Hot VW's - January 2007 - Beam-In a Karmann Ghia
A look at what it takes to remove the stock front beam and replace it with CB Performance's 2-inch-narrowed unit (and more), thanks to Greg Melikyan at German Motor Works
a Karmann Ghia
BY ROBERT K. SMITH
Since we haven't done any recent how-to articles about installing a narrowed beam (quite a popular addition among owners of custom VWs), we decided to share what it takes to R&R a front beam in a '70 Karmann Ghia, which features the same ball-joint setup 0n '66 and later Bugs (not Super Beetle though). Luckily for us, when we dropped by to see Greg and Arda Melikyan at their shop, German Motor Works in nearby Garden Grove, they were jsut getting ready to replace a Ghia beam (disc to disc) with CB Performance's two-inch narrowed adjustable beam, plus all new ball joints, shortened tie rods with new ends, shorter sway bar, disc brake calipers, rotors, bearings, seals, new front beam mounting bolts too, all from CB Performance. This was more than just the beam replacement, so we grabbed the digital camera, and followed along, as Greg's ace mechanic, Bo Artin, made it happen.
With the Ghia on the hydraulic floor lift, making things easier to get to necessitated removing the gas tank and front wheels, unbolting the steering coupler (and horn wire), taking out the beam-to-body top bolts, unbolting the steering damper, eliminating the tie rods, removing the calipers, and the the four main bolts holding in the beam assembly. Once it was out of the car, and on the ground, more dis-assembly took place, primarily because some original parts, like all four trailing arms, were to be reused, but first the old ball-joints had to come out, then the arms inspected for wear (these were not worn-out), cleaned, painted, and fitted with new ball-joints. The new CB beam also comes with new 2-inch-shorter torsion leaves, which were already installed by Greg when we came into the picture. Also to be reused were the two OEM brake backing plates.
Fortunately, the car's previous owner replaced the steering box, and it did not leak, so it was cleaned and saved for the new two-inch-narrowed beam. After all that new components were in place, the fresh beam and brake assembly were back in, along with stock style shocks, everything tightened, and "eyeball" aligned (toe-in). The adjusters in upper and lower torsion tubes were both moved one notch, which lowered the car 1 3/8 inches. Happy with the car's ride height, since the Ghia was rolling on stock chromies, the owner drove it a few miles to Fullerton, where it was aligned by Jeff Dielemann, at Lee and Son Alignment. As you can see, this KG convertible now sports tucked-in-a-tad front wheels, and the front car can be dropped way more if needed, thanks to built-in adjusters (plus another instant two-inch drop if CB's drop spindles are in your plan-to-slam).