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    Russ Smith

    Volkswagen Beetle Buying Guide

    Posted in Cars on 23.08.2019

    With steady values, get the right torsion-bar Bug and it will look after you. Words Russ Smith. Photography John Colley.

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    Alex Arredondo

    1949 Volkswagen Type 14A Hebmüller

    Posted in Cars on 11.06.2019

    Tony and Allison of T&A Motorcars Collection envisioned a unique triple-black Hebmüller sitting on Porsche rims and a large displacement engine. Words by Alex Arredondo.

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    CAR #VW-Beetle / #VW / #Volkswagen-Beetle / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Beetle-MkI

    RUN BY Martin Port
    OWNED SINCE March 2011

    Some cars just don’t get the love they deserve, and I’m embarrassed to admit that the Beetle is definitely one of them. It has given reliable service for years now and, despite my many promises to carry out major work, I’ve failed to deliver. Even worse, it took the failure of the MoT test to propel me into action, and even then it was at the pace of an anaesthetised sloth.

    What did it fail on? Surprisingly, it was really ‘only’ some rust (and a broken anti-roll-bar clamp). I’d seen much worse, but its proximity to the rear suspension mounts meant that it was an immediate ‘x’ in the box. So, the Beetle was back in the garage while I examined the options for repair. Since this coincided with winter’s first dusting of grit on the roads, I deliberately didn’t hurry – though it’s too late to take evasive action, of course.

    Eventually, once I’d cut out the rot, my brother-in-law Pat crafted some repair sections and we set to work. Between us we welded in the fix, which was a tricky under-seat corner piece, but while I was inspecting inside the wheelarch I noticed some more rust.

    I cleaned up and welded in a couple more off-cuts of steel from Pat’s workshop, and applied seam-sealer to the inner repair. That meant I now had to underseal the inner arch, which I knew desperately needed doing to the entire underside. Fortunately, it’s still in remarkably solid condition.

    I’ve used Dinitrol before and found it to be very effective, so opted for the same again this time. Without a compressor rigged up at home currently, I plumped for several 500ml cans of its 4941 aerosol because I knew it would be fairly simple to apply where needed. Getting the Beetle up in the air was easy thanks to my old set of ramps and large axle stands, offering just enough clearance for a good wire-brushing of the underside.

    Then it was time to put the Dinitrol to good use and slowly apply it to the underneath of the vehicle and into the wheelarches. An hour later I was very pleased with how the floorpans looked. Compared to using a schutz gun in a confined space, the aerosol allows you to get into all the smaller areas with ease – perfect if you don’t have access to a four-post lift.

    With the welding done I sent my spare set of period wheel rims to Berkshire-based company Procoat to be blasted, primed and powdercoated.

    A five-minute chat with the owner turned into an hour as his enthusiasm for classics became obvious, having been given the name Aston Martin by a father with a clear sense of humour. It’s little wonder that not only does he now run a company that specialises in blasting and coating car parts, but he also owns several Astons.

    Having heard him wax lyrical about what makes a good process and the importance of how many microns of coating you need on a rim, it was nice to see the fruits of his expertise when I collected the finished wheels. The gloss black is fantastic, and the finish almost mirror-like – the colour isn’t standard, but our choice for the Beetle.

    We had agreed to help Vintage Tyres out by evaluating some whitewall rubber, so these were fitted, and suddenly the combination of new tyres and shiny rims put the rest of the car to shame.

    It might be back on the road, but it looks as if the bodywork and a respray have to be the next steps.

    Procoat: 01635 200017; www.professionalcoatings.co.uk
    Dinitrol: www.dinitroldirect.com

    Whitewalls always provoke a ‘Marmite’ response, but even if they stay on just for the summer, they certainly look the part when coupled with the freshly painted rims.

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    Car #VW-Beetle / #VW / #Volkswagen-Beetle / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Beetle-MkI
    Run by Martin Port
    Owned since March 2011
    Total mileage 87,698
    Miles since February report 1053
    Latest costs £137


    The Beetle had been doing what was asked of it for some time without any purposeful maintenance, so it came as no surprise when it suddenly developed a misfire one day without warning. A cursory look failed to throw up anything obvious, so I figured that it was time to carry out a full service and see if that resulted in an improvement.

    VW Heritage markets a kit that includes plugs, leads, distributor cap and rotor arm (the car is already running a points-less ignition system), but I knew that I also needed to check the valve clearances, and that was a slight issue.

    With no replacement for the C&SC workshop in sight, my own garage out of action thanks to ongoing construction work, and the driveway full of building materials, I was faced with carrying out the service at the side of the road.

    I’m no stranger to kerbside maintenance but, with a wet winter in full swing, the thought of having to check the clearances while lying in the gutter didn’t appeal much. I was always going to be tempted by an offer from friend and Our classics regular Oli Cottrell to do the job in exchange for a few notes!

    When he delivered the car back to me, he was full of praise for how it drove – an assessment that I was pleased with, given that he worked for a time at a classic VW specialist. As suspected, the valve clearances were out and one had closed up, but with everything adjusted the Beetle was full of pep once more… until the following day, when a text from Mrs P read: “Fine going into town, but stuttered all the way back.”

    Sorting a loose ignition lead helped a little, but we also decided to look at the carburettor settings. The manual suggests that the volume control screw needs to be somewhere between two-and-a-half and three turns out, but this one was at six, which would explain the black electrodes on the new plugs. After a road test, we settled on three turns and, with a tweak to the air bypass, normal service was resumed.

    Typically, with the Beetle ousted from its cosy garage, the cold snap took its toll and killed the battery. That was easily sorted with a visit to the auto factor, but outdoor living is also proving detrimental to the chrome. That is disappointing, because it isn’t even a couple of years old – raising the issue of quality when it comes to parts. With that in mind, when the wash/wipe switch appeared to fail, I was about to order an OEM replacement, but decided to check the rest of the system first. It turned out that the switch was fine and that the upper pipework and nozzle were gummed up.

    After dismantling the whole assembly from the water tank upwards and repeatedly sucking out all the muck, the washers function again – but in the process I had succeeded in drowning the adjacent radio. It now only partially works, and out of only one speaker. I’ve never been particularly enamoured with this unit, though, so plans are afoot to conceal an alternative in the glovebox and reinstate the dashboard blanking plate.

    With the underbonnet area emptied to attend to the washers, I noticed that the pipe from the fresh air box had disintegrated. This is meant to enable water to drain out, helping to reduce condensation on the windscreen. If, however, the pipe is absent or broken, water just collects in a pool above the fuel tank and will quickly corrode the metal. A new one was bought for £11 and so this is at least one part of the bodywork that won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

    THANKS TO Oli Cottrell: 0118 971 2091 / #VW-Heritage : 01273 444000; www.vwheritage.com

    Not a Californian sunset, but sunrise over a multistorey in Twickenham. Inset: replacement air box drain tube will help to prevent corrosion.

    Air box removed to access washer system Recent chrome already attacked by rust. Pipes and jets were thick with black gunk. Oli doing his best James Herriot impression while attempting to solve the ongoing misfire.
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    Elliott Roberts

    JUST BUGGIN’ Late-spec air-cooled Beetle gets left-field makeover we canʼt get enough of


    Max Edward’s late-model Beetle, running uncharacteristic wheels, may be frowned upon by the air-cooled fraternity but we just love it. What do you think? Words: Elliott Roberts. Photos: Ade Brannan.

    We don’t tend to feature many air-cooled Dubs in the pages of Performance VW. Now that’s not because we don’t like them you understand. Far from it. It’s more the fact that there are already plenty of other publications around specialising in non-water pumpers. That’s not to say we won’t run them in the mag though. Every now and again something ‘air cooled’ turns up that’s just so off the wall that we can’t resist the urge.

    In fact, there have been a few instances of late where that’s happened. It’s actually been like the early days of PVW when we specifically highlighted one air-cooled Dub per issue. Only last month we featured Richard Jones’ stunning Type 34 Karmann Ghia (albeit it with a 13B rotary motor out back) from Las Vegas. Then, back in the January issue, it was the turn of Jo Riley and his custom ’1972 Karmann Ghia (this one running an MR2 turbo engine). It doesn’t stop there either, because the month prior to that we brought you news of a car we’d been chasing for quite some time: the electric-powered ‘Black Current’ drag racing Beetle. Like we said, it’s only the ‘out there’ cars that really appeal and while Max Edwards, owner of the creation on this very page, has retained an air-cooled motor, his Bug is anything but conventional.

    Okay, so we admit, it was the wheels that initially drew us to Max’s ’1978 Beetle, but we soon discovered the car as a whole has been built with a slightly different approach. “Cars have always been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember,” he says. “My dad had air-cooled Dubs in the ’80s. That’s when we started to go to shows and I fell in love with VWs and, more specifically, Bugs.” Amazingly, at the tender age of just 22, Max doesn’t only own this Beetle but also his own restoration business, called EVA VW Retro. “We specialise in air-cooled and early water-cooled VWs mainly.”

    Although he’s owned more air-cooled Dubs than anything else, Max admits he prefers the approach to building a water-cooled show car.

    “I find the air-cooled scene incredibly samey,” he reveals. Perhaps that’s why we are so fond of his Beetle, he’s put a water-cooled spin on it! “There are just so many people running the same tried and tested looks and not doing anything different. The water-cooled scene always struck me as being a bit more experimental, so I wanted to take some of this and apply it to my air-cooled car.”

    He may be in his early twenties but Max has already had 11 cars so far. From Type 3s, a couple of E30 Beemers, and even a Porsche 924, he’s had the lot, but the Beetle was his first car at the tender age of 16. Did he ever expect it to get this out of hand, though? “The car was shiny and solid but neglected when I bought it. It had been repainted in its original silver but nothing else has been done.” According to Max it began life as a ‘Last Edition’ 1200L and it still has a numbered plaque inside that ranks it at number 213 of 300 of the last ever Beetles sold in the UK.

    “I couldn’t afford an early car back then, but this was pretty solid, just needing small bits doing that, at 16-years-old, I could fix myself. If I had an early car then I probably wouldn’t have ended up going this far with it.” Apparently the car’s been through a number of different looks along the way and despite his plan to lower it and just do the odd bit here and there, Max never envisaged a full restoration with a colour change and a set of wheels that cost the same as buying the car in the first place!

    So what style, if any, influenced him? “I’ve always liked the ‘German-look’, which usually features Porsche parts and engineering on fast road and track Beetles.” Max was obviously heavily influenced by the whole stance movement, too: “The car has always had a bit of Porsche flavour to it I guess. In fact, the BBS RSs are actually spec’d for a 930 Turbo with wider rears and relatively skinny fronts, giving it the perfect stance.” We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves though, so let’s rewind a bit.

    The first thing Max did when he got the car was sort out the interior. “When I bought the car it looked like a bear had been living in it, so I fitted replacement OE seat covers, prior to the 964 Tombstones going in.” Having done his thing with the car for a couple of years, it was actually the summer of 2013 that the it came off the road for the mother of all strip downs. “It was pretty tough taking my lovely, dependable Beetle off the road and stripping it down to nothing more than a bare shell, chassis, and a box of bits. It wasn’t the build that was hard part but more being unable to drive the thing,” he says.

    Apparently most people thought he was mad taking the car off the road but he knew that behind the tidy façade there were some nasty areas that would soon be exposed, so he decided to get in there first. “The car had a fair bit of rust repair welding done, requiring some small panels and localised repairs,” he explains. In the end the chassis had brand-new pan halves, too, with everything being blasted and either painted or powdercoated during the rebuild. It was truly like a brand-new car when it hit the road again. When it came to paint, Max fancied white – not just some factory shade, though, but RAL 400 white. “None of the VW whites were white enough,” he says, “but I now know why manufacturers don’t paint their cars pure white as I practically need to wear sunglasses now every time I wash it.”

    When it comes to chassis mods, Max claims the car is mainly stock, with a few ‘enhancing’ modifications: “The front end is narrowed 2” to allow for the aggressive fitment and runs long travel ball joints, dropped spindles and strengthened shock towers.” Sounds quite serious to us! Out back Max choose to go down the IRS route: “There are a lot of Beetles dropped dirty-nasty low on standard swing-arm suspension but it just doesn’t perform too well. Mine uses semi-trailing arms and CV-jointed driveshafts. It drives as good low as it does at standard ride height, without the crazy camber, too.” Max claims the rear end had to be notched a fair bit but he’s so happy with the way it looks and drives. “I went for air-ride as well, as I wanted it a lot lower but without compromising the way it drove. It was just way too soft static and used to bottom-out all the time.”

    Max claims the wheels are one of his favourite parts of the car: “I know RSs are a bit played-out on the water-cooled scene and yet they’re almost unheard of in air-cooled circles.” He had considered doing Autostradta Modenas but is pleased he went with the RSs and being direct fit, they couldn’t be any better. “I really, really didn’t have the money for the wheels at the time but I just had to have them,” he reveals.

    “I struggled money-wise for a while but don’t regret them one bit.”

    If anything, Max wishes he’d done a bit more to the bodywork, which is still very much stock (other than the graphics) but we reckon it looks perfect as it is. Okay, we’re obviously massive fans of the look but how has the car been received on the air-cooled scene? “It’s been a bit of a mix, with some people not even noticing it at all and then others just totally getting it,” Max tells us. He reckons the air-cooled scene is very set in its way and if it’s not an early-type car, done the right way, on the right wheels, then it just won’t get a look in. “They probably look at mine and wonder why I’m running Mk1 Golf wheels. It’s one of those cars you either get or you don’t, I guess,” he grins.

    When it comes to the motor, Max is running a 1641cc lump with an Engle 110 cam, straight- cut gears, all high-rev valve gear, 1.25:1 ratio rockers, a pair of Solex Kadron carbs, and a Vintagespeed stainless exhaust. The engine runs on electronic ignition with a custom breather box setup, MST serpentine pulley kit with all-gold tinware and powdercoated black auxiliaries. “It all runs through a Freeway Flyer gearbox with a longer fourth and final drive. I’ve had the car into triple figures a few times and it just keeps on pulling,” Max smiles.

    It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. “The car’s been super reliable, always starts and runs great. There was this one time, though. We were on the way to our local meet, gunning it down the motorway at a fair pace, when all of a sudden there was a big plume of white smoke out the back,” Max says. He killed the engine and coasted to the hard shoulder. Turns out the main oil line for the remote filter on the exhaust had melted. “As I didn’t have any more oil line with me we had to wait for a recovery vehicle, but that just gave us chance to air it out and take a couple of ‘scene’ photos for social media,” he laughs. We like the fact Max doesn’t take himself or the car too seriously. Max is the first to admit he never set out to get attention. “I’m honestly so chuffed when people do get it. I never expected a magazine like PVW to be interested in my air-cooled car. I’m still as in love with the car now as I was when I drove it daily at 17.”

    As for the future, well, Max has already retrimmed the interior since our shoot with Porsche Pasha pattern and half leather seats and doorcards, plus a trimmed boot build along with Alcantara headliner and a new air controller. This year he just intends to enjoy the car for now, but when it does start looking a little tired then it will get torn down and the colour changed, as he explains: “I’ll probably go for some super-deep Nutmeg brown metallic or maybe even classic Porsche Guards red.” It sounds like Max has put some thought into this already. “I certainly never plan to sell the car. I’d like to make it properly fast one day too,” he adds. We’ll just have to watch this space. This is certainly not the last we’ve heard of Max or his Beetle for that matter.

    You can’t beat a Bug for mod-cos, you know, like a steering wheel, seats, erm…
    “I’ve had the car into triple figures a few times and it just keeps on pulling”
    “The water-cooled scene always struck me as being a bit more experimental, so I wanted to apply this to my air-cooled car”

    Dub Details #1978 / #Volkswagen-Beetle / #VW / #1978-Volkswagen-Beetle / #Volkswagen / #VW-Beetle

    ENGINE: 1641cc four-cylinder with Engle 110 cam, straight cut gears, all high rev valve gear, 1.25:1 ratio rockers, twin #Solex-Kadron carburettors, Vintagespeed stainless steel exhaust, electronic ignition, custom breather box setup, MST serpentine pulley kit and other dress parts, all gold tinware and powdercoated black parts. Freeway Flyer gearbox with longer fourth and final drive

    CHASSIS: Stock VW spine and floorpans, #IRS converted. Six-point braced rear, 2” narrowed front. #Air-Lift suspension all-round

    EXTERIOR: Pure white paint, vinyl stripes, aluminium running boards, body-coloured bumpers, yellow headlight covers, rear window slats

    INTERIOR: Porsche 964 leather front seats, stock basket weave rear, charcoal carpets, cream vinyl headliner, Porsche three- spoke wheel, Auto Meter tach, ‘boot’ build with exposed tank and Air Lift 3P manifold

    SHOUT: My dad for help on the bodywork of the car and other stuff along the way, girlfriend Emma for emotional support and when I’ve needed a hand! Best mate Ed for tons of support and helping out where possible, plus all my other good mates for being the best company ever to do all the shows with!
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    Jonathan Musk

    Jonathan Musk pays a visit to Wales where a new company is converting old classics to electric power and drives a #1965 / #VW-Beetle / #VW / #Volkswagen-Beetle / #VW-Beetle-Electric / #Volkswagen-Beetle-Electric / #Electric-Car / #Volkswagen / #Electric-Classic-Cars

    ELECTRIC CLASSIC CARS / WORDS & PHOTOS: Jonathan Musk / #2016

    I’m in a classic Volkswagen Beetle and it’s raining… in Wales. Surprisingly, the Beetle is powered by an electric motor and is at least twice as powerful as the original car, has a range of 100-miles and has been beautifully restored. I’m driving a classic car, but the experience is strangely modern. There are no fumes, no angry exhaust note and brakes that actually work. It’s definitely classic, but without the usual sensations.

    Driving through the Welsh mountains is a joy to behold in most cars. It’s not about going fast, it’s about travelling well. To enhance the experience, I’m in a classic 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. It’s electric, literally.

    In mid-Wales, Richard Morgan and Graham Swann have started something special. They converts classic cars to electric power and do so with such passion and skill, it’s hard not to be moved by the beauty of their work. I’m paying a visit to Richard, who’s intriguing past is in the world of Rally, where trees and metal meet with the sound of flying gravel and revving engines. Rally is loud, brash and a petrolhead’s idea of heaven. It’s the rugby of the motoring world and, like rugby, rally is a thug’s sport played by gentlemen so it’s perhaps a surprise that Richard has turned his attention to electric vehicles at all. More surprising is that the cars start out as classics.

    Understandably, the key is not to lose the original vehicle’s credibility, sense of nostalgia and classic charm. Electric Classic Cars are not trying to reinvent the original, but rather enhance it with modern tech and for the thrill of creating something new from something old. It’s a careful balance that if done correctly can work astoundingly well, like sweet and sour sauce.

    The non-metallic red 1965 Beetle is a stunning example of professional craftsmanship. The car has been restored to near perfect condition, but crucially without over doing it. It’s been stripped back, enhanced, modified and tinkered with so delicately that initially it’s difficult to tell that it’s an electric car at all, save for the massive advertising sticker in the rear window. If subtlety is an art, Richard has it figured.

    For those familiar with the original Beetle, it was a car that saved the German automotive industry after the Second World War. Rejuvenated by the Allies, the Beetle was seen as a quick way to provide transport through a devastated landscape. Despite an unsettling Nazi past and antiquated 30’s Ferdinand Porsche design, the Beetle next became the darling of the swinging sixties and an ironic icon of the hippie movement. Many were sadly destroyed through lack of care before being recognised as a true motoring icon. Unable to keep up with modern cars even as far back as the 1950’s, the Beetle was never meant to be a performance car. Only when modified as a beach buggy did the Beetle ever truly find performance from its aged flat-four engine. The performance, or lack thereof, didn’t dissuade Hollywood from portraying the Beetle as the star of the ‘Love Bug’ movies. Since then, the Beetle has attracted a huge global following, with people having tried just about everything with, and in, one. There’s hot-rod Beetles powered by massive tuned Porsche engines and even an incredibly powerful electric drag racer, called Black Current.

    The modernising of classics is not entirely unusual and there’s a universal appeal to recreating old classics, as demonstrated by the modern Fiat 500, BMW MINI and even new VW Beetle.
    However, there’s a risk that with each modernisation the classic character is lost and this is the exact opposite of what Richard aims to do with his conversions.

    Instead, each conversion is kept as original as possible to maintain the patina and ownership experience, but without the typical irritations associated with classic ownership; namely grease, smell, noise, discomfort and unreliability.

    Most conversions undertaken are custom orders, so if a customer is on a tight budget Richard won’t look at the bodywork and instead concentrates on the powertrain. For the Beetle, however, it was stripped right back to its bare skin. A fresh coat of striking red paint and a new interior trim later and the car looks factory fresh but it hasn’t lost its aged appeal. Unfortunately, Richard’s the sort of chap who gets stuck into the work so there’s no before-after photo to show.

    Things are kept as straightforward as possible for the mechanicals. Richard has spent many years trialling various electric components to reach the point that he’s happy to sell a conversion to a paying customer.

    Learning what controller works with what motor and charging unit is all a matter of expensive trial and error and invaluable knowledge he’s enviably learnt. So much so that he is now regularly contacted by others for advice, including well-known setups like EV West in America. It’s not all one way though, as if EV West has completed a conversion on a car that Electric Classic Cars’ has not attempted, there’s mutual benefit in sharing expertise.

    Obviously, conversions start with the removal of the oily bits. Engine, exhaust, fuel tank, insulation, oil pipes, cooling paraphernalia etc. are all removed. “The weight saving is significant,” states Richard. He shows me a 1980’s Porsche 911 that’s being stripped down. Interestingly, the assorted items that have been removed weigh nearly as much as the electrical components he plans to install.

    Once the engine has been removed, work begins on planning. Using the original gearbox keeps things simpler and a special conversion plate is fabricated using 3D scanning, geometry and CAD to get it spot on. The conversion plate is milled from a single aluminium block to ensure it is strong, light and accurately machined. The electric motor is then mounted to this and attached to the gearbox, just like the engine it replaces.

    Consequently, the electric motor powers the car through the same gears and clutch as the original car. Each conversion brings its own complications, for example the electrification of brake servos and power steering that would have been powered by the engine. However, the Volkswagen Beetle is a simple machine with no complex electronics or powered anything to worry about, which makes conversion that much simpler and this is part of the appeal in converting a classic. A modern car to electric conversion has much more to consider.

    Once the motor position is sorted, preparation for the power electronics and positioning can begin. Planning is crucial for doing the job properly; there are no half measures here.

    Of course, planning where the components fit is more easily achieved if they’re a known quantity and this is where Richard’s knowledge is really called upon. The most space-sensitive item in any EV is the batteries, which Richard sources from around the globe. Lots come from written-off electric cars, like Tesla that have been rear-ended and this is his preferred battery to work with too. “Nissan Leaf batteries just aren’t powerful enough,” he tells me as he shows me a bank of cells recently repurposed from a Tesla Roadster. High energy density is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, the battery takes up less space in the car and secondly it’s lighter too. This is all the more important in a car that was never designed to take the additional weight of an electric powertrain, let alone its additional power. The original Beetle weighed around 725kg – Richard’s electrified version is around 800kg. The difference is small enough not to have to worry about upgrading the original suspension and brakes.

    However, the original car was barely able to reach 60mph while the electric version can easily get there within ten seconds. Enhanced anchors are therefore wise and this Beetle now sports new disc brakes at the front. Appearance is kept original though, as they’re handily hidden behind the delightfully gleaming chrome hubcaps. Richard’s rally background ensures he’s more than capable at setting a car up properly and this is important as the weight distribution is now near 50/50. Suspension is original apart from the addition of an anti-roll bar to aid handling.

    Most of the batteries are tucked neatly away under the bonnet, but more are to be found hidden under the rear parcel shelf. It’s remarkable to think 22kWh of li-ion cells have somehow been hidden in a car never designed to accept them, when modern car makers still struggle to do the same with a purpose designed vehicle. Even the charge port has been hidden behind the rear number plate that acts as a protective rain flap too. This level of intricate detail and intelligent thinking is repeated throughout the car. The dashboard has been lovingly restored and its clear Richard’s perfectionism has paid off. The one addition that gives the electric game away is a #LinkPRO battery monitor – but even this has been given a chrome dial and slate grey background to match the original speedo it sits beside.

    The level of perfectionism is impressive, but that’s not to say it’s over the top. For instance the steering wheel has a large worn area that only adds to the nostalgia of the car. A fresh one was installed, but Richard felt it was too bright and detracted from the overall classic appeal. Having had a good look around, I was eager to get out on the open road. Would this drive like a Tesla, Jonny’s Flux Capacitor or a classic Beetle?

    Turning the car on is undramatic as the ignition key merely illuminates a small green light LED at the base of the speedometer. It’s alien for a classic car, there’s no vibration, no noise, no smoke, no smell. Ignore the clutch and first, select second and accelerate. It’s that simple. Because the motor isn’t spinning at standstill, the clutch is only needed when on the move. Likewise, there’s little point depressing it when coming to a stop. You can drive the Beetle much like a regular automatic, leaving it in third gear will give a good blend of performance and top speed, but Richard’s discovered second gear is great for humiliating the ever-eager Audi behind. Fourth (top) is good for long runs and motorway cruising, which the Beetle will now happily do. As for range, Richard says it will cover 100-miles with ease. The battery monitor shows percentage loss at approximately the same rate as the miles glide by.

    Steering is heavy until you get it rolling, no power steering here and the thin-rim wheel is a delight to hold. Manoeuvring the car reminds me of old black & white movies when actors inexplicably exaggerated steering. The experience is definitely classic and not far removed from driving the original car, only without the thumping soundtrack, a lot more speed and – I’m told – better handling. The Beetle accelerates like a modern electric car, although it has a unique whine all of its own, akin to a small turbine. On the return approach, there’s a steep climb to navigate. Richard suggests quickly whipping it into first and I hesitate for a moment. We’re now stopped facing up the hill. I fall into modern driving mode and attempt a classic hill start, only I’ve given it a few too many Amps and have managed to spin the rear wheels. We’re doing a burnout in a 1965 electric Beetle. It’s an accidental thrill I’m hugely apologetic about. However, this nicely demonstrates the torque available from the AC electric motor and would have been an impossibility in the original petrol car. It’s fun and we both return with larger grins than a Cheshire cat.

    The big question for many is, did I miss the flat-four engine sound? No, while I can appreciate a classic that’s been restored for originality, a part of me has always wondered why people put all that effort in and not take the opportunity to improve a car if they can. There are countless examples in the classic car world, like Triumph Stags that were built with a design flaw that meant many overheated, ruining the engine. Long after the cars were built, a modification now exists to correct this. Would a purist complain that a modified Stag no longer overheats? I doubt it. Applying the same logic, what Electric Classic Cars has done is take an old obsolete car and make it usable in today’s modern driving conditions. That, surely, is the whole point and the best form of recycling.

    And the cost for this? Well, that’s a bit like asking a builder to construct a house without first saying how many rooms it has and what size it will be. However, Richard advises a conversion costs around £25,000. That’s fair considering the effort required, technical know-how and actual cost of components used, which amount to well over £10,000.

    The Volkswagen Beetle isn’t the only car Electric Classic Cars convert, although it is the vehicle they have most expertise on. In the workshop while I was there was a Porsche 911 (964) and Range Rover Series 1, as well as another Beetle. Richard told me of more customer cars he’s about to start on too, including a special Jaguar E-Type that will out accelerate a Tesla Model S and have a 200-mile range too. Would I be tempted to have a classic converted to electric power? After my experience in the VW Beetle the answer is a very definite yes.

    Wales, wet, mountains, autumn, red, Volkswagen, classic, wind, whirr, electric, smiles.
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