Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Beetle customization

The Beetle is popular with customizers throughout the world not only because it's cheap and easy to work on, but because its iconic looks can be personalized and the flat four motor is so tunable. Its very ubiquity make even subtle changes noticeable; everybody knows what a Beetle is supposed to look like.

Exterior There are many popular Beetle styles, from a "Cal Looker" to a "Rat Rod". They vary between themselves but are very similar in many ways. Also the California Look has changed during the 30+ years of its lifespan. The most typical way to customize the exterior is to change the wheels and lower the suspension of the car. The favorite wheels are period-style EMPI 5- or 8-spokes, Speedwell BRMs, or Porsche factory rims like Fuchs from classic 911. One of the original California Look modifications is to replace or remove the bumpers and trim, either to give a cleaner look or to reduce the curb weight; if bumpers are removed, pushbars are common. The stock bumpers are usually chromed or polished, sometimes painted or powdercoated. There are many clubs dedicated to "Cal Look" including the DKP ("Der Kleiner Panzers", or in english, "The little Tanks") in the USA which was one of the first clubs dedicated to true "Cal Look" cars. Today, the DKP still exists and the club is on their 3rd generation. There are also currently many big "Cal Look" VW clubs based in Europe including the DAS (Das Autobahn Scrapers) in Belgium, the DFL (Der Fieser Luftkühlers) in Germany and the JG54 Grünherz (Greenhearts) in the UK.

For 'Resto Cal' look, a roof rack and similar accessories can be added. There are many other aftermarket parts that can be added to the Beetle, including wing mirrors, chrome wipers, stone guards, mud flaps and badges. Rear light and front indicator lenses can also be changed. This is as far as a "Cal Look" or "Resto Cal" car will go.

For a more custom look, smoothing and shaving the body (removing trim and other parts) is done, including doorhandles, badges and driprails, and replacing taillights and front indicators with smaller, simpler units. Frenching (tunneling) headlights, frequent in non-VW customs and rods, is not usual, but dramatic lowering (in low rider fashion) is, and unusual hood and trunk hinging is commonplace.

Interior Many Beetle owners try to keep their Beetle interior stock. Others will fit a sound system, which usually consists of a head unit and possibly some speakers and a subwoofer (usually mounted in the front of the car). Aftermarket steering wheels can be added along with auxiliary gauges. For a true race look, the interior can be stripped and a full roll cage installed, along with bucket seats and race harnesses.

Power The Type 1 is astonishingly flexible in this area. Because most parts of the flat-four engine other than the crankcase are bolted on, they are easily exchanged with larger or more high-performance items. The standard VW engine has been modified from 1600 cc (the largest factory-produced Type 1 engine) to configurations well over 2300cc using larger piston/cylinder kits and other performance-enhancing parts. A variety of other powerplants, including the VW Type 4 (also used in the 914) 2-liter flat four, Chevy Corvair and Porsche 911 flat sixes have been used. Even the turbocharged flat 4 from Subaru has been used. Turbocharged Type 1 flat fours have appeared. These variants tend to be mated to the stronger Type 2 (Bus, Combi) transmission. Dual carb setups are very common on Beetles (especially the 1600 cc dual port engine). Also a wide range of exhaust systems are available. "Stingers" are popular in nearly any type of custom Beetle.

KitCars The VW Type 1 chassis, being easily separated from its original body without removal of engine, transmission, or suspension, has provided the basis for countless custom re-bodyings, usually of fiberglass and usually replicating other, less humble vehicles. Mercedes, MG and Porsche replicas are among the popular choices. These "kit cars", although derided by many for their lack of authenticity, provide to their owners a much cheaper, often more-reliable means of enjoying a dream vehicle.

No comments: