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 secondhand 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 wreckerspec 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!