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There are many reason why you would want to narrow the front beam:
Or, you may just like the 'tucked' pro-stock look!
The car pictured below was fitted with drop spindles and Riviera alloy wheels. The beam was narrowed 1.5" (39mm) a side.
We made the first narrowed beam for Tom Silsbury's award winning black '56 oval sunroof Beetle.
Since then, we have narrowed many beams - we are currently narrowing beam number 54!
When you lower a Beetle, although the tyre maybe close to the wing, the fact that the suspension is nearly bottomed out prevents the tyre from hitting the wing too much. However, when you lower a Beetle and fit drop spindles, aside from the track increase that the spindles give you, the drop spindles enable the trailing arms to operate at a less severe angle and you get a lot of your suspension 'bounce' back. The wheel will easily make contact with the wing.
Narrowing - how much by
We have a lot of experience of narrowing and fitting narrowed beams. Although narrowing the beam can solve tyre wing clearance problems, a lot of other factors need to be taken into consideration.
We have found that it is preferable to narrow the beam slightly more than the track has increased in order to allow additional clearance between the tyre and the wing lip. For instance, if the track of the vehicle with the drop spindles and an after market disc brake kit has increased by 1" (25mm) per side, then it is preferable to narrow the beam 1.5" (39mm) per side, giving you an extra 0.5" (13mm) clearance.
Narrowing on ball joint beams
On cars fitted with ball joint front beams, it is possible to narrow the beam by 1.25" (31mm) a side without bodywork inner wing modifications. It is possible to narrow the beam much more (up to 2.5" [64mm] a side), but this requires modification to the shock absorber tower, or inner wing area.
Narrowing on king and link pin beams
On cars fitted with king and link pin beams, there is much more of a problem. By modifying the shock absorber tower, it is possible to narrow the beam by 3/4" (19mm) per side without inner wing modification. Any more requires the inner wing area to be recessed to allow the shock absorber towers to sit within the bodywork.
An additional problem with cars built after 1960 is that the petrol tank also has to be modified with recesses to clear the inner wing modifications. On earlier cars, the inner wing modifications sit below the petrol tank supports, so this modification is not required.
Some customers do not want the inner wings of their car messed with. To get around this problem, we have just finished a king and link pin front beam on which we have removed the stock shock absorber towers and replaced them with laser cut 10mm thick plate shock towers that have been moved outwards as far as possible. This allowed us to narrow the beam by 1.5" (39mm) a side without inner wing modification, as shown below:
The narrowing process
The first part of the narrowing process if you are not using an original beam is to select a 'good' new beam. We have found that some of the new beams have very poor fitting trailing arm bearings. So far, the beams supplied by VW Heritage have had the correctly fitting trailing arm bushes.
The worst area on the new beams is the shock absorber tower spot welding. The spot welds are not very close together and the joining faces of the pressed shock tower sections have gaps. To improve the strength, we seam weld the tower all the way around on both sides.
The beam is then measured carefully to establish reference points to ensure its correct size after narrowing. Then it is cut into the required sections.
Each section of the beam that is to be joined back together has a 45° bevel ground onto the tubes where they will join.
The beam is reassembled using sleeves that have been manufactured to fit on the inside of the beam tubes to keep the sections in alignment and reinforce the beam at the join. Whilst checking the beam for straightness, tack welds are put in place. The beam is then fully welded a section at a time, moving from one tube to another to avoid distortion.
Sway Away adjusters are then welded in place in the same manner, but before they are fitted, they are modified to give increased travel adjustment.
The advantages of sleeving the beam and bevelling the edges is that when you weld the beam together, you can get a good, high power, 3-pass weld for maximum strength, and the sleeving allows the welding to be ground down flush so it can not be seen on the finished article. The seam welding on the shock towers is also sanded down for a nice finish.
The beam is then painted (shown is a king and link pin beam being painted, and a ball joint painted).
After the beam has been narrowed, the torsion leaves need the locating dimples re-machined and the leaves themselves need the required amount removed from the ends.
Also, the steering track rods need to be shorted. First, we tap the right hand thread further into the track rod and then cut the track rod down to the required length.
Inner wing modifications
If a customer requires a very 'narrowed' look (even after the track increase caused by the addition of drop spindles, disc brake kit or after market wheels has been dealt with), then inner wing modifications becomes necessary. This is usually only required on king and link pin beams as with a ball joint beam you can modify the shock absorber tower for additional clearance.
The inner wing modification, or 'tunnelling' as we call it, can be carried out very effectively and neatly, and when done correctly, can almost look 'factory'.
The first stage of tunnelling is to cut the shape required for the recess in the inner wing. The work shown is being carried out on a '63 Beetle, where petrol tank modification will also be required.
Then, the metal recessed section has to be fabricated and welded in. This is made from 18-gauge steel to retain as much strength as possible.
We weld the recessed section from both sides to allow it to be ground flush but still retain strength.
The fabricated sections are then prepared and painted.
The narrowed front beam is fitted along with, in this instance, the new CB wide 5-stud drop spindle disc brake kit and MWS BRM replica wheels.
The petrol tank needs matching recesses cut, fabricated and welded into it.
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