BugRod: The Beetle That Got here Again

This can be a story of historical past, desires and concepts, dereliction, coincidence and resurrection. This can be a story of a ’66 Volkswagen Beetle that resurfaced after greater than 50 years residing out a lifetime of its personal. The story begins at our small, impartial auto restore store in Alberta, Canada.

Bowest Motors has a 65-year legacy within the Bowness neighborhood. Over that point, Bowest has been many issues moreover a neighbourhood restore store, together with being a VW dealership within the Nineteen Sixties. Immediately, I personal Bowest Motors, together with its sister firm, Rusty Speedwerks, which builds one-off patina customs. It’s by way of RSW that the ‘BugRod’ got here to life.


Again in November 2020, I acquired a name from my buddy Dominique. “Les, try this Beetle on the market… take a look at the door!” There may be was, plain to see – the hand-painted signage of ‘Bowest Volkswagen’. This was an unique courtesy automotive from the store.

The subsequent day, I used to be on my strategy to the agricultural farming neighborhood of Vulcan to select up the derelict VW from its long-time resting place in a farmer’s area. I may have purchased any variety of different Beetles in higher situation for lower than what I paid for this one, however I had mistakenly informed the farmer I used to be from Bowest Motors and from that second there was no additional negotiation on the worth. The Volkswagen was loaded onto our automotive trailer with a tractor, and I introduced it again to city not too certain what I used to be going to do with it. I simply needed to have it.


The Beetle was in very poor form. The highest half had some fairly good patina, however the flooring had been rusted by way of and there was no engine or transmission. There was, nevertheless, a Chevy S10 axle out again and a seized 305ci V8 with a gap within the block and a 3-speed GM transmission sitting loosely within the frunk. The unique firewall had been minimize out, the passenger seat was pushed again to across the B-pillar, and there was a sketchy-looking firewall/transmission tunnel protruding into the cabin the place you had been initially supposed to take a seat. Remarkably, whoever had deliberate on constructing this imply machine had – fortunately – determined to maintain the unique ‘Bowest Motors’ logos painted on the motive force’s door, fender, and rear engine cowl.


As issues often go within the customized automotive world, as soon as the phrase’s out that you simply’ve acquired a brand new challenge on the go, fascinating alternatives start presenting themselves. Just a few months later, a pleasant chassis which had already been modified with a lowered beam and rear axle, four-wheel disc brakes and a transmission, got here up on the market. Being most enthusiastic about classic Japanese automobiles (not air-cooled VWs), your entire Rusty Speedwerks crew started dreaming about what kind of Japanese liquid-cooled engine would possibly match out the again. The pure selection, after all, is a Subaru energy plant, however there have been already a lot of similarly-swapped Beetles on the town.


For a short while, we additionally thought of conserving the entrance swap structure and throwing in an LS motor. The final LS swap we did (Fargo Farm Truck) turned out to be very enjoyable to drive and the staff already had the expertise of constructing a turbo LS challenge. Nonetheless, the Japanese name was robust.


The 1NZ-FE is a modest little 1.5L, 105hp four-cylinder workhorse present in a number of small automobiles in Toyota’s lineup, most notably in North America, the Yaris. The Yaris shouldn’t be considered as a sporty or enjoyable automotive, however the 1NZ is broadly used internationally, and in lots of different nations (Jamaica, Thailand, South Africa) individuals swap these motors into the whole lot. In some circumstances, they get first rate energy with compelled induction. TRD, HKS and Belief/GReddy had turbo kits for this motor, and Blitz provided a supercharger.

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Contemplating the manufacturing unit air-cooled motor that got here within the Beetle in 1966 had 50hp (a whopping 25% improve from the 12 months earlier than), the staff could be making twice the horsepower of inventory with out even modifying the 1NZ. On prime of that, the Toyota motor is definitely about 50lbs lighter than the unique VW motor. Whereas we will’t make certain, this might very effectively be the primary 1NZ-FE-swapped Beetle.


A fast name to the oldsters at Kennedy Engineering confirmed that they might ship out an adapter plate and flywheel to mate the Toyota motor to the VW transmission. Now there was a plan – the physique, a chassis, and an influence plant. Getting all of it to work collectively was the problem of the subsequent few months.

Taking a motor initially designed for a FWD utility and placing it backwards, inline on the rear of the automotive, meant customized manifolds could be wanted. Desirous about stinger pipes on Californian sizzling rod Beetle and the symmetry of the inline-four, the staff determined that matching log-style consumption and exhaust manifolds sticking straight out the again could be the proper match. The 90-degree turns within the manifolds aren’t probably the most environment friendly design, however the impact works for this automotive. Completed off with a SuperTrapp muffler and an outsized Okay&N filter, we had been good to go.


As a result of the BugRod wasn’t deliberate as a high-horsepower construct, the staff elected to retain the manufacturing unit Toyota engine administration system. In hindsight although, it could have been simpler to put in a Haltech, as tracing all of the wires and eradicating something pointless turned out to be a large job.


Rusty Speedwerks is understood for its patina restomod builds with a concentrate on rat rod and classic Japanese builds – not a lot conventional Beetles. So we determined to offer the automotive somewhat rat rod, Japanese and traditional muscle automotive therapy with some fender-less Californian ‘Volksrod’ model for good measure. With its vast steelies wrapped in traditional white-letter Cooper Cobra tyres, the BugRod is true at house at automotive meetups subsequent to traditional Camaros and Chevelles.


The staff is proud of the best way the automotive turned out, though we’ve positively managed to upset just a few Volkswagen purists. We’re the one one at VW meets who’ve blended up the genres a lot that traditionalists simply don’t perceive what’s happening with the automotive. It’s enjoyable listening to of us try to work out what engine it’s – we’ve heard it all. It’s not the quickest Bug on the town, however it’s enjoyable to drive and turns heads wherever it goes.


Now for the ultimate chapter; the BugRod is being despatched again out into the world for brand new adventures. Perhaps it’ll come again to the store in one other 50 years with extra tales carved into its patina.

Les Tuck
Instagram: rustyspeedwerks
Web site: rswcustoms.com

Images by Max Krewiak
Web site: maxkrewiak.com