume that she's now onto greener pastures)
Tony's lovely (and gettin' pretty rare) multi-purpose bus
Teri, Eva and me with our '72 Super Beetle
Bugly, who taught her owner repair and maintenance
"I have changed my distributor, timed, and tuned again, oil changed and now redoing my upholstery. Thanks to you for getting me started and the confidence to do so" -Jon
What?  What's this?  Eva in strawberry heaven
(and I'll tell ya, she'd eat the whole thing)
Harvest time (lookit those peaches!)
"Bella" basking in the late summer on Sauvie Island
Grant's very original '73 Transporter
And of course my beloved "Ma" doing what she does best, flanked by the autumn Cascades

Greg's very nice '73 convertible soaking in the autumn rain
"ITS ALIVE: The new battery did the job. Not even a full crank and it fired up perfectly!...thanks for the help Bob it was great hangin out with you and doing the repairs." -Greg
Kent's original '70 Riviera camper
"Glad you came today. It was a pleasure working with you." -Kent

Scott's lovingly restored '67 Ghia hardtop
"Thanks for your help, suggestions and peace of mind, it was exactly what I was looking for." -Scott 

A 1961 pound pup Beetle with difficult shifting and other issues.  She needed more than I could take on that rainy autumn day, but a lovely car onto greener pastures like so many others.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

VW Camper & Bus Magazine - September 2012

I have had the great honor of having my photos and writing appear in England's prestigious VW Camper & Bus Magazine for September 2012!
Those that know me know that I live for wilderness and camping, and of course with my trusty '69 bus getting us back safely after many insane miles into the unknown.  It is only fitting I guess that she'd eventually get featured in her own article.

Much thanks to IPC Media and the great people of VW Camper & Bus for this opportunity!  This is my first published work, and of course I'm quite proud.  

Also, a hearty thank you to the Portland Volks Folks cronies, who's colorful buses are also featured in the article.  Without all of you, I'd never have had such wonderful and trouble-free experiences.  I am eternally grateful for my air cooled family.
Please read on if you'd like.  Click on the pages and they will open in another window so you can read the darned things.
-Bob Koscik

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Case of the Leaky Fuel Injectors

Recently I had the great fortune of meeting a very nice woman with a gas-leaking VW Fastback.
"Help!", I think she said.

I was greeted with a beaming smile and a very original 1969 Fastback in a patina red.  "Turn the key and let's see".  Braided cloth fuel lines (that don't appear to be that old) are spraying gas through many fine pinpoints.  There is gas everywhere, and the fuel lines need to be replaced.  I get to work with a smile, enjoying this warm Portland afternoon.  And we try it again - but 2 of the D-jet fuel injectors are leaking.  Bummer, but what can you do?
She is eager to sell the car and get on with her life.  I of course try to talk her out of it, but who wants a white elephant anchor when life moves on?  I totally understand and have sold my share of Volkswagens when the time was right.
I offer to purchase and replace the injectors for her.  And then the fun begins.

file photo

Portland, Oregon, USA is quite the air cooled Volkswagen town.  With a multitude of shops and parts stores, surely finding 2 injectors won't be that difficult.  I quickly discover that they are rare as hen's teeth - no one in Portland has them.  Bosch D-jet fuel injection was only used for about 4 years, and then replaced with lesser (but emissions and cost-conscious) designs.  It is durable and lasts forever, and was in fact the first electronic fuel injection ever, quite a milestone in the late 1960's.

Getting back to work, I locate the part # and search on line.  They show up on many websites, great!  I find the cheapest ones at JC Whitney and order them, rebuilt by GB Manufacturing in the USA (apparently the only company rebuilding D-jet injectors at this time).  Expedited shipping will get them to me in 3 days.

Dear Mr./Ms. Koscik, 
We regret to inform you that we are "out of stock" on the product(s) you ordered. 

Ok then, thanks for nothing.  Why did you add the items to my cart and then charge me?  Why is the "out of stock" in quotes?  Are they really IN stock and you're toying with me?  And why are you so unsure of my gender?
  Oh JC Whitney, I should have known.  In my early days in Chicago I purchased a lot of junk from them, pretending to be new VW parts.  Door handles that would rust in a week.  Live and learn.

Option 2, Auto Parts Warehouse!  Wow I'm already impressed.  I cross my nervous fingers and place the order.  I have little experience ordering from these faceless online websites, but there is a time crunch here and I have to take a chance.
Dear Mr./Ms. Koscik,
We regret to inform you that at the present time we are out of stock on: 


This is not going well.  And these guys aren't sure of my gender either, oh man what a letdown.  Of course all of this fiasco has taken the better part of a week.  

Word has it that Bus Depot has very good quality new injectors, but they cost more and shipping takes a long time from the East Coast to far flung Oregon.  A search on "The Samba" classifieds finds a guy selling 2 new injectors, still in their factory packaging.  He can get them here in two days, and reluctantly I take a chance on a new but nameless product.  My gut tells me to learn from past experience: aftermarket (and often Chinese) VW parts are frequently junk.

"Maybe fate is with me this time", I reason.  

2 days later as promised they arrive via Priority Mail.  I quickly discover a "RE" after the part number, these are re-manufactured parts.  So much for new, but maybe that's a good thing.

I notice that the yellow plastic top on the injectors are a bit wobbly and crudely cast.  They are glued to the injector body with a hot glue blob, that can't be good.  But they are sealed in plastic bags in their original boxes, "surely the factory knows what it's doing", I pout.

one hell of a still life (and too many projects)

would you trust this injector?

The lovely lady and I meet again, curbside and me with my suspect injectors.  I hope for the best and install them.
Turning the key, they flow gasoline like a happy fountain through their yellow tops.  My credibility is shot.  
What else to do?  She needs the car running, and it will take me another 2 weeks to get injectors. 
I recommend Always VeeDub just down Hawthorne.  Their service is pricey but is usually top notch, and owner Ashley seems to always have that rare part.  True to form, he is able to help her and I am off the hook, but feeling like I got hit by a pie in the face.

I think there are 2 lessons here. 
 First, a time crunch does not mean you take a chance with unknown parts (although often there is little recourse).  Sometimes ya just gotta wait and "pay up, bub". 
Second, the VW world is littered with useless aftermarket junk parts.  Look at these injectors, shiny and new, imperial in their accurately marked packaging.  But they just don't work, a fraud really.

I encourage all vintage VW owners to completely embargo Chinese aftermarket parts.  The failure rate is astronomical, why even take a chance?  They are fleecing us like suckers, taking our hard earned money and giving crap in return.  This has been my experience and the experience of many others in the VW world. 

 Don't take my word for it, find out for yourself the hard way if you must.  But at this point I can guarantee that your injectors will leak, your distributor won't advance properly, and your undersized windshield will leak.  Do your research and don't be somebody's sucker - money is too valuable these days.  I have wasted many hours of my time on this fiasco, and the pie doesn't wash off that easy either.      

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Maupin Service Call - April 2012

Mark Malefyt is a hell of a guy.  Not only does he run the successful Deschutes River Oasis fly fishing guide service, but he is always littered with Volkswagens.  Many local VW folks know him through the Deschutes RendezVW, a Father's Day campout that brings 100 buses and their families to the sagebrush lands of Maupin.

We share a deep love of the outdoors, so we usually meet out in the wilderness at a backcountry camp; it is rare that we get together in civilization.  However, his faithful Beetle Clementine has been giving him electrical fits.  Well, the car anyway.

Clementine and friend

Mark has owned pretty little Clementine since the '90s.  She is a clean and quite original 1972 Beetle, and she needs some attention.
  Mark tells me he's been chasing an intermittent charging problem: he's already replaced the generator brushes and voltage regulator and checked wiring connections and other tail-chasing, but the generator will not charge.  "Time for a new generator", we both agree.

My favorite part of Portland Volks Folks is teaching people how to fix and maintain their VWs themselves.  There is no greater satisfaction then seeing the smile and confidence on their face after just a few hours of hands-on instruction.  These cars were meant to be maintained, with basic tools no less.  They really are remarkable pieces of machinery - to not only last 40 years, but to remain very reliable vehicles for their entirety, with the one caveat of crucial routine maintenance.  Skip a couple of 3,000 mile valve adjustments, toast your engine.

Ready, Mark?

Mark has never replaced a generator on a Type 1 engine, and needed my help.  "It's a pain in the ass", I tell him, having been in this unfortunate situation numerous times over the years.

Reassured by my words, he offers to hire me for a day of instruction.  We amass the necessary parts and cleaners and get on our way.

Original 1600 D/P engine (with Decel still on carb no less)

Replacing a Type 1 generator isn't necessarily difficult, but it is very time consuming.  Most of the top end parts must come off, including the thermostat and carburetor.  Then the fan shroud needs to be jacked up a couple inches to actually remove the generator and attached fan - it's a very tight fit.  

We begin to disassemble the engine.  Mark has been wrenching for many years, so he's an easy student.
As I begin to disconnect the generator connections, I notice something peculiar: one of the wires isn't even attached!  It is only held in place by the rubber protective boot on the generator terminal.  Not only that, but Mark tells me that he has never replaced the generator - meaning, that wire hasn't been attached for almost 20 years...astounding.
I have a photo of the loose wire but Mark won't let me post it

"Let's put it back together and see if that damn light goes off" I suggest, knowing the amount of work ahead of us otherwise.  It takes no time at all to replace the generator belt and fresh air hoses.  And wouldn't you know it, the generator light does indeed go off.

After dragging me all the way out to Maupin, there is no sense letting a beautiful day go to waste.  Cleaning a very sooty carb seems like a good idea, so we spray prodigious amounts of Gumout down the barrel with a running engine.  RPMs must be kept up or the engine will stall out, choking on the cleaner.  The carb is still sooty after our efforts, so I advise Mark to take it apart to clean and rebuild it at a later date.

Next, with the help of Old Volks Home we obtain Clementine's distributor information so we may time the engine.  Most people aren't aware that an engine must be timed according to the specs of the distributor, not by the year of the car.  All distributors are stamped with model numbers, so finding the correct timing data is easy with the help of Old Volks Home.  Correct timing on an air cooled VW is absolutely critical, making this data very important.  We time the engine and adjust the idle, and soon she's running like a top.

"Well, NOW what??" we ask each other, and his dog Zoomer (who rarely zooms).

Appalled at the light desert dust and cobwebs covering an oxidized original paint, I suggest a wash and wax might be in order.  So we do, like girls at a church carwash on a sunny Sunday.  Well, sort of.  

mighty fine, mighty fine indeed

proud Papa

and the faithful girl is ready for another 40 years of service

Way ahead of schedule, the call of the wild is strong.  "Well, we COULD camp of course",we argue.
  And we do.

  Packed with provisions, Mark takes me to his favorite local spot just upstream, with the mighty green Deschutes hurtling noiselessly nearby. 

Devils' Canyon?  What the hell, this feels like sacred land. 

sagebrush with new spring shoots

a campfire is a rare treat in Deschutes Country due to dry season dangers

Clifford (the big red bus) basking in lovely springtime

faithful Ma

and the eye of the world closes

Thanks Mark for allowing me to help!  You have a lovely little car.
  And a wonderful camp to boot.

And then like a flash it's time to go home.

safe and sound, ready for the next adventure