Strange Brew: VW Hot Rod or “Sand Rail”?

Ok, I know this is not strictly speaking a barn find. Nor is it even a garage find. But it is a fine example of American automotive home building, and I just can’t help admiring it. I hope Barn Finds readers will appreciate this little custom built hot rod. This VW based special just looks like a ton of fun to me. Yes, it is Chevy powered, and I know that’s controversial around here, but I bet that engine does make it go fast, and isn’t that the point? This VW hot rod is offered for sale on Craigslist in Tucson, Arizona with an asking price of $10,000, but the seller seems to indicate some flexibility on price and is willing to consider partial trades too.


As with any home made car, prospective buyers will need to give it a careful once over. The seller only provides two pictures and his description is not always clear, so it’s hard to tell from the ad whether this car is well built or cobbled together by an amateur. Everything is said to be custom built, including racing seats with safety harness, and the engine is said to be a newly rebuilt “Edelbrock” with only 5000 miles on it, driving through a 700R4 transmission with a shift kit. It would be good to know more about the frame and suspension, the electrics, brakes, and everything else about it. How it handles on the road or off, we cannot guess, but those red wire spoke wheels do look great, and I appreciate that the seller does not call this a rat rod. With those headers, it’s got to be loud, and possibly even illegal. But maybe it’s the real deal, and if so, it could be alot of fun to tool around town in, or as the seller suggests, hit the dunes with it. What do you think of this unusual car? Practical or not, doesn’t it just make you smile?

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  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Cool car, and yes David, it does make me smile!

  2. Joe Nose

    New category!! DUNE FIND!!

  3. Rock On Member

    You will probably want to install an air filter before venturing too far out in the sand.

  4. JW

    I actually like this car / buggy whatever, it is homebuilt engineering which is good for the hobby.

  5. David

    I love the look except for the front of the cab sitting too low. Makes it look like the frame is bent. Some hockey pucks under the front body mounts and some earplugs would make this a great $6500 car. If it checks out.

  6. Scot Douglas

    About $9K overpriced, and not surprised based on the seller’s description. While it is all quite funny, this really sums it up for me:
    ” also this trans mission is a 350 turbo transmission 700R4 with a modified shift kit it’s got dual exhaust with the headers and the intake manifolds oversized bore holes on block heads ”

    350 or 700R4?
    Block bored or does “oversized bore holes on block heads” mean bigger valves in moronspeak? Oh wait – does he mean he matched intake ports?


    • 63Comet

      Yeah, I think a lot of people have others do their work, even when it’s “custom,” and thus don’t really know what they truly have or what’s really been done to it. It gets jumbled in their own heads. Or they inherit/buy the car from someone and don’t really know. We just don’t have enough people in the hobby.

  7. Terry J

    OK, The wishbones attached to the frame rails seem to indicate an early Ford beam front end. The wheels are early Ford and will only fit on early Ford Drums. When I decided to install 1954 F100 self energizing drum brakes on the ’48 spindles on my RaTT Rod, I had to sell my wire wheels. Must be the same for the rear end, and since it must be open driveline, it means the rear is an early Ford pickup Banjo or has a car banjo that has been so modified. All that is true UNLESS the guy is running those wires on drums that don’t match the wheels, a hazardous design. :-) Terry J

    • Dairymen

      The wheels look like mid 30’S Packard to me.

    • Terry J

      Hmmmm…..I think the wheels are actually “bent spoke” Kelsey Hayes circa 1936. Terry J

  8. 68 custom

    looks pretty good but the body is raked to much in proportion to front end, looks like it is bending.
    make a cool looking rod but,I would prepare to having some welding done.
    I have never heard of a turbo 350 that is also a 700R4? almost seems like a scam…

  9. healeydays

    I agree, it’s so ugly it’s cool. Also at $6500 it would be right.

  10. Doug

    If you want to see more pics of rat/hot rod vw’s, Google rat rod or hot rod VW. There are some very cool builds out there.

  11. MorganW Morgan Winter Member

    So weird, but I bet it would be fun…I’d have to swap the wire wheels for something less antique-looking.

  12. Dave Wright

    Looks better than the KW with the 12V71 Detroit. Might need some tweaking but overall looks good and a great idea.

  13. 86 Vette Convertible

    It is kind of cute even if it is impractical. First thing I’d do is get rid of the studs on the radiator shell. The wheels and tires are very perplexing. Not wide enough IMO for running dunes (more like balloon or paddle tires), though it might work on a beach. Wire Wheels look to be a bit delicate when talking things like dirt or sand drags. No telling what the rear end is, but likely would be a bit on the light side due to the rear rims on it. No way could that be license in most states IMO.

    For an unusual something to drive off-road, could be fun in the right circumstances.

  14. Terry J

    Oregon has a “Street Rod” licensing designation that refers to vehicles that are constructed from early vehicles or to resemble early vehicles. That eliminates a lot of the “equipment” requirements (like fenders). It requires a good file on where the major parts came from, but given that, I think this VW would be OK to Title & License under those rules. :-) Terry J

  15. grant

    I like it, maybe not the best execution but the concept is great. It’s got that old hot rod vibe and somebody didn’t have to cut up any original old steel.
    Oregon is great, if you live outside the DEQ zone, you can get just about anything registered here :-)

  16. kevin

    I would totally drive this

  17. JW454

    This would be an absolutely awful thing to ride in. No suspension, and with those pipes you’d be deaf in a short ride. Sorry guys but, I’m out.

  18. Rick Borstein

    Gotta say, I dig this. I don’t think this one is particularly well put together (it looks bent to me), but it has a nice look.

  19. Mark S

    I’d rather see a custom bug with a Subaru horizontally apposed 6 in it. saw one on Jay Leno’s garage it was way cooler than this bucket of crap.

  20. Mark H

    I realize it’s easy to criticize what someone else has done. That being said I think the rake issue some of you mentioned could be diminished by making the grille top closer to the radiator. As is it’s taller than the cowl. Simple fix by whoever built it or by whoever eventually buys it.
    High five for creativity either way! Nice to see someone having an original idea and getting it this close to done.

  21. Grid Member

    With agents on legalized pot, Oregon would probably okay the 12V71 KW! You know the motor homes tooling up and down the highway with Priuses attached to them? Imaging the KW towing this to your local Thousand Trails! (If Prius in the plural isn’t Priuses, you need to add poor grammar to the list below)

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