Wheels and Deals


The weekend I turned my attention to getting the rear brakes sorted out. The new backing plates and hub centres finally arrived from the states and so I could fit them up and check out clearances and offsets.

After trial fitting the hubs and taking some measurements I finally conceded that the current wheels are not going to work without some major modifications to both the front and rear ends, which is something that I am currently trying to avoid given that I am trying to meet a September deadline. The offset of my current wheels (ET30) puts the rim too far outwards and the result is that the tyres do not sit inside the arches, not a look that I personally like. Originally Type 3's are fitted with an ET46 wheel, but most wheels popular in the VW scene are in the ET25-35 range. Whilst this can be made to work with stock braking setups, the 944 Turbo brakes that I have simply do not work with many wheel styles as the wheels foul the calipers.

I pondered a few solutions - modifying the wheels that I already have, by machining the centres out and welding them into other rims was one solution. And whilst certainly achievable (I found a company interstate that could do the work) I decided that I did not want to modify them as they will eventually end up on my 356 (when I have one :D ).

I also looked at the lozzio 17 and 18 inch Fuchs. The Fuchs are a classic wheel and one of my first choices for this project. Unfortunately the 16" Fuchs I originally bought did not fit over my calipers and so were sold on. The Lozzio wheels would work as I can custom order an offset to work with my brake setup and they have generous clearances for larger calipers, but they are not a cheap option, and have already been fitted on a Type 34 (The KCW Type 34). Whilst this may seem daft to some, I am determined to do something that no one has done before.

The old wheels fitted this bill perfectly, the style generally only being seen on Gary Emory's outlaw 356's, and the identity of which he kept a closely guarded secret (well he refused to tell me at least :D ). When I finally managed to source a set, Gary had only fitted painted sets, so to be different I had mine polished, which is a story worthy of a blog post itself. Ironically I now much prefer them painted, but after the trouble it took to get them polished it seems like a sacrilege to paint them again.  The thing I like about these wheels is that they remind me of the old Dunlop wheels fitted to C and D type Jaguars, a favourite car of mine, which is probably why I prefer them painted. The other thing I like about these wheels is that they conceivably could have been a stock fitment, they style suits the car and they are relatively 'stock looking', well at least in their painted form that is.

Another wheel that I always considered would look great on a Type 34 is the edelbrock / halibrand wheels fitted to GT40's, Cobra's and 'Eleanor' in the film 'Gone in 60 seconds'. Whilst these were only originally available in small sizes, there are plenty of companies making repro's in a variety of sizes. I did inquire with a few companies, but the offset that I require and the brake clearance required poses a problem due to the wheel style.

So, after much looking I did finally managed to source a suitable wheel, and am shipping a set over from Europe. They're 16" same as the old wheels and have enough clearance to fit over the calipers. For the moment I will keep you guessing as to the identity, but they are a little off of the beaten track as far as wheel choice is concerned, and whilst not as period looking in style as my original wheels, they are still plain enough in design to suit my taste and overall design idea for the car.

My second choice was the 928 'Gullideckel' wheels, these are very reminiscent of a 'mag' wheel with the elongated slots around the perimeter, They also will fit over the calipers as the 928 uses the same brembo calipers that the 944 Turbo did. These wheels are also pretty readily available, and not generally favored by most due to the massive offset, which in my case is actually a help. Again they are plain in style and look quite good polished up.

With wheel choices made, and nothing more I can do until the wheels arrive I moved on to the rear brake assembly. The rear brakes, as per the front are 944 turbo brakes, this means a vented rear disk and four pot calipers. These are the same calipers fitted to the 996 and boxter models and are a lightweight aluminium monoblock style caliper. My advice to anyone thinking of a Porsche brake conversion is to use these calipers on all four corners of the car, they are easily up to the job and are much lighter than the 'big reds'. A lighter caliper obviously brings down the un-sprung mass of the front suspension components which helps improve rebound and thus handling (the lighter the hub/wheel/brake combo, the quicker the spring can push it back down towards the road after it is deflected and the longer the tyre stays in proper contact with the road - the same principle applies here as does to valve components - lighter is better)

Stock 944 N/A backing plate - notice the mounting - same as VW IRS

I had to change from the original aluminium 944 turbo IRS arms to early N/A 944  backing plates and Stock VW IRS arms as the 944 Turbo arms increased the track too much. The N/A arm is almost identical to the standard VW IRS arm and the backing plate and spigot hub are interchangeable. The handbrake mechanism runs on the inside of the disc 'top hat' and acts like a drum brake, a very clever design.

944 N/A backing plate - notice the brake shoes

Inside of 944 disc acts as a drum brake

The rear brake conversion involves replacing the old backing plate with the 944 part, fitting the 944 hub, disk and caliper. It is almost a straight bolt on swap with the exception of having to make a small modification to make the handbrake cable fit. The Porsche handbrake cable uses a clevis pin to fix it to the brake mechanism in the hub, whereas the VW version uses a simple hook arrangement. To make the VW cable fit the Porsche mechanism it has to be modified. These parts are available to buy already done and are commonly referred to as 'swan necks'. I opted to modify mine as I had the tools to do so.

Stock 944 e-brake mechanism - cable attaches with clevis pin

'swan' and part to modify it for use with VW cable

Modified 'swan' and cable adaptors

I opted to cut and shut my existing 'swan'. If you choose to do this, beware as it is made of hardened steel, so it is imperative to use the correct type of metal, or it will end up bending or breaking in use.

With the 'swan' modified to take the stock VW cable the only other issue was to enable the VW cable to fit the Porsche cable tubes. This involved turning some adaptors to allow the cable and tube to align correctly. Again these are available over the internet, so no need to make them if you do not have access to a lathe. I have made a complete guess at the length of the adaptors (based on the photos of the commercially available versions) if there is not enough adjustment on the handbrake I can always turn them down a little more or make up some new ones. Hopefully they should be okay.

944 brakes on VW IRS

With the hand brake mechanism modified I test fitted everything to ensure that it fits. The caliper needs to be shimmed to fit the disk correctly, and I need to source some longer bolts to hold the backing plate onto the IRS arm, but other than these small issues everything fitted up nicely. All that's left to do is to remove it for a good clean up, fit the new brake shoes and pads and reassemble it.

I still need to finish off fitting the pedal cluster, and also make up a few hard lines for the brakes which hopefully I will get to complete next weekend, then it's time to add some fluid and get them working. :D

Locke, my 2 year old inspecting the progress. He helps out most weekends.

My next project..
a fairly quiet weekend.

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Comments 1

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whatnow on Thursday, 04 August 2011 04:35

if you get the chance i think the halibrand style in a shallow dish with black detail would look amazing. i have been a fan of those rims since i first saw them.

mind you i think you would realy need the t-4 / 5 speed to do them justice.

the wheels you ended up with are magnesium aren't they?

it looks like you are getting through the work. keep it up and you'll be on the road in no time.


if you get the chance i think the halibrand style in a shallow dish with black detail would look amazing. i have been a fan of those rims since i first saw them.

mind you i think you would realy need the t-4 / 5 speed to do them justice.

the wheels you ended up with are magnesium aren't they?

it looks like you are getting through the work. keep it up and you'll be on the road in no time.