Sunday, September 25, 2005

Bringing up the rear.

So you've already seen that I intend to stuff a Vanagon transaxle into my little Ghia, but the bastardization is far from finished. To transmit massive torque from motor to wheel there are several links to consider. Downstream of the transmission gears are the axle half-shafts, constant velocity joints, and stub axles (in other words, the "axle" part of transaxle). The inner and outer CV joints of a Type 1 VW (Bug and Ghia) are reliable at design loads, but could spew bearings faster than a Navy navigator on Sodium Pentothal if subjected to 300 foot-pounds of torque. Besides, the Vanagon used larger CV joints than my little Ghia came with, so something larger is needed to match things up. Duh, use Vanagon parts, right? Well, turns out there's more to this story. With joint-jolting torque propelling an overweight Ghia to illegal velocities, brake components become critical. No way would I trust my tushie to the skinny rear drum brakes that came as stock, so let's get some vented disks. Besides, we want beefier CV joints and axles. CV options are nicely laid out at Blind Chicken Racing. Oh yeah, if all this stronger stuff came in a lighter package, that would be nice too. Sound like an impossible order? Not if you consider the dynamic duo of VW and Porsche. Porsche has aways done a lot of the big-brain engineering for VW, and would naturally not waste that work when it came to building their own cars. It turns out that Porsche 924 and 944 cars have essentially the same rear suspension type as late model Karmann Ghias! Plus, the 924 and 944 models up through 1986 had a narrow track, using trailing arms of the same dimension as Type 1 Volkswagens. However, these arms used the beefier Type IV (411 and 412 station wagon) CV joints. The Type IV joints share a common diameter and bolt pattern with the Type II bus joints, but they have a greater range of motion. Since I've considered airbagging the Ghia, this is a welcome bonus. What about the brakes? Porsche uses only the best, so the 924/944 line came with vented rear disks and an integrated parking brake. Ok, so this sounds heavy. Yeah, the 944 trailing arms were beefy steel to support a heavier, higher performance car, until 1986, that is. In 1986, Porsche produced a one-year-only narrow track, forged aluminum trailing arm. For yet another bonus, these arms are compatible with the 944 Turbo (951) four piston Brembo calipers, or the earlier two piston calipers. Since I'm trying to avoid boosted brakes for reasons of mass, bulk, and complexity on an electric car, only the early calipers would do.
Long story short, I locally located the rear end of a 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo and a set of early calipers. For properly balanced braking, I pulled a master cylinder from the same, and it turns out that once separated from it's booster unit, the master cylinder 'looks' like it will be a perfect match for the Type 1 mount, only in aluminum instead of cast iron, and properly portioned for rear disks without the need for an external proportioning valve.
Before you get too impressed by my intellect, be assured that it's been figured out by much better mechanics than me. I was particularly inspired by the work of Germany's Jochen Bader, who stuffed the internals of a Porsche 993 into his Ghia, and used much of this rear suspension setup. A good article on the project can be found at

Our last link in motor-transmission-axle-brake rotor chain is of course, the wheels and tires. Tires are a fairly forgiving component, as evidenced by any number of roadgoing monstrocities these days, from rice racers with their 13"x13" rims and rubber-band tires, to the 35" mud grips found climbing curbs at any suburban shopping center. For the Karmann Eclectric, we want to find a balance between traction and efficiency, style and substance, while keeping it within the wheelwells of my narrow-waisted Ghia, allowing unassisted steering, stock speedometer ratios, and the many other benefits retained through generally staying true to what those Porsche engineers spent so much time figuring out. The perfect compromise may well be 6"x 15" rims from the front end of 1987 924S LeMans Special Edition models. Not only are these rims the right size, with the right offset, and the right bolt pattern, but the Porsche Phone Dial design is of timeless simplicity, with oval holes that smartly complement the Ghia lines. Of course, my local Porsche parts scrounger happened to have a bargain on four of these....

More details to come on the technical specificalities that were glossed over in this post.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Monster Trans-action

It's hee-eere! After no fewer than 22 days of delay by UPS, the 091 Vanagon transaxle originally built for the Ghia Monster has arrived! Yes, the Ghia Monster, that most extreme of electric Ghias, outgrew it's bulletproof, locking differential, five speed overdrive with a granny first gear tranny before it even got installed. Steve Marks had this beauty built up by KCR transmissions (who apparently don't keep records of each tranny built for later reference!?!) early on in the Ghia Monster project, and then it turned out that the Ghia Monster would produce too much torque even for the beefiest aircooled factory transaxle available. To handle over 1000 foot-lbs of torque, the Monster needed a Lenco. However, Karmann Eclectric should 'only' put out about 300 foot-lbs, so this gearbox should fit the bill. There's some confusion between the builder and original buyer as to whether or not the 5-speed kit was installed, but that will be apparent soon enough. An electric Ghia would only need fifth gear for a salt flats run, anyway....

Ever since the engagement was called off, this jilted tranny had been sulking in storage under the stewardship of Richard Brown, EV mentor and creator of the Dualin 7. Rich consented to ship it up to me gratis, and built a custom shipping crate that would've survived a trip around the horn on a slow boat to Timbuktu. I'm thankful for his careful craftsmanship, because despite the conspicuous ^UP^ markings, the crate obviously spent part of it's three week journey in the inverted position (evidenced by the handwrittern upside-down UPS notes to staff....).

You've no doubt noticed that this gearbox came with some shiny accessories. Yep, I got the adaptor plate too. But this is no ordinary spacer ring, no. Steve had designed and built a very cherry and custom standoff plate to accomodate three 8" ADC motors! It fits perfectly into the Ghia engine bay, and the temptation to make use of this plate is too great. Just as Steve discovered, three motors would probably be overkill for this transaxle, but those slots in the adaptor plate are also perfect locations for any number of accessories, such as an AC generator head, or rotary inverter (more economical than the electronic kind, if not quite as efficient). Another possibility is a high-voltage DC generator, for the most efficient regeneration and dynamic braking possible, and there's always that leftover alternator that I've got hanging around, for an old-school and much less expensive DC-DC converter. "All" that has to be done is to drill a new set of holes for the larger 9" motor mounting pattern, and then it's off to the races.. Oh yeah, the coupler spacing doesn't appear to be quite the same, and then I'd have to rethink the controller location, and those contactors, and there's the water cooling, and, uh..........

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Back to the Beginning.

I got a bit ahead of myself with that news on the motor build.
When we last left our little yellow victim, it had been rescued from backyard oblivion, but we were discovering the unusual rust patterns that come from being closed up for 20 years in a humid environment. Besides a sheen of surface corrosion all over the interior, the big problem was in the floorpans. The natural jute padding used by Karmann was a great sponge, and kept moisture on the floorpan for decades, as they rusted from the inside out. What looked like a clean floorpan from below quickly crumbled with a gentle poke from my screwdriver. So, the pans have to be replaced. Since I was determined to build an EV, why not build custom reinforced battery boxes into this new pan? I gathered some 'worst case' battery dimensions and used up cores of batteries that I might use, such as the old standby flooded 6 Volt Trojan T-105 and the high performance absorbed glass mat Optima Yellow Top.
I measured clearances on the original floor pans, and sketched out some new pans that would hang a bit lower, since the Ghia had a very generous 8.5" ground clearance to begin with. This would be reduced to a minimum of 5", which very rarely scraped on my Miata, and would allow the tall T-105 to sit completely beneath the rear seat are on my Ghia.
Then it was time to remove the body, which was surprisingly easy, and start hacking!

Since the floorpans were coated with tar, it was hard to gauge the full extent of corrosion, and I wound up needing to cut farther than originally anticipated.
Quality replacement pans don't come cheap, and I already knew that stock pans wouldn't fit the batteries like I wanted, so a local welder agreed to tackle the job. We found that 1 1/4" square tubing was a perfect fit inside the chanel that runs around the perimeter of the pan, so we added it there for reinforcement in the critical rocker panel area, and also added a cross brace that would serve as the front edge of the battery box. From the front of this box, we angled back up and forward to the remaining original pan, and joined the two with a strong lap weld. Custom seat mounts were fabbed up,TIG welding was done all around, and the quality of that work was outstanding. Thanks go out to Rogers Welding of Woodstock, GA.

After welding, the entire chassis was sandblasted by The Dutchman of Woodstock, GA, and then the raw metal was given a thick coating of Line-X, except for suspension componenets, which I spraypainted with Hammerite.

Building a motor

As they say, good things come to those who.... procrastinate?
After scrounging parts for two years, and showing up late for every good deal on a used Advanced DC or WarP motor that came along, I was resigned to paying retail, when out of nowhere, the nation's most imaginative DC motor rebuilder appears in my back yard! Jim Husted of High Torque electric might be found in any industrial town, a talented motor man who'd been rebuilding industrial DC drives and golf cart motors for decades, but he was discovered on John Wayland's forklift repair route, and has awakened to the wild world of EV racing. In less than a year, Jim's creations have turned conventional EV motor limitations into history. With the Siamese Eights for White Zombie, Jim built two eight inch motors around a single shaft, and this motor is already pushing the Zombie to incredible 0-60 foot times (1.671 on it's most recent run). A smaller diameter motor will always 'spool up' faster than a large motor, and the Siamese Eights have doubled that advantage, without the attendant inefficiencies of combining gears, a belt drive, or vibration-prone couplers. Jim's next creation was the "Purple Phaze", a massive old 72 volt Allis-Chalmers forklift motor that was pulled from a scrap heap and has become a gleaming source of axle-snapping torque at 348 volts. Not satisfied with just a clean build at nearly five times the original design voltage, John Wayland and Jim Husted collaborated to develop the ABR, or Adjustable Brush Ring. This simple assembly makes advancing or retarding the brushes on a series DC motor possible with the simple flick of a lever, and it could even be automated using a servo motor. Adjustable brush rigging promises to allow the same motor to efficiently push a car in commuter mode all week, but still tear up the track on Friday night. With retarded brush timing, the elusive goal of practical regeneration on a series motor appears to finally be in reach.
Jim's second ABR went into Doug Weathers' 8" ADC motor, and his third is reserved for the Karmann Eclectric. Better to let the description come from the builder himself. Here's Jim's first mention of our project on the Electric Vehicle Discussion List:

Hey everyone

Mark wrote:
>So far everyone says it's not too big. Guess it'll be a go on the 9" motor.
James Massey wrote:
Aah, don't forget that there is more than one choice in series DC motors of
that size. Advanced DC, Netgain, Warfield, GE and others. And don't forget
the Jim Husted special build options. Jim, have you a suitable motor available?

Actually I have about 5 or 6 more 9's available to me. I just figured I’d let
you all feed on him for a while (or maybe the other way around) before I piped
in. Since James brought me into this, I guess I have to add my two cents here.
I think my current project might offer you some food for thought…

I just got the Okay to start my newest project, which will be a shortened 9” ADC
for a conversion in Vancouver WA. This motor will be shortened down to 15” in
total length by removing 2” from the housing area. The shaft will also need to
be modified, and as I’ve followed these posts would allow an extra 2” of tail
shaft to stick out for one of your needs. The end plates are going to be clear
powder coated for a nice easy to clean finish. These modifications are so the
motor will fit into his conversion without having to cut his car.

This motor will sport an adjustable brush ring (Notice: I’m naming this an ABR
for short lol). For this conversion it will be static, as in advanced by the
user for his /her car and locked into that advancement. If one were to install
a servo motor to the adjusting arm of the ABR, then could you not get it to
slide from neutral for regen, to a pre-determined advancement for driving, and
then back? Making the ADC a little more regen friendly. This seems so doable,
any input?

I’d like to note that the ideas and the modifications I am beginning to do have
come in large part by the suggestions and ideas of others, in addition to
reading your posts. I’m hoping to get a web site up where I can post pics of
cores looking for good homes. I plan to put up how to’s and show off what we
got cooking in the pots as time goes by. I will throw up step by step projects
for those both here and abroad who might like to do it themselves.

I’ve heard mention of someone wanting to be able to afford one of my motors and
just so those out there know, the above described ADC 9” was quoted below the
cost of a new 9’er (any future mod’s may adjust this, lol). Just so you know I
to am not going to get rich at this, but instead am trying to do my part as a
member of this community while adding some spice to my kinda boring forklift
customers. If I’m lucky I can skim off some money for my own little EV racer.
If you haven’t been there go and check out John Waylands page. The Siamese 8 is
a pair of motors John and I had fun with.

This is a great site isn’t it! There’s one problem though! They won’t tell you
how to shut the damn EV thingy in your brain as you stare up at the ceiling
thinking of new and crazy stuff, lol.

Anyways welcome to the list

Jim Husted

Hi-Torque Electric

Redmond OR.
Nuff said, eh?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Make a what outta who?

After almost two decades of daydreaming about electric cars, discussing their merits with friends and family, and watching fickle automakers develop promising prototypes and even launch a few kickass models, such as GM's EV-1, just to pull the rug out from under loyal leaseholders, I decided to take the plunge in the fall of 2003 and build my own electric car.
Having had a long love affair with the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, my choice of a car to convert was obvious, but two years of lurking on the Electric Vehicle Discussion List cemented my selection. At least eight electric Ghias have been built, giving me some experienced peers to learn from, and the Type 1 Karmann Ghia has a lot of what's desirable in a 'glider', or a vehicle ready to repower.
Here's a few examples of other electric Karmann Ghia projects:
Scott Cornell's 1965 Coupe
John Bryan's 1971 Coupe
Doug Weathers' 1971 Coupe
Texas State University student's 1972 Coupe
Steve Marks' Ghia Monster (a radical drag-racing electric Ghia)
Cliff Wilson's 1969 Coupe
EVChallenge demonstrator, The Ghost Dancer, a 1965 Karmann Ghia Cabriolet

I now own the Ghost Dancer, but sadly only acquired it after an incident of 'battricide', after which the electric components were stripped out and sold. Electric car batteries continue to be the greatest obstacle to widespread EV adoption. Many hobbyists have experienced the expensive learning curve involved in proper care and feeding of their battery pack. Pack replacement costs are akin to replacing an engine, from $1000 to $2000 for the cars pictured above, and more if using a battery chemistry other than lead-acid. The Ghost Dancer is running on gasoline again, perhaps to be reconverted someday...

The Ghia shared most mechanical components with VW Beetles, so not only are parts plentiful and economical, but many upgrades are available. Also, since Porsche did much of VW's design work, the Ghia can swap parts with an astounding number of cars, well into the modern era. The car's curvaceous lines harken to it's 1950's birth, and the hand-welded coach construction of an even earlier era provides strength while preserving interior volume in a supple structure that soaks up the rigors of the road. I built my first Ghia during high school, taking over dad's garage for the better part of two years, and that car served as my college driver, putting in another 100,000+ miles of service before it's cancerous condition caused me to pass it along to another eager restorer.

Bye Bye, Blue Baby... chassis # 1442446696, owned 1989-2003

But of course, another ghia was waiting in the wings.
This 1971 coupe, soon to be known as the Karmann Eclectric, was discovered under twenty years of dust in an Atlanta lawyer's spare carport. Still sitting on dryrotted 1983 retreads, this one-owner car was cancer-free in most of the usual spots, but had a couple of unusual problems, such as rust on the nose where it had stuck just a few inches out into the weather, and rust above the headliner, where two decades of southern humidity had loitered.

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