Numerous questions come up when you start looking into lowering your vintage Volkswagen.
Here are some of the most common, with my responses.
3/8/17 - I'll be updating this slowly.
- Why would I need a narrowed beam? People have lowered these cars for years without a narrowed beam. It can be done, that's been proven. Too many people think narrowed beam means panscraping low, but that doesn't have to be the case. Narrowing is also about fitting a real tire, the wheel you want and/ or adding disc brakes. Most aftermarket, VW Pattern wheels widen you by 5/8" or more, per side. Most Disc Brake kits widen you by up to 1" Per side! Sometimes it takes a 4"+ narrowed front beam, just to get those brakes and wheels you want to fit underneath the fenders, let alone do any sort of lowering. Beam width WILL NOT affect the ride height. Rough rule of thumb though, is the lower you plan to ride, the narrower it needs to be. If you want to be slammed and still turn without shredding tires on your fenders, you'll need a beam.
- What width beam do I need? Proper beam width will depend on your wheel/ tire/ brakes and final ride height, as well as the look you like! As above, most aftermarket wheels and brakes widen you by quite a bit. Stock wheels with stock drum brakes can get away with being a bit wider, but if you plan to swap to disc or a different wheel later on, its always good to go narrower than you really want, so it'll all work out when you're done! Pre-61 cars can get away with a narrower beam due to their smaller fuel tank/ bigger front wheel well too. The goal is to get the maximum turning circle without fender rub. If anything, I aim for a little wheel well rub at full lock. Better than catching that fender any day!
- THE GREAT SHOCK DEBATE! Everybody has reservations or has heard horror stories about shockless beams. If you need a shock or not will greatly depend on ride height and beam width. Nobody takes into account the torsion springs, inside the beam tubes. The narrower those become the stiffer they become. Anything beyond a 4" Beam, it gets tough to find a shock soft enough. Also, the beam itself becomes too narrow to fit a shocktower, without a silly Z Shaped tower and lower trailing arm modification for proper shock alignment. Me personally, I haven't built a Type I in almost 14 years with a front shock. I typically suggest the 4" Towered beam for people who still can't decide. Its much easier to unbolt a shock if you don't like them, compared to wishing you had a tower to find out!
- What front shock do I need? All of my beams use a dual eyelet style shock. 66+ Type I cars simply use the earlier shock style, instead of the stud type you originally had. Its easier to get the shocktowers cut flat, there's no other reason. I ALWAYS suggest keeping an oil based shock, if any at all. Everybody wants to stick gas charged shocks on these little cars and they're much too stiff. Busses can get away with them, but you're also sitting on top of the beam. I can't really recommend certain shock sizes, as each car is set up differently. The only way to get the proper shock is to set your ride height, measure between the mounting points then get a shock within the fully collapsed and extended length. Otherwise, its just a guessing game!
- Do I need dropped spindles? Yes. With or without a beam, you do. If you're only after a small drop, I suggest starting with spindles. More times than not, you'll need a beam now due to the added width of the dropped spindle and limited tire sizes, but spindles are a good starting point and will be needed regardless of beam. Dropped spindles will lower your tie rod angles, reduce bump steer, help keep your wheels more centered in the front fender and improve the ride quality too! ANY Adjustable beam by itself will ride worse, the lower you go, as the trailing arms are getting steeper and steeper, away from horizontal. Spindles will lessen these angles and improve the ride quality at ANY height.