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Just bought my 550A!

2002 Beck/Thunder Ranch w/2250 Scat motor. Bought on B.A.T. and shipped from Pennsylvania to Seattle just this week! Stunningly beautiful from any angle!!!2002_thunder_ranch_1956_550a_spyder_replica_15714177583d0cc68b9feeHD3A80762002_thunder_ranch_1956_550a_spyder_replica_15676231739f98764daIMG_03002002_thunder_ranch_1956_550a_spyder_replica_15714184610cc68b9feecd87HD3A8143

The car has the 911 style fan shroud and remote oil filter. I would really like to do my first oil change but cannot find where to add the oil!

Do I need to remove the shroud?

This will probably become obvious (if not a little embarrassing) once this mystery is resolved.

Pictures to follow!

 

Thanks!

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Original Post

Ed, that looks like a Bernie Bergman fan on the pic you posted. Not the same animal.

The fan looks like it may be an actual 911 fan on the poster's car. Some people didn't install a fill in the conventional location. They can be filled with a fabricated filler in the type3 spot, if it's a universal case.

Or it could be fabricated into a valve cover.

The filler on "real" 911 fan/alternator modified to fit a type1 was a hokey affair. I eliminated it on mine and used the distributor hole as a filler, as I have crank fire ignition now.

Thanks for the replies!

There is no filler pipe and both valve covers are connected to what appears to be a crank case breather affair.

This is my first air cooled car (ever) but I race a shifter kart and have raced and prepped sports cars for years (I'm 61), change my own fluids in all my cars regularly (Ferrari 360 & 996 Turbo are dry sump, multiple tanks) but this remains a mystery

PS

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL! 

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MV, I was suggesting where to put a filler re: the valve cover comment. It does appear from the photos that there isn't one.

You could have a filler welded into a valve cover, I had some AN-8 bungs welded into my cast aluminum valve covers. 

Or if you have a type3/universal case, a filler could be fabricated to attach there. See that hole with two studs to the right of the oil pump and under the dipstick tube? universal case

The only other way to get around needing the filler is to convert to dry sump like I did.

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@MVSpyder I contacted a buddy of mine with a Spyder that has a 911 shroud and had him send me some photos of his filler. He has a FAT Performance Type IV motor so I don't know how much that will affect the placement of the oil filler. His oil fill is on the driver side of the car in front of the intake manifold for the driver side carb. The billet aluminum cap is down low and the fill tube goes directly into the valve cover. If you look at the first photo you can see the billet cap in the lower part of the triangle formed by the tubing. Not sure if yours is there also but its a place to look.

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MVSpyder posted:

There is no filler pipe and both valve covers are connected to what appears to be a crank case breather affair.

 

If there is no other obvious place to use as a 'filler', can you use the breather for filling?

The breather hoses connected to the valve covers drain directly from the valve covers into the sump.  It might be a slow process, but once a year / 3000 miles is not like having to do it all the time.

A note on refilling:  You have a 'big' 2 liter engine capable of relatively high RPM compared to smaller stock-ish motors.  You might find best success filling to 1/2 quart low (between the high and low marks on the dip stick).   Your spyder has plenty of extra oil capacity beyond the normal stock VW engine case.  (You have an extended extra capacity sump, plus you have another quart in the filter.  So in a sense, you won't end up 1/2 quart low but more like 2 quarts high plus whatever is in the remote oil cooler).  For whatever reason, I have found that if I fill my 2332 to the top fill line on the dipstick, in short order it will find a way to push oil out until it gets to about 1/2 quart low, where it will stay happily until the next oil change.  If I fill to 1/2 quart low to begin with, it will stay there for the duration until next change.  It might be that the 2332cc pump overwhelms the volume of the case designed for 1600cc and relatively lower RPM.  Maybe increasing the air volume in the case by 1/2 quart makes it happy; I don't know.  But that is my experience.

@RS-60 mark wrote- "A note on refilling:  You have a 'big' 2 liter engine capable of relatively high RPM compared to smaller stock-ish motors.  You might find best success filling to 1/2 quart low (between the high and low marks on the dip stick).   Your spyder has plenty of extra oil capacity beyond the normal stock VW engine case.  (You have an extended extra capacity sump, plus you have another quart in the filter.  So in a sense, you won't end up 1/2 quart low but more like 2 quarts high plus whatever is in the remote oil cooler)"

Yes, your Spyder has plenty of extra capacity beyond the stock VW engine case, but just something to remember- the oil in the filter and remote cooler isn't available to the oil pick up should it be uncovered during acceleration or cornering- that is why you run either a larger sump or a dry sump system.

Al, you smelling paint fumes again? Go drill holes in something!

IF you have an extended sump AND a largish engine(2000cc up) I recommend you run low on the dipstick just like Mark above. Maybe it's more airspace because of less oil, or less splash from the crank, but I completely agree. Less oil will force it's way out this way. I had the same experience as Mark with my "little" 2165.

And remember, with the extended sump you'll have at least a quart and a half in there for the oil pickup(you did extend the pickup tube, yes?) to suck up. So that ends up as 3.5 quarts in the sump(plus oil filter, lines, and cooler) compared to a stock 2.5 in the entire system. I ran 6 or 6.5 quarts in my complete system.

And yes, the breather hose can be used to fill but it will take a while. Large funnel stuffed in a hose perhaps at a half-quart at a time?

 

@DannyP (or should I just call you 'smart @ss?

 The paint fumes must still be lingering from last weekend- I painted a friend's custom buggy frame on Sunday- 3.5 liter Honda V6 power (well over 300hp), Mendeola 4speed transaxle (I still don't get why he didn't spring for the 5 speed, but it may have had something to do with the $2,000 more over the initial 10 or $11,000 required. Very short sighted...), Centerline wheels and over a foot of suspension travel. And I thought another friend's Honda S2000 (220 hp) buggy was fast- this thing's gonna be a monster! Anyway...

All I'm saying is that people think that the 2 quarts (or whatever it amounts to) in the filter, cooler and lines means the engine will never run out of oil, where that oil, not being in the sump is not immediately available to the engine because it's not in the sump. Yeah, the lines, filter and cooler are an integral part of the system, but the sump is where the engine draws from and there has to be enough oil right at the intake at all times to feed the bearings continuously, despite the acceleration/cornering G forces and rpm's the engine sees. I've seen guys wonder why their cars are running out of oil (and the engine has eventually seized)- they thought they had it covered because of the extra quart in the filter and lines but there's no additional volume actually at the pump intake tube. They didn't think they needed the added volume of the sump because, "hey, the engine's got lots of oil in the lines,filter (and maybe cooler)! A member here went through this 3? 4? years ago- he was slolamming his Speedster and thought that because the oil light only came on "occasionally" he didn't need a sump and was surprised when it locked up.

Gene Berg claimed that a 1½ sump was only good to about 6,000 rpm and if the engine regularly lived at higher rpm's a 3½ (for general driving) or 4 quart (for a dedicated drag racer) was essential.

Hey dude- we haven't talked in a while- Al

Gerry's frame 1

And Rick's Honda beast (that's my buddy Gerry behind)-

Rick's beast 

 

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Last edited by ALB

Let's just agree that the stock Type 1 oiling system is a joke and needs help.

Most sensible folk run an extended sump and fill to the top line on the highly calibrated Chinese dipstick, then throw oil all over the engine compartment from the pulley. Next, they buy a sand-seal (which helps a tiny amount). After they've been persuaded that this is not working, they shyly and secretly start running the oil down on the dipstick. Once they get to the "add" (bottom) mark, the oil spay pretty much subsides.

... and if they don't drive like they're trying to channel the ghost of Graham Hill, it works pretty well.

But when the driving gets brisk, the pick-up cavitates, and the oil light comes on. After a few times, the oil light starts coming on in more pedestrian situations. Eventually, more desperate measures must be taken. An even deeper pan is put on the engine, which means that it scrapes on anything taller than an acorn. Eventually, a railroad track takes off the sump-plate, and all the oil ends up right there in the middle of the road.

A dry-sump system fixes this, but adds a layer of complexity that baffles most people. "What... I check the oil with the engine running?" "In a tank?" "What kind of fancy-pants set-up is this?!"

I think both Al and Danny are right. There's no good way to run a full dip-stick with any wet-sump Type 1 - there will be oil everywhere if you rev the engine past 4000 RPM or so. I also agree that the engine needs all the capacity it can get, so running it low is an invitation to exposing the pick-up. Dry-sumping is the way to go (which is why Porsche did it with the 6 cyl), but it's a ridiculously complicated solution to what other engines get figured out by other means.

Al, for the record, I don't believe for a second that the extra capacity in the filter and lines does a thing at the oil pickup. All that matters is oil at the bottom available to the pickup/suction tube. I'm just of the opinion that the extended sump gives you more at the pickup tube AND lets you run the dipstick lower, helping with blow-by/vapors and pushing out oil all over. I made a huge breather can, with a drain back into the case. It worked very well below 4000, and worked above that with a crankcase evacuation system I fabricated, complete with a solenoid-activated valve set above 5000 rpm. The vapors were sucked out the exhaust, and it definitely kept the oil off the engine. But it did also increase oil consumption slightly, about a half-quart every 1000 miles.

With my old system and thin-line sump, I never ran out of oil or even saw a flicker from the oil light once, shifting at 6500 rpm OFTEN. Yes, I had a mechanical gauge on it for a while to see how it was under extreme driving conditions. I had a 26mm or 30mm pump(can't remember) with a Berg iron pressure-relief cover, plus a remote filter, thermostat, and fan/cooler. Of course my case is full-flowed. 

I know one guy on here who had a flickering oil light often on corners with the vaunted type4 and it's supposedly superior stock oil system. Currently rebuilding that one due to LARGE crankshaft endplay due to lack of oil. As Gordon says, pffffft!

Eventually, I did as Stan did and went dry sump. I did this to alleviate an ever-increasing blow-by. It didn't work, the rings and cylinders were worn out. I rebuilt the top end this summer, and am back to new-engine blow-by, meaning little to none. I removed the sump extension as it is no longer needed. I have a two-stage Autocraft pump, a bolt on scavenge pickup, and a Jaycee oil pressure relief filter mount. Other than the standard filter, thermostat, and cooler it's really only a bunch of lines and the Speedway Motors 8 quart tank. I run about 6.5 to 7 quarts in the system, the tank is a bit over half full at idle. Yes, we check the oil engine running..... My system is not quite as complicated as Stan but it sure gives me a feeling of security when I hit the brakes at 110 into turn 1 at Lime Rock Park.

 

Thanks again for all the responses!

Last night I figured it out! I removed a fitting on the drivers side valve cover and used a pointed filling spout that screws on a standard quart size plastic oil bottle. It was a bit tedious squeezing in quarts and checking but I got it done and started the car for the first time in my ownership. That thing is a snotty firecracker! Its super cold up here in the suburbs of Seattle but I hope to drive it soon.

The dates on the tires (although they look new) are 2005ish, I will start shopping for something in a 200 treadwear range and replace them pretty soon just to have a fresh contact patch. 

Thank you for your support, I really appreciate getting into the weeds on some of the responses and may pursue converting to a Dry sump oiling system and crank fired ignition down the road

I am very impressed with the build quality of this 550 and will be fiddling with it for quite a while!

 

BP in MV

 

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I'm so glad I posted.    I never imagined it'd flame a thread drift about which line on the dip stick oil should be filled to.

Agreed, oil that is outside the case in the filter, cooler and associated plumbing is not in the sump.  And, if oil level in the sump falls below the tip of the pickup tube; well, bad things can start to happen.

But in MVSPYDER's case, his extended sump solves several problems.  1st, his oil pickup is 1-1/2 quart deeper into the sump reservoir than with a stock case.  (Thus when he fills to 1/2 quart low on the stock dipstick, he still has what amounts to another full quart more than the dipstick indication 'hiding' in the sump.).  So it is unlikely he is going to suck the sump dry, even during very sporty back-road high RPM driving.  2nd, during hard corner driving the oil in the extended sump has a better chance of staying in the sump where the oil pick up is (rather than sploshing out into the valve covers exposing the oil pickup; like with a stock case).  3rd, the extended sump provides more metal surface in open air for some additional oil cooling.

And, about that "extra" oil running around outside the case?  MVSPYDER needs that too.  He has a 'big' engine.  Big engines make more heat than stock.  The more oil he can have running around outside of the hot engine case the better.  The oil is being cooled down 'out there', which cools the engine when it returns to the case.  Plus, there is the benefit of: The-more-oil-the-better.

By the way MV, you have a thermostatically controlled oil bypass to the oil cooler on top of your oil filter, and it looks like you have a thermostatically controlled fan on the cooler.  They work in series like this:  1.  Oil coming from the case to filter below 180* goes through the filter, then directly back to the case.  2.  Oil coming from the case to the filter above 180* goes through the filter, then to the cooler, and then to the case.  3.  The oil cooler fan turns on if oil coming OUT of the cooler is over 180*.

Of course, Al and Danny and Stan know all of this stuff (and a lot more than I know) so I'd never attempt to instruct them.  But MV might not.  So I'm just 'throwing it out there'.

PS:  MV, 1/2 quart low on the dipstick.  You'll be ok.

I wrote the stuff below this morning and  was going to add a little more but Stan's and Mark's responses have pretty well covered it. A lot of this myself, Stan, Danny, Mark and some others of course already know, but for those new to the modified VW world it's always good to discuss it again because if it enlightens 1 more person it's worth it. And don't worry about thread drift, @RS-60 mark- 'cause soon we'll be talkin' 'bout pie!

@Stan Galat wrote- "Let's just agree that the stock Type 1 oiling system is a joke and needs help."

Oh, I think we all agree there, Stan! I've written this before but for anyone who's missed it- you have to remember what the VW Beetle was originally- a low cost, (relatively) low maintenance commuter car for the masses. Oil was expensive, so even the 2 1/2 (instead of 4 that most engines were designed with) quarts it took to fill it was considered a cost saving as well. Yes, the oil system has failings (that especially rear their ugly head when you make the engine rev higher and make substantially more power) but you have to realize that when driven and maintained as intended, these 'low cost commuter cars' regularly clocked 100,000 + miles before the engines needed to be rebuilt, which was not yet routine in the automotive world. The factory found more than acceptable engine life without (among other things) the machining steps we now call the Hoover mods, so you can understand why they were never incorporated. 

Welcome.  Always great to have another Spyder owner.  Since I've got suby power I'll be of little help with mechanical matters.  But I don't have to be...I've got a suby.  Any mechanical questions you have can and will be answered by the knowledgeable guys on this site.

But OMG, I've got serious tire and wheel envy.  My 200hp suby (with LSD) breaks the rear end loose at the drop of a hat.  I could really use that grip.  Beautiful car obviously built with thought and CA$H.  Congratulations.  

Since my Spyder came with the wheels, I really have no idea about cost. Tomorrow it gets new rubber (tires are 2005 manufacture) and I will have the shop put a tape on them for width. After looking closely, it appears that there was a lot of machining done and they are also 3 piece as there are about 40-50 bolts holding the barrel to the center piece. I remember reading someplace that Coddington (or his Son) was making bespoke wheels for Spyders and they were Expen$ive. From the look of things my car was an open checkbook build/maintained. Details are still available on BAT  if you search 550A Spyder.

 

 

Robert M posted:
DannyP posted:

Yeah, I'd like to know wheel make, cost, and width.

I could only make out that the front/rear tires are 225/50R16. I know that won't help with rim information but it might give an idea on the width of the rim.

I don't think the front/rear tires are the same size, Robert. You are right in that the rears are 225/50's, on either 7 or 8" rims (I'm guessing 7's because of the look of the sidewall- it's pulled in a little to meet the rim) but the fronts are (I think) smaller, either 195's or 205's, on 5½'s or 6's?

As for the rims- while I don't think they are Vintage 190's, they look a little like them around the wheel nut area, but I've never heard of them building 16" wheels (which would be sooo cooool!).  It'll be interesting to hear what @MVSpyder has to say after the trip to the tire shop. Al

According to the pictures in that ad, the fronts are 205s.

I believe the 190s are cast. There is a lot more involved with changing the size. Now, if they were CNC'd, all it'd technically take, are a few key strokes to get whatever size and offset one would care to have. Of course, they'd be able to charge whatever the hell they wanted for them too.

The first thing that would help our cause out, would be to get the car manufactures to center the body on the frame, or correct the fender differences in the molds, if that's where the real problem is.          Jus sayin.

 

ALB posted:
Robert M posted:
DannyP posted:

Yeah, I'd like to know wheel make, cost, and width.

I could only make out that the front/rear tires are 225/50R16. I know that won't help with rim information but it might give an idea on the width of the rim.

I don't think the front/rear tires are the same size, Robert. You are right in that the rears are 225/50's, on either 7 or 8" rims (I'm guessing 7's because of the look of the sidewall- it's pulled in a little to meet the rim) but the fronts are (I think) smaller, either 195's or 205's, on 5½'s or 6's?

As for the rims- while I don't think they are Vintage 190's, they look a little like them around the wheel nut area, but I've never heard of them building 16" wheels (which would be sooo cooool!).  It'll be interesting to hear what @MVSpyder has to say after the trip to the tire shop. Al

I see that now. I enlarged two different photos of the rear tire thinking one of them was the front. I did think it was idd that the tires were the same. Can’t fault a guy for trying. Lol

I doubt the tire/wheel combination on MV's spyder will fit many other spyders, or 356 for that matter.  Those who have been around for a while remember that Thunder Ranch made basically two different styles of the 550 body.  One that was the familiar Beck shape, and one that was something of a 'wide body' variant.  MV has the wide body, noticeable by the front fender flares and wide rear clam.

So, unless one's spyder or 356 body is purposefully flared to accommodate 'wider-than-period' wheels and tires, replicating MV's good looking combination might be a tough fit.

As to how TR flared their A model, the front is pretty obvious. The back looks like the whole "fender" was cut off then rolled outward some, then reattached to the clamshell.

I've been drooling with the 550 idea for many years and the TR was on my radar, as was the McRae with the 914 rear suspension that I saw somewhere.

@MVSpyder your going to have fun with this car and do let us know which tires you end up with.           Cuz, we've gots to know.

Last edited by Carlos G

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