VW Beetle racing might conjure up a specific image in your mind; a white car with a blue and red stripes that drives itself, survives after falling off a ship and can split itself in half should the need arise… This is no Disney story by any means, but it is a tale of a Beetle that is coming back from the brink of extinction and it is destined for the racetrack once more.
VW Heritage are a classic VW parts specialist based in Shoreham-by-Sea, just a few miles along the coast from Brighton, and they own the vehicle in question. It began life as a blue 1974 1300cc Beetle; and after being ‘rescued’ once by Volksworld Magazine who put it together to compete in the now defunct Beetle Challenge race series, it sat around in the VW Heritage car park with little purpose awaiting recommissioning.
The race car was originally assembled by a group of VW enthusiasts, including Andy Kelly, a ‘car body and paint’ tutor at North Herts College in Stevenage. In fact, at the time of its creation, a second car was built with very similar likeness, which Andy raced, and still owns today, albeit in far better condition. Previously powered by a 1641cc air cooled engine (approx. 70bhp) the Beetle was no super car, but was certainly set up well enough to raise a smile; and scare passengers when it braked late and cornered with purpose and vigour.
The plan for VW Heritage is to get the car back on track so that staff and friends are able to enjoy it once more, although this time, there will be more power on tap and a few extra finishing touches to boot. Marketing Manager Andy Gregory, explains: “VW Heritage is run by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts and we like nothing more than messing around in Volkswagens! When the opportunity arose for us to acquire the race car we jumped at it, with a view to building it up as a staff project and a toy for us to enjoy at the weekends. We hope 2017 will see it back in one piece and tearing up the tarmac once more”.
Whilst building the Beetle up at VW Heritage HQ was the intention, Andy Kelly offered to come on-board with the
recommissioning work, and took the body back to the North Herts college workshop for his students to use as a project to hone their skills on.
Stripped down, it became apparent that the shell would be needing a little more love and skill than most of Andy’s
apprentices could manage; undeterred, the guru took to the tools himself, and got things back to a manageable state making use of his spare time between lessons.
Unlike most Beetles, this one has had the chassis and shell tied together using a roll cage, and whilst it would have been most desirable to split the ‘pan and body, the lack of time and manpower available made the choice to keep it complete the only sensible one.
Andy started by straightening things out. At some point, the rear corner had received a shove, so with a genuine VW wing as a guide, the panel was massaged back into shape. The front quarter panels both needed replacement, as did the spare wheel well (at the front) and the valance too.
As with a lot of vehicle restoration, removing one panel reveals something else you wish you hadn’t seen, and
we’re pleased to report that this car was no different in that department. While this could be considered a pain in the backside for most, it provided the students with real life metal work and fabrication projects to apply their skills to.
The bonnet was going to be a swapped out for an earlier spec (pre ‘67) ‘long nose’ version to match the sloping
headlight wings, but as this was a reproduction panel, it needed some caressing to fit right. The team chose to line up the quarter panels using the old bonnet, as it was a genuine item and fitted correctly. The pattern bonnet could then be modified slightly to get the right shut lines and fitment.
We’ll catch up with VW Heritage next time for the paint stage and mechanical overhaul, before the 1776cc power plant can be slotted in, and the wheels can turn once more under its own steam.
Phone: 01273 444 000