Clutch and throttle cables done; no pipes yet

I pulled the car to the muffler shop last Tuesday morning to wait for Mike, my pipe guru, to come to work. He didn’t make it. Around 8 a.m. another guy showed up and told me Mike was out with shoulder surgery. “Back in two weeks,” he said. Then, looking over the car, which I had buttoned up with the top and side curtains, plus most of the rear “tank” assembly and tire rack (because that holds my tow lights), he said: “I wouldn’t mind working on that. But I dunno…”


The story went: Mike’s the guy. The Boss–lives in Florida, wants to charge $40 just to expand a pipe–can’t get too intimate with this job: “He’s too much of a businessman.” Finally he says Mike might be in Monday. “He’ll be bored as shit sittin’ home,” the guy says. “Maybe he’ll man-up and come in.” I towed the car home and, with no small effort, pushed it up the driveway back into the garage.

back in-Mikes absent

Then I set about working to get more done.

Might as well put in the starter…


I Installed the first half of the capillary tube from the oil pressure port on the engine, then cinched-in the alternator with my new belt.


I wanted to get into the wires–really I did. But I realized I has no gas or clutch cable yet and so I set about remedying those first.

New bowden tube came last week, same length as the old one which I’d stupidly cut. I also got a new too-long clutch cable (They’re all too long because the pedal cluster was moved back 18 inches or so when the kit was built).

Getting the old cable out proved to be a chore. Tuesday night, after work, I unhitched it, pulled the pedals out and tried to pull it through the pipe it’s in. The threaded end got stuck straight away, and within a minute I couldn’t get it to budge–forward or backward.

Pulling these out is supposed to be the easy part of the job! I cursed myself for not cutting it where it had started to fray. It would have been so easy then. I looked for answers on the web. Nothing. Not even any idiots on the Samba had been as stupid as I.

Posted on the TD board, and Those guys had advice. One guy said to cut off the front part and chuck the cable into a drill. Spin it real slow, he said, and it might come through.

I liked that idea so, come Saturday a.m., I tried it.

In about 38 seconds I twisted the cable up bad enough I almost lost the end inside the tunnel.

Fished it out, now braided over itself, and clamped a vicegrip to the business end. Hit that with a hammer–coincidentally the advice one of my buddies offered.

That got nowhere either.

(I belabor this just to underscore the fact, so often absent from writing about car-building and customization, that much of the real terror and frustration–to say nothing of time spent–in any job comes from the repercussions of tiny errors in judgment. These are the things they leave out of the assembly manual, the installation instructions and all the articles in all the glossy magazines. Even the bloggers and build-thread writers on enthusiast web sites usually skip over these kinds of issues, and so I feel like I’m filling a gap here by going on in detail about a fuckup that any competent mechanic would not even have made. Because, fact is, everybody–even a professional–screws up this way every so often during a build, and solving these kinds of problems methodically and efficiently is what separates successful builders from those who give up and either sell the project cheap or contract the work out at great expense in time, money or both).

More advice came: Might try to reach into the tunnel through the rear access panel and gently bend the tube where it’s binding, someone suggested. I liked that idea too, but did not feel yet like disassembling my shift rod coupler in order to make the necessary space–that, and, it looked like I still would not have the room I needed until I pulled the transmission out, and I’m frankly weary of taking the engine and transmission out and putting them back in.

I was pondering a cut in the tunnel (I just last week welded up the old holes!) and a replacement of the cable tube when I remembered my quarter-inch socket extension. I knew my trouble was only 6-7 inches from the rear of the tube. I stuck the extension in and it hit the threaded end of the cable just about an inch and a half before the flared end of the extension bottomed on the tube. That turned out to be exactly the right amount of extension, since there is so little room in this space to swing a hammer.

I hit it three or four times, it busted loose, and the cable came right out.

IMG_4369 IMG_4368

Sweet, sweet victory! It was now about an hour into my Saturday morning.

Before installing the new cable I knew I had to cut a bit off the back of the tube so that the bowden tube would relax a little. A test fit with the new one confirmed it–way too much sag for it to work right or last long.


No room down there for a cutoff wheel or much of anything else. Out came the tiny half-saw hack saw. I found I could get about a half-inch stroke before hitting the torsion bar carrier with the end of the blade so, in good prison-break fashion, I cut off the last 3/4 inches of the tube as straight as I could, then filed it down a bit flatter.

IMG_4372 IMG_4375

The bowden tube was still a bit on the too-bent side, so I swapped out the new bracketthe new transmission came with for the old one that was on the car, which set the back end just a little further aft. That did it–I hope.


The new cable would not go through with the threaded part on (no surprise) so I tinned a section of the cable about five inches from the end with solder and cut it off there. Then the cable went through easy. The old one had been looped and held at the right working length with a single clamp. I went to Home Depot to buy more of those clamps, plus some thinner cable to use for the throttle, plus a throttle cable sheath that’s maybe long enough to reach from the steel pipe nub next to the clutch pipe all the way to the Suby’s throttle bracket. The stock Bug has only about 24 inches, and the Suby has maybe 30-36 inches, so neither sheath would work in this application. Lawnmower sheaths are four feet, standard, and cost $6. So I bought one of those and 12 feet of .25-inch “wire rope” for 28 cents a foot.

Stopped at the Auto Zone for some starting fluid to cut some of the grease I now had on every part of everything from doing the clutch cable. Got home, opened the bag and discovered I’d left the wire rope at the Home Depot checkout counter and had to drive back to retrieve it.

You can’t be smart every day.

Turning to the throttle, I drilled a new hole in the roller pedal arm about an inch above the old one, because the Suby seems to need more “pull” to get to full throttle. My new cable does not come with a Z-shaped end so I looped it and used a piece of steel fuel line as a sleeve to secure the loop, then I stuck a bolt through the hole on the pedal arm, tightened a nut on that, put a washer, the cable loop, another washer and another nut on that to squeeze it solid.

Getting the pedals back in the tunnel is always fun. I won’t belabor that.

The new throttle cable came through its tunnel pipe easy and now it was time to make a flexible sheath to carry it back to the throttle body–a trip that involves a 180-degree turn.

My lawnmower cable was no good–it lacked both the steel sleeve end to fit over the tunnel pipe, and the threaded adjuster end that the Suby sleeve has. I decided to combine the Suby sleeve with the VW sleeve and see if it worked.

I cut the last six inches off the firewall side of the Subaru sleeve and stuck that in the fan shroud end of the VW sleeve. It fit snug, but I then used a channel lock to cinch it down a bit snugger.


Then it was just a matter of getting the cable end made up–at the right length, within a half-inch or so. I adjusted the cable sheath to its shortest, so that I could make the cable a little long and adjust it with the screws that back it out and make the sheath feel ‘longer” to what’s inside it. I laid the cable out on the throttle body and marked it, then tinned the end to cut.IMG_4379

I put that barrel piece that came from the VW on the end. It works on the Suby, but unlike on the VW, the cable has to end there flush with the barrel–it can’t extend for adjustment like on the VW.

I soldered it all in, filed the solder flat and it fit. Perfect.

Then I noticed the cable was a little too long–maybe just a half inch or so. I pondered the issue for a minute and decided to cut it and re-do the barrel solder.

Out it came, tinned the spot and cut it, re-installed the barrel and within 10 minutes or so put it all back to test.

Wow–it’s perfect!

Well, maybe just a little short.


Then I remembered I had set it up to be a half inch too long at full adjustment. All I had to do was turn those nuts on the cable adjuster. I had just eliminated that adjustment by cutting the damn wire again!

Can’t be smart any day, it seems.

After lunch I looked again at the mess and discovered that, yes, it was just about right, just about now. No way to know for sure before starting the car and seeing if it idles.

If it’s wrong, I can fix it by taking the barrel end off again, then pulling the sheaths apart and cutting a half inch out of the Suby part of the sheath and re-inserting that into the VW part of the sheath. I feel like I may need to get a better connection between those two parts anyway…

Moving right along.

The clutch cable went together without incident and I rough-adjusted it to have a half, three-quarters of an inch of free play in the pedal. It feels like it’ll work. And I don’t think it’ll loosen up now.


On to the radiator mounts.

I started at the bottom where two big bolts attach the front clip to the beam. The bolts have these wonderful spacer-clamp thingies under them and it’s perfect for a steel platform to bolt to the radiator while giving the rad’s rubber donuts someplace to land.

I measured it and went to my scrap heap, which still has part of the old electrical box the house’s PO installed in the garage. Nice strong stuff and even shaped pretty well.

IMG_4382A little work with the bender and the vice, a couple holes (elongated), and we’re almost there. The gap in the middle was there at the beginning and lines up with the rad’s petcock.


IMG_4383Two more from the top and then we go after the fan, which is close to a perfect fit already.

IMG_4385On Monday (May 12) I called the muffler shop first thing. Mike picked up. He said his shoulder felt fine and suggested I call back a little later so he could situate himself after a week away. By noon, when I called back, he was not as encouraging about getting the pipes done before week’s end.

Maybe call in two weeks, he said. I’m going to try him before that, though, at least to get him to order the 1.5-inch pipes we’ll need.

looks like Bridget will not be running for Carlisle though.


About stuntmidget

I'm a poor mechanic and general wisenheimer. I love old cars and the stories behind them, true or not.
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