Sunday, January 23, 2011


It was ging to be a small posting tonight. Like usual, it didn't turn out that way. The tail lights work now, and my distance grows.

Tail Lighting
Well, I haven't really been able to get to the bus in the past week, but I did correct the ground issue in the right tail light yesterday. These old buses are funny sometimes. I removed the ground wire from its post on the rear pillar adjacent to the rear hatch door, wiped the post with my fingers and pushed the wire back on the post. Bing! The directionals work again. Funny. Otherwise, I have cleaned up and swept out the area where the bus used to live next to the garage, and I've re-covered the bus to keep the damp out. Next weekend, if I get to work at all, will include swapping engine harnesses (I think I found the bad wire).

Life Bottoms
I've mentioed my separation from my project bus, and this has been an unusual perspective on everything that is going on. I'm temporarily living in SE PDX (Brooklyn neighborhood for my fellow Puddletown dwellers) while my 2 boys remain in Lake Oswego with their mother. As part of an agreement with their mother, I took clothing and am crashing at my folks' place. Humbling would be the best word for it. My eventual residence is uncertain, but it won't be in that house again. The highlights of my week now, as before this change, are centered on my time with the two of them.

This blog was dedicated to the bus, not my relationship with my boys, so I haven't really articulated their importance here. They know they are first with me, though, and they know I would prefer to be with them rather than anything. Since my last post, I made the change in where I lay my head to sleep, though my heart remains with the boys. Oddly enough, while writing this, T forwarded me this chain text (neuvo chain letters), which seems right on point:

if one day u feel like crying... call me.
i don't promise that i will make u laugh but i can cry with u.
if one day u want to run away - don't be afraid to call me.
i don't promise to ask you to stop.... but i can run with u.
if one day u don't want to listen to anyone.... call me.
i promise to be there for u but also promise to remain quiet.
but one day if u call.... and there is no answer.... come fast to see me.
maybe i need u.

I saw the boys 3 times this past week and during the day on Saturday. The weekday visits were a blending of all-business (putting them to bed), school activities (C art night) and fun (Blazer game). I tried to express that most weeks would not be that way, but they won't really get that until they see it. Saturday morning we took the lacrosse sticks and the dog down to Mary S. Young park for some "its not raining!" fun. For a couple of hours, everything felt normal-ish, chasing the dog around the off-leash area and then throwing the ball in a circle. Returning back to the house, and their mother working in her office, brought things back into perspective. I won't see them again until Wednesday, which will be the longest I've ever gone without them. I've found distracting myself with my gym membership somewhat effective, but not terribly satisfying. I expect I'll be trying that tomorrow and Tuesday.

My entries will change to reflect this situation more, and improvements on my bus less. Still, I will document any changes in his condition or improvements in postings, but with my limited access, I doubt much will happen. Instead, I'll be very focused on bridging this situation to whatever the new arrangement will be. There's lots of back-story and what not, and I'll get to that as I do.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


So, we have ourselves a nearly road-ready bus. I said I was going to get the exhaust put on in my last post. Add to that, the kids' mom is home from Las Vegas, so the celebration continues.

Plumb that Thing
Around 9:30 Thursday morning, the exhaust guys at Meineke started their efforts. By 11:30, they were done, and Hapy was ready. Between work and single-parenting, I couldn't pay for it until after 5 and pick it up until after the kids were in bed. The guys are Meineke were as curious about this conversion as most folks I've encountered along the way. They had the misfortune of trying to drive it, though, and they gave me warnings about the linkage. Yeah, I knew it was a little wonky, and the clutch made some horrible noise when trying to get the thing in gear. Still, they came out when I fired it up, and we all got a chuckle out of how it runs - really freakin' good. "Sounds like a bus," the guy says. He's no VeeDubber, so he meant city bus, but I took it as a compliment. He added,"careful not to pift the front end off the ground with all that torque." Hahaha... yeah, like anyone has ever said that about a street-legal bus before. Anyway, we checked the rear lights, and the ground in the passenger side tail light is disconnected: none of the light illuminate. I paid the $320 (lifetime warranty), and hopped back into my other TDI and drove off to pick up the boys.

Lookee Here
After the usual round of dinner making and clean up, assembling lunches, running the kids through showers and bedtime routines, I contacted my good friend Ed for a ride to the muffler shop. I didn't mind riding home in the sprinkling rain that morning, but I wasn't up for riding in the heavier drizzle in the dark. We fired it up (once we got there, of course), and we surveyed the install a little bit. From the rear, it almost looks stock with that cylindrical left-to-right muffler routing the exhaust out to the rear. I haven't gotten underneath yet, to see it from end to end, but it looks like a relatively simple design: from the turbo, it gently curves down and to the rear until it approaches the bellhousing where it runs straight to the rear. Once it reaches the side-to-side engine support bar, it bends right and enters the muffler. From the muffler it hits a simple 90* bend out the rear. It all looks like basic mild steel, so I'll probably remove it and shoot it with some exhaust paint to inhibit rust. I suspect the warranty only applies to the muffler, not the piping.

What Gear You In?
After the lookee-loo, we fired it up. The look on Ed's face was priceless - yeah... that's power baby. Finding reverse had always been easy, but the rest of the gears have been a little evasive. I found myself pulling out of the parking lot into traffic in 3rd. Still, he drove really nice, the brakes were nice and responsive / firm. By the time I was off the main road, I was able to find and use 1st through 3rd. There is a straight-shot street that sees very little traffic that I use to get home. For fun, I took the corner at low speed (in second) and stood on the pedal. Hapy took off like a shot. I heard the turbo spin up, rode it up a litle bit, slammed it into 3rd and stood on the pedal again. Shazam, we're off to the races! Now, I disconnected the speedometer cable, so we probably weren't going that fast, but the sheer acceleration was something I'd never felt in any bus before. It didn't feel forced either, it sounded and felt like it was business as usual for this engine - which is just flat out scary. So, add in some larger tires or a properly geared tranny and this could get crazy. I think the hard-to-find gears thing is more of a result of lack of use, and needing to get the gear oil up off the bottom and into the synchro's. We'll see.

Home Again, for now
I pulled into the driveway as the heat from the defroster was really getting warm. Now, I mean warm for a 1972 air-cooled bus (my frame of reference). The windscreen was nice and clear since the straight-shot street, but now there's tangible heat. I'll need to integrate a temp gauge so I can audit the radiator effectiveness. I can't see the TDI dashpod, so I'll either have to take it back off the road to extend all those wires, buy a water temp gauge or buy a real OBDII cable and use my laptop. I have basically no money, so I'll probably go with the gauge.
The kids' mom arrived this afternoon after 2 weeks in Las Vegas. Between the boys staying at friends' houses after school, and my parents dropping by, I have been able to work. Still, being the only parent in one town while working in another is not easy. Especially when you don't want to use after-care (day-care).

I won't be able to do much on the bus over the next couple of months. I won't go into details, but Hapy and I won't be near each other much, so there is only so much I can do remotely. I'll be working through my bad-ground engine harness with a multi-meter when I can. Anyway, after all this recent progress, this blog may fall silent, or take a departure from the usual "bus progress" theme. It seems a shame, but that's how these things go. I greatly appreciate your interest and feedback (both as comments and via email), and I will post as interesting things happen.

top - the down-tube from the turbo (unpainted)
middle - view from the back see how the muffler looks kinda stock-ish
bottom - from inside the engine compartment along the engine. That's the serpentine on the right, the engine support bar on the left and the muffler in the middle

Thursday, January 13, 2011

it moves, its loud, but it moves!

Progress, progress. With an appointment at Meineke to build out an exhaust system set for today, I had a little extra motivation. Knowing everything was "good" according to my trusted mechanic friend, Justin, I moved quickly and confidently. I'll hit the highlights today, though there will definitely be more tomorrow.

Last night, I stopped at Batteries Plus and bought a replacement battery. With the instant discount and the mail-in rebate, it'll cost around $65 for a Group 40 (or is it 48?) Rayovac battery. I hadn't heard of Rayovak batteries since the old "I dare you to knock this battery off my shoulder" advertising. Apparently, they're deep into automotive batteries now. Anyway, I called them yesterday morning, and verified they had one, I picked it up and installed it last night after the kids were fed. I fired up the engine, grabbed T and backed the bus out of his hiding place into the driveway. There was much rejoicing.

Test Drive
T hopped into the passenger seat, and we tried to take a little spin around the neighborhood. We noticed a few things. First, an un-mufflered diesel engine is still really bloddy loud even if there is a turbo absorbing some of the noise. Second, while the engine was cold, the bus shook like a mother. After about 30 seconds it settled down. The clutch made all kinds of noise, and finding the gears was a challenge. I think I have some shifter adjusting I need to do. Reverse is easy to find, but I can't find first, so there's something batty happening there. Regardless, we drove around our little circle and around the neighbors little circle (cul-de-sac's) and pulled into the driveway. Our little test was over, but it totally passed.

Belly Pan, Clutch Cable Tightening
Before I could drive it to the muffler shop, though I had a couple of things I needed to do. First, I had to put the kids to bed, feed the animals, etc. Next, the belly pan that lives under the pedals needed to be re-installed. This keeps the weather from getting in there, which is especially important with the placement of the brake switch and the accelerator pedal switch. With the wet weather we've been having, we wouldn't want a puddle-splash to fritz the switches. I couldn't find the original bolts, but I found a handful of stainless 10mm bolts that fit. Last, the clutch cable needed adjusting. Now, the cable itself was relatively new before the project started, so it probably isn't fully warn-in. The clutch and pressure plate are brand new, so they will take some seasoning too. I expect to be performing some level of cable adjustment for the next few months accordingly. It had gotten to be about 9:30, so I called it good.

Drive to Meineke
My appointment was at 7:30, T needed to leave for school at 7 and C needed to leave for school at 8:45 (with a parent wake-up at 8). I am the only adult in the house, and I hadn't a ride home from the muffler shop. So, I woke before 6, with a funny plan for getting everything to align. First, I grabbed one of the kid's bikes and tossed it into the bus. I like bus-traveling with a bike anyway - its like a lifeboat. In case of trouble, you can pedal to a parts store from a roadside breakdown much faster and farther than on foot. Anyway, I pulled out of the driveway, and drove to the shop, using 2nd and 3rd gears all the way. Without the benefit of a tachometer, and not being familiar with the sound of an un-mufflered diesel engine, it wasn't easy guestimating the shift points. I relied on some common sense, though, figuring my shifts should come earlier than in the old pancake engine, and knowing that the accelerator only went to 78% meant I couldn't really get the RPM's into redline.
I arrived at Meineke as the defroster was starting to produce some warmth. I topped off the brake fluid (remember, I had it open to change the rubber lines earlier), pulled the bike out and rode home. I arrived home by 6:35, so I had time to prep for the day. T ended up staying home from school sick with that phflemmy coff thing that's gonig around, but I dashed back to the muffler shop to hand off the keys and talk about the project with the manager. "I want it quiet," I said. He accepted the keys nad I drove home to get C up for school. Again, I was ahead of schedule, and could enjoy some coffee before wrestling him out of bed. He got ready, ate and split for school (taking the lunch I made for him ) and I hit the road for work. I've spoken to Meineke from work, and the exhaust is done, with a lifetime warranty. Sweet. I'll drive it home, and post an update in the next couple of days about how it ran, sounded, etc.

It is hard to believe I'm actually at this point. There have been a couple of wrenchers without whom this would not have been possible. Hal and Justin, your assistance has been immeasurable and so, so greatly appreciated. I want both of you to sign the partition behind the passenger seat that's exposed to the main open area so your names will forever be connected with what we've done. There is time tomorrow to talk about what the next steps are, etc. For today, we smile. And nod. And bask in the gravity of the achievement we accomplished. Today, we have a 1972 VW camperbus getting pushed down the road by a 1998 NewBeetle 1.9 liter TDI engine.

top - Justin fooling with the low-pressure return lines (we replaced them on Sunday)
middle - Hap's parking spot for nearly 2 years, now vacant (rain)
bottom - in the driveway, ready to go get an exhaust (rain)

Monday, January 10, 2011

running again

Ok, so it's halftime during the college football national championship game, so this will be brief. My friend Justin stopped over on Sunday afternoon, and we got the engine running again. For the second time, we needed to fake the clutch pedal switch. The jumper we did before either fell out or I knocked it out. Regardless, once we jumpered that switch, the starter would engage again.

Fuel System Alteration
we removed the one-way valve from the fuel feed line, believing it was restricting the fuel flow. I'm still concerned that we won't get sufficient prime after sitting overnight, but I'll be able to test that theory tomorrow night. In its place, we put a Mercedes secondary (clear) filter. We should be able to see if there is prime in the fuel line just by looking at that.

Battery suck-eth
The battery I nabbed from the old Mercedes was pretty much drained by the time we got to being able to test-fire, it wasn't able to turn the engine. We tried the Harbor Freight battery charger/jumper, but that didn't have the juice. Then, we charged the battery a bit, tried again... no avail. Finally, charging through jumpers running off of Justin's Golf was the winner. Regardless, the engine is running again, and the battery is sitting on the slow-charge. I'll fire that engine up again to drive to the muffler shop hopefully this week.

Justin's Discoveries
In looking at and poking at the engine, Justin noticed a few things. Some items, we were able to fix on the spot, like a loose fuel pressure sensor on the IP, but others may need future attention. The VNT actuator was not responding very well. We think that may self-correct just from use - remember the engine has only run a handful of times in the past 3 years. While we were banging away, Justin re-checked my accelerator switch, and it runs from 0% to 77% now. I need to extend the throw of the pedal somehow, but that can wait. Also, he verified the IP timing, and the flow of the injectors - all good. We're ready for test flights.

That's it for tonight. The game is coming back on. If we don't get snow, I'll be taking a test flight tomorrow night. I hope to get into the Meineke shop around the corner between Wednesday and Friday so I'm road-able. Then, it is just a matter of increased length test fights, minor tweaks and cosmetics. Unbelievable. As an Oregonian, I say "Go DUCKS".

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Buttoned and Bowed

All those tired of reading about my inter-cooler woes raise your hand. Okay, mine was up too. I spent from 10:AM yesterday until close to 4:PM working on the inter-cooler and it is done. [pause for cheers :)]. I'll cover the different attacks I did to get it in, with the parts I had on hand. I have a health update for my MIL Marianne too.

As you're read in earlier posts, my mother-in-law Marianne was diagnosed with cancer in November of 2008. Her son (my bro-in-law), Tom, was diagnosed with cancer at the same time and ultimately surrendered to it last Spring. Marianne has battled hers, from stage-4 to cancer-free and back to stage-4 again. Recently, she was admitted to the hospital with a pneumonia that has not been responsive to treatments. There is a general feeling around her caregivers and friends that her time is getting short, so my wife (D) flew down there today. She'll be in Las Vegas for the next 2 weeks, but she expects Marianne will pass during her visit there. The boys don't fully understand, but they were able to visit with her in October, when she was in remission and walking around. Fortunately, their last memory of Gramma will be of her walking through the buffet under Planet Hollywood, and sitting by the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel. We'll be lighting a candle for her at church tomorrow.

Re-hashing My IC History
Before I get into the solution, I'll recap some of the different things I've tried. First, I went with the original inter-cooler (IC). This has the inlet and the outlet on different ends of the unit. I cut part of the original body tin in the engine compartment to create a pocket in which the inter-cooler would sit. I fabricated some pipe, re-used the softer rubber connectors, and had a closed system. I bore a hole into the inter cooler for the pressure / temperature sensor.
Enter Heat. Once I placed the heater core, that first try at the IC needed to be changed. The front-side of the IC was now pressed up against the heater flexi-hose, effectively preventing the inter-cooler from getting cooling air. So, I removed it, and started working through alternatives. I couldn't get the stock IC to work in another position, so I bought a SAAB Blackstone IC. So started my adventures in bracket-building. This bracket adventure turned out to be a waste of time. I would advise the reader to get the hoses and everything all hooked up first and then figure out how to bracket it in-place. I bought a bunch of 2" pipe, 2.5" pipe, some elbows, connectors and hose clamps for a full-court press on this thing. Queue yesterday's efforts. I started with the SAAB Blackstone and my available hoses and pipes. I couldn't get it together. I switched back to the stock IC and couldn't get it going, so I switched back to the Blackstone.

Induction Complication Discussion
The trouble was with the space available from the turbo outlet to the IC inlet. The turbo outlet is 1.5" in diameter while the IC inlet is 2 3/8". The distance from the turbo outlet to the support bar is less than 8", so I have less than 8" to turn the air flow 90* to route on-plane with the air-stream and then another 90* to route into the IC while expanding the pipe from 1.5" to 2 3/8". Routing the IC outlet to the intake is much easier. The IC outlet is also 2 3/8", and the intake is 2" in diameter. There is considerable space (relative to the inlet side), requiring, again, 2 90* bends, but there was a foot from the intake to the engine support bar and nearly a foot from that bend to the IC outlet.

Induction Solution
First, I solved the turbo-to-inlet challenge. I cut up the original turbo outlet hose to a very short 90* bend. To the IC side of the bend, I pressed in a thin-walled 1.5" diameter pipe to act as a joiner between the 90* bend and the Silicone Intakes 1.5" to 2" reducer. This reducer was then pressed into a copper water pipe 90* 'street' bend. This bend has an expander on the end so it can fit into another 2" pipe. For my purposes, this expanded the diameter to 2 3/8" so it could mate with a straight rubber / silicone coupler at the IC.
Once the inlet was in, I held the IC in place with a bungy-cord. The intake had the stock 90* rubber connector on it, pointing straight down. The IC outlet had a straight rubber / silicone coupler on it. Into this, I pressed a 5" long 2.5" pipe. The other end of the pipe has a 2.5" 90* silicone bend. Fitted between the 2.5" 90* bend and the stock intake rubber I put a stock plastic pipe that narrows from 2.5" to 2". It fit very well, and had a few flat spots on it. Into one of the flat spots, I bored a hole for the temperature / pressure sensor. Once everything test-fit, I final-fit the connections with clamps, buttoning it down. It needs a support bracket, but I can start test starts while figuring that out.

Air Dressing
Last, I clamped the air route from the air filter to the turbo intake. This needed to be done, but not necessarily with fancy clamps. I figured for about 50 cents more per clamp, it looks nice, like putting a bow on it. Anyway, that's my adventure in inter cooling. In the end, I needed a few pieces from Silicone Intakes, and some of the stock parts. If I hadn't lost the plastic pipe which originally holds the sensor, I would only have needed connectors and bends - no pipe. Ah well.
It is already getting dark here, so my attempts to start the engine will have to wait until tomorrow. Still, being able to say I'll be trying to start it tomorrow feels pretty darn good.

Happy New Year!

top - turbo outlet to IC inlet resolved
upper middle - stock plastic pipe with sensor installed
lower middle - IC pipes and hoses installed. (needs bracket)
bottom - the dressed air hoses from filter to turbo inlet