I am not sure about this 1967 Volkswagen Bug which I purchased nearly a year or so ago–it has taken over my life! In a positive way I want to add! Luckily for me, I was fortunate enough to stumble across 1967Beetle.com on one of my many trips through cyberspace looking at other 1967 VW Bugs, trying to see what is missing from my Bug.
I have tried hard not to make this project a “checkbook restoration,” but I do have limitations on what I can do myself, how much money I have and how much money my wife thinks I am spending! My rule has been to not try anything that requires a special tool, knowing that I have only so much time on this earth to use special tools and I have used up 66 years of my life to get to this point! I had written an early article for 1967Beetle.com on the purchase of my 1967 VW Bug and what mistakes I made in selecting this particular car. This article, Equalizing Spring Installation, comes at the urging of Jay Salser and Eric Shoemaker of 1967Beetle.com to hopefully help others that may want to pursue a similar project. The Equalizer Spring had been removed from my car when the previous owner lowered the car for the increasingly popular California Look!
This article is about my discovery of, and installation of, the missing Equalizer Spring that Volkswagen had installed in the 1967 year and early 1968 year VW Bugs. To complicate things, the Equalizer Spring goes by many names, making it elusive to what its true function really is: Rear Anti-Roll Bar, Z-Bar and Sway Bar. From what I have read, the Volkswagen engineers had it right the first time! According to Volkswagen’s Official Service Manual, Beetle and Karmann Ghia 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, Bentley Publishers, the Equalizer Spring is a side-to-side torsion bar connected to the axle tubes. It is designed to provide an additional progressive spring action to assist rear torsion bars when under load. The Equalizer Spring was added in 1967 because in 1967 the torsion bar was softened for a softer ride and the Equalizer Spring made up the difference and came into use only when there was a heavy load over the rear axle.
“Z-Bar” comes close to an accurate description of this part simply because after installation the configuration resembles the shape of the letter “Z”! But the function of an Equalizer Spring has nothing to do with sway, or preventing a roll! At least that is what I have read; it simply equalizes the weight over the rear swing axle when under a load! But then read the forums and you will find a difference of opinion of its function by each author, and whether the Equalizer Spring is even needed. It does make me wonder, though, why they installed it for one year only! Just the same, I hate to have missing original parts!
On one of my trips to someone who knew a lot about the VW Bug, Rodney Cooper, an employee of Airhead Parts in Ventura, California, discovered that I was missing the Equalizer Spring, among other various nuts and bolts from the body and frame over the swing axle and spring plate. I had gone to Rodney to have him “re-index” the rear torsion bar and spring plates to nearly stock height. Remember my rule regarding special tools and needed expertise? This trip was needed because the car had been lowered all the way around and the rear tires rubbed on the fender wells on left turns and over big bumps. Rodney explained to me that although all the missing nuts, bolts, lock washers and the two heavy duty rubber body stops DO need to be there, the Equalizer Spring didn’t really do anything but distribute the load if I had heavy passengers sitting in the rear seat area. Ok–that made sense and besides Rodney is the Guru of the VW Bug. He even played a consulting/mechanic role in the popular Overhaulin’ television show where Rodney was part of the “A” Team in the Overhaul of a 1967 Bug! So I had the right guy tell me that. Much of my research has supported what Rodney told me that day as we were turning nuts and bolts in his driveway!
Now remember, I don’t like to have missing original parts, so I was on the hunt to find out about the Equalizer Spring! Although I believed what Rodney told me, my “missing original parts quirk” took over. Soon, I was on 1967Beetle.com and on my VW Club’s website, Central Coast Chapter, California, of Vintage Volkswagen of America, asking if anyone knew where I could buy all the parts to the Equalizer Spring. The usual sources were revealed: TheSamba, eBay, Craigslist and The Small Car Connection. The Equalizer Spring is not reproduced, but has to come from a donor car, or from someone who collects vintage VW parts. Curiously, though, a bushing repair kit is reproduced and is available through Wolfsburg west and Airhead Parts! I was getting excited that this might not be a difficult part to find, when I thought that I should ask my friends Eric Shoemaker, creator and caretaker of 1967Beetle.com and Jay Salser, who does some editing for 1967Beetle.com. Jay is a guy who has more than 37 years of experience in driving and repairing and has owned over fifty Volkswagens! He had the scoop on the Equalizer Spring! I forwarded to Jay a number of the ads selling Equalizer Springs and there weren’t many to share! But each time, Jay would get back to me and tell me that this or that part was missing in the picture. He didn’t recommend that I piece together a complete set from the various parts sellers advertised. Frustration was setting in when Jay said that he would look around his garage to see what he had. Well can you believe it, Jay had a complete set! Jay lives in Texas and in his Texas thought deduction he told me, “I have a spare bar, and since these last so long I will probably never need it! I’ll sell the spare to you.” Jay needed to check the shipping costs for an over-sized part. That settled, he needed the weather to warm up so he could spend some time in his garage packaging the parts. He notified me when he had it boxed and ready to ship and said that my box would look like a big screen TV when it arrived! And so it did because that is exactly the type of box he used. I then ordered some additional “I got to have items” from Jay and the Bushing Repair Kit from Wolfsburgwest and sat back and waited. As luck would have it, all of my orders arrived on the same day.
I opened the Equalizer Spring packaging and had a look at what Jay had sent me. My first thought was how dainty this Equalizer Spring looked compared to what its function is. But despite the way it looked, all the parts were there and it all looked solid! I already had decided to prime and repaint the metal parts and to replace all the rubber bushings, so I was very pleased with what I saw. Since my wife long ago had booted me from the garage so she could park her two cars, my workshop was a dirt floor under a carport in the back of our property. Not ideal, but better than nothing–which is almost what it is. Spray painting the various components happened by using wires to hang each part from an orange tree and spraying away. This works pretty good and paint dries fast with the breeze and warm temperatures we have here in Fillmore, California.
With everything painted, it was time to assemble the rubber bushings and sleeves onto the operating rods. Not too difficult to do using dish soap as a lubricant to move the rubber bushings over the rubber sleeves. One of the first things I noticed in the bushing kit was the lack of some of the parts I needed to fully replace all rubber parts. Missing were the two “hard rubber washers” that fit on the equalizer spring rod at each end where the “inner support” butts up against the “levers.” Also missing was the thick hard rubber sleeve that fits over the “equalizer spring rod” dead center on the rod to act as a buffer against the body and transmission case if the car were to bottom out. Also missing in this kit are the rubber protective caps that fit over the nuts at the tops of the operating rods. These protect the fasteners from corrosion. Luckily, for me, the original caps still were on the locations where they were needed. Not wanting to spend the time looking in hardware stores for things that would work, I reused these worn original parts. Not sure why the kit does not include them.
Installation day came when my family was gone for a couple of days and I hoped that nobody would interrupt me once I jacked up the car, blocked it and placed it on jack stands. Using Bentley’s Volkswagen Official Service Manual, conversations with my mentor, Jay Salser, and numerous pictures I had taken of an early 1968 with the Equalizer Spring still installed, as well as schematics which I had downloaded from the Internet, I felt that I was ready to begin! This installation would turn out to be a 4-1/2 hour job with only one parts run for longer bolts to attach the Operating Guide to the Axle Tube Flange. My local auto parts had the longer metric bolts, split and flat washers, but did not have the nuts for the bolts so I was forced to use the old ones.
Visualizing, I found that I could thread the Operating Rod, with the left Operating Lever attached, from the right side to the left—above the transmission case. After a couple of runs at it, I finally had it across and in place and was ready to start bolting down the Operating Rod Supports and Operating Rods. I checked and rechecked to make sure I had all the parts installed correctly. The left Operating Rod did not fit well onto the Operating Rod Guide, or Operating Lever. After three tries I accepted that this was the best that I would be able to adjust it. Since I was installing an Equalizer Spring off of another vehicle it was not going to be an exact match, unfortunately!
Standing back and looking at my work I was nagged by the words of others in the forums and my friend Rodney Cooper! I wondered about the value of the Equalizer Spring after all! Rodney had told me, “There was a reason that this was a one year only part!” Maybe now I get that, but then, “I hate missing parts and equipment!”