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JohnInKansas SuperDork
12/5/19 10:18 a.m.

Having had a few days to cool off and think about this with a level head, here’s my initial assessment.

Goals for this project:

1. Quality time with dear brother.

2. Compete in Radwood Class at 2020 Challenge.

3. Drive it from Kansas City to the Challenge and back without major malfunction.

4. Track day car? One Lap? Time Trials? Sell to break even? TBD.

My little brother is a long-time VW nerd. He’s owned four (I think?) Mk4s since he could drive. He’s had a couple of major head traumas since high school (unrelated to the VW obsession, as far as we can tell), and I worry about him a bit. His first accident kind of shook me up, and I’ve really tried to stay more engaged with him since then. He really wants his R32 to be a track car, but with his finances being what they are and it being his daily driver, he’s pretty much resigned himself to not flogging on it.

Enter this car.

He wouldn’t bite on purchasing for himself outright; I fell on the grenade as a joint venture. I figure we’ll need to adhere to the Challenge budget to keep the monetary investment comparatively low, but this should give both of us an outlet to satisfy the track rat itch. It’s worth it for me to get to spend time wrenching with him, even if we don’t make it to the Challenge or even get the damn thing running.

Restraints on achieving goals:

Time and geography, mostly. I’m going to school in Alabama for a year and change starting in March and will have very limited time and access to tools and facilities necessary to work on a car for the duration. And then probably a nice, long vacation to a hot, sandy place where the locals aren't overly fond of Americans. Little brother is a full-time engineer, just got married a year ago, has a needy VW in his garage already, and lives 40 minutes away from where the car will be stored. We really want to have it running and (mostly) roadworthy by March so that I can easily get it inspected, titled and tagged before I leave for school. Then, the remainder of the work falls to little brother to complete. He’ll shake the car down at local autocrosses/track days this summer and drive (or tow, if we don’t make goal #3) the car to Florida for the Challenge, picking me up on the way.

Is this all realistic? Probably not.

But again, what I’ve really bought is a few long weekends with him swearing at a neglected old car before I leave for a couple years.

So, the order of business:

1. Inventory all the spare parts and start triaging into “use in the build”, “sell/trade”, and “valueless garbage”.

2. Go over the car to figure out what it is, what it isn’t, and what it needs to meet the goals.

3. Start working on it.

My wife has said “thou shalt not turn a wrench on yonder E36 M3heap until thou hast finished thy current project, under pain of evisceration with a wooden spoon” (paraphrase). Current project is a behemoth, but its real close to done. Should be able to finish (or near enough) by New Years.

Until then, the Golf waits. Patiently. Kind of, anyway.

noddaz SuperDork
12/5/19 11:10 a.m.

Good looking car.  It has potential! (Capitan Obvious here.)  


10001110101 New Reader
12/5/19 11:28 a.m.

If you'd like a hand turning wrenches or otherwise, let me know. My new job starts Monday in Lenexa, and I'll be staying in Merriam. I've spent the last 20 years owning and wrenching on quite a few German cars.

docwyte UberDork
12/5/19 3:58 p.m.

I was sorely tempted by this car when it first popped up for sale.  Looking forward to seeing what you and your brother do to it.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
12/8/19 9:51 p.m.

It started. Holy E36M3 is it loud.

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
12/9/19 5:40 a.m.

In reply to JohnInKansas :

I <3 VR6 noises. It’s the most Italian sounding German ever. 

JohnInKansas SuperDork
12/17/19 9:54 a.m.

So last time we got hands on the car, we went through the boxes of parts that came with the car and sorted them into "stuff we'll use on the car" and "stuff we can sell/trade". Made a fairly comprehensive list of the sell/trade parts and have been working on assessing FMV. Should be able to recoup most or all of the purchase price with some leftovers for trading.

Rather than take pictures of the sell/trade parts so we could start listing for sale like we said we were going to, we scrapped that plan and tore into the fuel system. I liberated the 3 year old battery from the old Ford truck and got it on the charger. We inherited a box of used in-tank pumps from assorted VAG products; looking back through AAZCD's posts, I figured our best bet was going to be to bypass the in-tank pump in favor of a high pressure inline pump. I didn't have one in my spares bin, so Little Bro stole the one out of my Beetle. While he was doing that, I worked on figuring out how to make the radiator fit and where the hoses were supposed to go, and fiddled with the throttle pedal (fixed the cable so it wouldn't keep popping off) and the clutch pedal (pretty sure we need to bleed it, but may need a new master cylinder). We removed the old fuel pump from the in-tank bracketry and replaced it with a short section of fuel line to serve as a pickup tube, and rigged the inline pump into the existing system with discared used hose from another project. Little Bro couldn't figure out which of the original pump/sending unit wires was the relayed 12v power for the pump, so we hotwired the pump with a battery stolen from the bike-engined Mini. He held the inline fuel pump wires to the battery terminals in the trunk while I cranked the engine over. Started on about the third crank, sputtered for a couple blips of the throttle before going quiet again (I suspect he may have disconnected the fuel pump in surprise when the straight pipe ripped to life in the enclosed one-car garage...). We didn't have coolant sorted out, and the wiring is still a serious rats nest, so it's just as well that it didn't run longer.


Next episode:

Replace the stolen fuel pump with new generic inline pump from evilbay.

Install new heater core (looks like original swapper just bolt-cuttered the heater core inlets off rather than disconnecting hoses when he pulled the original engine) and get the coolant system properly plumbed and filled.

Bleed the clutch (piecing together a reverse bleeding system to push fluid uphill from the slave cylinder bleeder to the reservoir), diagnose if master needs to be rebuilt/reoplaced.

Get it up off the ground and crawl around underneath it (Little Bro discovered the exhaust is attached... but only to the downpipe. What else is bodged that we can't see?).

See if we can get it to drive around the yard? Burnouts? Donuts in reverse?

AAZCD HalfDork
12/17/19 1:30 p.m.

In reply to JohnInKansas :

Oops... right, I should have mentioned that anything holding the exhaust on the car was purely cosmetic and to keep it from dragging on the ground when I trailered it.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
1/6/20 12:53 p.m.

Well, wifey was gone all day Sunday and I had been reasonably productive on the other project I promised her I'd finish before I started working on this, so I decided to fudge a little bit.

Little bro came out and we tore into the car again. 

I bought a couple of really big syringes and some 1/4" clear tubing and used these to make a clutch bleeding setup. One end of hose on syringe tip, other end over slave cylinder bleeder. Hang syringe from top edge of open hood, put some fluid in the syringe, let it settle into the hose. Crack the bleeder, slowly manipulate the pedal to keep any bubbles forced into the hose from being drawn back in on the "up-stroke". Kept at this for 30 or 40 minutes until brother showed up. Pedal felt better, though maybe not great yet, will have to check once the car runs.

Looking at the firewall last time, I was just sure that the dingleberries who did the swap had cut the tubes where the heater core passes through the firewall. The cooling hoses had been rerouted to exclude the heater core, so that made sense. Really wanted the opportunity to have heat, so I bought a new core. We tore into that job, doing our best to interpret the vague old how-to threads and to not break too many brittle old plastic pieces.

Several hours later, brother was poking around under the hood and said "what's the story with those other two tubes that come through the firewall by the brake booster?" (clue #1). Was pretty sure there were two cores, for some reason. Kept fighting with the passenger side HVAC box under the dash, ultimately broke the bottom cover enough to see the hea... Damn it all, thats the air conditioning evaporator. Berk.

So we pulled that out, since we were halfway done. Engine doesn't have the rest of the necessary AC parts anyway. 

Pulled the correct black plastic box and exposed the still-good (as far as we know) heater core for the sake of making sure it wasn't obviously screwed up. It wasn't. Put it back together with the old core, new one will go on the shelf in case the old one shoots craps. 

Got the car up on stands to get the new fuel pump installed (didn't get it done). Car has FK G2 coilovers on all four corners. Wheel bearings need to be checked, fronts felt a little sloppy, but may have been the wheels. Exhaust pipe held in with one bolt in the downpipe flange, one piece of baking wire and one bungee cord.

Everybody was tired and pissed off enough by that point that we called it a day. No burnouts as hoped for, but with the heater core "fixed", we should be able to button the cooling system up shortly. Install the fuel pump and snug up the exhaust (for the O2 sensor), and we ought to be ready to start making noise for longer than a few seconds at a time.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
1/13/20 9:46 a.m.

Got a serpentine belt and an auxiliary water pump.

The belt that came on the car was a 4 rib (should be 6 or 7), so not a "need" replacement, but a "probably should" replacement.

Auxiliary water pump was missing in action when we got the car. From what I can find, it is designed to run with the second radiator fan, including in the cool-down period after the car is shut off. VWVortex lore says you can get away without it, but we'll feel better with it in place. The exhaust ports for the front bank of cylinders passes through the full width of the head, so VR6 heads tend to get real hot. If the aux pump helps cool the head off more evenly after shutdown by circulating water through the engine, that's enough reason for me to get it reinstalled. Not like a delete is saving a whole bunch of weight or removing a big parasitic draw on the engine.

Need to see if I can snag some spring-type hose clamps from the salvage yard soon so we can call the cooling system ready to flush.

Exhaust, fuel pump, see if she'll run.


JohnInKansas SuperDork
2/3/20 9:07 a.m.

Made a bonzai afternoon dash through the salvage yard Thursday. The one VR6 on the lot had the auxiliary water pump removed already, so I'll have to keep my eyes peeled. Did snag up a big double handful of spring clamps in a variety of sizes for $free.fiddy, a seat adjuster part for my Mini, and a couple of cabin pressure relief valves for brother's R32, so it wasn't a complete wash.

Brother came out Saturday afternoon and Mrs. InKansas gave me a hall pass to play with the car rather than work on our bus, so we put in a couple hours. He brought some discarded used intake parts from his R32, and a rear sway bar from a FWD Mk4 that he bought hoping it would fit his R (it didn't). If we decide we want to use these and we can make them fit, I'll buy them from him for the sake of the budget.

Got the new aux water pump installed. Used some of the salvage yard hose clamps to get the new hoses secured. Filled the cooling system with coolant recycled from brother's R32, strained through some leftover automotive paint strainers I had laying around.

Dug around through the spare bolts coffee can and found a couple of bolts for the exhaust flange and got it bolted up. 

Traced the wiring for the fuel pump relay and troubleshot the no-power condition; bad relay. Got power in, got signal in, got no power out. Brother is tracking a new one down for as cheap as possible. Hotwired it to make sure the stock pump would make noise if the relay was good; stock pump DID make noise, so we got it reinstalled so we don't take the budget hit on the new inline fuel pump.

Tried to get the car to make noise, but it just wouldn't quite catch. Would sputter a bit, but not enough to take off. Decided maybe that was the sub-optimal condition AAZCD ran into when he went through the fuel system, so we may need to resort to the inline pump after all.

Called it a day. Productive, but disappointing.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
2/3/20 9:26 a.m.

So then Sunday morning, during a trip through the shop to fetch a power tool for working on the bus, I glance at the open hood of the Golf and see that the MAF sensor is plugged in but not connected to the throttle body. Light bulb comes on. I can spare a couple of minutes.

Disconnect the MAF, hotwire the fuel pump at the empty relay socket...

Link, since I can't seem to get embed to work

The sideways glance is "damn, that's a LOT of smoke".

So the next thing is to verify that the clutch job worked and get it back on the ground to see if it'll move and stop.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
2/9/20 9:16 a.m.

New fuel pump relay didn't correct the issue. Think I have it figured, though; I have 12v supply for the pump and 12v supply for the relay trigger, the ECU switches the other side of the signal to ground to trigger the relay. So I have a ground issue or an ECU issue or both.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
2/16/20 5:35 p.m.

Ever find yourself in a toxic relationship and think "how on earth did I get here?", and in your musings, realize that the ex-boyfriend told you exactly why it had gone wrong for him and you had said "nah, it'll be different, I'm sure of it"?

This feels like that.

The last 24 hours: massive fuel leak in the garage, still haven't figured out the fuel pump relay so had to hotwire that, engine runs, but not well. Really not sure where to start eating the elephant that is diagnosis, because the whole thing (at face value) looks like it was done by an amateur mechanic with a meth problem.

If today's echoes of history are any indication, the next steps: push it out behind the shed to get some air, buy a Boxster, and sell the Golf to somebody else.

AAZCD HalfDork
2/16/20 8:09 p.m.

I've been there John. Not sure how to feel about it, but ...I've been there.

*IF* I had persevered, I would have taken an assessment of what was good (Clean stripped rolling chassis + probably the engine and transmission), and pulled the rest out completely. If you still have any part of the original fuel system throw it away. I remember seeing threads at Vortex about swapping in a later fuel system. Do that, or build your own with a fuel cell. Just thinking, we still know nothing about the clutch and flywheel that's in there either.

There is an easy way out. Sell it all, or part the engine and transmission(s) for more than you paid for the car and the rolling chassis on eBay for big bucks to a rust belt dweller. ...and I still have the extra engine and stand in my garage.


JohnInKansas SuperDork
2/16/20 8:24 p.m.

In reply to AAZCD :

Your "if" statement is about exactly what Little Bro and I decided the answer was if we're going to do this. Harness out, assess, reinstall. I dont think that's going to happen before I leave for school.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
2/19/20 12:56 p.m.

In reply to AAZCD :

Okay, slow afternoon at the office. Explain to me like I'm five, 'cause I'm not getting it.

Why do we need to kill the stock fuel system? It seems to run reasonably well once you get past about 50% throttle. In my head, I want to believe that means we are getting adequate pressure and volume at the rail (although we havent put a gauge on it to verify). We did find and fix the leak, had a loose hose clamp under the car.

Not arguing, just trying to work past the mental roadblock.

AAZCD HalfDork
2/19/20 1:41 p.m.

In reply to JohnInKansas :

My concern as I got deeper into the car was that there were just too many unknows and too many hands already on it as a project. Seeng the wire and switch bypassing the fuel pump relay and twisted together wires wrapped with tape at the pump made me a little uneasy trusting any previous work. Especially after flooding my garage floor with fuel. Twice.

Really I don't think that you need to outright discard the fuel system. Rather I see a choice of going througth it end to end to make it work right and safe, or pull it out and start fresh ...making it safe and right. I have some experience with the MK4 VWs, but none on those. My reaction was to call it all evil dark magic and recommend killing it. You have a different range of experience and your brother as an asset. I bet you can track it down and fix it.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
2/19/20 2:01 p.m.

Yeah, that switch was questionable. Glad you weren't responsible for that, I cussed the unnamed hero who wired that up.

I'm pretty confident the root culprit is the wiring.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
3/1/20 8:16 p.m.

Well balls.

That's the head of a valve on top of the #3 piston.

We're not sure how long it has been there. The angle of the dangle makes it hard to see how much damage there is to the piston.

In other news, we removed the engine harness and identified everything that hadn't been plugged in. Nothing that was unplugged is holding us back from running. Still need to sort out the fuel pump relay, but the valve/head/piston just leapfrogged to the top priority.

Optimistically, the valve failure might be the root cause of the misfire at low rpm. Maybe if we get that fixed and everything hooked back up, we'll be in business.

AAZCD HalfDork
3/6/20 1:34 a.m.

Since I forgot to load the bad engine that came with the car when we did the sale, it's been sitting in my garage. I figured I'd pull the head off and see how bad it is. Maybe John and his brother can use it to fix the engine that we thought was good.

There's plenty of damage to the 'bad' engine. One of the cam gears sheared the pin and slipped. The chain guides are busted and debris has fallen to the sump.

The head has one clearly bent valve and one badly burned part.

Given that, I don't think that the head will be of much use, but some valves and components look salvageable. Pistons, rods and crank seem good, but there is debris in the block from the chain guides.

John, I figure you are headed to Alabama and don't need this mess right now, but if you can use any of it, I can ship parts or find a time to deliver it up to Kansas.

JohnInKansas SuperDork
11/30/20 3:21 p.m.

Had some time back in Kansas last week, so little brother and I yanked the band-aid off.

Ow, my balls.

Best I can figure, bolt found its way into the intake manifold at some point during reassembly and we sucked it into the partially open intake valve pretty early on. 

Head is nicely dimpled, so much so that the intake valve seat is bent out of round. Piston is also pretty dinged up.

So, now we have two bad heads and two blocks that need at least a partial rebuild. At least there's still plenty of budget left.

Anybody got a 12 valve VR6 head/engine they want to sell cheap? I'll be making the roadtrip from the deep-deep south back to Kansas City in three weeks.

docwyte UberDork
12/1/20 8:25 a.m.

Wow, that's, um, bad.  Definitely easier to swap in a complete VR6, although at this point all of them need timing chains/guides/head gasket...

jfryjfry (FS)
jfryjfry (FS) Dork
12/1/20 5:15 p.m.


AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
12/3/20 8:33 a.m.

Can you squeeze a V8 in there? SHO drivetrain $500!

Berkley the VR6. That would make this a happy story again.

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