Volkswagen has traditionally been one of the most loved brands.
Car enthusiasts love modifying them, hippies love living in them, and little kids love spotting the older and sometimes cartoonish looking cars. Because of their following, there are a great number of interesting takes on the Beetle in particular, but this proves it hard to stand out in this particular niche of car culture. It is arguably even more difficult to stand out at SEMA, where literally every car attending is either someone’s masterpiece or an all-out attention grab.
Rob Freeman’s Berlin Buick managed to distinguish itself among the best of the best at the show. He explains that the VW is the American version of the Buick in Germany; in other words, the Buick is to Germany as the VW is to the US, hence the name of this Bug at hand.
However the Berlin Buick is probably not what most people think of when VW’s are mentioned.
This little car is unique.
For starters, the space at CleanTools Inc., where Rob Freeman’s car sat was certainly one of the most atypical. They boasted an indoor picnic area carpeted with live grass, dotted with plaid table cloths, BBQs and baskets, all centered around the stunning ‘Ginger Beer’ and ‘Tonic Brown’ painted Beetle.
I never thought I’d need to worry about shadows from a tree at SEMA, but here we are. The space was intimate and welcoming, and it didn’t take long for us to find Rob being chatted up by one (or more accurately, many) of the Beetle’s fans.
Rob explained that he was into modding cars before he even had one. He grew up in the Hot Wheels era, where he and his buddies would scheme their future car plans with their scale models.
His Dad was always into big blocks, nitrous, and side pipes, which clearly influenced the build at hand. Rob personally always had a leaning towards Bugs although he wasn’t too fond of their (lack of) speed. So, he set out to do something about it.
The team at Brown’s Metal Mods, who chopped the car’s top, ended up taking on the precarious task of mid-engine V8-swapping the car, using an all-aluminum 1961 Buick 215 for the task.
The car’s name is starting to make more sense, isn’t it?
Rob didn’t want to stretch the car to make the swap fit, which made the team’s job even more of a challenge. However, their endeavors in making the small – by American standards anyway – V8 look right at home in the Bug were successful to say the least.
Of course, you can’t put V8 power in any car without the wheels and rubber to match.The Devil’s In The Details
From a distance, the car is the perfect amount of eye catching. At first glance, you might only notice the lower stance of the car, its polished chrome detailing, or the 4.5-inch roof chop. It’s rewarding to give a once over as you walk past, but even more so when you stop to take in the details.
With a closer look, you’ll find that the Buick theme continues beyond the V8. Bejewelled with 1957 Buick side trim, 1953 Buick Roadmaster portholes (which the exhaust sticks out of) and a 1949 Buick dashboard, Rob wasn’t messing around by naming this thing the Berlin Buick.
Despite being such a conglomeration of different odds and ends from Buick and Volkswagen, the interior, put together by Rich Perez Interiors, is so very fitting. It flows well, especially with the obvious, blaring reminder of what’s in the back seat.
It’s pure insanity, distilled in a way that somehow makes it manageable. Sort of. Maybe.
Either way, it’s builds like this that manage to be out of the box and tasteful at the same time that deserve to be at events as renowned as SEMA.
I can’t wait to see what off-the-wall build Rob creates next after seeing his vision turned into reality with the Berlin Buick.