Just got my second Rabbit in 3 weeks

Models manufactured from 1975 to 1984

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Just got my second Rabbit in 3 weeks

Postby dieselbunny on Mar Tue 25, 2008 2:33 am

Saturday my wife and I drove over to some godforsaken place, about an hour and a half north of Spokane and got our second Rabbit. It's another '81 Diesel, but this one is an LS, has A/C, leather??? interior (it's in really rough shape, but it seems more like leather than vinyl,) sunroof, 5 speed, remote mirrors, and a rust free and almost clean body (few small dents here and there.) We had planned on getting it to use the front end parts off of it for the last '81 we bought, but the last one is now the parts car and this one is the one I'm building.

On the bad side, I have a feeling the kid that owned it crashed the pistons into the head, I'll probably have the head off of it in the next day or two, time permitting to actually see. He says it ran fine a year ago, but wouldn't start when he came home from school and he assumes it was bad injection timing. I asked if there was a reason why the injection timing would be off all of a sudden and he had no answer, but he did say he didn't recommend trying to actually start it. I then tried to turn the motor using the crankshaft pulley and a breaker bar, but it will only turn a tiny bit (let's say 3 minutes on a clock,) and then you can feel it hit some major resistance. It's a new belt on it, so I'm assuming he did something wrong, then "crash." Anyway, it came with brand new standard piston rings, all bearings, all gaskets and seals, all in their boxes, and all new injectors, glow plugs, and hoses already on the car, so for what I paid for it, I bought the parts and got the car for free. Once I get the head off, if it looks like he did actually crash it, then the motor from the first one will be getting rebuilt and put in this one, otherwise, if there's no major damage, this one will be getting rebuilt and hopefully be driving around Missoula in the very near future.

One question, I'm going to assume that after 27 years, the A/C no longer works (he played dumb when I asked him, just like he played dumb when I asked if the motor actually crashed.) Does anyone know if anyone makes an R-134 conversions for it? Or is A/C not something I'd even want on it due to power drain? The interior is going to be switched out with the first car, since the seats in that one look like the day they came out of the showroom, but if I can save the A/C, I'd like to.
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Postby Checkers on Mar Tue 25, 2008 8:04 am

You should be able to save the A/C by getting it re charged but that might cost over $150?
So it depends on how much you want to spend.
Post some photos homie!
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Postby Rennwagen1 on Mar Tue 25, 2008 9:10 am

Yeah there is now a R-134 conversion that has to be done, since we have been destoying the ozone layer for years. Before I made the effort to make sure everything worked, I would make some calls to see what it is going to take to bring it up to spec. YOu might try calling Carl's in East Missoula (no number offhand) and pick his brain. There is definitely going to be a point of diminishing returns here, and you will have to see just how bad you want AC. Or how bad the wife wants it :nod:
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Postby dieselbunny on Mar Wed 26, 2008 1:29 am

Post some photos homie!


Okay, here you go, the silver one is the latest one. I'm not too worried about the dents, and yes, the hood does close, I have no idea why my wife didn't bother to close it before she took the pictures. As far as rust, it's completely clean both on the body and underneath, but the paint is shot. It almost looks like somebody tried to buff it with a piece of steel wool. She does eventually want the body work done, but for now, her biggest concern is that I get the motor done so that she can park her truck and save $100 /week or so.

The tan one, on the other hand, is the first one we bought from Helena. The interior in it looks like the day it left the showroom, but I have no clue what the guy did to the body. There's really no rot on it, but the front end is pretty bad, I measured across the fenders at the shock towers, and it's 4 inches wider than it should be from the front being pushed back and the fenders buckling, and that rust you see above the windshield is actually where it looks like someone took a hammer and beat on the roof. Needless to say, we gave up hoping to fix up this one, but the interior will be going to good use, and if the guy that had the silver one crashed the pistons into the valves, as I suspect, then the motor will be going to good use also.


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Postby kompressorgolf on Mar Wed 26, 2008 7:46 am

looks like a good start to an awesome project!
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Postby Checkers on Mar Wed 26, 2008 10:34 pm

Looks like a good start to TWO sweet projects to me.
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Postby bigmontana on Mar Wed 26, 2008 10:51 pm

Yes looks like you have some fun projects coming up, can't wait to see them in the future.
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Postby dieselbunny on Mar Thu 27, 2008 1:16 am

Looks like a good start to TWO sweet projects to me.


No, I think it will just be one project for right now. That tan one is about ready for the scrap yard, but I'll be getting everything worthwhile out of it. Looking underneath it, even the (I'm not sure what you call it on a Rabbit, but on my old Camaro's it was called a "subframe",) is all banged up. I'm thinking pull the motor out of it, get it rebuilt after the grey one is finished, and find a gas Caddy to throw it in. Just saw one on Craigslist up in Havre for $750, but I'm not doing anything else as far as buying, until this one's at least on the road.
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Postby Checkers on Mar Thu 27, 2008 8:32 am

Can anyone spy the lighting problem in the first photo?

It's too bad about the tan one. I even have both fenders in excellent shape and I could get a hood in about 5 minutes lol. Can't wait to see you drive the silver one man!
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Postby dieselbunny on Apr Sat 12, 2008 12:53 am

Hey again,
Sorry, I haven't been here for a bit, but I finally got most of the work done to pull the motor on the silver one today. I haven't been able to figure out how to get the alternator, or the A/C pump off of it. So I ended up just pulling the head off of it today, and now that I have the head off, it turns easily, and the valves seem to be going up and down and sealing properly. I can also now turn the motor using the crankshaft pully nut, and all seems to operate smoothly, so maybe the last guy didn't run the pistons into the valves.

I have found quite a few things today that worry me about his expertise, however. First off, while rotating the front tires to get to all the bolts holding the axle to the trans, I noticed a rattling. Turns out he never tightened the bolts on the passenger side brake caliper, so it was kind of flopping around. Second, I went to remove the starter, and realized I didn't have an 8mm hex key socket, and I didn't want to drive down to Missoula, and just stupidly trying to be funny, I grabbed the head with my fingers, and it was loose. I took it out, figuring I'd still need to go to Missoula to get a socket for the bottom bolt, turned out the bottom bolt was there, but not even turned on one thread, and the starter came right out!!! None of the screws are in where the lower dust shield is attached to the transmission, the inspection plug for the trans is gone, and there are 4 separate wires attached to the battery clamp on the negative side, and 3 attached to the battery clamp on the positive side. Oh, and I went to take the bolts off of the front motor mount, and they weren't there!!!

Needless to say, I'm a bit worried about his conversion from a 4 speed to a 5 speed, but I'll ask questions about that conversion later, since I'm now taking this whole project as a project from scratch. I don't trust a thing the previous owner told me, since even if I put something together wrong, I still put the bolts in and tighten them. If someone's not capable of that, then they really shouldn't be using a wrench.

Back to the motor that I thought was possibly crashed, like I said, now that the head and block are separated, both turn freely. I'm a bit worried that in all the buildup on the tops of the pistons, I can see outlines of the valves. Each piston has about .020" (sorry for specifics, but I'm a CNC machinist by trade, but motor machining is quite a bit different from what I do,) worth of crud on the top of it, and it's just a shadow of the valves in that crud, is that worth really worrying about?

I'm still figuring on a complete rebuild of the the lower end, and the head, my fears about whether it was crashed goes to wondering if any crank or camshaft damage has been done, but my thoughts are that if it hit hard enough to damage the crank or cam, there would be visible damage to the valves or pistons, right?

Also, does anyone have a clue how to get the alternator off of this car? I took the lower bolt out, which is the one you basically use to adjust it, then I took the long bolt out of the top, (the bolt that is stationary, but it swivels on,) after taking the top bolt out, there's a sleeve inside the hole, that runs from the front mount to the back mount (about 2.5",) and I figured it was a bushing, so I smacked it a few times with a brass punch, and it won't move at all. Is it pressed in? If so, how does one actually go about changing alternators, or in this case, removing it for clearance while removing the motor?

As always, thanks in advance for any advice,
Tim
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