VW's aircooled mini SUV. Great for riding in the country, or cruising the beach.
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Post by newbthingguy » Wed Jul 16, 2014 9:44 pm

Hi all! I just bought my first 1974 thing to restore and it has no motor. Is there something I need to know about what kind of motor to buy that will fit or not? and what size is best for it? thanks! Tony

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Re: motor

Post by Marc » Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:29 am

The original motor was nuthin' special, basically the same as what a `74 Beetle or 'Ghia came with (1600DP) - but the aircleaner and muffler were Thing-specific (the ones which came equipped with a gas heater had J-tubes instead of heater boxes and different tin downstairs; the aircleaner was a centrifugal type, like a miniature Peterbilt aircleaner - but you should be able to graft in a conventional oil-bath from a `68-71 Bus or `68-`74 'Ghia without it looking too out of place). If you choose to use an aftermarket paper-element air cleaner, look for one that stands above the carb by several inches - or make your own riser pipe if all you can find is the low-profile style. There are a few aftermarket headers which are designed to offer better ground clearance than the typical "Bug" header, they have the collector an inch or two higher...I think we have one from Kymco around here somewhere...either use Beetle heater boxes and "sled" tins or some aftermarket J-tubes (you'd need to fab some sheetmetal panels to duct spent hot air out the back away from the heads if you go that route).
If you have NO motor, the case guard "grilles" and skidplates are probably missing too - but if the rear one's in the trunk or somewhere, or you plan to do a faithful restoration which will include it, note that it mounts to the rear of the engine case so the block has to be one with the "3-point" mount bolt bosses in its casting or else you'd need to fake it with a "Mickey-Mount" bracket that bolts onto the oil pump studs (yecchh). Original `71 Bus cases had these, as did many Beetles/'Ghias where they weren't used. The ubiquitous "universal replacement" cases from Mexico all had them too. The only factory-original engine letter code I've ever seen on US-market Things is "AM" although some sources say that "AL" is also authentic (perhaps for other markets with different emissions controls?)..."AM" engines and cases were often stocked by VW dealers to be used as one-fits-all replacements for all 1600DP upright carb'd applications (`71 Bus, `71-74 Beetle/'Ghia, `73/'74 thing) which is why some consider them to be "replacement" cases...they probably cost slightly more than an AE, AH, or AK, but only one had to be kept in inventory that way.
One other oddity is the generator - rather than replace the 30A generator used on `67-early `73 Beetles with a ~50A alternator, for the Thing the 38A generator from the `71 Bus was adopted (I have no idea why, perhaps they were considered to be more rugged/reliable than the then-new alternator). You'd need one for a faithful restoration, but considering the rarity of the obsolete cast-iron pulley that's needed to achieve the correct fanbelt offset with the 38A generator, IMO it'd be worth the potential loss of a couple of concours d'elegance points to go with an alternator instead.

I'd probably go with a modest displacement increase (it's a rather heavy vehicle). An inexpensive way to do that these days is to use a set of AA slip-in thickwall 88s - no machinework is needed to the case, but the heads need to be opened up for them; otherwise it'll go together like a stocker but you'll gain 6% displacement and thicker-than-stock jugs - not too big for a stock carb or smallish exhaust, but enough to notice the improvement.
You could go a bit bigger with some minor mods to the stock carb; 90.5mm cylinders require machinework to the case as well. Any bigger and you should really be stepping up to better-than-stock heads, more carburetion, valvetrain upgrades, etc...the budget to do it right goes up quickly.

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