What if I told you the VW Beetle you see before you is an exercise in efficiency?
Not fuel efficiency, clearly. But when the owner, Matt, had to find room for a BMW 318i, a VW Beetle shell and an RB25DET, he decided to save space by combining the lot.
The Beetle was actually Matt’s first car, and as with most Bugs it ended up as a shell with a whole lot of sentimental attachment. (This seems to be a real theme in the car world. I’d say Beetles are the most hung-onto shells of them all.)
Tastes change though, and Matt found himself getting into drifting as his car journey progressed. He decided to store the Beetle shell with the idea of restoring it down the line, and focused on throwing cars about sideways instead.
At some point along his journey Matt had also acquired an E36 chassis BMW 318i with a junk differential, which resided alongside the Beetle at his storage unit
Hence the ‘People’s Car’ ended up how it is now. Take a Beetle shell, owned by a drifting enthusiast with a BMW chassis at his disposal, and this is the result.
Starting with the chassis, the VW shell has been grafted onto the E36 floorpan with a host of upgrades and changes along the way. For extra safety and rigidity, an 8-point roll cage was fabricated whilst the shell received a 4.5-inch raked chop-top for style.
Well, not entirely for appearance. Matt is a rather tall chap, and a full chop top wouldn’t have been possible as he wouldn’t fit in the car. Hence the rake, in order for a bit of extra headroom over the seats.
Whilst we are inside the Beetle, a pair of Bride Low Max bucket seats provide support on track; they are pushed all the way to the back of the cabin for the same reason the chop top is raked.
‘Purposeful’ is definitely the word I would use to describe the interior. There’s no sugar-coating it – inside the Beetle is not a plush environment. In fact, even calling it an interior is a bit of a stretch.
The wiring harness forms a web where the dashboard once was, the ‘centre console’ is a sheet of steel running from the roll cage bar to the transmission tunnel, and the creature comforts extend to sliding plexiglass windows.
Don’t think for a second that I’m calling it half-arsed though. You just don’t need a dashboard when all of the data is fed to your Race Technologies digital display by a Link Fury ECU.
The dash display can be seen through the OMP race steering wheel, whilst an OBP pedal box takes place of the ancient top-hinged OEM pedals. Safety Devices harnesses keep Matt in his seat when he’s going all-out on track. And believe me, he does.
As much as it may look like a bit of a misfit, the Beetle can really shift. Matt’s drifting influence is evident in the choice of engine sitting at the front of the Bug. A Nissan RB25DET fits underneath the Beetle’s
bootlid bonnet like a glove.
The 2.5L DOHC 24-valve turbo inline-six was built by Matt himself, and is now fully forged with a genuine GReddy intake manifold, cut to fit under the curved nose. Atop the 6Boost v-band exhaust manifold sits a Pulsar G30-770 turbocharger, in line with a TurboSmart ProGate 50mm wastegate.
Combined with a full-length 4-inch exhaust made using Vibrant tubing and a Vibrant intake, this crazy Beetle is running 510hp at the wheels. At the wheels! All of this power runs through the OEM Nissan gearbox to an E36 M3 limited slip differential.
In fact when viewed from the side, you can’t believe that the RB fits under there at all. The engine is such a tight fit that the OEM Skyline radiator with twin fans has been fitted to the rear of the car, under the
bonnet boot lid.
Super-sized NACA ducts in the rear side windows are a direct cold air feed to the radiator, working their way over the harness bar to what was original the car’s the engine bay.
That’s alongside the intercooler in front of the engine and cutouts in the bonnet itself for airflow. On top of that, Matt has fitted a water spray system to the intercooler for when the turbo temperature gets really hot.
The cooling system is controlled by the ECU, not a thermostat; a Davies Craig 150lpm (litre per minute) water pump at the rear does a damn good job of keeping fluid moving around the system. That’s in addition to the OEM water pump, by the way.
Don’t forget, this is a car that originally ran an engine two cylinders long with no liquid cooling at all, right at the back of the car. To have made all of this fit underneath a (mostly) standard body shell is something of a miracle.
One of my favourite details on the Beetle is the fuel filler cap location – on top of the roof, behind the driver. There’s definitely no room in the front of the Beetle for a fuel tank anymore, and a fuel cell wouldn’t fit in the cabin with Matt’s driving position.
The filler therefore feeds the OEM BMW fuel tank under the boot floor, which really is an ideal solution for a build this tightly packaged.
Visually, Matt’s Beetle is not one for the faint-hearted. Take the chop top for start, which alone is enough to send some VW purists into overdrive. And how about those wheel arches? The rears are complete wide replacement units, but the front? They’ve been widened with the arches from a high performance coupe.
I’d tell you, but Matt made me guess, so you have to do the same. I’ll give you a clue, they’re relevant to another part of the Beetle which is mentioned in this article. Have a guess in the comments, and I will confirm with the first reader who guesses correctly.
I got it on my first guess (not a brag, I need to spend less time on the internet), and if any of you have come to know my taste in cars by now that’ll be a clue.
Add to that the custom front valance, side skirts, rear lid risers and the enormous wing and you have a Beetle with one hell of an aggressive stance. Not to mention the banded steel wheels with chunky Toyo Proxes R888R tyres, measuring 17×9.5-inch and 17×11.5-inch front and rear respectively. Behind the wheels sit an entire E46 M3 brake setup, callipers and all.
Cars like Matt’s Beetle really have no reason to exist. Seriously, less than zero. There are literally dozens of cars that would have been a more practical base to start from to make a track car out of.
Even the E36, before being peeled, would have made more sense to throw the RB25 into. But, and this is a large but, it’s cars like this which are the key to future-proofing our hobby. This is a big Hot Wheels toy, one that’s been ripped straight out of the pack and hurled around racetracks to within an inch of its life.
Cars like this are the spark that get girls and boys aware of modded cars, onto Need for Speed and into the questionably-modified first cars of their own. And cars like this do it a damn sight better than a hot hatchback with a ‘pop and bang’ map.
Matt’s Beetle is rough, it’s rowdy, and it’s absolutely perfect.