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Tips on How to Build a V8 Beetle Bug VW
How to Build a V8 Beetle
In my endeavour to come up with a sleeper streetcar with a stroker motor, I have decided to build a v8 front-engined Beetle. The VW Beetle has always been a potent 10- and 11-second car at the Santa Pod raceway numerous drag strip racing meets throughout the world. Some have even managed to crack the nine-second quarter mile. When you compare that to the times associated with the super cars on the showroom floor today, your jaw drops. How can a Beetle beat a Porsche or a Corvette down to a quarter mile? The answer is simple.
The Beetle must have a dirty, blown v8 or turbo, air-cooled VW engine. How to wedge one of those into a Beetle? This is how it's done.
This article will show you existing builds going on at present and places where you can find more information. As I commence my own build, I will try to update this article with as much information as possible to help you along. Please feel free to leave your comments at the end.
A V8 Beetle
The Tools You May Need
Here are the kind of tools that one may expect to use during the build. Some you can easily hire from a tool hire company.
- 130 amp mig welder
- Welding mask
- Welding gloves
- Welding hammer and brush
- Spanner set
- Ratchet set and extensions
- Power bar
- Torque wrench
- Fiberglass matting, resin, and hardener
- Body filler and sandpaper
- Decent hand cleaner
- Allen key set - ratchet type
- Screwdriver Set
- Spline key set - ratchet type
- Various types of sheet metal (round bar and square bar) for chassis and bodywork
- Continuity tester for electronics
- Measuring tape, set square, vernia gauge
- Spare bolts and nuts - M10 and M12
- Cutting discs and sanding discs for grinder
- Small angle grinder
- Power tools definitely help, as well as air tools if you can
- Bench mounted vice
- Bench mounted grinder and brush
- Trolley Jack - one ton
- Engine Jack/Lift - three ton
- Jack Stands- 4 to 6 - (bricks also work)
- Spray gun and compressor
- Mechanics bed for under-body work
- Piston holder clamp - changing oil rings
- Oil tray
- Plus anything that you may need to build a home workshop, such as work benches
The Plan for Building a V8 Beetle
You will need to have a basic plan in your mind, or better still on paper, to help give you some direction to build your V8 beetle. This is some of the information I have managed to compile so far.
- I have decided that I want to build a front-engined Beetle instead of the rear-engined Beetle modification, as I want the appearance to remain standard with the shell so that it can be street-legal and be used as a cruiser rather than a drag strip car. For road-worthy purposes, I thought this would be a better way to go, though it is probably going to be much more work. The beautiful red Beetle with the front engine pictured above is what I am aiming for.
The Donor Car for a Shell
- The shell will be a Beetle, we know this much. As it turns out though, the Super Beetle with the curved windscreen actually came standard with ball joint assembly on the front suspension, which may save me time and money down the line. It appears that the wheelbase is also slightly longer, which might also gave us those extra few inches for the big V8 we intend to sandwich into the engine bay.
- I have decided to source a 1973 and upwards Super Beetle to use for the shell, even though we are going to trim away much of the interior sheet metal. The king and link-pin suspension of the older Beetles is not a problem, if you already have one, as we are going to source a suitable chassis anyway which has mounting for numerous suspension components.
An Online Beetle Parts Resource
- Beetle And Bug Parts and Accessories Store - New and Old Beetle Parts and Accessories
With over 20,000 VW Beetle parts and accessories, you are bound to find something here you need for the build, including brightwork to finish off your Beetle
Ok, now some of us are not that mechanically inclined or don't have access to the correct jigs and tools in order to build our own chassis. So we have two options here:
Option 1: Use the drawing above to come up with a suitable chassis platform that we can alter and modify with components and tabs to as we go along. The benefits are being able to custom fabricate according to the components and engine/drivetrain you have chosen. The disadvantages are doing all the research and measuring to create the correct configuration and measurements for the existing shell and also your chosen components.
Option 2: Buy a used chassis for a van/truck or car that comes standard with a v8 engine/drivetrain and suspension components. We must not worry to much about it fitting correctly to the shell of our donor beetle as we are going to have to modify the chassis length anyway. Remember, the Beetle was not built to have a v8 engine.
There are also a set of chassis plans available from Rorty designs, but I have decided to build a front-engined v8 and not a rear-engined v8. You can build what ever you like.That's why they call it custom.
The rear engine bay for the Beetle is where I have decided to put the fuel tank and the radiator with fan and fan housing.
Choosing the Engine and Drivetrain
My choice was pretty simple because I found that the manufacturer with multiple v8 designs and adequate availability of spares was the trusty old Ford v8. Now, of course there are v6 and straight six alternatives, but I want a v8. You may find that close to you are BMW, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Jeep, and even a few other makes of vehicle that can be used due to their popularity. The Ford chassis was the most logical for me, due to the number of trucks and SUV's in the boneyards and scrap yards where I live. I made quite a few phone calls, but eventually found a guy who had the chassis, suspension, and wheels for a reasonable price.
The engine and gearbox were a little more complex, as I wanted to make sure that there weren't any cracks in the head or block, so decided to source an engine and gearbox from a used engine and spares company. It came with an engine mounting, which can easily be modified if not for the same chassis.
I found this drawing showing a Chevy S10 chassis, the layout of the components, and most importantly a strengthener in the form of a 10 point roll cage. For cosmetic reasons, I won't be using a 10 point roll cage. I decided to build support into the shell so that it can be removed in one piece if necessary.
Complete V8 Beetles
Please feel free to comment and leave your thoughts
I know that VW purists will be upset, but I still believe that the Cal Look culture has kept the vintage Beetle alive and well for over 50 years. I would love to hear if anyone is planning any other project builds form home, even if it's a 29 Ford or 41 Willys Coupe, or even a track T kit car.