Journal: 5 Reasons To Drive A “Super” Beetle

5 Reasons To Drive A “Super” Beetle

By Brendan McAleer
April 22, 2015

Photography by: Andrew Holliday, Brendan McAleer, Andrew Snucins, and Dave Hord

Rare? Hardly—the Volkswagen Type 1 is nearly as numerous as the Coleptera order from which they take their nickname, Beetle. A ubiquitous feature of the motoring landscape of the ’60s and ’70s, these curvy-carapaced creatures survived well into the modern age, and are still a common sight around the world.

To invest time and energy into preserving or restoring a car intended as cheap mass-transportation seems faintly ridiculous. With all the gently rusting metal awaiting rescue in the barns of the world, why chase after a machine that’s already cluttering up museums and car-shows around the world?

Unique it may not be, but the Beetle nevertheless has a singular appeal. Here, Canadian Dave Hord’s rally-spec 1971 VW Super Beetle 1302S tribute—previously featured on this site—shows us just how special the humble people’s car can be.

#1: The Beetle comes with its own mythology

Hardly anybody isn’t already familiar with the Type-1’s dark, Nazi origin story, its shift from shell-game propaganda ploy, to wartime survivor, to unlikely hero of the counter-culture movement.

But delve a little deeper and there’s a near-endless well of stories to be told, from the first knock-down-kits assembled in Ballsbridge, Dublin, to the lunatic, twin-engined 400hp endurance racer driven by Emerson Fittipaldi in South America. Hord’s car is a tribute to one such side-branch of the Volkswagen mythos, the Salzburg Rally Beetles campaigned by Porsche Austria in the early 1970s.

#2: The Beetle is a canvas

Like the ’32 Ford Coupe, the Beetle attracts creative minds who turn them into everything: from art cars to hotrods. Hord’s machine leans toward the latter, and is a mix of period-correct pieces and modern air-cooled know-how. It’s the result of years of planning—and a notebook filled with the scribbled ingredients of a recipe for something amazing.

#3: The Beetle has character

Dave’s car is not quite perfect; if you ask him, he’s already drawn up a mental picture of what he’d do differently next time. However, there are no plans to strip a single thing off this tribute car. Its collection of imperfections gives it a quirky temperament that requires mastery. There are many Beetles out there, but none like this one.

#4: It can be really fast

With a professionally-built 2.1L flat-four cranking out 150hp, swappable suspension for rally or tarmac, and the dogleg five-speed out of a contemporary Porsche 911, Hord’s rally-Bug goes like a ball-bearing out of a slingshot. It’s a raucous cacophony of rear-engined raw combustion, and with a judicious dab of left-foot braking, it wriggles through the corners with glee.

#5: You don’t need to explain it

Over multiple decades of production, the Beetle touched many lives; even before Herbie showed up, people loved the Love Bug. Everyone has at least one Beetle story: a college friend who had one, riding around in the back of a car belonging to an eccentric aunt, or a chassis that’s been mouldering away in Dad’s garage for ages.

People who don’t get cars can’t help but smile when they see a Beetle, even if they couldn’t tell an oval window from a split. It’s a cultural touchstone, and that joyous air-cooled raspberry needs no translation.

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Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith
4 years ago

You can still build a VW motor that makes over 200hp, cheap. 200hp makes a Beetle go like a raped ape.

Michael Gross
Michael Gross
6 years ago

LaCarrera Panamericana Beetle 😉

Joe Average
Joe Average
8 years ago

Wish I could hear this one. Love the sounds of the Corvair, VW, Tatra and Porsche aircooled engines.

Christopher Burton
Christopher Burton
8 years ago

Very well done car! The rally look is perfect…honor the timeless classics!

8 years ago

I followed this project back when Dave was still documenting it on Motorgeek, started following just before he got paint and decals on it. Glad to see things are still going good even after the fall of MG.