Rides from the Readers: “The Black Widow”

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1960 VW Bug hot rod The Black Widow
Curtis Zupke

Hagerty readers and Hagerty Drivers Club members share their cherished collector and enthusiast vehicles with us via our contact email, tips@hagerty.com. We’re showcasing some of our favorite stories among these submissions. To have your car featured, send complete photography and your story of ownership to the above email address.

Today’s vehicle is of mixed ancestry, as you can tell from the photos below. It started life as an unassuming 1960 VW Bug and would have ended its years abandoned in the Mojave Desert had Jim Zupke not spotted it, hauled it home, and unleashed a slightly maniac creative force upon it. In the front went a 350 small-block from a ’65 Vette matched to Ford 330 racing gears. In place of the air-cooled four-pot in its rear, Jim shoved a Corvair rear end. Naturally, this wasn’t a plug-and-play build; the car sits on a custom box frame to accommodate the, ah, unorthodox engine mounts. As final proof of the car’s eclectic family tree, the speedometer is from a Studebaker Hawk.

Jim christened his hot rod “The Black Widow.” It can hit nearly 140 mph.

1960 VW Bug hot rod The Black Widow
Curtis Zupke

We heard the story of the “The Black Widow” from Jim’s son, Curtis, who writes: “Many of my childhood memories are of riding in the Widow, my dad punching it on our Sunday morning outings. It’s like being shot out of a gun.”

Curtis’ father grew up in the old-school L.A. hot-rodding tradition—and though he is now 82 years old and retired, that American Graffiti flame hasn’t faded. He still takes the Black Widow out now and again. The Zupke family history is intertwined with this car, which Curtis calls “the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing”—though he admits that the low rumble of the 350 instantly gives it away.

We like the Zupke style.

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