2009 was our first year to participate in Land Speed Record racing. When we heard about the new category for the Karmann Ghia under the "36hp Landspeed Challenge" rules, we just knew we had to compete as we are longtime 36hp high-performance enthusiasts and the rules seem to be tailor made to our interests!
So, we fielded a vehicle and here we document that vehicle and our efforts.
We recommend you peruse the various sections that describe specific parts of the machine and then go through the (photographically illustrated) "blog" section as the narration there gives the back story and carries you through the process. (One reader opined, "Rivetting!!!!! Like a great novel, I couldn't put it down and wish I had been there to help.")
Our goal was to campaign the first Karmann Ghia to enter The One Club, and The One Thirty Club!
We have achieved the first goal! Maybe next season we'll achieve the second!
When you are the first to try something, sometimes a single act can be counted as multiple accomplishments, and so it was with our experience. We are proud that we tooks significant risks and achieved our goals. So we list quite a few "firsts"; While some of the following may seem like merely restating the same thing over again, there are subtle differences that make each a legitimate claim. Please send us any corrections or other observations! Are there any errors here? Did we achieve any other firsts? Please email us.
Our Land Speed Record Karmann Ghia has accomplished the following "Firsts":
Just looking at the raw timing slip numbers would give you a very incomplete and, dare I say misleading, impression of what happened. So, we have decided to publish our "updates", as sent to the Karmann Ghia Club of North America e-mail list as it happened, using a blog-type format, and have included the timing slips posted in the correct chronological place, so you get the numbers along with the story.
(In the image at the right, that's Britt Grannis sanding out paint flaws.)
The 36hp Challenge is sanctioned under the umbrella of The One Thirty Club, a sub-group of USFRA - the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association.
This year the rules allow the Karmann Ghia to compete so we are campaigning a 1959 Karmann Ghia. Within that category, there are five classes available. We have chosen the DSS class - "Dual Super Stock". The class description is as follows:
DSS (Dual Super Stock)-Pre 1965 period style dual carburetor and non-28PCI single carburetor systems only, fitted to modified stock VW 36hp cylinder heads or period aftermarket 36hp dual port cylinder heads(or replicas)! Requires any Bosch distributor and coil. Dual spark plug conversions O.K.. No displacement, camshaft or header limitations.
The One Club is described on a web page managed by Burly Burlile, the guy who runs the 36hp Challenge and you can find it here .
Richard has been building high-performance VW based engines since the late 1970s, and began building Porsche and Okrasa engines - and collecting parts for Denzel engines - in the mid 1980s. His engines are well known, even famous in some communities, and he has served clients from as far afield from California as Germany, Britain and Australia. We are now offering a complete rebuild service, turn-key engines and sometimes the associated parts.
This 1959 Karmann Ghia is an original California car and served in the San Jose area for decades. Its original paint was Bamboo with a Dark Green roof, and the colors we're using are very close to the original shades.
So that this page isn't overloaded with images, please check out this page for more on the body and its assembly.
(Image below: Aaron Castillio replacing the front left drum.)
We have set up some additional pages to provide imagery and additional information on the following:
WATCH AND HEAR IT RUN! Click here. NOTE that the audio does _not_ do the engine justice - it cuts out when the real volume becomes earsplitting! (Our initial guess was that it exceeds 120 dB but on reflection, perhaps it's more like 90 dB.) There is also a timing problem with some players so that the sound is offset in time from the actions in the video.
In this video, you can see some of the various gauges of our Stuska Dynamometer, however, the tachometer is on the fritz - it works well at idle, but after about 2000 RPM, it goes bonkers. Other gauges, however, like the oil temp, fuel pressure, oil pressure, are rock steady and show you what's going on - no load was used in this few minute run.
In the following photos we see the bottom end, in two views, pulley and flywheel sides, as it was when the bottom end was finally complete and top-end assembly had already commenced.
This is where the primary assembly took place, next to a Porsche 356 B Cabriolet (1600S) that's in the process of restoration. This photo was taken after everything but the brake assemblies had been installed. It actually took about 4 core transaxles from three different decades of production for us to select all the right parts.
Note that we usually use solid axle boots but simply ran out of time - these split boots were already attached to one of our core's axle tubes and we saved time by just bolting them on!
We have a page dedicated to the transaxle here.
We didn't really run a blog, but we did keep the Karmann Ghia community informed via regular email updates to the Karmann Ghia Club of North America's e-mail list. You can find KGCNA here. If you want to join the e-mail list, you can just follow your nose as there's a pointer to the directions somewhere near the top of that page.
(Image at right: Larry Edson helping out late into the night.)
These e-mails were generally authored by Richard, but there may be posts from others tossed in here and there. This account gives the good, bad, beautiful and ugly, as it happened - or just after it happened! - in first hand accounts. From it you can learn what our struggles and their solutions were.
Note that these entries are edited slightly from their originally published form on the KGCNA e-mail list, mostly to include embedded images, web links and so forth.
These posts begin on August 12th, 2009, with about one month to go until Bonneville:
Comments? Additions? Please email us!