VW Beetle Tuning - Our Shed

By: Glenn Torrens, Photography by: Glenn Torrens

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Glenn Torrens adds a touch of tuning technology to help his classic VW Beetle's max-speed mission


Salt-Lake VW Beetle

Australia is a big place, so it’s a long way from Newcastle NSW – where I live – to Lake Gairdner in outback South Australia where, at Australian Speed Week, velocity vultures run cars, motorbikes and trucks across the sunbaked salt surface of Australia’s most incredible and most remote motorsport venue.

So it’s a long way to go, to go slower than before…

But unfortunately that’s what’s happened to me and Salty, my loud yellow salt-lake VW Beetle. And it hasn’t happened just once, but twice. After my ‘Australia’s-fastest-Bug’ run of 124mph (nearly 200km/h) in 2013, I returned in 2014 and 2015 only to be slapped by slower speeds.

Heartbreaking! Why? That’s what I needed to figure out.

At the hill-climb and drag-race events I attend, my 1916cc flat-four air-cooled engine pulls willingly to a heady 8000rpm. But approaching the two-mile mark (the equivalent of eight quarter-miles) at Lake Gairdner, my car felt like someone had pulled the handbrake on one or two clicks at a little under 7000rpm.

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In 2014 when the problem first occurred, me ‘n’ Morley (who attended) plus my engine builder Stan blamed poor jetting due to the exhaust improvements we’d made after our success in 2013. So before Speed Week 2015, I spent some more time on my local chassis dyno (G-Force in Gateshead, near Newcastle) making sure the jetting was perfect.

But the stutter happened again. To cut a long story short, I needed to see real-time/real-world fueling feedback while the engine was spinning hard on the salt. A dyno run – as good as it is for tuning – is only around 15 seconds long. At Speed Week, I’m flat-out for two miles…

The solution to my problem (hopefully!) is a sensor installed in the exhaust. The Innovate MTX sensor I bought provides a reading of the air-fuel ratio to a gauge installed in the cabin. At Sydney Dragway, the gauge was telling me to richen the fuel (increase jet size) in my Weber carbies and at the Snowy Mountains 1000 airport sprint, held at Cooma airport in southern NSW at an altitude of nearly 1000m, the feedback was to reduce jet size; these changes at both events resulted in my little yellow VW going a little faster.

So I was confident of bigger speeds at Australian Speed Week 2016… but after again travelling 1900km to the event, a small clip on my VW’s rocker gear broke after just a few runs…

That’s racin’!

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