Project "Ultimate 1983 Rabbit GTI"
Index of Project web pages
Project Overview, Goals & Initial design specs
Project car initial condition
Bodywork & Paint
Suspension, Wheels, Tires & Braking System
Engine & Transmission
Electrical & Fuel System
VW Vortex Thread on this project
My original 1983 Rabbit GTI (owned 1983-1987)
I am documenting my whole project on video here, beginning to end:
Part 1 (intro) - February 1, 2013
Part 2 (building a frame to flip the car) - February 8, 2013
Part 3 (engine development at Mark's VW Service, Amity, Oregon) - February 15, 2013
Part 4 (a review of the exterior seam sealer removal process/rust inspection) - February 22, 2013
Part 5 (a review of the interior seam sealer removal process/rust inspection) - March 14, 2013
Part 6 (showing the rolling chassis stand, the test mounting of the aftermarket inner & outter fenders, and the initial engine bay smoothing process) - April 6, 2013
Part 7 (showing the process to clean up the original OEM fenders, given that the aftermarket ones were poor fitting and could not be used) - April 10, 2013
Part 8 (showing the process of welding in the upper/inner fenders and relating metalwork in the front engine bay area, as well as the initiation of the engine bay smoothing task) - May 4, 2013
Part 9 (Completing the metalwork in the front engine bay area, the completion of the engine bay smoothing task, and the initiation of the front-to-rear frame connector welding process) - May 19, 2013
Part 10 (Completing the welding of the front-to-rear frame connectors, floor pans, additional OEM floor pan bracing, and new 'lift points') - June 9, 2013
Part 11 (Having a look at the beautiful and extremely light weight carbon fibre body panels and bumpers made by LWS Design for this project. I am super impressed with their customer service as they hand delivered everything to me at the London Heathrow airport before 7am at no charge! The full set of scratch resistance polycarbonate windows will ship separately later this summer) - June 19, 2013 ...
Part 12 (Any time you try and MIG weld thin sheet metal you risk 'blow-thru' and this is especially true with older vehicle sheet metal where there has been some rust. I wanted to try my hand at MIG 'brazing' using the same modern European techniques that are required when working with thin boron doped high strength steel panels and/or zinc plated panels - in either case MIG welding puts too much heat into the base metal and both weakens it and vaporizes the protective Zinc coating. So I managed to source some 0.035" diameter MIG brazing wire and adjusted the settings on my welder to lower the wire feed speed but keep the voltage/temperature setting the same as for my 0.023" dia mild steel wire. It worked! The bronze flowed into the gaps and in between the overlapped metal on the lower rear quarter panel patch and I did not once blow-thru the base metal. Highly recommended for sheet metal restoration work) - June 24, 2013 ...
Part 13 (After doing quite a bit of MIG brazing I am more impressed with its capabilities and versatility than ever. This video covers some of that brazing work plus it covers the fabrication and installation of the remaining interior chassis stiffening components) - July 10, 2013 ...
Part 14 (Finally! Chassis welding is completed and I managed to get the under carriage epoxy primed today) - August 10, 2013 ...
Part 15 (Since August 10th (above) I applied body filler to all of the under carriage welding seams, sanded it down, and then applied more 2 part epoxy primer, then applied seam sealer only to the areas where there were actual gaps in the seams/metalwork (seam sealer can promote rusting if water can get behind it so it is better to avoid over doing it), then I applied rubberized undercoating in the rear wheel wells and the very back corners of the under carriage where the wheels will throw up rocks and dirt, which will eventually be painted silver aka OEM look, but again, I won't apply under coating anywhere else (I will use some interior sound deadening material under the carpets to control road noise rather than mess up a lot of nice clean sheet metal). I will now work on the rest of the chassis and then when everywhere else is up to this level I will re-apply epoxy, then 2K high build primer, then block sand where appropriate, then epoxy as a sealer, then silver base coat and then clear coats, in that order) - August 18, 2013 ...
Part 16 (I have managed to get 2 coats of epoxy primer on the front end with final body filler/smoothing applied/sanded between coats. This is a huge milestone for me as I can now clearly see the car coming together. It is rewarding to see how well the engine bay smoothing turned out too) - August 29, 2013 ...
Part 17 (And now the first coat of epoxy primer is applied to the interior sheet metal with body filler on the welded seems coming next) - September 1, 2013 ..
Part 18 (The interior sheet metal areas were treated to some body filler on the welded seems and then it was shot with some reduced grey color epoxy primer acting as a sealer and then some base and clear coats to complete the interior) - September 14, 2013 ..
Part 19 (With the interior done I carefully masked off the whole car, including all interior to exterior holes and got ready to start the bodywork on the exterior panels, starting with the lower sills which were pretty badly abused by the prior owners, so I had to start by using a block of wood and a hammer to straighten out the underside area running beside my 1.5x1" subframe, and then block sanding and filling until everything was straight [still a work in progress]) - September 22, 2013 ...
Part 20 (Well, I finished the drivers side lower sills and flipped the car around and started working on the passenger side sills. After 4-6 hours of work they are almost straight now and getting close to the finishing putty stage. I have a full week of travel in front of me starting Wednesday so won't get this finished for another 2 weeks though - October 14, 2013 ...
After a few more passes of putty I sprayed on some high build primer and found that pretty much everything was straight and clean except for a small area at the back of the door edge that I had over sanded along the crease, hence the additional putty in that spot. I have also managed to get 4 passes of filler and putty on the rear passenger lower corner where I had braised in a new panel) - October 29, 2013 ...
Part 21 (I have made good progress on the welded area in and around the fuel filler cap, the rear passenger fender lip, smoothing out and correcting a curvature issue around the side signal light, finishing the lower rear passenger corner where I had previously braised in a new panel, and cleaning up the area around the rear license plate lights) - November 5, 2013 ...
Part 22 (I have now completed the bodywork on the passenger side and have block sanded a number of times, sprayed epoxy twice with touch-up putty applications in-between and now it is ready for 2K high build primer) - November 20, 2013 ..
Part 23 (I put in about 15 hours this weekend doing a final epoxy primer sanding to the passenger side, then applying 2 coats of 2K high build primer (but I got some nasty runs in the paint because I put on too much - but it sanded out easily later ...), then I waited overnight to block and detail sand out the high build primer (which turned out great - really smooth and flat), and then I dropped the car down onto the roller frame, unbolted the rear bumper, sanded down the old paint on the rear, and then got the first coat of filler and block sanding done on the rear before dinner time) - November 24, 2013 ..
Part 24 (I have spent quite a bit of time on the rear drivers side getting the panel absolutely correct. There was a soft dent in the area and after a lot of careful layer by layer buildup of filler I found that I had to go wider and wider to acheive the perfect curvature that was required. It is 90% now and so I decided to epoxy prime it at the same time as I did the initial priming of the rear this weekend so that I can see the reflections on the surface when I complete this task. i am very happy with the way the rear turned out as there is only minor touchup that will be required. I hope to get those minor things addressed tomorrow so that I can finish the weekend with a 2K high build primer application) - November 30, 2013 ...
Part 25 (I got the 2K high build primer applied to the rear at the end of the weekend, sanded it down yesterday, did some minor putty touch-up today, shot those areas with a bit more epoxy, and then moved on to the drivers side. I sanded it down today and shot it with an initial coat of epoxy so I can lay on some filler and putty starting tomorrow) - December 3, 2013 ...
Part 26 (Over the past week I managed to get several passes of filler on the drivers side and another coat of epoxy, then more filler and sanding, then some touch-up epoxy on the areas that I cut thru to the base metal, and a lot of work getting the depth and profile on the edges of the molding crease at the back of the car (using a near little metal tool I shaped to create the correct depth and shape), then today managed to get the high build primer on (and after some block sanding once it dries I will move on the engine bay for the final touch up filler, etc and then the roof)) - December 8, 2013 ...
Part 27 (I spent the past week working on the engine bay, completing the final smoothing filling and sanding process, spraying epoxy when I needed to see how close I was getting, and eventually I got to the point of completing the high build primer application and started on the final block sanding of all of the surfaces prior to the base/clear painting process which I will tackle in January. I also got the critical front window frame areas all completed which is very satisfying ... and thanks to Kevin Young, a fellow VW Vortex member, I had access to one of his mint NOS GTI badges to get a correct colour reference to compare both my original faded badges as well as the aftermarket Mk1autohaus replicas - it turns out that the repro rear badge wasn't even close but the front was) - December 18, 2013 ...
Part 28 (The Christmas holiday period was focused on family and nursing a bad cold. It was only in the last few days that I had the time and energy to get back into the GTI project in full force. I put time into dialing in the front, especially the uneven factory spot welding area below the bumper. With the high build primer sanded today it all looks great. I then moved on to the roof and sunroof area and got it DA sanded, etc. and then cleaned up the inside sunroof channel area and sprayed everything with 2 thick coats of epoxy (time for a new epoxy gun as it was not the smoothest application). High build primer will go on later this week after some more sanding of the epoxy) - January 12, 2014 ...
Part 29 (The roof/sun-roof area got a couple of coats of high build primer on it this week and then got block sanded and is now ready for final paint. I then pulled out the fenders and set to work finishing the process of stripping them down to bare metal as well as carefully banging them into the correct shape. It took several attempts with some nasty chemical stripper to get the critical areas looking perfect, then it was on to some final sanding and then water-born cleaner before 2 coats of epoxy primer were applied today. I will now start the process of filling and block sanding to get them straight/correct) - January 17, 2014 ...
Part 30 (I finished the front fenders on Thursday with some more sanding/filling/epoxy and then 3 coats of high build primer and then sanding them out to 600 grit, and then rubberizing the insides - I am really pleased with the results. So Friday it was on to the doors, first stripping them down and then cleaning them out (boy they were filthy inside). Only today did I finally get to the point of prepping them for initial epoxy priming. The biggest challenge I ran into was a frozen passenger side mirror which would not rotate (cast aluminum oxidization) so I could not access the screw heads. In the end it was a long tiring job using a dremel tool to grind down the screws from inside the door and drilling them out. Now I need to weld up the holes and re-tap them. Oh well, no pain, no gain, right?) - January 26, 2014
Part 31 (While I wait for the new door hinge pins from vwheritage, as well as the tools to replace them, I completed the cleaning/prep/sanding of the doors and managed to get them epoxy primed over the past few days. The doors are large and heavy and there is simply no way to paint them end-to-end in one go so the process of completing the painting will be x2 slower than for the fenders - side 1, then wait 24hrs and then side 2, etc.) - January 30, 2014 ...
Part 32 (I got the doors finished a few days ago and I am really pleased about it all - they are straight and clean end to end after putting in a ton of work on them. So it is on to the final 2 body panels: the sunroof and the front spoiler. Other than the somewhat intricate sunroof dissassembly, the sunroof painting is very simple - I will have it completed tomorrow after the application of high build primer and some blocking out. The spoiler is a more complex process that involved removing the metal bracing, and sanding everything down to the original primer and/or bare urethane, and then filling in the dents and holes that were drilled by the former owner with flexible 3M filler, and then more sanding, the application of 'plastic kote', then epoxy, and then high build primer mixed with flex agent - which I will get done tomorrow. I did manage to fabricate an aluminum brace for the lower lip and also used a heat gun to straighten the spoiler to its original shape) - February 9, 2014 ...
Part 33 (Today was the big day: time to mount the primed spoiler to the front of the chassis, align it such that the curve at the lip of the spoiler was perfectly balanced all the way across, and then remove the protective covering of the 3M double sided adhesive/tape that was attached to the aluminum brace I fabricated, and then clamp it into position. I was nervous that I wouldn't get it all aligned correctly but it worked out fine - especially the additional aluminum supports that help attach the lower lip to the body. I then got the high build primer on both the sunroof and the spoiler. This was my first time using Flex Agent and I was really impressed with the results: the normally thick paint which likes to clog up the fine holes in my spray guns flowed super smoothly and went on like melted butter. Wow. It looks so good I almost don't want to sand it - but I will tomorrow after I let everything cure for a full 24 hours) - February 10, 2014 ...
Part 34 (I got the sunroof and spoiler sanded out today. The spoiler was a thing of beauty when I was done as the flex agent seems to enhance the smoothness of the high build paint. The sunroof still had some low spots so I hit it with more high build primer and then blocked it again and finally it was mint.
I then started on prepping the carbon fiber hood for primer and found only a few low spots so I started to get excited about how quick this phase of the project was going to be. Ha! I was badly wrong. I said to myself 'Gee, you haven't test fitted this thing to the body. What if the alignment of the front end is off, or this aftermarket hood is dimensionally different?' Well, good thing I went to all of the effort to re-mount the fenders, install the grill, tune everything until it was 'final' and then I bolted on the hood and found that it had an interference fit to the rain tray lip. Not a huge issue in and of itself - the brace which runs across the back of the hood needs to be cut down by around 3/8" in some areas and re-glassed. Then I said to myself, I never really liked the huge OEM hood gaps and now is the time to do something about that: so I will also extend the sides and back by around 1/8" so that the gaps are the same as for the rest of the body panels on the car. Lots of work but this way I get the alignment and gaps on the front of the car looking really 'high end') - February 11, 2014
Part 35 (The last 2 nights have been carbon fiber hood clearancing (cutting up expensive stuff) and panel gap analysis and preliminary fitting. After filling the garage full of fine carbon dust and getting the hood to sit correctly I was better able to determine next steps with panel gap setting and/or hood width/length/height modifications. In the end I realized that I needed to get everything else to be in its final position before going any further with the hood and that meant hanging the doors and then getting the fenders true to the door gaps. I managed to hang the doors without help from anyone else which was a bit of gymnastics and once done I could see that I was already pretty close on the fitment - it looks like all I will need to do is adjust/blend in the height of the hood against the fenders and then I should be pretty much OK - I decided after hanging the doors that the OEM 1/4" gaps are std everywhere on the car and it wouldn't be smart to setup the hood for a narrower gap fitment (I am very close to 1/4" gaps on the hood on all sides already and only need to adjust the fenders in about 1/16" on each side)) - February 13, 2014 ...
Part 36 (This weekend has been focused on getting the panel gaps perfect everywhere and then starting the process of leveling up the hood. Setting the gaps is an exercise in compromises: first you have to set the fender-to-door gaps such that the doors will just barely clear the fenders when opening/closing, plus the fender height needs to be such that the side moldings and creases all align, and finally, that the hood gaps are equal and approx 1/4" each: the front plastic grill also acts as an absolute reference, determining the left/right position of the fenders at the front (the grill edge and the fender edge should be the same).
My problem is that with everything set correctly the fenders stick out at the front/bottom about 1/16" so when I get 0.020" shim washers I will attempt to reduce the door-to-fender gaps a slight amount, hoping to get the fenders to align a bit closer at the front (even though this misalignment is pretty much hidden/covered by the spoiler, the bumper and the grill which sticks out and blocks the view of it).
I put lots of passes of Evercoat Rage Extreme filler on the hood edges, and then got the first few passes of finishing putty on and all blocked to align the edges precisely with the top of the fenders, and finally, I fabricated an aluminum channel to better support the center-rear area of the hood where I had to cut away the supports to clear the edge of the rain tray - I will fiberglass that channel into place once I finish the edge profiling and absolutely true up the center-rear hood to the body) - February 16, 2014 ...
Part 37 (After getting the hood perfectly level relative to the fenders and cowl I temporarily glued a supporting truss across the back of the hood in order to 'hold' the shape until I could fiberglass in a support next to the rain tray on the underside. I also extended the front lip of the hood down 3/16" with short strand fiberglass and then rounded it nicely to match the OEM hood profile more closely. Finally I finished off the hood with epoxy primer and high build primer/block sanding, etc. I am now ready for the rear hatch which I also test fit to the car this week (and yes, it needs lots of work to fit perfectly - at least I am now an 'expert' with the hood work last week under my belt)) - February 23, 2014 ...
Part 38 (I am now deep into the rear hatch fitting process and it is turning out to be another exercise in almost completely assembling the rear of the car to get everything in alignment - the tail lights themselves have proven to be a challenge on several fronts: first of all it became clear that the driver side rear corner metalwork (all OEM from the factory) isn't the right shape and lacks the dual V taper into the lower edge of the hatch which the passenger side correctly has. It isn't a disaster as we are only talking about 3/16" but it impacts the interface with the hatch and the tail light such that both the hatch and light will have to be re-shaped to follow the metalwork 'as is' (it is simply not a reasonable alternative to try and reshape the body metalwork).
I mounted the hatch first, then realized that I needed to mount the lights, then I further found that I needed to install the hatch seal which pushes the bottom of the hatch lip out a bit, etc. After some grunting and groaning and some careful slotting of holes and a bit of grinding, everything started to come into their final resting positions. I then started to cut, sand and fill the hatch areas as required. This process will take several more days as there is a fair amount of tuning to do - I also need to get the hatch latch installed before I go any further in the tuning process but from this point onwards I think it is a well understood path that is similar to the hood work last week) - February 26, 2014 ...
Part 39 (The rear hatch is now finished and ready for final paint. It took more time than expected to get everything dial in. First there was the tricky and exacting process of taping up and extending the edges to maintain the target 3/16" gaps on the top and sides and 1/4" on the bottom, and then there was incremental work to make both the inside surfaces and edges look OEM (fiberglass and carbon panels are never finished nicely on delivery - there is always fitting and finishing work - the surfaces aren't totally flat and the edges are rough cut, etc). Anyway, I decided to do a nice job as this was the last panel and it is something that I will be staring at inside and out over and over again once the project is complete) - March 5, 2014
Part 40 (The early mk1 style carbon fiber bumpers are the last items to prepare for final paint. It took a week to get them dialed in due to the requirement to fiberglass in the front turn signal openings as I wanted to have the more delicate look of the thinner early mk1 bumpers but with the 1983/84 model look (black, no turn signals). After the fiberglassing there was a lot of fussing to get the surfaces perfectly flat and contoured. And since the bumper material was so thin/flimsy they required a fair amount of filling and block sanding to get nice and flat on the tops and bottoms. Mission complete/major milestone, after I pick up my engine, trans and SS exhaust from Techtonics Tuning/Josh tomorrow I will start to clean out the garage and get it dust free and setup for the critical final panel painting process) - March 11, 2014
Part 41 (I drove from Vancouver, Canada to Techtonics and Josh's engine shop in Sheridan & Amity, Oregon over the past 2 days and picked up the completed 2092cc 9A/ABF engine, 020 transmission, SS exhaust system, 100mm axles/Hubs/spindles, and lots of other parts and drove them back home in the back of my Prius late at night! Josh really pushed to get the engine completed for me and I am very thankful for his late nights and careful work. He did an excellent job of profiling the combustion chambers to match the piston domes and ended up with a compression ratio of 11.8:1 which should run on 94 octane pump gas without octane boost when the weather isn't too hot (the sport cams have enough duration and overlap that they bleed off some of the compression at lower engine rpms). We will dyno it and expect 240hp at 8000rpm with the 288 degree TT solid lifter sport cams with DLC coated lifters. We will also add 60hp with a dry flow progressive nitrous system for a total of 300hp. This should add up to 6lbs/hp in the car if it weighs in at the expected 1800lbs. What a beautiful engine ...) - March 14, 2014
Part 42 (I haven't been snoozing over the past month. The opposite is true:
I have designed and ordered all of the electronics components for the engine management, sensors/senders, a custom serpentine system for the water pump and alternator, a custom Denso style racing alternator, billet pulleys, brackets, and more. There are a lot of things ongoing in regards to sourcing and designing the custom cooling system, hoses and brackets as well that I have been deeply involved in. Photos and videos of all of that cool stuff will be posted soon.
I completely cleaned up/out my garage, loaded up my car and took most of the stuff that wasn't immediately necessary to my expanded storage locker, and started to get ready for final paint. Along the way I got a little carried away and sold my drill press, MIG welder and plasma cutter, and replaced them with a digital TIG welder, a milling machine and a lathe - so I am now ready for aluminum and stainless steel welding, and lots of fabrication of custom brackets to help finish off this project with nice touches everywhere.
I decided to get the seats completed and also get the rear trailing arm suspension unit completed - all before final paint. The main reason is that spring is now here and the painting weather is getting better and better each day and I just don't want to have to fight the cold and the moisture during the critical final paint phase.
I busted my butt scraping, grinding, sanding and acid etching the rear trailing arm suspension over the past week. It was pretty rusty and therefore I took a lot of time to fill all of the pitting and smoothing all of the parts before painting with multiple coats of epoxy. I am waiting for some SPI black epoxy which I will use for the final coats. I will also press in the Delrin bushings soon.
I have a great seat guy that has already cut all of the GTI midnight blue fabric and sewn in the 1/4" foam on the backs of each of the 'panels' while I have been welding up the seat frames where they are weak and tend to flex and crack around the tops of the front seat frames. I also custom cut some extra firm foam for the seat bottoms - a tough, delicate process when shaping the side bolsters. I will finish painting the seat frames when my black SPI epoxy arrives and then my seat guy will finish them off. BTW, I was able to purchase new plastic replacement parts from VW Air Heads and will color match them soon.) - April 14, 2014
Part 43 (I got the 'paint booth' properly setup for final paint with 3M Dust control fabric on the walls of my garage, 3M static dust spray on the concrete floor, and 2 double-filtered fans pulling clean air into the garage (providing a positive pressure environment). I then set about spraying base/clear on the sunroof and the insides of the fenders, and also shot final black epoxy on the bumpers and rear beam axle and completed pressing in the Delrin bushings.
I also picked up the complete ECU system (sourced from Kinsler Injection) - boy there are a lot of wires that will need to be connected. I also picked up the remaining engine sensors and plumbing components from Techtonics) - May 4, 2014
Part 44 (I got Greens Automotive in Richmond, BC to carefully re-straighten, re-weld, re-machine (inside and out) and paint these 14x6 OEM Snowflakes and then mount super sticky Dunlop Direzza ZII track/sport tires. The look I am after is old school - not the current fad of using 8" rims and stretched 195 tires, but never-the-less, with serious performance capabilities) - May 9, 2014
Part 45 (EAA Engineering's Serpentine Belt System, Fluidamper, and Denso Racing Alternator (all put together with clear anodized billet aluminum CNC mounts) - a must use system to clear the ITBs, plus the NOS Wizards Quadranoid, dry flow injectors and small ID plastic tubing. Note, in this video I mis-spoke by saying the stock crank to alternator pulley ratio is 2:1 - I meant 3:1, and therefore changing to a custom 2.5:1 ratio was required due to my higher rpm limit and the 20,000 rpm alternator limit) - May 9, 2014
Part 46 (After successfully completing the final painting of the fenders and rear hatch, the hood turned out to my greatest painting challenge to date: a few spots of dark colored dust contaminated the first clear coat and in the end I had to sand back down and redo the base coats and re-clear but as of tonight it is all looking good. I am especially fond of the carbon fiber underside treatment (with the idea being that the exterior of the car and the interior are totally stock looking but under the hood it is all 'business')) - May 14, 2014
Part 47 (After getting final paint on the front spoiler earlier this week, it was finally time to remove the doors from the chassis and then dive into the process of fabricating brass bushings and shims for the lower door hinges and then hammering the pins into place, test mounting to make sure the hinges are 'good to go' and then getting the final paint on the 1st door. Mission success, now it is on to door #2 tomorrow) - May 19, 2014
Part 48 (I got the hinges done on door #2 with an even better press-fit than door #1 and then got the door based and cleared properly so I was able to flip the chassis on its side and get epoxy sealer, base and clear done on the underside, wheel wells and most of the engine bay area. I will turn the chassis upright tomorrow and finish the engine bay area off and then will move to the rear, top and sides over the next week) - May 25, 2014
Part 49 (Final paint complete. What more can I say? Major project milestone in the can. Yes! When I get back from a trip next weekend I will start wet sanding and polishing the clear (once it is good and firm). And I am already planning out the braking system and fuel system routing under the chassis so that I can use the chassis flipping system one last time before dismantling it and mounting the suspension/wheels) - May 30, 2014
Part 50 (Final paint has now been wet sanded/polished. It took a full month part time to go thru the process of 1500/2000/3000 grit wet sanding of all surfaces and panels, then 3M PerfectIt rubbing compound and then polishing compound using a variable speed Makita orbital polisher. But it is done and the results are A1. I have a some 'craters' in the clear on some of the surfaces that I have filled with additional clear with a tiny paint brush and will finish sanding them out later this week and then I will start to assemble the car) - July 6, 2014
Part 51 (After I pushed the completed chassis out of the garage and into the bright summer sunshine 1 week ago I could see that I had some quite noticeable fine sanding scratches showing thru the basecoat on the roof line edges and I also noticed on the passenger rear quarter panel that the basecoat was not perfectly consistent - a bit of a halo was showing above the fender where I had gone over the area one last time and left a slightly dry edge to the silver basecoat up above that point. So I took a cold shower, swore a few times, and then decided to wet sand the roof, sides and back of the car and re-spray it. And for good measure I sanded down the driver door as the clearcoat was quite thin after all of my sanding and I wanted to have it perfect. BTW, bright silver is considered one of the toughest colors to work with and I have now learned that you need to finish the primer stage with at least 1000 grit, not 600 grit.
All of this re-painting effort got me to thinking how much my paint compressor setup sucks. I have a very small garage and simply can't fit in a 60 gallon 5hp compressor so I have beem trying to make do with a 15 gallon 1.5hp compressor. On smaller panels with my Eastwood HVLP guns I can get by OK, but on bigger jobs like the roof and sides/rear chassis I run down my compressor and have to pause to let it catch up which risks paint drying and losing my wet edges. I also had some problems with moisture in the line, some dirt in the paint, and not enough pressure to the gun so I changed my whole setup: I put a plywood box around my compressor housing with a fan to do a better job of keeping it cool while making less noise pollution; I ran new lines and fittings with less restrictions; I soldered up a 25' copper air cooler/drier; I bought a 30 gallon tank to give me more air reserve; and finally I bought a professional air filter/drier system. And I tested it out this week (still waiting on the 30 gallon tank though) and my guns have all of the air pressure they need, plus the air is totally clean and dry now. Yes!!! With the 30 gallon tank coming, I'll now have 3x total air supply before running low even though my compressor will may need to catch up occasionally.
My rear seats are done now and they look 100% OEM new. Wow. My front seats are 80% done but we ran out of the vinyl that I had dyed Midnight Blue so I had to produce more of it this weekend so we can now get the front seats completed. I managed to get all new plastic parts for the seats too and dye them the correct color so I am really excited about seeing the final results in the next short while.
I am also working on the brake system: I have a combination of SAE double flare and metric bubble flare fittings because of the Wilwood proportioning valve so I have been practicing my flaring technique which is now pretty solid so I will start to bend and flare/assemble the whole brake system soon. I also need to make up a custom bracket to mount the proportioning valve immediately below the master cylinder.
I am also 90% done the design of the fuel system and have almost all of the components in hand. I am in the process of epoxy coating the fuel tank so that I can mount it and start to run the lines, pump, filters, etc.) - July 20, 2014
Part 52 (The front seats are now complete. Sweet indeed! I am also about 30% finished repainting the chassis) - August 5, 2014
Part 53 (With the final painting complete I can now get on with planning and executing the fuel and brake system installation. With the fuel tank temporarily mounted I was able to fabricate a stainless bracket to mount the fuel filters and pump between the rear axle and spare tire well. I also mounted the brake booster and new aluminum 22mm master cylinder with a stainless bracket holding the Wilwood proportioning valve. Now that I have ordered the Davies Craig electric water pump and digital controller it was time to prepare the OEM water pump by cutting off the impeller, aux water return ports (which will be tapped and plugged), and smoothing the interior for its new function as a passive entry way into the block from the outlet of the EWP) - August 17, 2014
Part 54 (I have now setup and started using my Caswell Zinc-Cadnium plating system so I now have a nice looking steering rack again after re-plating the h/w and epoxy painting the housing (but before the installation of the new Quaife close ratio gear set which I am picking up in the UK on Sept 16th).
It was a tight sqeeze but I managed to route the fuel tank breathers together such that I can now install a rollover valve in the fuel filler neck area of the wheel well. I got the pump and filters final-mounted and the hoses routed as well. The Techtonics SS 2.25" exhaust system installation has also started but I was very frustrated with a few things that are only partially resolved at this moment: a serious interference fit with the driver side tank strap which required that I fabricate a bracket to allow the removal of the strap, plus I can't get the resonator to sit in the middle of the tunnel without an interference fit with the front hanger on the side of the tunnel (I think I will end up cutting and rewelding some pipe to solve this). The bottom line is that all of the really hard problems with the fuel system are now behind me and the exhaust system issues are on the way to being solved. I will need to mount the engine and exhaust racing header before making any final decisions on the exhaust system though) - September 1, 2014
Part 55 (Rough positioning of the Techtonics stainless custom 1-3/4" headers and 2-1/4" exhaust system plumbing (note, we are keeping the pipe size at 2-1/4" because this is the size that TT says has proven to produce the most power in normally aspirated cars: 2-1/2" is only suitable for turbo engines, plus a comparison of the old (OEM) and new (Borgeson) steering U joint assemblies, and the new lower steering column bearing and bearing support bracket) - September 8, 2014
After testing out the Borgeson u-joints I found that they did not have enough range of motion for the vw mk1 application. I am now sourcing mk3 u joints (one end has the 11/16" diameter 40 spine u joint so I hope to use them) - October 31, 2014
Part 56 (After a lot of machining and fiddling around I managed to complete the custom front cylinder head coolant outlet flange that is required to clear the ITBs and associated linkage, nitrous and vacuum lines, etc.
After speaking with Techtonics about the exhaust system clearance issues I cut off all of the tunnel flanges and bolts, filled, sanded, primed and painted it all so now there will be nothing hitting the pipes. I also sourced a really nice and small Vibrant stainless resonator that will be welded onto the back of the flex coupling: this way I will havee 2 resonators plus a muffler so that I can make 'quiet power' which is my goal.
The shifter housing has also been cleaned iup and epoxy painted and I have zinc/cad plated all of the hood and hatch brackets, hinges and mounting h/w - plus I now have the ability to chromate as a final step so these parts, plus the steering rack brackets, and many more items are all looking nice (I will post photos and a video of these items and the plating process I am using later on).
I completed the rear axle Delrin bushing/bearing setup/installation with the brass and stainless steel sleaves to take up all excess 'slack' in the system but realized, after speaking with Lella Motorsport who make the bushing,s that I went over-board. I have decided to remove the stainless sleaves I made that are only 0.2mm thick and placed between the 12mm bolt and the Delrin steel bearing insert surfaces so allow for a bit more movement so that the axle will pivot around the 12mm bolt without the potential for binding.
Finally, I have been running the 3/16" (4.75mm) brake lines all over the car this week but I ended up making some crappy looking flares with the manual flaring tool that I had sourced so I have now ordered a MasterCool hydraulic flaring tool to allow me to make OEM quality flares every time. There is nothing more annoying than spending 1/2 an hour making the perfect brake line and then messing it up with a poor flare end - I do not want crappy looking flares and really don't want leaks in my brake lines either) - September 14, 2014
Part 57 (I have been busy using my Caswell Zinc/Copy Cad plating system to rescue all kinds of brackets and bolts since I have not been able to complete my brake lines until the MasterCool flaring tool arrives (ETA tomorrow). I plated the metal objects that were OEM plated and stopped there but for those parts that were originally painted black I first stripped them down, acid etched, plated and chromated them to provide an extra measure of protection before painting) - September 23, 2014
Part 58 (This has been a big week with lots of progress. I completed plating/painting of the headlight housings, the various motor mounts and shift linkages, and the heat shielding applied to the underside of the chassis. My brake line flaring problems were solved with my new Mastercool hydraulic flaring tool and my brake lines are now complete (and wrapped in plastic to protect them from chassis rubbing). I also got the Quaife quick ratio steering rack installed, complete with a new bushing to provide zero play in the system) - September 28, 2014
Part 59 (The rear end is complete and torqued to spec, the steering rack and shifter linkage is now mounted in the front and now I am getting ready to flip the chassis upright for the last time ... and the 020 2Y German Transaxle of America transmission with Quaife LSD is sitting here, waiting for the custom clutch/pressure plate which Josh says will ship to me later this week ...) - October 6, 2014
Part 60 (I got the steering wheel back from Custom Craft today: they re-wrapped the wheel with 1mm of foam and then soft leather. I am very pleased with the end result: a very nice feel to it, not too soft, not too firm, just the right diameter, with the stitching where my fingers want to engage it. I will treat the leather to match the soft gloss of the vinyl center section) - October 8, 2014
Part 61 (With the help of my wife I moved the engine, stand and hoist from my office to my garage last weekend so the GTI is now happily sitting next to the motor and trans. Josh is shipping the clutch tomorrow so I will have everything in hand to install the engine/trans this weekend! I will lift the chassis up using my come-alongs one last time, roll the engine/trans together under it, lower the chassis one last time onto jack stands, use the hoist to lift the engine/trans into place, bolt it up, and then mount the front suspension, brakes, steering, etc. mount the wheels, and then roll the car out of the garage so that I can dis-assemble the lifting frame to make room for the rest of the final assembly. In another week things should start to get pretty exciting.
I also finished machining the new cam hall sensor housing and it is all perfect except for the fact that the hall sensor itself seems to be dead for some reason (a new unit, go figure). So I have ordered another sensor and when I get it later this week hopefully I will be able to test it out and then mount it on the cam/engine ...
There have been so many other small things that I got done over the past week: removing and re-installing a lot of engine accessories, putting the gaskets in place, applying sealant, threat locker, washers, etc into place and torquing things up so that I now am close to being ready to install the engine with all of the accessories already 'final' mounted this weekend) - October 21, 2014
Part 62 (Major Project Milestone: Today was the big day - getting the clutch setup done, and then assembling the engine and transaxle, rolling it under the chassis and then hoisting it into place. Everything went well except for the fact that I had to remove the rear engine/trans mount to get the side mounts to line up first which is a lesson learned, and I also discovered to my dread that I will have to mandrel bend the intake runners another 20 degrees or so to clear the hood) - October 25, 2014
Part 63 (With the engine/trans installed everything else is coming together quickly now. I got the front suspension, front and rear brakes, CV/axles, test fitted, and sorted out missing h/w and such. I also worked on the exhaust system, starting to weld up a header support bracket and otherwise test fitting everything, and fiddled a lot with the steering system, realizing that the Borgeson u joints will not work so I am in the middle of attempting to fit some mk3 parts into place over the next week or so. If all goes well I should have all of the major mechanical systems completed by mid-Nov. I also got the fuel system lines final installed,which required the fabrication of some stainless brackets, and more -6AN SS lines/fittings. I am still waiting on a few hose ends but otherwise the fuel system is basically complete now. I am building a structural support brace for the race header that connects the lower end of the header back to the base of engine block to keep the stress levels on the flanges to a minimum. I am also in the middle of planning on how to bend my intake runners using some structural epoxy molding equipment and some low melting point metal to act as a 'mandrel' internal tube support when I put the bending forces on the tubes - this process will take most of the month to sort out as I don't want to screw it up and will have to practice a bit ...) - November 2, 2014
Part 64 (The completed structural support brace for the race header was electrocleaned and the header itself was ported and polished and has now been sent out for internal ceramic thermal barrier coating. After accidentally throwing out the old rear drum brake mounting h/w I had to source the hard to find M16x1.0 axle nuts and retaining washers again (from Jim Ellis VW), plus I sourced nicer/stronger class 12.9 mounting bolts so the rear disks are now complete. I will put on the wheels and measure clearance to the fenders, measure camber and toe, and then order custom axle/wheel spacers from Lella AutoSport to get the desired offset, camber and toe settings) - November 11, 2014
Part 65 (When I upgraded to the larger 22mm master cylinder (to provide the additional volume of stroke required for the rear disk brakes) I needed to pair it with a later model brake servo/vacuum unit - the problem is that the later model servo has a different rod end. The original 83 GTI servo rod end is longer and has a fixed clevis. It is nicer to have an adjustable clevis so I am going to cut off the original clevis, thread it M10x1.5 and use a coupling M10 nut to mount it to the later model servo.
I completed the exhaust system this week. The V-band clamping system I have used allows me to quickly swap the cat converter in/out in favour of a high performance resonator that will keep noise levels down to where I want them (a total of 3 'straight-thru' resonators make up the entire system). I polished all of the components, and finally the 2.5" tip now sticks out the back end and says 'we mean business' ) - November 23, 2014
Part 66 (I finished the design of the custom aluminum radiator, drew up the drawings and specs, and sent it off to Ron Davis Custom Radiators in AZ. It will be 11"x30"x2", tucked under the front cross member, with ORB o-ring type bungs that mate to ORB-to-AN fittings and then the lines (-20 for the water pump inlet, -16 and -12 for the cylinder head outlets, -10 for the heater core return, -6 for the expansion tank, plus a temperature sensor bung for the electric water pump) and I will be using 2 SPAL 10" medium performance fans with a puller shroud. I have mounting tabs on the top and ears on the sides of the bottom corners - it should work out nicely and provide lots and lots of cooling. I also have a Mocal inline oil-to-water heat exchanger with -20 water fittings and -8 oil fittings - I could not use the factory setup due to conflicts with the ITBs and this system is higher performance and also included a 200 degree F oil thermostat.
I did get the 1989 cab servo modded to accept the 83 GTI servo clevis by cutting off the GTI clevis end, turning it down on the lathe to 10mm diameter and then threading it. With the coupling nut I can now vary the length of the shaft to get the ideal pedal position. I also worked on assembling the clutch/brake/accel pedal assembly and decided that some nice 0.2mm thick 16mm ID 24mm OD stainless shims would remove the factory slop in the pedal assembly, removing the ability for the pedals to shift side to side. The plastic bushings were fine. I also sourced a brake pedal return spring from an 89 cab, complete with a nice plastic/rubber donut sleeve that slips over the 83 GTI pedal shaft and drilled a few holes for a bolt that allows me to adjust the spring tension to suit my tastes - there was no return spring in my car when I took it apart but the manual shows one and I feel that it is probably a smart idea to have one installed - and I do like the idea of being able to adjust the brake pedal spring ...
I have also been noodling away on solving my problem of the ITB intake runners being too high. This problem was caused by not remembering that the ABA block is a lot taller than the earlier mk1 and mk2 blocks. In fact my second injector fuel rail is close to hitting the hood as well! Anyway, I sourced high strength molding epoxy and built a cardboard mold in the shape of the runner OD to allow me to create upper and lower molds of the runners, which are 45mm ID, 48mm OD. I then mounted the epoxy molds onto steel plates and use threaded rods to allow me to apply bending pressure to increase the bend another 10 degrees or so - but after all that work it failed so I have ordered 48mm T304 tubing mandrel bent at 30 degrees from the UK and new inlet/outlet collars from AT Power that I will glue on after cutting to the right length.
I have also been farting around with the shifter linkage. I sourced adjustable end-link components but realized that the vertical shift lever in the engine bay was mounted in a way that hit the other shifter bracket beside it and the only way to solve that problem was to rebuild the clamp on the bottom (where it was hitting) 90 degrees rotated - so I took it apart, ground and reshaped it, and re-plated it so ... tonight I got the shifter linkage installed and all dialed in using the Techtonics shifter kit plus the 4crawler adjustable steel end links which allowed me to get the 1-2 gate positioned exactly where I wanted it (just to the right of the reverse lockout). I will get the brake system/pedal assembly done this weekend ...) - December 9, 2014
Part 67 (I should have all of the new intake runner components by Jan 1 so in the mean time I have been getting a lot of other things done:
I realized that once I have installed the brake servo I will no longer have access to the drivers side of of the steering rack so I took off the steering rack boots one last time, carefully centered the rack and then adjusted the tie-rods to the factory spec, and double checked that I had equal lock-to-lock distance with the steering wheel, etc. - good thing I check again as I was off by about 5mm on the tie-rod positions.
With the 16x24mm shims in hand I was able to shim out the pedal cluster and get it rock solid. With the 1/2x20 jam nuts I was able to use the brake pedal switch to align the brake pedal with the clutch pedal (which has fixed stops and therefore acts at the reference position). Once the servo was installed with the pedal cluster I used my new brake clevis adjustment coupling nut to maximum advantage and got the clevis to the exact position to not move the brake pedal out of alignment with the clutch pedal - awesome.
I then put in all of the final hardware and torqued down the servo, master cylinder and prop valve, and connected all of the brake lines. Since I had never completed the hard lines to the rear disks I fabricated those, and got the rear brake system completed as well. I will pick up my Castrol SRF Racing brake fluid this week and will then flush the lines and get the brake system completed next weekend ...
I also got shims for the accelerator pedal so that it was rock solid as well, and then measured and cut the new AT Power accelerator cable, and grafted on all of the required OEM parts to make the connection thru the firewall to the pedal (I ditched the foam grommet in the center of the accel pedal in favor of a hole in the top of the pedal with the accelerator cable running directly to it for a more positive feel/responsiveness.
Finally, I got the clutch cable installed. Boy that racing clutch is pretty stout feeling. Manageable, I think. I estimate that it is 30% stiffer than the brake pedal feels without brake fluid in the lines pressing on the servo diaphragm.
So the pedals and the shifter all work now. Pretty cool to be able to press all of the pedals and play with the shifter, moving into all of the gear positions. Vroom, vroom ... - December 15, 2014
Part 68 (I received my shipment from Any-Exhaust-Part of the UK for the 48mm T304 intake tubes today and so I could not resist cutting them up immediately and test fitting them to the throttle bodies. Success! I now have the right angle and length to avoid hitting the hood, leaving enough room for the radiator/shroud/fans and the proper geometry for an efficient cold air intake box. I will still have to wait for AT Power to ship me the new collars as it is a real bitch to unglue the ones on the existing intake runners (and then I have to machine the collar IDs about 1mm to fit the new tubes once they arrive)) - December 17, 2014
Part 69 (While I patiently wait for the new custom radiator and intake runner collars I have started to rebuild the heater box with a new heater core, blower, foam pads and seals - again, I must wait for the parts to arrive before being able to re-assemble it so I am going to have to find other things to do for the next week) - January 8, 2015
Part 70 (I wire brushed, acid etched and plated the metal h/w for the heater/blower box, and dove into the door assembly/finishing tasks, starting with the reconditioning of the window channel guides which were rotted out on the bottoms and required TIG braising in new metal, filling, sanding and painting, and also got the design for the 2 way component speaker system that will be installed in the doors sorted out (a high end Hertz HSK 165 system with a 6.5" woofer and 1" tweeter - I will also use hertz coax speakers in the stock front/rear locations, plus a Hertz Sub box in the rear that I can remove along with the sub amp when I want less weight for racing, etc). I also got the metal side plates for the front spoiler stripped, acid etched and primed, plus got the mirror bases acid etched and the whole assemblies partially cleaned up prior to painting) - January 12, 2015
Part 71 (I bit the bullet and upgraded from the Holley HP EFI system to the full Holley Dominator EFI system with its endless # of inputs and outputs. In the end I needed to control more things like 2 PWM fan outputs, a PWM water pump output, and more sensor monitoring (e.g. a second water temperature sensor in the radiator allows me to monitor the difference between the rad and block temperatures and adjust pump flow rates and/or put a restrictor plate into the system to avoid 'block shock'). I am also going to use the Racepak UDX LCD console which communicates with the Holley EFI ECU via can-bus.
I got the prep and painting of the front window channels, front spoiler side plates, and mirrors completed this weekend. It all turned out very well but I think I will wet sand and polish the black epoxy paint parts as those parts ended up being a bit too shiny for me - I want a semi-gloss look and when you wet sand and polish black epoxy it comes out pretty much exactly semi-gloss (soft gloss).
With the new ITB intake runner collars now in my hands I was able to get the intake system completed: I previously sourced new 48mm stainless tubing that was pre-bent at a 30 degree angle, cut them to the right length, ordered new collars, machined them to match the tubing exactly, made up the back plate for the air intake box, glued the collars onto the runners, assembled quickly, aligned, and will let sit overnight to cure. Now I can start to fabricate the rest of the air intake box. No more interference with the hood!) - January 18, 2015
Part 72 (I made satisfying progress this week on the fabrication of the intake vacuum plenum, related sensor mounting, and all of the machining and tapping of the various connectors, including the nitrous solenoid. I was missing a 1/16 NPT tap in my tool chest and there was no supplier open today with the part I needed so I have ordered it from Amazon and will finish the tapping of the 4 ITB vacuum lines later this coming week. I also made an important decision to make the air box out of clear Lexan and put 2 of 2.75"x2.6"x12" K&N air filter elements (they provide 50 sq. inches of pleated filter element per unit) between the top of my custom radiator and the cross member, creating a Lexan funnel into the filters in front of the radiator, and then having a straight shot into the air box, rather than trying to create a long indirect 3 or 4" tube to pull in cold air from under the car (I am really excited about this new idea and think it will work out perfectly)) - January 24, 2015
Index of Project web pages
Project Overview, Goals & Initial design specs
Project car initial condition
Bodywork & Paint
Suspension, Wheels, Tires & Braking System
Engine & Transmission
Electrical & Fuel System
VW Vortex Thread on this project
My original 1983 Rabbit GTI (owned 1983-1987)