The Devil’s in the Detail

There are loads of stunning Veedubs out there, so how does this air-riding OCD-Dub stand out from the crowd? As the old saying goes…

 

Words: Dave Smith, photography: Lukasz Markowski

The Bug scene may have had its ups and downs over the years, but it’s still one of the largest, strongest and most fiercely loyal car scenes in the UK… or anywhere else for that matter. Which is great, but it does lead to one problem: they must be running out of things to do with Beetles that haven’t been done before. Then, occasionally, something comes along that doesn’t shout that loud, but would stand up to any microscopic inspection the most ardent VW anorak could chuck at it.

Just check out this one – it’s a 1967 model, and it’s a rolling advert for the owner’s detailing business. And we ain’t talking the local illicit ‘Best hand job in town’ pop-up valeters here; we’re talking the sort of detailing that international concours winners get. Take it away, Ben ‘Biff’ Johnson.

“It was originally a Northern Irish car, and lived in Belfast until about 1999,” says Biff. “It came over to the UK, still in its original beige, and had a few owners before Stef Rossi bought it and turned it into a drag car. It was stripped and caged, with a 2.3 turbo motor, an absolute monster, but he’d spent a fortune getting the body just right. After that, he tried to sell it a few times, but it didn’t sell and he ended up stripping it for parts some time around 2011-2012.

“Stef met Craig and Leanne from Limebug at a local meet, and they ended up buying the shell and floorpan. The idea was to create a promo vehicle for their air suspension kits – Limebug make a bolt-on kit, and it’s beautifully over-engineered. The body was in excellent shape, but Craig’s a perfectionist, like me, and cut everything away and started again – he went mental, making sure it had the correct OE number of spotwelds on the floor pan and such! It never got properly finished, although it was up and running and winning prizes, then another project came along and they needed the space, so the Beetle went up for sale.

“This was early last year, and at the time, I was looking for a Chevy pick-up! I saw this, and I’d always been into VWs, and thought I could use it as a promo car for my business, Biff’s Detailing. The car had been built by superb engineers, but I needed the aesthetics to be perfect, so I had to rebuild it, tweaking and changing bits to make it our own – I couldn’t have people saying it was ‘Craig’s old car’ or thinking that it was just a chequebook job.

“For us, it wasn’t a case of wanting to make A Beetle; it had to be THAT Beetle. We wanted something different, something not seen on Beetles before; we wanted to make a mark on the scene. There are lots of little touches, such as the sills, tunnel and kick panels painted body colour. The underside is exactly the same as the top, all body colour and polished to a gloss. Every single nut and bolt has been swapped for stainless or changed for something different, every hose clip is polished, and all the handles, spacers and other bits have been machined from billet. A lot of the work is on things you’ll never see.

“Paintwork is my thing; my background. I’ve worked on Rolls Royces, Bugattis, Ferrari 250s, I’ve prepped cars for Pebble Beach – most people will never see the faults I see. It took 55 hours of sanding and machine polishing to get the body to the standard I think is OK to show. Even the wheelarches are sanded and polished to a glassy finish. I nearly pulled the car apart last year to repaint it, but my missus, Jules, and the painter ganged up on me and said no!

“The interior was done by Nick, at Autobahn Customs. I told him I loved Singer Porsches, and the little tweaks they make to classic Porsches, so he used some Singer touches. The parcel shelf behind the rear seat had been cut away when it was a drag car, to allow access to the ‘box and clutch. I didn’t want to change that, because it’s part of the car’s story, but now you can see the gearbox through the rear window so I had it powder-coated…

“The wheels are a three-piece design from Limebug, the first set Craig made for a Beetle. Fitment was critical, as I always wanted a spare wheel in the nose that perfectly matched the front wheels, so we had to measure everything carefully – a 17×6.25” wheel and tyre fits perfectly, with 3mm all around, and the bonnet shuts properly.

The swamp cooler was an anniversary present from Jules, a genuine Fifties Thermador that she shipped in from Iowa. It looked like a breadbin that had been kicked down the road, but it still worked! I had it restored by Shane at ColourWorx, who is OCD like me – he tacked pins into each dent to pull it back into shape so it would keep its original welds. There’s 40 hours of work in the swamp cooler alone. The signwriting is by a local guy, Liam, at Rusty Nail.

“It’s funny, people look at it and think it’s just another old Beetle, but it has a 2.1 motor that gives 160bhp, so it has some bite to go with the bark. We’re not trophy hunters; we built this car for us. Well, I can’t say ‘we built this car’ because it was done by Limebug, but we’ve refinished it our way, and had a lot of help along the way. We never get to leave the car at shows, because people are constantly coming up to talk and ask questions, which is great. There’s always something that needs doing, though. I thought Herbie was just a kids’ Disney film until I bought this – now I know it was a documentary. It sits in the garage and disassembles itself!”

1967 VW Beetle

  • 18SWG Wolfsburg West floorpans
  • Full RHD pan conversion inc pedals, stops & rest plate
  • Full pan sandblasted and powder-coated
  • Limebug deluxe front and rear air suspension
  • Twin Dominator D2500l bags
  • DT225-335mm Gas Slammer rear shocks
  • Dual Viair 444 black compressors
  • Airlift 3P digital management system
  • Dual circuit ATE master cylinder conversion
  • Modified Napoleon’s hat for hydro clutch & brake master
  • Detailed trailing arms, long travel ball joints
  • Limebug 4″ narrowed beam, powder-coated
  • Super-strength 4″ narrowed through-rods
  • Limebug 4″ narrowed track rods, Meyle OE track rod ends
  • TRW steering box, COFAP steering damper
  • Jawbreaker shock towers
  • CB 2.5″ dropped spindles
  • CB disc brake conversion, 5x205mm PCD
  • Custom 2″ air plates, urethane bushes
  • 2,027cc Monster series engine
  • AS41 flowed, clearanced crankcase
  • Scat forged stroker crank, I-beam rods
  • CB oval CNC match ported and flowed big valve heads
  • Scat 1.4:1 forged rockers
  • Scat chromoly anodised pushrod tubes
  • Scat FK8 cam and lightweight lifters
  • CB Big Beef port matched manifolds
  • Full flowed case
  • Mahle forged pistons and barrels
  • Dual Weber 44IDF carbs
  • CSP hex bar linkage
  • Scat blanked fan shroud
  • Mallory points distributor and coil
  • Pertronix HT leads
  • Bosch 55A alternator
  • MST Limebug billet pulley, rocker covers, alternator stand
  • Scat fuel pump, regulator and high pressure filter
  • CSP Python exhaust, fully hand polished
  • Big Flow 30mm gear oil pump, plugged
  • CB face plate
  • External oil filter head, PH8A spin-on filter
  • MST black billet sump plate
  • Medium weight 200mm performance flywheel
  • CNC hydraulic clutch conversion
  • 200mm paddle clutch
  • Kennedy Stage 1 pressure plate
  • Super Flyer gearbox, 3.88:1 diff
  • Limebug SM35 three-piece split rims, Radinox lips
    • 25 front & spare, 165/35R17 tyres
    • 5 rear, 205/40R17 tyres
  • New quarters, heater channels, inner & outer wings, valance etc
  • All new glass except door glass
  • Stainless bumpers & over-riders
  • 1955 VW Reed Green paint
  • 1965 Beetle seats
  • Interior & under-bonnet trimmed by Autobahn Customs
  • TMI headliner & sun visors
  • Fastfab 3-dial radio blanking plate
  • Flat 4 GTV rose woodrim steering wheel

Thanks to: “Thanks to Dani Pearson for help with mechanical issues; Shane at ColourWorx York for paint and help; Nick at Autobahn Customs for the interior; Liam at Rusty Nail Signs for the signwriting; Ben Haywood, and all the friends and family for their support – they think we’re mental! Also to Craig and Leanne from Limebug for all their help – they’re good friends now. ”

See more on Ben’s site – www.biffsdetailing.com