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I’ve heard replicas described as paper-dolls for grown men, and it’s true. 

There is a subset of owners who like the idea of trying this or that and seeing how well they like it. I didn’t start out in this hobby thinking I’d be that guy, but here I am-- serving as a cautionary parable for all that can go sideways when you sacrifice treasure and reason in pursuit of… something.

Because a replica Speedster starts out as a simple device, how it’s festooned and fitted changes the flavor from one thing to the next. Unfortunately, this is one of the things I like (or tell myself I like) about owning my particular plastic fantastic. One can follow the worm-hole down as far as one wishes to go. There is no bottom.

Deciding what I want the car to be has always been the hard part for me, and it’s changed from one thing to another more than a few times over the years. Molding the car into one thing is hard enough, but attempting to make it into two things at the same time is an order of magnitude more difficult. My particular dysfunction has been trying to make it many things at once, which is a bit like alchemy.

I want my car to be good looking, race-car light, modern-car fast, handle well, and able to travel long distances in reasonable comfort. I’ve also been 100% committed to an archaic air-cooled power-train designed about 90 years ago to be cheap and disposable. None of the circles on the Ven diagram overlap easily, so I’ve fettled endlessly-- if not exactly robbing Peter to pay Paul, then borrowing from him, commoditizing the debt, bundling it, and selling it in an auction.

My solution over the years has tended toward adding complexity (often to the point of convolution) in an attempt to solve what I believe to be a complicated problem. This is antithetical to the original intent and primary appeal of these cars, but no matter-- it has been my little science project over the years.

I'm only happy when it rains
I'm only happy when it's complicated
And though I know you can't appreciate it
I'm only happy when it rains

Garbage

Dry-sumping allowed me to lower the car past where I’d have been able to with any extended sump. It also enabled me to use 911 oil sprayers to cool the under-side of the pistons, (due to the increased capacity of the pressure side of the pump, and because windage doesn’t matter so much when there’s no oil in the sump). The sprayers gave me the courage to bump compression up as well.

Then there is the twin-spark setup. The idea behind this is that with two flame fronts, combustion can be completed more quickly across a larger diameter cylinder. In theory-- this allows a higher compression ratio without pre-ignition, and should reduce the amount of total timing advance needed for complete combustion.

In addition to all of this, I also used thermal coatings in the combustion chambers, exhaust ports, and piston tops. The twin-plug thing required a kind of science project ignition, asking people to build things that were not commercially available. I have gotten very, very lost inside my own head over the years. I’ve sometimes struggle to determine if all this has kept me sane or driven me mad, but regardless-- the resulting car has been awesome

… except when it hasn’t been.

 

President for Life, the People's Republic of Stanistan

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts."

Last edited by Stan Galat
Original Post

In the fall of 2018, after a summer of running like a scalded dog, I loaded the car on a flatbed and headed through the thunderstorms to the Maggie Valley in NC. I had hoped to drive, but the weather and the desire to continue in a happy marriage meant that I pulled the car down. The car ran well for about half of the first day in the mountains. Leon Chupp noticed a miss coming back from a run on The Rattler. By the time we got back to the inn, the car was running rough.

I carry no small amount of tools and spares, but nobody can carry the entire shop in the nose of a speedster. I checked the distributor, but could not get to the bowels of the science-fair project without a 7 mm socket (which I did not have). Stupidly, I forgot my maxim (99% of all carburation problems are ignition) and became convinced that my issue was fuel related (due to driving through Noah’s flood on the way out east). I tore the carbs off about 15 times. The car would run OK, then it wouldn’t. I had not come to the Smokys to sit in my hotel room, so I determined I would just drive it. On the way to the Dragon the next day, it bucked and farted and spit until I finally pulled off the road, defeated.

As I was standing there, staring at the distributor I knew was the issue, Tom Boney appeared and asked if he could help. Tom is one of the finest humans on the planet, but he has told me over and over for 10 years that he’s not a mechanic. I said, “without a 7 mm socket, I don’t think anybody can”. Tom went back to his car, and produced… a 7 mm socket.

I used the socket to get to the points replacement module and found the problem immediately. The module had loosened up on the mounting plate and was bouncing around in the distributor body. I tightened the mounting screws and the car started and ran much better than it had since the first morning. It still wasn’t right, but I drove the car for the rest of the weekend before I loaded it up and pulled it home. I pushed the thing into the garage and didn’t look at it for 6 months.

Last April, I decided to get the car ready for the summer, and pulled the air-cleaners off to clean and reoil them. When I looked down the throat of the 1-2 carb, I saw this:IMG-2791

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Last edited by Stan Galat

Apparently, on that drive to the Dragon one of the backfires got pretty out of hand, and got a little campfire going on the number 2 venturi. The fire melted my auxiliary venturi, and the running engine sucked the aluminum spatter down the length of the intake runner, into the head, and all over the back of the intake valve. I could only assume it had gone down the cylinder as well. 

The past few years have been a financial bloodletting. We had built a new house, and my shop was nowhere near ready to remove an engine, tear it down, and assess the damage. My season was over before it began. I put rags in the intake throats, and closed the deck-lid.

I set about finishing the shop, running my business, living my life, and taking a nice vacation with my wife instead of going to the mountains last September 

… and forming a plan, because it’s always good to have a plan.

I decided that as much as I love the Buck Rogers aspect of the twin plug engine, it is too complex and highly strung to serve as a mill to propel a car across the continent without undue drama. 

Reluctantly, I decided to remove one circle from my Venn diagram-- the one labeled “wannabe race-car”. Jeanie has a limited tolerance for balls-out corner-carving anyhow, and I had already put a “comfort” seat in her side (to go with the Speedster bucket in mine). Tube-frame IMs are lovely cars, with rollup windows and a lot of nice GT-style features-- but they are not light by any metric, and cannot be made to be so.

I decided to make the car into what it always should have been-- a long-legged GT, built to drive long distances in reasonable comfort. I got a second “comfort” seat, took it apart, remade the bottom frame to get it as low as it can possibly be in the car, reshaped the foam to fit my “unique” physique, ordered carbon-fiber seat heaters from Amazon, and took both seats to the best upholstery shop in the area to be recovered in leather. I’ll have them back by early May, Lord willing.

I swallowed hard and pulled the twin-plug 2276, then put it aside for a future project. I’ll likely rework the intakes in the heads, put an 84mm crank in it to bring it back to a 2332, and get a bigger cam, but that is a project for another day.

Around the first of the year, I discussed my desires with Pat Downs, and decided to build a 2234 with 92mm AA thick wall cylinders, Panchitos heads, and a CB 2292 cam and 1.4 rockers. That’s a big cam for a street engine, but the way Pat explained it-- the Panchitos have such great port velocity that bigger engines running these heads can tolerate a lot more valve overlap without getting soggy on the bottom end. It makes sense, and Pat has forgotten more than I’ll ever know, so I went with his recommendation. CB’s shop is backed up in the shop for way longer than I could wait, so I set about looking for somebody I trusted to do the machine work for the new build.

I contacted VintageVolks, which is a very small (two guys working nights and weekends) shop in Spokane, WA. We started out just talking about doing a case with the mods I wanted-- but after a lot of discussion, I contracted with them to build the entire long-block (explanation later). I’ll dress the engine with my DTM, (rebuilt) 45 Dellortos, and the exhaust from my 2276. Anand’s engine made 180 hp on Pat’s dyno, I’ll be happy with 150- 170. The flow numbers of the heads seem to support those numbers. 

The engine is being built on a new mag case, fully shuffle-pinned, welded behind Number 3, and drilled for Hoover mods, with 911 piston squirters (to spray the underside of the pistons, for cooling) installed.The bottom end is a 4340 CroMoly crankshaft (84mm, Chevy journals, nitrided) and 5.4” forged H-beam rods with ARP2000 rod bolts. We’re using SilverLine steel-backed main bearings, double-thrust cam bearings, and Clevite rod bearings.

We’re using AA 92 mm thick-wall cylinders and forged slipper-skirt pistons with spiral-lock retainers. I’ve got a set of Deeves rings, with a Total-Seal second ring. I’m very much aiming for nice, round cylinders without blow-by no matter how hot it gets. We’re setting the deck at .040 and aiming for 9.9:1 compression.

I contacted EMPI, who had purchased Bug-Pack a few years ago, and found that they had one leftover dry-sump oil pump, which I snapped up. This was like finding a diamond in a pile of coal, only less likely. The pump has plenty of volume to feed the squirters, etc. I was super jacked up about finding this, as it means I can leave the 2276 alone.

The valve-train is where I’m getting carried away. I’m using the CB 2292 cam, clearanced for stroke, and CB 28 mm ultra-light lifters with the Hoover mods. The heads are CB Panchitos… with a twist. I got new stainless 3-groove valves, and a set of Dan Ruddock’s “Beehives Done Right” valve-springs/retainers. The beehives are a single spring with lower seat and nose pressures, which can still control the valves at over 7000 RPM. As a result of the lower spring pressure, I’m running HD aluminum push-rods and will be able to get by with a stock (helical cut) cam gear, machined to be adjustable. The valve-train should be quiet, light, and (most importantly) produce less heat than a more traditional dual-spring hi-performance setup. I’m also going to run early MK1 Rabbit valve-seals in the heads. I sourced a set of PTFE seals that should hold up to the heat. Not many people do this, but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it to keep oil out of the combustion chambers.

The entire thing will be blueprinted down to the gnat’s eyelash. This is where a machinist can do his OCD thing when an assembler (like me) would pretty much just bolt things together, and why I decided to have VintageVolks do the entire longblock. I’m getting updates as we go on every measurement, and how it relates to everything else. The spread-sheet is very, very detailed, and building this engine will take probably 8 weeks total.

Bottom EndCylinders

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Last edited by Stan Galat

Most of the non-standard stuff is an effort to combat heat. The thick-wall 92s are the thickest iron cylinders available for a Type 1. Spraying the underside of the pistons with the 911 squirters is really very effective (as long as I can get rid of the oil heat). The light valve-spring pressure should make a big difference in the amount of “friction heat” produced. The Panchitos themselves are probably the best cooling Type 1 heads currently in production. The compression is high, but that’s a LOT of cam, and with everything else (the DTM, etc.), I think we’ll be fine.

I’m going to use Mega-Jolt for the ignition. I got a TPS kit from aircooled.net, and sent out my super-special one-of-a-kind crank pulley to Mario Vellota to have a custom trigger wheel installed. Mario’s laser cutting shop was behind, so he emailed me the file and I had a couple of wheels cut here. Everything is out in Spokane for balancing and to ensure it will all play nicely together (fit wise). I’ll use a standard ignition system to break in the cam, but will switch to the Mega-Jolt as soon as it is feasible.

All this is likely not going to come together in time for this year’s season, but I’ve got a card up my sleeve there as well. The 2110 for the bus is still on a pallet from a few years ago. I’m 95% sure it’ll be spending the summer behind us.

The final piece of this little jigsaw puzzle is the transaxle. In 2005, when I had the first one built, I was convinced I knew what I was doing with gearing. I didn’t. I bought a quite expensive custom mainshaft, which turned out to be far too close to work well with a 4-speed. I’ve had several (many?) different combinations of 3rd, 4th, and R/P gears in an effort to continue to use the mainshaft I’ve got.

A 5-speed would be the best solution, but I’m not ready to abandon a lot of what makes an IM special, and fitting a Berg 5 in my car would mean cutting it up, or remaking a LOT of stuff, or both. I’ve said before, and I’ll say again-- I’m not doing it.

And so as a result, the transaxle is out at Anthony’s in Kaliforna getting a Super Beetle mainshaft, a 1.30 3rd, and I’m keeping my .93 4th and the 3.44 R/P. I’m taking out the ZF LSD, which will be used in another project, after being completely rebuilt (probably by Paul Gaurd, but we’ll see). The box will become (after 4 or 5 rebuilds) pretty much standard gearing, with a .93 4th and a 3.44-- it’s the best all-around 4-speed transaxle for what I’m trying to do. It turns out the Sainted German Engineers weren’t so far off on this one. We're using all German bearings for anything "iffy".

From a logistical standpoint, the trans is the most crucial piece of this puzzle-- I need it to do anything with the engine so I’ve been bugging Anthony to the extent that he’s probably pretty sick of me. I’m hoping to have it back within the next couple of weeks, along with my very expensive and useless to me (for now) parts.

Last edited by Stan Galat

I know these cars are never really “done”, but I think after a dozen or more permutations, this is as far as I’m going to take the IM. I’m on Carey Hines list for a repaint next fall, but as far as wholesale idiocy, I think I’m done

… which is not to say I’m done playing with paper dolls. I’ve got a plan for that twin-plug, dry-sump beast after all.

But that’s a topic for another time.

It's there Al. It's a melted venturi.....

Stan, quite the tale, I mostly knew the fate of the old motor. New motor and plan sounds very good to me. But you do have a way with words, my friend. 

Let me know if you want any Megajolt map tables. I'm on version 40-something or so. I've been refining my program for 12 years. Are you getting the dual map option? If you are it's a great idea. Any help at all you need, I'm here.

Last edited by DannyP

Stan, I'm glad I decided to drop in and do a little light reading this afternoon. After all of our conversations over time, I think I have finally begun to understand what you mean when you say it's a continuously moving goalpost. 

As usual, you're defining yourself with your choices, not letting the car define you. You had the twin-plug itch, and it didn't go away. Now, having had the … joy? … of burning up pieces of it, you're back in sanity's low orbit. Good place to be.

And three engines with two cars is also a good place to be. I was hoping to read that the hopped-up twin-plug guy was headed for the Bus, but I suppose not. I'm really excited for these changes, and can't wait until I have another opportunity to run with y'all. 

Last edited by Cory Drake

 

Deus ex machina.  Wherein our hero's woes are suddenly solved by meteorite crashing through the garage roof, thus giving him a fresh start.

This reminds me soooo much of trying to squeeze even extra ounce out of a Ducati 2 valve.  There is no cure, only management and diligent visits to horsepower anonymous meetings.

Holy crap, Stan, what a saga. And what a cool engine you have cooking!

Quite the saga, Stan.  I might have been following you in a parallel adventure, but retirement restricted my funding (probably not a bad thing, from a Madness point of view).  So, like MUSBJIM, I drive what I’ve got and what I’ve got ain’t bad.

I got an old psychedelic chuckle from your first page, though, as it reminded me of this:

Last edited by Gordon Nichols
Stan Galat posted:
Sacto Mitch posted:
Panhandle Bob posted:

 ...It is beyond any mere mortal's ability to control.

He is lost...

 Was lost, but now is found.

Was blind, but now can see.

Not so fast, Mitchster. It's still a 4-speed.

Sacto Mitch posted:

 

Stan, you've made it to the mountaintop.

You'll get to the Promised land.

 

Very stubborn and thinks he can do it on his own he is, but enter the Promised Land he can not 'til he surrenders to the Way of The 5.

Last edited by ALB
Highlander356 posted:

I am going all in on electric batteries with an electric motor.

No need for expensive mechanical service and repairs, especially in a country like Australia where there are limited experienced air cooled mechanics.

I hope you'll keep us updated on the process and how that works out, Highlander. I suspect (that like all experimental endeavors) it won't be as easy as you hope, but if this lights your fire (as it were)-- go for it! 

It's a hobby, after all. 

Just to clarify the extent of my particular problem:

In my opus above, I mentioned not having finished the garage(s) in the new house. In 2015, we sold the place in the country with plenty of room, and built on a small lot in the center of an old (1850s) neighborhood in Morton. I went from having a 3-stall garage and full barn with heated floors to a couple of much smaller (his and hers) garage spaces with a small footprint, but ceiling high enough to install a couple of lifts.

Jeanie's side is only 13 ft wide, and doubles as her art studio. We need to store bikes over there, but hanging them so she can access them means encroaching on valuable space to the side of the minivan.

This was my solution-- built with a Harbor Freight winch, unistrut trolleys, and a bit of welding. It's a complex solution to a problem most people would have just lived with.

I'm pretty sure there's no cure for what I've got. I am what I am. 

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Last edited by Stan Galat

 

Here's a video of a small shop in southern California that installed electric drive in a new Vintage Speedster roller chassis.

Their only business is converting existing cars to electric drivetrains, and they made this video to promote that business. So, they're likely to gloss over many problems and fine-tuning issues. Still, they make it pretty clear that this is no process for the faint of heart.

There is A LOT of custom fabrication, electrical engineering, and software development involved if you want a result that works like you would expect a modern car to work.

One thing they mention only in passing, but which is a major issue with electric vehicles if you want to charge them in anything like a reasonable amount of time is heat management. Charging the batteries quickly generates large amounts of heat and can damage the batteries if charge rates are not managed correctly in software. There are also major heat issues in the normal operation of the car that must be dealt with in software.

Building one of these on your own looks like a much bigger task than what Stan is taking on in his new drivetrain.

 

 

For me all new platforms require a lot of sorting and that is why you want a car where millions have been made.  The frustrations of finding mechanics, finding parts, and not being stranded is no fun.  There are a number of frustrated buyers of Tesla as well as other cars. 

Our Replicars, plastic fantastics are NOT PLUG and play... they are like the old Windoze, plug and pray most times for those who are not mechanical and do not know cars or have a sense of how to diagnose an issue. 

Many builders have chosen to go with Subie powerplants for ease of finding a mechanic and use a stock ECU, again so that they do not have any issues.  A non stock ECU is a custom builders dream and can be made to work well but your comfort zone will increase if you live CLOSE to the builder or ECU programmer. 

El Guapo's suggestion of a reasonable cost, simple Acooled is a real worth while solution and cost effective.  So is the subie powerplant another platform that many have used and you can find quite a following in Australia in New South Wales for example so choices do exist but personally i could not see any benefits to E-Roadster a car unless your only goal is to stay in the city.

BTW and further to my rant .... my wife thinks I have lost it, when it comes to my car, as the sorting of issues took a long time and she looked at me and thought I was crazy so many times for keeping it.  Any wonder people sell cars with 1000 miles. 

You see, as to my spouse, she wants a turn the key and drive car.  No waiting for carbs to warm up and no gas stink, oh and No support, no issues.  (I do the support of course

Us males often think we can handle the custom build but in reality, secretly, we think it is a modern car.  

I think I was ready for this hand build car because of my experience with so many cars when I was young and this technology was current. 

The issue today is that you need to find a whole new set of people that can still do repairs on this type of car or is simply not a parts replacer but can think through and analyse the issues. 

In the end, we have a lot of dreams, read that as illusions, and then the builders who try to satisfy those have the issue of bringing into reality or bringing us out of that illusion to reality and making us realize that a more visceral drive is of course why we Dream of the Past.  They help to get us there but some never make the full leap and become disillusioned and abort when they realize it is not what they want.  That too is a choice. Enjoy your ride

 

Last edited by IaM-Ray

To sum up Ray's (very good) points-- everything boils down to managing expectations. If a guy is good at that, he can find success in this hobby reasonably easily and without a huge outlay of time and money. Some sad souls among us cannot (or will not) live with the kind of car that is easily built. They're too slow. They don't handle especially well. They are the antithesis of waterproof. They require no small amount of care and feeding.

Whacking any one of the moles means another one pops up in another place. Want to be faster? Your already sketchy brakes will need a serious improvement. Want to handle better? Your ride will likely go south when you stiffen things up. Want to be low-'n-mean? You're going to scrape a lot of driveways. Want to be dry in a thunderstorm? Oh boy... get out your checkbook.

The cycle keeps escalating until before you know it, you're looking at a twin-plug, dry-sumped 2.3L motor with more handmade parts than off-the-shelf stuff. Or a turbo Subaru, or a 6-cyl Porsche engine, or a 3L Raby Type 4.

At the end of the day, there is a secret sauce-- but that sauce is different for every guy, because every guy has his own set of acceptable compromises. A realistic assessment of who you are, and what you can live, along with how extensive your budget and skill-set actually are will go a long way towards finding long-term happiness behind the wheel of one of these death-traps.

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it. Your mileage may vary.

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