Our Shed: Torrens' Volkswagen Beetle

By: Glenn Torrens, Unique Cars magazine

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1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
1968 Volkswagen Beetle 1968 Volkswagen Beetle

Beetle nut Glenn Torrens breaks-up with his missus

Have you noticed how reality TV show hosts speak of contestants’ wonderful ‘journeys’?

Well, as you would’ve read elsewhere, my decade-long journey with my little yellow VW Beetle hill-climb car came to an end in September.

The journey began in 2006. After owning a quick-ish modified California-look daily driver ’56 Beetle, I’d wanted to build a fun VW Beetle track car but working hard, saving for a house deposit and relationships and an HSV Senator and responsibility and building Street Machine magazine project cars and a whole stack of other things had always seemed to take priority. Or, been excuses…

All that changed the day racing driver Peter Brock died.

Brocky had a few good mottos for life and one of them was ‘Follow Your Dreams’ so in the weeks and months after his death I began to realise how important it was to follow some of mine.

I began my racer with a $300 1968 VW Beetle skeleton and a pile of spare parts collected from two decades of playing with VWs.

I wanted to build the car on a minimal budget so bought most of the bits I needed from eBay and For Sale ads on various on-line forums.

I treasure the memories of chasing parts and screwing things together in my backyard shed.

My best/luckiest/happiest score was the engine: I bought an engine from the floor of a garage for $100, hoping it would provide me with some good spare parts that I could send to my engine builder Stan to use as the basis for a bigger-than-standard 1916cc engine: Imagine my air-punching elation when I found my $100 engine was in fact already re-built to 1916cc… that saved me a lot of money!

The bargain-buy engine (I did have to spend another $1000 on fixing the cylinder heads and buying a set of performance twin carburettors) was bolted to a $150 gearbox and some rebuilt and regreased drive shafts.

I modified the VW’s suspension with some heavier torsion bars (the VW’s springs) plastic bushes and second-hand sway-bars.

My mate Nathan sold me a six-point bolt-in roll cage. I didn’t skimp on the brakes, fitting all-new everything, including the addition of rear disc brakes.

A set of old alloy wheels, a fixed-back race seat adapted to the VW seat runner and some disgracefully rusty bumpers and panels completed my wrecker-spec racer.

The Beetle was ready for action for about $5000!

Its first year as a $5K car was awesome fun. Later, fellow VW nut Johnny 2-pak suggested we spend a weekend or two painting it. I chose a punchy bright yellow.

Feeling inspired from a year of weekend hill-climbs and more knowledgeable about the VW’s dynamics, I built a fresh chassis and suspension and swapped the yellow body onto it. Soon after that, I had a proper welded six-point protection cage installed.

Then came a close-ratio gearbox, a fresh big-buck, big-rev engine, then a big-buck limited-slip diff… And on it goes!

From a $300 start, my track VW eventually soaked-up close to one hundred times that value… but what fun!

I collected a shelf full of trophies, too, including a couple of 3rds and 2nds in the NSW and Australian Hill Climb Championship for my under 2-litre class.

But I have ambitions of building another Beetle, so decided it was time to say good-bye to this one to free-up some space and some cash.

Cheerio, wrecker racer! What fun you were… what a journey!

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