The time has come, the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of oil — and heat — and sealed-off space —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why your cooler's where it is —
And whether pigs have wings.
Well, it's spring in the central valley and time for my annual rant about where VS used to mount their oil coolers. I don't know if the new, improved operation in Hawaiian Gardens is still doing this, but I hope not.
Some VS owners with 1915 motors, both with the external oil cooler and without, have had no problems with overheating. But many of us have had problems very similar to what you're seeing, Kevin.
Everything's cool until we get stuck in traffic on a 90-degree day (which is pretty much every summer day here in California's central valley).
The problem is often where VS chose to mount their external oil cooler. It's in that tight space up above the transaxle - basically a box that's closed off on the top and the sides. From an engineering perspective, it's just about the worst place for a cooler that's designed to work by passing cool air over its coils.
There's very little air flow in that space, and the cooler just keeps getting hotter and hotter, until it's probably not doing much cooling at all.
But wait, there's more!
One of the few places all the hot air that builds up around the cooler has to go is through that 8" cutout in the firewall that's open to the engine compartment - right in front of the engine's cooling fan. So once things start getting nice and toasty around the cooler, this arrangement ends up pre-heating the air that the engine is using to cool the cylinder heads. What's wrong with this picture?
For centuries, philosophers have debated why VS put the cooler where they did, but so far, none of them has come up with a good reason.
My own theory is that it's the easiest place to mount a bulky thing like an oil cooler and fan while you're building the car and before the engine and transaxle have been installed. Once the tranny's in and the build is done and the hapless owner has sent in his final check, it's a royal pain to access.
So, what's a VS owner with perpetual cooling issues to do?
Well, what many of us have done is move the cooler to someplace where it gets good airflow and the heated air doesn't do any harm - like the driver side rear wheel well.
This isn't something you can do in 15 minutes with a screw driver and a Snickers Bar. It's best left to someone who has done it before. There are mounting brackets to fabricate, oil lines to make up, and care must be taken to protect the cooler from road debris kicked up by the wheel.
But I've never heard of anyone who moved the cooler having any more cooling issues.
And one more thing - if you're bothering to do this at all, you may want to consider upgrading to a better cooler at the same time, although the simple and cheap cooler that VS used is probably up to the job.
It just needs a better home.