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John Steele has been known to produce some very good cars.  He has also been known to produce some very bad cars on occasion.  

We always suggest that you make the effort to travel to his shop upon completion of your build, spend a few days driving your car and working up a punch list (there will ALWAYS be a punch list) of things to correct before shipping it to you, especially on the East Coast.  It will not be an option to return the car to John for correction once delivered (you ready to pay another grand or two for shipping?) and anything found to be sub-par will have to be corrected locally to you.  You should start asking around locally for a good VW or independent Subaru mechanic if you are not mechanically inclined.  This is most important.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking at (or hearing) on your shakedown cruise, ask on here ahead of time for a good VW mechanic near John’s shop and take it to that guy for a third-party analysis.  Remember, once it ships it will be much harder to get stuff corrected.

Because of some disasters shipped to the East Coast from John’s shop some time ago (and the new owner did not make an acceptance trip to John’s shop), I wrote a new/used vehicle checklist (with input from several people on here) to, at minimum, insure that your car is safe to take out on the road.  That checklist is re-posted here and, yes, it is a long list but it will insure that your car is safe to drive on the road, at least.

Good luck and remember that John Steele is grumpy to everyone who deals with him.

Acceptance checklist for a new Speedster/Spyder (any builder)

Note:  This list is just a beginning and doesn’t cover every optional item or accessory available from the builders.   This is only meant to get you to a safe and acceptable car before and upon delivery.

Safety Inspection

Suspension

  1. Check all tie rod ends for tightness. (22 ft. lbs.)
  2. Check tie rod locking clamps for tightness. (22 ft. lbs. for clamps, 29 ft. lbs. for locknuts)
  3. Check ball joints/front hubs for no-play tightness (jack up front, bar under tire and jiggle)  Ball joint nuts should be 36 ft. lbs (10mm nuts ) or 51 ft. lbs. (12 mm nuts)
  4. Check the front wheel bearings for (a.) adequate lubricating grease and (b.) proper bearing pre-load (.001”-.003” acceptable end play).
  5. Check front axle beam mounting bolts for tightness (36 ft. lbs.)
  6. Check pitman arm nut for tightness (72 ft. lbs.)
  7. Check for max +- 1” play or less at top of steering wheel, front wheels centered.
  8. Check steering wheel hub nut and wheel adapter attach bolts/screws for tightness.
  9. Check steering column coupler and steering box mounts for tightness. (18 ft. lbs.)

10. Check ALL wheel lug nuts for proper torque (5-lug= 72 ft. lbs., 4-lug = 90 ft. lbs.) NOTE:  alloy wheels may require different torques.  Check with your builder for proper wheel lug torque settings.

11. Check spring plate bolts for tightness on rear suspension (87 ft. lbs.

12. Check diagonal arm bolts for tightness (87 ft. lbs.)

13. Inspect rear torsion bar cover plate for tightness

14. Insure that all corners of the car sit equally

15.  No “creaking” or squeaks or clunking when fender corners are bounced – all shock absorbers should be tight.

16. Check rear wheel hub castellated nuts – torque to 260 – 275 ft. lbs.

17. Check the mount points on any anti-sway bars (if equipped) for proper tightness.

Brakes

  1. Inspect all wheel brake cylinders, flexible hoses and fittings for any leakage.
  2. Check the master cylinder (pull left front wheel for easy access) for any leaks at the fittings, and/or any leaks at the push rod behind the brake pedal in the cockpit (look under the carpet for wetness).  The brake fluid reservoir should have fluid to the “Full” mark in both halves of the container.
  3. Check that the brake pedal push rod keeper is in place on the brake pedal.
  4. Make sure BOTH foot pedals are lined up equal when at rest.  (the adjustment is on the floor below the pedals)
  5. Check Brake pedal free-play – should be ½”-¾” Max travel at top of pedal.
  6. Firmly depress the brake pedal.  It should feel quite firm.

Brake Road test:

  1. Check for good stopping power – There should be no side pulling when applying brakes, but remember that these are NOT “Power assist” brakes and a bit more foot power may be required to stop.
  2. Test emergency brake when underway – there should be no side pulling when e-brake is applied. If there is, then the ebrake should be adjusted on both rear wheels.

Lights/horn

  1. Check Horn
  2. Check all lights including brake lights
  3. Check for proper operation of directional lights and emergency flashers
  4. Check inside courtesy lights for operation

Gauges

  1. Check gauge lights for proper operation (yes, some backlit gauges tend to be dim)
  2. Check all gauges for proper operation – Fuel, Temp, Pressure (if equipped) Tachometer should be smooth (these tend to fail a lot) and Speedo should be smooth, quiet and not jumpy when under way.
  3. Check fuel gauge – NOTE!  Some fuel gauges have more needle “swing” when the car is in motion than others.  Needle swing of up to ½ tank is considered “normal”.

Cockpit Functions

  1. Check windshield wipers
  2. Check the operation of all Dashboard switches.
  3. Check Emergency Brake operation – engage brake and release clutch in 1’st gear.  Engine should immediately stall.
  4. Check clutch pedal free play – should be 3/8” at top of pedal, adjustable at the throw-out arm on top/side of the transmission (Big Wing Nut).
  5. Gear Selection – should be able to easily engage all forward and reverse gears without “searching”
  6. Check operation of the heater/defroster controls
  7. Check operation of the A/C controls and cold output – output from the cold registers should be about 40 degrees

Engine

  1. Check fan belt free-play – push against the belt half way between pulleys – belt should deflect about ¾” and not “squeal” when engine is rev’d.  Tension is adjusted by adding/removing shims between the upper pulley halves.  Extra shims should be between the upper pulley nut and the outer pulley half.
  2. Check all fuel line connections for tightness and no leaking
  3. Check timing:  6 degrees BTDC at idle for vacuum advance distributors, 30 degrees BTDC at 3000 rpm for centrifugal advance distributors
  4. Check oil level with engine off.  Dip Stick is just to the right of the lower fan belt pulley and has lower (fill) and upper (full) embossed marks on the stick.
  5. Remove air cleaners and check carburetor top screws for tightness – replace air cleaners
  6. Check idle speed – Should be around 800 RPM and smooth after warm-up.
  7. If you have access to an air flow meter, synchronize all four carburetor throats.
  8. Inspect engine for any oil leaks, especially at pushrod tubes (either end), sump plate, base of cylinder barrels at the case, oil pump (behind lower fan belt pulley) and at bottom of the bell housing.  A little oil wetness from behind the lower (crankshaft) pulley is considered normal.
  9. Check for oil leaks at any fittings used for an external oil filter and/or external oil cooler.  These items may be mounted almost anywhere on the car, so you’ll have to trace the hoses and see if all fittings are dry.

10. Check operation of the engine breather system if so equipped.  Breather is a box mounted to the firewall with hoses running to the valve covers, or a box mounted to the top of the oil filer, or a can mounted to the top of the oil filler.  There should also be a hose running either down past the oil dipstick to vent below the engine, or, rather, a hose venting into the air cleaner of one or both carburetors.  There should be no leaks from this system except for the hose vented to below the engine.

11. Check for proper heater operation (if equipped).  There are several different versions of heat.  Ask the builder or previous owner how it works and make sure it is producing heat.  These cars are notorious for only producing minimal heat so don’t expect too much.

12. When idling, it is considered “normal” for there to be a small amount of valve noise (gentle clicking).  Hard knocks, raps grinding or hammer-noises is not considered “normal”.

13. Check Valve Clearance:  Steel Push rods are set to 0.000 - .002” Intake and Exhaust.  All other engines with aluminum push rods are set to .006” for BOTH intake and exhaust until you find out from your engine builder the correct spec for your engine (there are many variations on this – it’s best to talk with your builder)

Transmission

  1. Inspect transmission for leaks at all seams, at side plates, at filler (side) and drain (bottom) plugs, and at wheel back plates (for axle seal leak).
  2. Inspect bottom of bell housing for oil leak – this could be caused by either a transmission input shaft seal leak or an engine flywheel end seal leak.
  3. When underway, the transmission should shift smoothly and easily into all gears with no whining or grinding.
  4. NOTE!  Reverse is often found by pushing down on the gear shift lever, moving left as far as possible and then pulling back (with the clutch depressed).  On some cars there my be a reverse lockout button on the side of the shift handle that must be pushed in, or a reverse lockout ring on the front of the gearshift lever that must be pulled up before moving the lever to “reverse”.

Cosmetic Items

Exterior

  1. Check door hinge bolts for tightness
  2. Check for paint overspray on all surfaces
  3. Site along outside doors for surface waviness – they should be straight
  4. Site along body contour between engine cover and rear seat – it should not be wavy or bulbous (indicates a bubble in the fiberglass)
  5. Entire car should be free of paint cutting/polishing compound – this stuff looks like flat colored paint or off-color dull paint (or no paint) and you should be able to scrape it off with your fingernail.  It should not be left on there and should be removed by a professional paint/autobody company.
  6. Check for excessive “orange Peel” in the paint – this can be removed by color-sanding the paint, but requires a professional paint/body shop to do it.
  7. Check for “runs” in the paint – these, too, can be color-sanded out by a professional shop.
  8. Check for blemishes in the chrome everywhere.

Interior

  1. Check for professional seams in the carpets, door panels and seats
  2. Check for proper installation of carpeting and vinyl panels – most of these are glued on and sometimes let go.
  3. Check for tightness of any interior accessory – door and window handles, dash grab handle, rear view mirror(s), dash knobs, convertible top latches
  4. Check the radio (if equipped) for proper operation in all modes (bring along your iPod for an MP3 driver)
  5. Check power windows (if equipped) for proper and smooth operation.
  6. Check for smooth operation of the seats fore and aft – check operation of the recliners if so equipped.
  7. Check operation of the cup holders if so equipped.
  8. Check operation of any auxiliary power points if so equipped.
  9. Check for smooth operation of the convertible top and proper latching of the top to the windshield header – the latches should pull the top in about ¼”-3/8” only.  All snaps along the rear bulkhead (behind the rear seat) should line up with their respective snaps on top without excessive pulling/alignment.

10. Check the installation if the side windows to make sure they fit properly with no serious gaps.

Typical DMV Inspection Items

  1. Ball Joints – free play
  2. Wheel hub play – should be zero hub play on all four wheels
  3. Steering play - +- 1” left/right play at top of steering wheel
  4. All lights should be operational – including parking lights
  5. Directional Lights, brake lights, emergency flashers should work
  6. Engage emergency brake, start engine and allow to idle, engage first gear, bring engine rpms up to 2,000 and release clutch – engine should immediately stall.
  7. Wipers should work (only one speed is necessary – two speeds is a bonus)
  8. You should know where your Vehicle Inspection Number (VIN) is located:  Pan based cars have the VIN stamped into the top of the central tunnel behind the seats.  IM VIN Location:       Beck/Special Edition VIN Location:  SAS Vin Location:   VS/CMC/JPS VIN Location:  Thunder Ranch VIN location:
  9. VW-Pan-Based cars should not be subject to current emissions testing as they are usually registered as the VW VIN number which suggests that they are early VW beetles and smog test exempt.  IM and Beck cars must be registered as “replicas” to be smog exempt, while SAS cars usually are registered as year-of-manufacture and pass smog tests for that year as a Subaru.

Shipping Notes

  1. If possible and within your budget, ALWAYS SHIP IN A CLOSED CARRIER AND STIPULATE THAT YOU’LL BE ABOVE OTHER CARS.  If not, you may end up on the bottom of a 2-level truck and have brake fluid or oil drip onto your car, or have road debris, thrown from another vehicle, hit your car.  Not good.
  2. Past experience has shown that “winched on” is better than “drive on”.  Too many times we’ve seen damage caused by a driver who simply did not know the car and screwed something up or broke something.
  3. Always ask on the SOC for a list of recommended transport companies and use the ones recommended.  To not do so is at your own (and your car’s) peril.

What broker are you buying it through?  Do you know if your car is one of John's Brazilian Builds or VW pan based done in CA? Depending on what state you live in that could be an issue as his Brazilian Builds are titled based on when they are built so you may have a 2020 which can present problems in certain states.

Can you also share when your order was placed and when he said it would be done.

Thank you all for your input.  I did not choose JPS, I went through South Atlanta Motorsports, Brian, shopping for a 356.  He had already placed an order for a D and it was everything I wanted.  A friend, who is on this site, used Brian and is very happy with his C.  The D is nearly complete, so I sill not have to wait the 6 months JPS is now telling folks when placing a new build order.

@TPWilliams

We've heard good stuff on here about Brian and South Atlanta Motorsports so I think you'll have a good experience.  I believe that they also go through the car before final delivery to make sure everything's right and safe, so that is always a good thing.  Feel free to pass along the checklist, if you wish.  

A couple of professional race car driver friends of mine live in Atlanta (Spencer Pumpelly and Andy Lally) and they would not need much convincing to wring your car out on the Road Atlanta track, just to be sure.    (Just kidding, but they would get a kick out of driving a replica, I'm sure).    

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