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OjaiM5 Reader
1/7/20 5:41 p.m.

What a cool project. I cut my teeth as a teenage building a cal-look bug. Mine was slow and unsafe but I had so much fun.

This one is going to be fast and wesome!

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 6:50 p.m.

When this project started Eric had a 911 engine.  The whole chassis was designed around the 911.  It demanded a longer engine bay than a 4 banger.  Which cuts down on just how much leg room can be had.  I'm 5'11" and fit fairly well, but taller folks are SOL.  My 6"7" grandson can just lean over and look in through the sunroof.

As the project went on, and on, and on, it became obvious that the 911 engine was way too valuable (Thank you Magnus Walker).  When I took over deciding on the powerplant was my first big hurdle.  In the past I had built a few hot VW motors with the fan on top.  I also did a lot of research on Subaru because there is an adapter kit for this gearbox.  But, when the 914 came up on CL I jumped on it because I knew the front fan would fit in the bay.

In this picture we have the dummy 911 installed with it's front hanging engine mount.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 6:53 p.m.

Then the process was to cut off the 911 front engine mounts and fab lower mounts for the 914 front engine mount crossbar.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 6:57 p.m.

The 911 was a dry sump engine.  So early on Eric built a sump tank that fit in the front bay ahead of the passengers feet.  Conduits were installed in the frame rails to route oil lines from the engine bay to the front.  And the 911 oil cooler would have been up front also.

Also in this picture you can see the structure of the floor frame.  It's 2" deep.  Aluminum skin on the bottom.  Aluminum skin on the top.  It is a stout chassis.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 7:07 p.m.

Obviously Eric Langbein is an incredible fabricator, and an artist with a TIG machine.  He is also a great race engineer.  He was Tim Minor's engineer when Tim dominated the F2000 Championship Series a few years ago.  Eric has also built some outlandish machines.  Walk in his shop and you might find historic Chevron sports racers being prepped for Amelia Island, or BMW2002 with S2000 power.  One never knows whats being built.  

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 7:24 p.m.

Welding, the art.

I spent my life welding with a stick welder.  For 40 years it served the purpose around the ranch.  When I got involved with this project it was obvious a stick welder was not going to cut it.   I purchased a 220volt MIG with gas.  Then I spent a few days trying to figure out why I couldn't strike a weld.  wink Eventually i got better.    At 70 I figured since I had never gas welded it was going to be a steep learning curve to try to master TIG.   I truly admire those folks that can lay down those pretty "row of dimes".  I could weld the thicker steel bits, but I wasn't ready to weld up all that exhaust tubing without burning holes everywhere.  Same with some of the aluminum bits.  I didn't want to screw up this project, and Eric lives in Maryland...

Luckily i found a great guy which to outsource the TIG jobs.  Can't recommend him enough.  George Rivers in Crawfordville Florida.  He does a lot of work on boats up and down the Big Bend coast; tuna towers and the such.  Aluminum works of art.  I would tack pieces with my MIG and then let George do the real welding.  His whole shop is on wheels.  No brick and mortar building for George.  He is not free, but he is very fair. Good enough is not good enough for George.  Great guy.

OBTW, I have fallen in love with the MIG.  Somehow though I can't bring myself to roll that buzzbox out to the curb, even though i haven't used it for 4 years.


Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 7:41 p.m.

I can't emphasize enough that projects like this can be done in pretty small shops with minimum equipment.  To build this vehicle it was required to put the body on and take it off the chassis more times than i care to remember.  And, i was working by myself.  I built the A-frames that you can see in previous photos to hold the body above the chassis.  Most of the time when i was working on the chassis/engine I was working under the body overhead.  It's a small shop.  Then I bought a horrible freight chain hoist and reinforced the trusses overhead.  Next i fabed up a 2x4 set of braces to insert in the door openings of the body with the doors open.  And that's how i lifted the body on and off by myself.  Right away I learned to put marks on the floor where the tires needed to be so I could lower the body successfully.  Realized later i was lucky it was a sunroof car.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 8:08 p.m.

Details, details...

The steering column design was dictated by the rack placement up front and where the body fit on the chassis. Then it had to be placed so one's knuckles didn't strike anything, all the while getting it as far forward as possible.

You can see that it is built out of tubing.  See splices.  Have no fear.  Where the splices are there are steel inserts inside the tubes and roset welded as well as the welds around the circumference.  Really didn't want to have a steering failure.  Obviously the bearings were installed before the final welding.   

Steering effort is fairly easy.   But... this is not a car with Drift steering geometry.  Max steering angle is not that great.  On the road or track you don't notice it, but in a confined parking lot you might laugh when you see me maneuver. The rack is out of a formula car, and they require little steering angle for road racing.  Autocross would be another story.  If it gets to be an issue I can always move the steering links in closer to the axle on the uprights.  Just hasn't been a big deal.  And, if one needs to turn faster just break the rear tires loose with the engine.  wink

At the ROAR i was asked it the wheel is removable.  All my race cars always had removable wheels, but this application just didn't need that function, so I passed on that feature.  That said there is a trick to getting into the car without looking like a complete klutz.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 8:51 p.m.

Splurged a bit on the tach.  Needed a tach, but didn't want a big honking gauge up in view on the dash.  This was a great solutuion.  Fits right in the speedometer hole.   

S P A Technique  #SPT 090 B     Shift lights.  Tell tale.  Digital display you can feed from other sources.

In first or second gear with this engine and those close ration low gears its easy to get into an over rev condition.  Don't ask how I know.  

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 9:53 p.m.

As I mentioned earlier when i got involved in this project I had to find an engine.  A 10 year old Jake Raby 2300 showed up on CL.  The owner had spent a ton of cash having Raby build the motor for his 914.  He then proceeded to enter an autocross and tear up the rear suspension with 100 more HP than the car was designed for.  Owner then started a massive project to turn the 914 into a "race car".   Owner found himself over his head as the project multiplied in complexity.  Owner took a 10 year pause.  The engine still had Raby's break-in oil when I purchased it in 2015.   Sad story, for the rest of the car the owner sold as scrap.

When i got the engine back to the shop, i set up a test stand and got it to run after a few days of marvel mystery oil in the plug holes.  Not well.  Looking into the Weber guts I found a huge mess of corrosion.  I attempted a rebuild with Redline kits.  The job was above my pay grade.  I shipped them off to Sandy at Quicksilver RacEngines.  Sandy managed to save the carbs, but at great effort.

I put the carbs back on the engine and it ran fairly well.  So during final assembly I went ahead and installed the engine as is. (with fingers crossed).  I knew in my core it was a long shot.  But, full speed ahead.  When I finally had the car ready to drive the comedy of errors began.  All my stick shift cars of late are purpose built road race cars.  Cars with 60 to 70 mph first gears.  I get out in the driveway, all excited.  Start er up, idle a bit, slip it into first gear, hammer the throttle, drop the clutch and instantly turn the rear tires into smoke.  Yee Haw!  In the bat of an eye I'm over-reving the beast.  UH OH.    Try again, this time only a little less over-rev.   About then I hear a popping sound.    Not the sound of success.

Experience is something you usually acquire about 3 seconds after you needed it.

I actually do drive it back into the shop... to start the rebuild.   

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 9:58 p.m.

I called Jake, and he wanted $19K.   My friends, knowing i was a very successful VW engine builder in the 70s said, "Hell its just a fancy VW, do it yourself."   I had never opened a 411 so i started doing some research.  I found this purchase to be a great refresher course that pointed out all the gotchas of the 411.   So... Jake did get some of my money.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/7/20 10:13 p.m.

Autopsy time.  The leakdown test showed two great cylinders and two very weak cylinders.  Opened it up.  Rusty valve seats.  And the rings on two pistons were corroded into the ring grooves.  Engine was built in 2002.  It was 2015.  And it had been stored on a garage floor in central Florida.  No surprise.

The pistons were J&E.  Called J&E.  They asked for the laser etched part number on the pin boss.  Oops.  They only started doing that laser marking in 2003.  But, you can send them a piston and for $75 the can measure it and re-engineer a spec for new ones, that they can then build.  While not as easy as off the shelf from Summit, at least it was a solution.

Valve job, rings, Joe Gibbs break in oil, and we are back in business.  Way less than $19K, but to be fair probably not as perfect as Jake would have been.  January 2019 and we are back in business... and learning how not to over rev the beast.

jdogg New Reader
1/8/20 12:57 a.m.

That whole thing is nuts! I love it!

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/9/20 10:01 p.m.
GoLucky Reader
1/9/20 10:48 p.m.

I am impressed. Why not use a rev limiter though? Seems like an easy way to control rpm. 

FourBlades New Reader
1/11/20 4:50 p.m.


Wow, a very cool build.

Can you describe the driving experience?

How does it feel under braking and cornering?

I have a similar Jake Raby engine in a 914.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/13/20 1:40 p.m.

Probably a lot harser ride than a 914.  No rubber or plastic bushings.  And 1750# springs on rear, 1200# on front.

More like a kart than a car.   Racing brake pads, but not a problem on the street.   

My "danger" side would like to put fiberglass fenders, hoods and bonnets on it with lexan windows to get it even lighter.

Designed to be a track day car.  I expect that with stickies wrapped around the rims it far exceeds 1 G sideways.  It feels like that on the street tires.

On Sundays I like to drive Formula Continentals.  This car has a lot of that same feel.  Not anything like a street car.  But the FC is usually set up with like a 65 mph 1st gear.  In the bug you could shift 3 times to get to 65.  Shorter gears.  A friend who is a formula car driver drove it at Road Atlanta.  When he got out he said it feels like a race car.

Railroad tracks or speed bumps are outrageous experiences.  Heck, even expansion joints get your attention.

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/13/20 1:45 p.m.

Sort of a shame but this 914 project donated its heart and sway bar to the build.  But the owner moved on to better things.

Rodan Dork
1/13/20 6:45 p.m.

Wow.  Just incredible!  yes

Thank you for sharing this with us! 

1/14/20 12:18 a.m.

This build is tits-out. Odd question about fuel- you mentioned having to use VP112 for the compression value- would you also be able to run E85? I know it's octane rating is similar, but I think the carbs would have to be FAR bigger for flow.

That torque curve... hell, it ain't a torque curve, it's a torque plateau. Torque Hoodoo.

Purple Frog said:

When some "gray hair" my age is blocking the fast lane, the stock horn may not be enough... one could always hit the air horn button.   devil

You ain't a boomer. You're a 25 year old with gray hair laugh

I'm happy you're here. Welcome!

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/14/20 7:36 a.m.

I'd have to research into other fuel options before any change.

Raby said to run 110 - 112.  So that's what I'm doing.  I believe those old style valves,guides, etc. still need lead.  Same reason I'm using Gibbs oil to get the zinc, etc.

The torque curve makes this an easy engine to just putter around with.  For street driving its even easy to launch in 2nd gear.

AngryCorvair MegaDork
1/14/20 8:32 a.m.

In reply to Purple Frog :

a very good friend of mine used to work for Sandy at Quicksilver in the late 80s - early 90s.  i think they were in Frederick at the time

Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/14/20 9:35 a.m.

Yes.  Erik and Sandy at Quicksilver RacEngines are great folks.  The range of engines they build is crazy.  But of course there is a major emphasis on 4 bangers of all types.  No problem that Fat Tire brewery is just across the street.

QS is still in Frederick.  An amazing engine building facility.  Clean like a hospital operating room.  Sandy spent a stupid amount of time saving the Webers (their insides looked like moon rocks).   

Frederick is a neat town.  Mrs. Frog doesn't mind at all visiting.  smiley

1/14/20 9:49 a.m.

Holy sheets Batman!

I have been ignoring this build cause, to be honest VW bugs are not my thing.

But epic build threads ARE my thing and this thing is EPIC in pretty much every detail. Fooled me completely at the start with the stock body pic.


Do carry on.



Purple Frog
Purple Frog New Reader
1/14/20 9:54 a.m.

Fooling people was the goal... especially at stoplights.  wink

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