crankandpiston.com welcome a new car into the fray. Say hello to Phil McGoverns 1957 Volkswagen Beetle.[Not a valid template]
Everyone that knows me appreciates that when it comes to air-cooled cars, I’m a bit of a nerd. Well, maybe nerd is a touch rich. Ever since I turned 17 and my Dad very kindly threw me the keys to a Porsche blue 1972 Beetle, the desire to buy, modify and generally immerse myself in the culture has been there.
After messing about with the ’72, I found myself a superbly original and stunning 1956 ‘oval window’ car that made it’s way into the UK via Sweden. After many a $$ and time was spent on the Oval, I’d turned it into what is described in VW circles as a drag inspired Cal-Looker. With a nose down stance, skinny tyres up front, fat meats out back and a heavily modified drive line giving the old lady the pace to freak out most, if not all hot hatches parading the streets at the time. Sadly work stopped on the Oval while I disappeared on a year off around Australia, where yet again I was bitten by the bug. A lovely original 1958 Ozzy spec bug made its way into my life and although the only modification I made was to drop it to the ground, it kept the fire alive.
Fast forward 12 months and life back in the UK was back in full swing, along with my passion for Volkswagens. The Oval quite rapidly made way for a 1961 Double Door Split-screen panel van, that again was a bit of a monster. Dropped to the ground, running a 2.3l motor out back; the Panzer as it was coined was at the time, was the fastest VW bus in the UK down the quarter mile. With a 15.1 to its name, it was an utterly bonkers piece of kit. After the bus made its way to a new keeper, a piece of Californian VW history was purchased and popped on a boat bound for the UK. As you can know work out, I was properly hooked by these little cars.
During my time learning and evolving in the scene with my cars, I had the pleasure of meeting a man by the name of Ben Lewis. Ben was already well known in the scene due to a show car built well over 20 years ago, however he had the beginnings of a new project in his lock-up (proof we need sheds in the UAE). A 1957 Swedish import was about to turn into a car that flipped the show scene on its head. Detail would be the word of the day. Ben was well known for being anally retarded when it came to ensuring everything was perfect. And I mean ‘perfect’!
Built way back in the 2000’s, ‘Fendered 57’ instantly became legendary in the global air-cooled Volkswagen scene. It set new a benchmark in terms of quality, style and detail and even after numerous years tucked away in his garage, could still win a show when it was wheeled out. A multiple best of show winner, category winner and subject to many a feature in magazines across the world, Fendered was seen as a proper game changer.
After Ben had sourced the solid Swedish car, the shell and chassis were completely stripped, blasted and repaired before being repainted by a classic car specialist just outside Stratford-Upon-Avon in the UK, called Alscot Park Garage. Resplendent in a flawless coat of VW Mango Green, there wasn’t a single bit of the car ignored. Everything was detailed; everything! If you see the car parked up just ask to have a look around it. Eating your dinner off any aspect of the car would be totally hygienic experience.
Pushing the little green bug along is a 100bhp 1776cc engine built to have the appearance of a Porsche 356 motor, which it isn’t, although it’s the first thing people say when they see it. A counterweighted 69mm crank, forged 90.5mm pistons make up the main chunk of the motor with a very mild Engle W100 cam playing conductor. The heads are stock units, mildly modified and topped off with a pair of 40mm Dell’Orto DRLAs. Bolted up to a late Beetle gearbox, it is more than capable of cruising along at modern speeds.
To help bring everything to a stop, a full set of mirror polished Porsche 356A brakes (quite scary if you are used to discs) are on duty, with the ubiquitous Porsche Fuchs alloy wheels (4.5” front, 6” back) bolted to each corner.
As you may have now worked out, ‘Fendered’ was one of those cars that many people wanted, yet Ben continued to hold onto it. I’d already been through the pain of car builds and new by this stage that buying a killer car was far better than going through the long winded and cash intensive process of building fresh. It’s so hard to account for the amount of hours ploughed into a car of this level that the labour charge itself would be enough to push it way out of reach of most people. An oxymoron when you consider the Beetle was supposed to be a peoples car.
Fast forward to present day and the urge to own a VW was back. Time to call Ben Lewis; who by now had realised that his skill and ability to build an amazing car had led to the creation of a restoration shop in the south west of England (evilbens.co.uk). After a few chats it was made clear that Fendered was back on the market and with no intention of spending the money required to re-create it, I should jump at the chance. Which is exactly what happened. Less than a month later I found myself at the port in Dubai, keys in hand.
That pretty much brings us bang up to date. Fendered has already turned more than its fair share of heads in a town that on the face of it is all about the newest and the best. However, there is a problem that is grating me. No matter how exceptional a car is, there is that burning desire to make it your own when you buy someone else’s vision. Sleepless nights, hours spent on the Internet looking for inspiration has led me to a direction, much to the frustration of those around me; especially Ben. Could that direction be detailed wheels? A revised stance? A bigger motor out back? Who knows.
Time will tell if I get my own way and don’t roll over to peer pressure to leave it exactly as it stands.
*ORIGINAL POST DATE: October 2013