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Old 07-19-2012, 07:56 AM   #21
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Adjusting the valves or at least checking them every oil change is necessary for longevity of the valves. It is not that hard once you get the hang of it. Changing the oil every 3K is a must. There are only 2.5 quarts of oil and no filter. No use pulling the screen in the bottom. If that clogs up you have major problems. Just pull the center plug and fill her up. You can get an external oil fiter that attaches to the oil pump cover that is not a bad idea. I had a Chinese made oil pump that had the oil filter made onto the pump and that was a nice way to do it but the heat treat on the pump shaft was not good and the end of the shaft wore away. This was one of the times I had to tow the car and the oil pressure gage came in handy.

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Old 07-19-2012, 10:49 AM   #22
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Back to the original question, many states now require brakes on the toad, and they are prudent even if you are not in such a state. Brake Buddy is a widely used product, and will work with the beetle. There are other products that also work, including some that are installed permanently so that they do not have to be removed when the toad is driven by itself and replaced when it is towed.

If you are interested in working on your VW, I highly recommend the book "How to keep your Volkswagen alive" by John Muir, a well-written tome which taught many people not only beetle repair but also general automotive repair principles.

The Beetle is 1960s era automotive technology and has reliability and performance comparable to the other economy cars of the era. If you just want a toad, there are newer cars that are better choices. I'm assuming you have reasons of style or nostalgia that dictate your choice.
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Old 07-19-2012, 10:58 AM   #23
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Ok I looked at this brake buddy thing. It seems like a lot of expense for little benefit with such a small car. The Brake Buddy is worth more than the towed car. If I were full timing pulling a big SUV I could see this being useful but for towing a bug it seems like overkill. It also seems like one more thing to go wrong and to have to deal with calibrate, maintain, and adjust. He will be busy enough just keeping the bug running. I would not consider it unless the braking ability of the tow vehicle is marginal without towing anything.

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Old 07-19-2012, 11:04 AM   #24
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::shrug:: In some states at least it would be required by law.
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Old 07-19-2012, 11:08 AM   #25
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I thought that if you were towing 2000lbs or under that you did not need trailer brakes?

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Old 07-19-2012, 11:09 AM   #26
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It varies from state to state. In Minnesota, it's under 3000, but they go by GVWR not by actual weight. There are a few states that have 1000 pound and 1500 pound limits.
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Old 07-19-2012, 05:32 PM   #27
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I can speak right to the '74 Beetle, as I owned one from new. It was the last year for carbureted engines before they went to fuel injection in '75. It had the dual-port 1600 with exhaust gas recirculation; which frequently was disconnected and left that way if the car got custom exhaust. The transaxle was one of the most reliable that they made, and everything else in the car was really reliable as long as you kept up on your maintenance. They are maintenance-intensive. Yes, do keep your valves adjusted. A little bit of noise is better than a little too tight.

I found that on that year (as I have owned a '68 beetle and a '69 bus) that the heater controls worked better than ever, and it only takes a little squirt of graphite oil to keep everything in the control cable department working right. That goes for heater, defrost, throttle, emergency brake, and clutch cables.

I honestly don't get the "unreliable brakes" comment as I have changed lots of VW brakes. Again, the key is keeping them adjusted - per the maintenance schedules. Now, on my bus though, the darn brakes would fade badly, but that's another discussion...

I got 113,200 miles out of ours before we traded it, and this was without having to do any major work such as rebuilds or even having to pull the heads. The secret was that we ran leaded premium gas in it. Debate elsewhere if you wish as to merits/demerits of running high octane, but <holding right hand in air> that car went that far without major work.

There is a maintenance schedule for the car, and as it was to be my wife's car, I was followed it religiously. I didn't want her to get stranded, if I could ever, ever help it. I was 'the foreign car guy' in our shop, and I heartily endorse the "Idiot" book.

Changing oil on a '74 is simple, and can be done by loosening all six plate nuts and allowing the plate to drop a bit. There is no central drain plug; they wanted you to drop the screen and clean it every time. Seemed ridiculous when you were changing oil every 1000 miles... Repacking front wheel bearings is also easier than some of them. You will need the special Allen wrench for the outside wheel bearing nut.

It should tow fine. I'd get a light bar rather than try to mess with the electricals.
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:08 PM   #28
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Thank you, thank you for all of the great advise and tips! I actually ordered the John Muir book and received it today. I'm sure that I will be looking back at this thread many times and taking all of the advise. Nice to hear some "happy" stories, too, but I do understand where the other folks are coming from, too. Hopefully our "new little addition" will work out well.
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:26 PM   #29
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Steamguy: A hot-running air-cooled engine that has to work relatively hard to do its job is the ideal case for high-octane fuel. It's people who run it in low-compression V8s that almost never generate half their rated horsepower who are wasting money with it.
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Old 07-22-2012, 02:50 AM   #30
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I have owned many beetles over the years and they are fairly reliable for being as crude as they were.
As far as towing, there was a trailer design that consited of rectangular tube (approx 2" x 4") and it was shaped like a "T". The leg of the "T" was the tongue and behind the cross of the "T" was an area for the rear tires to set it. The front side of the cross of the "T" was the ramps. The cross of the "T" was actually the axle with no suspension. All you had to do was back up over the long part of the "T" and once the rear tires went up the ramp and backed over the cross part of the "T" (the axle) the tongue would slam into the bottom of the car (I suggest a rubber pad in this area). You had to pick up the tongue (heavy but not really as bad as you would think) and put it onto the tow vehicle. It would be easy to put surge brakes on a simple trailer like this. The reason it didn't need suspension is because the car's rear suspension strapped to the rear of the trailer. It would also be easy to make one with a rubber torsion suspension but you would have to be careful where the balance point was or you wouldn't be able to lift the tongue up.
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:45 PM   #31
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1979 Argosy 20'
1974 VW Beetle
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Old 07-22-2012, 08:47 PM   #32
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As I'm fighting off a summer cold, und das bier is taking effect, please indulge me a bit of reminiscing.
I've been professionally involved with the service of the “Nazi Boxes”, VW, Porsche, Audi, BMW, for 40 years.
Some have questioned the reliability of VWs in that era. Time has a way of blurring the historical record.
Anyone remember the Bugs contemporaries? Chevy Vega, Ford Pinto, Triumph, MG, Opel, and (IMHO Worst ) Fiat Spyder? These engineering marvels populated VW dealership's used car lots until the late '70s.
OK, I will admit to having a soft spot for the MG Midget.
Remember carburetors, points and plug wires, ring and valve jobs, STP and vacuum operated wipers? Remember when disc brakes were an option? Regular and frequent repairs were the norm for all cars back then.


Steamguy may be kindred spirit. It's possible we could bore you to death about the maintenance required of a 6 cycle external combustion engine and the smell of coal smoke and hot valve oil. His point about oil changes is essential.
The standard oil change interval for the 1600 engines was 3000 miles. Even then they would drop the #3 exhaust valve around 60K. Even with the modified fan shroud for the oil cooler in this engine. #3 still ran hotter. Valve adjustment is necessary every other oil change.
The simplicity of design is the strong point for using an old Bug as a Toad, and surprisingly, parts are still readily available across the country.
I've got a load of old VW stories I could tell you and the good ones have nothing to do with breakdowns on the road.

Have some old Graybeard VW mechanic give it a through once-over. If you can't find one shot me a PM and I'll help you where I can.
Antique car owners don't worry any more about reliability than Vintage Airstream owners worry about soft floors, water leaks and spotty electrical problems. It goes with the territory.
Let's not loose sight of the fact that this car probably is not going to be a daily driver. (If it is we need to have a serious talk).
Being pulled around the country and making 100 mile or so round trips to points of interest will be an ideal use of a Vintage Classic. I'll bet you draw as much attention with the Bug as you will with the vintage Argosy.

So hook the old girl up to the back of the MOHO and enjoy the ride.

Tom
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Old 07-23-2012, 07:29 AM   #33
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The #3 valve overheating problem went away with the dual port 1600 motor that had a dog house oil cooler that did not block air flow to that side of the engine. The older VW engines have an oil cooler that blocked air flow to one side of the engine. I never had overheating problems with mine. It is always a good idea to put a temp gage on the head just in case. An oil pressure gage is a necessity as well.

Perry
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Old 07-23-2012, 09:00 AM   #34
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The Bug is most definitely going to be a toad only. Will be stored in the garage and used as a tow vehicle on RV trips.
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Old 07-23-2012, 09:05 AM   #35
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Don't let it sit too long. Try to put non-ethanol gas in anything that sits and has a carb. Aluminum carbs with brass jets don't like the corrosive nature of ethanol.

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Old 07-23-2012, 09:17 AM   #36
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Tom's points are well taken. I had in those days several 2 cycle Saabs, a Saab 99 (the first one with all its engine problems), a Saab with an English Ford engine, a TR4A, an MGB, the first non-motorcycle Honda Civic, '63 Volvo, a '72 Jeep—it gets painful to remember. The '72 Chevy pickup was the most reliable, but the others were more fun. I learned how to do 4 wheel drifts in the Volvo and the TR was great to drive, but QC was awful (body started rusting through in 3 years). The Saabs were unequaled in snow. Honda's were not great cars in the early '70's (rust also a problem with those plus oil pump housings, coils…). The MGB's exhaust system was so low to the ground a piece of paper on the road could tear it out (slight exaggeration for story telling purposes) and there were unsolvable problems with the oil system. The Jeep ranks with the worst vehicles I ever owned.

They were bad cars by today's standards.

I'm glad to hear the VW's got better than the '50's and '60's models with all their quirks.

The funny thing is I look back at some of those cars with fondness even though at the time they drove me crazy (sort of like an Airstream). We've bought Toyotas since 1999 and they are reliable and dull.

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Old 07-24-2012, 09:29 AM   #37
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Looking back at the cars of my youth (that is, the cars of the 1970s and late 1960s), compared to the cars of today, the differences in longevity, reliability, handling, and fuel economy are stark.

In Minnesota we routinely saw fairly serious rust problems on cars after 5 or 6 winters. On one bug my dad bought new, he replaced the fenders and had the whole thing repainted because of rust, after it was about 5 years old, in an effort to keep it nice. Cars still rust out but it takes 10-15 years now.

During that era the fuel systems and ignition systems were notoriously poor as the automakers struggled to comply with clean air mandates with technology that wasn't really up to the job. The 1974 beetle had a complicated system of spark advance and retard that was iffy at best.

Have fun - enjoy the nostalgia - enjoy the looks. But a Ford escort or something would be more practical.
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Old 07-24-2012, 01:06 PM   #38
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I think what Tom Nugler said in his post hits the nail on the head.

He said: "Antique car owners don't worry any more about reliability than Vintage Airstream owners worry about soft floors, water leaks and spotty electrical problems. It goes with the territory."

An owner of SOB could quite possibly question the practicality of people who own vintage Airstreams.
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Old 07-25-2012, 11:29 AM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
The 1974 beetle had a complicated system of spark advance and retard that was iffy at best.
You must be thinking of a 411 or something else. My beetle distributor was as simple as other years. (although I did work on a certain Asian brand of that era and they were just goofy in the way you're hinting at)

Quote:
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Have fun - enjoy the nostalgia - enjoy the looks. But a Ford escort or something would be more practical.
Don't get an Escort from that era... During those years they were only good for about 60,000 reliable miles.

Really not trying to sound like I'm flaming here... I'm just remembering from the day-to-day work of having my hands in cars of that era.
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Old 07-25-2012, 01:38 PM   #40
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@Steamguy: I think '71-'73 had a weird distributor with 2 kinds of vacuum advance that was expensive and fiddly to tune. Later ones went back to a more normal single vacuum advance, but lots of people loved to put 009 centrifugal-advance carbs on because they were easier to tune (even though they didn't perform as well off the line.)
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