VW Type-3 - Also called Volkswagen 1500 and Volkswagen 1600. Production 1961–1973 - Number built - 2,542,382 More
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  • THREE SQUARED #VW-Type-3-Squareback

    Matthias Krenzer may have only made three modifications to his air-cooled Type 3 Squareback yet if you spotted it at a show we bet it would be the car you’d most want to drive home in… Words: Neil Hunt Photos: Patrick Hille.

    It won’t surprise you that Matthias Krenzer has form when it comes to properly stanced #VAG metal, both air and water-cooled. The 40-yearold Bavarian has laid claim – and laid frame – for more years than a lot of us have been driving and he has an enviable list of past projects. He’s dropped the lot – from Beetles to Splits, Ghias to a string of classic Passats, and a few big Audis, too. In fact, this Type 3 shares his garage with a tubbed and body-dropped T2 Deluxe Bay window that’s so low Matthias has had to raise the fuel tank and the 1700cc motor. But hinting at his love for water-cooled, too, he’s running the Bay on 18” three-piece Artec Turbos. He describes his other project – a 1964 Karmann Ghia – as a slammed “deluxe ratlook”. What he means by that is it’s laid right out and isn’t so rusty you can see inside from outside. To hell with the paint, plant it.

    The skilled toolmaker (and now part-time wheel builder) has a lot of love for simple builds that involve some serious lowering, a wellthought- out set of rims placed millimetreperfectly in the arches, and a narrowed front end. Three really simple, and affordable, steps. So, not surprisingly then, that was the plan for the Type 3, as Matthias tells us: “Next to the Bus and the Ghia, I wanted something I could use with a bit of space in it and I’d always loved the shape of the Squareback. The look of the car when it’s lowered is just so cool but only when a narrowed front end is matched with a mad cambered rear. But I knew if I was going to do it, the wheels would have to be 17s instead of the usual 15s most people run. I wanted to make sure I had a decent engine in there, too. Nothing too crazy, just enough to make sure I could make trips to Wörthersee and across Europe.”

    With the seemingly endless supply of vintage German #VW s still popping up from across Europe you’d think Matthias would have found it easy to find a suitable base car but this one turned up in the least likely place. “The guys at Cult Classic Ellgau imported this #1965 car for me from Hawaii! Because of that, though, it was pretty much rust- and weld-free. I’m really proud to say that this is still true today. So, with a car this good it really helped my plan to just keep things nice and simple and not get involved with painting and trimming it. Although, even if I had, I would have still kept it this period faded white with the plain old beige and grey interior. I love the fact that everyone can see the car has lived for 50 years and so it won’t be brand-new.”

    With the Squareback landing in Germany in April 2013, the first stop was Cult Classics for a wiring refresh and a freshen up of the old motor, as Matthias tells us: “I got the guys to strip and rebuild the standard 1500cc engine to give it a new life and then to overhaul the electrics so I knew everything would be reliable. Sure, it’s only 45bhp but who needs more?”

    After only a month in the shop, Matthias started to think it might be possible to make it to Wörthersee the following year and after only another month or two, had already sourced a narrowed front beam to pull the front wheels in nice and tight to the front bay walls (we can’t really call it an engine bay, can we?). The beam would be static dropped for now and it narrowed the front track by a good three inches on each side for that classic air-cooled stance. The back was even easier. It’s simply a case of removing the rear suspension arms, turning them up by a measured amount and bolting them back onto the car. Voilà, lowered. It’s actually more of an art than that, but you get the idea. For any airheads, Matthias had turned the torsion bars three outer splines.

    With the drop nailed, Matthias had to add his signature touch: good wheels. As he explains, there was a lot of pressure on him: “Many years ago, I started messing around with wheels for my own cars, building split-rims and making smaller wheels bigger. Slowly, more and more friends started asking me to make wheels for their cars. Quickly I got the name ‘Gekrenzert’ which translates as ‘built by Krenzer’. I built some cool wheels including some 17” Pirelli slots, 17” Fuchs, 17” Porsche Teledials and so many more. It’s become a second job for me and before big events it’s not unusual for me to work 18-hour days to get things done so people can make it to the show on my wheels. I wanted 17” wheels for the Squareback but in this old PCD bolt pattern (5x205mm – called ‘wide five’), the choice of wheels is very small, especially for 17” wheels. But I didn’t want to make life hard by using adaptors as that would have really ruined my chances of getting the wheels sitting in the right place in the arches. So, after much research I went for these reproduction Escra rims. They’re a copy of the classic Radar wheels and are really hard to get hold of. They’re the best part of £1000, if you can get them that is. They’re ET40 and I’ve used a 185/35 Nankang tyre across the 7” rim for a nice look without making them crazy stretched or a hard ride quality. Rolling it out of the garage on the new wheels was my favourite part of the whole build. That moment will stay with me forever. It was one of those ‘yes, you did it right’ times.”

    That was the end of 2013 and while little touches were added – like the all-red rear clusters and period safety star – Matthias still wanted to just push that bit further towards the look he craved. It nagged him that much that in February 2014, he decided enough was enough and he wanted to make the move from static drop to air-ride to really tuck those 17” Escras right up in the arches.

    A call to JJ Vintage saw the static front beam exchanged for a new air-ride version, which was shortly followed by the rest of the air setup from Wagnair. There are no complicated electronics at work here, just a plain old paddle system controlling up and down with a switch. There isn’t even an electronic display, just a good old-fashioned manual pressure gauge. Matthias’ friends at Cult Classic got stuck in and by April last year, the Type 3 had reached new lows. Major lows. Ready in time for the Wörthersee tour, Matthias was seriously happy. It’s not often we meet an owner that wouldn’t change a thing about their project but Matthias admits he loves the car and wouldn’t have done it any differently.

    Although, he has made one addition since the shoot… an unsurprising one for a man with a reputation for sporting killer rims. When we last spoke to Matthias he revealed he had changed the Escra rims to custom 17” three-piece Porsche Teledial splits. Now that’s a look we’re totally feeling. Matthias has hinted that he wants to try and drop the front even lower but for now, he’s happy. So, you won’t see a colour change, interior retrim or fancy air install over this year’s show season; instead you’ll see Matthias sitting, chilling with a beer and a broad smile. He won’t be worried about winning prizes at shows because he’s too busy enjoying the fruits of his labour.

    Dub Details #VW-Type-3 Squareback #Volkswagen

    ENGINE: Standard 1500cc flat-four rebuilt, with standard four-speed gearbox.

    CHASSIS: 7x17” Escra ‘Radar’-style wheels, ET40. 185/35 Nankang tyres all-round. Factory brakes. JJ Vintage Type 1 Beetle narrowed front air beam narrowed 3” each side. Wagnair manual air-ride system.

    EXTERIOR: Original faded white paint. All-red rear lights. Safety Star. White indicators.

    INTERIOR: Original seats and trim panels. Pop-out windows. Ivory steering wheel.

    ICE: Original period radio.

    SHOUT: I’d like to thank my girl Verena for her patience and massive support. Thanks also to Cult Classic Ellgau, JJ Vintage and Wagnair.

    Matthias’ Type 3 Squareback might not have as many modifications as some cars we’ve featured recently but we love the simple effectiveness of what he’s done.

    Rolling it out of the garage was my favourite part of the build on the new wheels.

    “I love the fact that everyone can see the car has lived for 50 years”
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