Volksrods used to represent a cheaper alternative to traditional hot rodding. But as this super-premium example shows, the game’s moved on a bit…
The cult of the Volksrod is something that’s been ebbing and flowing ever since Model A and Model T Fords started to sell for serious money. The essence of it, as the name pretty much clues you in on from the off, is to take the ethos of a traditional hot rod build and paint it all over a VW Beetle canvas. Beetles are, after all, rather easier to get hold of than vintage Fords (OK, not so much now as back in the 1980s, but the point still stands), and the design of the original Volkswagen dates back to the 1930s, so you can’t really argue with the appropriateness of the platform.
The traditional way to hammer together a Volksrod is to unbolt all the wings, fit the front beam from a vintage Ford to pull the wheels forward, chop the top, add a bit of pinstriping, and away you go. Naturally there are countless approaches and, over the generations, anything that can be done has been done, somewhere, by somebody… but what you’re looking at here is arguably the zenith of Volksrodding; the apogee, the ultimate manifestation of the art.
For while this has been lovingly crafted by one man in his garage, along with the help of some good mates with some pretty spectacular skills between them, it’s still ended up costing the thick end of $85,000. So much for Volksrods being the poor relation…
The brainchild of Highland, California’s Eric Goodman, this project is one of a number of classic VWs residing in his personal collection. “I bought the car from Craigslist for $600 back in 2009,” he explains. “Back then it was a fairly stock 1973 Beetle that had been in an accident and hit in the rear. It was the perfect donor, as my desire from the start was to build a custom hot rod with my friends and not pay a shop to build it.”
Honourable intentions indeed, and Eric and his friends certainly didn’t waste any time in tearing the thing down and getting to work. This was to be no rushed job, however; in spite of their haste to get moving, Eric was very clear on the fact that everything had to be done perfectly and done right – meaning that the build would ultimately end up taking the best part of five years. But when your project is a labour of love, such frivolous matters as days, months and seasons really don’t factor into anything.
“We removed the body from the frame, and had the entire car sandblasted,” Eric recalls. “It was a complete body off restoration; in fact, the body was off the frame for three years in total. The pan was rebuilt and painted, and we had a lot of fun speccing the engine!” The motor in question bullishly ousted the stock Beetle lump, instead squatting its 1.8-litre Porsche 914 case in place and radiating awesomeness from all angles. The retro Porsche flat-four wears dual Weber 40 carbs with racy cams and an exhaust system which features custom 3” side pipes (and seriously, shouldn’t more cars have side pipes?!) – it all adds up to around 150bhp, which is more than enough to shame a stock ’73 Beetle.
Not that this car has anything to do with stock ’73 Beetles any more. Eric’s buddy George Forget Jr designed and fabricated a custom 911 fan shroud, which certainly keeps the Porsche nerds guessing when the bootlid’s lifted, and the general sense of rasping, popping aggression is more than appropriate for hot rod shenanigans.
Of course, a rebuilt frame with a sports car motor does not a Volksrod make: the body has to be something special. Oh, and it is. And how. The word ‘shaved’ features heavily in the spec list, pretty much insisting that you pronounce it in the voice of Jim’s dad in American Pie, because that’s precisely how saucy it is. The body sides, the doors, the decklid, it’s all been shaved to a super-smooth sheen, as has the dash and much more besides, to imbue a frisson of streamlined butterflies and aerodynamic slipperiness.
This also, handily, helps to showcase the flawless perfection of the paint job, handled by the aforementioned George, resplendent as it is in black and mocha with gold pearl. An unforgiving mix that would immediately highlight any imperfections. Which it doesn’t, as there aren’t any.
The chassis is worthy of note too, serving up as it does a pretty unbeatable mix of old-skool tricks and fresh new ideas. Those wheels, in case you were having trouble placing them, are Vintiques 52-spoke wires, wearing tyres rather thicker than anything you’d have found on an early-seventies Bug, and they hide ’68 Camaro discs at the front and Porsche drums of a similar vintage to the motor out back. The front beam’s been extended by a handful of inches and joined by 1930s Ford dropped-axle suspension, along with various 1955 Ford bits.
There’s nothing here to offend the hot rodding purist, and yet it’s bristling with fresh approaches. Much like the interior, in fact, with its ’68 Beetle seats retrimmed in Ultraleather, and plush Mercedes-Benz carpets. The whole thing just oozes an inherent rightness, there’s not a single shot off-target on the spec list.
“It took over a thousand hours of bodywork and modifications before the car was ready for paint,” says Eric, understandably with a mixture of gratification and extreme weariness. “Having had the body off the frame for three years, it then took a further two years to get everything back together, perfecting every element as we went. And I’m proud to say that everything on the car was done in my garage, aside from the engine build and upholstery trimming – no shop did any work on this car! It was just me and four friends, that’s it.
George is the one who did all of the body modifications and the paint – he has forty years of experience in doing just that, so he was clearly the man for the job.” Pays to have the right mates, doesn’t it? And the work’s been speaking for itself ever since the thing was finally nailed together, winning dozens of first-place trophies all along the Pacific Coast, including at the fabled Grand National Roadster Show in Los Angeles.
This is one Beetle that, more than most, belies its humble beginnings to take on the establishment and win on its own terms. The fact that it’s a personal, home-baked build just makes it all the sweeter. Who needs pre-war Fords, when disco-era VWs can do the job this well?
Tech spec: 1973 Volkswagen Beetle
1972 Porsche 914 engine (1.8-litre flat-four), twin Weber 40 carbs, Web Cam HYD cams, oil breathers, chromoly pushrods, hydraulic valves, EMPI aluminium valve covers, EMPI oil cooler, EMPI aluminium fuel tank, Bosch ignition, Tri-Mil exhaust system with custom 3” side pipes, Porsche 911 fan and housing, Porsche 200mm flywheel, 150bhp (est), KCR SuperStreet transmission
Vintiques 52-spoke 15” wire wheels, 195/65 (front) and 245/60 (rear) BF Goodrich tyres, extended front beam with 2” lifted unibody, internal roll bar, 1930s Ford dropped-axle front suspension, 1955 Ford spindles and tie rods, SoCal Speed Shop shocks, 1968 Camaro front disc brakes, Porsche rear drums, Porsche 914 steering
Body and paint by George Forget Jr: black and mocha with gold pearl, lengthened, widened and shaved body, shaved doors, shaved ’68 decklid, frenched plate, chopped hood, split windscreen, suicide doors, front-hinged bonnet, Harley Davidson headlights, C5 Corvette LED taillights, chrome by Superior Plating
Shaved dash, 1968 Beetle seats custom trimmed in black/brown Ultraleather, EMPI seatbelts, Mercedes-Benz Ultra Black carpets, Porsche 914 steering wheel, Porsche gauges
Words Dan Bevis Photos Eric Arnold