Engines: How to Acquire

Build your own!!!

In the last 22 years I have dealt with many engine suppliers.

I can no longer recommend any large scale engine builders.

Because of the outfitting business we had from 1988 – 1999 we used many Things in the Idaho back-country. Many years ago I bought engines from Dick Flowers at GEX for the VW Things we used in that outfitting business. That did not work out well. From then on I have built my own…..and corrected many other engines with problems from other commercial builders. The biggest and most common problem I’ve encountered was the engines being out of time with the crank to the cam gear. Still……I had to split the case and put up with down time in the business while I re-indexed the crank and cam gears.  Often, they were built using internal parts that were used junk and consequently failed.

So… I suggest you build your engine yourself. You can do it. No one else will have the same interest in making sure it’s done right, or as much skin in the game as you will have, that’s for sure.

The first thing you must do is decide on the way you are going to use your engine. That’s your goal and what you will build to. I only build for longevity and mild performance and use the engines in my VW Things for daily drivers and long distance rallyes. I don’t build for anything else.  I want to do 65 mph all day long with the oil temps between 180 and 210. That’s it. I don’t need full flow, remote oil coolers, deep sumps, electronic ignition, dual carbs, two barreled carbs, bolt on valve covers, fuel pressure regulators, ratio rockers, etc.  The German designers had it right from the beginning, and we only need to make improvements that compensate for the ethanol in today’s fuel.

Your next step is to make the decision regarding the case you are going to put your money into.  I try to use good AM cases because that’s the original case that came in the Thing from the dealer.  If the case is too far gone, go with a new case. If your AM case is good, send it to Todd at Rimco and have it align bored, as well as opened to the P&Cs you’ve chosen. I don’t use any cases that need boring more than .020 over. Additionally Rimco will cut the thrust if needed and provide the correct bearings if you tell them what crankshaft and rods you are using. I’ve used Rimco for years and have had good accurate service.

The third task is to make a ‘build sheet’ for the parts you will need. You will use it to shop for your parts and you can compare between parts suppliers.  I don’t compare prices as much as the country of origin.  I try to stay away from Chinese parts and admittedly, that’s hard to do.

Acquire Tom Wilsons book How to Rebuild Your VW Air-cooled Engine.  Get familiar with it. It has a lot of good info. Gather your parts and get ready to build.  Now is the time to carefully go over your build sheet and ensure you have all the parts you will require sitting right there on your bench. When you receive your newly opened and align bored case from Rimco you can get started.

If there is a local knowledgeable VW guy, find him and see if it’s possible for him to assist your build. Check with your local VW clubs as well as VW forums on the Internet. Use prudent judgment – some of those resources are good, but others not so much.

I plan on posting the step by step sequence I build to on this web site soon. It will just be for the specs I build to – for our rallye uses.

BTW this year’s 24th annual Thing Rallye will be to Moscow, Idaho …….most of them have identical engines.

– Mike