DEAD PAN / #VW-Beetle
It’s not very often that the pages of DRIVE-MY are graced with a car that isn’t water-cooled, but on some occasions we can definitely break the rules. Words and photos: Tony Matthews.
Just look at this menace. Its owner is a man that comes from sunny Spain, from a small town just on the outskirts of Barcelona. He is responsible for creating one of the most notorious air-cooled car clubs in the whole of Europe, ‘The Panscrapers’. The club was established way back in 2005, born out of Carlo’s passion for the VW Beetle. It gives him a place where he can get away from everything with the guys and just live out his dreams inside a garage.
These guys truly live the ‘low lifestyle’ by scraping pan without the help of air bags! Yes that’s right, this car is this low and it’s static… crazy huh?
Well, the Panscrapers are different to most groups of people and love to create some of the most outrageous projects you will ever see. There are no show ’n’ shine queens here, just lots of grease with spanners in hand, late night project builds, friendly banter and the must-have barbecues made out of oil drums. I first came across these guys through Facebook over four years ago and I made it my mission to one day make the trip to Barcelona to hang out with them. I mean, who wouldn’t want to chill with some down-to-earth passionate car guys at their garage and watch them build some epic dubs?
So after several years of liking their project photos on their Instagram feed, the time came to take that trip and this black Oval was the icing on the cake. I’d seen their previous builds, but when I saw a front three-quarter photo of ‘Darth Vader’ as Carlos calls her, it just blew me away! That stance, that deep black paint, those 15-inch BRM wheels and then those headlights… It’s the complete package and what a classic custom Beetle should be all about in this writer’s book. As we arrived at the Panscrapers garage, we were greeted by all the crew who are an awesome bunch of guys, mainly because they are just so chilled out. As they opened the garage doors we were presented with a mix of Beetles, Karmamn Ghias and Campers and Vans, some completed and some to be future builds. Then out of the corner in the dark, was sitting Carlos’ Darth Vader.
This is Carlos’ dream car which he purchased over 16 years ago and it took him one year to build with the help of his Panscrapers crew. Having been a fan of the classic Beetle since he was a young boy, he made it his mission to own his very own Beetle. But, it’s not Carlos’ first project – he has had a 1952 Split, a ’57 Oval, a Type 3 Squareback, a ’61 Singlecab and many more besides.
So, why Darth Vader? “He’s damn cool, no? I love the Star Wars movies and I remember watching it one time and thinking how cool it would be to add a touch of Darth Vader to the Beetle I was building,” said Carlos. We think it’s a really cool idea and we particularly love that he didn’t go for some over-the-top, filler-type body kit to bring across that Darth flavour. He just kept it simple, going all black and then adding that finishing touch – those headlights!
“I wanted to make the front end look mean and I was scratching my head on how I could do this,” recalls Carlos. As he didn’t want to alter the original lines of the Beetle, he looked at the headlights. His inspiration came from the KDF headlight covers that military vehicles used back in World War Two which were fitted so that during night time black outs, the driver could still have some light to see the road. I have to say, when I first saw those headlights, I had no idea where they came from, so for me, it was a brief history lesson that day. Who would have thought that a part used to help save soldiers’ lives would end up being one of the coolest modifications I’ve seen on a classic Beetle?
Whilst Carlos and the rest of the Panscrapers crew got busy stripping the Beetle for its makeover, the engine was sent to the guys over at Kombiman Garage for a complete rebuild, with some added parts for that extra grunt. I mean, if you’re going to slam the heck out of a car and scrape pan, the engine has to also sound super mean.
First things first, the main modifications were to the floor pan to get it as smooth as possible and then Carlos had the original front beam narrowed by four inches. He then added dropped spindles and some Peugeot 106 Rallye shocks at the rear. As you can see, the drop is just perfect and gives the Beetle one tough stance. Wheel choice-wise, Carlos used to have a set of Porsche 944 wheels, but then decided on these 15-inch BRM Flat4s, which were then custom-painted to match the bodywork.
Whilst the engine was still at Kombiman Garage, they had the entire bodywork and then got busy with the interior, retrimming the seats in black and cream leather with matching doorcards and adding Simpson seat belts. Not much more was done inside, apart from adding a Empi GTV Flat4 steering wheel, a large Autometer gauge and a Gene Berg gear shifter – Beetle classics if ever there were any.
A few days after the interior was ready to be put back in, and the engine was also delivered with all the parts needed so Carlos and the boys could put it back in. After a week’s worth of hard graft in the evenings, Darth Vader was ready. And like any project car when it’s finished, you have to go for a test drive.
Carlos remembers that day so clearly. “It drove like a dream! It handled perfectly, the engine was incredible, it was super low and then when I added the headlight covers, it was just jaw-dropping,” recalls Carlos. DRIVE-MY doesn’t do air-cooled that often, but when we do…
Look at this lot, they’re so happy, loving the air-cooled life and all that. Excellent sandal game going on with the guy on the bottom left too…
ENGINE: Specially built 1776cc by #Kombiman-Garage
with 1776 Mahle forged pistons, Engle 100 camshaft, lightened flywheel with 0.9kg removed, 40 #Dellorto
electric fuel pump, #Bosch-009
, Type 3 gearbox, #Kennedy
CHASSIS: 4.5x15” and 5.5x16” #BRM-Flat4
wheels, custom painted with 135/70/15 and 145/80/15 tyres. Floor pan is entirely smoothed, beam narrowed -16cm no shocks, dropped spindles (front), three splines rear, Peugeot 106 Rallye rear shocks, restored Porsche 356B drum brakes
headlight covers, paint is black L041
INTERIOR: Custom leather retrim, Simpson seat belts, Empi GTV Flat4 steering wheel, Autometer gauges and Gene Berg gearstick