Sam & Nate get 3 inches of lift by installing factory VW Thing spindles on this 1972 VW Baja Bug.


JBugs Video Blog, VW Lifestyle, VW Tech Tips

Watch as Sam and Nate beef up the suspension on this 1972 Baja Bug with factory VW Thing spindles.

Sam and Nate install VW Thing spindles to this Beetle to "beef up" the Beetle's front beam. VW Beetle owners can bolt on the Thing trailing arms and spindles directly on to their Beetle for a higher and wider front suspension. This is perfect for a Baja Bug! Well, at least a Baja Bug that isn't intended to be a full blown race car anyway. Either way, it will be a great upgrade for our 1972 VW Baja Bug Build!

Video Transcript

We're going to bolt on a 3-inch taller, 1-inch wider Factory Volkswagen spindle, and the best part is it is a true bolt-on right onto our original beam.

Nate, what's the plan today?

Today we are going to try to test how much travel we get out of the stock spindles and arms and then swap it over to the Thing spindles and arms and see how much travel we get out of that.

What we want to do is get a baseline with the ride is with these original wheels and tires, and then we'll pull off these arms and these spindles, and we'll pull out the leaves and we're going to cycle just the Beetle ball joints and spindles and see how much travel those get, and then we're going to put on the Volkswagen Thing spindles and cycle those and see how much travel we get out of the Thing spindles. I have no idea what Thing spindles will travel, but the nice thing about Thing spindles is the ball joints instead of being like a Beetle where the ball joints point towards each other, the Thing spindles, they both point down. He's going to start pulling this apart after we get a baseline as far as the ride height on it, and then we'll jack it up, put it on jack stands, and pull off the shocks and the sway bar, the drums and the tires and wheels. Pull out the leaf packs out of the beam, generally have a whole bunch of fun pulling apart suspension bits, especially old ones can be kind of dirty, so be prepared.

So to the body, looking at essentially 12 and 1/4 inches there abouts to the body, we'll see how much lift we can get am I swapping out to those guys.

Amazingly enough that shock is not blown.

What that one on that side? Uh how about this one?

I don't know push it down see the resistance.

It's not going back up.

It's not supposed to, oil filed shock.

Oh yeah, because it goes up with this, huh?

Made in the USA. That's why it's still good.

At this point you can cut that brake line, the hose itself just there you go. Should be a 19 here. The tie rod end although there might be a castellation nut on there. Yep you got to pull that cotter pin out so you got to get a pair of needless nut pliers and a flat screwdriver, bend that cotter pin out, pull that out at which point you can probably get a 19 mm loosen that and with the impact most likely is going to be your best thing. Once it's loose we'll get a hammer we'll bang on the arm to get that broken free. I'll work on getting these sway bar clamps off cuz those are never fun.

I'm guessing that we're not going to reuse these.


Almost, got it and trash.

All right put back on, there you go.

And we didn't even damage the threads.

All right. Going to pull off these sway bars you also have to chip out all this dirt and grease and grind from in these allen heads. You got one over here, it's the same way. These sway bar clamps, you got this little tab right here. A bigger screwdriver might help and you got a pry that clamp and then you hammer it that way and then once this one's out of the way you can do the same thing down here. If nothing else, give me the plastic mallet see if I can at least get this started for you so you can see how it goes.

It's coming free on that side, but not on the other. So you know we do in this case? Get the cutter and cut it off.

You still got to clean that stuff out, clean that stuff out.

Sway bar is good steel and in stock applications like 11 cars and maybe even nine cars since you have to use stock Volkswagen parts you take the sway bar cut it down and you stick it inside the tie rod sleeve to actually strengthen the tie rod so don't toss this. This is good steel.

So now we just get everything else out?

Yep, get all those nuts and bolts off the arm, off the beam, and all that good junk.

All right well we got to get the drums off going to need an allen set.

Grab that hammer. Yep, pop that you half off. Use the claw side there, you go. There's a head on there, we just put it down here on the ground. On the bottom side, that guy. One, two, three bolts there. 17 or 17 would be my guess, but let's take a look.

It definitely might need to swap to disc brakes. And there's three, so that's it.

That's it, now you got the two 19 mm on the top side.

And it's pointed in the off direction, this time might help. There we go, yeah, slightly might need.

And the fun one is, you've got two that are down in here that have to come out in the center, and then the same thing over here, and then you, on this side, you got to do on this side.

This is the stock beetle arms, which are completely different than stock thing arms.

Yeah, I mean, except for the part where it actually mounts to this.

Yeah, getting those grub screws out that center, those grub screws hold these leaf packs in place, we're getting those guys out.

There we go.

Got one off here, one just it, you don't have to pull it all the way off 'cause once we pull out the allen screw, the allen screw comes out with it all together.

Now the top one, oh look at that.

Now we got to get this guy and get those screws out, called grub screws.

Gosh, these are super tight too, weirdest position ever. Thank here, we go. Can you put this on the.

All right, then while I'm talking about grub screws. So it's got that round, pointed end, you look in the end of the torsion leaf pack, there's a little divot that that keys into. Now this pack is held together inside the arm super tightly, and then this screw holds against these leaves so that the arm can't slide out, and there's more in the middle of the beam. It basically isolates this side, so you got a left spring essentially, and a right spring. You need me to get in there and do it?

There we go.

Now everything we did on this side, we got to do on that side. All right, you can see that this front end, we've got damage back in there on that quarter panel, that fender nut's basically pulled out. You've got that rusted section right there, so all this front end damage, including where that has been pushed up. Normally, this comes down to here, and then goes over here, it's going the opposite way now. And again, these fender inner wells are just toasted, not a prime car. That side, same thing.

Let's try this side, right on the ground, right. Oh wow, it still looks nice and clean side, huh.


Now got to get these greasy old guys out, 'cause now we've got to pull these out, put those in, and then put the Thing ones in and cycle them. See how much we get out of set that first, and then gloves and

Yes, extra greasy. All right, now slide these guys back in.

I think the biggest limiting factor on a stock beam is probably the shock. The problem is, is the length between here and here, and here and here, it's hard to get a shock that will actually travel that, but that's a pretty good amount of kind of travel, extremely worn ball joints. Let's go 13 and 1 12 to the bottom of that hole, and basically 20 in. We got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and a half.

This is something that Nathan noticed that I never even bothered to think of. So we're looking at about, yeah, well, eyeball it, 8 and 5/8 of an inch from backing plate to beam with his spindle pretty straight. If we come to the other side again, wheels pretty straight. Um, we're not totally in place on these ball joints, but, and I'm going to show you these how bad these ball joints are in a second, but if we're to come in here and never mind my crooked finger, we're like 9 and 3/4. So we're actually the arms will end up coming out an inch per side, or our spindle gets pushed out an inch per side, just by using the Thing spindles. Also, uh, kind of a poor comparison at this point, but we'll get basically down to center line about 10 in with the beam dropped out currently, and these ball joints aren't installed properly, whereas this is 13 1/2. So a 3 and 1/2 in higher suspension stance, that's also an inch wider per side. So overall, we get 2 in of width and 3 and 1/2 in of height by bolting on Thing spindles.

That's pretty good, huh?

That's pretty good, yeah.

That's the stock setup and how high it sits off the ground, 13 and 1/2 in, and it gets us about, we figured actually, 6 and a half inches of travel with no other suspension components attached, and these ball joints aren't properly installed, uh, nor are they properly bolted on, but so 10 in to 16 1/2, so we're already at 6 and 1/2, same as stock. But as I mentioned, these ball joints aren't installed properly, we can't get full travel because these ball joints were installed at the improper angle.

I'm going to press these original ones out, turn them, press them back in. I'm not concerned about replacing them, now we're just mocking everything up for right now. Yeah granted, link pin arms, uh, you can get your arms almost straight up and down. The only limiting factor on a link pin arm is your shock. At a certain point, the arm would travel in and hit the shock. Ball joints, we're not going to be able to get as much travel as we would with a link pin, but we actually have better control with a ball joint than we do with a link pin, and it's stock Volkswagen.

You can see that this ball joint is actually installed correctly, and it travels up and down. This ball joint, however, is not installed correctly, so it only travels a little bit right there. So somebody did not pay attention when they installed this ball joint. You can see the alignment slot is way over here, and over here, indicating its travel this way. Those alignment slots should be pointing from front to back, not from 2:00 to 8:00.

And with that, now all of our ball joints, as worn as they might be, they're all lined properly. You can actually see how this ball joint being improperly installed, it's actually worn into the housing. Now we've got these properly installed, we can install them back on the front of the car, cycle them out, and see how good or bad they work.

All right, Nate, now that we got all these ball joints installed properly, now we can do an apples to apples comparison, more or less. Once I get this one tight.

I think that's a lot.

Could be more, could be more. I've got an idea on making longer arms, I don't know if I'm going to make it happen or not, but I'm thinking about it. All that doesn't mean nothing, what kind of travel we got, Nate, see, let's find out.

All right, so if we're looking at to the bottom of that hole, 11 and 1/2 inches there, not quite 18 and 3/4, so 7, 7 inches of travel, not much more than the Beetle, honestly, but it is more, and it's a wider B, higher C, slightly more travel, and this is actually safe travel, other than, of course, these ball joints being slightly worn. Now that they're actually traveling in the right direction, it's safe travel.

With that being the case, we can slide our torsion leaves back in, and then we can start going through and put the car back on its own weight, then we can check our ride height on that other side. I mean, that's a better position to be in right now.

I mean, at least now we can assemble, like, put everything back together.

For now anyway, probably going to pull it apart once we redo this beam. Now I get some gloves on 'cause this is going to be messy. That one faces down, that one faces down, that one faces up. This screw here and this screw here, or those indentations, this one points up because the grub screws on that side, on the top side, the one in the middle of the beam on this side is on center here, and the be on the arm on this side is on the bottom here, and then we got to slide these guys all the way through, and then somehow find their happy place back in the beam, which is usually easier said than done. It's actually easier if you take a zip tie and tie all the leaves together, which I might have to do, although Nathan’s probably going to have to do it. Nate, you want to grab a zip tie?

A zip tie, I'm sitting right next to zip tie, zip tie.

You want to get a pair of snips and cut off the end of that, please? And don't get my pliers greasy, please. Thank you. Wipe those down. And that's still up, and there we go, and give it that, about the same amount on both sides. Good, good.

So just leave the zip tie in there?

Well, that zip tie is inside the middle of the beam, you have no chance of getting it out, and give this guy a try without, is it done? See what we can't do, sometimes we can get lucky.

It's actually easier to slide these arms in without the arm attached.

Uh, we got to pull the grub screws out, these though, 8 mm, those are standards.

And hopefully those are actually in place on that side.

Let's try your idea. All right, is that screw out on that side?

Yeah, yep, it came out.

All right, that looks like we are good to go. Are the leaves coming out with me properly, or is the arm still in?

The arm is out a bit.

All right, that should be good.

That hopefully should be able to get to the top and the bottom one.

Way easier than taking it out, 'cause we use the power, power of electricity.

All right, that's that side. Put that 19 on there, we can put that on the bottom of that ball joint, and then, uh, um, backing plates, brakes, we put that one on there for now. That's 19, get this side tightened up.

All right, that's that, and now 15 mm for the backing of plates.

That's going to stop us, no problem.

Yeah, for sure. Actually, oh, get to work on the other side.

That'll work too.

Yeah, well, why have two people work on one side when you can have one person, one person can be work on each side.

That's using the Noggin.

It looks like I'm, I'm taking it off because this side is reverse, yeah, it's taking a while to get snug and tight.

And then you got to balance the tire and put the tire on.

That should be eay enough though right?

Famous last words.

This side, buddy.

There we go, and now, super wide and super tall.

I don't know about super high or super wide, but wider, and taller. I mean, just seeing how obvious it is here, but the rear is down, the front, is up.

That's super bouncy.

That's why we have shock absorbers.

Oh yeah.

All right, hop out, and I guess we can get a tape measurer. It's not quite fair at this point to because the rear needs to be sitting level, ideally, uh, you know what, grab a jack, put underneath the transmission cross brace in the back, and then we'll jack it up until our pan is level, and that will give us a apples to apples ride height comparison.

Get there, what I said, we're getting there. Keep going. All right, close enough.

Across our door jam, uh, 15 and 1/4 in. What were we before? I don't know, have to look at the, we have to go back and look at the videos, like 12 or something, I think, 12 and 1/4. So we've come up 3 inches.

That's pretty good. I, I mean, it's accurate, huh?

Yeah, so 3 in of lift, that's actually not too bad, just on stock.

So we bolted on, stock, 3 in of lift, and I guess we should have had Nathan stand side by side with the car before.

It's taller than me now.

Again, it's taller than Nathan again. Was it taller than you before?

No, I mean, when I was younger, of course, yeah, well, I was taller than it, like about probably about here or something, but now it's taller than me, yay. That's actually nice because now it's so much more easier to get into now and get out, go straight out, and it's 'cause it sits up way high, way higher.

And one of the lowest portions of the front end of a Volkswagen is the bottom of the beam, other than that shock mount, but anyway, so we're looking at about 12 1/2 in to the bottom of our beam, to the bottom of most of the chassis, 14 in, and that's to the bottom of the actual floor pan itself, looking at basically not quite 14 inch of ground clearance, not too shabby.

Yeah, that's really good, huh.

All right, you know what, I'm getting hungry.

Yeah, me too.

So we've got more travel, we got more ride height, and we got a wider car, all bolt-on parts. These are all factory Volkswagen original components. I think it's a pretty, uh, pretty good way to spend a couple of days, now that I got those ball joints aligned properly, so we can check the actual travel. And this side was actually limited to about 4 in of travel with the ball joint installed incorrectly, which that's not good at all. We've got a higher, wider car that has more suspension than it did before. I think it's a pretty good step towards Baja boom, and uh, at this point, we're going to call it a day, we call it a night actually, it's time for dinner.

I'm hungry.

I'm hungry as well, and on that note, life's full of good people.

If you can't find one,

be one.

Later, guys

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