Square Engine, Round Car: A Backwards, Bonkers VW Beetle

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.

Players Classic 2022 Beetle-2

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.)

Players Classic 2022 Beetle-23

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

Players Classic 2022 Beetle-6

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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Mario Christou
Instagram: mcwpn



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E46 M3 front arches

Mario Christou

You've got it mate!


Eh "pop and bang map" makes me cringe everytime

Mario Christou

You're not the only one, believe me...


"Matt’s Beetle is rough, it’s rowdy, and it’s absolutely perfect."

Yes, yes it is. I love it.
BUT... I can't help myself and wonder how GOOD it would look with a full interior and exterior body and paint job. I know it's a drift car, and a Frankenstein, but I can't help it.

Mario Christou

I think part of the appeal for the owner is that it's perfect to be abused, and if it were tidier he'd be more concerned about keeping it clean!


I know! But... OCD. Lol.


It seems to be a well specced piece piece of kit that may be well put toegher mechanically but I'm sorry, it looks absolutely catastrophic. There seems to be no actual pride in taken in how it looks in any shape of form. Even to the point where most people would think "Someones going to come and photo this, maybe I should wipe the dust off the interior" but nope...not happening.

Mario Christou

I'm not sure Matt was expecting anyone to photo it to be honest Jim. He only seemed interested in putting as many fast laps in on track as he could!

Thanks for reading.


"maybe I should wipe the dust off the interior" Alright who let his 45 years old mom type this ?


I keep forgetting how much space is actually at the front of an original VW bug. A whole straight 6 tucked into seems slightly normal at a glance

Mario Christou

It's funny right? Length wise it fits perfectly, but when glanced from the side and just how much the RB sticks out above the front arches it looks absurd!

Thanks for reading :)


This looks like the same bad boy that was on that Motor Addicts youtube channel a couple years ago. This car is unhinged...in all the best ways possible.


I can stand everything but the exposed spider web like wires is the limit, this 1 is a direct NO for me.
Is the relatively high fuel tank causing any problem with gravity? more rollover effect, more surge,...
For the arches i'm gonna go with the beetle frunk.

Mario Christou

Hi Ishac, the fuel take is the OEM E36 one under the floor, you might have missed that in the article! The front arches are E46 BMW M3 ones!

Thanks for reading!


i imagened it sitting directly under the rear glass speakers like position.


The fuel tank is in the standard BMW position under the boot floor. No lower than your usual e36.


Now THAT is a cool build!

Mario Christou

Thanks for reading!


Bad A$$!!! Who needs filler work, crushed velvet interior, with puffy VIP headrests when you can have something like this to just thrash on at the track. This is just such a great idea to save 2 cars and toss in an engine that's not being used. WHAT no 2jz or LS1??!! Again use whatcha got and have a bit of fun while doing it. This is a car enthusiast that knows how to use them.

Mario Christou

Woah there, I won't push it that far as I'm a big VIP-style enthusiast, but cars like this are just so good when you can see they've been built for a purpose and used accordingly.


Love this article, these are the ones I read over and over again. A truly built not bought car. I love seeing the welds and where it was put together at. A little piece of me would love to see it finished nicely but for what it is built for it does the job. Oh and I love steel wheels, heavy as they are they just always seem to scream cool.

Mario Christou

I'm glad you enjoyed it, thanks for reading!

Jason Bondhus

I think it looks cool as is...all crazy. I wouldn't paint it.

Mario Christou

It's totally wild, the appearance gives it so much character.


Amazing build ! Fonction over esthetic is a rare mindset in todays car culture.

Mario Christou

Thanks for reading Gabriel!


Perfect !!!!!!!!!! DO IT UP HOW YOU WANT TO DO IT UP WOW! WHAT A CAR........

Mario Christou

I'm glad you like it mate, thanks for reading.


This is an example of why I love cars and the cult surrounding them. If people ask "Why?" they are missing the point. It's fun. It's scrappy at times because you want to get out and play and just need to wrap up an item so you can go out and test drive it. When lockdown hit I welded a tallbike with my kids. Practical, safe? Nope. But it kept us from going stir crazy and makes EVERYONE smile. We need more smiles. This Beetle makes me smile and I'm a happier person knowing it's out there shredding.

Mario Christou

Precisely, a lot of people are too caught up in image to enjoy their cars. Thanks for reading mate.


This is absurdly cool. What an awesome idea and such a cool story. Then you see the engine and rest of the setup. This is nuts in the best possible way and really a testament to the owner's talent.

Awesome article. Great photos. Crazy build.


Mario Christou

Thanks for the kind words! I enjoyed this Beetle, such a mad little car.


Yes. Finally a BMW/VW/nissan that isn't instantly trash! Of course, made from the body amd design that launched VW, the chassis that was actually an affordable driving machine of it's time, and an engine that was ahead of it's time from when Japan actually created worthwhile amd cutting-edge drivetrains.

This efficient statement must be paraded at all German car shows to teach these wannabes what it was all actually about in one odd burrito of a sled, and how badly BMW/Nissan has royally screwed their heritage since 2010 - outdoing even Pontiac or Saab in failure.

Mario Christou

I didn't really think of that but you're right in the sense that to a lot of people, the parts in this build are from their manufacturers' 'prime' eras. Good shout!


nissan 360z arches

Mario Christou

E46 M3!


Clearly fenders from whatever Nissan donated its heart

Mario Christou

They're from a BMW M3, E46!


Love it

Mario Christou

Thanks Dude :)


I love this thing.

Mario Christou

Thanks for reading Jezza!


People think this is what built not bought means, but that's really lowering the bar. Look at riley stair's trans am. That's built not bought. This is just partly scrapped together.

Mario Christou

I can't agree at all to be honest. Yes, Riley's Firebird is one of the most incredible builds I've ever seen, no doubt.

But to call someone else's build 'scrapped together' on appearance isn't justified in this sense. The car put in lap after lap, driven very hard, all day. It does exactly what it was built to do and it does it well!

Thanks for reading.


I never met a VW Bug that I didn't love!!

Mario Christou

Thanks for reading!