What's Your Secret Internet Car How-To?

“This video shows Greg Ward’s VW Beetle (powered by a Pobjoy 1916cc engine) at the 2009 Australian Hillclimb Championships (Gippsland, Victoria).” (Screenshot: Stan Pobjoy)

There’s a point in every conversation that starts on the internet about someone wanting to make their old Volkswagen Beetle go fast that someone pulls it up. It’s inevitable, and always the same link.

It’s this wonderful guide hosted on aircooled.net, and it’s more specific than you’d think for something shared so often. It’s a guide on suspension set up for hillclimb racing, short sprints up closed mountain roads. It’s not autocross. It’s not road racing. It’s a niche kind of event.

And yet this is what you see popping up all the time on VW forums because, well, it’s really good.

The writer, Greg Ward, explains not just what he did that worked, but tells the story of all the shit he did that didn’t, figuring out what not to do, and what each mechanical change to his car did in terms of how it handled, how it felt, how big of an undertaking it was. In reading about one guy in Australia run a reasonably out there kind of racing, you get to understand how your Bug is designed, what is easy to modify on it, and what you’d need to do to get your desired kind of car.

As an example, here’s a nice bit on his early days of car tuning. Ward explains he had just done his first major change to the car, setting it up in a way that most of us (at least, most of us with no experience) would expect to do. It didn’t go great:

The car turned relatively well, but the rear wanted to slide out on every application of the throttle around a corner. I tried it in the wet one night after lowering the front another inch and put the car into an almost uncontrollable fishtail. #$)*&)@* that, it was dangerous!! So I went completely the opposite direction and made the front 1” higher than the rear, now it was much more driveable.

A couple of weeks later I found a small secret!

I was driving with a friend riding shotgun, and two passengers in the rear seat (I drive the car). I had good quality tires on but certainly not race quality, and we were on our way through the mountains. I found that I could corner at speeds not even dreamed of before, especially with these tires.

I learned that because the car had more weight in each corner and in the back because of my passengers that:

The car was slightly lower and consequently also had more negative camber

The Z bar on the rear was activated when the passengers sat in the back.

So I shimmed the Z bar with two pieces of water pipe and washers so it was pre-loaded the whole time. I then installed a Sway-a-way Camber compensator to minimise any wheel tuck.

These steps weren’t quite enough since the car still oversteered, but it sure helped! I knew that to correct the rear wanting to overtake the front, the front needed more stiffness, and this was accomplished by the installation of an 18mm front sway bar.

Once you read the whole thing, you get why someone else shared it in the first place, and you feel a compunction to share it on yourself. Here I am, having my moment. Here you are, having yours.

I know that every car community has little documents like these, shared around. Tuning guides, repair guides, tips and tricks that grow to be bigger than their stated purpose.

With this in mind, what do you see passed around? What old site do you keep close, saved in a bookmark, or always open in the last tab on your phone?


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