Monday, October 31, 2005

Need a bigger hammer?

My answer to this question is usually: "Then we must be doing it wrong!". Well, I hope this case is the exception. Shoehorning a souped-up Vanagon transaxle into my little Ghia was never supposed to be easy, but discovering that this particular tranny ain't compatible with the super-slick Gene Berg Bus-to-Bug transaxle adaptor kit wasn't the news I wanted. The other method that has been used is purveyed primarily by economy-minded parts vendors, who's aftermarket gear is stamped with the infamous Bugpack brand. Basically, one uses adaptor plates to mount the Vanagon tranny a couple of inches higher than stock, cuts a hole through the body, and runs a shiftrod across the top of the tunnel, usually elimating the parking brake in the process... Not a very attractive-sounding option. Armed with several negative reviews and a healthy dose of skepticism, I approached my local aircooled outlet: Autosport International
Jerry's been in business for over 40 years, supplying both the offroad and street rod VW scene, so I trust his recommendations. He introduced the 'spacer block' option to me, that rerouts the shifter rod back down into the original tunnel, but that would be second choice due to inevitable slop introduced by adding another linkage to the setup. The initially unattractive 'over the top' approach depends upon a sandrail-style shifter, which Jerry says is by far the most 'positive feeling' shifter on the market, and the only one he'd consider for speed-shifting a big bus tranny. Also, the instructions claim that the parking brake may be preserved by mounting the shifter at an angle, but I'm interested in fabbing up a custom yoke to pass the shift rod
around the emergency brake. It's either use one of these options, relocate the brake to an elevated bracket, put in an american-style pedal activated parking brake, or rely upon a hydraulic line lock and a prayer, backed up by wheel chocks...
So, emboldened by the wizened advice of a seasoned VW Guru, I plunked down the cash for a Bugpack Bus-to-bug tranny mount kit.
Bugpack quality was readily apparent, as I had to ream out four of the eight mounting holes in order to get things to line up right between my factory fresh transaxle and the never-been-crashed Ghia frame horns.. Now, say what you will about variances between hand-welded chassises, (sic) but such early obstacles do not inspire confidence in adaptor engineering...
The next order of business was cutting a hole to fit the nosecone through precious antique sheet metal. After careful measurement and a test-fit, the ole hole saw came out, and cut a hole only 1/4" off from where it should have been, which was easily corrected (after another test fit). Having recently demolished my Harbor Freight $16 sawzall in a demolition project, this opening had to be enlarged by hand. This was a good thing. With plenteous power, I probably would have hacked right on through the body/pan junction and purposely severed the rear brake line, as it looked like I'd need to open down to the original shift linkage inspection port in order to get enough clearance, and besides, I oughtta replace that brake line anyway.... No; hobbled by cramping fingers and my measly hacksaw blade, I took several swipes at the task, test fitting all along the way. A hump had to be hammered into the body beneath/behind the rear seat, in order to provide clearance for the tall and square bus tranny. Realizing that my grinding, drilling, hammering and manly grunting was echoing through the neighborhood, I closed the garage doors at 9pm and toiled in private... Upon the sixth 'dry fit', the transaxle slid home through an almost perfectly-sized opening, the brake line was intact and in it's stock location, the frame horns had been trimmed by only millimeters, and the body's new hump and hole would be hidden in the final product, yet also easily repairable should that be someday desirable...
(Experienced viewers may note that the lower adaptor is mounted backwards. Well, that's the only way the holes would line up. I'll have to get a bigger rattail file and realign the holes for a final mounting....)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Virtually Finished

Well, after a few short days of electronic artistry and editing, the Karmann Eclectric can be viewed in all it's future splendor...
Thank You John at

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Wheel we be able to see it soon?

You never know what's lurking just around the corner. Turns out that a new coworker's brother has an innovative business; He creates artistic renditions of hotrods to assist builders in settling on and "selling" (usually to the wife) their ultimate custom car design.
It's great to mock up all options for your ride with the assistance of a professional artist! I'll post the results.

In the interest of showing design possibilities, here's what the ghia could look (kinda) like with the 15x6" Porsche phone dial rims.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A motor field trip..

You've already read some of the exploits of our leading motor man, Jim Husted of Hi Torque Electric, but we've yet to meet the wizard. Jim's been reporting a lot of progress, so I took the opportunity to roll down to Redmond last Friday for a look see, and to sign off on some final design specs. To start off, this build began with an excellent core, a 1996 model 9" ADC motor, which lived an easy life pumping forklift hydraulics until the day that it's female splined shaft split open. Disassembly revealed no zorch marks or signs of overheating, so the motor probably could have been pressed back into service with only a replacement shaft. But no, it's only the best for Karmann Eclectric! To shorten this motor for easier placement in the Ghia tail section, Jim identified two inches of unused space inside the case and on the shaft, as shown below.

But wait, isn't that space needed for the fan and air circulation? Not really. Empty space of this magnitude doesn't help cooling a bit, and the fan was an extremely inefficient centrifugal blower, with rough-cast square vanes, mold release sprue and "aluminum ooze" nearly completely blocking several air passages. These blades will be hand-ground for aerodymamic efficiency, and the blower will be balanced for smooth operation. Through truing the fan, we can afford to shave a little length off of the collar that press-fits onto the shaft.
But the fan will be dealt with later. The case is our biggest challenge. This long beast needs to be cut down to size, and fortunately enough, Jim's lathe was barely big enough to get a good bite. However, our decision to leave the original motor mounting bracket in place nearly came back to bite us, as that sharp steel angle spinning only inches from our favorite machinist's hand threatened not only his safety, but the accuracy of his work, if the imbalanced piece were to migrate off-center. However, slow and steady cutting produced fine results over the next six hours.

Almost there.....

Finally, we have a shortened case, and enough steel spaghetti to secure the county jail.

So now this 9" motor case and endplates measure at 15 inches long, or only 1/4" longer than a stock 8" ADC, and 1 7/16" shorter than a stock dual shafted 9" motor. The adaptor is 3 1/2 inches deep, so we haven't quite made our goal of 18" after a dry-fit to confirm clearances, or lack thereof, so the next shortening method to consider will be the Reverend Gadget Flywheel Technique (which would require a lot of machining and some VERY precise welding. Dunno yet how feasible, let alone worthwhile that will be on this project. I may yet resort to cutting motor clearance into my precious antique German sheet metal (like EVery other aircooled VW conversion I've seen thus far).

Back to the EVents at hand. Jim also shaved down the motor endbells (aka: end plates), and in the process machined a press-fit centering ring on each end, making the plates pop on and stay stuck on the bench with nary a bolt. How's that for precision work!
The man and his machine are of course, introduced in our opening photo.

The main decision of our day involved locating the motor's wire connections, or terminal posts.
Most EV-sized series DC motors have four posts, with one set at each end for the armature and series windings, and these two may be as much as 180 degrees apart from each other, as shown in this excellent schematic by Cloud Electric. I decided to cluster all four on the tail end of the motor, in a position as to not interfere with the original mounting bracket and possible accessories, yet easily accessible for maintenance, modification, and voltage measurement.

Here's a small golf cart motor with terminal
layout similar to what the Karmann Eclectric
will be sporting. Terminals S2 and A2 will be connected by a short busbar, instead of a wire stretching across the entire motor. Of course, placing the terminals so close together may increase the risk of an accidental short, so some shielding material between the posts may be in order.

Doug Weathers joined our shop session, and took to test-fitting the various adaptors I've acquired for possible usage in the Karmann Eclectric. Here, he and Jim are figuring out the trimotor adaptor originally intended for the Ghia Monster. It's a beautiful piece of machining, but besides being overkill for Karmann Eclectric 1.0, this design didn't take advantage of the motors' C-face mount, which is essentially a press-fit ring on the motor endbell. Instead, it relies only on the motor bolts for centering, which may be slightly less robust. Anyway, the 9" Electro Auto version shown next is simpler, has a perfect C- face mount, and will keep things clean (at least untill I go overboard on accessory drives). The trimotor adaptor goes back into the reserve bin...
Our last order of the day involved cosmetic concerns. Marko Mongillo's Prestolite rebuild for the Fiamp was in line right in front of me, and luckily enough, he served as the Guinea Pig for fun with powdercoating. Learning from a bit of rework on Marko's motor, we were confident to coat the endbells in a Mercedes Silver powder, that should give a finish very close to the original aluminum sheen, but much more durable, shiny, easily cleaned, and electrically insulated. For the motor body, we custom ordered a batch of Zilla Green, to match Otmar's fine controllers, which the Karmann Eclectric absolutely must have. For optimal appearance, my motor didn't need the orange peel and ground-off welding seam that industrial motor cases show, so we decided to machine down the outer surface just enough to get everything smooth, while also truing up the cylinder. This may also provide an immeasurably small efficiency benefit by evening out the magnetic fields. But wait, how can we turn the motor case with that big bracket welded to the side? Okay, time to cut it off. Before cutting it off, Jim will drill and tap four new mounting holes for the bracket, and to keep the steel symmetrical and provide yet another option for accessory mounting, four mirror-image holes will be installed on the opposite side of the motor.
So, we should soon have a shiny and smooth Zilla green motor case with slick silver endbells. All that's left to do is decide on the length of that pesky, but hopefully useful tailshaft.....

What's in a name?

You may have gotten used to the "Karmann Eclectric" name by now, an admittedly clever creation with an altogether certain connotation. What were the other options? I started off with an obvious tribute to a rocker about which I know nearly nothing, by dubbing the project Karmann Electra. Cute, but maybe misleading...
The simple "Karmann Electric" was obviously too-- simple.
So what honors the car's original builder, it's new powertrain, and combines the quirky nature of both? Nothing short of Karmann Eclectric would do.
So how to present this new twist on an old name? By simply twisting the old logo.
In keeping an eye on the EV Trading post, I noticed an electric VW Bus built by Mark Schane-Lydon for sale. He's a computer graphic artist and filmmaker by trade (, and had put together a nifty "Voltswagon" logo
in the original style font for his van. I asked if he might do the same for the Karmann Eclectric, and refusing any compensation, 'ol Monk threw one together in a jiffy! A slightly more eclectic version is forthcoming, but I'm really stoked- this is just the kind of one-off touch that I was looking for.
Thanks big time, Monk!
PS-And here it is, maybe the final version, stay tuned...