The Volkswagen scene continues to amaze with its sheer size and diversity. Regardless of your particular automotive tastes, there’s a type or style of Volkswagen to match and a bunch of enthusiastic people out there doing it. The annual Volksfest, organised by the Volks Enthusiasts Club of SA, is Adelaide’s biggest dedicated Volkswagen show and the place where bug’s, buses, water cooled and a huge variety of anything Volkswagen or Volkswagen based comes to meet.
AGR has long been a proponent of the fact that when it comes to a car show, the location is the single biggest factor contributing to a good day. Volksfest was previously held on a closed road in Port Adelaide and that was brilliant, but the organisers have really outdone themselves and for 2013 somehow managed to secure Elder Park, in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD, as the venue.
A rock ‘n roll band played the famous Rotunda and the show fanned out radially from there, with the Festival Centre & Intercontinental as backdrop on one side and the impressive new Adelaide Oval re-development just a stones throw over the Torrens.
It’s an exciting time to be in the city, but we weren’t there for cricket or the performing arts, we were there for an entirely different kind of art. The humble Volkswagen and its derivatives are the ultimate blank canvas – a simple, basic, cheap (well, they used to be) base chassis built in volumes big enough to encourage a large and booming aftermarket. Walking the rows of Volksfest, it was fascinating to see just how people have chosen to modify their canvas.
There’s the standard cars, and those that are neatly modified in a period style like this super low oval window. The subtle modifications change the feel of the car without ruining it, and it can always be put back to standard one day if needed.
The oldest Beetle at the show was also one of the oldest and rarest Beetles in the world, and was brought along halfway through its restoration. This split window is a 1945 model, one of only 12,852 built that year. Only around 10-13,000 Beetle’s were built each year through the war, with production rising significantly in the 50’s, peaking at almost 1.3 million in 1971 alone.
Thanks to their excellent traction off the line and the ability to extract vast amounts of power from the air cooled flat four in the back, Beetle’s have always been popular in drag racing. Chris’ ’59 Beetle walks the path nicely between keeping the feel and patina of the original car, and then mixing in other elements like a decent helping of super low ride height, a 5.5″ narrowed front end to get it looking right and a properly powerful 1916cc running twin Weber’s and an A1 Sidewinder exhaust.
The Beetle chassis is extremely versatile and there have famously been hundreds of different cars built using it as a base with plenty on show at Volksfest, including this pair of military Kubelwagen’s.
The line of Karmann Ghia’s showed just how versatile the Volkswagen chassis is, underpinning a car so tastefully styled by the Italian design firm Ghia that it almost transcends its Beetle origins. The fact that the coachwork is hand crafted by Karmann gives it proper classic status, too.
The polar opposite of the Karmann Ghia must surely be this Beetle based 1974 Type 147 Kleinliefewagen ‘Fridonlin’. Don’t worry, most people have never heard of it either – just 1,201 were made on special order for the Swiss Postal Service.
Good to see that despite its rarity, there was some subtle modification happening. I’m sure something like this would be deeply frowned upon in serious Switzerland but I’d guess that this vehicle’s original driver would probably have felt like this from time to time!
The ultimate Volkswagen on show didn’t actually have a single Volkswagen component in it, but its stretched New Beetle body did look, err, vaguely like something a little familiar. But Rod Penrose’s custom built, front engine, rear wheel drive drag car is a very special machine indeed.
Rod’s drag car is fitted with a 3.0, turbocharged, nitrous oxide injected Pauter drag engine. Nothing here came from Volkswagen and the whole package, including the block, was designed and built by Pauter. But critically it is still an air cooled flat four, and standard Volkswagen parts, such as a crank, will bolt into the engine.
It has a pneumatic air shifted gearbox with three forward gears that shifts unbelievably quickly, and a whole host of Motec goodies and sensors that tell Rod an incredible amount of information. For instance, Rod says that about 10% wheelspin is optimal to get off the line properly, and the car is so finely setup that Rod can adjust things like clutch slip to get exactly 10% wheelspin, measured on the Motec. That’s just one of hundreds of variables that contribute to the perfect run.
And it must be working, because on the Saturday night before Volksfest Rod ran an 8.17sec pass at Adelaide International Raceway, making this the 3rd fastest air cooled car in the world! And what’s more, Rod didn’t use the NOS and the car still wasn’t setup properly, so there’s a lot more to come.
There were a couple of examples of the rarest of all Kombi’s – the 21 window Samba. The Samba was built for touring the Alps and the added roof windows, plus the large centre sunroof, was an option to aid viewing of the Alps. Maybe it’s just popular culture (this one’s a prime example with its wood roof racks and surf board) but I tend to associate Samba’s more with California surfer culture of the 50’s and 60’s. That isn’t a bad thing.
There was a diverse, if somewhat smaller, showing of water cooled VW’s which was a little surprising. The Euro VW scene is booming and Any Given Reason recently took in a show in Goettingen, Germany, which was jam packed full of new vee-dub’s. But there was still some interesting cars, and I really dug the stripe job and wheel combo on this New Beetle.
My favorite car of the show was this nutty and very highly modified Passat which had made the trip over from Melbourne (on a trailer, mind you). There’s absolutely zero point to this car, and I think that makes it awesome in a ‘why the hell not’ kind of way.
… and a BBQ mounted under the bonnet, that was actually being used to cook lunch. This is why I love the VW scene, because people are crazy enough to built completely pointless cars like this just for the sake of it. For variety’s sake, I think we need more creativity like this!
In fact this is why, despite having never owned a VW (well, except for a dismantled Meyers Manx I owned for a few weeks that seemed a good idea at the time of purchase), I love the VW scene – because people aren’t afraid to try something new and different.