Home » What Lies Beneath: Cold Start

What Lies Beneath: Cold Start

Cs Vw Underside 3 4
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Can you identify those two car undersides up there? I think they’re interesting to see together because they’re an example of a a major shift in how a company built two otherwise quite superficially similar lines of cars, but one had a separate chassis, and the other was a true unibody design. Want to see more of these undersides? That’ll make it easier to guess, right? Here you go:

Cs Vw Underside Full3 4

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, with the dead giveaway of those rear-mounted engines: these are Volkswagens, specifically the Type 3 up top, and the Type 4 at the bottom. I doubt the production Type 4s were painted that way on the bottom, though.

Both of these lines of cars had multiple variations, including sedans, fastbacks, and wagons. If you forgot what a VW Type 3 wagon/Squareback looked like, here you go:

Cs Vw Squareback Press1

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Look at those people fish! they’re fishing the crap out of that lake! Maybe carp. Anyway, there’s the packaging marvel, the Squareback, with its underfloor engine, rear cargo area, and front trunk. Having all of these same attributes, but even more room up front thanks to the new Macphearson strut front suspension, was the Type 4:

Cs Vw Type4 Presspoto2

What’a in the portfolio? Some kind of blueprints?

Cs Vw Type4 Pressphoto

I just included an extra Type 4 wagon for the hell of it, because I kind of like them, and they were widely considered a flop. Still, looking at their underside makes you really appreciate the engineering behind a unibody car, and while I love the flexibility and ruggedness of the old separate chassis design, it is pretty absurd that it took VW all the way to the late 1960s before they had a unibody design.

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I’ve heard the air-cooled, separate chassis VWs referred to as “semi-unibody” because the bodies were self-supporting, independent of the chassis. I’m not exactly sure what to make of this; there’s no real frame going on here, just a body bolted to a mostly flat pan. Is that a semi-unibody? Is that even a thing? And if so, is that what modern EVs are, the ones built on those “skateboard” chassis that hold all the batteries?

I have so many questions.

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Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
3 months ago

I knew that answer as soon as I saw the Type 3 underbody (lord knows I spent enough time under my Squareback). Also, I would like to be pedantic and point out that you showed the best year of Type III Squareback in the fishing photo – it’s a 1970 model as it has the facelift chassis and big tail lights / safety bumpers (and D-Jetronic fuel injection) but does not have the vents in the D-pillars, only in the fenders.

(of course, that was the model my parents had which I inherited in 1984…although I don’t recall us ever fishing with it parked next to a pond)

Last edited 3 months ago by Derek van Veen
Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
3 months ago

A nice quiz!
More of those please 🙂
My guesses were a type 34 Karmann Ghia and a Porsche 912, not too far off 😉

I’ve mostly been into type 1s and 2s and 356es, but I do love the short nose squareback as well, just such a nice design!

Why does the 412 have that big gear box oil pan? Is it some sort of ‘matic’ transmission?

Last edited 3 months ago by Jakob K's Garage
Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
3 months ago

That was the 3-speed auto (probably not the auto-stick).

Chronometric
Chronometric
3 months ago

The underside of the Type 4 looks a lot like the unibody Early Model Corvair, especially the rear suspension arms. I have spent some time under there staring upward, totally not asleep.

Kurt Hahn
Kurt Hahn
3 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

You must have heard it a few times by now, but Old School in German would be Alte Schule, with the trailing e’s clearly pronounced. So while it might look similar, Alt Schule sounds a bit like those Japanese brands from the 80s, where they just used as many English words as possible, never mind grammar and meaning. But maybe that’s what you’re going for..?

Chronometric
Chronometric
3 months ago
Reply to  Kurt Hahn

I’m the alternative school.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
3 months ago

Okay, I didn’t read the post yet, but I have to say that I find vehicle floorpans to be utterly fascinating. They are usually the largest single part discrete component and often used across multiple model lines (and even brands). So much must go into their engineering. Certainly one of the most considered parts of any unibody vehicle. Neat.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
3 months ago

The correct term is unibelly.

Fred Flinstone
Fred Flinstone
3 months ago

It’s 40 years later, and I *still* have nightmares about a damn VW Fastback. I was moving from Montreal to Toronto, and a friend suggested I use his dad’s Fastback for the drive. His dad was no longer able to drive, and wanted the son in the Toronto area to sell it for him.

Great, I thought. I’ll have wheels for a few days to settle in to my new place.

Mistake. His dad said the car was in perfect shape. My friend had mentioned that his dad could be a lying SOB. Having a car for the drive clouded that bit of memory.

First hint of a problem: acceleration. If I recall correctly, there was some kind of elecro-mechanical relay in the fuel injection. Sometimes, when you hit the gas, it had to think about it for a while. Stomp, stomp, stomp, and it would eventually respond.

When checking the tire pressure before the drive, I noticed one of the rear rims was hot. Really hot. Probably a brake problem. Being a young fool who drove a VW Bug sideways an entire snowy Montreal winter with a leaking brake line, one hand on the steering, one hand on the shifter, and another hand on the hand brake, no problem I thought. I can handle whatever comes up.

Anyway… out with friends before leaving town, not much sleep all weekend, hit the road late Sunday afternoon with a six pack of cola to keep me caffeinated and alert.

Just over half way on the drive, it’s dark and pouring rain. Really pouring. Fair amount of cars on the road, doing 100 km/h. I very gently press the brake because there’s a slower car in front of me and… I’m sideways. Low traction from wet road, rear weight bias, and screwed up brake locks up. They say you can’t recover from a skid that goes over 90 degrees. That one must have been 89 degrees. Winter driving made counter-steering a reflex, and I somehow got it back.

My adrenaline level went through the roof. I didn’t need the caffeine for the rest of the drive. I kept about half a mile distance between me and the next car for the next two hours. I wasn’t touching that brake pedal without a court order.

I normally don’t sleep more than 6 hours. When I arrived, I hit the sack. I woke up 12 hours later only because my alarm told me I had to go meet the moving truck.

Brought the car to my friend the same day because I didn’t want to die.

Last edited 3 months ago by Fred Flinstone
Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred Flinstone

“They say you can’t recover from a skid that goes over 90 degrees”
Nonsense, another 270 and you’re golden. At least in my experience.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

I did once manage to lose the back end in my MKII Cortina pushing it a bit hard on a winding road – as I entered the only straight section for several kilometres I did what was at least 4 complete revolutions before stopping facing the right way, fortunately avoiding sliding off the cliff on one side or hitting the embankment on the other. Looked over at the passenger (who I had only met that morning and had only been in the car with me for 15 minutes) and said ‘that was fun, wasn’t it?’, put the car back in gear and kept driving (but SLIGHTLY more gently!) Oddly enough, the passenger wasn’t keen on another drive with me, for some reason………

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
3 months ago

Dad to kids: “Carpe. See ‘em?”

I’ll show myself out.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

That’s it: reel ‘em in!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

Not even a mention of the Type 3 Notchback? Such a clean shape. Alas, the prices on them somehow rose with the classic 5-lug Beetles and they quickly became unobtainable.

Old Hippie
Old Hippie
2 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I had a ’76 (?) Notchback–briefly–back in the late ’70s. Great rig, horrible fuel injection.

IIRC, they weren’t sold in the US? Mine was Canadian.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Old Hippie

The stories of the unclamped ( iirc? ) short rubber lines on the fuel injection system—and the sight of one on fire in the late 70s directly resulted in me carrying fire extinguishers in my cars now

Old Hippie
Old Hippie
2 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

It was the sight of a VW Type II on fire beside the highway–remember those had the fuel tank IN the engine compartment?–that prompted me to install a marine-style Halon fire suppression system in my ’56 Type II. I never had to use it, but figured the heater system worked as an excellent early-warning device for a fire as it used air from the engine compt.

Last edited 2 months ago by Old Hippie
Huibert Mees
Huibert Mees
3 months ago

When I was a child, my parents had a type 3 in dark green. Since this was back in the early 70’s, no one used seatbelts so coming home at night, I would lie in the back, on top of the engine cover, and sleep all the way. The noise must have been deafening but it’s amazing what kids will sleep through. We had that car until my uncle ran a stop sign and slammed it into the side of a Jaguar with me in the passenger seat. Without seat belts, I slammed into the dashboard and my head hit the windshield, breaking it. I’ve never gotten into a car without putting on my seatbelts since!

Last edited 3 months ago by Huibert Mees
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Huibert Mees

Ouch!
75ish Dart here. I couldn’t understand why I was getting all the official attention rather than slightly inebriated driver until an officer kindly pointed out the protruding dome in the passenger side of the windshield.
Same result, though: “Buckle up—or walk: choose!”

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
3 months ago

I understand the semi-unibody claim, as the body makes up a substantial structural portion of the vehicle and the pan makes up a large portion of the body. In a true body-on-frame car, if you separate it, you get a whole body and a whole frame, but here you don’t.

Not only that, but the body and frame are bolted together at what adds up to a seam, if you were to replace the seal and bolts there with welds, would THAT make it a unibody? It certainly wouldn’t look any different from any other unibody structure.

Air-cooled VW’s defy classification, because while they look body-on-frame on the assembly line, I bet they look much more similar to a unibody if you do a stress analysis.

Huibert Mees
Huibert Mees
3 months ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

You are absolutely correct. In a true body-frame construction, the connection between the body and frame consists of rubber bushings that allow some flexibility between the two. Here, the bolts rigidly connect the body to the frame and if there are enough bolts, you might as well weld the two together. There is no movement going on so the two parts act as one. The bolts really are just an assembly aid.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
3 months ago
Reply to  Huibert Mees

That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought about the joining method. These cars really do have a lot more in common with unibodies, their only commonality with BoF designs is the ability to disassemble.

Mike
Mike
3 months ago

When I was a kid, this is how we got around! A silver one… then a gold one. By the end of the ’70’s though, the VWs were gone and we had graduated to the Caprice Classic wagon. Fake wood trim! The back-back!

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
3 months ago

There just aren’t any Squarebacks where I live or almost anywhere I go. I last saw one in the wild about 15 years ago on a family trip to Colorado. I wonder if that orange beast is still rolling around Manitou Springs.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

Look at those people fish! they’re fishing the crap out of that lake! Maybe carp.

In terms of edibility, a distinction without a difference.

The VW Type 4 Fastback is a very slick looking car, even if the actual drag coefficient wasn’t all that good.

Theresatimetocomment
Theresatimetocomment
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Au contraire. I’d like to make a public service announcement:

Carp tasting like crap is a misnomer. It’s by nice, white and flaky with a nice density that delivers very mild fish taste. It takes to well to any of the standard catfish seasonings. And you can even grill it up with some salt and pepper.

Like all things, they need to be well prepared to be any good.

Similar to wild boar and feral hogs, it has a bad reputation for being dirty and eating trash. Carp, especially the invasive species that are very common, largely eat crustaceans, insects and plankton, all things other desirable fish and animals eat. Where I live, the end of blackberry and pecan seasons is the perfect time to harvest feral pigs. We pay big money for walnut fed Iberico ham. Feral hogs on blackberry or pecan are similarly delicious and have fresh fat stores.

Since these are all problematic invasive species, it would do some good to further commercialize as really the only effective means of slowing down their spread. And they are culinary delights!

/psa

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

What is the proper way to prepare Asian carp? I tried it before and found it nearly inedible. I like fish, but its taste was anything but mild, nor was it white and flaky.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

There is the old standby, soak-it, coat-it, spice-it, fry-it.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

I tried it baked. Haven’t tried it fried. It is very inexpensive and I’d love to have a way to not only make it edible, but delicious.

Theresatimetocomment
Theresatimetocomment
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Where did you procure the carp you tried?

Try it blackened and pan fried.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

There was an Asian market I purchased it from. I’ll give it another try.

Old Hippie
Old Hippie
2 months ago

It’s the bones… the stuff that ain’t meat. How do you deal with those?

We have the old school carp out here in the west that run up to 30 lbs or so and it would be nice to be able to eat them… but the bones….

Theresatimetocomment
Theresatimetocomment
2 months ago
Reply to  Old Hippie

This is sort of helpful: https://sdleastwanted.sd.gov/docs/conservationdigest/CarpforSupper.pdf

I recommend searching for YouTube tutorials. There’s quite a lot of info on it nowadays. You should be able to find a video with decent quality.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

Without that separate floor pan, would we ever have had the Meyers Manx?

Old Hippie
Old Hippie
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

No–nor a lot of other crazy and cool conversion kits form the ’70s!

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