Volkswagen Hillclimb Beetle: Our Shed

By: Glenn Torrens

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Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle
Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle
Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle

Our shed: Hillclimb Beetle - Glenn Torrens gets caught up in the endless pursuit of horsepower

Volkswagen Hillclimb Beetle: Our Shed
Our shed: VW Hillclimb Beetle


Volkswagen Hillclimb Beetle

Think of a number. Double it. Then double it again. That's the state of play within the group of lolly-coloured VW Beetles in the NSW Hill Climb Championship. What that kiddy-riddle means is that a standard Beetle has around 35hp at the tyres, my bright yellow zonker has somewhere in the sixties, and at the sharp end of my race class (where no-one admits anything!), the Beetles of Ben, Colin, and the Heath/Christine husband/wife double-act possibly - probably - deliver 120hp to the tyres.

So I had some catching-up to do! Although fitted with big-bore pistons and an upgraded camshaft, my street-spec flat-four does the job with nothing more than standard production heads.

VW engine pro Stan Pobjoy builds them to that simple and relatively inexpensive formula to provide a no-fuss, reliable step-up in performance for street VW Beetles and Kombis. I had one of his engines in a daily driver VW for many years during the 1990s - that's the engine now in my track car.

But with growing confidence in my car's handling, I wanted more power… More grunt, more speed, more punch! As with any engine, breathing is the path to power and with no more power to be found from my street-spec engine's standard heads, I ordered some high-performance big-valve heads from the US. Within a week a big brown box had arrived at the post office. Goody!

I delivered the new heads to Stan - thanks to fellow VW racer Heath who lives nearby - so Stan could prepare them before I put aside some time to travel to his NSW north coast premises for their installation.

With the new heads installed, my yellow Beetle went onto the chassis dyno at Newcastle's G-Force Performance for a tune. Dynos are a great tuning and diagnostic device and this one soon revealed some good news hiding behind a veil of bad: lean mixture numbers (bad news!) from the exhaust probe indicated that the engine was breathing better (good news!) but the fuel system wasn't keeping up with the engine's bigger appetite for fuel.

With that fixed, we looked at the jetting of my single throat Kadron caburettors: wetter was better until higher in the rev range when the engine leaned out, highlighting another problem: I'd run out of jets!

Glenn at G-Force - a well-respected performance bloke with a scattering of 600hp V8s in his workshop - offered to drill-out some of my redundant, too-small jets to the required size.

I installed these custom-drilled fatties and the air-fuel ratio ended up as good as it gets, from idle to redline.

I gained eight horsepower on the day and a shed-load more mid-range. But the real lesson from the session was confirmation that to really make the most of my new high-performance heads, I need some bigger dual-throat Weber carburettors!

Since I first wrote these words, fellow Volkswagen hillclimb racer Ben Durie has succumbed to cancer. Ben was an enthusiastic Volkswagen racer, having competed with his distinctive red and white Beetle for more than 15 years. He was also responsible for the preparation and power of Heath and Christine's Bug. Cheers Ben, it won't be the same without you buddy.


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