From the outside, it might look like any other modified Volkswagen Beetle, but as you’re about to see, there’s much more to 3L Engineering & Design’s all-custom creation than first meets the eye.
3L is the brainchild of Jean Fourie, a mechanical engineer who’s been designing and building cars here in South Africa for almost 20 years. Over the last six, his ‘V8 Stealth Beetle’ has really come to life.
Jean was kept busy for many years building, designing and selling over 100 Ford GT40 recreations to customers all over the world. But with so many other companies now building GT40s, he decided it was time for a new challenge.
Having cut his teeth working on humble Beetles many moons ago, a Volkswagen-based build seemed like the perfect direction to take. What Jean envisioned though, was much more than just simple modifications or engine swaps; he needed to go all-out.
How all-out? Well, what Jean has ended up with is a mid-engined V8-powered Beetle built upon a custom aluminium chassis. The ‘Stealth’ part of the V8 Stealth Beetle name comes from the fact that he’s made it look very much like a regular Type 1 Volkswagen. It features the same wheelbase and track dimensions as the Beetle, but packs supercar-like performance under its skin.
If you’re wondering where it all started, wonder no more. The very first car was R&D’d using a flat plywood jig table where Jean had a clean canvas for accurate datum points. This jig allowed him to work back from the positions of the wheels, drivetrain, engine and suspension, amongst other things.
The donor Beetle was was a 1965 model, which was completely disassembled. The only thing retained was its bodywork; everything else was sent to scrap.
Initially the plan was to use a ladder-type chassis and a small block Ford V8, but that plan soon changed in favour of an Audi B8 twin-turbo V8 powerplant and a custom aluminium chassis. Utilizing 5mm and 6mm aluminium for its construction, the entire chassis comes in at a super lightweight 80kg (176lb).
For suspension, MacPherson struts are used in the front with a 4-link layout called ‘Z-link’ in the rear. Coilovers are used for straightforward adjustment of ride height and stiffness.
As cars are being sold in different markets around the world, Jean and his team developed a custom hanging assembly, so that both left- and right-hand models could easily be built.
With the Audi engine being considerably larger than the original Volkswagen unit, there were many engineering challenges to work through in order to fit the V8 within the confines of the Beetle’s physical dimensions. It was all figured out before any work commenced, ensuring there wouldn’t be many hold-ups during the first build.
The gearbox is a 6-speed manual transaxle unit, with a performance clutch to handle the torque.
240-odd man hours are invested into completely restoring the original steel body of each car built, while the rear fenders are manufactured in carbon fiber.
All said, a finished car weighs under under a metric ton with 450hp on tap. To date, 3L Engineering & Design have completed a small number of cars, and Jean tells me that production will be limited 100 units.
My visit to the shop was a very short one, but I’ll be sure to come back and go for a drive in Jean’s V8 Stealth Beetle. Obviously it’s something that needs to be experienced out on the road (or track).
From its small premises in an industrial estate, 3L Engineering & Design are also undertaking a few other projects. One is a three-wheeler with a Moto Guzzi engine, of which they’ve already received a number of orders
Like the Beetle, underneath it all is custom-built chassis, while the body panels are made from fiberglass.
I love coming across small shops like this, where it’s more about the passion and showing what they can do than anything else.
It really shows what you can achieve with a bit of ingenuity, and a whole lot of talent and hard work. Not all of us are technically inclined like Jean, but every petrolhead can appreciate what he’s putting out in the world.