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The Story So Far - Page 02


Some more preparation for lifting off the body next week. I removed the door,the other side glass and disconnected and cut all the connections to the pedals. I cannot remove them directly as they are so badly fitted there is no access to the bolts with the body on and no room to grind off the heads. I ground off the final two floor bolts and tried lifting the body by hand. It appears to be free and actually not all that heavy. I'm sure next week the body can be lifted off. I'm still unsure about the direction of the chassis, but I have noticed that my Baja V5 document may be suitable for this vehicle and I could obtain any beetle chassis as a replacement. Yet another option on the table! Late this evening on travelling back to London I stopped off in Hertford and picked up the sand blasting cabinet I won on eBay. It looks good and is quite large. The seller told me it had only been used once for an experiment and then stored away. Another thing to have a play with next week.

22/03/2014 Liftoff!

Early this morning my brother and myself began to lift the body off the Brubaker. I had seen a video on the net of how to remove a body from a Beetle and the technique was to jack the whole car up under the chassis, support the body and then use the weight of the chassis to part the two when lowering the jack. This was the method we used and first we jacked the rear of the car. There seemed to be a natural place to position the cross beam and on lowering the jack to my utter amazement there were no dramas as the chassis came away. At the front the cross beam rested on the wheel arches, so we used some foam to try to prevent any damage. The body isn't that heavy and it was possible to lift each corner by hand to position the support tressles in the optimum position.

Unfortunately the body was not positioned quite high enough to clear the chassis with the wheels on and rather than opt to raise the tressle height we removed the rear wheels and dragged the chassis on the wheel hubs from beneath the body. The body is actually positioned just at a comfortable work height. I was a little worried about standing in the vehicle, but as luck would have it the open area above the fuel tank gives good access to the inside and elsewhere with the windows removed there is no need to stand on the fibreglass floor to work inside.

The chassis is in quite poor condition the centre backbone is ok, but both floorpans are shot as is the front torsion bar. Suspension parts should be OK after a shot blast. Repair of this chassis may be costly. Torsion beam assembly 400 + floorpans 400. There are a few restored chassis popping up on ebay for less than this. I am still not sure what to do.

Oh and yet more acorns were found in the chassis! My brother washed out all the body cavities using a hose and this kept the fibreglass dust down...again more acorns were removed. The weather today was sunny, but really cold and this bought today to a close earlier than expected.

 The final job before going inside was to make up some small fishplates for the centre tunnel. The body was a little distorted, but by pulling and using many plates the centre section was positioned correctly and should fibreglass well. There are some large gaps here, but I am hoping that the new textured paint I have bought will mask the joints over.

05/04/2014 A Tale of Three Chassis

No posts here for two weeks, but progress is still ongoing. Last weekend I began the inspection of the imported chassis (We shall call this chassis No 1!) After removing the front suspension assembly it was time to strip off the centre sound deadening and have a good look. Unfortunately when I got around the chassis number I noticed that the number was separate from the centre tunnel, the original had been flame cut out and a new number held with two self tappers. The whole mess had been carefully disguised under the sound deadening felt...very sneaky! The chassis was in effect a "Ringer". I'm not sure of the rules in the USA, but this sort of thing in the UK is illegal. As its not registered this side of the pond it is pointless doing anything with it so I have cut it in half and salvaged what I could from the front and rear suspension. This is a shame as it was a good chassis. Now the hunt was on for a replacement. One came up on ebay this week (We shall call this chassis No 2!)  a complete setup with all the suspension and brakes renovated. On Friday night I won the auction for 700. Steve gave me a discount as there was no master cylinder fitted, so 650 all in. Today I travelled up to Keighley in Yorkshire to have a look, pay up and sort out the V5 documentation. A round trip of 340 miles, coupled to this the 80 miles I did this morning before leaving, I cannot think of another day in my life where I have done as many miles. 11 hours of driving. Steve the owner was a nice fellow and let me take some pictures. The front suspension looks well finished and won't need much work. Steve said that the wheel bearings may need looking at, but I will fit disc brakes at the front and I need Chevy pattern hubs anyhow.

The rear suspension is not IRS, but looks in great shape. All new brake pipes and reconditioned dampers. Steve wasn't sure of the gearbox, but did say it drove forwards and backwards...This is an improvement on what I currently have! I'll stick with swing axle for now as it all looks good. I have kept the IRS from chassis No1 and this may be fitted later when I am on the road.

Floorpan is a little unusual. The right hand pan is not one I have seen before with an access hole. I have only had early Beetles and I think this might be a post 73 pan. The floorpans do seem quite thick so this is good and have been plug welded neatly. The access holes may help when I am rustproofing as the Brubaker has a fibreglass floor which provides an excellent water trap! I did notice that the jacking points don't match each side, but I will probably remove these along with the seat rails which wont fit under the fibreglass floor. Overall the chassis is just what I expected and at a reasonable price. I hope to have the chassis at Helium Frog HQ soon if I can get a UShip auction arranged this week. A quick paint over again and the chassis should be fine. Steve seems to be on the same wavelength as me and has used good paint and red oxide (My favourite). It doesn't look showy, but is good and lasts a long time.

The V5 document looks in order and is registered as a Beetle. This could mean an inspection by the DVLA to change the model from Beetle to something more suitable, but shouldn't be too hard and keeps everything above board. The number plate is quite a nice one and is a 1972 which is just the right era for a Brubaker. I also have lots of old MOT's and paperwork. This evening I checked on the DVLA website and it is on their database. This is again good news.

Oh I almost forgot. I did say three chassis. After I won chassis No 2....sods law one pops up in St Neots about 8 mile from my house. It looks really tidyand is a 1973 chassis. I am going to have a look at it tomorrow. If it's really clean and cheap on ebay I may have a punt and fit chassis No2 running gear. But it will have to be really nice, have lots of paperwork and a good plate for me to splash some more cash. In my heart I am gunning for chassis No 2.


Chassis No 3 proved to be a red herring. The owner failed to communicate properly and missed my arranged viewing and didn't have the decency to phone back after numerous calls. In truth the seller has probably lost out financially. My philosophy on these matters is "There are many nice people in the world, there is no need to deal with idiots". This was good news in a way as I can now concentrate on chassis No 2 which to be honest was the one I wanted all along and had already purchased. This saved me having the two chassis at my house. I have set up a UShip auction and have recieved a few quotes. I will contact one tomorrow to arrange shipping from Keighley. I'm really looking forward to its arrival.


Chassis No 2 is booked to be transported to Helium frog HQ tomorrow afternoon. Total shipping cost 167.99. If transport is OK I don't consider this too bad a cost for a 160 mile delivery. The delivery is set for 5.00 pm or later which gives me the opportunity to travel home after work.


The Brubaker seems to be a creature of the night as every part that arrives is in the dark. Yesterday the transport company said the chassis would be delivered around 5.00 pm, but as usual things didn't go to plan. It finally came at 12pm and so we were struggling in the dark yet again! My village has no street lighting to speak of, so at night it is dark. I helped unload the chassis but just left it on the drive and went to bed. I had to travel down to London today for work and then back again tonight so was a little tired this evening. 

First task tonight was to shuffle all the vehicles around and get the chassis in the garage. The Brubaker body is just in front of the garage doors and on trestles and cannot be moved now. I blew up the chassis tyres which were flat, turned it around in the road and tried to pass it under the body. No joy, the chassis damper tops were too high. I jacked the body up on each corner and raised the trestles some more and tried once more. I again had problems so removed the front wheels and dragged the front under balanced on a trolley jack. The front now through and wheels back on the rear shock towers fouled by mere millimetres. OK now I let the tyres down and by the smallest margin the chassis passed under, with the rear tyres rubbing on the body. Whew!

With the chassis in the garage, the first job was to remove the centre tunnel sound deadening to see if I had another "Ringer" of a chassis. Good no nasty things here and quite a good clean tunnel free of acorns! I did notice that the drivers side floorpan seemed more flexible at the front and on closer inspection there is a weld missed near the pedal assembly. once this is done (About 5 minutes welding) the floor will be firm again. I was worried that the floorpan was of cheap quality, but I have measured them with a vernier caliper and they seem to be 1mm plus in thickness. I am a happy chap as these indicate quite good quality panels. They still flex a bit to my mind, but 1mm classes them as "Heavy Duty" items to most vendors and these will be ideal for me. In any case the Brubaker has a floor reinforced with fibreglass so I wont be falling through them any time soon. I was going the clean off the underseal on the lower side, but it looks quite neat and is not too thick, so I will go with what I have to save some time. Tomorrow Chris is popping over in the morning so we may strip down the suspension front and rear so I can start cleaning and painting the chassis. I am happy, Steve the previous owner of the chassis has done a lot of the hard work , it is only fair that I do some more to improve the chassis still further. This also gives me an opportunity to double check that everything is tight and as it should be.


An early start today and the focus was on the chassis. Chris (Proffesor Originale) came over to help out. This was useful as it meant the two of us could turn the chassis over or on its side when needed. We removed the jacking mounts as they didn't match and set about stripping off all the underseal. This took quite a time and was all we did all day. I found that a paint stripping gun was great at this as well as a wire brush on the angle grinder.  It was useful to examine the chassis and the only bad part is the lower frame head and Napoleans hat. This was a bit disappointing, but as I kept the frame head from chassis No 1 I have a good source to chop a few sections and piece in to this one. It's a little more work than I expected, but it shouldn't be too hard. Unfortunately my angle grinder gave up so this bought our day to an abrupt halt.


A few weekends off working on the Brubaker, it was now time to begin again. Last night I cut away all the bad metal on the lower right frame head. It was worse than I thought and in the finish I decided to remove the whole lower side including the bolt hole. I wasn't confident I could do this, but I took my time and made many cardboard templates. My welding is not the best, so to avoid weak welds I left a good gap between the panels to ensure I welded fully through. I am actually quite pleased. In order to make sure of the alignment I cut a centre section out of an old rusty torsion bar tube I have on hand and checked the location by bolting it on. At the end of play today, the new section was in and I was most of the way through dressing back the welds. A little more grinding and the section should be invisible under paint and waxoil. The lower left section looks all patched up, so I am confident I can replace this section in a similar way neater than it is at the moment. It looks like it will take a few weekends, but that doesn't matter. I don't have any deadlines and I enjoy the work. Today I also recieved my V5 for the chassis which is always good news.
On a side note, Prof. Originale imported a 1978 bus and it arrived in the middle of last week at his London lockup. It was fumigated twice and we found a dead Black Widow spider in it, but no other living monsters. I seem more excited than he does as this will give me some "VW action" during the week when I am working in London. It has a 2 litre fuel injected engine which I was keen to examine and comes complete with rat turds on the air intake and wasps nests in the lights! The van is a 7 seater IRS rear suspension, torsion front and is quite solid . It shouldn't be too long before it goes to see the MOT man if we can get some nice weather.

It's very very a rough estimate on the cool scale about 1/10th of a Brubaker!!


This weekend I have 3 days to work on the Brubaker. The plan is to have the front chassis section repaired and cleaned up. Today the left hand lower section was cut out and the replacement welded in. The front centre is also poor and I didn't have a suitable piece from the original chassis to weld in. Luckily I have some 2mm plate in my garage that is suitable, so it was back to the card templates to piece in the section. This is ready to weld in. I am going to take the opportunity to use M8 weld nuts on the cover plate and use stainless items to avoid rusting. Tomorrow I will finish this, cut another piece for the lower edge underneath and then begin the repairs on the Napoleons hat. My cutting and welding is becoming quicker and neater now and this is all good practice. Where I can see the rear of my welds I can see good penetration and this gives me confidence the repair is strong.


Day 3 of the long weekend and it was time to button up the last of the welding. Today I concentrated on the Napoleons hat area and the floorpan holes. There were a couple of rust repairs but nothing too serious. With the chassis on the side I cleaned up the underside of the frame head. There had been some large unsightly repairs here and the welds had not been dressed back. I cleaned up them and now under paint they look much better. I use "Bonda Rust Primer" as I have found it easy to paint, adheres well and gives good rust protection. The key is to remove all old paint and underseal and so I have spent most of today with my wire brush on my angle grinder.

The holes in the left floorpan were patched with thinner sheet. This was about 1mm thick. I wasn't confident to do a butt weld, so I overlapped the panel a little. The large hole was patched underside, the three smaller I patched on top. The floorpan pressing seemed to dictate this was the best way. Next weekend it will be more wire brushing and painting. If only all weekends were 3 days I would have the Brubaker ready for Christmas!


Day 2 of the long weekend and the frame head is now fully welded. In addition to the frame head repair I also completed a repair to the one end of the Napoleons hat. There is now just one area that needs a rust repair (Near brake master cylinder mount) and I still need to dress of the underside welds.

The front plate now has M8 bolts holding on the cover plate. These always shear off, so using M8 instead of M6 makes things better. I also tapped out the torsion tube M12 fine thread mounting bolts. They are now smooth and clean.

I could spend even more time dressing back the welds, but it is not really necessary as another layer of paint and waxoil and they won't be visible. This has taken along time, but has been enjoyable and my welding skills have improved greatly.


Still on the chassis renovation! As I was this far in I thought I would completely remove the underseal and do a good job of the underside. This takes a long time, but hopefully by the end of this weekend I will have the chassis back down flat with the underside completed. I am hoping to have 2 coats of Bonda rust primer, one coat of POR 15 black and a couple of coats of waxoil. For any readers from overseas this may seem an overkill, but here in the UK with salt used in winter on the roads and the damp climate if I don't do this the chassis will be rusty again in no time. I have cleaned an done this to my Baja bug lying on my back and it is one of the most tiring jobs so it pays to get all the donkey work done with the chassis on its side. I am finding a heat gun and a scraper, followed by a rotary wire brush on an angle grinder followed by white spirits on a rag gets almost all of the residue off. The Bonda paint is OK over white spirit and does tend to dissolve any last bit of underseal whilst painting. I can just wipe it off with a rag and overpaint the area immediately. I discovered that the rear of the floorpan (Top left of picture) isn't connected properly to the rear torsion tube support. Tomorrow I need to make a packing piece and weld it in place.


Chassis underside is almost complete. One coat of Waxoil was enough. I may touch it up again when the Brubaker is built. Tomorrow it will be down flat on the axle stands and ready for cleaning and refitting of the front suspension and a quick paint of the top of the chassis. I'm glad that the underside is done as my garage is full to the brim of parts and now I can start putting them all back together. Hopefully no more welding repairs are required.
As there is no more welding in the foreseeable future it is a good time to upgrade my welder a little. With this in mind I have purchased a Euro plug in torch kit which includes a electric gas solenoid. These torches are industry grade with metal wire feed tubes. I'm hoping this makes the wire feed smoother, the gas shield more stable and so take me to the next level of weld quality. At the moment with clean metal I can lay down a pretty good weld which doesn't need dressing. It would be nice to get even neater.


Underside of the chassis is done and now onto the top. It is much quicker now as I don't have to contend with underseal and of course the chassis is cleaner on the top. I'm not a fan of the POR15 paint I bought, it is thick, coverage is not that great and very expensive. In fact it is not dissimilar to Hammerite smooth which I hate. Ill use the tin I have, but will find an alternative if I need more. I made an error in waxoiling the front section of the chassis before I had finished wire brushing. Waxoil is soft for a long time and picks up dust on its surface easily. I'll not do any more waxoiling until just before I am to install the chassis. I was also concerned at the rear of the chassis that some of the bolts looked damaged and may strip or break when I tried to undo them. Fortunately I managed to go all over the chassis bolts and loosen them off about a turn. This is good news as I won't have to cut and retap anything.


The seemingly never ending task of wire brushing and painting continues. I have now painted all the top up to the rear torsion bars and have stripped, cleaned and painted the front torsion tubes. The adjusters at the front were assembled badly with the grub screw point not screwed fully into the torsion springs. I also found that the ball joints have not been replaced and two are very badly worn. It's more work, but I am happier that the whole chassis will be dismantled, inspected and replaced where necessary.
After over 30 years of working on cars I have finally discovered the magic combination of paints to refurbish a chassis.
1) Wire brush using an angle grinder.
2) Bonda Rust Primer
(Matt Red) painted on.
3) Tractol Chassis Black (Gloss Black). This goes on easily over the red oxide primer and covers in one coat.
4) Black Waxoil where needed to protect from salt and moisture (Matt Black).
The Tractol paint is available in many colours but the gloss black has high pigment and the finish is a wet look gloss black which is very nice. Its also quite cheap, about 1/3 price of POR15.
Further news is that I have been doing some research on parts for the Brubaker. I paid a visit on Thursday to CoolAir VW which is about 10 mile from my works in London. Unfortunately they didn't have any stock (A pet hate of mine), but it is handy if I need to pick up parts in the week. I can just order at the start of the week and give them time to get their act into order for the following weekend. I am looking to get some Chevy pattern front disks soon so I can completely assemble the front before having a trial fit of the chassis back under the body. I have also ordered a Compbrake Universal pedal assembly for 259. This is floor mounted and has brake bias adjustment and a hydraulic clutch. I need to mock up the position of the pedals with the body on, then fabricate a strong mounting setup to the chassis and mock up the fuel tank. Once this is done I can plumb up all the hydraulics.


Whilst away in London, I have taken the time to order and take delivery of all of the parts for this weekends activity. I was spending a lot of money (about 460) so I took the time to do a price comparison between VW Heritage, Machine 7, Just Campers and CoolAir VW. Highest to lowest was Just Campers, Machine 7, VW Heritage and CoolAir. In previous post I was a bit annoyed that CoolAir don't have stock, but money talks and I ordered all the parts on Monday and picked them up this lunch time. OK I have to add a bit of petrol cost on and the cost of 4 for the Dartford Bridge Toll, but this is handy and I get the chance to double check all the order before I leave their site. This was good as I had missed off one part of the order when ordering online.
Another place that's quite handy for me in London is GSF Car Parts in Thurrock. I noticed that they had new brake calipers for 91 a pair. I didn't fancy refurbishing the old ones and they also came with new pads included. I picked these up as well and besides the front shocks and wheel nuts I should have all the parts for the front end and most of the bits for the rear of the chassis.
One additional piece of good news is that I got a text that my pedal assembly has been delivered to my neighbour. I should be able to have a first look at this at the weekend.
Whilst talking to one of my work colleagues I got a good contact for a person that can make me a fuel tank in either stainless or aluminium. As luck would have it it's on the A12 which is on the way to my partners. It's handy working at a car company as every other one of your work colleagues is a car nut and there is always someone who can give you some advice. We have enthusiasts for Ford, Porsche, TVR, Lotus, MG, Fiat and of course at least 4 aircooled nuts!


Lots of activity to report today. Last night I began reassembling the front suspension. I made good progress and managed to fit all the ball joints, trailing arms and steering knuckles. I had a bit of a game with one as the taper refused to hold whilst I tightened up the nyloc nut. After about an hour I managed to get it done.
This morning Prof. Originale came up from cockney land to help out and we buttoned up the front assembly. Unfortunately the wheel bearing I was supplied with were wrong for the disc brake setup. Luckily the inner one I had taken off the drum setup looked new, so I used this combined with a new outer bearing.

Next job was to disassemble the rear and wirebrush the remainder of the chassis. This is all in good condition and with the help of the Prof. it didn't take too much time. I still need to hand scrape some of the corners, but hopefully this will get done tomorrow. I also noticed that the rear torsion arms had been assembled incorrectly, the right one had much less tension than the left. If this had remained, the Brubaker would have been "Slammed" only on the right!

After this work we decided to have a look at the alloy wheels and give one a thorough clean. We used a rotary wire brush very carefully to remove what looked like concrete powder and any white oxide that had formed. We then used 600 grit sandpaper to smooth over the rest of the wheel. I am not looking for a real shiny finish, just a "clean but used" look.

The wheel on the right has been cleaned. It still needs some more work and maybe a coat of laquer, but this look is a nice satin which will suit the rest of the build. A faded patina if you will. We noticed that the front wheels have slotted holes and have strange oval blocks in the rear. One of these is missing and so I removed them and asked about on the net for some more details.

I got several responses from the "Brubaker Box Fans" on facebook and my wheels are apparently "Ansel Sprint 2" and quite old and rare. This part is unique to them and is a Uni Lug setup so many different wheel PCDs can be used with the same wheel. I have been told I can remove them and make up some sleeves to centre the wheel on the hub. I may do this and also turn up a cylindrical spacer for the centre hole so it locates snugly on a register on the hub. This way the wheel will be perfectly centralised and bolt up square. In any case I will be using M14 bolts and so these lugs need modifying. Ill work on a solution over the next few weeks. Oh I almost forgot,  the pedal cluster arrived and this looks just the job for the Brubaker. More on that in the next few posts.


I had a few hours free today, so completed the painting of the rear chassis legs. I am really enjoying using the Tractol paint as it makes things much easier. Whilst allowing the paint to dry I mocked up the front steering arms and found that the two sets I had were of different lengths. It appears that left and right hand drive track rods are not the same length and just swapped as I had expected. In addition some of the taper diameters are different so I will have to purchase 3 new links. I stripped out all the parts and put them in the boot of my car, this way I can take them to the shop and double check I have the right parts. I was again pleased that the threads separated easily. I am getting to like working on vehicles that come from the USA. The lack of salt and in some states milder climate means all the parts are not corroded together like here in the UK.
I removed all the gearbox mounts as these are another part where there are subtle differences between years. These also went in the boot so I can get the new parts during the week in London as did the rear torsion bushes. I will try to get urethane ones if available.


I'm in London with work, so it again is a good time to get the parts for the weekend. Another trip over to Cool Air and I returned with a few bags of parts. I double checked all the tie rod ends and I now have a complete set ready for assembly. To complete the front end I have also bought some new front dampers and fittings. I wanted to fit a few urethane parts in black, but this is not a common colour and as usual I couldn't get everything I wanted and had to settle for red. I now have a steering coupling and also the correct size torsion grommets (Trailing arm / torsion beam bushes) and some nice gearbox mounts. This was another case of double checking. According to the manuals, 45mm diameter outer bushes usually have 45mm diameter inner bushes....not on my car, the inners are 48mm diameter. It's good to take the parts with you and check them at the shop to avoid flustration at the weekend. The chap behind the counter also gave me the wrong bushes at first, so this could be put right immediately, something that wouldn't have been possible using mail order. A further purchase was a body to floorpan gasket. I am going to assemble this dry to the chassis. VW used twist nails and no silicone. I will modify this a little and use stainless self tapping screws. This will be neat and easily removable should the need arise. Having the gasket in place when I trial fit the body is important so I get the height just right when I design the pedal mounting.
In between all this work I am still helping Prof. Originale with his bus after work. He doesn't like electrics, so I had the task of rewiring the front side lights to European specification. The relays are proving troublesome and there is a wiring error somewhere. I'll have to have another go tomorrow night after some research on the net.


Not much assembled today, but very productive none the less. I had a days holiday today and so decided to get all the mundane work out of the way for a nice easy day tomorrow. I spent most of the day wire brushing and painting yet again. At least its nearly over on the chassis and I can get on with more interesting stuff. torsion arms and gearbox mount will be needed tomorrow.

The biggest job today was to clean and paint the gearbox. I hope its a good one and I won't know this until I get the Brubaker up and running. I did remove the nose cone to fit the front mount and internally it looked quite good. This took quite a time as my wire brush was too aggressive for the soft casing so I had to do it all by hand. The original boots look good so I wont replace these. I'll also stick with the old wheel bearings.

Today I also took delivery of a new jack. It actually has quite a poor design and relies on 4 welds to support all the weight of lifted item. It looks Ok though for what I want, but I may take it apart and beef it up a bit! I bought it to help fit and remove engines as I always struggle on my own. This should make things much easier. I might give it a trial run with my gearbox tomorrow! It might also be nice when I just want to lift the front or rear of a car. It lifts 680 Kg so should do this easily.

Other good news is I have recieved some M14 x 1.5 set screws which look just the job for fastening on the front wheels.

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