Ownership Verified: It's Weird Under-Appreciated Aircooled Time! 1971 Volkswagen 411

ninjacoco

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It has come to my attention that my Volkswagen 411 doesn't have a thread yet. It's a good car! Eventually! Sometime when I can make it stop overheating, it will be a good car!

A 24 Hours of Lemons team offered me their Volkswagen 411 for free if I wanted it, and you bet your sweet hindquarters I did. It's the holy trifecta of Stef wants:
  1. Aircooled engine shared with a Porsche 914 (sorta, the 914 had some upgrades—but 914 advice is what's kept mine going, so cool)
  2. Engine in the trunk WHERE IT BELONGS
  3. Weird Volkswagen product you've probably never heard of

Not many people bought the Type 4 when it was new here, but it was Volkswagen's last stab at aircooled, rear-engined glory and the largest, most advanced aircooled car VW ever made. It's PERFECT.

A quick rundown of its history, because race car:

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The car first appeared on Jalopnik way before I got it, in Murilee Martin's Down on the Street series. It was a neighbor's car, and he misidentified it as a 1972 when the title says 1971. Whatever, it has internet history: https://jalopnik.com/1972-volkswagen-411-sedan-5517573

Murilee, of course, is Judge Phil to the Lemons racing set nowadays. So, a Lemons team bought that exact car and turned it into a race car. I drove it at its first race, flying out sight unseen only to discover it had no cooling tins at all, and we were running it at roasty Buttonwillow. The car overheated and was slow as hell, but was weird enough and turned enough achingly sluggish laps to earn us Index of Effluency: https://jalopnik.com/im-racing-a-volkswagen-411-and-towing-it-home-in-the-ul-1819018242

I drank out of my shoe in celebration. It was DELICIOUS: https://jalopnik.com/i-now-know-what-winning-tastes-like-because-i-drank-out-1819076998

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I towed it home in a then-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas press loaner. Not a bad tow-pig for a relatively lightweight older Volkswagen: https://jalopnik.com/the-2018-volkswagen-atlas-towed-my-classic-vw-race-car-1825590448

The 411 was pretty broken when I got it: https://jalopnik.com/everything-wrong-with-my-free-race-car-1819153463
I mean, melty piston broken: https://jalopnik.com/heres-what-happened-inside-my-badly-overheating-volkswa-1819961495

We attempted to race it at MSR-Houston shortly after I got it back in Texas, but it just wasn't ready and sorted in time. I had the cooling tins back on, but it didn't help enough. Still overheated. I think the carb ran lean, and it appears as though the timing was a bit off. We finished one lap under the Buttonwillow lap count and won I Got Screwed. I drank out of my shoe anyway. It was DELICIOUS.

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It also annihilated all of my clothes and I hate laundry: https://jalopnik.com/my-stupid-volkswagen-annihilated-my-clothes-and-i-hate-1821030349

Currently, it runs again! But it still runs hot, and needs a lot of cleaning up. Bees keep building nests in it, too. But all my cars technically run, and did I mention that I love having a weirdo aircooled that few other people seem to recognize? Hell yeah. https://oppositelock.kinja.com/all-my-cars-actually-run-right-now-suckaaaaaaaas-1834932047
 

ninjacoco

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Fancy People's Car update: I have rear windows in it again!


83456184_10219368650518256_1441563527604076544_o.jpg


The mechanism was getting hung up at the top, so I couldn't slide glass in and out. Slightly more difficult than expected. I'm deeply surprised at how good of a shape the rear door cards were in when we popped them out, though. Hardly any of the usual water lines. Looked almost new all over. I got them to clean up super well before Lysol wipes became somewhat of a premium item, heh.
 

ninjacoco

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Heh, they came off of one of Thomas' old cars, but the FG works here.
 

Perc

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Ah yes, the last attempt by stubborn VW execs to try to convince the world that RR aircooled is the way forward. I love it.
 

Perc

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Don't forget this, introduced in 1979:

Ah yes, of course. But I guess commercial vehicles at the time weren't as technologically advanced as passenger cars.

Also, they had to scramble and make it watercooled because of emissions regulations. This is an early aircooled one since it doesn't have the lower plastic grille. Also also, I was told that a glow plug job on the 1.6D isn't something you want to do. Ever. 😅
 

ninjacoco

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New engine, who dis?

It's been a while since I've done a 411 update. LET'S GET IT.


I decided that this year is the Year of My Garbage Son. The 411 earned a name now: The Dreaded Laramie.

Another Lemons team just had a 1.8-liter 914 engine sitting around. It'd been sitting around for 10 or so years, so they offered it to me a long time ago, after even the rebuilt version of this engine turned out to be hot garbage. The Lemons Shipping Service (a.k.a. the system of "Can you grab this while you're there?") got it to Florida, but that's as far as it'd gotten. Florida Man and a friend of his that knows aircooleds looked it over and said, yep, it's fine.

I hadn't had a real goal in mind with the car until they announced the Gambler 500 Mexico down in Big Bend/optionally Mexico. Oh, and there's a Lemons Rally two weekends before it? Then it was ON. Shipped the engine to Texas, rebuilt the crappy Holley 5200 on top of it, made sure the flex plate wasn't going to flop into the engine case anymore (oops), then attempted to SEND IT on the Lemons Rally.


At least we were properly warning traffic behind us with a slow triangle:

It still ran hot, couldn't cope with hills or sustaining full-throttle at all, and after a series of dumb fixes in an attempt to get out of Austin, it made it to a Love's in Sonora, TX, with me driving to the temp gauge. From there, it got a tow to the evening's meeting spot in Alpine, TX (at 6ish in the morning—I was a bit late, but at least found another person on the rally to convoy with), and then rolled into Sanderson after losing any ability to shift out of first gear. Cruising around north of Big Bend at 30 mph is the life, though, man. It's a Volkswagen! It belongs in the desert! This thing is fun just being loud and slow as hell.

https://www.instagram.com/p/COaBZ0nFuGF/ (yes, that's a real cow bone on the shifter of my hella boned car)

The transmission was toast and leaking like a sieve, and I think I figured out the reason: Somewhere along the way, we forgot to remove the blue tape that was covering the hole for the input shaft while the engine was out, and WELP. We kept finding bits and pieces of tape and metal chunks all over as we drained the fluid. Also, it was super runny, like the seal also failed between the diff oil and the transmission fluid—a common failure, but also one way to essentially wash out something that needs oil with a fancy automotive-grade detergent. GOOD JOB.

https://www.instagram.com/p/COrhsrvFRBR/

One 16-hour round trip to retrieve the car later...we swap in the spare gearbox that was just sitting in the passenger seat for years (I think it's out of a Karmann-Ghia, but it's the same crappy three-speed automatic). Swapped in new fluid, and it's ran like a dream. Er, not a dream. It's still a slow, crappy, three-speed Volkswagen automatic. We also rejetted the carbs in hopes that that would help. We can't keep the damn thing from running rich, still.


It finally passed inspection, though! Apparently every inspection guy in north Austin takes off whenever, shows up to work late and leaves hella early. I finally ended up eating part of my work day to take it to a dedicated inspection-and-lube place after running into about six other places that were open after work but whose inspection guy was MIA, ugh. They just sorta waved it on through, ha. The tough part was getting it through the idiots at the tax office. First off, I was told it'd be butt-expensive to get it registered, period, without getting an appraisal done. My free car (free for a reason!) was being valued for THOUSANDS more than it was worth—like one in running condition—so I was told that all I'd need would be for a dealership to certify its actual value for them to tax my free car like, well, the free rolling, leaking shell that it was when I got it. My other papers were fine, and I should be OK.

Woe is me for expecting anyone at the Travis County Tax Office to give me a straight, consistent answer. So, I got my inspection done, got it appraised and headed back with all the paperwork, including the maintenance records I found in the door (!) that showed it exceeded the limits of its five-digit odometer in 2002. There was no odometer when I got it because race car, and also because it wouldn't even be accurate, anyway. This is why the previous owner in California didn't sign the line certifying the mileage of the car on the title when he signed everything else over to me: he ticked the box for "not actual miles" instead, which didn't require a signature.

Well, this time—with all the right paperwork—the idiots in the tax office push back on it, saying that I had to have this line signed. That wasn't what I was told, that wasn't what the previous owner knew from many other transactions involving California titles, and it was flat-out wrong. So, I ask for their supervisor. That person was also wrong, and told me I needed the damn mileage line signed. They then roped in their supervisor. That supervisor was also wrong. By this point, I'm beyond livid about someone either lying to me earlier (false) or THREE LEVELS OF IDIOTS BEING WRONG (correct!). This godforsaken office takes up hours of my time every time I have to deal with it. Appointments were booked weeks out as they were limiting capacity for COVID, and then you still have to wait in a stupid line outside just to get in. That wait was an extra hour after getting there on time for my actual appointment. I was getting this car registered today or else.

So, I get told I can try to do a bonded title and that I could cut in line if I could pull it off, but by now it was getting super close to the end of the day and I'd have to get a form from the DMV across town. So, I finally get to talk to someone about this problem, and they ask why I'm trying to get a bonded title—typically what you have to do with a lost title—when I have a title signed over into my name on hand. I explain the situation, break down in tears over the whole ordeal (I was lied to by someone and I've now wasted multiple hours of my life on this over multiple days) and SWEET VINDICATION: I was right. The first person I spoke with at the tax office gave me good info—three of her coworkers are just absolute morons. That freaking saint at the DMV called the highest-level idiot I dealt with at the tax office, explained the situation, and sent me back over to register my dang car.

I swear, if the tax office fired 99% of its staff, it might actually work better. It's an absolute disaster every time I have to deal with it. Do they want me to form a Montana LLC for the world's cheapest cars to ever be put under a Montana LLC? I'd rather keep my cash here to fund crap that we need, but the fact that our tax office is the deepest circle of hell is a damn good argument to find a loophole to register a car in literally any other place.

BACK TO THE CAR! For the Gambler, I ended up requesting a Tundra to test to tow it there and back given its last escapade out in Big Bend. That was a good call. It still doesn't go great with hills or highway speeds.

We were still messing around with the carbs when it got there...even in the rain. Of course it freakin' rains in the middle of the desert on me, too. Great. But then! It sort of got sorted. Sort of. It'd run. I was still driving to the temp gauge in places (it REALLY hates uphill climbs), and since the base camp in Terlingua alone was about 2,000 feet higher in elevation than Austin, we could not lean it up enough at altitude to keep it from fouling plugs. Hell, we can't even get it lean enough in Austin to keep it from fouling plugs. But running rich doesn't do the overheating/warping damage of running lean, so we sent it. You know what's a damn fine car to fart around in the desert in? The 411.


The highlight of the Gambler 500 was Old Ore Road, a rocky trail that runs north-south through Big Bend National Park. PEAK 411 territory, clearly. A Gambler 500 is all about taking vehicles that probably shouldn't even be on the road and taking them off-road anyway. It rules, and you should do it. Anyway, the 411 did its thing and fouled plugs to the point where we couldn't let it drop in revs as it would stall out, which meant that careful, slow-speed crawling was out. That actually ended up being pretty fun? It's like SPEED OFF-ROADING. It fouled 'em up enough mid-way that we had to wait for the engine to sorta-cool, hop out, and clean off a couple spark plugs with sandstone. I wanted my aircooled desert experience and got it, I guess.


I missed the Mexico sections, but alas, next year, maybe. I have to sort that cursed carb, and by sort, I mean yeet it into the nearest dumpster never to be spoken of again.

It then did a local June Bug Rally that goes around some landmarks around town. The thermocouple for the temp gauge finally went kaput from us fiddling with spark plugs so much (and had been more of a C than a loop since after the Lemons Rally), and was actually breaking the seal around the third-cylinder spark plug it slipped over and letting some soot out. It was running rough at the end of the June Bug Rally and still struggled up hills, so that's a thing. So, I have no idea what the temperature is back there aside from, eh, it's probably fine. Turns out, we were going by a much lower number than we should've been, and a lot of Type 4 folks seemed to think 380 F was normal back there. I still back off around 400, though.


It sucks, and it's perfect. I still think I'd prefer to have a manual transmission in it, and definitely want dual-carbs. Oh, and there's a dead bushing that causes it to wobble at about 45-55 mph. I don't mind it because my speedometer at the moment is Waze on my phone. Also, I probably want to do an actual rebuild of the brake caliper that was sticking and fix the leaky fitting that's now leaking again.

One theory is that maybe it leans out under a lot of revs, like the progressively-opening carb doesn't open up all the way to deliver all the fuel it needs? Either way, I think the best option is to yeet the Holley 5200 straight in the dumpster.

Also, it definitely has "CAMERO" plates since that's what the previous owner had on it in California, and the 411 will always secretly be a camero since no one knows what it is anyway.

Anyway, after 2 Swaps 1 Month, I think it's time for a Lemons Party. The bigger goal is to get it back on track for MSR-Houston in November.


ETA: Verify my crapcan ownership, as a Puffalump around an engine hose should easily beat a note around a gearshift: https://www.instagram.com/p/CNOE_onFwS1/
 
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ninjacoco

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It appears to be aircooled weather? It's doing so much better than usual, and I suspect denser cooler air balancing out the too-rich poop carb helps a lot. It allegedly (I AM INNOCENT! YOU HAVE NO PROOF!) did 77 mph on the freeway, even. I didn't think it'd do that, so I backed off to the speed limit. Also, I had a very strong tailwind.

The fun thing about a 914 engine swap is that you can crash all the mainstream aircooled nerds' events! Tomorrow there's an Oktoberfest-themed Porsche Club car show in the morning and the VW Harvest drive in the evening, followed by the show for the VW Harvest weekend on Sunday, maybe.

Wish my garbage son luck. I refuse to be optimistic because it only ends in disappointment, so also expect a call from me if you're near Austin and have tools and/or a towpig.
 
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ninjacoco

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It's been running so well lately! Well, except Thursday, when it was sputtering around town and eventually ran out of gas.

So, I filled it up and...it was still sputtery. Well, balls. It was less sputtery at full throttle, and getting a bit happier.

We tried messing around with carb jets and such tonight in hopes of me doing a rallycross Saturday and now it doesn't even fire up. What the hell, Volkswagen? We even un-did the changes, and welp. Turns out, the plugs were fouled, plus the plug wire to one just came loose out of the little boot that fits over the plug. Aargh.

So, I'm just gonna send the Lancer, a good car that doesn't have a stupid carb anywhere near it.
 

Dr_Grip

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General rules of carbed vehicle troubleshooting:
1.
ventileeinstellen.gif

This even is an emoji on a German forum I frequent - No matter what's the engine issue, check and re-set valve lash is the first step. In 95% of cases that solves the issue. For the beetle engine, it seems to be 0,15mm on a cold engine.

2. Check ignition. If it's points, check dwell. Check plugs. Check leads. Check timing even.

3. Only if all this is 100%, start fiddling with the carb. Don't fiddle randomly, move the thing back to factory settings and start from there. Random twisting of adjustment screws will lead nowhere.

It's easy to get a carbed engine run well-ish with too little valve lash and a fucked ignition. But it won't last.
 

ninjacoco

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IT RUNS AGAIN!

The friend who keeps it adjusted the timing today and found that we hadn't screwed the distributor back down all the way. WELP. Timing is also back to where it should be, and it's now pulling 20 lbs of vacuum in the system. Apparently that was 7 degrees in the wrong direction before.

This is why we're goofing with it now instead of at the last-minute for some event again. Should check valve lash anyway.
 
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