Does your taste run bone stock original or full-out Darkside kustom? It doesn’t matter which VW Transporter Kombi you drag, haul, or drive to Airkooled Kustoms, we’ll do it right.
It used to be that collectors only wanted Split Window Bus models. The thought of restoring a Bay Window Bus was met with lukewarm enthusiasm. Why bother sinking all that time and money into a less-desirable model? But then Split Windows became harder and harder to find. That made folks give the lowly Bay another look. Of course, as the pecking order shifted, that made Vanagons the low man on the totem pole. As you might predict, Bays have gotten harder to find as demand for them increased. So, guess what’s next on the list to become desirable for restorations? You got it… Vanagons.
Now, no joke, the iconic air-cooled bus styles from about 1957 – 1979 are becoming harder to find. But we know where some stashes are and can get you one. We’ve even seen clients looking for VW Transporter Kombi conversions. Betty Bus is the best example we have in the shop to show you what happens when you take a panel bus and turn it into a camper.
Here’s a kool article about a UK shop. It specializes in modern-day conversions that keep the history of the VW Transporter conversion in mind along the lines of the Westfalia, Riviera, and even the Winnebago.
This company does transformations in which Volkswagen Transporter vans become a whole lot more awesome.
Volkswagen’s Transporter vans aren’t usually known for their stylish interiors, comfortable living spaces or modern kitchen facilities.
Coming in a range of shapes and sizes, the iconic van is now more than 65 years old. They are often used commercially due to their value, quality, and ability.
But one company is aiming to change the way people view and use these vehicles. They do that by converting them into sleek and stylish living spaces, offices, garages or whatever else their clients decide they want.
Based in Pontyclun , New Wave Conversions have been transforming leisure vehicles since 2010.
Starting with just two staff members, the company now employs a dedicated team of specialists. They undertake conversions within the T5, T6, Caddy, Caddy-Maxi and Crafter range.
The company offers a number of different conversion packages. They range from traditional holiday camping vans to everyday sports vehicles and beach vans.
Emily Powell, head of sales at New Wave, said: “We try to make the conversions as personal as possible. So, we work on an appointment basis. We sit down with every client beforehand to fit the designs around their lifestyle and character.
“One of our most popular conversions is the ‘Traditional Lux Camper’. It comes with all of the functions required for a modern day camping experience.
“We call it our ‘bread and butter’ package and we do at least one of these a month.
“The second most popular is the ‘Sports Multipurpose Conversion’. This comes with all of the functions for a day van/surf bus/ overnight sleeper.
Classic or modern, no matter which VW Transporter Kombi you’ve got it bad for, there’s a shop out there that can help you make your bus YOUR bus.
Looking for “VW restoration near me” so you can start your own project? We’re located in North Alabama, just a few miles south of the Tennessee border. Give us a call at 256-828-2123 to schedule a visit to the shop if you’re in the area. And if you’re too far to make this a day trip, you’re in good company. We’ve done restorations for clients all over the country. Many have never even set foot in the shop. We can arrange shipping for your vehicle or source one if you’ve got no project car to start with… piece of cake.
Right now the shop is full of buses. Be sure to check out what’s currently on the floor at Airkooled Kustoms online. Or join us for our annual show every October.
Today we welcomed Betty Bus, a 1960 Split Panel VW Bus that originally came in through New York. Manufactured in 1959, this beauty in the rough is about to have some much-needed TLC. The Airkooled Kustoms krew gets pretty excited anytime a client entrusts us with their restoration project. With Betty Bus, that thrill continues as we do the body and paint restoration on this family heirloom.
We may even end up with some decades-old slides or pictures to share. That’s because this split panel VW has been in the client’s family for a long, long time. She even made her way into a family friend’s photo archives.
The Kombi Restoration Process
Stay tuned for the restoration progress. It will begin with disassembly. We bag and tag each piece and part, every nut and bolt, so we can keep what’s usable and replace what’s not. Then it goes out to blast. The parts that aren’t rusted through will return to the shop in bare metal form. Then we’ll seal it to prevent rust from eating it alive seemingly overnight. Then comes the rough metal work (Rodney), where we essentially cure cancer by replacing all the spots that have been devoured by rust over the years.
Want a VW Bus Like this for Yourself?
We can help you make that happen. You might want to check out these Type 2s for sale on the Samba. Just click here to feast your eyes on some prospective 1960 Split Panel VW Bus projects – and other models as well. However, you want to find a vehicle that’s in relatively good condition (especially rust-wise). That will help you to avoid spending the bulk of your restoration project budget on metal work. If you’ve got a bus laying around that you’ve always wanted to restore, great. But if you don’t have one, we can help you source your project bus so that you start with the best possible vehicle for your budget. And yes, you can even have us transform a transporter into a camper. Finally, transporting your VW Bus to the shop is easy – whether you’re local, across the country, or even on the other side of the planet.
What If YOU Won a Kombi?
You may even want to try winning a VW bus in this Kombi Life contest. Great VW magazine, by the way, and we’re proud to have had a vehicle or two featured in recent issues.
If you’re just joining us, you should get to know Miss Mabel. This fine lady is a 1959 VW Beetle the shop has built as our entry in the Ultimate VW Build-Off in Vegas October 1-4, 2015.
Not that she’ll get much road time for the next year. That’s because she’ll spend that time as a trailer queen making the rounds of all the shows the shop goes to. But, still a good idea to make sure she’s good to go if needed.
How’d it go?
(First, I think we’re all glad it’s 00Dub doing the driving!) She made it out of the gravel driveway at the Volkswagen restoration shop with no real problems. Well, except that she lost her Gremlin bell. That’s a pretty strong indicator that we’ve built a pan scraper here. That’s good for the shows, but she’ll need to come up a bit to be driven after she’s done showing off.
PP hopped in to film the next part of her road test (NO SHOES, of course!). Engine’s sounding good, sunroof is lovely, and the interior’s comfy. We passed over a small asphalt strip – just a patch, really, to repair a crack in the road. And on approach, that sucker loomed like an enormous speed bump! Perspective changes quite a bit when you’re that low to the ground. So good so far, though.
Until we took the final curve and the shift just seemed off. Like maybe the brand new VW transmission was stuck in the wrong gear?
Oh… or maybe it was the fact that the weld attaching the shifter in place failed and the shifter came off in Dub’s hand. Yeah, that might be the issue.
This, volks, is why we road test. As eager as we all are to get every completed project out there and sent home with our clients, it’s really not ready until it’s ready. We can’t overstate the importance of testing before we send a Porsche or VW restoration project home. That’s why we typically put about 500 miles on every build we do. We’ll test it under different weather conditions, on different roads, at variable speeds and every sort of normal driving condition you might encounter.
We’ve got a few days before she gets into the hauler to take her cross-country trip – so we’ve got it covered.
Whether you’re down the road or across the country, we can help. It’s not super expensive to ship project cars across the United States, and about half (maybe more!) of our clients are long-distance. When you look at spending this kind of money on a Porsche or VW restoration project (yeahhhhh, it’s a pretty penny), the cost of shipping your ride to a shop that can do it right is negligible.
Click or call 256-828-2123 to start the conversation about YOUR project.
Miss Mabel, the custom VW bug Airkooled Kustoms is building for the Ultimate VW Build-Off has a whole new slew of admirers in the Huntsville area. And thanks to live news feeds, even across the Atlantic. David Wood of WHNT Channel 19 in Huntsville came out to the shop in Hazel Green. Here, he got the scoop on a local business hand-picked to compete on the national stage against the best of the best in the VW restoration field.
David usually covers the sort of story you’d expect to see on the local news: school board issues, drug busts, charity events, and even high-profile trials. But this was clearly a different sort of assignment. Not exactly breaking news, but instead the opportunity to use his remarkable talent for storytelling. We were delighted by how he captured what Airkooled Kustoms is all about.
The Art of Dubs Meets the Art of Storytelling
As VW restorers, we know what we see when we look around at the shop. We get an eyeful of projects in various states of completion. Also, we see our fellow krew members living out the “blood, sweat, and vintage steel” motto as they pour their own personal variety of OCD into the Dubs to do them right. But it’s always interesting to see someone else’s take on the shop. Especially when that person sees and reports on newsworthy stuff every single day. Imagine watching a journalist’s eyes light up over the stunning beauty of Mabel’s paint job. Then see the moment of clear recognition that what we are creating is kinetic art in the form of brand new old cars. That was pretty kool. What a kick it was getting to see what he did with all the footage he captured (a couple of hours worth) within such a quick turnaround time. It got even better seeing how he was able to tell the story of what the shop is doing with Miss Mabel. All in all, it was a great opportunity to see a storyteller’s art in action.
There are so many angles of the Miss Mabel story that make her cool:
Here’s a 56-year old vehicle getting a full restoration from the ground, up.
Every nut, bolt, panel, and piece gets stripped back to reveal and correct its age- and use-induced flaws. This rebuild will leave Mabel stronger, faster, and more beautiful than anyone back in 1959 would have dreamed possible. Even more than turning back the hands of time, the shop is creating something altogether different in this custom Beetle.
Anyone can slap some after-market chrome doodads onto a car and call it custom. This shop’s forté is in customizing with subtlety.
As you look at an Airkooled Kustoms build, you’ll no doubt miss a lot. Eyeballs typically skim right over incredibly intricate work and badass details because your eye isn’t stopped by them. That’s subtle. Once you truly see what you’re seeing, your jaw will drop. It might drop twice, in fact, both in recognizing what’s been done and in the fact that you didn’t initially see it.
Miss Mabel is named after the late Mabel Powers, a long-time resident of Athens, AL.
She was the wife of the late Dr. Alvin Powers who founded the Athens hospital. Known for her unique mix of class and sass, Mabel’s personality comes through beautifully in her namesake.
VW Restorers Where You’d Never Expect Them
How is it that a local shop in rural Hazel Green, Alabama makes its way into the national spotlight? Especially through a competition of this magnitude? How is it that a whole krew of VW specialists is able to make a living doing what they love? Spending their days restoring generations-old cars practically deemed disposable when they were first built? What kind of clients pour tens of thousands of dollars into these pieces of kinetic art? Especially knowing full-well that the process will take an average of 8 – 18 months?
Watching the sense of awe on David Wood’s face as he roamed the boneyard, spoke with the krew, and examined the vehicles on the shop floor, we knew he’d do a great job in telling the Airkooled Kustoms story. Since it aired, we’ve had several guests arrive at the shop asking to see more of what we’re doing – and many comments and compliments from the shop’s fans from all over the world.
What can it be? What can it beeeeeee?
See what Rodney and Gee-off just received in the shop. Hint: It goes vroom vroom and makes one very special Beetle go, go, go!
Bonus hint: It makes VW restorers grin like lunatics.
This tribute build is just about a wrap – now that it’s got a working, running, glorious engine. Next, it’s installation time, and then it’ll be time to test, tune, and break that baby in for a couple hundred miles… and THEN it will go home to Kaden’s family, who’ll have a beautiful, badass reminder of a very special boy who loved Volkswagens almost as much as he loved his people.
Airkooled Kustoms custom VW restoration shop is known for “doing it right.” There’s nowhere that’s more visible than in our paint. No 50/50 jobs here – you know, looks good at 50 yards if you’re driving 50 mph past it. In fact, the closer you come, the more closely you look, the better the finish looks.
This is Miss Mabel, the 1959 VW Beetle Ragtop the shop is preparing for the Ultimate VW Build-Off. It’s in Las Vegas, October 1-4, 2015. Even though Mabel started out with a relatively sound body, she looked every bit of her nearly sixty years. Her once dull, gray, creased, dinged, patina body has been straightened, repaired, and perfected. Painted and polished to within an inch of her life, she now sports a paint job so slick and juicy that it’s hard not to drool on her.
Making Paint Shiny -er
In this little clip, Spook shows her bling black finish in the shade and the sunlight. That’s to demonstrate why people will be spending an inordinate amount of time looking at her. She looks sinister and shiny in the shade – brilliantly black and blingy in the sunlight – all the same finish, of course.
That’s the hallmark of Airkooled Kustoms custom VW restoration projects. There’s more to see than what your eye picks up right away. Ninja-like, right? With some builds out there, the hope is that you’ll like the car and keep walking before you see what’s wrong with it. It’s the opposite with AKK builds. The longer you look, the more you love it, the more detail you see.
Mabel’s finish is so fine that fans are mistaking it for a mirror in many of her build pictures.
If you’d like to see more, check out the build progress here: https://airkooledkustoms.com/projects/whats-on-the-floor/1959-vw-beetle-ragtop/
And if you’re planning to join us at the Ultimate VW Build-Off (http://www.ultimatevwbuildoff.com), be sure to bring your sunglasses. We’d hate for Miss Mabel’s shine to make you squint!
Inspired? Searching for “VW restoration shops near me” now that you’ve caught the bug? Airkooled Kustoms hails from Hazel Green, Alabama. But that doesn’t mean you’ve got to live in the southeast to become a client. In fact, most of our clients live “yonder” (a southern term we’ve come to understand as “not here”). Some of them have project cars they’ve been hauling around for decades. Others have nothing more than a dream and a willing checkbook. We can arrange for transport for you to get your vehicle from hither and yon (we’re not 100% on that one, but think it probably means “wherever you are”) to the shop.
Just give us a call at 256-828-2123 or click to contact us online. The sooner we start talking about your project, the sooner you’ll drive it.
What Does a Car Painter Do at SEMA? Drool, Schmooze, and Absorb
Anyone who knows Spook well enough to walk a car show’s grounds with him knows that you’ll get his no-nonsense take on what he sees there. So, what do car painters like him and his son Thomas do while exploring a show the calibre of SEMA?
Drool over the amount of passion the smaller builders brought to the show with their high attention to detail.
Schmooze with suppliers of the fine products we use in the shop, starting with our hosts 3M, but also including Axalta, Griot’s Garage, Mother’s, Meguiars, and several others. It’s always good to meet our partners face-to-face, and we’re proud of the quality they put into their products as they help us make kool stuff.
Absorb the interesting styling trends, while mostly for the newer market, and contemplating what might work in our cars. This was even kooler when we’d see new technologies given a klassic feel.
Here’s Spook’s Take on SEMA 2016
Most days we walked about 18K steps as we explored the acres and acres of exhibits that made up SEMA’s 50th annual show in Las Vegas. This, with Spook’s broken toe (and still-healing broken ribs).
We took LOTS of pictures of SEMA 2016 – hundreds of them. Check them out and let us know what catches your eye.
It can take a bit to digest THAT much input – and we got Spook to give us the lowdown on the top five trends he noticed at this year’s show. Here they are.
SEMA 2016 Trend #1: MUSTANGS, Like, Everywhere
It seemed like everyone got the memo: Build a Mustang for the show this year. Ford had a huge presence at the show, and everywhere you looked, there were Mustangs. OK, there were also some Jeeps, Ford trucks, and a hefty helping of mid-90’s Porsches… but mostly, there were Mustangs. He’s not much of a Mustang guy, but he did appreciate seeing so many variations of the same car.
SEMA 2016 Trend #2: I Like Big Trucks and I Cannot Lie… But WOW
When Spook’s 6′ 3″ frame is dwarfed by a truck’s body, it might be too big. The engineering is beautiful, and who wouldn’t want to own the whole road by driving a gargantuan vehicle on it? Spook’s ’97 OBS F250 looked like a Matchbox compared with these behemoths.
SEMA 2016 Trend #3: New, New, New
We saw a FEW classic Dubs, but not many. In fact, there weren’t many classic cars at all – a few, and some of them were jaw-droppingly gorgeous – and they seemed to draw more crowds than the herd drew. Might be an indicator exhibitors should pay attention to next year… build something more interesting, and people will flock to it.
SEMA 2016 Trend #4: Here a Wrap, There a Wrap, Everywhere a Wrap, Wrap
Combine this trend with the last one (maybe half of those Mustangs were wrapped), and you’ll understand a correlation he made between wrapped Mustangs and booth bunnies (also everywhere)…
Once you’ve seen half a dozen, you’ve seen them all. Different shapes, sizes, and colors – some with more meat on the rolling edge than others… but overall, not particularly interesting.
What does a car painter do when he sees wraps? Usually, he kind of makes ‘that’ face – you know, with the one eyebrow up. You see, wraps ARE kind of cool because your options are virtually unlimited. You can fake a paint job and come up with practically any look you can imagine.
But, it’s a wrap. He’s a paint guy. ‘Nuff said.
SEMA 2016 Trend #5: Paint, Sort Of
It wasn’t ALL wraps at SEMA, of course. Some builders went with paint finishes. A few even did it well, like this Caddy with the L-O-N-G straight panels and near-flawless paint.
All the work that went into building cars worthy of this magnificent event was easy to see. Innovation, brilliant engineering, creative design – it was all there. So it was puzzling to see many vehicles with a fit and finish that was lacking. Orange peel, incomplete polish processes (hologramming), and lack of attention to detail kind of drove him nuts.
No doubt there’s a major crunch time right before completing a build and getting it out to the show. While the builders did a spectacular job on the builds, many shorted themselves when it came time to do paint and polish. Because of this, many of the cars felt somehow incomplete, rushed, and lacking… in the one element that takes up so much of the build’s overall appearance.
SEMA 2016 – A Feast for the Eyes
So much to see, so many cool peeps to meet – a great trip out to Vegas that we’ll definitely do again.
Looking for “VW restoration shops near me” because your heart and mind can’t stop dreaming of getting your own ride? Coast to coast in the United States, Airkooled Kustoms has you covered. Even if you’re nowhere near beautiful Hazel Green, Alabama, don’t assume you have to settle for a shop in your own backyard. More than half of our clients come from lands far, far away. They either ship their vehicle to us (affordable in the grand scheme of things) or have us source one for them. That said, click or call 256-828-2123 to start the conversation about YOUR build.
Classic Cars You Should Buy If You REALLY Want to Show Someone You Love Them
Topping the list of classic cars you should buy… the one that got away. Maybe you’ve been looking wistfully in your life’s rearview mirror, wishing for just one more glimpse of THAT car. You know, the one you bought with your paper route money. The one you learned how to drive in. The one that got you to the chapel on-time.
While classic cars are becoming increasingly valuable money-wise, it’s the emotional tug, the nostalgia that’s always been the driving force behind most restorations. It makes sense. After all, classic car restorations are EXPENSIVE – like, “That’s in DOLLARS?”expensive.
The heart wants what the heart wants.
And here at Airkooled Kustoms, what the heart wants most of the time is the flawless re-creation of early Porsches and Volkswagens that have haunted our clients for years – decades in some cases. Want to see some examples?
A tribute build in memory of Kaden, a little guy who left this world WAY too soon. Kaden and his dad Gerald had been planning to restore this sweet ’68 Beetle together. After he passed, his family decided to do it in his honor.
We’ve seen the pics of the original ride this understated beauty was built to mimic, as one very happy pair of newlyweds drove her away from their wedding. Oh, the original met an untimely demise after being rolled a few times. This one’s likely to live a much more charmed life.
This one, I (PP) got to see first-hand, in situ, about half a century ago. It was originally our grandfather’s Bug, but it also made the rounds with a couple of uncles before Matt bought it and got it restored (after lugging it around the country for a decade). Check out this video, and you’ll be drooling, too.
Screw Flowers… THIS Is How You Win Hearts
Of course, you could just go the way our client Ron went, and substitute a sweet high-end restoration in place of buying your sweetheart roses. Bumble Bee was featured in Issue #14 of Aircooled Classics. After all, nothing says luvin’ like a brand new, very old car!
Here’s another story from LittleThings.com:
Dad Collapses In Son’s Arms When He Hands Him Keys To Classic Car 50 Years After It’s Destroyed
Over the course of our lives, our parents sacrifice everything so we can be happy. They give us a home, put food on the table, send us to school, and teach us all the most valuable lessons you can learn to become a well-rounded adult.
At some point in our adult lives, many of us feel the need to give back to them in some way, to thank them for all these sacrifices, big and small.
For most, this means raising our own children the way our parents raised us. But for others, it’s also giving them as many material pleasures as our wallets can handle. We want to give them things not just because we can, but because we know it will make them happier than we can ever imagine.
Michael Green had this in mind when he dragged his father, Charlie, to the parking lot of a Piggly Wiggly. He’s heard the same story countless times: As a 16-year-old, Charlie lost the classic car he loved, a 1955 Chevy Bel Air.
It’s been 50 years since that car was destroyed, but Charlie hasn’t fallen out of love with it. In fact, he was so moved by the story of his car, that he cried seeing one just like it in the parking lot.
Little did he know it was already his: His son had bought it for his father, and it would only be a matter of time before he saw it in his own garage.
Now watch the clip to see the moment the tearful dad realizes the car he sees is actually for him!
THIS Clue about Where to Find Classic Cars Will Send You Hiking
If you’re looking for one of your own, you might want to take this bit of advice on where to find classic cars that are hiding in plain sight. OK, maybe not exactly plain sight. Maybe hidden deep in the woods. Or, maybe covered by a pile of junk in a dilapidated barn. Maybe even tucked away in some forgotten corner of a junkyard.
Or… on the Samba!
I asked Spook about this middle-of-the-woods scenario, and he tipped his hat to these guys. What they did wasn’t easy. If you’re thinking about doing something similar, here’s a few pointers:
Be prepared to crawl around underneath the vehicle… somehow. You’ll come away with a new appreciation of a glorious invention – the shop lift.
Be careful! If you jack up your found ride on soft, unlevel ground, it’s not going to stay up.
Bring your bug repellant.
FINDING the find might be the easy part!
If you decide to work on it in situ, you’re going to have to lug a bunch o’ stuff with you if you want to drive it out of the woods. A jack, a full set of basic tools, and acetylene torches to wrestle those rusted nuts and bolts off (heavy and flammable, so be careful!).
“I would have done the same as a young guy. I’m pulling 50 now (as opposed to pushing it!). I like to be warm, dry, and not have bugs crawling up my neck. I don’t camp.” So now you have the final word on getting him out to the woods in a rescue for your find!
Probably a LOT easier to just tow it out – and then to the shop. But where’s the adventure in that?!
Watch Air-Cooled VW Enthusiasts Fix up an Abandoned Panel Van in the Woods
For many vintage car enthusiasts, the barn find is their Holy Grail. They dream of one day stumbling onto a rare classic that’s been stored for so may years, the original owner most likely forgot it was there. Then, they can begin the process of bringing their find back to life and restoring it to its former glory.
What about a forest find, though? Cars left in the woods don’t get nearly the same protection from the elements, but still. Sometimes they can still be restored. After all, that’s exactly what happened here.
Florian George, an air-cooled Volkswagen enthusiast who works for AirMapp—a website and social network for fans of air-cooled VWs—heard someone had abandoned a 1955 Volkswagen Type II panel van in the woods near his house. After finding the owner and buying the van, he originally planned to pull it out with a tractor.
But then he got a crazy idea. What if he and his friends could fix up the van enough for it to drive out under its own power? Surprisingly, it actually worked. Check out the video below to see the story of how they got it done.
Yep. What other kind of answer would you expect? I’ll tell you what other kind… one that’s all science-y, yo.
You might think you can tell an air-cooled engine by its placement:
Water cooled VW Bug = Engine in the Front (You can also find some bus models that are water pumpers.)
Air-Cooled = Engine in the Back
But you’d be wrong! (Although if you go looking at the early air-cooled Volkswagens and Porsches we build at Airkooled Kustoms, engine’s in the back.)
So, what gives?
Air-cooled engines use a combination of controlled air flow, oil, and fuel to help keep the engine within optimum operating temperatures. The Boxter motor is well designed for air cooling. They’re typically lightweight, made from aluminum, magnesium, and other lightweight elements. There’s directed air flow controlled by air speed, and that’s what keeps the cylinders well within operating specs. The heads are aluminum, the piston jugs are steel, and the connecting rod and the lower rotating assembly are all high-tempered steel. Even the gasoline helps to keep the heads cool.
Water-Cooled Vs. Air-Cooled
Water pumpers feature a water jacket surrounding the cylinders to help control the temperatures. Water becomes the heat sync. The actual engine case heads and jugs are the actual heat syncs with the fan directing airflow around critical areas to remove the heat.
Air-cooled rides never have a radiator. With the majority of models, the engine is in the rear, although there are some vehicles, including diesels, that have the engine in the front… but they’re still air-cooled. Most of those are 2-cycle engines, which means you have to add oil to the gasoline to help with lubrication – they’re dirty and smelly, but have a good power to weight ratio output.
Want to see some examples? This bit by CarThrottle.com will help.
6 Cars That Make Us Love Air-Cooled Engines
Be it a 12bhp flat-twin or a fire-breathing turbocharged monster, air-cooling definitely had its place in the automotive community
The technology is now obsolete in road car design, but these cars used simple airflow to keep their engines cool. Initially found in budget civilian vehicles for the masses due to its ease of use and lack of maintenance required, air-cooled engines managed to nestle their way into some serious machinery up until relatively recently.
You’ll only find this rudimentary tech in bike-engined vehicles nowadays, so let’s take a nostalgic look at some of the past automotive highlights of air-cooling.
Despite the unfortunate origins within Hitler’s Reich, the Volkswagen Beetle is one of the greatest-selling cars of all time. Translating as ‘The People’s Car’, Hitler himself told the engineers and designers that the car had to be air-cooled, as not every German could afford a garage. Antifreeze for coolant was also rare and expensive in the 1930s.
The original design was manufactured from 1937 until 2003 when the last manufacturing plant in Mexico shut down. Using a simple flat-four engine pioneered by one Ferdinand Porsche, the Beetle ranged from 1.1 to 1.6-litre form, with the aim being to transport five people at 100kmh while using no more than seven litres of fuel for the respective 100km. Without the Beetle, it’s safe to say that a couple of other cars on this list wouldn’t have come close to existing, so this popular bug deserves some serious respect.
The 935 was Porsche’s endurance racing entrant in the late 1970s, using the 930 911 Turbo as a base. It utilized are rather large turbocharger and mechanical fuel injection to create unprecedented levels of turbo lag but with the ability to produce up to 833bhp.
Porsche kept with the air-cooled flat-six engine in the 935 up until 1978, when water cooling was introduced to increase the reliability of the small but powerful engines. This sad move occurred due to head gasket failures on the 1977 cars which had switched the single turbocharger for a twin-turbo setup, resulting in too much stress across the engine block.
Citroen 2CV 4×4 Sahara
The Citroen 2CV is the definition of ‘simple but effective’ and they also pose potentially the cheapest route into motorsport through racing championships dedicated to the plucky French legend. The most interesting of the vast fleet of 2CV variations comes in the shape of the 4×4 Sahara. Intended for the French colonies in Northern Africa, the Sahara came with four-wheel drive as well as two engines – one in the front and another crammed in the rear, both driving their respective axles.
Separate transmissions allowed both axles to be driven at any time, creating traction and drive if one axle began to slip. Using two 12bhp air-cooled flat-twin engines, the Sahara quickly became a favourite with off-roading enthusiasts. Outright performance was never going to be great, as with just one engine running the 2CV Sahara had a top speed of just 40mph. Fire up that second engine however and the lightweight utility vehicle was capable of 65mph.
Tatra decided at some point it was a good idea to air cool a V8, making the 700 the quirkiest car on this list. Produced in 3.5 and 4.4-litre form, the rear-mounted OHV V8 somehow made it into this Czech luxury vehicle.
Although Tatras in general were never built in big numbers, the saloon cars like the 700 were driven by the local industrial bosses and dignitaries as a sign of prestige and power. It’s safe to say that the 700 wasn’t successful in the slightest, and production ended in 1999 after beginning in 1996 due to poor export performance to the rest of Europe. But name me another company that had the guts to build a rear-engined, air-cooled V8 saloon?
Porsche 911 993 GT2
Named after the racing series that these homologation specials were required for, the 993 GT2 was the last air-cooled 911 ever manufactured by Porsche. With widened wheel arches and a massive rear wing featuring those stunning integral air intakes, the first ever GT2 paved the way for the most extreme road-going cars within the 911 range.
Producing 438bhp and 432lb ft of torque from its air-cooled engine, the 993 quickly became known as a widowmaker due to being rear-wheel drive and having a low kerb weight of 1295kg. The 3.6-litre twin-turbocharged flat six was capable of propelling the GT2 from 0-60mph in just 3.9 seconds and topping out at 187mph – seriously impressive figures from a mid-90s car. Only 57 were ever built making for seven figure values in today’s Porsche-crazy market.
A car that dominated the Eastern Block countries during the Cold War, the Trabant 601 (otherwise known simply as ‘The Trabant’) was built to counteract the West German-built Volkswagen Beetle. Although it was manufactured to be cheap and reliable, it came with independent suspension all around and lightweight composite bodywork.
Due to a lack of R&D funds, Trabant had to stick with a two-stroke air-cooled engine which came from before the Second World War, putting it at a great disadvantage to its four-stroke Volkswagen rival. The 595cc block was capable of producing around 25bhp and when coupled to a four-speed transmission could achieve 67mph with a serious run-up. Despite this, over two million cars were built, so it can’t have been all bad!
Do you have a favourite air-cooled vehicle? Do you maybe even daily something that harks back to these simpler days? Comment below with your air-cooled experiences.