Building a Beetle on juice

Posted in Cars, People

No matter how much I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of anything happening out there in the import world, every now and then a car comes completely out of left field and smacks me in the face with its radness. 

At the recent V 4&Rotary Nationals it was the VW beetle of David and Lindie Du Toit that did this very thing, which is something I find extremely refreshing in this day and age of social media builds. I clearly wasn't the only one in this boat as many people incorrectly believed the car must have been imported from the USA. 

But, in fact, the car was built right here in New Zealand. It’s been a five-year project completed in David’s shed, despite the fact that when they started out they had no idea of the rules involved with a project of this magnitude. 

David’s no stranger to building street-legal drag cars, having spent his life growing up in the shed and helping his dad build race cars in his native South Africa. Prior to immigrating to New Zealand he built and modified a string of 10-second street cars, including Datsun 1200s and Mazda 1000s. After settling in New Zealand he said it was time to get stuck into a project.

“I started searching Trade Me for an RX-3 coupe, but found they were out of my price range. I had owned a Beetle back home, and they were in my price range, so I decided to build one,” he said.

Originally, the plan was to stick the engine in the rear — but one thing led to another, and David found himself getting quotes for a full tube chassis. With none coming in under $20,000, he decided to buy the tools to do it himself, and proceeded under the watchful eye of tech inspector Mike Reed, and master fabricator and friend Jason Sellars. The result is a full tube-frame chassis with ladder-bar rear end and Green Brothers–built Ford nine-inch. The diff is a serious piece of kit too, with a chromoly full spool and 35-spline Moser axles. The front suspension features Strange struts and chromoly arms. The roll cage has been built to see the car into the seven-second zone. 

It won’t just be a good-looker either, given there’s a very serious methanol-drinking 13B sitting up front. It was based on a JC Cosmo engine, built up by the team at Dynopower using lightened S4 RX-7 rotors, stage-two porting, and a full dowel kit. The turbo is a custom 83mm Borg Warner S400, previously run in the Abbotts Racing RX-7, which exits through the front guard. Eight 2400cc injectors will feed the meth from a small front-mounted tank.

Plumbing and wiring in the Link are some of the last jobs left on the list. Power expectations are set around the 600kW to 670kW mark, which David hopes will see him reach his goal of chasing Brad Jonson’s 13B H-pattern record of 8.5. To do so, David has elected a Tremec TKO 600 built by Green Brothers Racing. It also runs a Green Brothers steel bellhousing, and McLeod eight-inch clutch.

Weight is expected to be around 700kg thanks to a one-piece fibreglass front end, doors, and boot lid.

“As I started getting into the body work it was a real mess. It was easier to just make moulds and produce fibreglass parts than it was to repair the steel.”

All the panels are then Zeus clipped to the frame for easy removal. The paint colour was chosen by David and Lindie’s two daughters — a DNA special mix Fuchsia Candy, laid by David, who is a painter by trade. The chassis work was coated in a red candy clear with a marble-like effect. This must be one of the best-presented cars we will see at the track once its completed later this year. 

Marcus Gibson

Marcus Gibson has spent his life getting a little grease under his fingernails growing up with a fascination for all things loud, fast, and low. Growing up during the boom of the import scene, the last ten years have seen him work for a few publications, as well as running his own website before taking up a role at NZ Performance Car in 2011. Marcus is as at home with a keyboard or camera in-hand as he is getting dirty in his workshop or at the track, championing that Kiwi DIY attitude.