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57/58 Alken Fiberglass Coachbuilt Project
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JeffL
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2012 2:38 pm    Post subject: 57/58 Alken Fiberglass Coachbuilt Project Reply with quote

Where to start, I guess about 30 years ago or more I had seen a picture of an Alken in Dan Post's VW 9 Lives Later and wanted one. Bob Shail of the VWWM has featured these in his coachbuilt articles with other models like the Devin, Ascort GT, and Enzman.

This Alken that was built in 1957 for debute at the LA Fair. When I got the car the 57 chassis was still with it and the car was never repainted. The gray is where the red paint wore off.

It looks like this car particular car was also featured in the R&T 1958 article. It is the dark colored car. The tonnaeu cover, door panels, mirror and several other items match. One article in Dan's book says there might have been 50 made, others doubt that 2 dozen were made.

This particular Alken was converted to an Electric Car by the Nic-L-Silver battery company in 1958. When I got the car I could the original electrics were stripped out all and a Fiat axle was installed (amaizing job btw) so the chassis was not usable due to how cut up the rear was. The front axle was changed at some point, likely in the early 80s, to have a ball joint disc brake unit. Wheel adapters were custom made for the wide 5 rims in the back to bolt up to the Fiat axle disc brakes.

This car sat in a warehouse unti about 1978 where it was sold for scrap. This one and another still survice. They were electric test car mules and then Nic-L-Silver made their own fiberglass car. It might have survived too until 1978,

This body is amazing in construction in comparison to most fiberglasss cars of the time which were typically shells. I will share information on the build as it progresses. Right now I have stripped it and will send it off for soda blasting.

I've researched most of the parts but still can not figure out the rear latch manufacture and what the door pull straps came from. There is a cable in the door pull that open the latch on the suicide doors!

I picked up a Bradley GT for the 1958 Porsche running gear. Here a guy that bought a 1958 356 new, moved all the parts over to a 1974 Bradley GT build when it was too rusted in the early 70s and the dealership would only give him $200 on trade. I willl use this chassis since it has 356 brakes, tranny and 1600N engine. I hate to pull apart the Bradley but the chassis componenets would be period correct for the Alken build.

I've sent one of my 1957 Ghia speedometers off for rebuild with a fuel and oil pressure gague to North Hollywood Speedometer for the dash. The 57 wiper mechanism was cut and lengthened (nice job by them) to get the motor to fit under the thin dash. I have found some NOS Oval dash switches and will use a new 56 Oval wiring harness. Maybe I will pick up one of the 356 Banjo Wheels for the steering wheel but I will keep the 57 turn signal unit. The choke cable was converted to be used for the front hood release.

The speedometere that came with it was a "surveyors speedometer". It only goes up to 10,000 miles and is accurate to 1/100 of a mile. There is a calibrated gear ahead of the speedometer to assure accuracy. I would think when the made the electric car they were trying to measure every mile the electric batteries could provide at that time.

Now I just have to learn and refine some fiberglass skils........

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JeffL
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I need some help identifying this door pull cable. What car did it come from? The Alken used pieces from Late 40s to mid 50s US cars. I just found out that the hood latches were 356. The winshield is from and English 52-55 Ford and with the VW chassis it is likely it coudl be a foriegn car part too.

The door pull strap also functions at the only way to open the door. When the pull is stretched the cable runs through the door panel, around a pulley, and then down to a 55 Tbird door latch.

I only have one cover and need to find three more. Thanks,


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Rome
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congratulations on your truly unusual find, Jeff! I remember seeing the photos of the Alken in Post's book. How it wound its way to you must be a story for a snowy evening.

sorry I can't help with the door pull.

The original electric drivetrain layout very closely resembles that of the all-electric 2011 BMW 1 Series ActiveE coupe, which is the first BMW built in limited numbers with a rear powerplant since the 700 of the early 1960's (automotive history often repeats itself).

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.ser...mp;dur=201

Have you thought of swapping the Alken's electric drive chassis under the Bradley GT after you refurbish the Alken?

Roland from NY
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JeffL
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rome wrote:
Congratulations on your truly unusual find, Jeff! I remember seeing the photos of the Alken in Post's book. How it wound its way to you must be a story for a snowy evening.

sorry I can't help with the door pull.

The original electric drivetrain layout very closely resembles that of the all-electric 2011 BMW 1 Series ActiveE coupe, which is the first BMW built in limited numbers with a rear powerplant since the 700 of the early 1960's (automotive history often repeats itself).

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.ser...mp;dur=201

Have you thought of swapping the Alken's electric drive chassis under the Bradley GT after you refurbish the Alken?

Roland from NY


Well, the person that bought the electric chassis bought it to put under a Bradley. I am trying to assure him that if he bought my Bradley he'd save restoration money on his becasue the gel coat is so nice. So, your idea might come to pass where the Green Bradley might end up on the electric chassis.

I like the new BMW electic. I was watching some of the "electronauts" on the web.

I traced Nic-L-Silver battery to two other companies before they closed in about 1978. That is when this Alken came back on the market after being in storage almost 20 years. We have a copy on the bill of sale to the scrap yard in 1978 that lists our red car.

Also, if you look at the dark Alken in this R&T article, we believe it has to be our car due to all of the similarities.

http://karmannghias.org/mag/RTNov58Alken.pdf
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Stock Steve
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Jeff, Nice Find! Have fun!
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JeffL
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stock Steve wrote:
Hey Jeff, Nice Find! Have fun!


Thanks Steve, when finished we'll give the AACA a chance to figure out what it is.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a look at the 356 Engine and Transmission that power the pan for the Alken.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Got the body back today from the soda blaster, he did a great job. You can really see how they made the body.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After getting the Alken back from the soda blaster and test fittering the rebuilt gauges from North Hollywood Speedometer, we had time to try the rebuilt carbs and fuel pump. There was a lot of cleaning, straightning, helicoil......

No leaks and ran great for being parked for 25 years, did some stuff to loosen up the engine first. We will let it heat up a little tomorrow after straightening everything up in the garage and then move on to setting the valves and carb linkage.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just test fitting the body and setting the ride height. I've had some other help on the best way to lower the front end on this project. The back is pretty close.

Also asking for some input from the 356 group on tires for the 356 rims I had set aside for this project.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you want to drive it hard and $ isn't an issue, these would be my choice.

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michelin XAS 155 or 165 15.

http://www.longstonetyres.co.uk/page/michelin-xas
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JeffL wrote:
Just test fitting the body and setting the ride height. I've had some other help on the best way to lower the front end on this project. The back is pretty close.

Also asking for some input from the 356 group on tires for the 356 rims I had set aside for this project.

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WOW! Looking good!
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

henry roberts wrote:
if you want to drive it hard and $ isn't an issue, these would be my choice.

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michelin XAS 155 or 165 15.

http://www.longstonetyres.co.uk/page/michelin-xas


Those do have a good look. I was even thinking of repro early black wall bias ply tires. Those on the Alken right now are Sears Allstate tires from 1964 that came on my 1956 Ghia.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

that looks like a really nicely made fiberglass body.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

splitjunkie wrote:
that looks like a really nicely made fiberglass body.


In 1958 it was selling for about $1200, maybe that is why it never caught on. There are bulk heads and stffeners everywhere. I have a bunch of holes to fill and the engine compartment panels to make but the outside body has held up fantastic.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jeff, good to see you are making progress. I had seen your post on the HAMB and I'm the one that suggested you post it here.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a new way to set the ride height, use the ceiling and a 2X4. To get the rocker level I had to lower the front a little more than 3 inches. There will be some other weight added so I will go with 3. I have some Avis adjusters coming so I will have to see where to weld the adjuster. The stop is now much more centered in the travel with the light body.

What is the thinnest tire to get? I had to let the air our of my Allstate 5.60X15 to get it into the spare tire pocket. What is the thinnest tire to use? I'd take a nice used one if it is thin.

On Cookers site the US Royals might be thin, although I don't think they are the best style for my project, but could work as a spare. I've left a message to Coker to see what the widest section width is.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jeff,

We had to go with a 155R15 Vredestein (Sprint Classic) to fit in the spare tire well of Moogie32's '63 Ghia.

Nice looking, "older style" sports radial, plus it's a fresh tire, which is reassuring from a safety standpoint.

I also have a couple of sets of them that I use on my '60 Bug. Here's a shot of one sitting next to a 5.60x15 Firestone for comparison:

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Here's another of the same tire, but on black-painted wheels (both are 4.5" width):

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Keep up the great work on the Alken--very exciting to watch your progress!

Steve
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those 356 wheels/brakes look great on that bug....way nice build on that VA !!
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