VW Beetle Classic... questions pre-acquisition


So I've always wanted a classic beetle and I think its finally time to snag one for an inexpensive and fun build.

I've done a bit of research, but I learn best by getting hands on time. A raised beam and type 3 this and that only means so much in pictures and forums...I'm ready to start getting covered in grease and digging in.

The goal is for something fun to drive around town for errands but also rally up forest service roads and explore with. A class 11 style build is what I'm looking for... I like the look of it lifted with stock style fenders, not having the engine hanging out the back. And I would like to be able to take it on longer trips. I know top speed will be an issue, but I'll be willing to deal with that. I'll end up trying to do a lightweight build of some camping basics on it, but keep it able to fly across dirt roads. I was near to picking up a dirt bike, but being able to use the bug for errands and other tasks has its appeals.

I've peeked around at thesamba.com but want to see if I can get some of my questions answered here before starting an account over there.

From my research, I am looking for an IRS classic beetle (since super beetles have a less forgiving suspension... so I've read). Bigger the engine the better but at this point, engines seem like somewhat easy things to swap out. Any other input from past owners? There are a bunch of super beetles out there at good prices, I need to do more research to see if the suspension on them is that big of a problem for what I want to do.

I haven't dealt with a carb at elevation. Is that going to be an issue with living at 10k feet and driving it over 14k feet and down to sea level? I think I've seen that there are FI swaps you can do.

Picture stolen from the googles of what I want to build... simple, clean and fun.



Jason McDaniel
I've had over a hundred air cooled VWs, and am currently building a project similar to what you are looking at. I'm using a '73 Standard. I would have preferred the better looking '69-72, with it's less complicated fresh-air system. But I knew about this car for 15 years and bought it from it's original owner.

You want to avoid the Super Beetles. They have a strut based front suspension that will be difficult for you to raise and work with. While there is a lot of support for the "standard" Beetles with torsion beam front suspension. What most of the off road guys really want is an early front end with kingpin front spindles, as they are considered stronger than the later ball-joint cars. But, VW switched to balljoints before they ever had IRS, so there is no good crossover there. It's easier to adapt IRS parts to a swing axle pan that it is to convert a balljoint car to linkpin. That said, lots of people take the easy way out and just the balljoint front end.

There are a lot of things to address to lift a car. Aftermarket lifted spindles add a lot of track width, and Thing spindles add a little over standard balljoint spindles. And the spindles alone won't get the full height you want. So you end up adding height (Avis or Sway-A-Way) adjusters (commonly used to lower the car) rotated so they can raise the car. To raise the rear, you can pull the rear spring plates and reindex them on the torsion bars. You will want to trim the spring plate stop on the torsion housing to get some droop at full height. But, with the sort of height you want, the wheel will be really far forward in the rear wheelwell. To fix that, you cut apart the rear arm, add a small amount of metal to lengthen it, and while you are there add about a degree or degree and a half of negative camber. And, you'll need longer brake lines.

With a lift, the stock CV joints get pushed beyond their limits. The best fix is to use Porsche 944 CV joints and the slightly longer axle from the 944. But, they have a different bolt pattern that the transaxle output flanges and outer stub axles. The fix is to use Thing inner flanges, and either Thing or 944 outer sub axles.

You want to choose a tire early on, so you can build around it. That way you can verify the lift you have will work. I'm using the Yokohama Y742S in the 7.00x15 size, which is a tick under 30" tall and fits the 15x5" wheels I'm using.

After you get the lift finalized, measure the space available for the shock and spec out a set.

There are all sorts of strength upgrades. Steering box, tie rods, tie rod ends, gussets on the rear arms, stronger torsion bars. And there are motor upgrades, but for a car like you describe, it's probably better to keep the engine mild and have a custom geared transmission built with a shorter final drive. And if you want to go a little further (I did) track down one of the torsen limited slip differentials that came in some of the military spec 181 cars.


If you go with an earlier, non-IRS car ('68 and earlier), you could adapt the rear end from a bus with its portal axles which would give you ground clearance, and lower gearing for turning big tires. However, I've been out of the VW scene for a long while now, and seeing what buses go for these days, those parts may be astronomically priced now. On the other hand, so many people slam buses, that maybe it's not too hard to find some for a good price.


Thanks for the great input, exactly what i was looking for.

I'll have to look into bus parts and see what they are going for to see if a swing axle would work for now. Lower gearing and portals would be nice.


Renaissance Redneck
That’s a great project. I’ve been looking at Baja Bugs a bit lately, and have a Manx style buggy in the yard that I’m starting to get running again. It’s on a ‘63 chassis with 3000 original miles. It was only used at a duck hunting camp by a friend’s grandfather. It’s got lots of potential, but a full bodied Beetle has way more practical use.


Jason McDaniel
If you want more performance, and less stock components or height, then check out our closest rally competitors to our vintage SAAB, Mark and Mike Hubbee with their vintage class VW Beetle. They've broken just about everything you can break on a Bug, built a better version, and then broken it. Some third party links are broken, but if you connect with them on Facebook, they will answer questions. I crewed for them a few times, and gave some guidance on improvements.



To Infinity and Beyond!
67 and 69-70 are good years for bugs.

68 back bugs have the swing arm suspension versus the IRS in the 69-70 Bugs yet you mention the 67 is a good year for bugs. Can you comment as to why you included the 67 Bug as a "Good Year" for Bugs?

I look forward to your comments!


'67 is the first year for the 12 volt electrical system, which I guess is a +1 point if you plan on night driving or live somewhere cold. It also makes adding a bunch of lights a lot easier.


Thanks for all the great extra input and links once again.

The available bug selection pool is narrowing now that i know more about them, but at least ill get a great building block.

Main hurdle right now is no garage, or else there are some projects that are inexpensive that I'd jump on. But without a garage, I'd like to start with a good running base that i can build from especially when learning a new quirky car from anything else I've worked on or built.

12v upgrade will definitely be on the list of things to do if it's not done already since i will want to upgrade lighting and likely add other stuff along the way.

But hopefully I can locate a good one soon.

A question as far as towing them. Do the hitch tow bars connect pretty easily? If i purchased a tow bar would that be something i could easily install of i went to look at a car and bought it vs having to drag around a trailer? My current trailer is a dump trailer so it would hold it with no problem but the ramps are steep and require a good breakover angle which isn't ideal.


Tow bar attaches to the torsion bar beam. Google will find you plenty of images, pretty easy to attach.


Active member
After having a few bugs (2bajas,3stock,1 lifted class 11 wannabe) and a Thing/Safari. I would try and find something with IRS rear and a 1600 dual port motor with the doghouse cooler (no need for cooling mods). For lifting the rear IRS is easier and handles a hell of a lot better. Swing axle rears are very durable but also very twitchy handling after lifting. If you can get a thing front end do it as they are more heavy duty/reinforced and you can get more lift.
Last edited:

Charles R

The one thing i don't like about the 67 is that they have a lot of unique parts. There's more than a few basic repair and body/trim parts that are 1967 only. Harder to find, and usually more costly at swap meets.

Quaife makes limited slip diffs for swings, IRS and bus transaxles. Probably about the same cost, and easier to find, as a 181 unit. (I have one in the single side cover box i have in my autocross Ghia)


Active member
My first car was a 67 bug. The best thing about it (other than first year of 12 volt) was the cool old style chrome bumpers. The 1500 motor was anemic with any load and the lack of a doghouse cooler made it prone to overheating.

Forum statistics

Latest member