Often times, Jay and I will be having conversations around specific aspects of ’67 Beetle restoration. Big or small, Jay has an article crafted in a day or two for the world to see. His research goes deep and is spot on accurate. Let’s all take a moment to thank him for his contributions to 1967beetle.com. I consider him a true partner in my effort to better educate the world about this very special one year only car; the 1967 Beetle.
We restoration enthusiasts proudly refurbish our Beetles right down to the gnat’s eye bristle, as the saying goes. This includes such things even as the stickers/decals.
One thing which has puzzled owners is THE VALVE CLEARANCE MYSTERY!
There have been a few small comments made on 1967beetle.com about this issue but nothing really has been resolved. Finally, 1967beetle.com Reader, Quinn Elliott approached me with some information and I decided to plumb it as far as I could go.
Quinn has owned his 1967 Beetle since December, 1966, when he bought it after he retired from the Military. He was in England at the time he bought the vehicle.
Quinn says: “I have collected hundreds of manuals, parts lists, parts fiches, bulletins, documents, memorabilia, parts, etc. for many years now. “
So, he has experience and Volkswagen Literature on his side.
I involved David Brown in the discussion. David was trained by VWoA and worked as a Parts Manager. Later, he would establish his own VW shop where he worked on customers’ cars and did some FormulaVee racing on the side. David also has a treasure trove of VW Literature and Parts.
As an opening “teaser comment”, Quinn reported that in September, 1967, “…VW exchange engines were equipped with short replacement studs. Valve clearances were altered to .004. In addition to the .004 valve sticker, they (VW) included a metal clip which slid over the rocker shaft. It read: .1. .1 mm is .004”. Some of these engines could possibly have wound up in 67’s. A rare bit of VW history!”
The Clip was given the VW Part# 311-100-177
Getting to the point of The Valve Clearance Mystery, David notes that there began to be problems with burned exhaust valves, especially after 1968, when a combination of emissions settings and carburetor small main jets ramped heating. This resulted in burned valves and “dropped” valves, mostly in #3 cylinder.
Quinn adds that “…when an owner took his Bug to the dealer for scheduled maintenance, unless it was left overnight, the engine was hot. It takes many hours to cool down to cold. Since dealerships make their $ by quantity, the valves were set mostly when they were NOT cold. I have seen dealerships loosen the fan belt and run the generator off the battery to run the fan for cooling–still not cold.”
I can attest to the fact that valves were not always set on a cold engine. The first time I witnessed this was with my father’s ’65 Beetle. He took it to a mechanic friend. We talked for a half hour or so, then Benny adjusted the valves. That engine could not have been cold!
Amongst the three of us there was some discussion of when VWaG decided to take action. After all, if engines began coming back to dealerships, VW was going to suffer a loss as responsible parties, especially if their shops had been the sole maintainers of the cars in question. And…it would give Volkswagen a bad name.
Quinn here goes to his library of Volkswagen Literature and notes:
“The 1967 Volkswagen came from Germany with the valve setting sticker attached to the right side (passenger’s side) of the fan housing, with the notation in a rectangle: 0.1 MM and underneath that, .004″. Not just for 1967, but for some years into the future, the valve sticker would be .004″.
Quinn continued…”Volkswagen made the change to .006″ in December, 1971. As in all things Volkswagen, there is much speculation and misinformation floating around as to when, why, and what concerning the valve settings. There are several means to verify the change date, some subtle, some big, bold and weighted with authority
The first one is the various Owners Manuals.
(Also) the VW booklet Without Guesswork, Type 1, 2, and 3, 1971 and 1972, dated October, 1971, has the valve setting at .004″. Without Guesswork, 1960 through 1970, dated December, 1971, has changed it to .006″.
Another source: In Gear, a small newsletter published for use by Volkswagen mechanics by International Auto Sales & Service Inc, the Volkswagen Distributor for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, Issue Four, December 30, 1971, Page 1, Valve Settings makes the change from .004″ to .006″.
Furthermore, Quinn continued…”The main document that supports the change at that time is/was the change to the ‘M’ Manual dated 10, December, 1971 [“M” Manual being the Volkswagen Engine Workshop Manual(s)] stating: ‘Effective immediately, valve clearance of all engines manufactured as of November, 1964, should be adjusted as follows: intake and exhaust 0.15MM (.006 in.) with cold engine only’.”
Not being one with access to an abundance of VW Literature, I turned to the “popular” information source—the Owner’s Manuals.
First, I examined my own mint condition 1967 Beetle Owner’s Manual. Here’s what I found:
USA Owner’s Manual
Printed in Germany 1.67
Page 47. Technical Data
Mid-page: Valve Clearance with engine cold…..intake and exhaust .004in (0.10mm)
From here, I tackled thesamba.com’s Technical Section, Type 1, Owner’s Manuals.
I looked at English Owner’s Manuals from 1967 through 1972. All give the same information: intake and exhaust .004in (0.10mm)
But, for the August, 1972, Owner’s Manual (this would be for the 1973 Model Year) there is an abrupt change in valve clearance instruction. Both intake and exhaust valves now are to be set at .006in (0.15mm).
The first time that I restored a fan shroud, in the late ‘70s, I wanted a new valve clearance sticker to apply to it. I went to Big Billy Barrett’s, a large VW dealership in Dallas, TX. There, I bought a strip of the .006” decals. They were inexpensive back then. I bought enough to use for years to come. I have only one left now.
A question which we all may ask is…why did it take Volkswagen another year (from December, 1971, until the beginning of the 1973 Model Year) to make the Official Change in Valve Settings a notice to the owners of cars? We may never know.
You wonder where all of this is going? I’m getting to that point. Remember I addressed the fact at the beginning of this Article that, as Restorers of Vintage Vehicles, a lot of us want to be Period-Correct.
So we apply to our fan shrouds, with regularity, the familiar .006 Valve Setting Decal. Which, as it turns out, is incorrect, properly speaking. The quandary is, will we change our thought pattern and, if we do, where will we find the correct .004 decals? Apparently no one presently manufactures and sells these. Will someone step up to the plate? I, for one, would purchase an .004 sticker.
Practically, then, what do we do about the actual Valve Clearance? I will continue to set valves at .006 on my stock engines. If you are tempted to use .004, speak with a qualified VW engine builder or mechanic for expert advice.
As always—my thanks to both Quinn and David for their continued good will and advice!
And, to my wife and daughter for helping with photography.