8 oddball VWs and custom Porsches you just have to see
Ohio’s Taj Ma Garaj is sending a collection of air-cooled automotive oddities and collectibles to a special RM Sotheby’s auction on September 28. There are some very nice original cars in the collection, but the oddities and one-off cars really grabbed our attention. Engine swaps, custom bodywork, ridiculous paint—it’s all here in an boxer-engine menagerie that is unlike any collection we’ve ever seen.
BMW’s horizontally-opposed twin-cylinder motorcycles in the 1950s and ’60s came in 500- and 600-cc displacements with as much as 42 horsepower. The 1500-cc four-cylinder VW engine that now powers this bike is roughly the same overall size as the twin it replaced and yet despite having more than twice the displacement, it was only rated at 44 hp. Of course, with the ease of hopping up a VW, this could be quite the handful after a quick run through the EMPI catalog, and it already has some fine-looking Thomas Tomahawk finned valve covers to establish its hot rod looks.
This bare-steel, split-window Beetle proudly wears the patch panels used to repair dents, rot, and the stretch necessary to make the radically chopped roof line up just right. In typical Volksrod fashion, the engine is in pain view at the back of the car, its twin downdraft carbs and velocity stacks the mechanical highlight of the alloy engine. Stripped of fenders and any unnecessary frivolities, this waist-high Bug looks like it would be a total riot to drive.
A Porsche 356 is a lightweight, nimble sports car, not the first car you’d picture as a stretched limousine. On the other hand, its rear engine layout means there’s no messing with a driveshaft and carrier bearings even with a much longer wheelbase. Two additional, rear-hinged doors are part of the custom bodywork. They open to allow access to the rear seats that offer ample leg room and, of course, there’s a divider between passengers and driver for a bit of privacy.
Placing the engine in the rear created some interesting handling quirks that Porsche has been able to manipulate in their favor on the track. This tube-chassis dragster is using that engine mounting for its drag racing benefits: it places weight over the drive axles for maximum traction at launch and, should anything go awry in the engine, it keeps hot oil, fuel, and their accompanying flames aft of the driver where they will do a lot less harm. Top Fuel dragsters figures it out eventually.
We’re suckers for longroofs, and although this isn’t quite a shooting brake or a wagon, it has some pretty great lines for a one-off creation. Its small rear window, partially obscured with a “Please Pass” light, likely creates some huge blindspots, but we’d suffer that to drive the mini utility. There aren’t a whole lot of photos that show the cargo capacity, yet an interior shot reveals a fold-flat wicker passenger seat that looks to help accommodate longer parcels and make this rolling billboard a practical package.
A longtime staple of the Casa Linda restaurant in Montecito, California, this product of more than 5000 welds and 2500 swirls of iron was crafted by Rafael Esparza-Prieto and Jose Barajas. It’s similar to the Volkswagen of Mexico “Wedding Cars,” although far more ornate. This one-of-one creation has a more modern Super Beetle look with its curved windshield but is built on a traditional Bug chassis with its beam suspension and is totally drivable.
Of course an Ohio-based VW collection would have a Bug painted in a tiger pattern. How else is the ultimate superfan supposed to show their support for the Cincinnati Bengals?
Available in Aquarius Blue or Harvest Beige, the final run of VW Beetles was announced in June 2003. To our novice eyes the major indication of how late production this really is comes when the hood is popped to reveal an airbox atop the engine, a modern oil cap, and sensors plugged into a throttle body where a carburetor should be. It still has all the right curves, a flat windshield, and every bit of the character of the Beetle that we love.