Visit to Transporter Werks

Back in the post World War II era many German companies were struggling to survive the devastation and destruction that had occurred.  One of them was VW, short for Volkswagen, or people’s car.  It had been designed by Dr. Porsche as an affordable car that every German could own in the “new” Germany of the Nazi party. 

It had an air-cooled engine in the rear and would seat four adults in relative comfort.  Its luggage compartment was in the front and its engine would make enough horsepower to move it along while getting very good gas mileage.

Porsche would go on to design the very sporty 356 and then the 911 cars.  These were also rear engine cars that had air-cooled engines.  The 911 grew to a six cylinder that allowed it to reach some very impressive speeds.

Meanwhile VW used what parts were left over to produce what became known as the “Beetle” or “Bug” and introduced it to the US market.  Its design struck a chord with the post war young families.  It also provided gas mileage that would be very attractive to the baby boomers.  While the American car companies produced large, heavy cars that had fuel consumptions that might dip into the single digits, the little VW would fill its gas tank for three dollars and drive for a week or more.

Along with the Beetle VW made other variations such as the sporty Karman Ghia and the VW bus or Transporter.  The VW bus used the same flat four cylinder engine in the rear that initially produced about 34 horsepower.  It was a design where the front cab area hung over past the front wheels and it had side doors and plenty of seats.  Since it was air cooled its heating and defrost system used air warmed by the engine that was carried through ducts all the way to the front.

The original Transporters were produced from 1950 to 1967 and by 1959the engines had grown to 1600cc and produced about 47 HP.  While they were underpowered, they were also very popular, especially with young people getting their first vehicle.  They were cheap to buy, cheap to own, and had a personality that generated miles of smiles.

The design went through changes in the body style and eventually the engines.  In 1983 they migrated tow water cooled boxer engines and in 1985 a 4WD version called the Syncro was offered.

These transporters are still sought after but, as you can imagine, are getting quite long in the tooth.  This means parts and people who know how to fix and restore them have become a small and specialized group.

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We paid a visit to one of these specialist that we had found in Raleigh, NC.

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Tucked in off of West Street, behind a fence, is this treasure of a specialty shop where many generations of the VW transporter are serviced and restored by a crew of dedicated technicians.

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Sean Fraser owns and runs the shop which has grown over the past twenty-plus years, to become a go-to shop for people who care about their VW.  They also spend time on repair and restoration of Porsche cars.  Including the 914.

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Their largest customer base involves the VW transporter in its many generations and variations.

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Shown above are the famous and rare 21 window versions of the Type 2.

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Above is the even more rare version of the Transporter, with this one undergoing a complete restoration.

Being able to repair and restore these VWs requires plenty of parts cars as original VW parts are very hard to come by.

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Here are some shots of some Syncro versions of the Westfalia.

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This one is being completely restored.

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Shops like this are as rare as the vehicles they specialize in.  If you have a version of the VW transporter or just care about them this is one of the few places where you can get the job done right.

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Wild Weekend at VIR

Regular readers know that VIR is my “home track”.  By that I mean that it is close to home and a favorite track to spend time at if not actually drive the course. 

This past weekend (including Friday) was a grand slam of sorts with many races under the auspices of IMSA (International Motor Sports Racing Association).  It included F4, an open-wheeled formula that is used world-wide as a stepping stone to other formula series including Formula 1.

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There was also the Lamborghini Trofeo, a spec series. The Porsche  GT3 cup race.  The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and the WeatherTech Championship.

The WeatherTech Championship cars were GTLM (GT Le Mans professional) that use the same technical regulations as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the GTD (GT Daytona pro-am) cars using the FIA GT3 technical specifications.

There were some notable cars in attendance in the GTLM class:

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The GTD cars were plentiful.

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The Lexus team had two cars that were featured in their garage area.

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Maybe when it is retired it can be my next track day car?  Well, I can dream.

Watching the F4 racers qualifying was very exciting.  These are young drivers that often come from the “go-cart” ranks and drive with abandon.

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Sometimes with too much abandon…

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All for the pleasure of the podium.

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Above is Jordan Sherratt #37

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Above is Austin Kaszuba and his dad.  They are in their second year and have their own web site: https://www.austinkaszubaracing.com/

Next year they are looking to move to F3.

VIR is one of the nicest race tracks in the country.  It has rolling hills and green grass.  Its full course is a challenge and a delight to drive with seventeen corners and over 130 foot elevation change with two long straights and the climbing esses.

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It is a fan friendly track where you don’t need any special passes to wander about the paddock and get close to the teams and support staff.

Key to any racing are the racing tires (tyres).  They are essential to finding the most grip and their construction is key to how the chassis is set up and what the driver can expect as he or she searches for the best line around the track.

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Stacks and stacks of tires…

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And Mr.Tire himself, the Michelin Man.

To keep all those tires filled were hundreds of bottles of…NITROGEN.

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Nitrogen not only to fill tires with a dry and non-volatile gas, but to run essential tools:

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Above is the impact gun used to release and secure the single lug nut that holds on each wheel.

VIR is a fun place to visit and watch races at and the gamut of fans goes from human to furry.

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Many thanks goes out to the corner workers and the safety crews.

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Pottsville’s Magical Car Museum

We spent the night in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, not to check out the Yuengling brewery, but to have a chance to see Jerry’s Classic Cars and Collectables museum.

What a place.  In many ways it was a time machine taking you back to days that are long gone as well as presenting some spectacular classic cars.

As we entered the museum we had several really great classic cars to examine and admire.

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First was this 1951 Studebaker Commander “Land Cruiser”  that looks just fantastic.

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Then there is a Ford Mustang from 1969. A Mach I.

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Next to it is a 1970 VW Beetle.

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Next to that is a Nova.

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An then a Triumph TR3.

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In the next room are more great cars.

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Above is the Desoto. A 1958 Firesweep convertible.

Then a 1964 Plymouth Belvedere next to that.

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Then a 1970 Avanti II.

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In back a 1952 Dodge half ton panel truck.

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Then a 1952 Desoto Firedome 8.

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An Oldsmobile.

A 1952 Chevrolet Pickup truck.

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And more…

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But perhaps the greatest part was all the memorabilia from the fifties and sixties:

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It was a time machine that went on for a second floor.  This was such a treat.

If you find yourself in the Pottsville area please do yourself a favor and drop by Jerry’s Classic Car museum.

 

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2017–Carlisle National Ford Meet

This was my first time at this annual event in Pennsylvania.  I had hoped to attend last year but my schedule was just too full.  So after a drive north in the P71 we entered through gate 3 and onto the fair grounds where this is held. 

Acres of Fords awaited us.

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We parked in a section reserved for factory modified and police cars.  Here were three examples of the 5.0 Mustangs that were used by many of state troopers back in the late 1980’s especially for high speed pursuit.

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There were three examples.  One Georgia state patrol, one Florida, and one from the California Highway Patrol.

We parked the P71 and then explored the fair grounds.  There was a section of cars for sale.

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Then there were the rows and rows of parts and pieces for sale.  The variety was exceptional.

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Looking for those hard-to-find pieces?  Probably they were here.

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How about fiberglass parts for that rusted out Bronco?

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As we walked the field it often appeared to be a Mustang meet.

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But there was much more to see.  Here are some Fords from the 1950’s:

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The EDSEL was well represented…

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Then there was the Mercury Marauder pack…

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There were all forms of Fords and Mercury cars represented.

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We had a fun two days not only to see all the many different Ford cars represented, but we had a chance to talk to the many owners and enthusiasts that were there.  Every brand has its following and the Ford crowd has their national meet in Carlisle, PA!

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Mercedes 190 SL Restoration

As I was growing up a friend of the family bought a Mercedes 190 SL that was bright red and would carve up the country roads of Cape Cod for decades.  Sometimes being driven topless by the owner and sometimes being driven by one of the children.  Over the years it continued to slowly succumb to the elements, the years, and living next to the Atlantic ocean.

The owner would sometimes ask me about how it could be restored and repaired.  I knew it would not be a trivial process and so I would talk about the realities of a full restoration in terms of both time and money.  Key to a meaningful restoration of any car is that it be done by competent and experienced hands.

A couple of month ago the owner notified me that he and his wife had decided to take the plunge and get their original 190 SL fully restored.  They had first searched around New England for a competent business, but were directed to seek out Bruce Adams in Aberdeen, NC.

They took a visit to the facilities and opted to ship their 190 SL to Aberdeen where it was evaluated.  The assessment of the car was shared with them, along with the projected costs and timeline, and after taking a deep breath, they gave the go-ahead to proceed.

Since the shop is about an hour away, we decided to take a day-trip and check out the progress on the car as well as get a tour of the facilities.  We called Bruce Adams ahead of time and he welcomed our visit.  He met us upon our arrival and led us into his shop. 

Bruce has been doing restorations on Mercedes and the 190 SL in particular for well over 40 years.  His shop and staff are basically in the business of completely dismantling and then rebuilding these special cars.

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Each customer car is dismantled and all its parts are kept in its own storage area.

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Not only the unitized body, but every component will be cleaned, rebuilt and refurbished.  Each engine and drivetrain is rebuilt.  Almost all work is done in house with the exception of re-chroming and cooling/heating systems. 

Our friend’s 190 SL will require extensive rebuilding of the unibody frame as well as some of the body panels.

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Some of the replacements are fabricated in the shop and others of the more complex pieces are sourced.  The grey section above was the last piece of its type available and was sourced from Germany.

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The above example shows just how involved a restoration can be.  It is a challenge that Bruce’s staff can handle, but it takes many hours of exceptionally experienced hands to accomplish.

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Every body goes not only goes through complete disassembly, but also media blasting, initial primer coat, and many iterations of careful and complete sanding in order to get it prepared for initial painting.

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Sanding and more sanding to prepare it for the first coats of base color followed by three coats of clear.  Then more sanding and more clear coats.  The end result is paint that looks as if you could dive into it.

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The colors are matched to the factory colors.

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There was a car at the facility that had been restored several years ago and was now up for sale by the owners.  I took a photo of it because it represents how our friends 190 SL will look when it is completed in perhaps another 12 months or so.

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Bruce took us over to another area where the final finish work is done.  Here were examples of 190 SL’s that were in the final phase of completion.

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Care is taken to improve these cars in ways that will not detract from the originality while ensuring that ownership remains trouble free.

An electric fuel pump is wired in to the choke so it is activated to prime the fuel system rather than straining the mechanical pump on initial start up.

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The front anti-roll bar is increased in diameter from 18mm to 25mm.

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The battery looks like a lead-acid style right from the 1960’s, but is actually a modern sealed unit in disguise.  The distributor is converted from points and condenser with advance weights and springs to a unit that looks the same but is all electronic.

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The air filter has a K&N custom element installed that replaces the inefficient original air cleaner element.

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Bruce and all his staff are dedicated to the work they do.  I was introduced to them all and it was clear that every one of them loved their work and the challenges of restoration.  We enjoyed the visit and feel we not only received the tour of our lives, but have made some great new friends.

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More Great Things from PRI 2016

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The crowds are filled with people soaking up all the displays of new racing technology at PRI.  There is just so much to see.

The Cars

Amidst all the equipment and accessories to support racing are the many cars on display.

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Both Ford and Chevy had their sideways cars on display to show off many of the optional components motorsports enthusiasts can modify their cars with.

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On the left is Ford’s underbody air scoop to keep the transmission cool.  You just have to take it off to do oil changes, but what a great solution to keeping your transmission temperatures down.

The Technology

With over 750,000 square feet of display floor space and the crowds of enthusiasts at PRI it takes diligence and persistence to discover all the new supporting technology on display.

With the advent of computer control in motor vehicles a huge industry has sprung up to take advantage of OBD II as well as stand-a-lone tuning and engine management.

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DSC has computerized the control of suspensions with their shock absorber system.

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Randy Pobst was at their booth as well…

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In depth suspension testing and analysis is critical for finding the edge in racing and this company has the tools to get you there.

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Above is a scale model of their test machine.

How about new engine technology?  This prototype V-16 engine puts out over 4,500 horse power. 

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Going fast with lots of power also means being able to count on the best technology in brake performance.  No brand epitomizes that than Brembo.

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On the edge of these rotor are spots of paint that indicate when different temperature thresholds have been reached.  Key information for understanding the parameters a braking system must work under.

Pistons go up and down thousands of times a minute and must be reliably connected to the crankshaft.  Here are some interesting examples of connecting rods on display.

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Spark plugs ignite all that power in gasoline engines and the Champion spark plug company has been providing solutions since the beginning.

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Here is a great example of one of their solutions for those pesky 3-valve Ford V8 engines:

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The design is of a single piece that won’t break apart upon removal like the original plugs tend to do.

Part of getting the most out of your suspension is corner balancing.  That is where you use precision scales to ensure your road racing car handles the same regardless of whether you are taking a left or right hand turn.

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Filtration is of paramount importance if you wish to keep your hard working engine alive.  Fram has been providing oil filtration products for decades.

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Fuel filtration has often been overlooked in its importance, but not by FST Performance.  Their fuel filters go above and beyond what has ever been available to ensure fuel is clean and free from water and other contaminants.

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The filter above is approved for use in NASCAR.

 

There was so much to see at PRI this year that this blog can never give you a complete view, but let me close with some shots of the racing personalities that make motorsports great.

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PRI 2016–Women in Motorsports

I was anxious to go to this seminar for many reasons including a desire to see just how far women have come in their interest in motorsports.  I had read Mad for Speed, the Racing Life of Joan Newton Cuneo, which covered her automobile racing career from 1905 to 1915.  A time period when women were definitely not welcome in the sport of car racing.

Today there are far more women in motorsports with far less obstacles to their participation, but they still are a minority. 

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This seminar featured several women that have found out how to live their dream in the motorsports world.  Lyn St.James, former Indycar driver and the 1992 Indy 500 rookie of the year was there, along with Jessi Combs – a professional driver and well known fabricator and television personality.  Jennifer LaFever, RoushYates engines quality assurance manager, along with Jeanette DesJardins who founded Car Chix and Crank It Media.

Lyn spoke at length about her entrance into racing and how she stayed focused on what she had to accomplish rather than looking for obstacles.  I liked her attitude, realizing that nothing that is important to you is easy to achieve and that there is always a lot of learning along the way.

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Jessi Combs also had an interesting comment saying that it took her a while to realize that she could be what she wanted to be in the motorsports world.  The implication being that she was inhibited by the fact she was a girl and maybe there was no path for her to reach her dreams.  She said that by the time she was seventeen she knew that she had to make her own path and has worked hard ever since to learn what she needed to support her career dreams.

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Jennifer LaFever moved from California to North Carolina and found her spot in the racing industry with Roush Yates.  She studied hard and got the engineering training that opened the door for her.  She is very motivated as well as focused on her career and also understands the sacrifices that that kind of achievement requires.

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Jeanette DesJardins had the foresight to buy the domain Car Chix even though, at the time, she wasn’t sure what she would do with it.  A few years went by before she leveraged the domain and created the premier motorsports organization for women. 

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The attendees of this seminar were very interested in motorsports and were eager to hear the advice of the featured guests. 

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In addition the audience contained other racing personalities.

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The young girl above is Courtney Crone who has been racing motorcycles since she was 4 and has a decade of racing under her belt along with hundreds of wins.

It is not easy for women to get somewhere in racing and motorsports, but then again its never been easy for anyone.  Its nice to see more and more examples for women to follow.

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