Super Sleeper: 1972 Volkswagen Beetle

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Building a sleeper vehicle is like a rolling form of art, where a visionary seeks to keep the outside appearing as stock and unassuming as possible, attempting to thwart the focus of an unexpected level of performance hiding under the hood.  The owner of this 1972 VW Beetle seems to have met his objective here nicely, as outside there aren’t all that many clues that this one’s very much beyond a stock example, at least to the average viewer.  The Bug is currently cruising the streets of Los Angeles, California, and can be spotted here on eBay, where the price has already climbed to $4,750, understandably shy of the reserve.

There’s a good story to go along here too, as about five years ago the owner purchased the VW intending to teach his daughter how to drive a stick-shift.  At the time, things were still mostly how they came back in ’72, with drum brakes and a stock 1600cc engine out back.  After the 3-pedal learning experience was met, the car just sat around for a while after she moved away.

Now an empty nester, the owner began treating the car as more of a toy, first installing a 1915cc motor from a friend’s sand buggy.  However, that powerplant had been beaten on for several years, with a crack and leak eventually developing in the magnesium casing.  Out it came, and in the compartment now is a 2165cc engine the seller had built by EMS in nearby Inglewood, which features a combination of fine components inside.  Scat provided the rods and an 8-dowel crank, along with Mahle pistons and cylinders, plus a host of other performance-oriented parts.  The result was a dyno test showing 165 horsepower, way more than enough juice to convince surprised bystanders that this is no ordinary Beetle.

Plenty of attention was also given to the underside and chassis, with the latter receiving a truss system, solid motor mounts, and a trans brace.  Shifting is provided through an integrated transaxle, manufactured by TransWest, with CV joints and flanges from a Porsche 930.  Full-bearing torsion bar covers and adjustable spring plates are via Kinitech Atomwerks, with an A1 stainless system taking care of exhaust duties.

The sleeper theme continues throughout the interior, which remains mostly stock and in decent condition, although there is an aftermarket Stereo in the dash.  However, one thing to take into consideration is the seller’s mentioning that the pans have been repaired, with evidence that the front end was involved in some sort of collision in the past.  The body and paint are described as fair, with the overall condition summed up as a nice driver, yet not show quality, which sounds like a reasonable assessment.  I’m digging the results here, with my biggest curiosity being where the reserve might be set.  How much would you be willing to spend on the creation we’re seeing here?

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Comments

  1. RKS

    This is not a sleeper. My wife’s minivan would spank this at the light.

    Like 12
    • FBD

      Helluva minivan you guys must have! Would have to have well over 330 hp to exceed the power-to-weight ratio. A 165HP bug will run 14’s all day at the track.
      All of that aside, this is the kind of bug I would build if I wanted a beetle. Stock with 80HP or whatever they are not that fun.

      Like 59
      • Dave Peterson

        Stock was closer to 40hp if my memory is still reliable?

        Like 10
      • BrianT BrianTMember

        60 HP from the factory in 1972.

        Like 26
      • Bamapoppy

        Screwed it up. Originality is the thing with these bugs. Had two. Loved the sound of the exhaust. Heaters? Who needs friggin’ heat?

        Like 12
      • RKS

        My wife’s minivan is well over 360 horse. It is not stock but still hauls the family. Funny how you can put a built 350 into an astro eh? That’s what you call a sleeper.

        Like 2
    • BrianT BrianTMember

      Not really!

      Like 7
      • RKS

        See above.

        Like 1
    • Todd

      I drive a 65 beetle with a 2180. Bring on the minivan if you got a pocket full of cash and a pink slip.

      Like 14
    • DrBob

      Well lookie lookie, your wife has a Calloway corvette engine in her Town and Country LXi. Drives so fast she left the wood panels at the light when she took off stomping on that gas pedal. But back to reality, the bug has you beat. Sorry. Do the math and keep in mind her slush automatic is set for mpg, not the drag strip. Sorry she will be dusted.

      Like 26
    • EL Grecko

      A minivan is faster? I don’t think so Guido… Beetles are light, 1670 lbs curb weight. With 165 hp this has the same power to weight ratio as a 289 Cobra. It has the same hp as a 1974 911S, and weighs 600 lbs less(!)… And with over 60% of that weight on the rear axle it’ll put power down seriously. Someone said it would be in the 14’s but that’s likely conservative. If you put those numbers into the HP Wizard calculator it’s predicting 1/4 mile in the low 13’s. I think it’s likely a seriously scary ride, but slow it isn’t.

      Like 21
    • C Hatch

      Back in 1990, I put my 72 on the road. Had lots of fun! I was a VW mechanic for the 12 years I spent in college. I used a 914 Porsche engine, “fixed up enough to perform”. Had to move the rear body part that had 2 outlets for the stock mufflers, to the rear 7 inches. This meant I had to use 2 rear engine covers, one top half, in place, the bottom half(about 6 inches more than the bottom half cut from the top, the spacing between the two was 7 inches. So I had a hood that scooped air into the pancake engine air fan housing.
      First interesting point, stock 72 got 24 mpg, my “new” one got 28!
      Camaros, Mustangs, and such, were surprised at stop light take offs. I had fitted an airdam under the front end, so at 145, it stuck well to the road.

      Like 10
      • HarryJMember

        12 years?…🤔

        Like 0
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      RKS, You must have one of the late Chryslers with the 3.6 engine. I’ve got one and it’s the only van out of the 4 I’ve owned that would light up the front tires. Either way, not going to beat the bug, not with over 4K pounds under you.

      Like 7
    • alphasudMember

      Here is my 71 Super Beetle with a 2.5L SOHC Subaru engine connected to a Rancho Performance transaxle with freeway flyer gears. 165hp and it’s suprised many. I wanted a reliable engine that delivered good fuel economy and this delivered over 35 mpg on the highway on my daily commute. Electronically speed limited to 110mph which was fast enough. Gearing would provide 120mph. 4 wheel disc brakes and stabilizer bars. It’s quite fun.

      Like 13
      • Frog

        Straight line these cars were like an arrow in the air. Taking curves and corners was another thing.

        Like 1
      • Jeff Freedline

        I believe the Super Beetle started in 1973 . First year with the curved windshield. You may be calling your car a “super”. But the Super Beetle model started in 1973 in the US I know I had one. It was a big marketing thing the new Super Beetle. But maybe your Beetle was “super “ to you .

        Like 1
      • kendall W.

        had a 84 Subaru 100 toq sqeed I know it went faster but it would only show 100. Also had a 82 that was a much better car.

        Like 0
    • Eric B

      If your minivan is not stock and a sleeper itself, the original comment is pointless.

      That’s like if someone said their Accord could easily outrun this and then later state that their Accord has an LS in it.

      Like 3
  2. Aaaltered

    I was hoping for a box framed V8 mid engine.

    Like 11
    • jwaltb

      Joy.

      Like 1
      • Erich

        Not sure if it was intended, but I heard that in a Ren and Stimpy voice 😃

        Like 2
  3. Joe Hahn

    My ’71 Super Beetle was 60 hp and I believe the ’72 was rated at the same.

    Like 8
  4. Joe Hahn

    My ’71 Super Beetle was rated at 60 hp and I believe my friends ’72 was rated the same.

    Like 6
  5. Bob C.

    Back in 1977 I remember a short lived cop show called Dog and Cat. It starred a young Kim Basinger as a rookie who drove a souped up Beetle with a Porsche engine in it.

    Like 9
    • Frog

      I’m not a TV show fan but I bought and owned a 1967 VW with a Porsche motor. It was a goldish pewter and dangerously fast. I wonder if that was the same car.

      Like 1
    • George Kozak

      I didn’t know that was Kim Basinger, and I thought that I was the only one that remembered that show!

      Like 1
    • Tony Primo

      I’m not a t.v. show fan, but I have had the hots for Kim Basinger since her movies The Getaway and 9 1/2 Weeks. She was also featured in Playboy Magazine.

      Like 1
  6. CarNutDan

    It could be even better if by someway they put a subaru boxer engine or tesla electric motor in the rear.

    Like 5
  7. RKS

    That would be a sleeper.

    Like 3
  8. Pyro Pete

    The only thing this Bug can beat is another Bug.

    Like 3
    • BrianT BrianTMember

      Haha….that’s funny but not accurate

      Like 23
      • 370zpp 370zppMember

        Brian, it never stops does it? Nice car here, by the way.

        Like 8
    • Roland Schoenke

      I had a mildly modified ’74 and I beat a ’68 cutlass in front of the high school, guy hated me after that.

      Like 3
  9. Jack Quantrill

    21.5 million produced. Where did they all go? Hardly see them anymore. Had my share(5).

    Like 15
  10. JohnP

    They all mostly rusted out. My ’67 Beetle had more coffee can lids epoxied to the floor to cover the holes than remaining original floor. The entire battery box under the back seat was about gone. The cables by the emergency brake to open and close the heater exchangers were inoperable due to corrosion. I had to crawl under the car in the fall and bang them open with a hammer for heat in the car and do the same in the spring to bang them closed shut the heat off.
    Still, it was a great car for a HS/College kid, very inexpensive to operate and it never let me down, except once when the clutch cable broke, but a relatively easy driveway fix.

    Like 4
  11. I_cant_drive_65

    Horsepower to weight ratio is blind. This thing likely has great ratios and the rebuilt transaxle is likely geared nicely. This is a great car. I’m sure it’s fast and fun. Nicely done!

    Like 20
    • Wade Pierce

      AMEN!! That is one SWEET BUG for sure…I’m sure it would CERTAINLY spank the Minivan🤓 Not a “Typical” VW Beetle that’s for damm sure and would be a BLAST to drive..Glwts

      Like 12
    • dwcisme

      I recall that these might have had a 4:12 gear ratio. This is almost exactly the build I would do. Needs a suspension upgrade to match.

      Like 1
  12. Paul

    Don’t believe it is a Super Beetle. Front trunk lid is different.

    Like 1
    • Frog

      I believe the first year super beetle was 1971 they had flat windshields. 1973 on had curved windshields.

      Like 2
      • JustPassinThru

        Correct. Different front suspension (MacPherson struts) and more-rational space in the nose-trunk. The hood is a bit longer and doesn’t arch down so far; it’s broader on the base; and you have louvers in the forward valence, probably to avoid the nose lifting at speed.

        From the cowl back, a Super and standard Beetle were identical in 1971 and 1972.

        Apparently sales weren’t what VW had hoped; so the SB got a new cowl and curved windshield in 1973. Which apparently didn’t help, since the SB model disappeared in 1976.

        It did stay on as the Convertible, though, giving a little class to that model.

        Like 0
  13. BA

    I’ve seen the world’s fastest turbo mini van so maybe a race is in order

    Like 0
    • Christopher

      Was it the Bisimoto 1,029 hp Honda Odyssey? That thing is bonkers.

      Like 0
      • DrBob

        I have to bet that wifey if she has a Honda and its the V6 3.5L has just 749 less HP than that Bisimoto. She had a nice van with enough get up and go, but again that Beetle has much better ratio with weight and a good clutch not that slush box programmed for smooth and good mpg. So she really should not try to race it. That would just be sad to see or hear about.

        Like 2
    • OhU8one2

      I drove Tim Allen’s supercharged Windstar mini-van. Talk about a sleeper. Word was he spent 100k having Saleen build it. Certainly was one of a kind.

      Like 4
      • EuromotoMember

        Who is Tim Allen?

        Like 3
  14. Mike

    I like the way it looks so stock! That’s what I’m looking for. A little extra horsepower doesn’t hurt either!

    Like 4
  15. D Pureblood

    Nothoing quite like the one I saw in Georgia with a cessna engine in it. The give away was the wheelie wheels on the back. In 1976. I rode in it and it was fun doing a wheelie from a red light.
    I miss being young.

    Like 3
    • Henry DavisMember

      Me too, but for different reasons!

      Like 3
    • Henry DavisMember

      Not to pick nits, but Cessna never made any flat engines (or radials for that matter). must be either Lycoming or Continental.

      Like 1
  16. OhU8one2

    I drove Tim Allen’s supercharged Windstar mini-van. Talk about a sleeper. Word was he spent 100k having Saleen build it. Certainly was one of a kind.

    Like 1
  17. Kenneth Carney

    He starred in the show Home Improvement on ABC from the late ’80s (89, I think) to ’97 as Tim the tool guy who was always getting himself
    into trouble. Mr Allen is an avid car
    collector who has an intense live affair with all things that go fast. The
    only sleeper I ever built was a ’53 Ford
    2 door sedan with a hopped up 289
    and C-6 tranny in it so my Mom could
    drive it to work when her brand new
    Chevy Caprice wouldn’t start. Had most of the HI PO goodies and a nice
    sounding dual exhaust on it too. It was dark blue with steelies and dog
    dish hubcaps and rolled on a set of
    black wall tires. Now that, folks, is a
    sleeper!

    Like 5
    • Bamapoppy

      Was it called Home Improvement? Guess my age has my memory cloudy. I’ll take your word as solid. My bad. He had a sidekick who still does commercials. And a female assistant who was, well, eye candy. And a wife who was always putting up with his clumsiness

      Like 3
    • EuromotoMember

      Guys, I know who Tim Allen is. I was being a sarcastic dick. I just think it’s funny (and a little pretentious) for some drive-by poster to name-drop. Probably “drove” Tim Allen’s “supercharged Windstar mini-van” while working as a valet at a West LA restaurant.

      Like 3
      • JOHN B CUNNINGHAM

        I loved your posts. A good sarcastic comment is a great thing! Especially when it worked two times!

        Like 1
      • ClassicP

        Me too lol
        Peace and love

        Like 0
  18. Cobra Steve

    As much of a VW fan that I am, I would have to go along with the individuals citing the minivan being a better sleeper. Having attempted to sleep in the Bug with the backseat folded forward, I can tell you it is not that comfortable. Minivan provide much better comfort.

    Like 10
  19. Dizzy dean

    Back in the good old days. Kid I went to school with in the early 70’s had a 60 something vw 411 wagon with a built 327 in the back. Nobody would race him. Gee, I wonder why.

    Like 1
  20. Robert Woodward

    Nice sleeper. Better than the one I had. Mine was a 68 big with full frame hidden under with a built 400ci Pontiac motor, turbo 400, 9 inch Ford rear-end with adjustable tracking. Believe it or not it also had power steering and A/C. the seats sat 6″ back from stock and the interior was button tucked velour with power seats. It was plum crazy purple with split rear window kit. It ran high 10’s in the 1/4 mile. It had too much of a “rumble” to be a good sleeper, but I did catch a few Vette owners (with their windows up) to dust.

    Like 2
  21. Steve

    I purchased a brand new bug like this one in 1970. $1799.00 out the door including tax and license. I don’t ever remember brown seats in a black interior car. I sold the car for $1400.00 with 105,000 miles on it. Cost me less than a $100.00 a year to drive it.

    Like 1
  22. Henry DavisMember

    Hey out there, you VW guys. My barber has got a VW bug with automatic tranny. How big a deal is it to convert to a manual?

    Like 0
    • DrBob

      So you are saying that your barber is a tranny and thats just automatic. You want a manual to make a big deal to convert her. Wow, this really has taken a curve here. Well either Amsterdam or Brasil is a good starting place. Tell her good luck and no back alley jobs. Will this be on CarTV or Rue Pauls Drag Race. Sounds like a must see!!!!

      Like 3
  23. Frog

    Jeff Freedline
    The 1302 would now handle more like a Ford than a Beetle. The first Super Beetle sedan rolled off the assembly line on August 11, 1970 for the 1971 model year, during which some 700,000 were manufactured at Volkswagen plants in Wolfsburg and Emden

    Like 0

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