With an e.t. of 8.96 at 155.87mph, this car is the quickest VW in Australia. Owned by Rod Penrose from Kembla Grange in NSW (New South Wales), the record was set in November 2001 when Rod ran that time at Victoria's Heathcote Park Raceway.
Rod's been a VW enthusiast since the mid-1980s. "I bought an old Beetle and cut the roof from it to create a cheap convertible," he explains. "That was when it all started. I had a lot more VWs before then, but in 1992 I went to America for the first time and saw the Sacramento drags. It was phenomenal to see maybe 250 VWs racing, with only one guy breaking an axle. They were so fast and so reliable!"
Rod was impressed. "I thought, 'this is it this is for me!' Up until then I had been into hillclimb racing with a mid-mounted, supercharged engine in a tube framed chassis. But I kept breaking gearboxes." Rod returned to Australia determined to make the change from hillclimbs to drag racing.
While at Sacramento, Rod met Dave Folts from Dave Folts Transmissions, who at the time, had the world's fastest VW. "I spoke with him and learned a lot about transmissions. So with all that, I began to build a drag car."
Rod's first drag car was based on street style technology with a pan-style chassis and, at first, a 2400cc AutoCraft engine that ran 11s at 122mph. Later, the engine was boosted with a turbo, maxing out at 9.63 at 145mph, which at the time was an Australian record.
"We never had any dramas with the gearbox in that one," says Rod. "It was a Bus-type box with IRS and had a lot of success. But then we started feeding too much horsepower through it, and on big launches, the car was out of control, going left and right and hitting track markers. It wasn't really worth persevering." So after the "moments" on the racetrack, Rod felt the chassis was at the end of its development and retired the car in 1998.
The tube-framed drag car on these pages is what replaced it. As Rod relates, "I started this in June 1998 and it took me two-and-a-half years to complete it. A Beetle bought for $50 was used as a basis for the new car, although little of it remains (apart from A pillars and quarter panels). Even the roof has been replaced" As you can see, a nice slice has lowered the roof, and the rear panels are fiberglass. Other mods include removal of the doors' upper frames and extensive lightening of every other section of the remaining factory tin. The chassis constructed by Rod was inspired by what he had seen on the U.S. tracks. "Buying a few American magazines such as VWTrends, looking at photographs and talking to Jimmy Larsen from JCL Racecars gave me the confidence to have a go," says Rod. "Jim was an immense help. I seriously considered importing a chassis from him, but in the end it was simply too expensive with the weak value of the Aussie dollar back then."
The front suspension is a...
The front suspension is a narrowed VW link pin arrangement with Wilwood disc brakes and four-piston calipers. The front wheels are a set of 15x3.5 with Formula Vee tires.
The front suspension is a narrowed VW link pin arrangement with Wilwood disc brakes and four-piston calipers. The front wheels are a set of 15x3.5 with Formula Vee tires. The complete floor is 2mm aluminum swung under the 110kg worth of steel in the chassis. The rear end employs 32-inch long trailing arms with Spax coil-over adjustable dampers, 920lbs springs and Wilwood five-lug hubs, semi-floating discs and four-piston calipers inside 15x8-inch alloy with MT slicks.
According to Rod, the chassis was the easy part of the car's construction, taking one working week to complete. "After that, it was another couple of years until we finished the car. We fabricated absolutely everything. We made pedals, mounted cables, fabricated mounting tabs--it was a big process!"
After the success of the previous car, the engine remains an Auto Craft. "I built the engine myself, after buying it second-hand here in Australia. It was a complete, dyno-tuned engine built for a speedway car but never used," explains Rod. "I pulled it apart and added some other bits and pieces for the drags." Internally, the big dry-sump Auto Craft displaces its 2810cc from an 86mm flanged crank and Auto Craft 102mm forged pistons in ductile iron cylinders. Bridging the void between the four pistons and the crank are Carrillo 5.7 rods with Porsche journal sizes. The heads are Auto Craft Pro Series with 50.5mm and 40.5mm valves and the compression is 8.72:1. Rockers and pushrods are all Auto Craft.
Most everything on the car...
Most everything on the car was fabricated by Ron himself, including the pedal cluster.
Rod made all the manifolds and exhaust system. The intake is built from 65mm mild steel tube with HPC coating and a blow-off valve. The exhaust design--also HPC coated--uses four 2x22-inch primaries terminating at a T72 turbo and dual Turbonetics wastegates with dial-a-boost controllers. The fuel system is Hilborn mechanical and the ignition uses Compufire dual coil packs with an Auto Meter Pro Control rev limiter. For his record run--and most other runs--boost peaks at 31psi. Power output is a healthy 297kW at the tires at 7600rpm, which extrapolates to around 500hp at the flywheel. In the 1656lbs (with Rod in it) drag Beetle, 0-100km.h (62mph) comes up in less than two seconds on the way to sub nines.
"The nitrous has been the biggest headache," says Rod. "It doesn't seem to want to work without damaging engine parts. It's a whole new ball game!" The engine was damaged by fire thanks to a nitrous-related gasket popping incident. Fronting the engine is a Kombi case gearbox built with plenty of Dave Folts' input. It's a swing axle setup with five inches taken from each side.The ring and pinion is a 4.6:1, surrounding a Folts alloy spool. The intermediate housing is from Gene Berg Ent.
The complicated plumbing of...
The complicated plumbing of a quick car.
The effort Rod put into his "new" drag car has been worthwhile. The car launches and tracks straight--without the attitude displayed by his old car--and lifts the front wheels in all four gears. "The first day out, this car went quicker than my old one and I broke my own record. That gives me the two quickest Volkswagens in Australia!"Until he builds his new one, of course!
At a Glance
•Name: Rod Penrose
•Lives: Kembla Grange, Australia
•Occupation: Motor and Marine Trimmer
•Body: Highly modified 1968 Type I
•Modifications: Most of shell removed, roof chopped 125mm
•Pan: No pan--Rod Penrose built tube-frame chassis
•Engine: Turbo charged 2.8-litre Auto Craft
•Gearbox: Highly- modified 1975 Kombi
•Suspension: K&L narrowed front beam; swing-axle rear
•Seats: Fabricated race seat
•Trim: Alloy sheet
The interior is made for speed...
The interior is made for speed with custom a roll cage and a seat that only needs to be comfortable for about eight seconds.
No frills in this interior,...
No frills in this interior, as it is all geared for racing.
The dominate feature on Rod's...
The dominate feature on Rod's engine is this 65mm intake tube and the T72 turbo system with dual Turbonetics wastegates.