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1969 Electric Karmann Ghia - Cupcake
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Oxx12
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 8:39 pm    Post subject: 1969 Electric Karmann Ghia - Cupcake Reply with quote

Hi there, my name is Spencer. I am a 21 year old Engineering student studying at the Santa Rosa Junior College, up in northern California (1.5 hours north of San Fransisco).
September of 2014 I bought a 1969 Karmann Ghia that was converted by the previous owner to electricity. I am looking to go into Electric Vehicle Engineering, so this was great. The previous owner had originally put Lead-Acid batteries in the car, so it needed air suspension to handle the extra weight - Specifically an Air Kewld system. He later put Lithium Batteries into the car instead (much lighter) but never bothered putting the suspension back. He also added a narrowed front beam, presumably also from the same company to allow for the wheels to be tucked up inside the wheel wells.
I bought the car for $3000, and the body is in great shape, it was re-painted yellow with a white top (hence the name my coworker gave it: "Cupcake"), no rust. I have already added new charging systems, and improved the electric side of things on the car, but have not yet done anything mechanical.
Let me tell you a bit more about myself, I have restored a 1962 Volvo P1800 as a senior project in highschool, so I am used to wrenching and know (for the most part) what I am doing. I did not however know anything about VW's until I bought this car. This post will serve as my timeline log of work on this car, and I hope to get help with it from you guys along the way.

Now on to the important stuff. What I want to do to the car is as follows:

* Put the suspension back to stock... the left side of the air bags leak, and I live on some bumpy roads, which means that the ride is absolutely horrid. I have already taken apart the rear swing arms only to find that the previous owner took the torsion bars out completely.
*Fix/Replace the steering box, the box that is in there is old and pretty loose
* New shocks (I have already bought some new ones in anticipation of removing the old suspension)
* Re-locating the batteries. They are currently sitting where the back seat would be and I have no leg room. I plan to split the pack half in the front and half in between the back seat and the trunk.
* I am sure other things will come up that need doing along the way

Thanks for reading, and here are some pictures of the car so far. I would love you hear your thoughts on what I should do to the car. Questions are most welcome.

When I bought the car.
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The Horrible AirBags
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Interior
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Electric Motor
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Battery Pack
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glideking
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to TheSamba Spencer!

I got to drive this car the other day. It generated a lot of attention on the street as people walked by. It has quite nice acceleration. So much torque in first gear I worried about how strong the CV joints were. Those airbags have gotta go. Now that this car is in the hands of a new VW enthusiast I look forward to the function and handling to be brought back.
Kurt
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Oxx12
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 10:28 pm    Post subject: Update #1 "Cupcake" Reply with quote

So I managed to pull apart the rear end to start tearing out the air suspension. I found that where there should have been torsion bars, there was a rats collection of nuts...
I am working on getting either the originals back from the previous owner, or getting some other ones.
The other option is to buy coil overs, thoughts?

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Nuts where the torsion bars should have been
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SoCalJes
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The angle that air bag is mounted could not be any worse. The reason your torsion bars are missing is because of the bags. How is the front lowered?
It also looks like you have an IRS suspension. I dont think that was correct for your year either if you are returning to stock.
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Woreign
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 5:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coil-Overs would not be a good choice. The upper shock arms were not designed to support the weight of the car.

Here's another Samba member who is doing a complete electric conversion on his Ghia. You might be able to share some ideas/advice...

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=591290
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c21darrel
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agree, coil-overs not the best choice. Clean out the nuts and debris to see if you can replace the torsions.
69 was 1st full year for IRS.
Nice project, what kind of steering wheel is that?
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Oxx12
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Woreign,
Thanks for the link to the other electric Ghia, I am now following his blog.

Hi C21Darrel,
Yes I contacted the original owner about the old torsion bars, he said he thinks he has them somewhere, so he will check later this week and let me know. I have no idea, but it has the Wolfsburg coat of arms on it... I plan to re-finish it as its wooden.

Here are some more pictures of the electronic bits in the car. I have headway cells (540 of them) 12 in parallel and 45 in series, making a 144V pack.

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Gas Port

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Mounted a J1772 (Front located gas port, ideal for nose in charging

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It closes!

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Charging

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Two CH4100 chargers in Parallel from Thunderstruck Motors, both controlled by the EVCC (Electric Vehicle Charge Controller) for 30amps of juice.

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The engine bay
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retrofive
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, aside the from the eCar that looks like a great ghia at that price.

Looks like a supper fun project.
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Oxx12
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 10:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

*UPDATE* 3/14/15
Today I re-installed the original torsion bars into the rear end, with new rear shocks.
It was a hell of a job without any of the "proper" tools. I used 2 floor jacks and 2 hammers. I used a protractor and a tiny level to make sure that I was at 20 degrees on the swing arms.

Now tomorrow I am planning on doing the front end, removing the narrowed beam and re-installing the original front beam (which I have). The only problem is that I have no idea what I am doing. Any tips? Suggestions? Things to replace while i'm there?

Thanks Guys! Smile

Here are some pictures:
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New Shocks! Cheaper is better!
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Old Shocks...

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New ride height
[/img]
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Jondoekauai
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great that you're putting your Ghia back to original torsion bars. Curious why the PO changed them out because with them the car has a much better weight capability. They probably should have just been adjusted once he had the battery pack installed. Vw Torsion bar suspensions are rated for far more than coil springs. Vans can carry 1 1/2 tons, not sure what Ghia's and bugs can but I'm sure it is impressive. I always wanted to try an electric Ghia because of the area behind the rear seat I thought a pack could go in there and one where the gas tank used to be to help distribute the weight better. Good luck!
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Oxx12
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah it's remarkable the improvement from just doing the rear. I couldn't agree more!
I plan to distribute the battery pack exactly to those two places. Good weight distribution.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kind of too late to ask this, but did you replace your bushings? Makes a big difference, inner and outer. Also use long bolts to put the covers back on, makes it much easier. Looking good!
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Oxx12
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 12:31 pm    Post subject: Tilting? Reply with quote

Nah everything seemed just fine under there... probably should have, but whatever...

Just put the original front beam back on, and now the whole car is leaning towards the drivers side. I dont understand, Im sure i put the front on correctly, so I am guessing that I am off one or two splines on the rear...
Opinions and thoughts? The picture below shows the tilt, and the chaos that is my workspace. The fender rubs the tire if I try to turn even a little.

-Spencer

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I dont know if its easy to see, but it is favoring the driver side... its so much so that I cannot even drive, or it rubs.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like maybe just one spline would do the trick. The long bolts help lots to reassemble. You're almost there!
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To check whether it is the rear torsion bars of the front torsion bars causing the lean put a jack centered on the front beam and get the front wheels off the ground. It will be obvious if the back is the one that is off.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2015 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you dont put some weight on it and move it around ...it hasnt SET IN yet.
Try this first Very Happy
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Oxx12
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, I put the jack in the middle of the front beam, jacked up the front wheels, and the rear wheels are perfectly balanced. This means that it has to be my front beam somehow... Right?
I tried removing the shock from the left side to see if for some reason the new shock was causing it to stay down (long shot I know), but it wasn't the problem.
I have double checked my front end work, I cannot point to anything at this point except maybe the front torsion leaf's are worn out?
The troubling part of this conclusion is that the right and left side share the torsion leafs, so one would think that if the torsion leafs were worn out, both sides would be evenly sagged down. How can the left side sag more on the same torsion leafs?
This brings me full circle back to thinking its the back again. Should I get a new front beam?
Thoughts??

-Spencer
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The troubling part of this conclusion is that the right and left side share the torsion leafs, so one would think that if the torsion leafs were worn out, both sides would be evenly sagged down. How can the left side sag more on the same torsion leafs?

broken/missing leafs? Pull them and take a look. Its work but so is replacing. Unless your beam is bent or damaged you can replace all parts, no need to buy new.
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Oxx12
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2015 9:33 pm    Post subject: Found the Problem! Reply with quote

Okay, I replaced the front beam with a friends spare, it did not fix the problem. I did a lot of measuring all around the car and found that the frame is straight (relatively) but the body is sitting crooked on the frame.
I don't know where to go from here, but I do know that I can get smaller tires and more recessed rims (as the car has a disc brake conversion made for a narrowed beam) which should compensate for the disc brake spacing. Does anyone know where the bead of the tire should rest relative to the hub? That is the lateral spacing from the hub outward? Because if i want to keep the disc brakes I will have to find new rims that recess back into the wheel wells.
Thoughts? Any Advice would be much appreciated, easy way to adjust the body? I think the biggest problem is just the disc brakes have wheel spacers for the caliper to clear the original steelies. If I could find a way to get rid of that spacer that would be the best.

-Spencer
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scotty timmerman
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2015 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

what kind of spindles are you using? possibly one side is a drop spindle and the other is stock height spindle? for the disk brakes use stock vw ghia disk brakes and you wont have a clearance problem with the wheel/caliper.
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