1952 VW Zwitter Beetle

Die fette Fledermaus

According to Wikipedia, this particular model is dubbed (pun intended) the rarest Beetle variant built. They were only assembled in Germany from October 1952 to March 1953 and are considered the most sought-after. It is most commonly known for its split window on the rear of the car. (Split rear window with an Oval dash).  The car halted production because the split window in the back was found to be compromising the vision of drivers.
This Beetle has been totally stripped to bare metal and being resto-built into a Zwitter.  This creation is without a doubt a massive endeavour !!
The rusted Oval shell and fenders (without a pan, doors, deck lid, apron, hood, lights, emblems, etc.) was bought from Ernest van Tooren (Classic VW in Benoni) and was sent to Marius Raaths for sand blasting and initial primer coat. There was nothing salvageable on the lower 20cm of the Oval shell, due to the extensive tin worm invasion. The unrusted lower body parts from a good, light blue ’62 Beetle were cut & joined to our ’54 upper Oval shell. This ’54/’62 surgery, has now been merged with a ’72 IRS pan. We have ‘Frankensteined’ 3 different-year Beetles into 1.
This ’72 Super Beetle pan with an IRS gearbox and diff was found in Zeerust and has been modified and strengthened to suit our project. The side heat channels have been removed and replaced with thick-walled square tubing and angle iron. This provides more space in the cab as well.
We have changed it into a left-hooker and switched the dash lay-out from right to left. This conversion is not a simple task as one might think. A great deal of pre-planning and template making has been spent in achieving this transformation. We secured an early, left set of pedals, as well as the correct Pitman arm for the conversion.
The difference between the older, common swing axle and newer IRS type is that the swing axle arm type actually use the axles as a suspension component, whereas IRS uses the combination of the spring plates and drive shaft arms as the pivoting suspension components and the only function of the drive axles are to deliver the power to the wheels. The front ball joint axle has been retro-replaced with the less modern, earlier-type, king and link pin setup, with caster shims, (this to make use of the matched, lowered spindle & disc brake kit I bought in 2017).
The goal is to have the lowered look, without the squatted, negative-camber style, of some lowered Bugs that are the current flavour of the month.
A Scat Long-Block Volksracer crate motor (2332cc) was imported and has been built & blue-printed by master engine-builder & hot rodder, Peter Jackson from Bredell. Loads of extra pulleys, brackets and trick covers were designed by Peter and custom made by Ricky from Radfam Engineering. An EMPI side-flow full stainless-steel exhaust system has also been fitted. A high-flow Porsche fan add-on kit was purchased from Bernie Bergmann in San Jacinto, California, just to make it pop and lift the build to a higher level!!  2 & half inch dropped spindles, a front disc conversion kit, billet valve covers, K&N air filters, a Scat racing gear shifter, various oil coolers and fans, early Beetle moldings as well as a few extra little goodies were purchased while in L.A.
This HOT motor has been sprayed coarse silver and all covers ‘Lemon Chrome’ yellow, to oppose the grey colour of the body. Not only does it look damn fine, it performs, producing a whopping 200+ HP!!.
Extra strong rear components were also acquired while I was in America and they were given to Brian Bird from Primrose, who rebuilt and beefed our gearbox up. It now has 4-spider gears and the ‘super-diff’ fitted, the coarse 3rd and 4th gear conversion done, as well as the extra strong side cover fitted. It will now easily handle all the extra HP thrown at it. A super strong, top gearbox brace was made, to prevent any twist or flex, from serious launches. It too has been sprayed coarse silver.
The turn-signal holes on top of the front fenders as well as the right, horn grill vent closed up. A rare, working pair of semaphore turn signals have been found, pre-tested and will be fitted. We have sunken-fitted the starter button and our new Dehne vintage fuel gauge into the dash as well as fabricating a steel glove compartment box. I’ve also managed to find an original Bat-Wing steering wheel and fitted a 60’s turn signal mechanism (with headlight dip switch) to the column. Our VDO gauges and control switches will be hidden behind the grille face & folding down center panel (Audi TT style). A new high-dollar Cronomac speedo/tach ‘combo’ gauge was imported from Brasil and fitted.
The firewall has been cut & moved 10cm forward & 8cm upwards. Extra custom-made louvres have been strategically welded in, to provide maximum airflow to the engine bay from the outside. Removable side louvres are also being placed on the inner rear wing panels. These added ‘vented’ panels are there to aid engine access and to fine-tune the carburetors, if need be, as well as for increased airflow to the bay. It also gives that overlooked area a fresh custom hot-rod look.
This major surgery has taken a lot of additional planning and pre-fitment, as these modifications change the inner rear window configuration & the inner trunk area behind the rear seats. A KDF-style rear inner panel (under the split window) has been painstakingly fabricated & fitted as well as complimentary interior side pieces. These all-metal components will be exposed and sprayed body colour, and not covered up with roof-lining or upholstery. The rear luggage compartment, with sound deadening underneath, is made up of a a second top panel that bolts on, and this highlights that area in metal and is not an overlooked zone often hidden under carpeting.  Sound deadening has been applied to the inner roof and will have Teal-grey lining. It will have a stock rear folding bench seat, covered in black leather to match the front Audi A3 seats.
Some friends have mentioned that all this work is overkill, but we believe that the more air available in the engine bay…the better!!!  
A pair of 1951 side air vents or ‘Crotch Coolers‘ has been masterfully visualised and fabricated by Bern van Gass from various internet pictures only, as we did not have any specifications or a sample to copy. They have been retro-fitted to our Zwitt. Late model wiper mechanisms and arms have been custom fitted as well as a hard-to-find Oval hood, upgraded & beefed-up with round bar & been modernized with late model hood hinges & shocks from a ’79 Cadillac. We luckily managed to find a pair of earlier outer pull-door handles, replacing the push-button Oval type. The slight outer bump in the roof that was originally used as a top central antenna mount which was a unique feature on Split Beetles, has been duplicated.
We have used Golf MK2 rear window mechanisms and changed the older mechanical type to electric. The Oval side windows with the small quarter vent windows have been removed and replaced with one-piece windows and this gives our project the vintage look we want. A second inner door arm-rest (never fitted by VW) has been custom-made from fiberglass (with the opposite offset shape) to match the other factory provided one. The bottom of the doors have been extended by 1 inch to cover the gap between the EMPI running boards and the sides of the pan. This extra mod makes the lower body look even chunkier. Also all 4 fenders have been braced for strength.
All these trick changes are subtle, look original, and are not easily noticed or perceived
This Bug has a fresh set of 5-lug (205 PCD) 15-inch Steelies. The front tires are 195/65/15 on stock rims (3J’s) and the rear rubbers are 215/60/15’s on two widened rims. (7J’s) with zero offset. The spare wheel has a modern space saver (Marie biscuit) tire fitted. They are painted gloss grey with a yellow pinstripe, to compliment the ‘period’ look and have stock colour-matched, KDF hub caps all-round. The steering wheel, column and hand brake lever has been sprayed vintage cream to match the knobs.
The Kaefer is being sprayed a Land Rover, non-gloss titanium-grey colour, to give it a war time, no-nonsense appearance.
I have been inspired by both Fred & Stuart from Northern Bolt & Tool Midrand, and Garin & Ivan from Volkspares Jet Park. They are very knowledgeable about early Beetles and have kindly showered me with good advice & help. Also, to Armand Botha from Klerksdorp for unselfishly sharing tried & tested Beetle experiences & hands-on knowledge.
This ‘FAT BAT’ will not be your classic ‘back to original’ restoration, but a resto-rod with the latest internals & subtle (but difficult to fabricate) body changes.  We believe that it still has to be AIR-COOLED to fit the bill.  It will look bone stock from far, but close up, a very different and unique animal. We are aiming for that smooth, vintage ‘KDF’ look without all the extra roof-racks, paraphernalia, add-ons and bits & bobs. We have not skimped on anything nor taken any short-cuts and believe it to be a build comparable to competitive, top class builds elsewhere in the world.
It will be super low… with lots of GO!!