Aluminum tonneau

Somehow I ended up with a spare piece of 16 gauge 5052 aluminum sheet, exactly 2×4 feet. With the Spyder laid up on the rack for the winter I got to thinking about how to incorporate it into the project, as a finishing touch.

The answer was obvious: the hard half tonneau.

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502 Motorworks is currently auctioning off its second Spyder build on Bring a Trailer [Update 11/3: the $160,000 high bid did not meet reserve]. It is a stunning replica, in all aluminum, of an original 550 late production low-rail car—accurate enough to have received an FIA historic race passport, meaning it is cleared to potentially campaign against real historic race cars including original 550 RS Spyders.

The car, equipped with a Porsche 1500 “Super” pushrod engine, reportedly cost most of $300,000 to build. This puts it in the stratosphere of the replica world. The kind of thing the owner of a real 550 would buy so he’d have something to drive on the road—or the track.

Which is to say, it’s far beyond comparison to my modest home garage effort.

But let’s do it anyway.

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Oil cooler added (and sway bar improvements)

Testing the Spyder on public roads brought new data: she was running too hot. Even on a cool morning, ambient temps 80F, driving easy (30-45mph) on flat roads, the oil temperature gauge crept up past 80, past 100 (i.e. 212F), up near 110C. That’s close to 230F, and at that temp VW gurus say you better shut ‘er down and investigate. Good modern oils like the Brad Penn we’re using don’t really mind those temps, and racers run long-term with oil over 260F.

But 230F in a Type 1 means the heads are probably too hot. Hot heads on a Type 1 engine are bad for longevity.

I ran the car for over an hour one morning, took video, and shut down when the gauge got up over 105C.

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Captain Underpan, Deux

A word about COVID-19. Not long after I made my last post here the nation locked-down due to a global pandemic of a dangerous respiratory virus. Everyone knows that right now, of course, but if this blog persists more than a few years it won’t necessarily be obvious what was happening outside of the context of the build.

The pandemic and its response has crashed the stock market and the real economy, prompting a $2 trillion federal aid package. Something like 20 percent of everyone is out of work. I myself am still “working” from home but am functionally unable, as of yesterday, to do the state court visits my job normally requires. My wife is working from the dining room table and we’re both still being paid, at least for now, and remain healthy.

But currently 200,000 or so Americans are confirmed to have the virus and some 3,000 have died, as the epidemic’s trajectory continues relentlessly upward. The world is a very scary place and frivolities like this car project have largely taken a back seat, even as I knock off the last few dozen tasks on my punch list. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration offices are closed, some reportedly converted into drive-through virus testing sites. So instead of getting the car on the road this month, it may be a while.

That said, here’s what happened through February as I (blissfully, ignorantly) worked to make the aluminum undertray.

First I had to make two “stub-out” bits to cover the exhaust pipes on each side just aft of the engine crossmember. These are simple U-shaped bits, mainly, about 8 inches long, reaching from where the pipes exit under the engine to just past the muffler flanges.

I got them in and screwed them to the main underpan piece with self-tapping sheet metal screws, then set about making transition pieces to get to the wider full muffler parts. Once there I knew I could just drape aluminum over the mufflers and the tunnels would be done.IMG_4807

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Captain Underpan! Part 1

From the beginning of this build I planned on making a louvered aluminum tray to fit under the engine and surround the exhaust. The original cars had them (though most were reportedly thrown away in the ’50s), and they would appear to be functionally important: VW engines like their cooling air to be, well, cool—not pre-heated by the headers and heads. Bugs and buses have tin to keep the hot underside of the car isolated from the top where the fan and carbs are sucking, so it seems logical to do the same with the Spyder.

Here’s the look we’re going for, courtesy, once again, of The Spyder Factory:

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Tonneau’s on, floor’s in, wipers work

Chipping away at the punch list. Two weeks and 17 hours later we’re down to a couple dozen tasks to finish before trailering the car to meet the state police.

I started by riv-nutting the holes for the two different windshields, to make the changeover as painless as possible. I bought a package of deep-grip 6-32 rivet nuts and a lot more shallow grip kind, to use later for the underpan in back. On the scuttle, the deep rivet-nuts went in easy and tight.

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