If That Sloppy Pile Can Hold Together With A Turbo

I will start off this one with what I feel is one of the most misunderstood upgrades for the vw aircooled engine and that would be turbocharging. Actually, I feel that using the word misunderstood is not very accurate, mislead would be more on the money.

Ya see…many years ago an individual who was was held up as the end all vw guru on engine building wrote a book. This book is still being regarded as ‘the bible’ by many an aircooled enthusiast, it had and still has a huge impact in the vw community.

The sad truth is, if you read this bible, take it all to heart, then build your engine according to its gospel, it will be a lot like eating a big shit sandwich. Sure, it’s filling, but it’s not going to be very good. In other words, yeah, your engine will run, but it will never live up to its power, drivability or longevity potential.

Right…I was getting a bit side tracked there, back to turbo charging the air cooled vw engine.

Pretty much every other group of car enthusiasts have embraced turbo charging as a way to get huge performance out of an engine and still be able to drive it on the street with ease. The AC (air cooled) Volkswagen folks or slowly starting to come around to this (and I do mean slowly).

The idea that if you walk within 50 feet of a vw bug while holding a turbo in your hands, the bug will melt into a puddle like the witch on the wizard of oz is getting less and less traction as a so called fact. This is a good step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, if you try to learn something about it online, the first thing you will get is massively conflicting statements that will confuse you, next you will get tired of shoveling through horseshit to try and find what’s a real fact and what is just some windbag attempting to be an authority on something he has never done before.

Well friends, this is why I’m here, to give you hard facts and not just something I heard from my uncle’s grocery store checker that knew a guy who had a roommate back in 1977 who did something that did not work.

I will end this one with a recent example of something I personally did with hopes of it getting your attention.

I bought a long block vw 1600 dual port engine off of craigslist for 150 bucks. it had been sitting outside and it was locked up pretty good. When I got it home, I pulled off the cylinder heads, had to beat the cylinders free of the engine.

What I was left with was a worn out, single relief case, a set of well worn but usable dual port heads, the crankshaft had so much endplay that you could measure it with a yard stick. This engine was pretty much shot and I knew it was before I even bought it.

Why would I do such a thing you may wonder. The answer is simple and that is I bought it to prove a point.

I did not split the case, the crank turned in there, good enough. I could see that it had an off the shelf W110 Engle camshaft in it (whatever), I grabbed some worn out pistons and cylinders off of my shelf, just stock 85.5mm vw stuff. I then proceeded to slap this roach together with pretty much every part that is considered “bad”. Bad case, non counter-weighted crankshaft, stock cast pistons, stock rods, too much camshaft really, so what I had now was something that would never make it out of the driveway according to many, but I was not done yet. I went and put together a single carb, blow through turbo system on top of the worn out garbage and installed it in my car.

Oh, well, I must not have ran any real boost through it. I guess that would depend on what you consider real boost, because many times, it saw 20 psi and spent most of the time set to 15 psi. It ran like a watch, never giving me a bit of hassle. This little worn out engine at 20 psi of boost put out three times the horsepower of a good running, fresh 1600. It ran so good, I left it in the car for quite a while, way longer than anyone should have.

At this point, I had a new engine I built, sitting on the stand waiting to go in my car, so I thought I would see just what that little bugger would take before it popped. At one point, the wastegate was totally closed, so it was just going to make whatever it was possible to make. My boost gauge only goes to 30 psi. I could not really stare at the gauge during hard acceleration because it was flat out fast. However, it made many 30 psi plus passes with me pinned to the seat, front wheels in the air and the whole deal before it let go.

Get this though, I still drove it home. Sure, it was limping and smoking, but still running. I pulled it apart right away to see the huge damage. Shiiiiit, I could have had it back up and running by later in the day, all it did was bust a ring land.

The point is here, if that sloppy pile can hold together with a turbo and the right tune on the engine, you should be able to build yourself a turbo engine that will last every bit as long as one without. I’m not magic, if I can do it, so can you.

As we go along, we will get into the technical aspects as to how and what. That’s enough for right now.