1958 Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle
California Car, Bare Metal Nut and Bolt Ground Up Restoration, Desirable Early Features, Adam Wik 1968CC Motor, Rancho Performance Gearbox, Original Pan, Tastefully Modified for Usability and Performance
This 1958 Volkswagen Type 1 is one of the cleanest, driest and most tastefully restored bugs we have ever seen. It was sold new in California in late 1957, being one of the earliest examples of the larger rear window introduced in 1958. Being a '58 model year it also features the desirable small early taillights. Some years later, the car moved to Arizona where it was bought by the proprietor of a large collection. He bought it to restore to show quality and did so with proper paper and photo documentation.
To begin, the body was completely stripped and taken down to its rust free, bare metal shell. The original pan was in outstanding condition, a further testament to its easy life on the west coast. There was no need to replace it, as is quite common on these early bugs, and having its original pan is something beetle collectors look for. During restoration, the owner decided to integrate the turn signals into the headlamps, leaving the tops of the fenders a bit cleaner than stock.
While the car was being primed and painted, the owner went looking for a suitable gearbox and engine combination. He wanted as much power as he could get while maintaining reliability and everyday user friendliness. He turned to well known aircooled specialist Adam Wik Racing for his 2 Liter (1968CC) street motor. The motor is uses a 74MM forged Empi crankshaft, stock rods, 92MM Cima Pistons, and an F8 Engle Racing cam. The heads are ported and polished dual port Scat with hi-rev springs and stainless steel valve covers. The car runs dual 40MM Weber carburetors. The unit was tuned on the dyno (photos included) and was reported to be making 120HP. It uses a one and a half quart oil sump with an external 8 passage oil cooler and remote electric fan, remote oil filter with stainless steel lines and AN fittings, electric fuel pump, and bosch distributor. The gearbox was an all-new unit by Rancho performance featuring steel forks and a 4.11 ring and pinion. The car is fitted with a lightweight flywheel and 1700lb Kennedy clutch.
After the paint was complete, the car was fitted with new rubber, new running boards, Hella H4 headlights, new bumpers, and new chrome throughout. A full custom interior was installed with fully adjustable seats. Autometer and VDO gauges handle the vitals, and the car is fitted with a roller accelerator pedal and billet brake and clutch. The shifter is a Scat drag unit with reverse lockout. The original dash was left untouched.
In the handling department, KYB gas shocks were installed, as well as a custom traction bar, new steering box and steering damper, and Dunlop tires. The idea was to give the car sharper handling and a more agressive stance without venturing into the world of the slammed cal-look. This is a purposeful bug, not one done for the concours lawn.
Since acquiring the bug, we have driven it a little over 1000 miles and done quite a bit of maintenance work. This included oil and trans fluid, lubricating the throttle cable, installing new ignition switch, new distributor cap, new battery, adjusting the emergency brake, ensuring all turn signals, brake lights and headlights work, as well as the wipers, rebuilding one wheel cylinder and checking brake master cylinder, adding a new interior mirror, polishing the porsche wheels, and adding the Nardi steering wheel and roof rack. Before us, the previous owner had installed 4 new spark plugs, 4 air filters, and a new starter motor.
We've found this Bug to be one of the most entertaining cars in the stable. The gearbox is a super short and precise throw that is a pleasure to use. The clutch is light, with the right amount of uptake. The steering is accurate, with good feel, thanks to the new steering box and damper. The Nardi wheel ads a nice touch to the interior and the overall driving experience. It makes a great sound and gets lots of thumbs up by passers by.
We cannot think of many classic cars that offer this kind of fun, style and performance at the price point. Early models share a resemblance and driving characteristics with early 356 Porsches. Ferdinand Porsche designed the Beetle and the 356 was heavily based on it, with early 356A and Pre-A versions sharing gearbox, engine case, and steering boxes, among other things. A few years ago we actually found that a friend's 53 Porsche 356 Pre-A coupe had, from the factory, Volkswagen stampings on the engine case. You get the sound and 90% of the driving feel of an early 356 for a fraction of the cost. As opposed to Porsches, parts are incredibly cheap.
With its excellent provenance as a lifelong western car with original pan and photo documented restoration, this bug is also solid investment. A recent article in Sports Car Market highlighted that prices on collector bugs were on the rise. Anyone looking for very clean and tastefully modified bug, with early features should take note. Those that have seen and driven the it have remarked on how much time and money was spent turning this into a great car. It is offered at about half it's build cost.
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