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AAZCD Reader
5/12/19 8:01 p.m.

Now that it's posted, here's a sideways bump for my 'Gambler 500 Kansas Rally' post:

2019 Gambler 500 Kansas Rally - My first Gambler

I have a couple things to work on when I feel like it, but not urgently. The AC doesn't work now and neither do the radiator fans, so it's most likely an electrical issue. Driving through lots of deep water can be harmful and I think that I'll slather dielectric grease on all the easy to reach connectors when I work on it. The strut to tire-tread rubbing is going to be fixed either by buying new struts (they are cheap) or putting a new bushing & bearing on the old strut and putting it back in.

Also, there was a really cool Jetta TDI at the Gambler. He did his lift by using 90s Jeep Cherokee springs and some deep offset wheels. I like my wheel/spacer set-up, but the Jeep springs seems like a cleaner lift strategy. Next trip to Cagle's I'm looking for a Cherokee.

Awesome sound, reminded me of an old Army M35 'Deuce and a Half' with the turbo:

AAZCD HalfDork
9/3/19 8:57 p.m.

I haven't done any more events with the Dung Beetle, but it's still here and still evolving. I put some new struts up front and replaced a control arm. I haven't been driving it much because the HVAC blower quit - not hard to troubleshoot, but just not a priority. When I feel caught up on my Challenge Boxster, I'll get the blower working again and replace the rear control arm bushings. I suspect that off-road driving and 2" lift is pretty hard on the suspension, but parts are cheap and the work isn't hard after you've done it once. I'm also looking at using the canvas from a Boxster convertible top to replace the rear hatch ...more on that in the weeks ahead.

Here's some pics of how it looks tonight:

Funny, I think I have a bigger grin driving this than I do one of my Boxsters.

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/2/20 6:22 p.m.

I re-did the 'body work' on the back end and added some new tail lights. The original duct tape and spray foam had deteriorated and a tail light was out. Riveting the plastic bumper material together didn't work well in the heat; as I flexed pieces into shape the rivets popped out. In the end, I put most of it together by drilling holes and stitching it with rebar wire. For this car, it worked out well. Hopefully I'll find a Gambler 500 in the area again soon-ish. It was pretty sad when the Kansas event got Canceled by the Wuhan Virus.

Original tail:


I have a new HF winch to put on it, but I still haven't figured out the best way to mount it.

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/29/20 8:04 p.m.

Dung Beetle has a major oil leak from the engine. There was oil leaking from the valve cover onto the exhaust, so I changed the valve cover gasket. What a pain on the AEG engine! The intake manifold has to come off including some 'blind' bolts on the back of the engine. I did the spark plugs while I was in there since they are under the manifold too.

After it was all back together I went for a 5 minute drive. When I parked it back in the driveway and left it idling, it quickly developed a 6" round puddle under the engine. It may be the oil cooler gasket. I have already replaced that once in this car, so I expect that it's still good. If not that, it's most likely the rear main seal. I do NOT want to do the rear main seal. I would rather just swap in another engine while I'm at it and I don't want to do that. I am trying to get my minor maintenance done so I can focus on the Porsche 914s. Engine swaps and crankshaft seals are not 'minor maintenance'.

So... It crossed my mind that I could swap a Porsche 914 engine into this car. Make it a FWD air cooled 2000 Beetle. That would be working within the '914 realm' and also get this car back on the road. I like the idea as a vague concept: 'just mount it up, run fuel and 12 volts to it ...modify shift linkage and clutch cable.' Easy right?

Tomorrow I plan to replace the oil cooler gasket (o-ring). If that doesn't get it fixed I hope that I have the sense to park it behind the garage and let it sit in 'time-out' for a month or two.

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/30/20 6:49 a.m.

Sometimes a timeout is the answer. 

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
10/31/20 10:09 a.m.

Here's what happened...

A full assessment of Dung Beetle presented a bleak picture. Many things should be fixed including but not limited to:

Static battery drain, serpentine belt and idler pulley, cooling fan relay or wiring issue, bad O2 sensor, trailing arm bushings completely shot, HVAC fan control failing/AC inop, rear hatch lock stuck, shifter linkage starting to bind in reverse.... Most of these items are totally acceptable in a Gambler, but together with a bad oil leak that requires pulling the transmission to repair, it was too much.

I realized that I like what I have done to the car, but I really didn't care for the car itself. Starting over again with another car and transferring the sexy bits that are reusable sounds a lot more fun than investing more time and money in a car that has already reached a reasonable ending – a few times. My opinion of good Gambler is taking a car that is near the end of its life and giving it one last shot at glory. Dung Beetle has seen that end and it's time to let it go.

I found myself searching Craigslist and FB Market for anything cheap and impractical enough to be a good Gambler. TDI Jettas and Beetles looked fun, but were always dead or too pricey. I called about a $800 Honda Del Sol, but it had already sold within hours of listing. Pic:

Then I fell in love with the idea of an 80s or 90s Mercedes Benz sedan. Sadly none of the listings I checked on worked out. I found one good candidate at a local Copart auction, a '79 450 SLC (not running, but it looked pretty solid with a clean engine. I put a $500 bid on it (below the seller's reserve) just to mark it and see how I felt about it commitment wise. No regrets if I win at $500 and I can always bid up if I don't want to let it go.

A Friday auction at noon in Tulsa. At 5:30 am Friday morning I got a call from a co-worker. He was supposed to cover for a pilot who was sick with COVID and he had just woke up with a fever. Can I cover for him? Yes I can... with overtime, it's enough money to pretty much pay for what I plan to buy at the auction and I can still be online to bid as long as I'm not flying at the time.

At noon, I opened the auction web page and found the 450 SLC near the end of the list. It would be over an hour before it came up. I looked through the first group of cars. There was a no-reserve 'run and drive' 2004 Beetle Cabrio that was at $425. A 1.8L turbo engine and the only significant flaw seemed to be a deep dent across the passenger side door. I'm in! I bid $500. The clock rolled to the last second and Copart extended it to “overtime”. A counter bid came at $550. I waited to the last couple seconds and bid $600. Winner!

I was still high bidder on the 450 SLC. I wanted it, but knew I should not add it to my already too long list of projects. The '04 Beetle IS the new Gambler car. I watched as another bidder matched my $500 with a max bid that was above, bumping his bid ahead of mine. The clock ran out and I let it sell for $500, feeling both relief and regret. I'm still curious to see if the seller let it go below reserve.

So, now I have a new Gambler. The 'Turbo Dung Beetle' will come home next week. Meanwhile I'll consider the demise of the old Dung Beetle. What to save and what to leave, scrap or sell? It's had a good journey and I think I will close out this thread and open a new one as I start the next build.

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/14/20 12:29 p.m.

Ready for the scrap yard Monday or ready for a buyer at $300 this weekend. Doors came off, but then went back on (minus a window regulator). I'd love to drive it to the crusher, but I switched the insurance to the new one already.

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/16/20 12:44 a.m.

Well, it's finally gone. This time it won't be coming back.

Queue sentimental tribute video:


slowbird SuperDork
11/16/20 10:42 a.m.

Oh man. I hope the farm guys have some fun with it. Maybe in 2 years they'll be like "we welded a 4x4 Chevy truck frame under it and LS swapped it...do you want it back?" cheeky

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