Honeyball rally in the VW Passat LS

Hans Neubert
Honeyball rally in the VW Passat LS
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M ann is the strange one. The color alone is totally flashy, you should only look at the car with sunglasses. It is best not to look at it so closely. Then you don't notice anything about the embarrassingly thin tires. And the big bottom with the huge taillights. Then you don't see the unimportant front with the thick chrome that looks like a gold rim on a collar. And the bleak imitation wood foil in the cockpit! Ikea wouldn't even put something like that in its treasure trove, but as a driver should you constantly stare at it? What a strange car.

The thing is called Passat, like a wind. Honestly: The way it stands here, it's more of a hot air dryer. Anyway, we don't need the car to love. We need him to rock away. 'Honeyball' is the name of the rally for cars over 30 years of age. The route: 50 Alpine passes in 5 days, over 2,000 kilometers. He has to pack it. After that, the Passat can fall apart, be ashamed or continue its deep sleep.

The Honeyball rally is brutal

No, Honeyball is not a well-maintained regularity drive with watch sponsor and packed lunches. Honeyball is brutal: five tough daily stages, only manageable if you skip a few pee breaks every day and also such nonsense as 'Look, the panorama, we have to take a photo!'. On the other hand: Honeyball is neither a race nor an angry festival. It's more of an endurance run on the toughest roads in Europe, a hell of a long ride with other crazy people who don't mind sitting in the car all day and pounding across the Alps. Many Honeyballers are here for the third or fourth time. We also. And because we have become smarter and, above all, poorer over the years, we are not taking an expensive Mercedes or Porsche this year. But a banal everyone's car with the charm of the 70s.

Saturday lunchtime. Eight more days to Honeyball, we are late with our car search. Now we are in the middle of Lower Bavaria. In front of the shrill Kermit. Year of construction 76. 80,081 kilometers. 85 hp. Some rust. The Passat has been in the barn since Grandpa moved into the old people's home. Seven years already. Engine is not running. Otherwise good impression. In the trunk there is a book 'Now I'm going to help myself'. It's starting to rain. So don't hesitate, put 1,000 euros on the table and put the part on the hanger. The mechanic in Munich isready, he has little desire, but he needs money. We can't do anything ourselves - we can only break it down.

Two media people without a plan of technology

We are: A media manager and an advertising creative, both with no technical understanding. We have driver's licenses, that's all. So we act according to the motto: If you have a problem, throw money on it. The screwdriver gets money and does everything he thinks necessary: ​​oil, water and filter change, general inspection, H license plate. Oh yes, and the engine might have to run again. The fact that it does not do it at the moment is allegedly only due to its misaligned register downdraft carburetor, type Solex 2B2. Anything else? Nope. Timing belt? Has never been changed. It is definitely as old as the colored sheet metal, as old as the tattered cardboard on the hat shelf. The screwdriver says: We'll leave it in anyway. Someone he knows has heard from someone else that the timing belt of this engine can easily tear without the engine breaking down - because the clutch and crankshaft cannot touch. Or was it valves and pistons?

It doesn't matter. We just want to arrive. We're not sorry for the VW Passat, we'll use it and then throw it away. And usually have sunglasses on. Because of the green, which unfortunately you can also see from the inside. And because of the imitation wood. But also because then nobody recognizes us, because nobody can say afterwards: 'Hey, you idiots, I saw you in this strange Passat!' Friday evening. Two days until the start in Switzerland. We get the green one from the screwdriver. Full acceptance? Passed. H mark? On it. Engine? Running. We pay, with a nice tip on top. And then quickly home, pack your bags.

After 15 kilometers, the VW Passat engine dies

Stupid: After 15 kilometers it goes Engine off. And doesn't start anymore. In the middle of rush hour traffic on the Mittlerer Ring in Munich. We push, swear, wait. After ten minutes it runs again, just like that. We drive a bit. Then the engine off again. Damn it. We have to be in Switzerland on Sunday evening. Who can help now? The screwdriver has long since finished work. Bernd is away. We call Christian who says Gudrun knows someone. Gudrun says we should call Wolf. Saturday morning. Meet Wolf at the car. He removes the carburetor, dismantles it on the kitchen table. The main seal is rotten. 'No wonder, it can't go like that'. We call VW partners and Bosch services. Most are closed on Saturdays. And those who have opened don't have the right seal in stock. No wonder, who stocks up with 33-year-old carburetor seals these days? Wolf mumbles: 'Sealant.' We get sealant and Wolf uses it to glue the two halves of the carburetor together. But does it really hold up? Is there still some air coming in somewhere? Or is in one of those little holesnow maybe sealant ran in? We don't know, neither does Wolf. After all: the car is running. Thank you, Wolf.

Sunday evening, motorway, on the way to the starting point in Switzerland. It gets loud in here from 90, our skulls are booming. And from 120 on it gets hot, somewhere up there. In any case, the pointer is suddenly just before red. Damn it. That makes you nervous. We look at each other, don't say anything. Go off the gas. The needle goes down slowly. Well, then we'll just drive 100. Hours later we're more relaxed, in Switzerland, in front of the hotel in Maienfeld. The Passat really brought us here, it's there in the parking lot, ticking. Between the Porsche 911, Triumph TR6 and Alfa Bertone. It looks very green, but also a little proud. After seven years in the barn, he is suddenly allowed to go on a long journey. And is also admired: Our passengers stand around him. Touch him. Want to sit down. Know the name of the incredible color - viper green metallic. Get old stories out. From when they were little. And someone says: every third German grew up in a Passat. Our squeaky green monster - is it a cult car?

The VW Passat is going up the hill

Monday morning, rally start. It starts right away: Splügen Pass, Passo di Monte Ceneri, Passo die Lucomagno. On the first ascent: sheer horror. Our perceived speed drops to 5 km /h. We switch to continuous full throttle mode, with our right foot pressed down all the time. Perhaps the screwdriver should have driven a spax screw through the accelerator into the underbody. We kick it over the mountains, the green thing. Without a guilty conscience, it's your own fault. He has too little horsepower and too little torque. Although it is light, it is packed full. 900 kilos empty weight + us two + travel bags against 85 PS. Not much is possible. Is it even 85 hp? Or only 60 after all these years? Who knows. Sure, the Passat moves, somehow. But he never blows! He is scrambling up the mountain so hard that sometimes you want to jump out and push.

It's not better down either. The brake? Cold okay. But woe, they get warm. Then comes the vibration and squeaking. We'll soon come up with a nasty trick to protect them. We no longer brake with the pedal, but with the steering wheel. It works like this: Into the curve too fast, turn too hard, let the car rub over the front wheels. Works well. Up the old tremola on St. Gotthard, the Passat apparently suddenly grasped it. He gives full throttle all the time. Unpleasant. What could that be? The repaired carburetor? A throttle valve that has melted away? A forgotten barn mouse pulling the throttle? Well, it's probably the carpet's fault. The gas pedal is stuck somewhere. We tug under our shoes. Then everything goes back to normal. But the problem comes back, over and over, andunpredictable. No matter how hard we pull the carpet. For us technicians a clear thing: The problem lies deeper, probably with the pedal itself!

The VW Passat only goes full throttle

In the evening at the hotel, we borrow tools from our colleagues in the Citroën DS. And dismantle half the car: Everything has to be removed from under the instrument panel, the pedals are exposed. This must be the fault. We just can't find it, no trace of rust. We still oil everything. And ourselves too: with smeared paws, we pour in a few well-deserved beers at the end of the day. Tuesday. Go on with a freshly lubricated accelerator. The Passat doesn't care: between the Grimsel Pass and Furka it decides to go full throttle again. Damn it! We should have taken a Porsche or a Benz. Ran right. Bonnet up. Where does something move when you accelerate? Ah there! That must be the throttle cable. But why does it get caught on this thin black tube almost every time it moves? Problem found! Must have happened when installing the carburetor. We could have figured it out a little earlier. A bit of tape, and that's all set.

We're proud: Our first car repair! Fast on, the stage is still long. Col de la Forclaz, Col des Saises and then the Col d’Iseran. The Passat gives everything. He's a poor pig because we don't spare him. Not to say: We'll take him hard. Screeching tires and howling engine as a continuous program. Our desperate attempt to keep up with the Triumph Spitfire and Porsche 914. No chance. We are left alone. Green and lame. Wednesday. Col d'Izoard. Is there a sound? Is it coming from the MGB V8 before us? It gets louder. Schippschipp does it. Back left. Only when braking? Only in curves? Not clear. Schippschipp. Then it's gone again. We get scared: what if something falls away? Or suddenly something is blocked as we speed past a 400-meter-deep abyss? The sound accompanies us over the Col de Sampeyere, the Colle Valcavera, the Colle Bandia. It's always there. Schippschipp. Almost reliable. Is it just part of it? We discuss. Talking shop. Crooked camshafts? A piston seizure on the brake pad? Does the clutch scrape against the valve springs?

Just help yourself

Our expertise has increased dramatically in the last few days. But it's not enough. We have no choice but to get used to the noise. In the evening we are almost relaxed again. Until the team from the Borgward speaks to us at dinner: 'You guys are grinding!' Damn it, we know that ourselves. Thursday morning. We stop at a French workshop: 'Monsieur, un problem!'. After a short test drive, the foreman points to the drum brake. And makes it clear: He has no spare parts for such an old car.Just open it and take a look at the brakes? He shakes his head: if it's broken, he won't screw it together any more. Responsibility, suing, insurance and such. We're leaving, frustrated. Hundreds of kilometers away from home. All other participants over all mountains.

Nobody helps. No idea about drum brakes. No idea? Wait a moment. Wasn't that book in the trunk? Luggage out. Fact it's still there. Now let's help ourselves! Brakes chapter. We feverishly scan the dry sentences. And then let's go: turn on the jack. Car up. Wheel off. Brake on. Doesn't look that complicated at all. Pling! A loose part falls towards us. Looks like an apron? Who knows. Surely the thing that made noises. We throw it in the bushes and screw everything back up. Go on. Col de la Lombarde and Col St. Martin. The noise is gone, and suddenly our bad feeling too. In Walter Röhrl's footsteps, we conquer the infamous Col de Turini - with 86 hp and without a single drift. Friday. After four days of full throttle, the time has come: The Passat is finally awake and in top shape. Or maybe it just retracted after seven years of uselessness. He swallows the Col de la Bonette for breakfast without any nagging or stupid noises. And then the rest of them: Col d'Allos, Col de Valberg, Col de Pinpinier, Col de Bleine, Col de Laval.

From Zero to Hero

The lethargic walker has become a long-distance runner. To the winner, who, as the conqueror of 50 Alpine passes, proudly pushes his chrome nose through the airstream. Yes, we were unfair. Dissed him because of his shape, because of his color. Without knowing his true values. We are sorry now. When it finally stands at the marina in St. Tropez, we even have the feeling: It looks somehow good. Striking. A Yul Brynner guy. A hero. We two drivers feel less heroic: at the end of the day, fish poisoning causes stomach ache, stomach cramps and everything that goes with it. Toxic viper green metallic didn't manage that.

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