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1972 Volkswagen Beetle



[volkswagen camshafts specifics]

I bought a 1972 Volkswagen beetle to be a project car in July of 2006, just before moving from Illinois to Kentucky. I wanted to gain practical experience in maintaining an engine that was old enough that it wasn't computerized. I bought that car because I wanted a beetle, and the underbody, often rusted out in old beetles, was in remarkably good condition. (More specifically, I was interested in obtaining an understand of an engine that shared as many as characteristics as possible with piston aircraft engines: air cooled, horizontally opposed configuration, carbureted, simple ignnition system.)

This page is to document some of the repairs, maintenance, and improvements that I've done, or am doing to my car. I've taken inspirations from other sites that have documented stuff about beetle repairs; foremost are TheBugShop.org and reluctantmechanic.com. I have a long way to go before I'm nearly as useful as those pages, but I'm hoping to carefully document everything I do photographically. In reading about Beetle repairs, both on-line and in paper books, I sometimes find it hard to visualize what they're talking about.

Most of the parts ordering I've done is from Mid-America Motor Works on-line catalog site. They have a good selection, a thorough catalog, fast shipping, and a very friendly staff.

My Beetle

The specifics of my Beetle: my car is a 1972 Superbeetle. It was manufactured in November of 1971, and it has a AE series engine. The engine is mostly stock, although the carburetor that I got it with is Brazilian-made, which I think is typical. The electrical system and generator are original, as far as I know.

The odometer said 78100 when I bought it, and I was told those are original miles (that it had never rolled over). Given by how nice the body is, it's possible that's true. The doors open and close solidly, which is another clue. I think it's more likely that it's rolled over once, but maybe only once.

I bought the car so that I could learn to work on and maintain it, and it has not failed me in that regard. Here is my list of stuff that needs doing on the car. Each problem has a "discovered" date and "fixed" date. If there is no "discovered" date, then I knew about it when I bought the car or in the first few weeks. (This list is being updated in 2012.)

Things that have been fixed:

Things that are still problems

  • the sun visors are old
  • there are no cup holders
  • the tail pipes don't match in length
  • the bumpers are not original and they've been painted white (yick!)
  • the air circulation fan's bearings are almost dead
  • the turn signal doesn't dis-engage when you pull out of a turn
  • the electrical rear window defroster has been dis-abled
  • the front defroster doesn't work very well (this is partially because of the design
  • someone put a sun visor that sticks off the front of the roof; this makes it hard for me to see traffic lights.
  • The engine is louder than it ought to be; probably a slight exaust leak

Nifty stuff that I will probably add to the car...just because.

  • the radio doesn't work (I'm going to add a Sirius satellite radio system)
  • new sport headlights with fog lamps
  • GPS mount with power plug
  • maybe a CB radio
The 30-amp generator-based electrical system isn't designed to have very much surplus capacity, and there aren't any fuses in the main electrical feed system. So to avoid running out of current capacity and run the risk of overheating wires, I'm going to add electrical instrumentation to find out how much each item in the car draws. I can use that information to decide how far I need to upgrade the capacity. I purchased the meters as of the second week of November, 2007; stay tuned to this space for details as to how the electrical monitoring and possible upgrade is going. :-)

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