Sunday, July 1, 2007

VW - Techy Operations

(Ed.Note: The following exchange took place a few years ago on RAMVA, the Usenet Newsgroup devoted to air cooled Volkswagens.)

>All I meant was that it
>isn't alway necessary for a person to CC the heads or some of the other
>techy operations that you tell/show us all



That's so dumb it's funny. In fact, it's so dumb my normal reaction would be be to hit the big red button and add your name to the world's largest kill fill. But you made it a public post and that presents something of a problem because you just said black is white and it ain't.

Your message touches on two areas, one purely mechanical the other having to do with personal opinions and their interpretation. Let me hit the mechanical stuff first. Then I'll beat you over the head with the other :-)

Where do you think I get all this Hot Poop I post?

I didn't invent the Volkswagen. By my standards I'm not even that good of a mechanic. My dad was a pretty good wrench and there's several fellows on RAMVA who are better than me in the Fixin' Dept. (What I am is a pretty fair teacher... who happens to be something of a Jack-of-all-trades.)

So what's the source of those 'lofty standards' you feel compelled to ignore?

Would you believe they came from Volkswagen? Yep! Right out of the Factory Workshop Manual.

It ain't me saying you gotta cc your heads, it's Ferdinand Porsche... and every other competent mechanic in the world. And the workshop manual shows you how, right down to making the sealing plate and telling you how big the chamber otta be (and usually isn't).

The factory tells you to cc your heads because the volume of your combustion chambers is a critical factor in determining your compression ratio. And if you don't understand why that's important you shouldn't even think about building an engine.

In writing about stuff in the factory manual, what I've done is explain not only how to do it but how you can improve on the rather sloppy standards that were required for the serial production of an engine in the 1930's... and which VW unfortunately continued to follow long after better methods became available.

Volkswagen was willing to compromise quality to keep the cost of production low. The cost of production was probably around 60% of the sticker price meaning everyone's profits -- the factory, the distributor and the dealer -- had to come out of that 40% slice of the pie. By comparison, cost of manufacturing a mega-buck SUV is probably around 40% of the sticker price, providing a much larger margin of profit clear down the line... which is why no one wants to make a cheap car if they can possibly sell an expensive one.

But the point here is that the VW was conceived in the 1930's as a cheap ride. It's fabled quality was largely the result of a superb propaganda campaign by Doyle, Dane & Bernbach, the ad agency who lucked into the VOA contract largely because none of the more prestigious agencies would talk to a bunch of used car dealers trying to sell a funny looking little car from Germany, which is what VOA was before it became the tail wagging Volkswagen's dog.

After pointing out a few of the 'unimportant' details found in the workshop manual I went on to explain not only how to do the task but how to improve upon it. In doing so I wasn't whipping this stuff out of my ass, I merely described how I -- and everyone else -- was doing it. Because when you get right down to it the VW engine is an hilarious collection of compromises, bored & stroked until it leaked like a seive, it's power output jacked-up and lied about until it lost all credibility not only with mechanics but with the market-place, which saw its sales in steady decline long before the rise of CARB, cleaner air and the Revenge of the Tree Huggers.

Doesn't have to be like that. Building just one engine, there's no reason not to make it the best possible engine you can build. The funny part here is that it takes only slightly more effort on your part to produce an engine that is more reliable, economical and far more durable than anything to every roll out of the factory.

That's the Message I've been preaching since the 1970's. It isn't an especially popular message and as your post shows, most folks still don't Get It.

But not because I've stopped saying it. Nor because it isn't true. But you obviously don't believe me. Which gets us into the opinion part of my response.

Yeah, you're getting my opinion. And yeah, the fact I've been doing something a certain way for forty years is no guarantee I've been doing it right. But the point most seem to have missed is that my opinion is based not only on the manuals -- we all start with the Word... or should. My opinion is based on direct, personal experience, greasy fingernails and all. I've built several hundred engines and maybe fifty trannies over the last forty years. I've rebuilt the front-ends on buses and bugs and ghias and Things and about the only thing I can't say I've ever done is grind my own cranks, although I've worked in shops where we did, and cams too, including hardening and polishing.

Now, the thing I want to hit you over the head with is that 'lofty standards' business. Because they ain't. Lofty. Indeed, they aren't even as good as what you'll find in any modern-day Toyota, Ford or Chevy. But they come close and in doing so they give you lots of free horsepower. Same amount of gas going in but more power coming out, simply because an engine must first overcome any internal imbalances before it can deliver any power to the wheels. Eliminate those imbalances, the engine stops working against itself and you get to enjoy the power and durability you've been paying for but didn't get.

So go ahead and build yourself a piece of shit. Most folks do. Because when push comes to shove most people aren't bright enough to know a good thing when they see it. Or hear it.

In closing you said "...we both enjoy ACVW's". I don't, especially. They're what I know and they take me where I want to go. Which reminded me of TV because I heard a fellow talking about 'reality programming.' When I stopped laughing he asked what was so funny and I explained the 'reality' of making any kind of a TV show or movie, meaning the camera man and the grips and the caterers and the dozens of vehicles and platoons of people behind the 'reality' that appears on the screen.

I'll bet you watch TV. I don't. I'm too busy living my own life to waste time watching someone else's version of reality.

Maintaining your own Volkswagen is reality. Deciding not to cc your heads is fantasy.

Ever worked cattle? You gotta use horses, generally two a day. Terrible work; nothing at all like Hollywood's version of being a 'cowboy.' All of the horses were smarter than me as were most of the cattle but I was new to the game and figgered I'd wise up if I lived through it. Fortunately, I didn't have to; I spent most of my cowboying days servicing wind-mills and mending fence. Less than six months, thank God. (That's my Cowboy Story, by the way.)

I mention this because I once said I'd worked as a cowboy and someone immediately said they too enjoyed riding.

I've never 'enjoyed' riding in the sense they meant. Packing-in, having a horse means you don't have to walk but working cattle, most of our horses were old logger-heads with teeth like a crocodile and a disposition to match. If they couldn't buck you off they'd try to smear you into the fence. Survive that and they'd work for you. Until you missed one too many throws, then they were liable to lay down and roll on you.

My Volkswagens aren't pets. I respect them for what they represent but I don't 'enjoy' them in the sense you mean. But neither do I mistreat them as you are planning to do by not cc'ing the heads nor any of those other 'techy operations' you're planning to ignore.

-Bob Hoover