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February 19, 2004

Studying...

So, in preparation for the engine swap _(and return to service of Twinkie)_ I've been reading the "Volkswagen Bible" according to my dad, "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive : A Manual of Step-By-Step Procedures for the Complete Idiot":http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/156261343X/. This is, indeed, a great book. Reading it over the last week or so I've become a bit more comfortable with the tasks related to keeping an air-cooled Volkswagen running and moving. I understand what's going on inside the engine now. Like why setting the proper valve gap is important, how it relates to other things going on in the engine, how to identify when your gaps may need adjusting. I really should have read the book more closely when my dad first offered it to me - maybe I wouldn't have had Twinkie sitting in their driveway for the last two years. I'm guessing in the near future my dad and I will swap the engine and I'll have Twinkie back in my life again. *I can't wait!*

June 5, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 1

This Christmas I got a new engine for Twinkie. My mom decreed that June would be the month of Twinkie, that she’d like to see it up and running before it got cold outside again. My dad and I made our plans, and today was the first official day of the rebuild. (We’ve looked over the engines before, but today was the first down and greasy day)

We decided today we’d take apart the new engine, test it out, make sure it was gonna work out for Twinkie. While there was generally very little concern about this, one can never tell what you get on eBay. Also, considering the engine came from an automatic transmission, and Twinkie is a manual, we knew we’d have a little bit of work to do in order to get the conversion back to manual for the transmission worked out.

We started by putting the engine up on a workbench so it was at our height. We noticed immediately that one of the heat exchangers was completely rusted apart. Normally not a worry, as I only drive Twinkie during the summer, but some of the other shrouds around the engine were on their way to Rustville as well. The oil pump did, indeed, have the port for the automatic transmission, so we made note that we’d have to either move the old one over from the old engine or get a new one. Otherwise, everything with the engine (we stripped it down to a short block) appears just dandy. Yay!

The engine’s serial number is AH383063. This translates to a 1600cc dual port engine from 1973-74.

Next weekend we’ll take the old engine out of Twinkie, which I’ve been told mostly consists of removing four bolts.

The Week’s Shopping List
* New set of engine gaskets
* Possibly a new oil pump (there is a bit of concern that the pump from the old engine may have been contaminated from the engine breakdown)
* New driver side mirror
* New battery

June 12, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 2

Second weekend of work on Twinkie. Today we attacked the old engine.

Started off easy enough. Label all of the wires coming off of the engine so you can reconnect them to the new engine in the proper order. I have to say - I think we need more colors. Keeping track of the different wires was an exercise in naming. Red w/Black, Red w/Blue, Red, Black, Blue, Blue w/Yellow, etc.

The John Muir book, How To Keep Your Volkswagen Running guided the rest of the process for us. The book really does live up to the hype - it is amazing how the author goes into just the right amount of detail for you to get the job done, but explains things well enough that you understand WHY you’re doing WHAT you’re doing.

The only things we ran into which were not covered in the book were:

  • Twinkie seems to have a 15mm nut on the transmission bolt on the passenger side of the engine compartment
  • The heater control cables were not hooked up
  • Due to the type of engine in Twinkie, the driver side engine compartment bolt is reversed - you remove it from underneath the vehicle
  • The Muir book doesn’t mention the cross-brace which supports the engine in the rear - we removed the bolts holding on the entire brace and removed it along with the engine rather than try to work around it

Otherwise, the only other notable event was when we went to disconnect the gas line. Next time, make sure you’ve got something much bigger than a pencil handy. I probably got about a quarter gallon of gasoline which ran down my arm while I tried to use a pencil to block the line. Yuk!

We hooked up the existing battery to the charger. It was taking a charge when we left it - we’ll know next week if we need to get a new one or not.

June 26, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 3

Third real weekend of work on Twinkie. Made good progress. Although, I will say, this has turned into more than a straightforward 8 hour job like we originally thought. Oh well, good things come to those who wait (and put in the effort!)

Since the previous post, dad determined that the intake manifold was cracked on the new engine. Have no idea how, but it meant a replacement. As it turns out, a “new” used one became one of my birthday gifts. My dad sourced it from JAC Auto Repair & Sales up in Anoka, Minnesota. My dad tells me he had a great experience, anytime I need parts it sounds like that’s the place, locally, I should go!

The first part of the day we spent getting the flywheels off of both engines. This was necessary mostly due to the fact that the new engine came from an automatic transmission and Twinkie is a manual. The bolt holding the flywheels on is torqued at assembly to 245 ft-lbs.

After it became obvious that using a simple breaker bar with a pipe extension wasn’t going to do the trick on the old engine we took a length of an old bedframe, drilled a hole in the end, attached it to one of the six bolts around the outside of the flywheel. After heating up the bolt with a torch and arranging the bedframe angle iron so it was pinned against the ground, I could stand on the engine, holding it against the ground, while dad pulled on the pipe/breaker bar combination and it popped loose.

It sounds difficult, and it was - but it was nothing compared to the new engine. The automatic’s flywheel doesn’t have the six bolts on the outside. It did have slots in it, tho, so we improvised a rachet handle as a pin, wedged it into one of the slots on the flywheel and repeated the same process with the pipe/breaker bar from the old engine. As we pulled, the metal on the automatic flywheel bent and snapped. Obviously, different measures were necessary. The Muir book was of very little help, he didn’t have any details about this kind of flywheel, so we repeated the heating process we performed on the previous engine. It still didn’t give way, and since I had to hold the rachet handle as a pin while dad pulled, we enlisted the support of my mom to stand on the engine block and stop it from flipping up. Finally, the bolt snapped free.

It didn’t end there, tho. The flywheel is supposed to be able to be backed off from this point by prying it slowly on opposing sides. No go. We ended up having to use a pulley puller to pop it loose, then it came off with little fuss.

After removing the flywheel, we noticed a little bit of oil leaking from the rear engine seal. The Muir book recommends replacing the seal anyway if you get to this point, so I went off to the local auto parts stores to pick up a new seal, engine cleaner (the new engine was filthy) and new spark plugs and wires. Dad stayed behind and cleaned up the new engine as best he could.

Found out we’d have to mail order most of the parts, so I came back with the engine cleaner and went to work on the intake manifold while dad continued to clean the new engine. Got far enough to figure out we didn’t have the right size seal for the carburetor to mate with the intake manifold so we set to work comparing the oil pumps. Found out from the JAC Auto guys what we had to look for on the oil pumps, it seems that both of them were of the same type. My dad later figured out how to coax the gears from the new engine into the housing for the old engine (automatics have an extra port on the oil pump housing) so we saved ourselves a bunch of bread there.

Rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning up, moving parts from the old engine to the new (power pulley, alternator, and oil cap).

It seems like it is finally coming together. Can’t wait to see Twinkie running again. Everyone at work is not only amazed that I’m doing this project, but they are eager to see my drive up in Twinkie to work sometime soon. As am I!

July 3, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 4

This entry has been backdated

Whoops! I forgot an update for Day 4. Here ya go (what I remember after a month!)

We started putting things back together on the new engine:

  • Replaced the rear oil seal (which is actually on the front, but I just confused people when I tried to order a replacement)
  • Put back on the manual transmission flywheel and starter gear
  • Mounted the intake manifold
  • Installed the carburetor
  • Attached all of the engine shrouds and the fan

At this point, the Muir book advised installing the rear engine support. Only problem - our engine came from a Beetle, which lacks said support. This meant the engine block we had did not have the correct mounts. This brought a halt to the effort until we could find the adapter. We finished up by cleaning things up and were a bit disappointed over the prospect that a solution may not be found and all the effort on the new engine would be for nothing.

After a day or so, I managed to find an adapter (who would have guessed they would make such a thing?!?!) at BusDepot.com. My dad placed the order for the adapter and some other miscellaneous parts.

Well, the next weekend arrives, but no parts. We get a shipping notification from them, but the adapter is the one part on backorder. After another round of communication, they come forward and disclose they can’t give an estimate for when the part will come in so they can fulfill the order.

Back to the drawing board…do some more looking online, nobody else has one. My dad calls up the local Dune Buggy Supply and while they believe they have the part, they are in the process of moving locations and cannot find the part to sell to us.

Two weeks go by; finally I give Dune Buggy Supply a call back. They have completed moving, the guy who answers the phone is sure they’ve got the part, so I take a break from work and drive up to their new location. I walk in; explain the part I need and about 5 minutes later the owner comes back in from the parts shed with the mounting adapter and the modified oil pump cover. $10 gets me the set!

August 21, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 5

OK, now that we had the parts in hand, it was time to really get rocking on the new engine. My goal for the day was to get the engine back into the bus. We had a tight timeline - while I got to my parents around 8:30 I had to leave no later than 2:30. Then I would zip back to Saint Cloud and help Kelly and her mom bring what was left from the garage sale to the local thrift shop.

The first thing we ran into was that the adapter we waited so long to get was missing the bolts necessary to actually mount it to the rear engine support. On the old engine block, three threaded posts came out of the engine block and would get bolted onto the rear engine support. The problem was that the adapter just included the holes for said three bolts, not the bolts themselves.

Off to Beisswenger’s Hardware. My dad has been going to this place for years; the phrase on their website explains it all: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!” I got a crash course in bolts…Steel, Grade 5, Grade 8, and others. We decided on grade 8 bolts, picked up the sizes we thought we’d need and went to the checkout. We picked up the requisite snacks from the “2 for $1” items near the checkout and waited in line. (My dad and I both picked out the same snack - Tootsie Rolls - imagine that!) While in the checkout line my dad and I were jovial as usual - for a while the person ringing us up kept on getting distracted with our humorous banter and charged us $770 dollars for one bolt! That just led us to more laughs.

We drove home and found out that the oil pump plate Dune Buggy Supply gave us was slightly off from what we needed to squeeze over the oil pump mounting posts. After 15-20 minutes of filing away by hand, we managed to make it fit. Another 15 minutes and we had ourselves an engine compatible with the rear engine mount. Yay!

From there we went about securing the rest of the chrome air shrouds and ran the throttle linkage through the fan housing.

Now it came time to mount the exhaust. After relaxing the intake manifold’s bolts attaching it to the engine block, we were able to squeeze the exhaust onto the exhaust headers and around the heater boxes. After a quick pry with a screwdriver and the handle of a ratchet we squeezed in the metal seals between all the parts and began bolting things down. The seal between the exhaust headers and the exhaust itself is a pinch-type seal. We had a few issues on the passenger-side of the engine (the heater box was getting in the way of the engine mount and exhaust making for a tight fit) but after a quick lunch break things went together just fine.

After re-securing the intake manifold, we finished more shrouding and tightened down the ring securing the generator to the fan and the fan housing. Just that one bolt itself took 15-20 minutes to tighten down - it is in a very confined space, making for a bunch of little tiny turns of the nut.

I assembled the spark plug wires and we went about routing them around the engine block. When we got ready to fit the distributor cap we realized we needed to move the engine to TDC so we could correctly attach the spark plug wires.

This became much more of an ordeal than we first thought. Usually, whenever my dad has worked on VW engines before he’s been very careful to avoid moving the engine from TDC. This makes for quick reassembly, but with a new engine and our love of combining the best parts of each to make a better whole we couldn’t rely on the previous setting. The Muir book came in handy again. After some noodling, we managed to get the engine reset to TDC and the distributor cap correctly positioned, which allowed us to attach the spark plug wires 4-3-2-1 in counter-clockwise order from the plug located the furthest rear of the engine.

At this point, we were very close to 2:30, so we began packing up. The engine was certainly heavy before we added on the exhaust, fan and shrouds today, but now it was even heavier. We moved it to the side of the garage and stashed the rest of our parts in the corners and recessing surrounding the garage, allowing my mom room to park.

We didn’t get the engine in, but all we’ve got left are the electrics and then we should be able to slide it back in. I can’t wait, each step we get closer to the end I can feel myself getting more and more excited and filled with anticipation.

August 29, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 6

With our normal Saturday timeslot taken up with a trip to the Minnesota State Fair with Kelly’s folks, we ended up working on Twinkie this weekend on Sunday. It turned out to be the perfect day; overcast with a few sprinkles throughout the day to keep things cool.

We started off moving the engine back onto the workbench. (Wow, it was heavy!) Fixing the spark plug cables was the first thing; we shortened the cables for cylinders 1 and 2 and attached the additional boots on all four cables to protect things a bit better. (They were included but the manual didn’t explain how they went on…or if they were even needed…we only realized after we got all the wires assembled how they fit onto the wires!)

Next step was to finish putting on the final few shrouds. We installed the two pieces which surround the drive pulley, then we installed the fan belt and torqued down the drive pulley. Next step was to move the spacers on the fan pulley until we got the 1/2 inch of give on the pulley, then we torqued down the fan pulley as well. We wired the heater boxes open (since Twinkie has an electric fan which draws the hot air in from the heater boxes, instead of using the engine fan to push it through) and brought the heater box air intakes up above the rear engine shrouds to avoid any exhaust fumes from being sucked into the heater boxes (and eventually into the passenger compartment!)

Finally, it came to the point where we had to figure out the electrics. A lot of the electrical cables are connected to the body of the bus - those we will worry about later - but there are a few which run between things on the engine block. (Such as between the carburetor, generator, alternator, and coil) Luckily, we had taken pictures of things before we removed the old engine, so we popped up the pictures on one of our laptops and tracked down which wire went where.

Before we reinstalled the engine, my dad showed me how to adjust the valves, since it would be much easier to learn on the workbench instead of upside down under the bus during an oil change. .006 inch was the desired gap; we found all but cylinder 4 was set perfectly. After a few adjustments, everything was ready to go.

We positioned the engine back onto the jack, wiggled it back and forth to get the back engine support brace up and around the support’s body brackets and slide it back onto the transmission. We positioned the rubber supports on said support brackets and got ready to bolt the transmission to the engine. Then we noticed that we forgot to pull the accelerator cable free from the transmission, so we had to pull back off the engine, pull the accelerator cable out and then slide it all back together. Luckily, after we got the accelerator cable out we were able to unbend it and guide it through the fan housing for later connection to the carburetor’s throttle arm.

Next up was the “four big bolts” which hold the engine onto the transmission, which now that the accelerator cable was clear, fit together like a hand in glove. We tightened down the top driver-side bolt with the 17mm nut and then went to work on the top passenger-side. This side has a locking head, but the 15mm nut you need to tighten down is back and behind the fan housing in the engine compartment, making it very difficult to access. After a few minutes with the crescent wrench, I found just the right combination of socket and driver to clear everything back there and make comparatively quick work of the bolt.

After getting both of the top bolts fastened, we went to work on the bottom two bolts. After a glance it became apparent that we were missing two studs which should have come off the engine block, through the transmission housing, so we could use two 17mm nuts to lock things in. Looking at the old engine, we found the two studs, released them from the old engine block and got them to both just barely fit past the transmission housing and set them into the new engine block without having to undo our work on the top two bolts.

We secured the rear engine support to the body with out two remaining 17mm bolts, which completed the process of mating the engine back to Twinkie. We installed the two heater ducts which span from the heater boxes to the ductwork on the body. Then we removed the fancy transmission support (a sawed off 4×4) and lowered the jack.

Only a few more things left to go before we got to finally try to turn the engine over. We attached the accelerator cable to the throttle, connected the generator to the on-board electrical system, attached the fuel line, and plugged in all the low-voltage electrics for the gauges. The only extra wire we had left over was the cylinder temperature gauge, which we couldn’t fit onto the new engine, so we tied it up and out of the way.

The old engine had dual carburetors, so we couldn’t use the air filters from that engine. We also couldn’t use the air filter which came with the new engine, as it was designed for the Beetle body. Thinking ahead, my dad picked up an air filter for a Type 2 from eBay. We were puzzled how it would fit onto the engine, since it is quite a bit taller than the Beetle air filter, which was already much taller than would fit inside the engine compartment of Twinkie. After a bit of investigation online, we managed to find a picture which detailed how the new air filter would be connected, off to the side of the engine. The shelf which was supposed to be there had been cut off of Twinkie, presumably when the dual carburetor engine had been installed. Realizing we would at least need to buy some new hoses, we put the air cleaner to the side for now and made plans to install it the next time.

Finally, we installed the battery, fresh off the charger. Being a negative ground system, we connected the battery cable which had two wires to the positive battery terminal, then connected the grounding strap to the negative terminal. My dad roughly set the timing and we double-checked everything. I unlocked the driver door, hopped into the seat while my dad sat in the back and watched the engine as I tried the ignition. The starter engaged, I could hear the engine trying to turn over, but it never started rumbling away.

My dad went and got some starter fluid, sprayed some into the carburetor, and sure enough, the thing would purr away until it had exhausted its supply of the starter fluid.

At this point, we knew we were looking at a fuel delivery problem. We followed the troubleshooting in the Muir book - we heard the bubbles in the gas tank and siphoned some down the fuel line from the tank, but the pump wasn’t pumping. After substituting the old engine’s fuel pump, we still had the same problem. We checked that the shaft coming up from the inside of the engine was pistoning up and down, which should have driven both pumps to pump fuel. At this point we had basically eliminated everything but the chance that both pumps were bad!

It was 7:30pm, Kelly and my mom were getting hungry and impatient (we had been working on Twinkie since 10:30am) so we cleaned up. This meant we were left with two problems we had to solve before we got to checking the brakes and getting Twinkie back on the road.

  1. We need to come up with a mounting solution for the air filter, as well as purchase the necessary tubing which will hook it up to the carburetor.
  2. We need to figure out what’s wrong with the fuel pump, or get a new one!

But, overall, there was lots of progress made. It was wonderful to hear Twinkie purring back to life after so long asleep in my parents’ driveway. Hopefully we’ll overcome the two problems from today, checkout the brakes and suspension and I’ll be driving Twinkie again soon!

September 6, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 6.1

I just got an update from my Dad. It looks like the new fuel pump he bought turned out to do the trick - we’ve got good fuel flow and everything looks good. Guess both of the old ones had gone bad - what are the odds of that?

As for the air cleaner, Dad spent about an hour walking through Beisswenger’s Hardware and thinks he’s found a combination of parts we can use to secure the air cleaner to the body.

Things are certainly looking up. We’re waiting for the air ducts which will route the filtered air from the air cleaner to the carburetor, but in the meantime we can do the once over of the remaining systems (brakes, suspension, etc) so that once the air ducts arrive Twinkie is ready to rise again!

September 14, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 6.2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Twinkie Test Successful

Spring Lake Park, Minnesota (PRSOURCE) September 14, 2004 - Tonight, with little fanfare, an ignition test was performed on Twinkie, Damon Durand’s 1968 VW Campmobile. This was a major milestone for the TwERP.

Durand Engineers, with tactical assistance provided by Kelly Industries and Pamela Logistics, have spent many weekend man-hours rebuilding Twinkie’s engine over the past 3 months. Due to parts being sourced from around the nation for such a grand effort, delays were encountered and project schedules had to be pushed back.

A few weeks ago, a no-go condition was raised by the engineering project team due to a malfunctioning fuel pump. Curtis Durand, the Lead Consulting Engineer for the TwERP, led the effort in testing both the primary and backup units but found faults in both which could not be remedied. Luckily, due to the TwERP engineering team’s early design decision to use as many off-the-shelf parts as possible, a third unit was obtained and put into service. Component testing was performed on the new fuel pump and the no-go condition was removed, allowing the project to move forward once more.

Tonight after dinner, Lead Mechanics Engineer and Pilot Damon Durand entered the command compartment and strapped into the pilot’s seat. Lead Consulting Engineer Curtis Durand supervised the engine itself, while a representative from Pamela Logistics was on-hand to supervise safety systems.

Pilot Damon Durand inserted the key into the ignition and turned it to the start position, which engaged the starter motor and began the engine boot sequence. Simultaneously, a throttle up maneuver was made with his foot via the accelerator pedal, per established cold start procedures.

After a rough timing adjustment by the Lead Consulting Engineer, the engine turned over. Quickly thereafter, the pilot moved the key back into the “run” position, which disengaged the starter motor, and a self-sustaining idle condition was obtained. The engine test continued for approximately one minute. Samples were taken of the engine exhaust during the test by a HAND, but there was no oil burning detected by any sensor.

This marks a major milestone achieved by the TwERP. After work is completed on the intake air cleaner system, the TwERP team’s efforts will be completed.

Twinkie’s launch, subject to a possible safety inspection delay, is currently scheduled for September 18, 2004. Another launch window is also available the following day, September 19, 2004, with two more windows the following weekend.

More information on the Twinkie Engine Rebuild Project(TwERP) can be obtained by visiting the project’s webpage.

###

Contact:
Damon Durand
Durand Engineers
twerp@durands.com

September 18, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 7

Kelly and I slept in today, headed up to my parents’ house around noon. We picked up lunch on the way, which gave everyone time to socialize before my dad and I headed outside.

Once we got outside the first thing to get out of the way was adjusting the timing. My Dad had set it “about right” on Tuesday night for the engine test, but this time we got out the timing gun. Attach it to the battery, place the sensor over the spark plug wire for cylinder 1 and test. Set it right around 28 degrees offset from TDC above 3000 RPM.

Next step was the air cleaner. We fitted the tube which ran from the air cleaner to the carburetor, set the air cleaner in place and measured its height. Since the bracket the air cleaner would normally set on had been removed by a previous owner, when they converted Twinkie to dual carburetors, we had to fashion our own.

My Dad had picked up two “L” brackets and a straight length of angle iron. It took us about an hour and a half, but eventually we came up with a solution. The rear “L” bracket was folded to the proper height and bolted to the body as far back as possible on the passenger side of the engine compartment. The forward “L” bracket just happened to fit perfectly on one of the rear engine shroud’s bolts. The straight length was placed diagonally across both “L” brackets, and then we bungee-corded the air cleaner to the angle iron. The air cleaner is level, placed perfectly out of the way, and we still give ourselves room to remove the battery.

Next was adjusting the automatic choke. Driven by the engine thermostat, it alters the idle speed of the engine. While we were adjusting the speed back and forth we didn’t realize there were two pools of oil forming underneath the engine. In the process of cleaning up a few tools we saw the spots and the worrying began a new. What if the engine was a lemon? All this work for nothing! But, we set our minds back to work, resolved to fix our problem, just like had with every other “issue” we encountered during this effort.

Rather quickly the cause of the first oil pool was tracked down to the valve cover over cylinders 1 & 2. After closer inspection we realized it was the valve cover on which we didn’t replace the seal when we were overhauling the engine. It was thought, at the time, that the existing rubber seal would be just fine. No problem - we still had a spare seal - we replaced the seal and replaced the cover.

The second cause was a bit more difficult to track down, since oil seemed to be all over the bottom of the engine and around the dipstick. After cleaning off the oil already on the engine, we restarted the engine and found the oil was spraying out around the dipstick. With the dipstick out it just gushed. After a moment, my dad realized that the problem was actually a capped off crankcase breather vent which we had capped off due to an incompatibility with the Type 2/Bus air cleaner. (Remember, the engine came from a Bug!) We added an item onto our “future” checklist to obtain the necessary adapters in order to connect the air cleaner and crankcase breather and left the cap off for now.

Now back in the game, we finished connecting the rear engine compartment shroud and started the engine up again. Twinkie was alive. All that remained now was to perform the pre-flight checks.

After checking the lights, we called out Kelly and Mom for the launching ceremony. My Dad brought out some champagne, we all had a toast and we christened Twinkie with a pour from the bottle. I hopped in the driver’s seat, turned Twinkie over and got ready to back Twinkie out of the driveway for the first time in 3 years.

I found reverse, let out on the clutch and back I went. After a small correction to avoid giving myself WAY too much distance from the other cars in the driveway (and driving into the yard) I made it down to the street, turned into traffic and sputtered away.

Finally, after three years and an entire summer of work on it, here I was driving Twinkie down the road.

I took Twinkie around a few blocks and then pulled it back into the driveway. Hopping out, I asked my Dad if he wanted to take Twinkie for a ride and he hopped in himself and drove away. (Once again, after a small course correction, this time to avoid the cars in the driveway!)

He got back; we all stood around and admired the accomplishment. Kelly even hopped up in the driver’s seat (although she didn’t want to drive Twinkie around at all) and admired the large, round steering wheel.

We attached the rear bumper, removed the front license plate (it was an old plate) and cleaned up. Mission accomplished!

I’ve posted some photos from the day here.

September 23, 2004

Twinkie: Captain's Log

Well, I just passed the 50 mile mark on the rebuilt Twinkie engine today. On the whole, it is great being able to drive Twinkie around. Knowing that my Dad and I put together the engine propelling me down the road makes the joy of driving Twinkie that much sweeter. The big huge steering wheel makes driving the non-power steering vehicle a lot of fun, as does the tempermental transmission which loves to play tricks on you when you’re in stop-and-go traffic. Hearing the roar from the engine in the back (which modern drivers pay thousands of dollars in custom exhaust parts to duplicate) also brings a smile to my face.

The biggest headache (sometimes quite literally!) right now is the exhaust fumes in the cabin. Either due to the amount of fumes coming out of the tailpipes OR the method my Dad and I used to vent the heater boxes the cabin gets quite a smell at times. I guess it is even worse in the back, according to the passengers who have braved the seatbelt-less lands of the rear cabin. I’m sure a bit of noodling and some experimentation will solve this problem, tho.

Speaking of passengers, here’s the list of brave souls who have dared to ride so far:

  • Kelly
  • (New) Theresa
  • JManDoo
  • B-Squared
  • Lana Banana

In other non-engine related news, I popped up the camper top for demonstration purposes at work on Tuesday. Even tho the top hadn’t been opened in 3 years, the canvas walls were still in great shape. Didn’t see any damage in the slightest to the canvas by pests or other creatures who love to eat fabric. Yay!

The only other thing I’ve really noticed - I’ve been having an issue using pronouns with Twinkie. Is Twinkie a he or a she? Right now I find myself mostly thinking she automatically, so she Twinkie may become.

October 6, 2004

Twinkie Update

Last night I drove Twinkie out to Woodbury to have dinner with Jean. This was the longest trip so far, just over 40 miles. Twinkie handled it just fine, the new engine is holding up well. We had a lot of fun going over the huge hump in the road at Lake and Wooddale Drives at high speed…it even felt like Twinkie caught some air on it, believe it or not!

A few things I’ve learned:

  • You can’t check the oil when the engine is hot, such as when you fill up with gas. Best done in the morning before you leave for the day. That way, after you add the oil you can check it right before going to lunch or leaving for the day, at which time the engine should be cool once more.
  • If you just open up the driver’s window the movement of the air past the window sucks exhaust in through the heating ducts. If you, instead, open up the sliding door fan windows at the same time, you get a nice cross breeze and everything is much less stinky.
  • Trying to talk on the cell phone necessitates putting in the clutch and coasting…which is OK when you’re on the freeway, but in stop and go traffic it makes things very complicated!
  • Driving such an old beauty gets you lots of looks…of both contempt and of admiration. How you choose to interpret those looks is up to you.

All in all, it is great to drive Twinkie again. Just filled up the third tankful of gas since Twinkie began moving again, hoping that the weather remains good for a bit so I can enjoy Twinkie a bit more before I have to park it for the winter.

A Now, A Word From Our Donor

As you may have picked up from reading the Twinkie entries, Twinkie was the lucky recipient of a transplant engine from a 1973-1974 Super Beetle. My dad purchased the engine through eBay back before Christmas, which meant the feedback had to be sent before we could get it in and working. After we completed our work, he sent another message to the seller sharing our success with an invitation to go to my website and read all about it. Here was his response (from a week or so ago, his location is obvious when you consider where all the hurricanes have been hitting this year):

From: Shawn Knight
To: Curtis Durand
Re: eBay Item: VW BUG SUPER BEETLE 1600 MOTOR ENGINE

That’s just great, can’t wait till my son is old enough to do similar projects! He’s only 5, but I’m already planning! Your son, a teenager I assume, writes very well. Very interesting reading, though I had to cut it short as we are now up to 50 mile an hour winds during our weekly hurricane test!! Will catch up with you when I can, gotta hunch the power ain’t gonna be on much longer, best wishes to you, your family and most of all Twinkie!!

Well, I dunno if I should be happy that he thought I was a teenager or not (for those of you playing the home game, I’m 28 this year) but it still is cool to connect with the donor in this way.

October 13, 2004

Meme-orable

everybody join in!

15 years ago today, I would have been…
1. 13, 8th Grade, living with my parents in Spring Lake Park, MN
2. Finishing my sixth and final year in the Metropolitan Boys Choir with a tour of Germany and Austria the following June
3. Had my first serious girlfriend, Jennifer Burnett. We would always sit together at lunch and play footsie.

10 years ago today, I would have been…
1. Just arrived at GMI in pursuit of a computer engineering degree
2. Logging into ISCA BBS for the first time
3. Figuring out how to forge email From: addresses

5 years ago today, I would have been…
1. Contemplating leaving Investment Advisers Inc. after 7.5 years to go work for Agiliti
2. Finishing up Y2K Compliance documentation and testing
3. Driving Twinkie through downtown Minneapolis in a shirt and tie, commuting to work

3 years ago today, I would have been…
1. Going to couple’s therapy
2. Refinancing the house
3. Preparing for the worst

1 year ago today, I was…
1. Trying to keep all the plates spinning
2. Moving Wizmo HQ across the street
3. Finishing up the first summer of bicycle commuting

So far this year, I have…
1. changed my hairstyle
2. fixed up Twinkie
3. dropped 4 inches around my waist

Yesterday, I…
1. worked a full day
2. cleaned the apartment
3. reconnected with 2 long-lost friends

Today, I…
1. sat in meetings all day
2. had dinner with the ‘rents
3. fixed my Dad’s computer

Tomorrow, I…
1. meet with customers
2. take Mel for a ride in Twinkie and have dinner
3. call for new tires on the Beetle

October 15, 2004

Frozen Twinkie

So, Mel wanted a ride in Twinkie.

The temperature outside was below 45 at drive time.

I braved the cold, with no working heater, and drove Mel to dinner and back in Twinkie.

Thankfully I remembered my gloves. That big bus steering wheel does not warm up EVER!

New rule: no driving Twinkie below 50 degrees F!

November 9, 2004

Pimp My Ride

One of my fellow Wizmo-nians alerted me to this week’s premire of the MTV show Pimp My Ride featuring a VW Bus restoration.

I set it up on the Tivo (with the necessary 5 minutes of padding on either side since experience has proven to me that MTV loves to run late/early) and waited for it to appear on my Now Playing list.

Tonight I come home and checked it out. The VW Bus was a splitty but was in horrible shape. Rust all over, windows missing, hot-wired ignition. It looked like the kid had tried to do some restoration work, but we found out during the show that his family had some problems come up and had given up his restoration money to help out.

A 40-inch LCD flat screen, Playstation 2, electric surfboard rack, electric dryer and loads of body work later he ended up with one sweet ride. They gave the splitty a very classic paint job on the outside, complete with safari windows and an original bright green/white combination paint job. Definitely gave me some great ideas for Twinkie - including the installation of a retractable stop sign on the body similar to a school bus crossing sign. I think something like that is definitely gonna make its way onto Twinkie eventually. (I don’t think I’d have mine say “Chill” tho)

The MTV style and the length of the half-hour show didn’t lend itself to lots of detail about the work involved beyond a all-too-quick discussion about the electrical demands of all the equipment on-board but it was still worth a viewing. You could tell the kid loved his VW a lot even before the pimping…which makes me glad they did it for him since he’ll get years of enjoyment out of it. Although now he’ll get even more enjoyment out of it - since I have a feeling the TV in his Bus is prbly bigger than the TV in his living room!

December 18, 2004

Baby it's cold outside...

Last night my parents called…they wanted me to drive Twinkie up to their house sometime before Christmas. They were otherwise silent as to the purpose, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out some kind of Christmas-related activity requiring either A) Twinkie itself or B) Twinkie-style transportation. I explained that Saturday I could come up sometime in the early afternoon, not only for this über-secret activity, but also to give my Dad a little in-service on his newly received iPod.

Now, the other thought through my head was…um, Twinkie isn’t exactly a cold-weather vehicle. Not only should it not be driven in the winter (salt, sand, etc all work to ruin its finish) but we never completed getting the heater hooked up this summer. Why rush it, since I don’t drive Twinkie in the winter anyway? Considering that my parents were the people who helped me fix up Twinkie this summer - so certainly they understand the situation. If they are still asking me to bring Twinkie up, it must be for something good.

I woke up this morning and saw the weather forecast. BRRR! I took a nice warm shower before leaving, put on a few extra layers, zipped up the jacket and drove up to my parents’ house. I didn’t get really cold until a few minutes before I got up there. When I arrived, I drove up to the spot where Twinkie had been parked for all those years, turned off the car and proceeded to grab my stuff to walk up to the door.

Continue reading "Baby it's cold outside..." »

April 14, 2005

Biking Season Begins

So, here I was prepared to write up an entry complaining how I was getting a late start this year on bike commuting, until I went through my archives and found this post from last year. I’m actually starting on the exact same day I did last year…how cool is that?

‘course, last year I didn’t have the 30 mile Ironman Bike Ride scheduled before the end of this first month! (Sunday, April 24th to be exact!) I’ve got my work cut out for me as I try to get myself ready for the same length of ride I finished the season with last year.

The West Bush Lake Road bridge over 494 was finished over the winter, which means that I can take either my original route from two years ago or the alternate route I used last year to add a bit of variety to my commutes. The options will be invaluable this year as I have already decided I’m going to attempt to ride much more often to work than I did last year…the flexibility of having two running vehicles should make that goal a bit easier to achieve. (Twinkie is one of said vehicles…making transportation of my bike much easier than squeezing it into the Beetle every time I want to take it somewhere!)

April 16, 2005

Celebrations (Some Big, Some Small)

  1. I just received a letter in the mail that the Mazda is officially paid off
  2. Twinkie’s battery problems have been overcome, is now parked at work and available for lunch and rainy-day support during the bike commuting season
  3. Rolled over 1100 miles on the bike’s odometer Friday night, making my two-day start-of-season total nearly 30 miles
  4. Got my confirmation number for next Sunday’s Ironman Bike Ride
  5. Raises went into effect on this week’s paycheck
  6. Profit sharing was paid out from last year

The last item deserves a bit of comment, I think. It is so wonderful to see the business finally get turned around…and wonderful to see our corporate leadership (CEO, the Board) not only recognize their own contributions, but realize the role every employee played in the accomplishment. From very large projects which save us hundreds of thousands of dollars, to the little efforts like making sure all the lights are turned off when on one is around (“Hey, you’re spending MY profit sharing on those unused lights!”) we all performed together to bring in a great year.

So, for all the reasons above and more, I am in a celebratory mood. I forecast many Oreos and Northwood’s Creme Sodas this weekend…

June 2, 2005

Kickball: Game 3

The day was perfect…a bit muggy, but the Lake Minnetonka Purifiers were ready for battle against the dreaded “Sexy Ball Kickers”.

I called upon my trusty chariot Twinkie to travel down to kickball tonight. Twinkie hadn’t been on a long drive in some time…and considering the wonderful weather we had for the game today, it seemed like the perfect vehicle to ride into battle. I found a spot right next to the battlefield, parallel parked with haste and headed over to watch the 6:30 battle already in progress.

After the forces collected themselves, the traditional rock/paper/scissors contest decided we would be on the offensive first. Our captain, Joshua, revealed his plans to his troops for the battle. With our order set, positions assigned, we proceeded engage the enemy.

It was a bitter battle…balls were thrown, kicked, caught and then thrown again. In the end, the Lake Minnetonka Purifiers fell in battle 4 to 7. Wounds were bandaged, scorn was leveled, defeat was admitted. Then everyone retreated to the Williams Pub to negotiate the next stage of battle…flipcup. We did no better in flipcup than we did kickball this evening…the Uncle Rico Raiders finished us off in 3 straight team versus team flipcup matches.

The question on everyone’s mind - how does one pay for beer which is handled in a community manner at the flipcup tables? Should everyone bring their own beer? Should each team be responsible for their own tabs? These and the actual questions relating to the Lake Minnetonka Purifiers’ kickball performance will all be answered in time…we hope.

Also up for consideration…given how central flipcup (and by extension, beer drinking) is to the kickball experience…how long can Damon continue to categorize these entries in the “Fitness” category?

August 4, 2005

Real Men Don't Wash Their Elbows

Work’s been, frankly, work the last few days. Haven’t had much time to work on the answer to world peace…with activities both Tuesday and Wednesday I was really looking forward to tonight, another exploratory trip around Minneapolis with Kate. Be good to get out, show my allergies who’s boss and get my second chance to try out the new pedal system.

Continue reading "Real Men Don't Wash Their Elbows" »

August 29, 2006

Why I'll Never Be Backwards

The fact that my name, backwards, spells “Nomad” has always fascinated me. At times, I’ve taken it to mean that I’m destined to stay in one place. This past month has only reinforced that idea.

I’m not meant to be nomadic. Damonic, maybe, but never nomadic. I’ve simply have too much stuff to fit on the camel and/or horse. I filled up a 16’ moving truck once, four round trips with a full Twinkie, 3 round trips with a full minivan. That’s easily the equivalent of a 24’ moving van, I’m sure. Sure, maybe the Trojan horse would fit all my stuff, but that’s the only horse that would do!

Everything is finally done, tho. Keys are handed over to the old apartment manager. My final walk-thru is completed. My multitudes of things are in my new place, either packed in the garage awaiting the decision as to their final destination (trash/storage/give-away/placement inside the new pad) or have already met their fate.

Some words of wisdom:

  • Don’t buy a king-size bed until you’re done moving for a while. We would have been hoisting it through the upstairs window ‘cept the two-story living room made the process a tiny bit easier.
  • When moving said king-size bed, find yourself an old queen-size sheet (or, I suppose, a worn-out king size) and wrap up the king-size mattress with it like a diaper. Not only do you get a handle on each side, but you can slide it down hallways with no worries about damaging the mattress itself.
  • When you make your list of “must-have” things to sleep the night at the new place, shower in the morning and get dressed to go to work, remember the shower curtain.
  • Rubbermaid utility carts you borrow from work make great sofa moving aids.
  • CDs are heavier than they look - don’t fill up a complete box and expect it to stay in one piece.

Overall, the move went great. I’m glad it is done, for sure. Now the real fun begins…can I get my second garage stall emptied of boxes before first snow…?

August 31, 2006

Apple IIgs: Geek Nostalgia

The long version of the back-story will have to wait…but the big news will not. My childhood Apple IIgs and are back together, at last!

Continue reading "Apple IIgs: Geek Nostalgia" »

March 12, 2007

First Ride of 2007

According to my MotionBased account history, I haven’t gone for a ride on my bike since August 8th, 2006. I got caught up in moving to the new pad, and before I knew it winter was upon us and the bike was put away. Work and a number of other things got in the way, too, but knowing how much I miss it I’ve determined that I’m going to try and get back into decent condition so I can attempt again the 62-mile, if not the 100-mile Ironman Bike Ride this year. I’ve got my work cut out for me, tho, based on my quick ride today. Today, about the same time as last year, I begin my path to Ironman…albeit with more of a whimper than a bang, as I just rode to/from work, but it was a start!

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