A Beetle for the buggies
VW 1300 Funny Farm Edition
I was standing in a dark, cold workshop. The smell of welded metal and burnt paint filled the air. Pistike (Istvan Szilvassy) was banging the Bug's roof with a hammer. I looked at the car-torso, still in the making and said: this car is mental, then started to mumble “They're going to take me away ho-ho, they're going to take me away ha-ha...”
The 1971 VW 1300 was purchased from a lady who kept the car rusting in her backyard. Some meticulous mechanics had done everything imaginable to the car so it would pass the next vehicle inspection. It failed at that, however. In every important respect. She had paid a fortune, still none of the suspension or the brake parts met the standards of the authorities – actually, some would not even have met the standards in some African countries. And there was rust everywhere. Nothing really serious, but having these issues fixed was not something the lady wanted to spend another truckload of money on. She rather sold the car.
Already having a clear idea in his mind, Pistike bought it for a very reasonable price. A vision of a Bug with a radically modified look. He is a talented, creative mechanic having complete projects mapped out in his head. He had bought the rear part of a Volkswagen LT transporter's roof from a scrapyard long before he bought the bug – it eventually became the new roof of the car.
This creature is a great example of recycling. Being cost effective while working on a budget is one reason to use scrap, but finding new ways of utilizing things as a creative challenge is the real motivation. The car used to be a VW Bug, the roof once belonged to a transporter, the rear window used to be a part of the folding door of a very old Hungarian Ikarus bus, the wheels used to spin on old Skodas (16” front, 15” in the rear). The only really new parts were the ones used for fixing the suspension. The tires are old-stock ones, but new – approximately 40 years old, but have never been mounted before.
The radically changed silhouette of the car's rear end was the basic idea. Removing the rear fenders and the unnecessary parts of the body was just a finger exercise for this nut. Lowering the rear was no challenge, either. Moving the front suspension 20 centimetres forward and another 20 centimetres upward in order to get the right stance was a bit trickier. The front suspension was removed from the car's chassis (the part called “Rahmenkopf” by Volkswagen Käfer-nuts) and a custom built adapter piece was fabricated using steel tubes. This allowed for the repositioning of the whole suspension.
As a result of this modification a new fuel tank was needed. Using the one from a scrap Trabant helped a lot. Only a custom filler-neck was needed, and a hole in the hood to pass the neck through. Oxyacetylene torch is a customizer's best friend in such cases. A new exhaust system had to be fabricated on the rear end where Mr. Porsche had placed the VW Bug's engine. As the flat four uses air and not liquid for cooling, normally the original exhaust system is used for heating the passenger compartment. Pistike was after a good-looking pipe-snake, so the heat-exchanger was deleted, and a 4-in-2 system was created. The tubes were sourced from a junkyard, but they were all new aluminized, rust-protected items. But to achieve the weathered look, the pipes have been grinded, so rust appeared on them in no time.
At this point – when the car's silhouette was clearly visible –, everyone visiting the workshop where this strange creature started to take shape stared at the Bug, and moaned: ”This is mental!” Looking at the strange shape of the van-like body, the closed rear compartment and the mostly white body panels someone even said it looks like a Funny Farmer's transporter of service. Bingo! Only a converted searchlight with a red cross painted on it, some hand-painted lettering on the side panels and red crosses on the doors were needed to finish the weathered paintjob. Oh, and a removable blue light was also necessary. But it is not easy to source a period-correct rotating beacon, so creativity was needed to solve this problem. You can buy a cheap plastic beacon for a few dollars in any car-shop, but it would look terrible, and the rotation of the mirror will be too fast. The electric motor was quickly hacked, the plastic tube pulled over the small diameter axle reduced the speed of the rotating mirror, and a scrap blender's stainless steel body was used to give the beacon that old-school look.
A few extras add to the Mental-Bug's appearance when displayed on shows: an old porcelain bedpan is carefully placed under the engine to collect the oil spillage (even old cars may suffer from incontinence), old first-aid kits and a huge hypodermic needle (once a confectioner's tool) help to create a spine-chilling atmosphere. When Pistike appears, wearing his psychedelic nurse-outfit, you truly feel like screaming and running as fast as possible for fear of being pushed in the cargo bay looking like a rubber room. Even if you don't know him.
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