Experts. We’ve all heard of them or run into them from time to time. Some seem to know more about a subject than others and some seem to SAY alot but in the end, don’t have a clue.
But what or who is really an expert? And why or why not, should you listen to them?
Websters dictionary says an expert is anyone “having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced”. Well that leaves the door wide open for interpretation doesn’t it. No wonder so many people think they are experts. Thats why it’s so dangerous to take advice from so many different people on forums and websites as to what is right or wrong in a given field.
But then the REAL danger comes from those whom you would expect to be experts. Those people who have been in a field for a very long time and have had success in that field or endeavor. They have the trophies and plaques. Ribbons hanging from all over. Pictures of themselves standing on the podium in first place, placed on the walls. Those are the people we go to for advice. And why not? They have succeeded right? They’ve won. They must know what they are talking about, right?
Wrong!!! Not all the time will that person give you the best advice when it comes to your trucks build or your station in life. Just because they have won a race, or have built this ultra class rig, doesn’t mean they’re experience or advice is going to be good for you.
Let me give you an example that happened to me just a few weeks ago.
Many of you know that I, along with the help of some very close friends and associates, have built the “Beast”. A 6184 pound 2005 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 that will go just about anywhere I point it on the trail and still cruise down the freeway at 80 + mph when I want. I’ve modified just about everything in this truck to do just that. I’ve climbed over every inch of it and know it pretty well. It’s been the first in many things and has pushed the bar in rig building. But it’s not the best. There is always a bigger and badder dog just around the corner and thats why I’ve always said….. “I’m no expert”
Now, some of you know that I also have a 1978 Super Beetle Convertible that I got for my wife a couple of years ago. It’s my first bug although I’ve worked on them as a kid. I didn’t know much about them so when we bought it we didn’t realize it had an entirely wrong engine in it. Since it’s a ’78 it should have had a fuel injected motor but instead it has a carburetor on it. The engine was not built correctly and suffered because of it.
Well, being the home mechanic that I am I pulled the motor to rebuild it. I got my manual and loads of internet articles and started to study what this motor should be. I soon found out that it was going to be near impossible to put it back to fuel injection without spending a fortune so I went the route of a nice carb motor of that period instead. I researched about it and soon found that this motor didn’t have any of the “cooling Tin” that is required to keep it from baking itself to a crisp. I wanted this car to be a good and fun vehicle for my wife to drive and take to the beach so I wanted to get it as reliable as possible. To me that meant taking the motor to near stock.
In building it I needed to get the thermostat and vanes back in, most of which people said you don’t need in California near the beach. I found that not to be true. But what I did find is that I didn’t need a heater in it. Wife said she didn’t want one so instead of using the heater box’s that come off the exhaust, I used something that was found on the VW Thing. It’s a J pipe that goes in place of the heater box because most “Things” never came with a heater.
Now because of this they had to have a special shield made, by the factory, that shielded the heads from the heat of that J pipe. These shield were simply called “Industrial Shields”
In comes the “expert” we’ve been talking about.
During my search for parts for this rebuild, I found a company in Riverside, California that has been in the VW business for years. They have had great success in racing bugs in the Baja 1000 and other such events. The owner is a self proclaimed Expert on all things air cooled VW and they have a thriving retail business. Great! Just the people I need to talk to about this rebuild. They had parts I wanted and needed at a good price and they were in the area so I didn’t have to pay for shipping. Winning!!!
Not so fast! I went in the shop and as usual it was filled with all the flashy race stuff. Chrome air cleaners, shinny headers, a big race motor sitting on a stand and more fiber glass and plastic than some Hollywood stars have. These guys know whats happening. I’m in good hands.
I stood in line, waited my turn and walked up to the counter. ” Hello, I need some cooling tin screws, a thermostat and a couple of “Industrial Shields”. You’d thought i just cursed at him. ” What do you need a thermostat for here in California and what is an Industrial shield?” I stepped back for just a second then told him what I was trying to. I wanted this Bug to be a nice daily drive for my wife and I wanted it reliable. He then told me that there was no such thing as an industrial shield and that I shouldn’t believe everything I read on the internet. He basically called me stupid in front of other customers there and proceed to say he had been working on bugs longer than I had been alive. Well, that kinda made me feel better because I later found out that he was just 5 years older than me and I know he wasn’t wielding a wrench at 5 years old. Means I look younger than I am. Anyway, I then told him that VW used industrial shields on the VW Thing because they didn’t have heaters. He told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that VW air cooled vehicles ALL had heater box’s and non ever came with a piece of scrap metal between the head and J pipe. Then he told me that he had won the Baja 1000 time and again and that none of his cars had a thermostat or any of the lower engine tin on them and he still won races with them. At that time I just left and decided I would go somewhere else.
I wasn’t looking for a race car. I wanted something that we could drive from stop light to stop light and not worry about it over heating like before or running poorly. What he failed to realize is that a race car does VERY poorly on the street. Not to mention he doesn’t have a good grasp of what VW really built and why. Time and time again, people think they can build something better than the factory did. Many of them don’t realize that any modification from factory specs will compromise another area of performance. You take off all the cooling tin and don’t run the thermostat and your going to have issues with cooling and proper operating temps. Put a huge cam in and your going to suffer at idle, where most of our cars run at for a good part of they’re time.
I did more research and found tons of information on factory industrial shields and why you should put the thermostats back into these street driven vehicles. All from people who had achieved the very thing I was trying to do. Non of them had ever won the Baja 1000 and non to knowledge had ever raced in it either. But all of them have rebuilt they’re bugs and have had very nice running bugs that behave well on the street and don’t overheat. Thats what I was looking for.
What is the lesson here? Be careful with who you get your “expert” information from. Take into consideration what you want your outcome to be and then find some one or company that has had the same outcome you’re looking for. That will be the expert you’ll want. However, don’t rely on everything from this source. It may not have all the knowledge your looking for on a certain project.
After applying the info I had found, I put the motor back together and upon start up it came to life with just one twist of the key. It sounds healthy and ready to hit the streets once again. Had I listened to the guy at this very popular shop, I would have ended up with a poor performing street machine and would have wasted money on something we couldn’t use.
Be diligent and careful in search for expert information.