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Homepage. This page: A description of a competition-prepared VW Beetle Rallye, campaigned in the 1970s and 1980s.

VW Beetle rally car.

Scott dropped me a line from the States, with information about a VW Beetle that he's about to begin restoring. It was used from new in rallies all over the USA, and he's been fortunate enough to find not only period photos of the car in action, but also firsthand accounts from people who remember the Veedub rallying. Obviously the search for material never ends, so if you recognise the car (reg. 330 EVG or 548 IDP) or have information on it, please drop me a line and I'll pass it on.
Beetle competing in a 1970s' rally

The owner's story of this rallying Veedub..

Back in the early days of the internet I was a member of a usenet group called RAMVA. I joined up when I first wanted to find a project VW after many years away from the hobby. I posted something along the lines of 'looking for project VW to work on with son' and got an interesting reply. A man a few towns away from me had a 73 Super that used to be a rally car and wanted it out of his yard. We communicated back and forth a few times and I made the trip to see it. The car didn't belong to him, he used to be a crew member on the team and was storing it in his yard for the owner who had retired to NJ and now he was looking to get it out of his yard.
Sitting under a tree was this orange and black Super with OLD OLD OLD SCCA and Uniroyal logos on it (and this strange crazed duck sticker too). Closer inspection showed this wasn't just an any old VW but was actually a competition car. It had rally gauges, full cage, competition seats and harness, etc. The man, Bill, and his wife Stef were wonderful and I really enjoyed talking to them. They told me some history about this car, how it was campaigned in the early 70s in the USA and worldwide in professional rally racing with a crew and driver of VW and Porsche staff and was even photographed and discussed in articles in Popular Mechanics and Road & Track. Since they didn't actually own the car, they couldn't sell it to me directly but they thought the owner would do so inexpensively so they put me in touch with him. He was a wonderful character and spent several hours on the phone with me detailing the history plus the cache of parts he had stored. He wanted it to all go as a package for about $2500, more than I had or was willing to spend at the time so I had to pass on the deal. I documented the whole experience on RAMVA in a thread called 'One Special Super.' I really fell for that car and thought about it often over the past 11 years, wondered if any of the members of RAMVA that I tried to put in touch with the owner ever got it.
11-12 years later (this past spring) I'm on Freecycle looking to get rid of some stuff when I come across a post for free firewood with an email address that looked familiar. I took a chance and shot an email to them asking if they were possibly the same people from 11 years ago, and if they were, whatever happened to the car. Well, if you couldn't guess by this point, they are the same people. The car was still there. The owner passed about 6 months ago and they were talking to his widow and she just wanted them to get rid of it. It could be mine for the low price of: FREE.
My contact is Bill Todd, he was a good friend of the owner and a regular navigator for TSD rally events. I got some history from him that night, not a complete history because so much time had passed and Bill was the navigator, Al the owner (since passed) wrenched on the car more...but had a great talk with them anyway. Bill told a few stories about running in the Alcan with this car and a rally in South Africa. The car was photographed for an article on the Alcan in Road & Track, I believe some time in 1992. After bringing it home, I posted on www.specialstage.com to see if anyone happened to remember the car. One of the first replies was from Paul Jaeger who co-drove this car in several events. What follows is quotes from several posts from Paul as well as emails I've received from other co-drivers:
Paul Jaeger: "When I started to read this article, I wondered whether this could be Al's (AJ) car. It wasn't until the end that you confirmed it was. I codrove in this car for three rallies. One was the 1977 Criterium Du Quebec, and the other two were the 1980 100 Acre Woods and Northern Lights. I have some photos of the car in competetion I will send you. AJ was from Luxenburg and lived in Fort Lee, New Jersy and worked for Pan Am airlines. He competed all through the 70's and early 80's. In 1970 I believe he ran a Porsche 911 in the POR. After that he ran VW bugs. I don't know how many, but AJ didn't destroy cars, so it probably wasn't very many different cars.
The 77 Criterium was on the World Rally Championship. At this Rally Fiat entered a 5 car team of Fiat 131's and Ford had two escorts for Roger Clark and Ari Vatanen. Timo Salonen won in a Fiat. We came up early and made pace notes for the rally. The Beetle was pretty quick and we were well placed among the private entries after the short stages of the first two days. The highlight of the rally was a stage around a lake in the Village of St Agathe. The school kids laughed at a beetle, but they were impressed with the speed when they saw it on course! Unfortunately, we lost the engine on the second stage of the third day and DNFed. This rally had one stage of 33 miles (repeated 3 times) and one of 70 miles repeated twice."
Kelvin Dodd, ran with Al in 1982 Miller Centennial. He remembers this: "You have to change the lights. I'll dig up the photo I have and send it to you. The corner workers loved the VW because "it smiled". The array of driving lights looked like a big smile when it was coming down on them through the dark. Fantastic find, congratulations. Does it still have the Formula Vee spec. engine with twin down draft Webers? It had a tremendous amount of torque. When the car was dropped off at my parents house for me to prep, I was amazed at how much torque it had. I didn't have anything to compare it to, as it was the first VW I got to drive"
I heard from Frank Beyers who co-drove with Al in the 1983 STPR. The more I hear about Al, the more I really wish I had been able to talk to him more, sounds like he was special. I feel like I missed out on something.
"Scott,
I'm glad you got in touch. let me start by saying that I don't think that I have any pictures from the one run I made with Al, I just moved and I am in the middle of scraping through all my old files, rally stuff and pictures, and if I come across anything I'll be happy to send it along to you.
Al was a favorite competitor on mine. He was a quiet guy who rarely talked a lot, but an intense rally driver. The car was everyone's favorite back then. We all were driving various makes and models, but no one had a car that had been fussed and pampered over more than Al's. My roommate in the late 70's, Larry Doolittle, ran a shop that specialized in old bugs in Syracuse ("Bugs Only" - VW threatened legal action over the name as they had copyrighted "Bug" - which became Air Cooled Autos). Larry raced Bugs at dirt tracks around Central NY, so we had an interest in Al's car, and never could believe how tight that shell was, and how fast Al could drive it.
We ran against Al in the NEPRO/NEPRS series for a number of years. The rallies were long-distance events (12 hr rallies were considered short) and Al always seemed to be the victim of some little mistake that his navigator would make at 10 PM, or 1 AM out in the middle of nowhere, calling a left a right or a speed change at the wrong spot, and Al would wind up finishing well, but rarely at the top. He never got tired, never got mad, always seemed ready to try harder than anyone else.
We would all sit around a table after an event telling the usual rally lies, and would have to pry the words out of Al. He'd just show a little smile, shake his head, speak so low that he could hardly be heard, and say that he just didn't quite make it.
I think that I was in-between cars that year. Al was searching around for a navigator and asked, and I jumped at the chance. An opportunity to spend all night running with the master. I was one of the few guys who would sit in either seat just to compete, and I don't think I asked Al which side of the car he wanted me for; I didn't care, I was going to have a chance to spend the trip with a great guy in a great car.
I'll be darned if I can remember what caused us to DNF, but, it seems that we took a shortcut through a curve, hit a rock that split an oil line. We only got about three stages in and we were done. The car couldn't be repaired in time (this being the old days when services were every four or five stages apart) and we were time-barred. The only thing I remember after that is, since the breakdown occurred early, I went to a spectator area to watch the event in my driving suit, then went and worked with the Central New York stage crew, starting the cars on at least one night stage.
I had hit the triple: competitor, spectator, and worker, on the same event.
You have yourself one sweet ride. I'm sure the years have been unkind to the car. Al will be looking over your shoulder when you go to restore it. He had hundreds of hours on that car, always did things right when he fixed it, took a lot of pride in the car and his driving. We all knew he had one hand tied behind his back running against most of the cars he rallied with but his skill made it equal. I know that we went down a lot of dirt roads trying to catch that little orange Bug, but was always fast enough to stay in front (this was before Time Allowances were a common part of rallying).
And, the day that I ran in it might have been the only time that car DNF'd. Thanks for the walk down Memory Lane. I will check with the Central New York crew (I'll see some folks tonight) and if we have anything I'll be in touch.
Frank"
After I posted the vintage scans, more conversation happened.
Paul: "I believe all the shots with the number 28 are from the Criterium Molson, which I ran with Al. Note that the first picture with number 28 (the one with the car on the trailer). In that pic the car had an exhaust system with the muffler mounted horizontally behind the bumper. This is the reason for the larger exhaust cutout in one of your first pictures. This didn't work very well on the Criterium, since we had to fix the exhaust in the parc firme in a parking garage in downtown Montreal before we could continue for the second day."
Checking the records at Rally Racing News, I think might be Paul Bengels, Brooklyn, NY from the 1975 Wonder Happiness is Sunrise. I'm guessing this since I can't find any other time it ran with #33, it is definitely nighttime and it looks ike it is early in the career of the car based on the lack of black hood, and I can vaguely see the Wonder Muffler decals. The #49s are from 1978 Press-On-Regardless with Harry Handley (former director of Rally for the SCCA). #26 is possibly the 1980 POR with Randy Graves? #39 1976 Sunriser 400 FR with Jim Damerell? (the Manta behind it reminds me of my old Opel...I should have kept that car). #41 are from plus the front shot with BARDAHL are Bill Todd (Bill thinks this one is from 84? 85? He thinks it might be from the 24 Houres of Mexico, that is him in the co-driver seat but he forgets the year. Plate is 158 IDP). The other ones, I don't know yet, but I'm aiming to ID them all if I can. I've been in contact with Bill and Paul (of course) as well as Kelvin Dodd and Frank Beyer. I know that Harry Handley is no longer with us and Bruno Kreibich is not well. I'm not sure about the rest, it does appear Rod Hendricksen is still active:
  • Randy Graves Matawan, NJ
  • Jim Sweeney Cleveland, OH -passed away
  • Gordon Brown Doylestown, OH
  • Jim Damerell Bronx, NY
  • Paul Bengels Brooklyn, NY
  • Scott Hughes Summerville, NJ
  • John Bain
  • Robert Gomez Roslyn Heights, NY
  • Walter Koper Dallas, TX
  • Arthur Mendolia Suffern, NJ
  • Rod A. Hendricksen Clinton, NJ
  • Jan Beveridge Ft. Worth, TX
From Bruce Beauvais: "I'd agree #26 photo is from a POR. I'm thinking 82 though. Mary Jo Czyzio and the late Gary Hays were co-chairs and got the reflective arrows made up for the event. Kinda of a lime green with a white reflective edge. The arrows survived for a year or two longer. I think nowdays they MIGHT make it through the running of a stage before vanishing into a trunk. I've got 1 and 1/2 salvaged from a later event. If I remember, the event was Pro-Rally (tm) of the year and Gary and Mary Jo won a trip to the RAC, courtesy of SCCA. That was also the first event in the USA to use Stage Captains.
The #49 shot is either 77 or 78 POR. Just below the Pirelli sticker is one of the "God's area code is 906" stickers. They were first used in the '77 POR organized by Jon Davis. The event was based in for the first time in Houghton. I think we used the large one in '77 and a trimmed version in '78. I'm also pretty sure that the Cooper windshield banner was a series sponsor requirement. Cooper was post-Pirelli and pre-Subaru."
Paul:" Did more research. I think #26 is the 1979 STPR. According to RRN, both 80 and 82 PORs were snowy. The pic has no snow but does have dust. Al ran the 79 STPR as #26 with Robert Gomez and finished twentieth. Also found a pic of the car at 1978 Sunriser which is on my facebook page." That photo also #28, black and white with gravel spraying.
The last I KNOW the car ran was in 1986 which is when Bill stopped running. The last event I know of is the Alcan in 1986. The last time the car was street legal was 94-95, the safety inspection sticker expires in 95 and the insurance card I found is good through Dec 1995. Currently it still has the 158 IDP plate but has Uniroyal on the sides...the tires (including the spare) are Dunlops.
Ok, sorry for the novel. The restoration of this car is going to be documented in HotVWs magazine. I am getting the original Halda Tripmaster rally computer from Bill for it. Once completed, I want to take it to some regional events to share with the rally community. I hope to get some of the former co-drivers to hop in it and see what they think. I might take it to a VW show or two, but this will definitely not be a trailer queen.

Scott.
VW Beetle in action - Just some of the photos that Scott has located showing his car.
VW photo 1
VW photo 2
VW photo 3
VW photo 4
VW photo 5
VW photo 6
VW photo 7
VW photo 8
VW photo 9
VW photo 10
VW photo 11
VW photo 12
VW photo 13
VW photo 14
VW photo 15
VW photo 16
VW photo 17
VW photo 18
VW photo 19
VW photo 20
VW photo 21
VW photo 22
VW photo 23
VW photo 24
VW photo 25
VW photo 26
VW photo 27
Thanks for sending that over Scott, an interesting read - don't forget to send some pics of the car when it's finished!
Click here to read about some more classics owned by visitors to the site. Scott's car is the first rally-prepared Beetle to appear on the site, but a selection of roadgoing Beetles (6v and 12v) can be found on this page of the vintage photos section, and a PC (Win XP) screensaver is available here.

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