The 2020 Detroit Autorama had a lot of cars this year. When you talk to the car builders and owners, you understand the true passion behind all of these amazing automobiles. One of the fun and amazing stories we heard this year, begins with a 14-year-old boy and his father working in their garage to rebuild a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle powered by a Chevy V6. Over 20 years later, that same boy now an adult, rebought and rebuilt the same ’71 bug with his kids.
Classic Auto’s Drew Yagodnik, interviews Chris about his souped-up 1971 Volkswagen Beetle. Chris shares with us the great family history and passion behind this car restoration.
Rick: All right. This is Rick Drewry with Classic Auto Insurance, here at Detroit Autorama 2020. I’m here with Chris, and at first glance, I can already tell this is going to be an interesting story on this VW Bug we got going on here. Chris, tell me what you got going on.
Chris: I have a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle and it’s powered by a 2.8 liter Chevy V6.
Rick: Now what made you decide to do that?
Chris: Well, what happened was I was 14 years old, and my dad told me I could have whatever car I wanted to.
Chris: But the key was we had to build it together. So, he had always done frame-off restorations on Corvettes, and he thought I was going to pick the Corvette.
Chris: I dreamed up this thing and it totally blew him out of the water.
Rick: Nice. So, how long of a build did it take?
Chris: To build it the first time it took us nine months from start to finish, and we just worked on the weekends, father and son working on this car, learning the trade of how to build cars.
Rick: Very cool. Very cool. So what made you decide on the 2.8 liter?
Chris: Well, what it was we were in a salvage yard one day and I saw a Fiero that had been rolled over.
Chris: So I was like, “That’s a perfect power plant to put in the back of a bug. Rear engine, yeah. So, it moves the weight further forward. It’s more like a sports car, and I always wanted to have the sleeper type of car where you pull up and people at the stoplight think it’s a regular bug and then you blow the doors off.
Rick: It’s probably got about what, three times the amount of horsepower of a stock bug, I would think?
Chris: Yeah, three times the horsepower.
Rick: So, what kind of fabrication work did you have to do to make it work?
Chris: What we had to do is we had to fabricate our own chassis, so the first step was to measure the wheelbase of a stock Volkswagen, and then cut off the center tube, and then fabricate our own chassis to accept that K-Frame piece of the suspension of the Fiero.
Rick: You did this at your home?
Chris: Yeah, we did it all home built.
Rick: Awesome. That is great. That is great. So how long have you had it done?
Chris: This car was done originally back in 1990, ’91. I sold it when I was in college, moved away to Toledo, had a professional career, and then 21 years later I was looking at Craigslist one morning and I found the car.
Rick: So, you bought it back.
Chris: So I went back to my dad’s house. I said, “Hey,” I said, “we need to go look at a car.” He’s like, “What car is it?” I said, “I can’t tell you.” So we start heading there to the store, and he’s like, “You found your bug didn’t you?” And I said, “Yeah, I did.” This time when I rebuilt it, I rebuilt it with my kids.
Rick: Absolutely cool. That is awesome. That is awesome. So do you get to get it out much?
Chris: Yeah, we drive it in the summer. We finished it in May. It took us eight months the second time to rebuild it. We finished it in May. We took it to Cleveland, and a couple of the other car shows around town, and Volkswagen car shows. It’s our first time for an indoor show.
Rick: Does it blow them away when you open up the hood and the trunk and there’s nothing there?
Chris: Yes, absolutely. A lot of people come up and they think it’s battery-powered, or where’s the engine? I get that question all the time. Where’s the engine?
Rick: It’s way in there? It’s tucked right in there. Very cool. Cool idea, actually. I’m surprised somebody else hasn’t done that yet. I haven’t seen it. Nice job, man.
Chris: Thank you.
Rick: Thanks for coming out. That’s a great car. Great story, too.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely.
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