After having gone through all of the different engine platforms that can be built, from 1600cc through 2150cc, I have learned about drive-ability. I drive my Thing most everyday; winter, summer – you name it. I’ve built more than 60 engines, and have had my share of platforms that weren’t the best combinations. I’ve built engines with dual carbs, single two- barrel carbs, and stock Solex 34pict3 carbs. I have used 009 distributors, stock dual vacuum distributors, and 010 Bosch as well as 019 Bosch distributors.

I have used compression ratios from 6.8 to 1, all the way up to 8.2 to1. I have used stock cams, Engle 100, 110, as well as other grinds from different manufacturers. These examples just illustrate the many combinations that can be used in the THING. I am only talking about THING application. The Thing is not too aerodynamic – and lets face it, they are a little on the lead sled side of the spectrum. This is why I want to restrict my suggestions on engines to the Thing only. However, most of what I am going to suggest can apply to the early air-cooled buses.

What I want from an engine is drive-ability. It needs to IDLE right. It needs to take off from the lights smoothly. It must start right up without sounding like a sewing machine. I want decent gas mileage. I want longevity, with some modest increase in performance. While my passion is to build the engines, I don’t want to have to do it on a weekly basis. I take care of my engines when I build them; they take care of me for many miles thereafter. I will admit Larry Green and I each pull our engines two or three times a year. This is because we want to try everything to see how it works on the Thing.

We currently have 4 engines on the floor in Larry’s shop and 2 in mine with various carb /distributor /compression combinations. The good combinations are recorded, along with the expensive stuff that doesn’t meet our requirements. We’ve also had to correct and sometimes rebuild engines we have bought from GEX, as well as Bernie Bergman. If you looking for the same drive-ability from your Thing, this is what we have found to work best in the Thing:

  • Stock cam
  • 1835cc Pistons & Cylinders (Mahle graphite coated) 92mm, A
  • Total Seal rings (full set)
  • Counterweighted crank, Eight doweled (Rimco)
  • Stock heads (opened for 92mm )
  • Double thrust cam bearings
  • High volume oil pump (Melling)
  • Stock Solex 34pict3 carburetor (tweaked)
  • Solid rocker arm shafts
  • Stock dual vacuum distributor or (009 German Bosch Mechanical)
  • Stock lifters
  • Stock connecting rods
  • Steel push rods (cut to length 5/16th)
  • Stock oil bath air cleaner
  • Stock Bosch plugs W8AC
  • Compression set no higher than 7.3 to 1 (My preference is( 6.9 to 1.)
  • The exhaust system described on my web page. Tri-Mill
  • Chevron 15w40 Delo oil
  • Remove oil strainer—(replace with rare earth magnet) see article
  • Have oil pressure relief/bypass bores reamed (Rimco).
  • Flywheel balanced, surfaced and drilled for eight dowels (Rimco).
  • For stock value, try to retain the stock AM case. If the case is bad, go for a new case.

In my humble opinion, this is it. This will give you added power and longevity, as well as DRIVE-ABILITY.
– Mike Humeston


Last updated 2015


All written and photographic works copyrighted (c) 2007-2015  by Michael Humeston. Email mike @ vwthing.us
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