Event>>socal Bug-in 34 Pt.1

 Last Friday we kicked off our VW (and friends) month and we lucked out because this weekend one of the most important VW events in the world was held – the Southern California Bug-In 34. Anyone with a passing knowledge of air-cooled VW's knows that while the cars may have been born in Germany, they were perfected in Southern California. Before anyone had even heard of a Honda Civic, early "import tuners" were building Volkswagens that could spank V8's in the quarter mile and look badass while doing it. In the early days of the SoCal VW scene, there was no event bigger than the "Bug-Ins", which were held at the historic Orange County International Raceway.

From 1968 to 1983, 31 Bug-In events were held at OCIR, but they ended in when the dragstrip was closed and taken over by suburban sprawl. To get an idea of the international following of that the Bug-In has, last year I bought a Japanese book dedicated to the history event. They even hold Bug-Ins in Europe! Although the original Bug-Ins ended before I was born, my dad would always tell stories of him and his friends going to the events, racing their cars and competing in the contest where people would face off to see who could remove and reinstall a VW engine faster.

In 2005, the Bug-In finally returned to Southern California – this time at dragstrip at Autoclub Speedway in Fontana.   Yesterday, people from all over the world descended on Autoclub Speedway for Bug-In 34 and we figured this event would make a fantastic addition to our VW features this month.

There's really couldn't be a better place to take in the roots of VW tuning culture…

The term "Cal-Look" is thrown around quite a bit, but this red car is a textbook example of the traditional Cal-Look Bug. For starters we have a lowered (but not slammed) stance, single color paintjob, period-correct BRM wheels, and removed bumpers replaced with pushbars. Traditional Cal-Look cars lack roof racks and other body accessories and always back up their clean looks with impressive ET's in the quarter-mile.

The event may be called "Bug-In", but all types of VW's are welcomed, including Transporters, Ghias, and Type III's like this Squareback that's been converted into a panel wagon.

Like most VW events, the swap meet is a very popular part of Bug-In. You'll find everything from rusty original parts, new resto parts, and of course project cars.

A lot of VW aftermarket companies were also showing high-end racing parts, including this nearly complete drag chassis. If you've ever watched a fast VW leave the line, then you'll know why those heavy duty wheelie bars are there.

Speaking of the quarter-mile, the drags were by far the most popular part of the event. The staging lanes were packed with all sorts of VW's and VW-powered vehicles ranging from street cars like these…

…to full competition drag cars like this Notchback.

Like a lot of the really fast cars that were taking to the track, the Notch was sporting big turbo power. In this case it was literally ripping out of the decklid.

A few early Porsches could be found spread amongst the VW's, including this gorgeous 356 was taking part in the drag race action. You can say what you want, but I love the "sunken battleship" wheel fitment of the 356.

There were some nice buses around, but not quite as many as I was expecting. In a lot of cases the Type II's can be found at their own separate events.

These traditional Cal-Lookers belong to members of the Orange County-based Der Kleiner Panzers, which is probably the most well-known aircooled VW club in the world.

DKP has been around since the mid 1960's and is now in it's third generation. To join DKP, one's car must adhere to traditional Cal-Look standards and have the go to live up to the DKP name.

On the opposite side of the spectrum from the traditional Cal-Lookers are Volksrods like this car. There were a handful of these cars at the Bug-In. I'll have a bit more on them later.

How about a VW Thing with the Cal-Look touch? Very cool.

The slammed, rusted, and accessorized look is the latest addition to the long line of VW styling trends. Some of the race junkies and resto-heads may scoff at this style, but you can't deny the appeal. I'm guessing this kind of car would be the most popular among the Speedhunters readership? I wonder what kind of reaction a car like this would get at one of the original Bug-In events in the '70s?

This Karmann Ghia looked absolutely stunning dropped low on a set of polished Porsche Alloys. It's hard to resist the urge to pick up an aircooled VW after seeing cars like this…

We always talk about the "low and wide" on Speedhunters, but what about the "low and narrow"? It's quote common for vintage VW owners to narrow their car's front beams for maximum lowness. I think I'll call this the "anti-flush".

More from Bug-In 34 soon.

-Mike Garrett

Speedhunters VW Audi Group Features



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Low is always good, no matter the offset :)

In this case, the "offset is everything" philosophy still applies, only it's positive offset ;)

I dig that first generation 356, that is more than awesome!


Loving the Volksrods, and looking forward to the coverage.


This was a really good show, My dad used to run the car show for the original Bug-Ins back in the 70's, and being at the Bug-In now really feels special; it's a cornerstone of the Cal-Look/VW drag racing scene.


I love aircooled vws, the only problem I have though, with all early vw's is the play on nazi era germany


Mike, great coverage, really makes me miss all old Vw's.


Somebody needs to build a drift bug!


whats the second car on the rack in the picture with all the rusted bits?


i will always have a special place in my heart for Air cooled VW's. this is how i learned to work on cars .

im suprised at the price on some of the project condition cars out there . they used to be cheap.


The sunken battleship looks is great on vintage cars when cut fenders or flares are not present, especially on those gorgeous Karmann Ghias!


Love that last pic and that silber Ghia. I've always loved Volksrods and look forward to more coverage! Yay, VW month is here!!! I'll be at the East coast's equivalent, the BugOut in Virginia at the end of this month.


more type 3 love!


@Josh, that is a Kharmann Ghia shell, pick it up fast because are going to fetch a lot of money in the future.


Makes me wish I had a Beetle, ahahahaha....

I really liked the "SoCal" look of the Beetles more then others but I really don't like the pushbars, would looked better if it was shaved and smoothed.


You guys should go on aircooled VW in Brazil(maybe only the history, as modified would be hard to found)... In the 70 like 80% of Brazil cars in the road were Fuscas(as they call the "Sedan" there, and it is an official name!). They still produce the Bus, or Kombi(but like 2 or 3 years back, they changed the engine for a 1.4 4cylinder, due to an ambiental regulation).


Nice coverage Mike! I missed my 69 Cal Look Squareback I had in high school. Seeing these photos makes me want to go and find another one!


I def dig the rusted slammed look on the bugs! I hate when someone creates that look though! My brother acquired a bug a little while back, it had been sitting deserted in a basement for 40 years! Lets say that it has some GREAT patina. He did a lot of cleaning to get 40 years worth of dirt and grime off the exterior and interior, dropped a new 1200 in it, converted it to 12v, replaced some brake lines and fuel lines. Then he lowered it, and drives it on a regular basis! Its such a beautiful natural car!