Skip to main content

Replies sorted oldest to newest

You can't go just by how many shims someone else is running. You need to measure what's reality on your car. Generally speaking look for 5 or more degrees of caster.  Sometimes the pope's hat has been rewelded on and intentionally tilted to remove the need for shims, or maybe the donor had a minor bop in the front, or manufacturing tolerances on the Friday it was made, or just 50 years of sitting will make the point from which you're working very different from the car your buddy owns.

JMM,

I never meant this to be a scientific survey, but the wonderful thing about common interest groups it that hopefully there are enough of us to get an idea of the effect of modifications, and at the same time naturally weed out the anomalies like in this case bent components, crazed dudes with lowered raked front ends. I believe the results will be helpful to people with “wandering front ends “. Cheers.



Richard

A car that's been lowered by a select a drop or turning the center(s) of the beam will have less caster and may need 2 sets of shims, while 1 set may be plenty for one lowered with offset spindles which affect caster very little (if at all).  The Gene Berg wedges-                                                                                   http://www.geneberg.com/produc...amp;products_id=1213 are 5.9mm thick and add 2.36°.  A pair costs $10, so the smart thing might be to have a set (or 2 depending on how and how much the car is lowered) with you at alignment time.  Al

More reading- http://www.geneberg.com/cat.php?cPath=12_384_2917

PS- Beetles came with about 3° caster and as @JMM (Michael) said, aim for at least 5°.  356 front beams were welded in and set up with 5° caster from the factory.

Last edited by ALB

I'm with Michael - Don't guess at it, just take it in to be aligned (4-wheel alignment - and Yes, you can set the rear wheels, too) and ask the alignment tech to set the front somewhere between 5 and 7 degrees by adding the shims between the lower beam tube and the beam mount.  That might mean 1 caster shim or it might mean 2 to get you in the range.  It might also mean adding a shim to only one side, if the chassis is slightly out of true (it happens).  I would suggest getting two shim sets from CB Performance (they're cheap):

https://www.cbperformance.com/product-p/6215.htm

Also get a pair of longer lower mounting bolts, just in case you need two shims on one side or both:

https://www.cbperformance.com/product-p/6222.htm

And bring everything along when you go for the alignment, because the alignment place won't have any in stock.

" it's also a possibility if any DIY'er built their own car."    

Nothing to get excited about, Ed.  Happens probably more than one might expect, on modern and antique cars alike.

On modern cars there are eccentrics available (no, not guys like me.... The mechanical kind) on the suspension to make dialing in caster and camber very easy.

On the older cars (like ours, if they're pan based) it's more of a brute-force mechanical intervention by using shims (front) or wedges (at the rear) to get things where the "Sainted German Engineers" want them.  Either way, it was no big deal back then, and no big deal today.

As far as the DIY part, sure.....  It's almost too easy to cut your pan in two and then weld it back together using 2" X 4" boards as alignment fixtures and have it a few degrees off.  If you ask anyone who does car alignments for a living they'll tell you it's less common to have a warped suspension on modern cars, but still no big deal on the older ones, either - They just see what it is and correct it.  

If it can't be corrected, then the next stop is a chassis re-alignment rack where the car has chains attached at various points and then hydraulically pulled back into a straight(er) alignment.  This is far more common for big trucks (there is probably a rack within 10 miles of most large truck stops) due to the torque stresses of BIG engines under BIG loads.

Anyway, I have one caster shim on the Driver's side and two shims (one custom thickness) on the Passenger side.   No big deal.  Tracks straight and stops straight and does not "bump steer".  Works for me.    Of course, it helps to have an alignment tech who knows what they're doing, as most Voc School grads seem to be these days.  My guy, "Tony-with-the-Mohawk", did an awesome job.

.

Hi, my name is Mitch and I have uneven caster shims.

Among a few other things that needed dialing in, my VS tended to, uh, well, pull to one side, only just a little.

Hands off the wheel on a straight, level road it would not-so-much-at-first but then, sure enough, start to wander to the left a little.

I lived with this for a while as there were more pressing concerns to get dialed in, but eventually I wanted it gone.

The first alignment shop - a gray-haired guy who supposedly knew old VW's - did his best, but couldn't fix it. Again, it was pretty slight, but just enough to bug you when on a long, smooth, straight road.

The second shop did their best, too, but recommended I remove the passenger side shim and leave just the one on the driver side. When that was done, the problem finally disappeared.

So, there you go. I don't like to admit it, but I need assymmetrical shims just to drive down the road in a straight line.

I've often wondered how a pan could be sliced and diced, and then welded back together again to the necessary tolerances in a shop that used to crank out whole cars in the time it takes Marty Grzlkhlkjhlkjhwicz to have seat cushions custom upholstered.

And there's one other dark secret here. My steering wheel isn't quite straight ahead as I cruise down the road. The easy fix is to unbolt it, rotate it one spline, and then put it back on (which I will do some day when I get around to buying the giant socket you need to do that).

But I have read an article about adjusting our beloved steering boxes by a guy who has spent 30 years of his life specializing in rebuilding VW steering boxes, and he says that this is a symptom of a box that needs to be rebuilt or was not rebuilt properly the last time around.

I'm wondering if that's not related to a car that won't follow the straight and narrow.

.

Last edited by Sacto Mitch

"The easy fix is to unbolt it, rotate it one spline, and then put it back on"

What is that, like, 12 degrees at the steering wheel?  What if you only need 8 degrees?

Alternatively, you could note how far off the steering wheel is when driving straight, then loosen the clamp on the steering shaft just above the rag-joint coupler, rotate the steering wheel to where you want it and re-tighten the clamp.

Bingo.    No giant socket needed.

On the " car that won't follow the straight and narrow."   I dunno.  Could be an excessive infusion of Mai Tais or whatever the drink of the month is out there in Paradise, or a front suspension susceptive to the dreaded "Bump Steer", which can be improved with a proper alignment (again).

Last edited by Gordon Nichols

When I picked up my new build from Vintage Motorcars I told Greg it felt a little unsure on the freeway, I took it back and he “ made adjustments” and it was better, upon checking he had added a set of Empi shims. In checking around the VW boys tell me they always add two  sets of shims. My car tracks OK but to me it just feels a little light over 70 mph. I tried adding 70 lbs of lead, I had two 30 pound blocks I put either side of the battery, helps a little, I need more experimentation. The cars steering is very heavy too, my last car was a 1970 911, large gas tank two batteries in the wheel wells, the steering was like a feather by comparison.

@R Thorpe posted:

When I picked up my new build from Vintage Motorcars I told Greg it felt a little unsure on the freeway, I took it back and he “ made adjustments” and it was better, upon checking he had added a set of Empi shims. In checking around the VW boys tell me they always add two  sets of shims. My car tracks OK but to me it just feels a little light over 70 mph. I tried adding 70 lbs of lead, I had two 30 pound blocks I put either side of the battery, helps a little, I need more experimentation. The cars steering is very heavy too, my last car was a 1970 911, large gas tank two batteries in the wheel wells, the steering was like a feather by comparison.

You have found the greatest limitation to the sporting pretensions of these cars: the VW beam.

I've got one, as do the vast majority of people on this site (except for the IM owners who were more intelligent than I was in 2005)-- and no, it doesn't feel as "planted" as cars with A-arms or early Porsche 911 torsion bars do. Mine's been upgraded with a Golf rack and pinion setup (which helps the steering feel enormously, but does nothing for what you are describing).

The car feels lighter in the front as speed increases because the shape of it encourages air moving around (and especially under) the car to lift the front.

You might try dropping the car into the weeds so that the car's aerodynamics are not doing quite as good an impersonation of an airplane wing. This will help... a little. You might also try removing some leaves from the front torsion bar to lighten the springs up a bit. This does nothing for firming up how planted the car feels, but it does make the car more compliant without resorting to adding weight.

Probably the best thing you can do for how the car feels is to get better tires. I feel like a one-note-Johnny-- but if you put Vredistein Sportracs on it, it's transformative. I'm a confirmed tightwad, and the idea of snooty tires on a glorified golf-cart was something I chaffed against. Until I actually tried it. Good tires really do change things.

It sounds like you already have caster shims, which help the car track more surely, but which also give you heavier steering. More will make it heavier still.

I can tell you with certainty that the front end will lighten up as you get moving, due to the shape of the car. It gets really light around 100 mph (even lowered aggressively), and you'll find yourself puckering pretty hard over a buck-ten. The 911 suspension cars I've driven did not feel so much like that. Actual 911s feel nothing like that at all.

The fuel is carried pretty high in most of these cars (again, the IMs with 911 suspension excepted) and all the running gear is in the back, so balance isn't all that great no matter how nice the front end is. I've found that (opposite most cars), you want bigger brakes in the back than you think you do (all the weight is back there, and the front gets light when you're hustling, so there's less braking power). It's pretty easy to lock up the front before the back feels like it's biting. I've never understood why people say, "drums in the back are fine. The majority of the braking power is in the front". This is 100% true in a normally configured car, and less true as the center of gravity moves rearward. It's not true at all with a rear-engined Speedster.

The bottom line is this: you can improve what you've got, but if you want to run with bigger dogs, you're going to need to make some substantive changes. I'd start by dropping the car as low as you can stand. Set the caster at 5+ degrees. Get the steering box adjusted as perfectly as possible (there are numerous threads). Get some good tires. Try taking out a couple of leaves. Other than that, learn to drive the car as it actually is, rather than as the modern automobile you are more accustomed to. @Sacto Mitch has posted at length on this.

Regardless, if you really want to move, you'll find yourself going on very long late-night searches for A-arm beam replacements (and find the results somewhat compromised as well).

Good luck. Forewarned is forearmed.

Last edited by Stan Galat
@James posted:

It wasn't taken that way!  Just standing up for Texans.  Most of us are good guys! 

(Of course, there are anomalies)

You say there are some "anomalies" in TX, eh? Well, you'd better git after 'em quick! If you don't, they'll just settle in, git comfy, and start takin' over! Trust me on that, and just take a look at what happened in CA: First, those damned anomalies got a foothold in SoCal and before we knew it they were out of control. They've taken over pretty much everywhere and become so emboldened that they've infested the state capital in Sacramento! Yessiree, you'd better do somethin' now and nip 'em in the bud! That's, of course, assuming they haven't flowered already.

Tires and tire pressure, alignment, ride height, they ALL matter. And steering box adjustments. I use 1/16" total toe front AND rear and added caster, that helps a lot over 100.

@Sacto Mitch I would just fix the wheel with tie-rod adjustment. Whatever amount you move/turn the adjuster on one side(lengthen or shorten), do the exact opposite on the other. Try 1/16th of a turn.

.

Danny, I've been thinking about the right approach to fixing this.

For, let's see, about six years now.

I still think unbolting the wheel from the hub, rotating it, and refitting is the easiest. And it gives me the least opportunity to screw up something else. (Messing with the tie rods means resetting the toe, no?)

I haven't been able to find that article I read about setting up the steering box. I think he was saying that the box itself must be centered before trying to adjust out any play. And that once the box is centered, you use the tie rods to center the steering.

But this sounds like a can of worms just waiting to be opened, and right now, the car steers straight, with minimal steering play.

And if I tilt my head to the left just a little...

.

.

@ALB , that's it!

About halfway down is the post I remember reading - a detailed explanation of how to rebuild an old steering box by a guy who did that for 30 years.

His point is that old steering boxes are almost always rebuildable - the parts that usually wear are replaceable and the body, gears, and shafts of the box are usually sound.

But it's the last part of his (very long) post that's relevant here, so I'm pasting it below. It's about making sure the box is centered internally before hooking it up to anything else:

"... You have a rebuilt box but you're not done yet. The following step is critical and always overlooked.

Remember the 'notchy' part when the steering box is at center? Install the steering box in the car and align it so it's dead-nuts center. Now install the steering shaft and wheel so the steering wheel is perfectly straight and not off to one side or the other when the steering box is centered. Now have the car aligned so the wheels point straight when the steering wheel is pointed straight.

The alignment goes to hell when people lower their cars and align them themselves. They often get the toe in set right but they don't always get the steering wheel centered when the wheels are toed properly. When confronted with that scenario people usually just remove/reinstall the wheel to straighten it out. Well the crooked steering wheel was saying that the steering box wasn't set straight and re-positioning the wheel only covered up the problem instead of correcting it.

That tightness when the box is straight preloads the steering ever so slightly when the wheels are straight. I can guarantee that a good number of you have your steering boxes installed ever so slightly off center--that's really common on lowered or raised cars. An off-center box will feel like junk even if it's perfect. This is experience talking here. I can almost guarantee that those 'junk' TRW boxes were installed that way. At least when I was doing boxes those TRW pieces were top-shelf parts. Preparation and installation are key to a good steering setup.

This may or may not work for you but it worked for me hundreds of times. The steering box in my Thing is one of my rebuilds and 15 years later it's as tight as the day it was made..."

.

@thedak- Does your car have offset spindles?  If it does, 1 set of caster shims may be enough, and you'll have introduced far less bump steer than when all the lowering is by turning the beam center(s).  And if you lowered the back as well as the front you'll find the caster doesn't change as much as when just dropping the front.  Please let us know what you had to do to get results.  Al

@ALB posted:

@thedak- Does your car have offset spindles?  If it does, 1 set of caster shims may be enough, and you'll have introduced far less bump steer than when all the lowering is by turning the beam center(s).  And if you lowered the back as well as the front you'll find the caster doesn't change as much as when just dropping the front.  Please let us know what you had to do to get results.  Al

I have not don't drop spindles.

I think these cars handle better lowered from the beam.

Agreed on the bump steer issue though.  

I just flipped the tie rod ends on the knuckles to bottom to alleviate it.  

Used the bushing kit from Aircooled.net.  

Did CSP Bilstien 50mm shortened shocks with no upper mounting kit.

Gives me the maximum amount of travel outta the set up.







@thedak wrote- "...I think these cars handle better lowered from the beam...."

Having run a Cal Look Beetle dropped 4½ or 5" in front with a select-a-drop (hey, it was 1977), shorter Konis on full soft, 4½" wheels with 135's and in back torsion bars turned to drop 2", 185/70's on 6" rims (again with Konis) on the street as my main transportation (we went EVERYWHERE in that thing!).  I'm going by experience, and have my opinion.  It rode hard- like it was on the stops on every little bump (in retrospect I often wonder if the ball joints were bottoming out!).  I've ridden in cars with both tubes turned to get the same 4-5" of drop and then others with offset spindles (and the tubes turned to drop the car the rest of the way) and prefer what the latter setup offers.   You have your opinion, and that's ok- we (hopefully) can agree to disagree.  The important thing is you're happy with what you have- and I'll be interested in your observations once you start driving it.

What I'm really interested in is what you will think of the Bilsteins up front?

@R Thorpe- There is 1 person (that I know of) here that's gone the Mendeola suspension route.  IIrc he did both front and rear and is in CA.  I think the front would be worthwhile (although I think IM's 911-914 front would be better) but $3295 US converts to $4198.41 Canadian (today).  Shipping to Point Roberts, WA (where I could pick it up if the border was open; I live in Burnaby, just east of the City of Vancouver, or the Lower Mainland, as we call it) has gotta be at least $200 and then there's the Canadian Goods and Services tax and the Provincial Sales tax (GST- 5% + PST- 7% = 12%)  on $4500 which adds another $540 so now we're at over $5000 to get it into the Great White North.

If one was building a car from scratch it would be something to consider, but at the moment it's too rich for my blood.  Last year I spent $5,000 (or close to it) on our FJ Cruiser (suspension lift, slightly taller All Terrain TA's, rock sliders- which we did ourselves, redid brakes) and we still need a front winch plate and a couple of other things, so no big ticket items for Speedie this year (unless I win the lottery- then I'll be able to build my dream type 1 2789, go to Henry at IM and talk about the 911 front end stuff and the truck will get a supercharger too! (think big evil laugh here!) Al

@R Thorpe after you posted about the mendeola front end, I looked into it as it is not something I’ve heard of. The mendeola front end does look like a high quality and well manufactured setup. At $3,300, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a bargain, but you are getting a lot with it.

The main issue I’ve seen with mendeola is a lack of real world comparison to well dialed stock set ups. They don’t have any proof of real world data or testing, but they do make a lot of claims. I found threads on other forums where people were begging mendeola to post videos of comparison tests to stock set ups. One of the threads spans from 2015 through 2019, with mendeola making empty promises to give people the comparison tests they wanted. From what I see, they did not deliver. Seems kind of sketchy to me. Maybe they have delivered but I’m not finding it? Maybe others have more info? Here is the thread I referenced above: https://shoptalkforums.com/vie...hp?f=51&t=147371

I think I’d rather put my money toward good tires, shimming to get things dialed, sway bars, etc.

Would you install it yourself?

Last edited by TwinCitiesSpeedster

Add Reply

Post Content
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×
×