Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mantling and Re-assembly: 1969 Karmann Ghia engine overhaul, part 3

Part of the fun of new experiences is that they can turn out quite differently from what you might have expected. When I posted Part 2 of this series, I thought I was going to take the cylinder heads and the crankcase from my Ghia to a local machine shop: The cylinder heads for a valve job, the crankcase to be examined for cylinder/piston wear. To make a short story shorter, that's not exactly what happened.

Remember I said that when I took off the clutch plate, I discovered the flywheel was loose? Well, it's not supposed to be loose, not even a little bit. The flywheel is attached to one end of the crankshaft, which is, you know, what makes your car go. What I found out was that, because the flywheel had been loose (and presumably getting steadily looser over time), the bearing that the crankshaft end goes through was no longer round. There was too much "play" because of the loose flywheel, beating up on the bearing to where it was, even to my untrained eye, slightly oval. At that point I wasn't surprised when the mechanic told me that the crankshaft itself, and the crankcase, were "probably toast". (I think he was trying to be diplomatic.)

So I asked him what my options were. The upshot was that he thought my best bet would be to shop for a good used engine. What would that cost? Well, he said, you could easily spend $1000 or more. He gave me a few tips on what to look for, and I sadly packed up my cylinder heads and went home.

Shopping was discouraging. The only used motors I could find that were a close enough match for my car were located out of state. Many were priced at over $2000. I put my own ad on Craigslist, saying I was looking for a motor for my Ghia.

The next day I was contacted my someone in Lake Stevens (not close but north of Seattle, not all that far away) who had a Volkswagen shop. He sold me a nice rebuilt longblock (the guts of the engine: crankcase, cylinders/pistons, heads and valves) for $400. The rest of the parts, distributor, carburetor, fan housing etc. from my old engine were still in good shape, so all I had to do was put it all back together.

New longblock with new crank pulley (center bottom) and oil cooler in place.

First I installed a new crank pulley. It's definitely an improvement on the old one, as this one has degree markings all the way around. When you adjust the valves or set the ignition timing, the engine is rotated half a turn at a time, so the marks make it easy to do this accurately. It is also made of aircraft-grade aluminum, which won't rust like the old steel one. This is better because a rusty pulley can eventually do bad things to your fan belt.

 Crank pulley showing timing marks.

Next I installed the generator, fuel pump, and generator stand. Then the heat exchangers. Piece by piece the engine shrouding went in. I had bought a new muffler as the old one had at least one noticeable rust hole. After the muffler came the intake manifold, with carburetor attached. Finally, the fan housing and generator slid into place over the oil cooler.

Re-assembled engine, just about ready to go back in!

Now all I need to do is install the fan belt (easier to do with the engine out of the car), double-check that spark plugs and all fasteners are tightened, hook up the new spark plug wires, and I'll be ready to put the engine back in the car. 

 The empty engine compartment.

New clutch throwout bearing in place; the doughnut-shaped thing in the middle.

The last thing I did was to replace the clutch throwout bearing (see photo above). I didn't even know (blush) that the clutch lived right at the junction of the engine and the transmission. Since I had the opportunity, I had replaced the clutch plate, which lives between the clutch pressure plate and the flywheel. 
Back of re-assembled engine: The round thing in the middle is the clutch pressure plate.

I've been pretty busy with other projects lately, like my first book, which is going to be published very soon now. So I have been taking my time with this project, sometimes not doing a thing on it while waiting for a new part to arrive. Still, I'm pleasantly surprised at how relatively quickly I took the thing apart and got it back together. In my next post, I'll list the time I spent, what I spent on parts, and hopefully, have some photos of my little car all put back together!


  1. Some times it becomes very difficult to detect the problem then it becomes very important that you should dismantle the equipment and replace the defective part and then reassemble it.

    Henry Jordan

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  2. Nice photos! Any news on your Ghia reassembly?