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Our 2011 Land Speed Record Efforts a with Denzel Powered 1959 Karmann Ghia

We are at mid-season now - more racing to come!


We made it to Bonneville for World of Speed, but were effectively rained out - please see the "blog" section below for more details. However, we may be able to make it to the Mojave Mile which starts at the end of the first week of October, 2011.


If you haven't already, we recommend you read the materials about our first year's efforts, found in the "about our machine" links above. In particular, many have reported enjoying the various sections that describe specific parts of the machine and then going through the (photographically illustrated) "blog" section as the narration there gives the back story and carries you through the process. (One reader opined, "Rivetting!!!!! Like a great novel, I couldn't put it down and wish I had been there to help.")

After achieving our goal as first Karmann Ghia to enter The One Club, we are now focused on entering The One Thirty Club!

2011 Achievements:

This year we were effectively rained-out (please see the "blog" section below for details) at Bonneville's World of Speed. If we can manage it, we're going to try our hand at the Mojave Mile in October.

Speed Records

We retained all our claims to "fastest" from 2009 - we added no new records.

Other Achievement

Similarly, we added no new other achievements this year, so far.


During the off season we semi-prepped the vehicle for painting and then didn't get the new paint on.

However, we realized that our problem in '09 was that we didn't have enough power to pull forth gear to where we felt we needed to be.

Our choices were to either rebuild the transaxle with alternative gearing or add power, and we chose latter because re-gearing would require we have custom gears made, and we'd rather know we had done all we were planning to do with the engine first.

"There is no replacement for displacement," so, we decided to take that to the limit. We adapted pistons and cylinders intended for different purposes to our cause, and the pistons and cylinders came from completely different types of engines from what we're doing and from each other! Increasing the displacement can be done by either increasing stroke or increasing bore, or both. We chose to push the bore out as far as it would go.

Recall that the rules say we aren't allowed to relocate the head studs, so that limits things very directly. We bored the case spigots open as far as we dared - remember, we have high-compression, too, and we can't afford a pulled head-stud either! And we then fitted the cylinders to the case:

This work required that the stud-holes through the cylinders be re-drilled - a particularly challenging task. Of course, it also required that the cylinder skirts be cut down to match.

After fitting to the case, we then fitted the pistons - a fairly easy task. Do note in the image below that the piston pretty much fills all the space in the crankcase spigot - there's not much room for a cylinder in there! We don't think anyone will ever get any more bore in one of these under the 36hp Challenge rules.

We actually hired out the boring of the cylinders themselves because a friend of ours has a special tool for that job. However, through a mis-communication, we thought he was going to complete the cylinders for us - we noted the long skirt, but he said he matched our previous cylinders in that regard. So, we installed the cylinders.

We didn't get very far when we accidentally broke a skirt! Note the broken skirt (left) and the cylinder skirt shape we were looking for (right):

Luckily, the break actually happened at precisely the right spot, and we were able to complete the notching of all the cylinders pretty easily - it was just time consuming at a moment we really didn't want to be working on cylinder skirts. (See the "blog" section below.)

At that point, we could finally reassemble the crankcase - here's the bottom end with the new pistons and cylinders installed:

We think it looks pretty good!

While snapping pics, we caught the one below and like it because it shows clearly the inclined angle of the Denzel valves - they are not horizontal as VW and Porsche valves are!


Blog Section

We sent updates on our efforts to the Karmann Ghia Club of North America's email list - that's as close to actual blogging as we got. Still, it may be of interest as it tells our story pretty well. The writer is Richard.

September 9, 2011

Date: Fri, 9 Sep 2011 06:41:31 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Bonneville Salt Flats, getting ready

Hello All,

well, long-time readers - with good memories! - will recall that in 2009 I set the first Karmann Ghia specific Land Speed Record in The 36hp Challenge with a modest standing-start mile speed of 101.16 or so in a 50 year old, 1959 KG Coupe. And, in 2010, I raised that to 105.777, which also turned out to be the fastest time recorded in 2010 as a part of The 36hp Challenge, AND, the world's third fastest speed ever recorded for a 36hp based vehicle of any kind - behind only Ferdinand Porsche's Rome-Berlin race car from 1939, and Peter Muller, in 1949.

Well, I have plans to best even that someday, but this year events appeared to be conspiring against me and I thought I'd miss out... Until yesterday when things changed (!!) and it looks like I'll make it after all.

However, it won't be easy! The engine is in pieces as I was trying to upgrade things (again!), and the car needs a repaint (still!), and the tow-vehicle needs work, the tires are still "on the way", etc, etc, etc. A million things to do, it seems, and I only have a couple of days!

Oh well, can't be worse than 2009 when I worked for a week averaging about 4 hours of sleep per night, then worked an entire long, hard day, then DROVE ALL NIGHT to get there and then raced in the afternoon starting at around 1:30 PM, ending up literally as they closed the race-course at 4PM. Now _that_ was cutting it close - and just about literally impossible! ...This year I expect to only have to do the outrageously difficult!

Well, I'd better get cracking!

Remember, keep the shiny side up, the rubber side down, and your foot in it.


Date: Fri, 9 Sep 2011 18:45:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: [KG] Bonneville Salt Flats, getting ready

Hi Darrel, (All,)

On Fri, 9 Sep 2011, Darrel Florentine wrote:
> Do not relive 09.

Ja got that right!

Similar to '09, though, I had insurance and registration to get out of the way; car MUST be "street legal!" Got the insurance paid today, visited DMV and paid them, but they wouldn't complete the transaction, complaining that some functions may ONLY be done via the internet these days! Imagine the poor soul who has no internet access! ...Anyway, I now have an appointment for Monday morning to complete the reg and think maybe AAA can do it for me over the weekend!

The possible DMV delay for Monday AM has a parallel: The tires. My vendor says the tires just came in, right at quiting time, but they were leaving for the weekend, don't work at all on weekends, and will mount and balance the tires on Monday AM. Rats.

So, if all goes well, I'll be motoring off to Bonneville on Monday by noon or thereabouts...

> Forget about the painting, just get cracking on the
> engine assembly and fine tuning.

Paint, if it happens, is last, BUT, there _may_ be time for it!

Engine: today I _finally_ got the secret ingredients... OK, you know that I've had this engine campaigned for two seasons. The first time it wasn't in tune, and the second it was. I found out I "hit a wall" regarding my gearing - 4th was too tall for the engine. So, rather than change the gearing, I decided to go for more HP.... To do this, I needed to change out some of the parts. I did some design work, figured out how to make the new parts, did some of the work, and in the interests of time I had a long time (22 years+) machinist friend of mine help by performing some machining operations I don't have tooling for. ...I got the parts this afternoon!

Now I need to do the final machine work steps making parts that exactly fit the ones my friend just completed. I'll gladly work long into the night tonight if it requires it, but expect to have all the parts completed by 9PM or so - maybe earlier. From there, assembly is pretty easy. I figure I can do it in just a couple of hours - it's already been together, all the parts fit, etc, etc, etc. The only thing (I know) I'm missing is case sealant - ran out on the latest engine I just built! So, I figure I'll get some first thing in the AM...

...If I get the engine done in mid-morning as I anticipate, I'll then get the car into the paint booth and give it a quick one. It's already mostly prepped for paint as I wasn't happy with it last year and have already done all the work except shooting it - all I have to do now is clean it from a year of sitting, mask off the interior, and squirt it. It'll be ready in the morning - that'd be Sunday morning.

I'd then spend whatever time doing a tune up on the tow vehicle, doing laundry and packing.

Then Sunday AM, I'll stuff the engine in, fire it up, make sure it runs, but I CANNOT tune it at sea-level - would do no good. The carbs are already all set up for Bonneville - and I'm being careful not to mess with them. ...After the engine goes in is when I do whatever other work I'll be doing. There's a lot I might do, but little _required._ For example, I still haven't got my oil temperature and pressure gauges bolted up in the cockpit - maybe I'll get them installed...

And all the final preparations really happen Sunday.

> Chrome dont get ya home and either
> will fresh paint.

...I don't do chrome - unless it's required. For example, the rules effectively require stock bumpers.

> What is the goal this year?

Hmmm... Two years ago I really did all the math, and calculated a range based upon various uncertanties in both HP and CD. I then updated it a year ago after I had done some engine dyno tuning in Salt Lake City - near the same altitude as Bonneville. Those numbers suggested that the low-end number I should reach - power to drag - would be 112 MPH, and the high-end is around 118. But that was before I knew that my 4th gear was too tall.

It's also worth considering that I am increasing the HP of the engine as my strategy for improvement, rather than alter gearing, and I've conservatively added over 20%. So, given a 105.777 number, adding 5% (power law) would mean that 112 should be in very easy reach. Then, there's the improvement that comes from having more HP regarding one's gear choices and the ability to "pull" a gear, which will clearly also be increased. So, I think that unless I have a mechanical failure - which would probably be VERY expensive at this point - top speed depends on the dynamic of just how well the new HP fits the existing 4th gear, and since I won't have time for dyno tuning at altitude, I won't know until I run it. The very first run with this engine build will likely tell the story, all in one go.... Hmmm... We COULD see something over 120 - and if I'm really lucky, and it matches up well with the gearing, we might be looking at the first 36hp Challenger to enter the 130 Club!

But, if not in the 130 Club this year, next year then! -wink!-

(Note, the 130 Club hosts our events at Bonneville and is a sub-set of the USFRA organization - if you go over 139, you're OUT! (How nice that must be! Imagine, first 36HP Challenger thrown out of the 130 club for going too fast! ...Well, a guy can dream, can't he?)

> Good Luck Richard and
> keep us informed...enquiring minds want to know.

Thank you for your interest, enthusiasm and encouragement!



On Fri, 9 Sep 2011, pmelvin c wrote:
Subject: Re: [KG] Bonneville Salt Flats, getting ready

> Richard
> Don't forget Justin & Coulton McCalster they will be there as well and
> I'm sure they will lend a hand if you need them as before.

Yes, and I will be there to lend them a hand too, as before - and, that reminds me; Coulton owes me some supplies! ...And giving credit where it is due, I'm especially thankful for the help of Eric Allred in '09...

Right now I'm mindful of my own biggest challenge with time: I'm somehow just about unable to do work that isn't _clean._ So, I spend so much time cleaning things that it keeps me from getting other work accomplished! As a perfect example, this evening; here it is 11PM and I have _not_ gotten the pieces modified as required. All I've really done is get _ready_ for that job! -smile- It also happens that my friend didn't do the whole job, only that part that he knew I didn't have the tooling for, so I have more work ahead of me than I had thought! ...I'm going to knock off for the evening now and get up early and do the machine work - everything will be clean and I'm less likely to make a mistake when I'm well rested...

> Good Luck

Thank you.

> I'd come out BUT I'm now 2468 miles further away. Flat
> dragging the Ghia that far was killing me BUT... Had to do it SUCKS

Flat towing is the very best way (most of the time) short of driving it. (Many people incorrectly think that trailering is better, but the fundamental chance of trouble works out about the same, but when something goes wrong with a trailered situation, it usually goes far worse than when towed flat - at least from the anecdotal data I've collected thus far.)


> Paul Cannefax
> Palm Bay Fl.

September 10, 2011

Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2011 16:47:55 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Bonneville Bound Progress . . .

Hello All,

... I spent all my time cleaning the disassembled engine last night and then spent time disassembling some things one usually doesn't disassemble, so I could do some machine work. But I didn't start the machine work as it approached midnight.

This AM, I cleaned off my milling machine from former work, vacuumed up all the old chips, etc, so I could reconfigure the table, and then took a detour to the FLAPS (Friendly Local Auto Parts Store) to get some case sealant. When I got back, at about 8:30 AM or so, I mounted up the first part to be machined, indexed the milling head to the table and started machining the first steps.

I just finished the main machine work steps a few minutes ago - make that just a little short of 8 hours! I would have figured three should have been enough. It turned out that some of the parts weren't as well made as I'd have liked and I had extra work I had not anticipated. Also, there was a mis-communication with my machinist friend and he made the parts differently than I'd wanted, and I'm not happy because it puts the engine at increased risk of failure. ...I've decided to forge ahead and trust to luck! It's either that or not go, but risking a Denzel engine doesn't sit too well with me.

Continuing on, I now have to do some work in clearancing the sheet metal - "cooling tin" - and that'll probably also take way longer than I anticipate, so I'm simply not going to estimate the work!
...Slow, steady progress. I'll get it done...



Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2011 18:38:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: [KG] Bonneville Bound Progress . . .

Me again...

...OK, I'm being a little coy about what parts I'm changing on the engine. It will probably come out at some point, and I also realize it's too late to help any competitor headed to Bonneville next week - unless there's some fool even more bound and determined to build an engine in zero time! So ... if anyone cares to venture a guess ... Anyone?

Since I last posted, I ran an experiment on which ways were faster at performing a particular cutting operation, and I learned a thing or two. If you're interested in speed, and looks don't matter, and precision isn't required either, then the fiberglass cutoff wheel wins over mill, saw, and grinding. Combine it with some judicious hand-held grinding and you can even make it look pretty good!

So, I'm about half way done with the cutting... Just a bit more, and then I'm on to mess with the tin.

I won't assemble the crankcase until _everything_ else is sorted. . . .

More soon (hopefully!)


Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2011 20:45:34 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Assembly begins!

For those who missed out on it the first time, this is the engine I'm

I've reworked the pages about the LSR - find them here:

* The overall effort:

* First time out, 2009:

* Last year, 2010:

There are pages for each year, but 2010 and 2011 are still "works in
progress" - web page wise!


September 11, 2011

Date: Sun, 11 Sep 2011 14:11:13 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Crankcase assembled

FINALLY on a bit of a roll... Just got the crankcase (bottom end) buttoned up.

What was holding me back was that despite all the cleaning, after I'd begun reassembly, I found a couple of pockets of shavings that were stuck to a somewhat sticky cavety inside the case. So, it had to come apart and get cleaned a bit more thoroughly.

Haste makes waste, they say; I'm trying to be quick but not hasty!

Next up, the Ps and Cs, then the heads...


Date: Sun, 11 Sep 2011 16:55:33 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Uh oh!

Hi All,

well... I'm stopped cold by this one: the new parts are too long! I'll be a small miracle if I can pull this one off.

At least the parts are bigger than required, rather than smaller. The trouble now is that the order in which they're made means that the operation that cut the length has to happen before other operaions because later in the process the part becomes too fragile to hold by ordinary means, and thus fixing this problem is likely to result in failure. In fact, my machinist friend warned me about not attempting anything like

....and of course, he's unavailable today...


I'm debating whether or not I should now switch over and paint the thing!
It would be ready by morning!



Date: Sun, 11 Sep 2011 21:03:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Back underway again!

....Hmmmm..... I thought.

If I wait until Monday, true, the master machinist might be able to save the day, but there's logistics, and I already know he dropped other jobs to get mine out a few days ago. So, he'll be swamped - and it'll be Tuesday at best before I can proceed, most likely. But he caused the problem by missing a key detail - and he'll know it when I point out the problem. Yet, I'm the one responsible to get this done, and how does the Junior Machinist get to become a master except by taking on "impossible" jobs?

So, I forged ahead, despite warnings from the master not to "try anything like [this]."

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

And thinking creatively. And clearly. ...And learn from the past...

And that's when it hit me; I'd seen a solution to this problem in the past. Porsche chose this same crankcase when they decided to pump up the VW engine into a true sports-car engine, there was some detail of their design I'd taken note of. They didn't have any problems with machining the parts, but they solved a particular problem by using a different strategy, and that same strategy would work here - for exactly the same reason(s) - and I could avoid doing the impossible machine work entirely!

So, I tried it.... AND IT WORKED! OK, you knew that from the subject line, didn't you?! -smile-

Perhaps I'll have the top-end finished before I go to bed (better have!), and there's a good chance because I already have two cylinders on!

Hope your tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks was as productive!


Date: Sun, 11 Sep 2011 23:10:37 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Another - this time certain - "hard stop".


Things were going smoothly. I was working "in order" - not that it actually matters - from cylinder 1 through to 4. Installed (pistons and) cylinders 1 and 2 and that went well, so I figured "it's all down hill from here" and that's when I emailed last.

Next, I installed the head for that side (cylinders 1 & 2) and all went well there, too, so, next was cyl 3. Again, no problems! And finally to cylinder 4. I aligned the rings rotationally and slipped the ring compressor on - the way one always does - but it wouldn't compress properly. So, I stopped, removed the ring compressor and pieces of the second compression ring fell out.


OK, these things happen - it was just a flawed part. It's a commodity item. I didn't do anything wrong - wasn't even trying to install the cylinder yet (which is where things usually go wrong, if anything does in fact go wrong).

No worries, just replace the ring! ...But... I haven't got any stock in this size. I do have an engine, fully assembled but not yet run, that has this same ring-set, but that ring is already fitted to the cylinder it's in, and as it's already almost 11PM. It's probably smarter to just wait until tomorrow and get a new ring somewhere, though I'll probably have to order it out of LA or something like that - or spend a few hours hunting for a local vendor and spend the day chasing it down. Most likely I'll either complete the engine tomorrow night or Tuesday morning.

...And so it goes...


P.S. Maybe I'll have a chance to paint the car after all! -wink- RT

September 12, 2011

Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2011 15:43:34 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Got the ring(s), back at the wrench!

Hi Folks,

In the previous installment of this saga, I was stopped cold (last night) when I had a broken ring problem.

This morning I got up early and made it to the tire shop and dropped off the rims for my H rated STREET tires. These will last longer, can be used in regular street service, AND are good to 130 MPH. Note that I am forced to use these truly "high-speed" tires because I've already broken 100 mph - otherwise S rated would have been good enough!

After dropping off the rims, I made it to the DMV and got the registration sticker for my vehicle. I had to make this second visit to the DMV because they have a weird insurance-lapse rule that says they can restrict your registration for THREE DAYS nomatter how much you pay just because you terminated your insurance during a period the car was registered... AND, you _cannot_ pay this fee in person, but ONLY online. Bizarre. So, I paid it, and waited from Friday - and now have the sticker!

THEN I got on the phone and called around to find a supplier for the broken ring. ...I'll spare you all the details and simply say I just a few minutes ago returned to the workshop WITH the rings! They ended up costing me about $145 when you consider the whole circumstance, and I'll end up with "a set on the shelf." -frown- NOT happy about this.

In between looking for the rings and getting them, I picked up the tires - the shop even painted the rims for me! Nice! I had brought my own valve stems and they were otherwise billing me for them, so they decided they'd trade me the paint work. ...I didn't argue...

SO... FINALLY back to the engine.

Another feature of today was that I had a long chat with both Richard Davis and Gerry Young, separately - these guys are the founders of "The Buggy House" (also at one point known as "Buggyhouse Motor Sports") a somewhat famous VW shop (and one of the few remaining) in these parts. They - and Gerry in particular - had good things to say about the engineering that I've been fretting over. (Yesterday I alluded to a concern with my machinist's work giving me a dimension I wasn't comfortable with.) So, in short, Gerry says that if I'm careful and can manage to get it assembled properly, it should work out OK and I shouldn't be overly concerned.


He agrees, though, I should be very concerned not to overheat this engine - it won't suffer it gracefully. And we discussed his ideas for that. For example, he recommends either increasing the main jet size one step (or decreasing the air correction jet one size) as a starting point and then adjusting from there, just to be sure the engine doesn't go too lean.

Enough writing, back to the wrenches!


Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2011 17:05:16 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Bonneville is starting to look like it's NOT a mirage!

Hi Bonneville / KG Enthusiasts,

I just got the second head attached and BOTH heads torqued - so now there's "an engine" to speak of!

From here, the only changes from the past to worry about are a few minor sheet metal tweeks and I'm considering changing back to a stock 16 blade fan - maybe.

I'm NOT planning to paint the machine at this point, so - um... - it'll go faster! Yeah! (Though it won't look as good doing whatever it does. -shrug- ) As was pointed out, this isn't about appearances, though, in a sense, it is in that if you can look good doing what you're doing, so much the better. ...Aw shucks... Nothing to fret over.

This means that I'm just going to complete the engine assembly, stuff it in the vehicle, clean out and reorganize the vehicle for the trip as I'll be using it to hold all the tools and other similar bits, and then get to other practical steps in preparation for the trip - packing, etc.

I will probably only report back a couple of times until I leave, most likely when I have the engine installed AND RUNNING, and when I roll out of here - any other posts will be "bonus posts" for you!

Hope you are enjoying the updates,

September 13, 2011

Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2011 22:24:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: [KG] Bonneville is starting to look like it's NOT a mirage!

On Tue, 13 Sep 2011, Andre T. wrote:

> Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2011 15:59:15 -0700
> From: Andre T. <>
> To: KGCNA's email list. <>
> Subject: Re: [KG] Bonneville is starting to look like it's NOT a mirage!
> Yeah, Richard-- I've been really enjoying this story... it needs pics!
> Good luck to everyone up there this year.
> --Andre T.

Hi Andre, All,

WELL, I WAS WRONG. Yes, you heard me say that!

I was wrong on many counts regarding getting this engine together, mostly related to how long ressembly would take. When I have more time, I'll tell more.

Right now, the engine is installed, the oil system is hooked up, etc, etc, etc, but it's not quite runable yet.

I went to adjust the throttle, and found that the pedal assembly was RUSTED IN PLACE! Oh Gawd. So, I had to perform remedial action on the pedal assembly! &*^%*&%*&%!

Once that was done, I was then annoyed to find I wasn't getting full throttle, either. I'll PROBABLY finish this before completing the rest of the engine, but it's really hard to track the success of adjustment from idle to full throttle without help. Hmmm MAYBE, on the other hand, I'll leave it for last - do it at the salt, even, as there'll be people around to help, you know: "Push the pedal all the way to the floor and hold it there" - I mean, who doesn't want to do that?! (Or, who doesn't already do that every time they drive their Ghia?!)


Anyway, I still have to mount tires, pack, and more, and much as I would love to, I don't think I'll drive out tonight, but will be driving to Bonneville while all the first day activities are happening. Good thing it's a multi-day event! In theory it's a 9 hour drive...

September 14, 2011

Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2011 00:29:19 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Bonneville Racing Begins TODAY, Wednesday...

Hi All,

by the time I "hit send", it'll be September 14th, and the official start of our particular brand of Land Speed Record racing.

...From the Better Late Than Never camp, I'll be missing the start of racing, but I'll be on my way sometime in the mid-morning.

The current Karmann Ghia record holder is waiting patiently for me to sleep, pack and make last-minute preparations. I only have three steps remaining before she's "back on the road":

1) Swap the tires onto the vehicle, and;
2) Find the coil to distributor wire (the "point wire") - or make a new one, and;
3) Adjust the fan belt.

...I'm pretty sure that's it.

I'm just about to eat and am winding down _Tuesday_ and from here my plan is I'm going to sleep, complete these last chores, valve adjust the tow vehicle, pack, bathe, and then leave, in that order! Theory says I should be able to do all that in about 2 hours, experience says 4, so, in other words, I'll be lucky to leave by noon! It's supposed to be a 9 hour drive, so, barring any disasters, I'll be with the group tomorrow (Wednesday) evening...



Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2011 14:51:10 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Bonniville Bound - Update

Hi All,

What A Day...

Last night I got the throttle adjusted - my neighbor came by to help - and I'm glad I got it behind me because being at Bonneville can be very distracting and it's difficult to do good work out there with all the stressful conditions - and blinding whiteness.

So I felt especially good about it, but this morning I ran into issue after issue after issue... Right off the bat, there was trouble: broken lug bolt. Damn.

Then, the engine wouldn't start. This one consumed HOURS. There's no point in going to the salt if the engine won't run! I chased my tail for a while on this, because I got the wrong idea. The initial symptom was that it simply turned slowly and would try to fire now and then but not enough to start. I figured it was just turning too slowly. But why? Turning it by hand was difficult, but not insanely so - especially regarding the even-higher compression. And turning it backwards was easier. Still, it didn't turn as freely in the forward direction as I had expected either...

Overall, though, I surmised (and only one shop owner, later, rebutted the idea) that the problem was the compression being too high for the lowly 6v starter to cope. So, I tried a 12v battery on it - usually 12v to a 6v starter makes an engine rev like Roadrunner's legs, but in this case it seemed to even turn more slowly ?! OK, so now what?

I talked to several VW shop owners / mechanics and they all said pretty much the same thing, with a few minor varriations - that a new engine usually is stiffer and turns more easily after the initial firing of the engine and this is nothing to worry about but can stress a starter, etc. And, it turns out that there are RARE high torque 6v starters designed for those of us with high compression engines and who refuse to "upgrade" to 12v - they cost around $200 - I wouldn't be eating for a month! - and getting one wouldn't happen for a few days anyway. So, I keept at it.

On the agenda were trying another starter, checking the armature bushing in the transaxle bell housing, cleaning all the wiring bits, among other tasks.

After spending WAY too much time on this, I went back to basics (and NONE of the other mechanics suggested anything like this): Since it would try to fire once in a while on the 6v system with NO changes, I decided to remove the initial advance of the distributor, and went back to a static zero setting even though it "should like" ten degrees or so of initial advance. After only a moment or two, and a judicious pump of the pedal, and it fired right up! Sounds GREAT too!

Ya Hoo!

...OK, now I THINK I'm on my way! BUT, where the heck is that damned HELMIT?! I had kept it IN the vehicle, but it was gone?!?! I hunted and hunted and hunted, and FINALLY found it. ...I suspect I had removed it from the cabin to hunt for rubber parts for a customer's car (as there were a lot of rubber bits in the car, waiting for reassembly after painting, of course!), and once out of the car, it drifted a bit until coming to rest behind something rather like loose snow. Ah, well...

So, PACKING NOW, and on the down-ward end of that already too!

I can hear the salt calling! (It's saying, "I want to rust your car!")


The following begins a summary section assembled from telephone SMS text messages as email wasn't available on the salt

Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2011 20:00:18 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [KG] Bonniville Update and Wrap-up

Leaving Oakland for Bonneville

So... Last I posted, it was already about 3PM on the first day of racing and I was still in California - heck, I was still in Oakland!

After posting, I still had some packing to do - food, clothes, tools, spare parts, etc - and bathe. I practically brought the kitchen sink! And, I finally got on the road when it was still "rush hour". Oh good!

The Adventure Wagon (the lesser known camper sold by VW in 1971) was running well - I'd put Babe's 912 engine in there - and I was making up time as best I could through the traffic. I had a bit of a row with the bridge toll collector as he charged me tripple the usual fee and I was REALLY bent out of shape by it, but forged ahead. When I came down the hill into the central valley I was making time through the evening traffic and suddenly - "bubble-gum lights!" Yup, I got pulled over.

The officer claimed he had me for FOUR moving violations, including about 85 miles per hour. But he decided not to charge me with anything except towing in lane number 2 which, according to him, I was not permitted to do. He indicated he wasn't going to charge me with speeding because it might get laughed out of court!

So, onward I drove. And drove.

In Reno, I passed Dick Beith and his "special" - a kind of shaved Beetle. Why he's doing it is anyone's guess. ...Anyway, I passed them, but we met at the next exit as we both stopped for fuel and talked a little. They had a 3 man crew and were going to drive all night. I took this as inspiration that maybe I should too, but I didn't have the extra drivers!

September 15, 2011 - Arrival, problems at tech, getting parts, rain

I left the fuel station before they did and proceeded for a few more hours, but ended up at a rest area at about 1AM. I got up at 3AM and continued and arrived by about 9AM Thursday morning - the "it's only a 9 hour drive" is just flat wrong.

In any event, I drove straight to the tech inspection area as there was nobody else getting teched at the time, and set about getting all the paperwork done.

To my shock and surprise, the right rear tire only had about 8 pounds of air pressure in it and I'm VERY lucky it didn't just pop! But other than that, they were happy with my organization (I had all the paperwork in a binder), and I was almost out of there when a technician leaned into the car and stabbed the brakes.

I was horrified when the man said, "She ain't got any brakes!" "What?!"
"Yup, went straight to the floor."


I leapt into the cockpit. Back in Oakland before hooking it up, I had driven the car all of a few feet, but DID use the brakes, so I knew it had brakes in CA... But, sure enough, the man was right. My heart sank.

Low on funds, and have at home _everything_ I could possibly need, but not _with_me!_ One of the very few areas I didn't prepare for was brakes. Why, I don't know - maybe because at the moment I walked past that box I said to myself that I was already practically bringing a second car! Doah!

The guys then practically gave me permission to, um, do less than the full job, saying pointedly that the fronts do 80% of all braking, and the rears aren't needed, that all they need to see is a firm pedal... I was really surprised!


So, I drove to the pits and set up.

It turned out that the day before only a few people had run. First, there was strong wind and they closed the track for that, and secondly, there was someone on a motorcycle who took a spill and was taken to the hospital, and they closed all the racecourses while the ambulance was away. So, a lot of people had gotten out there in the AM and were returning to the pits as I set up.

Britt pointed out a place for me to pit and after a half hour or so futzing around I got the vehicle up in the air.

There was no brake fluid to speak of in the reservoir. There were no visible points for it to leak. I deposited what brake fluid I had on hand into the reservoir, but it didn't help. And there was still no visible leak.

I milled around talking to people for a while. Ed Fall offered his spare master cylinder, but it turned out to be the wrong type. Someone, I don't know who, left a full pint of brake fluid on the roof of the vehicle, and I was grateful for that. Eventually, I arranged with Coleton (sp?) McAlister to get some parts from the VW business he works for in Ogden, UT, and they'd be brought there by his brother in law, Jake, that evening. YAY! The owner of the business agreed to take back parts I didn't use. Double Yay! So, not knowing what all was going to turn out to be failed, I had him send a new master, brake line set (all the metal lines - the installed ones didn't look too good and may not survive R&R), front wheel cylinders, and the reservoir fill parts (grommet, line and hose).

While waiting, Craig Smith took me into town in his wife Rose's vehicle. We picked up a large bottle of brake fluid, a bolt to seal off a brake line with, and topped up the air cylinder (for tire air). Once we returned, we still didn't know where the leak was, so I installed the bolt in place of the line that goes to the rear, effectively blocking off all the rear system, and then bled the front system. This didn't help, and led to the conclusion that the master cylinder was the problem.

I took the old one out and by that point it was getting late, so I headed back to "the bend in the road" where many VW people were camping. This was where Jake was going to go and so it was where I could get my parts as I anxiously waited! I set up the vehicle to make it relatively quick to install the new master as I really wanted to get onto the salt first thing in the AM.

A fellow named Harold invited me to join his motly crew for dinner and they were great.

Jake didn't arrive until quite a good bit after dark, so I was very disappointed I couldn't do the work then, and get the car ready for the morning. I hung out with Harold and crew until maybe 10PM and then headed for bed.

I was worried about the possibility of rain, so I asked someone who had access to the internet to check for me and they replied via phone txt message. It indicated there was little to worry about during the night.

September 16, 2011 - Installing parts, making tech, getting in two runs, party, rain

Overnight, I was awaken at about 3AM by the sound of raindrops on the camper's roof.

I shot up with a start. ...It continued a bit, so I got up and put all my tools away in the darkness. After I was done doing that, to my great surprise, Coleton walked up and we chatted for some time. He agreed that if it did rain, he'd collect up my few things I'd left on the salt and care for them until next year or whenever, and I very much appreciated that. And we talked of other things, but both went back to bed shortly.

I was awakened again at about 4AM by more sounds of rain on the roof, this time heavier drops, so this time I got into the driver's seat and drove up off of the salt flats and the 1/2 mile or so to The Salt Flat Cafe, where I parked on the asphalt. At about 5:30, it began to rain hard for a while. Looking out, one could see showers all around, but mostly in the distance.

I got up around 7AM and it looked dismal, but there was no standing water visible. I waited.

At about 9:30, I got on the phone and called folks to ask about how the actual racecourse was, as rain can be very isolated on the salt flats. Burlie said the racecourse is still dry but they were not permitting racing at that time. They expected it to "blow over" in a while. They had opened tech. Burlie suggested I install the new master, but I decided to wait as I could still return it if we were rained out. I talked with other people who were out at the racecourse and who had just returned from it to the Salt Flats Cafe and found there were very different opinions on what was going on, etc. So, a little reluctantly, I did indeed install the new master cylinder, and all the metal lines in the front (right, left and reservoir). I then topped up the tires with air and went to the pits.

I found someone at the pits to help me bleed the brakes - they were most kind, and I told them so. They told me that no, they were grateful for a chance to help someone - and that's how it goes out there on the salt; people are really helpful to one another.

While doing this, I had my back to the ground a few times and learned that no, the salt really isn't dry - it soaked through my shirt and pants after laying or sitting on it for a while. This had me very annoyed.

After bleeding the brakes, we put pressure on all the lines and there was still a leak somewhere. Damn!

What I think happened was that the original problem persisted, and is probably the long metal line that runs fore-aft along the tunnel. The master had failed as a secondary problem when it was allowed - due to lack of fluid in the system - to travel the entire length of the cylinder (beyond where it would normally sweep) whereupon it encountered some rust, rough area, or other malady which caused the "cup" to fail. If it had not traveled beyond its normal range, it probably would not have failed.

However, whatever the cause, the brakes worked if you pumped them, but would slowly drop to the floor if you paused even a little. This is NOT good.

However, I braved it anyway, and drove the vehicle to tech. I showed the people there the box for the master cylinder, etc, told them the story of the parts coming from Ogden and even though they noticed the problem - and THREE OF THEM got in the car and checked it with their own feet - they passed the car through tech anyway, without much more of a word than a murmur of the sort, "hmmm, that's a bit low..." I was VERY grateful - and they DO work, you just have to pump a little!

As I was doing the paperwork subsequent to tech, I learned that the pressure altitude was OVER 5800 feet! That's REALLY bad. The higher the pressure altitude, the harder it is for the engines to produce power, so usually the times are much slower.

It was mid afternoon by the time I had it all done and got to the 130 club's racecourse. The line wasn't long. Most people were either done already or were waiting for the next morning for better weather. ...I ran my first run.

It sounded GREAT, and I was up to about 90 (indicated) well before the half-way point - I was SURE I was going to up my record again. But then, when I dropped into fourth gear, "nothing happened!" Nothing as in, no significant (if any) acceleration! Crap!

When I got back to the starting line area, I had a flash of insight: THE THROTTLE LINKAGE!

It turned out I was right, verified by several people: When the pedal was all the way down, the carburetors were barely even 2/3 applied. Damn!

Someone volunteered as an assistant to hold the pedal down while I adjusted, but the adjustment isn't easy to make because the problem was the line from the pedal to the engine, and NOT the up-link on the forward side of the fan shroud, or either of the down-links at either carburetor. This meant that the space to work in was close to zero (about 3"), and experience says it's something you dont' rush. But, my helper was clearly anxious. So, I tried to only adjust the up and down links. It seemed to get full throttle, but it was not even close to a closed throttle for idle!

We tried it.

The engine would not fire. So, interestingly, the group of people at the start line, before I could even respond really, just push-started me! And, as there was no idle, I was forced to an immediate take off!

I hadn't thought about giving the engine time for the fuel to evaporate, so the fuel pumped by the accelerator pumps doing their thing every time I had my helper push the pedal "all the way" was puddled in the top-end of the engine, and so of course, it fuel fouled immediately. And once you are fuel fouled, you're not burning the fuel already in there and MORE fuel keeps coming because the cylinder is still cycling. So... of course, yes, it was a terrible run, though interestingly enough, also came in at around the same number, 92 or thereabouts. Quite a few people reported to me about the cloud of smoke that rose as I started my run. Yuck.

It was by then already late afternoon and the sky had cleared - it was beautiful, really. Things were good - except for the pressure altitude. I confirmed with the track steward that there would be racing the next day and decided to go to the bend-in-the-road and adjust the throttles there. There was time enough, and help enough, and plenty of time for the fuel to evaporate out for the next day, so, that's what I did.

The McAlisters had called for a big party and everyone came, so it seemed, though now that I think of it, there were several who I did notice didn't make it. And the party was right where I was staying with my camper, so I didn't have to go anywhere. And while we were all enjoying it, a rain shower came.

We could all see it coming, so we ate quickly, but eventually we got caught in it. This was a BIG one, in comparison to other rain that had come our way. People went dashing out... It stopped soon enough, though - it only rained perhaps an hour - but that was plenty. Worse, it never really cleared and drizzled a tiny bit off and on through much of the evening.

September 17, 2011 - Wrap Up

I got up around 3 AM and it was clear and drying fast. Perhaps there was a chance...

I got up at 7AM, unhooked the Ghia from the Adventure Wagon and headed out to the end of the road. What I saw on the way wasn't pretty: lots of water.

At the end of the road, the queue was long - a bad sign. A long walk to the end revealed a lake of salt water perhaps 4 to 5 inches deep and I had already decided I wasn't going to drive through it but I was spared any possible claims I was a wimp for not driving through that VW-eating pool of acid by the fact that the racing officials declared an end to this years racing.

So, I hooked up the Ghia and drove home.

...Hope you have enjoyed the story...


World of Speed, 2011, Volkswagen-related results

We headed home. I know we have photos of this, but they seem to be missing from our archive. If we find them, we'll add them here!

Friends of the Challenge

Below are the top speeds achieved by each of the racers at World of Speed. I would like to offer a BIG thanx to all of the racers, crews and VW spectators who ventured to Bonneville to be part of the USFRA's 26th annual World of Speed. And thanx to Hot VW's for sending RK Smith to cover this unique VW event and for The Samba's moderator, John Moxon to come all the way from England to be part of our race.

I would also like to offer a sincere debt of gratitude to Wolfsburg West and Tony Moore for his support of the 36hp Challenge and the $1000.00 contingency award they provided to the fastest Wolfsburg West cylinder head equipped record breaker, Bill Hatfield of Harmony, Indiana.

May the Speed be with you..................


2011 World of Speed VW results:

36hp Challenge

SS36 Bug T33 Juan Cole...............................................75.534 New Record 9/16/11(old record 75.277
T60 Dan Durie(Beaver Geezers)....................................75.277 New Record 9/14/11(old record 73.492
T77 Ralph Dotson.........................................................71.480

DSS36 Bug T20 Bill Hatfield/Wolfsburg West.............108.324 New record 9/15/11(old record 103.056
T54 Gene Dannan/Wolfsburg West................................59.709

SS36 Ghia T777 Bill Smith............................................73.752 New Record 9/15/11(old record 71.314

DSS36 Ghia T67 Craig Smith/Wolfsburg West..............84.442
T143 Richard Troy-Denzel............................................92.808

DSS36 Bus T51 Ronnie Fietelson/Wolfsburg West........68.851 New Record 9/16/11(old record 67.909
T8 Matthew Kenney.....................................................67.909 New Record 9/15/11(base record

36hp"1"Club T11 Larry Mocnick/Cheetle......................75.105

NA36 Bug T903 Tom Bruch/Gaylen Anderson...........126.236*New Record 9/15/11(old record 106.514
* Top 36hp Speed of the meet !

H/FCC 3601 Dick Beith........................................handling run only-no speed

Big Block(40hp & newer engines)-130/150 MPH CLUB

Ghia Coupe T70 Britt Grannis/Geoff Hart...................139.756 Dual Carb 130 Club Member-new
Ghia Coupe T701 Tom Simon/Grannis/Hart...............138.520 Dual Carb 130 Club Member-new
Formula V X150 John Milner....................................134.707 Dual Carb
Bug T363 Justin McAllister/Burlile.............................127.480 Dual Carb
VolksRod T1967 Richard Luna.................................119.207 Dual Carb
Bug T51 Dick Wakefield...........................................118.510 Dual Carb
Bug T4 Scot A Harig.................................................109.051 Turbo 2bbl
Bug T48 Karl Barnett................................................107.777 1600cc SSS (Single 34PICT Carb S/P
Ghia Coupe T15 Larry Gregg....................................107.296 Dual Kadron
Ghia Coupe T65 Greg Silkenson...............................102.630 Dual Carb
Buggy T122 John Dahlstrom.......................................97.171 Dual Carb
Ghia Coupe T711 Warren Grannis/Grannis.................93.180 Dual Carb


Golf R32 X57 Gabe Adams.......................................160.047 Turbo VR6 150 Club Member
Streamliner 1479 Kevin Winder..................................149.182 Turbo 4 Diesel
(new G/DS record 2 way avg 147.909
Golf R32 T59 Chris Adams........................................137.499 Turbo VR6 130 Club Member-new
Golf R32 T57 Andrew Augustain...............................137.036 Turbo VR6 130 Club Member-new
Golf R32 T337 Norma Fergus(Garys mom!)..............134.551 Turbo VR6 130 Club Member-new
Rabbit X8383 John Finn............................................110.906 Turbo 4
Rabbit P.U. 479 Rick Winder....................................103.075 Turbo Diesel
Dasher WagnT6802 Dan Kingery................................91.516 Turbo Diesel-Vegetable Oil Link to USFRA WOS results for 2011-130 Club Photos by Mark Ortiz(Thanx Mark!)

MORE RACES IN 2011-See Below

Sept 24-25 East Coast Timing Association (36hp Challenge). One mile standing start time trial, Maxton AFB, Maxton, NC. All VW racers and spectators welcome. For information visit . For 36hp Challenge guideline information visit

Oct 8-9 The Mojave Mile (36hp Challenge). Mojave, California. This will be their second event for the Southern California/Nevada area. Volkswagen racers welcome. For information, visit . For 36hp Challenge guideline information visit .

Oct 21-23 The TEXAS MILE (36hp Challenge). One mile standing start time trial, Goliad AFB, Goliad, TX. All VW racers and spectators welcome. For information visit . For 36hp Challenge guideline information visit .

Oct 29-30 East Coast Timing Association (36hp Challenge). One mile standing start time trial, Maxton AFB, Maxton, NC. All VW racers and spectators welcome. For information visit . For 36hp Challenge guideline information visit .

QUESTIONS ? Please contact Burly Burlile at or call 435-752 4359 or 435-890 8832 M.S.T..


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