VW Super Beetle Build - Our Shed

By: Glenn Torrens

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After selling his old VW Beetle racer, Glenn Torrens gets stuck into building a better ballistic bug

Regular readers might recall that recently I sold my bright yellow VW Beetle track car. Built in the backyard around 12 years ago, over the following decade I happily raced it in hill climbs, along the way developing and upgrading it to be quite successful, with a couple of thirds and seconds (but never a first, dammit!) in the under 2-litre class in the NSW and Australian Hill Climb championships.

vw-beetle-racer-1.jpgThis is my 200km/h salt-lake car, not my old hill-climb car… but with the rounded front windscreen. My new hill-climb car will be this car’s twin

I happily towed my Bug to other events, too, such as the terrific Leyburn Sprints in Qld and Geelong Sprints in Vic. I was a starter in the first-ever Twilight Tarmac Rallysprint Championship at Sydney Dragway and just for fun, attended a couple of Snowy Mountains 1000 airport sprints. I also shocked plenty of Falco-dore drivers down the quarter-mile on Wednesday ‘test and tune’ nights, also at Sydney Dragway. And sometimes I even drove it to the pub! My budget-built Bug was a hell of a lot of fun!

vw-beetle-build-7.jpg1970s Beetles have a horrible habit of rusting adjacent to the back window. An old engine lid provides perfect patch panels

So why sell a well-sorted and successful weekend racer? Put simply, the car was as good as it ever could be, and I wanted to step-up to the better performance (I hope!) of a later-model VW Super Beetle.

vw-beetle-build-6.jpgAnother known Bug rust patch is above the doors. I cut a section from another shell to fix this

Debuted in 1971, the Super Beetle has a totally different front suspension and steering design to previous Bugs. The older cars have a spindly torsion-bar trailing arm front suspension that allows considerable flex during hard cornering… this upsets the tyre contact patch and hence the car’s ultimate grip. The Super Beetle has a coil strut type front suspension that – among other things – keeps the tyre better pressed against the road for higher cornering grip.

vw-beetle-build-5.jpgYep – more rust! The later model Super Beetles suffer rust behind the dashboard… now fixed! Thumbs-up!

The Super I bought is a neglected old road car but once rebuilt, it will be a good looking and fast weekend fun machine. I’m keen to make my new car a little more road-able than the old one so I may install a four-point protection cage (or a six-point with detachable front members) rather than the awkward welded-in six-point monkey bars of the previous racer.

vw-beetle-build-8.jpgWith most of the rust patched, I began the onerous task of paint-stripping the rolling shell

I retained my 8000rpm twin-Weber 1916cc engine and modified close-ratio gearbox from the old car and, as before, my new racer will be painted a punchy yellow.

vw-beetle-build-3.jpgThe new car’s strut type front suspension will provide good handling. Those wheel-well patches tell of another Beetle rust area

So far, my only work has been to strip the car naked, think about a few things and patch some rust but I hope to spend some time working on it during the first half of 2019. I would love to have my new racer ready for the 2019 Australian Hill Climb Championships at the iconic and challenging Mount Panorama… Stay tuned!

vw-beetle-build-1.jpgI plan to use these classic Globe Bathurst wheels. I mocked-up on another Bug to determine wheel offsets and steering geometry


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