Fresh engine build damaged after 800miles (engine builder refusing to fix under warranty)

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May 27, 2024
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Willenhall, West Midlands
Year of Your Van(s)
Van Type
T2 Danbury

Thought Id share my experience of a new engine build I had built recently by lovepurple03 on ebay, Id appreciate any feedback positive or negative. This is my first Air-cooled vehicle, and my first classic so I probably got a lot to learn, but be interested to see if you side with me or the engine builder.

Last year June 2023 I bought from a private seller a mint 1971 VW Baywindow, the van looked amazing, fresh 1600 engine build, everything was pretty much new from the ground up, after driving it home from Chester to West Midlands, I got home and noticed a bit of oil spray in the engine bay, thought nothing of it and carried on driving it for a couple of weeks, but still noticed splashes of oil in the engine bay which was very clean so was easy to spot. So I took it to a specialist close by who checked it over and said it had end float which meant it would eventually need a new engine. So I took it home and thought right ill get a new engine build,

I did my research and decided for my budget I wanted a 1776cc build using my 1600cc block, So I got in contact with a couple of bigger companies(So wish I used one of these) and was ready to pull the trigger, But instead looked on Ebay and found a listing for a company building engines under the ebay name lovepurple03 , On there listing they did 1776cc builds along with other builds, So I got in contact with a guy called Ian, who spoke to me and seemed a nice guy who knew his stuff come across as a VW enthusiast, he said i will get someone to phone you back with a quote for the build, Anyway a few hours later Kelly phoned me with a quote and told me everything they did and what they would do for me to build my block upto a 1776cc with a bigger cam etc and 12 months warranty, and the price was £2,300 which was a lot cheaper then elsewhere.

So I agreed to take the engine down and arranged a date/time which is 12th July 2023, and sent a deposit of £800, So on the day of taking my engine down I drove from the West Midlands to Dagenham in Essex. I pulled upto what looked like a house in a busy street, and was met by Kelly the engine builder, She seemed nice and we took the engine inside to her back garden where there was a shed converted into a workshop with engines everywhere and lots of old school machinery that they use to build the engines, So they take my 1600cc engine apart in front of me, to make sure the block is in good condition, they check it over and tell me the reason it had end float is that the bearings are the wrong size and the engine looks like its done less then 500miles. Everything goes well and Kelly and Ian tell me the engine should be ready for pick up first week in September, Great.

First week of September comes and no communication, I left it a few weeks as I thought they could be busy and ill give them some time, So after waiting a few weeks I got in contact with Kelly and she apologies and says that she has been driving back and fourth from North Wales as her mom has been ill and she been looking after her, OK no problem these things happen, family come first. Few weeks go by and I get in contact and again Kelly says that there waiting on parts and will be another few weeks, OK, what can I do they got my deposit and engine block ill have to wait. Anyway time goes by and I get the another 2 weeks, and then another, By the time Im told it is ready its the end of December 2023, So I waited 5 and half months for the engine to be built.

Kelly and Ian apologies for the delays when I pick the engine up late December 2023, As much as I was annoyed my engine was ready and I was excited to get it home and ready to fit it in my van, I get a list of things I have to do to fit the engine such as the burning in process then change oil, and change the plugs oil after 500 miles/100miles etc, I sign the paperwork to say I will do this and the 12 months unlimited miles warranty signed by myself and Ian who does the engine machining.

So with Christmas and New Years I put it off until February 2024 to fit the engine to my van, and with a bit of help from my mate (Scott) who is a absolute legend who gave up his nights/weekends to help me fit the engine, So we get it fitted and first start of the engine we do the burning in process, I drop the oil for new stuff and the engine is running sweet, I fit a set of Weber 40s twin carbs and I get it set up on a base tune on the rolling road and the engine and van is running spot on we keep the revs below 3.5k rpm and I drive it running the engine in using the van everyday, and to get some mileage on the van I take a family trip to Snowdonia and by the time I come back the new engine had clocked 500miles, So I drop the oil and fit new plugs, and adjust the tappets to 00.6. and give it a service ready for another 500 miles, The van run perfect for our weekend away to Snowdonia and keeping the revs below 3,5k rpm,

A few weeks later I take another family camping trip to the Cotswolds, and the van runs great again, no problems and by the time I get home the new engine has covered 800miles, so another 200miles to go and I can do another service and take it to have a proper tune of the carbs and use the rest of the rev range, So I use the van another week back/from work and its coming upto the end of May 2024, On a warm Sunday my wife turns to me and says lets find a nice pub in the countryside and go for some food/drink, So me the wife and 2x kids jump in the van and put the pub in the sat nav and head from my house to the M6 motorway which is 5mins from my house, I come down the slip road on Junction 10 0f the M6 and onto the motorway where all 4 smart lanes are open and the average speed is 40mph So we slowly enter the motorway and make a steady 40mph North of the M6.

We are doing 40mph in 4th gear no stress on engine and we been traveling 10mins at most, and in the far left lane, when I start hearing a rattling sound and loads of smoke from the back of the van and into the cab through the front vents, the kids are screaming the vans on fire and I'm shouting back its not, by now the van is rattling its tits off and im on a smart motorway with all live lanes, I look ahead a 300 yards I see a S0S cut out lane So I put hazards on and manage to pull it into the SOS lane and turn the van off, the van from rattling to pulling into the safe zone probably on for about 30 seconds. We all get out and I phone the AA and get recovered back to my house and they roll the van onto my drive.

So a few hours later I go to the van and drop the oil and I notice metal fragments in the oil, I start taking bit of the engine the shroud, carbs etc and I notice a massive hole on top of the block, so its proper gone. I contact Ian and Kelly and send them pics of the block with the damage, and Kelly phones me and asks me to bring the engine down to them so they can check why/how its broke, I agree a time/date and I arrange a van to take the engine down the weekend after,

So I pull up to Kelly/Ians house and im met with Ian that says the engine probably overheated?? I said cant be as I was only driving 10mins so it wouldn't have gotten that hot, plus I have a oil gauge with warning light/alarm of the oil gets to hot, He says you can usually smell it if its overheated, which I couldn't smell it and nether could they when the stripped the engine. So they get it on the bench and strip the engine and you can see where the camshaft had split in 3 pieces and 2 of the conrods have melted and inside was a proper mess, So it had done some serious damage, but Kelly and Ian couldn't tell me why the damage had occurred.

So Kelly makes me a cup of tea and comes back and Ian says Ive got some bad news, the damage occurred is not covered under warranty, I said why is that?? He said the problem is when you was driving on the motorway you should have turned the engine off straight away as soon as you head a noise!! I said I turned it off 30 seconds after I head the noise and I was on a busy motorway with 2 young kids in the van, so my priority was to keep us safe and get us into the S0S layby. He said well you should have just turned it off and left the it there?? So basically the warranty is not worth the paper its written on.

I said how else could I have avoided the engine breaking, I did everything you asked to run it in, and out of the blue is broke, What else could I have done to save the engine, Kelly said well its one of those things, its a learning curve?? Then to get me out the door Kelly kept saying have a word with your wife and let us know what you want to do, If you want us to build you another engine, were here for you just phone us were always here for you, just have some time to think about it and just phone us if you need anything.

So there you go, Im £2,3k out of pocket, lesson learned do your homework on engine builders, Kelly and Ian come across and nice people and proper VW enthusiasts, Think there quite know in the Beetle scene, But personally I think they had no intention off honoring there warranty's, So anyone looking on ebay and come across a listing building engine for your van under the name lovepurple03 Located in: Essex, United Kingdom remember as nice as they will appear, if your engine goes bang dont expect to get it fixed under that warranty, Personally if they said go halfs on costs to repair, id probably would have agreed, but it was full price for a new build.

Here the pics of my engine, plus another of my van broken down on M6 that day feeling sorry for herself😢😢


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Wow, that’s a bad story, thankfully you and your family made it safely to the SOS bay.

I’m no expert on engines, far from it, but I doubt very much switching it off in a live lane would’ve prevented such a catastrophic failure like that from happening.

Like you say, the warranty’s not worth the paper it’s written on, don’t know what sort of consumer rights you may be entitled to?

Hope you’re able to get your van fixed with much happier times ahead 👍
Wow, that’s a bad story, thankfully you and your family made it safely to the SOS bay.

I’m no expert on engines, far from it, but I doubt very much switching it off in a live lane would’ve prevented such a catastrophic failure like that from happening.

Like you say, the warranty’s not worth the paper it’s written on, don’t know what sort of consumer rights you may be entitled to?

Hope you’re able to get your van fixed with much happier times ahead 👍
Thanks mate, I have no trust in the air cooled engine anymore, I bought a impreza a few weeks ago and im transferring the engine, loom etc into the van. I know its a shame to put a water cooled engine in her and ruin the originality, but i want to use the van and not worry about the engine every trip.
That’s a very grimm story. Heartbreaking to read and see the photos. Really bad. Such a shame. Hope you get it sorted soon. Have you left feedback on Ebay.
From your photo's I can't say categorically what caused the failure but my thoughts are these:

If the engine overheated, why aren't the bores seized up? That is usually the first indication of overheating. They don't even look discoloured let alone scored.

The failure to me looks like the front big end, (the front being the flywheel end). this would either be caused be oil starvation or a tight bearing, (assuming they fitted new bearing shells?). However, if it were a tight bearing then I would have expected it to have failed much earlier than 800 miles.

I would think that the bearing seized, broke the con rod and took out the camshaft and case. Mind you, I have never seen a camshaft broken like that before even after a seizure. It looks very brittle so could be made from cast iron rather than forged steel. (Best Chinesium perhaps!)

From your description it sounds like you did everything correctly during the running in process. Did you have an oil pressure gauge fitted in your bus? Also, you mentioned changing the spark plugs. Was this to a different heat range than was fitted from new. I know that some engine builders run with a cooler plug for the running-in period along with a richer fuel mixture to keep the combustion temperature down.

As for the warranty, are the builders a proper registered business? If so, I would have thought that they would have to prove that the fault was yours rather than you prove it was them and not yourself. Maybe check this with the citizens advice service. If you really believe that it wasn't anything that you did or didn't do then you could always go to a small claims court.

The above is only my thoughts and not advice though.

Looking at it from the other side though. I know that there have been cases where the purchaser has bought a long block rebuild and fitted their own ancillaries and then the engine has seized due to overheating. Unless everything is in good condition and the engine is set up correctly it is very easy to cook a new build. Personally, when I have ever rebuilt an engine for someone I insist on doing the full build and final tuning when it is fitted to the vehicle. That way, if it goes wrong, then is would probably be 95% my responsibility.
That is an unfortunate story, and it would certainly appear that the engine builder could have done more to offer you some support.

Would it be worth getting an independent report from a reputable engine builder and proceed with small claims court if you have a case?

It's all a bit unpleasant but I think it's unfair that you should be out of pocket for the full cost of the engine given the nature of the failure. Was the camshaft new? If so that makes a difference in who's liable for the failure if they supplied the part. If it was your old crankshaft that caused the damage then I guess it could be penned down to bad luck, unless you can prove that it failed as a result of something they did. Perhaps someone more familiar with the process of engine building could chime in with some experience on this point.

How did you pay for it? If it was a credit card is their any avenue to get support from them?

As someone who works in retail offering a combination of product and workshop services (although not within the auto industry) if I was faced with something similar due to something we had overlooked we'd take it on the chin and sort the customer out as it's the right thing to do, being careful to put their mind at ease that they'll be looked after to maintain trust and do everything you can to minimise the inconvenience to them to maintain our reputation and good will with that customer. In this scenario potentially this results in a customer who's more complementary of your service than if nothing bad had happened as you were able to demonstrate your integrity and honesty in the way you dealt with it.

On the other side of the coin, if it was a case of genuine misfortune that an existing component within the engine had failed through no fault of the builder that couldn't be foreseen by them, then unfortunately it is just a case of bad luck that sometimes any product sometimes can and does fail during normal use.

However with my retailer hat on, I'd still be wanting to help my customer out as much as I can so I'd be thinking along the lines of rebuilding the engine with the minimum impact to the customer by only charging the trade cost for parts used and providing the build labour pro-gratis in good will. Obviously the builder would see this as sending themselves financially backwards in their time but they've taken the labour and margin from parts from the first build so it's offset, again in this circumstance it's just the right thing to do.

As you highlighted the engine build was cheaper than others had offered which is telling. Those vendors who provide a quality product and service can and should command a fair price for the work they do. Profit margin isn't a social injustice or crime, it allows reputable business to continue to offer the services they do and support their customers properly when some assistance is required. Unfortunately those who offer services as cheaply as they can by engaging in the race to the bottom find themselves backed into a corner when they have to offer some customer support which may involve providing warranty services and product, I'm not familiar with this vendor so that's more of a general point, but cheap is always cheap for a reason.

There's nothing wrong with an air-cooled VW engine per-se but I can understand your reluctance to tread the same path having been burned once, I hope there's something the engine vendor can provide to lessen the blow and in the long term you continue to enjoy your van, they are lovely things to live with.
Unless everything is in good condition and the engine is set up correctly it is very easy to cook a new build. Personally, when I have ever rebuilt an engine for someone I insist on doing the full build and final tuning when it is fitted to the vehicle. That way, if it goes wrong, then is would probably be 95% my responsibility.

We crossed post's there @Mechanoid (I had the page open for ages) and you provided just the engine builder experience I refered to someone 'chiming in' with in my response above ;)
Thanks for the replies guys, Its frustrating that ive wasted just over £2k, they haven't got a business name and as far as im aware they get most of there work from there eBay listing if you type into eBay (1776cc VW air-cooled engine) you will find there listings under name lovepurple03, I tried to see if there address come up on companies house list but nothing, I could try and go the legal route but without a business name I think id be wasting my time and id rather just move on now with the next step on my van build, I just hope I have saved someone else on here the heartbreak Ive had by not using them knowing they don't/wont honour there warranty.
They need some honest feedback on ebay. Otherwise someone less informed will be had off. 🤔
As has already been mentioned if the vendor is unsupportive then a call to trading standards has got to be worth a shot, £2300 is too much cash to lose and clock down to 'experience', particuarly if it could potentially happen to someone else. It's down to a third party to define whether they've fullfilled their legal obligation and if they're found to be at fault this can be enforced. I guess if they have no legal entity as a limited company or sole trader this may be problematic, but it's worth a go.

If that fails, how did youi pay for it?

If it was cash or bank transfer to an eBay seller with no legal trading entity trading from their back garden shed I wonder if they're declaring their full turnover...?

Just a thought.
Real difficult one this, I have full sympathy for you. Had something similar happen with my Corvair motor when I had it built some years ago. Things went south within 400 miles when a wrist pin moved taking the cylinder out and junking the crank. The engine builder said the OG con rods were within spec so were reused but subsequently were the cause of the wristpin wandering. I had to buy new pistons and rods (which were supplied already interference-fitted from the US this time). I got them to take on the build for a 2nd time and took the cost on the chin. In this instance I knew the engine builder and I was fully aware they hadn't built one of these motors before, I wasn't happy of course but chalked it down to experience. The engine has been perfect since and it trouble free in its performance for the last 7 or so years.

As said above, anyone wishing to raise their profile in the air cooled community would have offered to sort out your issue foc. In business we all factor this kind of thing into our costs should the worse happen and I am always prepared to take the cost on the chin to save my reputation. Not that I am in the VW engine building business I will add.

Weird how the link Clem posted was 10yrs ago, the guy should by now know what parts are quality and which are junk, I personally would only trust probably two people to build me a motor these days, and it's not the guys who built my Corvair btw. We live and learn.

Good luck with the Subaru conversion, apart from having to rev them they work extremely well in a bus and are relatively cheap to replace
honestly for 2300 i wouldn't expect much, they would be using used parts and cobbling it together. We bought one "rebuilt" engine once, never again, we learned to build our first 1600cc from the old bug me videos, and a collection of forum info, then i drove a buddies 2110cc and I was hooked. Since then we used the jim martin article for measuring and documenting our builds, 5 since that first 1600cc.

I have never babied an engine after the initial 20 min break in, get it jetted for the correct AFR and drive it, it needs to get the rings seated, so some WOT throttle pulls up a few hills helps.
In your case the engine probably would have failed a lot sooner if you had revved it to the stock 4500 rpm redline. In a balanced engine, revving to 6k is easily done, my first 2110cc would easily hit the rev limiter at 6500rpm in my 61 bug, that car built in 2007 is still running around town.

that said I did a subi swap on my 71 , super happy with that, EJ2.5 165hp out of a stock motor is awesome in a brick of a westy. EFI and a real heater are a plus of course.
I read the story , there will have been limitations and exclusions to the warranty I'm sure.. The speculation by mechanoid doesn't sound unreasonable.. but sizing bearings correctly and setting endfloat is about as fundamental as it gets when building an engine.. It would be interesting to see the big end on teh snapped rod. If the camshaft had snapped first that would have thrown out the valve timig and caused top end damage I'd have throught..

Ancilliary assembly is important too. Working cooling system and new, clean oil cooler is important. an old cooler can harbour bad shit man.

Saying that it looks like an occasion where at least some refund is due.

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