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The bug that changed clothes

Story by Tobias Lindback in TotalVW (May-june 2001) about the project:

Reversed kit car

Many people are building Porsche replicas using a VW pan. Per did it the other way around, he
turned his 1985 Porsche Carrera in to a split window bug.


The story of the 1950 split started 20 years ago when he got his first job. After receiving his very first pay check, he celebrated it by buying the old family car from his mother for the modest sum of 65 Pounds. It was a 1950 beetle in original condition with the normal rust in the bottom. Per took care of the rot and replaced the trusty old 25 horsed with a more vivid Porsche Super 90 engine. As one can imagine the 1950 gearbox didn't like its new companion and soon gave up.

After solving the problem by dropping in an IRS transmission from a bus he was soon out on the road again.

Per kept this combination until the carbs decided to overflow, thus creating a fire in the engine compartment.
Luckily a police with a fire extinguisher was nearby saving the car. The engine was however heavily damaged by the powder from the extinguisher and could not be saved. After literary putting the Super 90 remains in the trash Per tried to find a good replacement power plant. He did soon find out that restored Super 90 engines had turned very expensive. The project slowed down while Per thought about how he could continue.

Bad times turned out to be Per's luck. As Porsches were extremely popular amongst Swedish yuppies in the late 80's there were many wrecked examples imported by people who repaired them to make some quick money.

When bad times strucked in the early 90's the market for fixed-up Porsches died quickly. At this time Per did find a crashed German 911 from 1985 with good mechanics, but with a need for a new body. He made the owner an offer, which was first turned down. Later the owner called Per and asked if the offer was still open, a deal was struck and the next day a tow truck dropped of the wreck were Per lived. At that time he still lived with his parents and Per's mother did not like a wrecked car in her garden.

 

The ultimatum was: "I do not want to see any sleeping projects here, if you want to have it here you have to keep working on it. You can not leave it untouched for more than two days in a row". This phrase did a lot to speed up the project!

Per's original idea was to keep the transmission, the brakes, and some other components, and then selling of the engine and some other parts. But as he cut away the damaged bodywork his thoughts turned in another direction.


Instead of turning his bug in to a Porsche he thought it would be a lot simpler to make the Porsche turn in to a bug. He then started to build a tubular frame to support the floor section, including the drive train and the suspension parts, from the Carrerra before putting on the body of the bug. At first he did a very crude job making it as simple as possible just to see if it was possible. It wasn't a beauty at the time, as the proportion of the body was dictated of the Porsche parts, but it worked.

The maiden journey went to Bug Run in Mantorp Sweden, the biggest VW-meeting in Scandinavia. He got the prize for "Best innovation", a prize which he by now has got more than once.

Since then his VW/Porsche, which he calls "project 50/50", has been totally redone three times to get everything right both esthetical and mechanical. After the latest iteration in 1997 the proportions are now very good.

One of these rebuilds was the move from a GRP flip front to a totally stock front section well, at least
externally stock. At the time Per was helping a friend restoring a Hebmuller which needed a lot of new sheet metal in the front section. When he was done Per took the scrapped parts from the Hebmuller and started fitting them on the project 50/50 to see if it was possible to squeeze in the Porsche front suspension parts under a stock front bonnet. He found it could be done, although the margins were nil. This way Pers car ended up with some original Hebmuller steel in its body!
 

A whole magazine could be spent explaining all the details of the conversions and the different step Per did to get 50/50 where it is today, instead I will try to summarize it in a short "how to" recipe:

Take the chassis from your favorite 911, lengthen it by 128 mm between the front suspension and the pedal
assembly.

Shorten the front suspension by 80mm before you build a tubular frame around the chassis. Then take your mothers old bug and move the rear fenders forward 50 mm.

Remove the rear apron and cut out unnecessary sheet metal under the front bonnet.

Now you are ready to put the body of the bug on to the chassis.

Next step is to hide the things sticking out of the body by widening the rear fenders and building a slightly fatter rear apron.

Now you are ready to roll!

Per did not only re-use the mechanical parts, he kept the electric system, complete with ventilation fans, electric powered windows etc. This all adds up to a car that is very reliable and easy to use for being such a heavily modified vehicle.

One of my privilege as a part time motoring journalist is to ride in the creatures I write about. Despite sub zero temperature and snow falling on the ground Per took me out on a spin in the 50/50. After climbing through the roll cage I fall down in a firm, but yet comfortable, sport seat in leather. The heat comes fast and plenty, thanks to electrical fans that draws warm air from the oversized heat exchangers connected to the engine, and the Porsche instruments reduces the feeling of sitting in a 50+ year old car.

After finding a road with not too much snow and ice Per tries some acceleration. The 17" tires easily lose grip in the cold weather but the limited slip diff in the gearbox helps us on our way. The engine has a deep and warm rumbling tone that gives a feeling of confidence making the fast acceleration less dramatic than what is usually the case in hot rodded bugs. 65-140 mph is a good touring speed for the 50/50, which I have no reason to doubt (and I assume he only cruises at that speed on German autobahns).


Make and model: 1950 VW type 1 / 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera
Owned since: 1985
Purchase price: 65pound/130 US Dollar
Body: VW 1950 type 1
Supporting structure: GUSS/homebuilt frame
Engine: Porsche 911 Carrera stock 3.2 liters with DME fuel injection
Gearbox: Porsche 911 Carrera
Front suspension: Porsche 911 Carrera, shortened 80mm
Rear suspension: Porsche 911 Carrera with Koni Coilovers
Interior: Porsche 911 Carrera, seats re-upholstered in black and gray leather.

 

 

 

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