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Freebird: SR20VE+T 510 Wagon


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  • 1 month later...
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I'm way behind on my updates.

Lets catch up.
I got a pretty irritating oil leak that developed as well as lots of smoke on start up and lots of missing coolant.
I decided a head gasket was in order.

So I pulled the head and was going to get it all sorted and thrown back in over a weekend.

This got me to here.
At this point I couldn't help myself. The engine bay was just too horrendous looking and with the head/accesories removed there was quite a bit of extra room...

So this happened

Stripped the bay and dropped the front cross member to lower the block somewhat out of the way.


and many, many hours later.



some welding


No more pesky battery tray.


A bit of primer, a bunch of filler


of course a whole lot more sanding, then more primer.


Then a few cans of Duplicolor truck bed liner.




and clear



tied up some loose ends.


Daddy's play mat VS baby's play mat





Mostly reassembled

Fully assembled and on the road!


Hey wait is that oil under your car?
Oh that, that's just from the rod a threw through my block the first day driving home from work... facepalm
Investigation into cause points toward sandblasting the valve cover and not thoroughly cleaning the baffel. whooops.
Out comes the engine!

And here we have a new block I got from Carter today.  It'll get a go through, then in it goes. Thanks Carter!


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  • 2 months later...

The destruction. Turns out some crank bolts snapped.


Cleaned, painted, and honed the L20 block.
New bearings, seals and rings.



Got a A87 head with enlarged intake valves from Jeff.
Did a bit of porting and polishing.
Also, lapped the valves in and installed an L20 cam




On its way back in.

All buttoned up.

And after all that it smokes. Damn, oh well that's what you get with a backyard rebuild. At least it runs and I can drive it again.
A couple weeks on the road so far with no issue. :-)

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  • 2 weeks later...







13" slotted Mags, new tires, flipped rear leafs to correct the rake. removed the bumpers.

Bumpers will likely stay off throughout the bodywork in those areas. Strong possibility they won't go back on.



I will also be putting some of these in the shop soon...
Then it will be on to the rear quarters :wacko:


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Awesome Job Sam!


Car came from Shoreline near Jackson Park Golf Course.  I believe they had it a few years.  The kid was in a band and hauled his gear all around.

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No tunnel mods but after driving it a couple times, its sparent it needs them.


Please post pics of what you do. About to start cutting into mine soon...   ^_^


That's about the ride height I want for my orange wagon.  :thumbup:

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  • 5 months later...

6 months since my last post, whoops. Lets catch up.
I couldn't stand the smoke the new rebuild was putting out.
All indicators pointed to bad rings even though they were brand new. Back to the tent.

I didn't take any pictures of this job. It's a real pain to get a hold of a cherry picker and scary to set it up on soft dirt.
I decided to leave the block in for the re-ring job. There is some discussion in the ring sticky thread about doing this and everyone seems to think it is a waste of time.
After pulling the motor and doing rings and then a month later leaving the block in and doing rings, my opinion is;
If all you are doing is rings (no honing, crank replacement, etc.) it was WAY faster/easier for me to leave the block in the car, pull the head, and drop in the new piston setups.
I've driven the motor a few hundred miles now with no Smoke. Bad aftermarket rings, improper installation? not sure which one.


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As I said before, I was getting some major drive line rub due to my ride height.
Here is my initial tunnel cut out.

This hole was not large enough, it had to be widened.
Here is the cover panel that got welded in.

I only wanted to modify under the seat.
After driving around some more, it turns out this is not sufficient.
Due to the larger diameter wagon driveling, there is still rubbing under acceleration. It rubs the tunnel just in front of the seat bulkhead.
Maybe I will do more tunnel mod.s later on. Right now I plan to angle lowering block and hammer in the problem area.

For those curious, I currently have stock main leaf, second leaf, and third leaf as well as another second leaf flipped and .5" lowering blocks with 3 degrees of angle.
That gets me sitting a couple inches higher in the rear than whats shown above.



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Next I tackled the interior...
After gutting and cutting out rot, This was my starting point.


patch panels welded in.


Grind away the rust.


Mask, lay down epoxy primer on the bare metal, and apply aluminum window flashing to the panels without stock sound deadening.
The window flashing worked very well once some heat from a heat gun was applied. I couldn't smell any tar odor even while meting it with the gun, maybe I just have a bad sense of smell.


High build primer on the going to be visible areas and the color/clear, poor picture quality.


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I wanted to route my power cable to the rear mounted battery a bit better.
I brought it through the firewall, into a grommet into the rocker panel, out of a grommet out of the rocker and clamped it down as it went to the back. The end result works well.

Next, came carpet.
I searched amazon and found a dense carpet padding that is made of fibers and is rubber backed for easier gluing.
I was really satisfied with this and it was more than enough for my entire floor pan.

Then I went to Loews and got black outdoor carpet off of their giant rolls. It's a cheap option and the quality is cheap.
I installed the carpet with contact cement and burned out holes for the seat belt mounts and seat brackets using an old soldering iron. This left nice singed tight holes.


I got these miata seats off craigslist for a good deal. I am looking to do a brown/black interior so they fit the scheme nicely.
Mounting was straight forward. I just drilled holes in the miata rails to mount to the stock brackets, then drilled new holes in the floor to move the stock brackets to the appropriate locations for the miata rails. no pictures of this process.

This is the latest picture I have,



The interior is now mostly back together, I will have to get more recent photos.

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A note on noise:
I am trying to reduce the noise level in the wagon since it was almost unbearable on the highway.
I will be tracking my progress using a decibel meter app on my phone. Is this highly accurate? no but I don't care, I just want relative measurements to tell me how much I'm improving, I think an app will be fine for this.

As It was prior to any interior work:
Cruising (60 mph on the highway)   91dB
Full throttle (from 60 mph on the highway) 93dB

Cruising   87dB
Full Throttle 90dB

This is very noticeable in the car!
I think patching the rust holes in the floor right next to the exhaust leak really helped.
Other major contributors, nearly no door seals and 4 speed.

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Love teh work on this man! I like how you routed your Battery lead, and what you used to fasten it all down. much better than alot I have seen. :thumbup:


What is your plan with all the green bits? is the car goin to go green in the future(may have just missed the explanation) or are you goin to pull the interior later for repaint? :confused:


oh! and A+ on the decibel ideer. most people just dynamat and call it good, and if it is too loud just deal with it :rofl:

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  • 1 month later...

I got a bit more of the interior in, reinstalled the rear bench back rest (still need to modify the bench for the tunnel), put the rubber cargo mat back in and rear panels.
My helper wanted to be in the picture.

I came across a barn sale that had a pile of someones leftover project parts. In it was a few new in box Mopar seals.
For $5 I grabbed one that looked like it had potential for my trunk. Turns out they are about $70 new using the part number that was on the box.


It clipped on to the inner jam of my hatch area really well. and was long enough to wrap all the way around.


There was an extra bit of seal that sticks out on the inside and seamed useless. I started pullling and it tore of straight and easy.


Along the bottom edge I had to bend the seal into a 90 deg. This lets me slip the seal under the stock metal edge trim to screw it in place.

I was satisfied with the end result. I do have to slam my trunk hard to get it to latch but I'm OK with that.





I also finally got around to finishing my hood strut conversion.
I used mcmaster-carr Parts:  4138T55 and 9512K15




The 90 lb spring seems perfect to me, it falls on its own when shut but holds itself up when open.
I mounted mine a bit to close however so the strut bottoms out just before it is fully shut, it still works but I may address this later as it is pushing my hood out of whack a bit.


This is the neutral position, any higher and it opens, any lower and it shuts.


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As I showed earlier, when I repacked my leaf springs I only got close to the ride height I wanted. The rear was still about 1.5" higher than the rear.
As well even though I cut out my tunnel, I was still getting drive line rubbing under acceleration and hard bumps.
I decided to try and solve both of these problems at once.
The solution has 2 parts. traction bars and angled shims.
I noticed that with my modified leaf packs (stock 1st, 2nd, 3rd leaf with flipped additional 2nd leaf bolted on top.) My leafs actually bend upward just slightly at rest.
I also noticed that the frame rail is breifly only a few inches away from the leafs in the front.
This gave me the idea to bolt a bar on top of my leafs that would extend forward to meet the frame rail.
Then when the diff rotates under acceleration or moves upward over a large bump, the bars would hit the frame and stop the drive line from grinding on the tunnel.


Here are the bars I cam e up with to fit my car.


They are made from 1.5" x 1.5" x .188" tube stock which calculates to only .006" of deflection given 120 ft-lb torque on the diff and a saftey factor of 20.
It's overkill but it was easy to get a hold of.
I would have preferred something wider so that it better matched the 2.375" leaf width.
I could supply the excel sheet for calculating the safety factor and deflection of a chosen material if anyone is interested.

The rubber bump stop is there to stop the rods from slamming the frame, they can also be adjusted to give more/less clearance to the frame rail.
The through hole is for the leaf pack bolt since I bolted these into the leaf pack so that they wouldn't move over time. Honestly, bolting them in sucked because without load the leafs bend the other direction. So you have to clamp the bars to the pack to straighten it out and bolt it in.
This hole is 15.5" from the end of the tube (which is flush with the end of the bump stop)


I used 9 degree spacers. In retrospect, 6 degrees would probably be better, there seems to be clearance for it and it would give better CV alignment.

This puts, the bar in the position shown. when at rest on the ground.

The video show at first me just pushing on the suspension which moves the leafs but does not engage the bars such as normal driving.
Then I jump on the rear which engages the bars such as over a large bump or under acceleration.


and this is my current ride height. It is on 13's for reference.

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  • volkswagner changed the title to Freebird: SR20VE+T 510 Wagon

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