A few commenters have asked that I elaborate on my experience with fixing cars – and specifically engine repair. Some may be wondering if I grew up around cars, perhaps helping out Dad in the garage on weekends, dutifully handing him the right wrench on cue, or maybe hanging out after school with the local hot rodders down at the drag strip.
To which I say...HA!
Honestly folks, I doubt if I could possibly have any less experience with engine work. I grew up playing the clarinet, for crying out loud, and didn't even learn to fix my reeds until college. In my family, the one-step approach to fixing anything and everything was simply: "call a professional." Didn't matter if it was the car, the refrigerator, the television, or the toilet. My Pop always said, "I wouldn't ask a plumber to come into my office and do my job, so I'm not going into his office to do his." Some pretty damn sound logic right there, I have to admit.
So no, I most definitely did not grow up around cars, and in fact, longtime readers of this blog know that I continue to insist that I only barely qualify for the label "handy." This raises the obvious question of just where I get off thinking I stand a snowball's chance in hell of successfully completing something as involved as this Vanagon project.
Fortunately, while Mom and Dad never taught me how to swap out an engine, they did see to it that I could read, write, speak clearly, think for myself, and perhaps most importantly, believe that I could accomplish anything I want in life through hard work and determination. Take note, all you parents – do this much and nothing more, forget whatever new age hooey the "experts" are pushing these days, and you too will be Hall of Fame parenting material.
I'd say that those invaluable life skills account for about 98% of all that I've achieved in my 43 years, and the other 2% I attribute to plain old ignorance. That's right – a little ignorance can be incredibly effective when coupled with the capacity for learning, and I dare say it may even be essential.
If I had known up front just how insanely difficult it would be to learn to play a musical instrument at the professional level, I probably wouldn't have bothered to start. But because I did not know (in fact, I was probably naive enough to think, "pfft, how hard can that be?"), I was never bogged down by the enormity of the journey, and instead, I actually enjoyed the process and stayed focused only on whatever the next thing was that I had to learn.
I find that I'm taking the same approach with this Vanagon conversion, and however audacious it may sound, I expect similar results. One step at a time, all in the proper sequence, and giving what's in front of me as much time as it requires before moving onto the next thing. The gearheads out there may be chuckling to themselves and thinking, "it ain't that simple dude," but then, they're discounting the power of ignorance!
I guess that's a pretty long answer to the original question. In short, I have zero experience with this stuff, or I should say, I had zero experience with this stuff until recently. But hey, it's just information, all of which is out there for the taking by anyone armed with enough patience and motivation. And a little ignorance.
The pictures above show the alternator bracket, tensioner pulley, and exhaust manifold heat shield that I scored at a salvage yard this morning. Only a month or so ago, I didn't know what any of these things were, but now I'm shopping around for them at salvage yards, and actually sort of know what I'm doing. Pretty cool stuff.
With the engine situation coming together quite nicely, I officially kicked off work on the van's body this afternoon. The sliding door is now off, and the prep work for my forthcoming tinted bed liner paint job is now afoot.