A 1956 Okrasa TSV 1300 VW Beetle Is This Berliner’s First Car
Photography by Roman Raetzke
Editor’s Note: Michael Gross is a friend of Petrolicious who we recently spent the weekend with in Berlin Germany. He has a tremendous knowledge of everything automotive as he represents the classic dealer ChromeCars.De. He still drives his first car, a 1956 Beetle almost every day. We asked Roman Raetzke if he would be open to shooting it for this story, we are very glad he did.
Growing up in a household that always had Classic Cars in its Garage it was clear for me that my first car has to be a classic car as well. I started putting money aside from my 12th birthday on so that by turning 18 I would be able to by my first car myself. From being 17 years old I started evaluating the market to find the right car for me. One that suited me and my piggy bank.
I ended up in Austria at famous junkyard. It was called Auto Metzker and was close to Vienna. If you translate Metzker to English it means Butcher. Funny name for a junkyard. Mr Metzker collected beetles and opened me the doors to his beetle collection. There it stood in a corner, dusty and unused for several years. A silver 1956 VW Sedan with optioned red luxury Interior. I instantly felt in love with the bug and with a handshake the deal was made.
The car had an interesting history as it was bought new in Vienna at Autohaus Liewers (still a VW dealer) and owned its entire life by one family. First the Mother drove it, then her daughter, until she handed the car over to the junkyard in the early eighties. Mr Metzker could not bring himself to wreck it or pull it apart for parts and so he randomly drove it until putting it aside till 98.
Being equipped with the original 30 HP engine and Porsche 911 Cup Wheels it was my daily driver for the first years of my driving career. That also included driving in -20° without heating. I learned the physics of driving especially during wintertime on this car.
After some years and several vintage car races in Vienna I got hold of a book that is known as the bible for souping early beetles and it opened a whole new world for me.
Especially the Denzel and Okrasa Tuning Kits awakened my desire but were out of reach. As these parts were usually used for racing and rare as a a hens tooth I started to tune the engine as described in the book. After several engine failures due to miscalculations I increased the power to 47 HP out of the original 30. Luckily I got to know to Mr. Peter Denzel, son of the inventor of the Denzel Sportwagen.
They produced whole cars and engine Kits for the Beetle. He opened his Garage for me and I was able to purchase a complete Denzel engine from 1949. It was the engine that set in one of the prototypes that Denzel created. This engine had the base of the 25 HP VW engine and the output was only 33 HP. As the big goal was the Okrasa TSV Engine ( OKRASA = “Oettingers kraftfahrttechnische Spezialanstalt“) I tried to find someone who would swap the Denzel to an Okrasa engine.
After years I found the engine in parts and everything was swapped.
The engine now has an increased compression ratio producing around 65 HP at 4500 RPM. During rebuilding the engine I collected all the period correct components that you could possibly buy in 56 to create a period correct souped beetle.
The parts for that I collected are Porsche Pre-A drumbrakes at the front combined with a Porsche preA Brake Cylinder. A set of original Lemmerz Sprint Star wheels whose production started in 1955. For keeping an eye on the engine the car is fitted with the urig Oettinger Oil temp gauge that you could buy as an option for the Okrasa Kit. The RPM is shown through an Ultra rare VDO Tach where only 30 are known to exist. The fuel Level is shown through a Beck fuel gauge. This Gauge is working through air pressure in the fuel tank and is the most exact fuel gauge I have experienced in a car yet. The whole set up is made to be able to cruise in the city but if you put the pedal to the metal it can annoy the 356es of the time. Since the Set up was completed the Beetle took part on several vintage car races. Always attracting the crowd, because no-one expects a Beetle to overtake, sideways, on the outside of a corner.