The Porsche 911 and the Volkswagen Beetle are two cars that will often be brought up in the same sentence. For starters, both models can be considered among the most iconic in the history of the automobile, but they actually share a lot more than that.
More importantly, the 911’s predecessor – the Porsche 356 – evolved from the basic air-cooled Volkswagen Type 1, and while Porsche and VW’s engineering has diverged as the years have gone on, the ties have always be there.
Volkswagen owners have, for decades, added Porsche parts to the their cars, hoping to catch some of the performance and style that have made Stuttgart’s vehicles so legendary. With the introduction of the new front-wheel drive Beetle in the 1990s, the car left behind its mechanical ties with Porsche, but to certain eyes its simplistic rounded profile still brought to mind a taller, more utilitarian version of the 911.
The orange machine you see here might just be one of the most interesting (and controversial) VW/Porsche mash-ups yet. Meet the Tanner Foust Edition RWB Beetle Turbo R.
Given the fact that Tanner Foust can currently be found racing heavily modified Volkswagens in rallycross, and will soon be doing the same in few upcoming rounds of Formula Drift competition, it was only natural that he’d use a Volkswagen as the basis for this build for last year’s SEMA Show.
Building a car that can stand out among the excess at SEMA is not an easy thing, and when it came time to style this 2014 Beetle Turbo, Tanner and company ended up looking toward a well known Porsche specialist in Japan called RAUH-Welt Begriff. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?
RWB is known for working with Porsches, so you might be wondering how boss man Akira Nakai reacted to the idea of putting his name and signature styling on a Beetle?
Well, it turns out he was quite open to the idea. He digs the Beetle’s iconic, Porsche-esque styling and thought the car would be a good fit for his legendary wide body look.
With a tight schedule leading up to November’s SEMA Show, it wouldn’t be possible to have the Beetle built inside Nakai’s shop in Japan, so the team did the next best thing.
The bodywork was completed at LTMW in Southern California, with Nakai-san handling the design with some assistance from our friend and talented automotive artist Jon Sibal.Capturing The Look
One the keys to RWB’s Porsches are the way they fully retain the 911’s classic looks, but with a large degree of aggression added from the wide fenders, suspension and wheels. The same mindset was used when creating the Beetle.
The one-off kit adds eight inches of width to the Beetle’s profile, but rather than the raw, exposed-rivet look that many RWB cars have used, this design has a more seamless appearance. It almost looks like something that could be factory.
Aside from the essential widened fenders, the car is also running RWB side skirts, a front spoiler that looks like it came right off of Nakai’s 930, and sets of canards on both the front and rear fenders.
When it came time to choose a color for the car, it was determined that the Beetle should be covered in a hue that was very reminiscent of Porsche. In that sense, it’s hard to argue with choice of 997.1 GT3 RS orange with black accents.
A key part of capturing the RWB look would be the suspension, and in this department KW was called upon for a set of custom V3 coilovers originally designed for a Mk6 Golf GTI. The resulting stance is low and aggressive, just as an RWB car should be.
Another major piece of the equation was the car’s wheel and tire setup. Not only did the rims and rubber need to fill up the Beetle’s massively widened fenders, they had to convey the aggressive RWB style too.
This is where Motegi Racing jumped on board the project, custom-building a set of five-spoke Tracklite wheels measuring 18×10-inch in the front, and a ridiculous 18×13-inch in the rear. The tires are Pirelli P ZEROs sized 275/35R18 and 295/35R18 in the front and rear respectively.Different Car, Same Spirit?
Because this project was undertaken as more of a ‘what if?’ styling exercise rather than a car that was designed to race, the 2.0 TSI motor beneath the Beetle’s hood has been left bone stock.
That said though, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if this styling was mixed with some of the race components used on the AWD rallycross-spec Beetle that Tanner drives. Maybe someday we’ll see an even more radical RWB Beetle?
Like the engine, the interior has been kept almost completely stock too, with the only significant change being the seats.
Both the driver and passenger seats have been replaced with a pair of leather-finished Recaro Sportster CS reclinable buckets. They might not fool you into thinking you’re sitting in a GT3 RS, but they do look quite nice in there.
While a front-engined, front-wheel drive Volkswagen Beetle will never be a Porsche 911, I have to say that Tanner, Nakai-san, Jon Sibal and LTMW have done a very convincing a job applying what’s become an iconic look to a very different type of car.
The question is then, how do you feel about an RWB Beetle? Should Nakai stay Porsche only? Or do you like the idea of him branching out to work on different cars? Is this doing justice or injustice to the RWB name? If not this, what other types of cars would you like to see RWB work on?
Let’s hear it.
Photos by Larry Chen