Kelmark Alternative: 1980 VW Aquila

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

There’s numerous poorly made VW-based kit cars to choose from if that’s your sort of thing. But why is it after all these years of subpar assembly there isn’t a high-quality conversion that actually lives up to its marketing illustrations? This unusual Aquila seems to be the answer, and is said to be one of just 150 cars ever made out of a production facility in Cupertino, CA – home of Apple Computers. Find it here on eBay with a $17,995 asking price and the option to submit a best offer. 

While $18K seems like crazy money for a kit car, this one does make a compelling argument of at least looking like something you’d pay to have in your garage. No offense to any Kelmark or Bradley GT owners, but I can’t recall ever seeing one that was well executed. This looks like a sensible way to dress up your Beetle, with a very attractive body, a cockpit that is screwed together fairly well, and the overall feeling that you could fool at least a few people if you told them this was a limited production slice of Italian exotica.

Hell, the gullwing doors even stay up! I dig the low-slung stance over the wheels but I believe a more aggressive design would transform this car. Even a period-correct BBS wheel or Speedlines from a later Corrado would look appropriate here (I realize the Beetle’s axle / hub setup doesn’t likely allow for this, but that’s what conversion kits and hub adapters are for). The faux knock-off design may be period-correct, but the body is clearly selling a more sporting experience than the wheel choice may indicate.

Depending on your view of things, the stock 1200CC VW powerplant is either a good way to enjoy low-cost classic ownership or hugely disappointing considering the exterior. If it were me, I’d yank this mill and find a late-model Subaru boxer to drop in. This would preserve the reliability and also give the swoopy exterior a more meaningful form of thrust that the gullwing-door design deserves. Have you ever seen an Aquila? And how much would you pay for what may be the rarest VW kit car of all?

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Comments

  1. JazzGuitarist54 Member

    Really don’t like the location of the gas tank filler
    To easy to spill gas on a hot engine
    It is kinda kule though




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    • Gay Car Nut

      I have to agree. Why they chose above the engine as a place to place the gas tank is beyond me. I’m sure there are places that would’ve been safer in the unfortunate event of a crash or a roll-over accident.




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      • angliagt

        Plus you probably couldn’t open the doors if it was on it’s roof.




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      • Rick

        It’s further from the engine than it looks. That particular tank probably isn’t the best choice as most had fillers that were “upright” and fed through the bodywork. The tank is placed where it is as most kits of this vintage – it’s the only open area in the bodywork – right behind the rear window. Rolling the car would be near impossible. It sits around 50″ to the roof and all the weight is down low.




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  2. Rick

    Good grief… this car has been making the rounds for at least two years. From the original owner in CA to the midwest and back. And the mesh covering the engine opening in the back still hasn’t been fixed to look right. Having owned one and talked with the owner of the company before he sold off (well, scrapped) the molds 10 years ago, there were only 50 made. Body parts are now unobtainium unless you find a donor car. Glass is simple flat for the doors and rear, windshield is Pinto. Seating position is abysmal with your legs straight out and sightlines are just as bad. The body itself though is one of the stoutest, best built kits out there. It’s a monocoque body hanging on the Beetle backbone, so it’s very rigid. Door fit can be a problem, but this one looks like it’s been sorted quite well.




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    • dgrass

      Does the door glass pop out? If so, is there a cubby to store it when off on a sunday drive?




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      • Rick

        Yes, the glass will hinge out from the back (or remove with the right hardware), much like the older style van quarter windows. No room to store them unless you build something to put them in.




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    • Tony

      It was my old project. I sold it to NY in 2012.




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  3. Classic Steel

    Kits cars like VWs are old kids now and unwanted to adopt!

    The new kits are aging Shelby AC kits and Willy’s gassers to 63 split kits
    😜👍✅




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  4. jw454

    Not my cup of tea but, it did get completed.




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  5. Rock On

    Actually wire wheels were used on exotic and luxury cars up until the early 70’s. For those who want to learn more, here are some of the best.
    https://www.borrani.com/




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  6. Karguy James

    Wow, all that trouble and they went with a single carb 1200cc engine with about 50HP. What a shame.




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    • Rabbit

      Not even. If there is enough room back there, a Type 4 swap could be in order. You’d need about 6 inches past the crank pulley for fan clearance.




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      • Rick

        Do an upright conversion, no problem. That’s the way I’d run with it. I tried Corvair in mine – about 4″ too long, so that idea had to be scrapped.




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  7. john m

    cut that shifter down




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  8. Grumpy old man

    Not to be negative of efforts, but why? Not unique, no performance, not that good looking. Lots better ways to spend $18 K on a car IMHO.




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  9. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    The car’s ‘look’ is waaayyyy faster than that poor little 1200cc VW flat-four will ever push this car.




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  10. Beaver Member

    All the above are right it is a care only the mother could love but there is $$ to be made!! I just don’t know how much YET!!




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  11. Tom Justice

    There is almost no limit to the things you could do to a VW engine to get a LOT more HP out of it. Not the 1200 so much but you can super case a 1600, put some hot jugs, pistons, and cam, dual Webers, light flywheel and heavy duty clutch and this thing would scream. Had a pal who did that with a Beck 550 spider and it was crazy fast; his daughter was driving it, missed a shift, and split the case. So sad.




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    • Dolphin Dolphin Staff

      Tom, yes, VW engines have been hot rodded for years to produce more power, but from my point of view there are limitations that are too, ahhh, limiting for me to ever try hot rodding one.

      Things like air cooling not being able to reject enough heat for a very powerful version of an air cooled engine. Air cooled production engines are limited essentially to a 2-valve/cylinder design because there isn’t enough space on a head for both the valve gear for 4 valves, plus enough fins to reject the high heat produced.

      Note that both VW and Porsche went to water cooling after producing air cooled engines for decades for these very reasons.

      But yes, there are very fast vintage cars that have air cooled flat-4s. The way that Porsche and Beck achieved that extra speed involved a big dose adding lightness to a very small package.




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      • Tom Justice

        You well could be correct in everything you say but the cost of totally changing the type of engine, going water cooled, matching up to the trans, etc. seems like too much money for a vehicle most here think isn’t worth the trouble.




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  12. noexit

    Why would a 1980 conversion have a 1200cc engine in it? Was it the cheapest scrap VW they could find?




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  13. Curt k

    I would love this thing.it reminds me of an old lambo.if i had the cash it would be mine all i would do is try to move the fuel tank to the front cut the shifter and see if could get porsche motor in it.porsche turbo motor would be the best.




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  14. Gary Glass

    That is not a 1980 VW pan! At least not anything that was imported into the USA. 79 was the last year for old style Beetles and they were Supers.
    That pan has a front beam and a swing axle. If it came from an American imported beetle then it’s pre 66?




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    • Rick

      Ad states it’s titled as a ’63 Beetle, which would make it swing axle, link pin front beam. Beetles went to ball joint beam and rear IRS in ’67, Supers went with IRS rear and MacPherson strut in ’71 (I think).




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  15. Adam T45

    In Australia we received a VW-based kit car called the Purvis Eureka (pictured). Access was via the top lifting up on hydraulic struts (either manual or electric operation). The body kit was lighter than the VW body, and it also resulted in a lower cntre of gravity. The whole car was about 40 inches high, and I have seen them fitted with a rotary Mazda engine. With that engine these things flew!




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  16. Pete Christensen

    It looks like someone was trying to make a Lamborghini




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