We made the trip back west to Montevideo (100 km or so) to take care of some business with our new friend, Miguel. Red Beard’s front end has been in rough shape for quite a while and was in need of professional attention. It’s a lot of work, and parts were tough to find in Argentina, so we’ve been bumping along since the Andes and Ruta 40, just hoping nothing broke or fell off. We got lucky.
Our reverse-spring job in Buenos Aires has already started to sag (we were warned) and all four ball joints were shot. No problem, we could buy this stuff in Montevideo – at the VW dealer, no less. When we pulled it all apart, we found the upper torsion bars were broken – I knew something up there was broken, but didn’t get that far at Rody’s. The best part – a complete new set is only abut $70 USD here. Everything new, please. I’m not even sure you can buy them back home. I knew I needed a new tie rod, so that was on the list too. It turned out my steering damper was also completely shot – I never noticed because everything else was so bad. And, I needed a new end to my drag-link arm. And, oh yeah, the steering coupler is cracked and barely hanging on. This is kinda critical, since it literally connects the steering to the wheels. If it breaks… bad news. We were oblivious.
The ball joints came off with a hack saw and some hammering (I bent his hydraulic press on the first try). They guys actually laughed at how torn up the ball joints were. Everything else was pretty straightforward – a whole new front end, basically. Afterward, we took it to a local alignment shop and got the high-tech front end alignment with laser levels and everything. I’ve actually never done this before (on any car). Before we left on our trip, I aligned the front end myself with just a tape-measure and eyeballing it. I guess I got lucky – it was good for 3 years. Still, I feel better spending $25 USD to watch a guy do it with a computer and lasers (he told me the entire setup costs $4000 USD)
So, yet another day of VW work, but it was really productive. Except, that steering coupler. They don’t have them in Uruguay. For a fusca, si. For a kombi, no. Looks like I’ll be fabricating one myself or trying to get one delivered before we drive much farther – I’m not sure it can wait until Brazil.
Oh, and it turns out that back in ’91, Miguel built his own Formula Vee car. His first race, he came in second. He won all the rest. Campeon Nacional.