Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My First Attempt at a Custom Exhaust!

Remember that Schmidt-like urge to rush things I talked about in the last post? Well, the lack of step-by-step pictures in this post are a direct reflection of that urge.

So, why a custom exhaust? Other than stock, very few quality exhaust systems are available for the 75-78 bus. A complete stock system will run into the high hundreds, low thousands - a lot of money for any vehicle's exhaust, let alone an occasional driver. Other systems that are available include eliminator style exhausts (basically a tin can with the right connections) and header/quiet pack systems like the one I installed last year from BugPack.

The advice that was given to me was to get the cheapest thing possible so you don't mind regularly replacing it.

I was still surprised that already this year the exhaust started getting louder, followed by an obvious seam split and burst on the way home from the Michigan show. Thinking back, the quiet pack tip always had an upwards tilt, allowing rain water to get in the muffler (my spring start-up blew a slick of black carbon soup against the garage wall) so they aren't exactly made to last, let alone the support flange tacked in place right on the seam - what a design flaw!

Granted, as per the original plan, I could have picked up another quiet pack muffler for $70 and bolted it on with the four obligatory bolts. However, I don't want to be doing that every year....

So, with about $100 in parts I set out making this monstrosity which I am actually pretty proud of. The mufflers are universal units off the shelf at The Partsman, basically a jobber shop. They had poster with all the different universal mufflers they can provide, so I found the smallest oval, shortest unit with a sufficient offset of the pipes and 1.5" inlet and outlet. They were $25 each.

The lower centre section is the Bugpack manifold cut and rotated. The rest I made up out of off-the-shelf Canadian Tire bends and a bit of creativity.

My first observations after installing it were mostly positive. It has a very nice, quiet exhaust note at idle and at speed. The cans are hidden away in the recesses under the batter trays so all you really see is the twin tailpipes, so I am very happy with the look.

My negative observation was that I didn't account for the moustache bar engine support and I got a lot of vibration between the pipes and the bar. This week I modified the support brackets I engineered into the flanges and lowered the outboard pipes and cans about 3/4 inch, eliminating the problem. I also added a galvanized flange between the left hand manifolds which bolts up to the cooling shroud to support the left hand heater box - something that is missing in the Bugpack design.

Painting the Westy Top

The biggest project so far this year has been the prep and painting of the Westfalia pop-top on the '76 bus. It was certainly an arduous task, fighting my Schmidt-like urge to rush it. I'm very happy with the results and my resolve to make the right decision every step of the way... For example, Tremclad paint at $30 a gallon, or Interlux Boat paint at $30 a quart? I chose Interlux. Scuff up the old paint or take it right off? I took it right off. Live with the solvent popping after the first coat or wet-sand it smooth? I wet-sanded it. Leave it with two coats or spray on a third? I sprayed a third... You get the drift.

As I mentioned I used Interlux Premium Yacht Enamel and their special thinner for spraying. Old paint was removed with 220 grit sandpaper on my dual action air sander. Detail work was done with 220 and 180 grit by hand. The inside of the luggage rack was sprayed with a paintable rubber undercoating to give it some resilience. Plastic filler and spot putty were also used as needed on the remaining surface. As if the two quarts of paint and filler (total of about $100) wasn't enough, I'm sure I'm into $100 in other miscellaneous hardware, sandpaper, filler, etc. If elbow grease had a price I'd be into much more!

I sprayed the paint (thinned about 5%) with my HVLP gun running at 55 psi with the trigger pulled and a 1.4mm tip. It isn't a true HVLP.

Here are some pictures of the process.

Paint stripped from rack and rubber undercoating visible.
Paint stripped from top, cleaned, masked for spraying.
Me (finally) wearing a proper mask.
The first coat after it dried. Note the far side has been wet sanded. The near side shows the sediment and solvent popping that ruined my day.
More detailed shot of the wet sanding. As a sidenote I eliminated the problem on subsequent coats by 1) properly filtering the paint before it went in the gun, 2) upping the pressure to 55 psi for better atomization, and 3) spraying thinner coats.Here's the finished product after three coats.The finished luggage rack.
Finishing the reinstallation and trimwork.
My overall observations are that the finished product is a night and day difference. I like the results of the paint I chose, but wish it had a faster flash time. 16 hours is a long time to wait between coats...

Monday, May 21, 2007

1966 VW Single Cab Transporter SOLD!!!

Here are some pictures of the rusty splitty single cab we had for sale. Thanks to Frank from NINEAPART for purchasing it, and Kevin at Vision Sign Craft for referring us to Frank!