Ruf CTR (1)

The story goes that Alois Ruf cut his teeth working on Porsche 356s in his father’s garage. When he inherited his father’s eponymous business in 1974, the sensational 2.7 RS was already rapidly establishing itself in competition. Alois Ruf saw the possibilities of modifying Porsches for owners so that they could go even faster.

improving the naturally aspirated engine

Ruf CTR (1)

Connoisseur of Porsche’s flat-four and six engines, he knew achieving more power without compromising driveability was not simply a matter of polishing ports and bolting on bigger carburettors. From the outset, the Ruf approach would be characterised by bespoke engineering of such integrity that within a decade it would lead to granting of manufacturer status. The appeal of turbocharging was irresistible and Ruf’s first effort was a Porsche 930 bored out to 3.3 litres, which appeared in 1977, some months before Zuffenhausen’s own 3.3. With his next car, Ruf beat Porsche to it again in 1978 with a 3.2-litre, 217-horsepower edition of the 180-horsepower 3.0-litre SC. This caused a stir among 911 fans dismayed that the Zuffenhausen flat-six had lost 30 horses since the 2.7 only three years earlier and Ruf sold several hundred of his 3.2.

This model also proved he was just as adept at improving the naturally aspirated engine. However, turbocharging had greater appeal in terms of outright performance, which could really differentiate a Ruf from a factory Porsche and also lift Ruf above the status of mere tuner. 1981 saw the introduction of the Ruf Turbo with a five-speed gearbox – when the 930 still had four – and within two years Ruf presented his BTR (Gruppe B Turbo Ruf), a 930 bored out to 3.4 litres with a claimed 374 horsepower. Road & Track’s, Paul Frère drove the BTR to 306 kilometres (190 miles) per hour at VW’s test track in Ehra Liessen, the fastest Frère said he had ever driven. This turned out to be a warm up for the main event. In 1987, Ruf launched the CTR: the further 100 horsepower and better aerodynamics of the CTR made the difference. The Ruf won Road & Track’s world’s fastest car contest again, at a truly impressive 339 kilometres (210 miles) per hour.

These modifications are tastefully

The CTR was no stripped-out racer any more than earlier Rufs: classic 911 enthusiast Frank Hendrickx has kindly lent us his own CTR, a 1987 model, and this is a beautifully appointed car. Selling for double the price of a top-of-theline 930, Ruf was already dealing with a rather different clientele. This CTR is described as burgundy red, exactly the colour Porsche used in its advertising, and the interior is in tobacco brown leather, extending to the dashboard and door upholstery. The seats are black, deep Recaro buckets. Ruf’s changes to the 911 interior include his own instruments, a 350 kilometres-per-hour speedometer and the dominant rev counter, which here goes to 8,000rpm, has the needle working clockwise in the great tradition of competition cars. Ruf also fits his own steering wheel. There is no pretence of rear seats: the plush matching brown carpet extends across the space with an elastic net to hold luggage in place. All these modifications are tastefully carried out as per the Ruf hallmark, and this extends to the exterior. Ruf CTR (2)

The CTR is based on the narrowbody 3.2 Carrera, but the rear wings are subtly enlarged to accommodate 17-inch Speedline wheels and 255-width tyres. Also subtle is the removal of the rain gutters, which involves work to the chassis and inside the roof to enhance rigidity. The gutterless look is such an improvement that it is surprising that Porsche put off this change until the 996. The flag door mirrors are replaced by small racing mirrors, again shades of competition 911s. At the front, a deeper valance with the fog lights built in has a neat central plastic grille and the discreet lip at the bottom is reputedly that of the 935s. The rear bumper is similarly modified.

The most spectacular difference

A glass fibre moulding, it is different from the stock impact bumpers and is distinguished by the ventilation slots cut in the sides. This is not done for effect, but to duct airstream to the turbochargers. Twin exhausts complete the changes. The wing is like the 930’s, but set at a lower angle for optimal downforce. The doors, lighter to open despite retaining electric window winders, are in aluminium, as is the engine cover and front boot, a part of the reason why the CTR weighs nearly 200 kilograms less than the 3.3-litre 930. A nod to Porsches of a previous age, the CTR has a sidemounted oil filler, exactly like the 1972 ‘E Series’ 911.

Ruf CTR (3)

The most spectacular difference is the engine compartment. In place of the stock intercooler is Ruf’s own air filter, which together with the fan dominates the engine bay. The turbochargers themselves are mounted out of sight, down low in the rear wings, their presence indicated by the cooling radiators on each side. Air is fed to these intercoolers in fixed steel pipes that contribute to general stiffness. The Ruf uses single-plug ignition, but twin injection. Out of sight, bigger 98-millimetre Mahle pistons contribute the larger 3,367cc capacity. The whole engine compartment is a model of rational and accessible layout; it is clear this is re-engineering, not tuning. But this does not necessarily mean greater complexity: Joe, Frank Hendrickx’s mechanic, has dismantled and reassembled these engines and says they present no more driver difficulty than the stock Zuffenhausen item.

Frank has owned the CTR since 2004. Its previous Austrian owner, a Herr Eissenstein who acquired the virtually unused CTR from Ruf in the mid-1990s, claimed Alois Ruf told him this burgundy CTR was his personal car, hence the extremely unusual colour scheme. The chrome window surrounds and headlight trim are a conscious attempt to make this CTR look more ordinary at first glance than it is – seemingly an early-‘70s 911 with big wheels. The effect still works today. Frank is the kind of enthusiast who likes to drive all his cars properly both on the road and on a closed circuit. “It had 9,000 kilometres on it when I got it and now it has 15,000, so I average about 500 kilometres a year in it.” At Abbeville Stadium where Total 911 has come to try the Ruf and take pictures, Frank’s CTR surprises other users who see what appears to be an old, chrome-window 911 in their mirrors, only for it to shoot past them.Ruf CTR (4)

Rarely has near 500 horsepower been better disguised. Ruf-enhanced or not, this is still a turbo 911, but on wider tyres and with Ruf’s subtle stiffening of the torsion bar suspension, and in the hands of its owner, it can be made to corner very fast. With twin turbos, the boost effect is slightly more gradual and manageable than the single factory application, but you have to remember this is an extraordinarily potent old-school 911, which means rear drive and no electronic catchfencing. Larger brakes than standard help on approach to corners, but the CTR places a very unfashionable degree of responsibility on its driver.

It sounds very much like a louder version of the original G Series 911 on which it is based, and its progress around Abbeville’s 2.3-kilometre lap is punctuated by the whistle of the wastegate as it hurtles from corner to corner. The (unassisted) steering feels very heavy at first, lightening underway, but the clutch and gearshift are heavy. Though nominally a street car, it is not at ease driving around town: “It needs space to breathe,” says mechanic Joe. On the track, the driver has to learn to modulate the CTR’s explosive acceleration, because with a power-to-weight ratio well over 400 horsepower per tonne, the next corner always arrives much earlier than anticipated!

Happy days at Kirton

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AS MOST PEOPLE KNOW, the off-road community is very good at putting on events to raise money for charity. Everyone’s heard of the Macmillan 4×4 Challenge, which has become a massive success,
and earlier this year we started wondering what it would take to put on an event of our own to help
this very worthy cause. Kirton Off Road Centre was first suggested around four months ago, by David Atkinson of the Filthy Pigs, as the ideal venue for a fundraiser. happy day at kirton (7)

At the time, we thought it would be way out of our league – but after talking to John Stones, who runs KORC, we were much more confident. He was very much in favour of Macmillan, was keen to help us and agreed straight away. After securing such a high profile venue, we wanted to advertise the event in as many online forums and websites as possible. Like Minded Laners, Jeep Junkies, and USAF Lakenheath were but a few that supported us in this – and, of course, Facebook was a useful tool, too. We then contacted some prestigious 4×4 brands to kindly ask if they would donate some raffle prizes.

happy day at kirton (1)Burrells Jeep of Doncaster donated a lovely hoodie and T-shirt, and Stratstone Land Rover donated Evoque cuff links and umbrellas. Not forgetting Total Off-Road magazine, who donated two annual subscriptions. I must say, these were the best raffle prizes we’ve ever had, and we are very grateful for the generosity of all concerned. The weather for the whole weekend was great, meaning everyone was able to go out and play to their hearts’ content. On both the Friday and Saturday nights, we enjoyed a communal barbeque, a small fire, a few drinks and some friendly banter – with some (we won’t name names…) staying up until daft o-clock!

A kind of treasure hunt

Over the weekend we ran two different competitions, with some fantastic trophies made and donated by Richard Powers. The first was a punch hunt, an orienteering event where our competitors were challenged to locate punches which had been cunningly hidden by Pete Hazzard. The second, a kind of treasure hunt, involved spotting code boards (laminated letters) and writing them down. happy day at kirton (2)

Well done Richard Powers and his friend Stuart, who won both competitions. Having managed this achievement last year, too, Richard is our reigning champ – so if you’re a 4×4-er who’s good at games and up for a challenge, why not come along next year and see if you can pinch that crown from Richard and Stuart?

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A good time was had

The third trophy was awarded to Tom Stanley – for being the driver who had the longest recovery of the weekend! Sadly, he wasn’t around to receive his trophy as his car had already been trailered away – it’s nothing terminal, happily, just suspected water in the fuel. A good time was had by all at KORC, with more than enough to keep us entertained throughout the weekend – including hills, water, woods and mud for all capabilities. In fact, even those who had visited the site before said that it seemed bigger and better than they remembered. happy day at kirton (6)

Paul Hubbard, KORC’s Operations Manager, looked after us well over the weekend – even staying up to let in some very late arrivals. Overall from the entrance fee, the raffle and a cash donation from KORC (as well as the donation of the site for the weekend), we raised £1210 for Macmillan Cancer Support, which we are absolutely thrilled about. If you would like to see our progress (or make a donation), our Just Giving page can be found at www.justgiving. com/The-Smiths-2015. Once the weekend had come to a close,

Paul gave us the great news us that KORC would be happy to host another event for us next year. We were bowled over – we owe a huge thank-you to all at Kirton for such generosity. So now we can look forward to another fab weekend – and of course we’d like to invite you all to join us! The dates to add to your diary are 2-4 October 2015. To find us on Facebook, search for Kirton Macmillan 2015 and we’ll come up at the top of the results box. See you there!

The thrill of the new

The thrill of the new (6)

YOU CAN ALWAYS TELL when winter is retreating and the days are getting longer. This glorious time of year is when more and more clubs start to come out of hibernation, as sites begin to reopen after the wettest part of the year and the hours of daylight stretch out far enough for a playday to be just that – rather than a few snatched hours between dawn and dusk. At the start of February, the Jeep Owners Club visited the old quarry at Yarwell, on the border of  Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire near Peterborough, for the very first time.

The thrill of the new (1)

Feel on top of the world

This vast site has been going for decades, and it has everything a club could want in order to host one awesome playday. Now, Jeeps originate from a place where there is an abundance of land. So they will have felt right at home in Yarwell – though the weather was definitely more Alaska than Arizona. Still, off-roaders know what to do. Wrap up warm and hit the burger van for every meal of the day (and maybe a couple more in between), and you’ll feel ready to tackle the terrain like Sir Ranulph Fiennes embarking on his latest global expedition. In certain areas at Yarwell, too, you really can feel on top of the world as you look down upon the enormous lake in the middle of the quarry.

The thrill of the new (2)

It’s high around the edge here – that’s quarries for you, of course. Many off-roader drivers like to see if their snorkelled 4×4 is capable of transforming into a submarine, as well all know only too well. But on this occasion, while a few had a little paddle at the shoreline, no-one fancied being the person who lost their Jeep in the abyss. Some clubs are characterised by rough old sheds that’ll never see another MOT, which get dragged along on a rusty trailer and leave on a one-way trip to the crusher. But the Jeep Owners Club are not like that at all – on the contrary, this was a playday full of late-letter JK Wranglers, smart Grands and three different shapes of Cherokee – a KJ and even a KK in addition to the inevitable XJs.

The thrill of the new (3)

First-time off-roaders

So, no-one on a mission to murder their car, then. Which reflects well on the club, and made life easy for Neal Gascoine – who was marshalling throughout the day, in between setting out in search of adventures of his own. ‘Generally, members were impressed with the site,’ said Neal. ‘There’s a bit of something for everyone. First-time off-roaders were impressed with both the site and the environment created for them, enabling them to explore with a feeling of safety. More experienced members were impressed with the size of the site and variety of terrain.’ He’s not joking!

The thrill of the new (4)

Where most people tend to congregate at the start of the day, then exchange stories afterwards of how Mr A had to rescue the over-exuberant Mr B, the rather sandy ground at Yarwell is good for traction – ideal for newcomers to the game who want to experiment with the first stages of off-roading. A few of the more experienced drivers and marshals took the novices out and about in convoys to help them get their heads around what Yarwell’s like. And there were no sad faces when they emerged hours later. No shock there, then – the site could be half the size and you’d still have a plenty to go at!The thrill of the new (5)

For the more experienced driver, you needn’t worry about the site failing to keep your attention. If you don’t relish the thought of sailing your 4×4 across the stagnant seas (wise), you could ascend the sandy dunes, climb rutted tors or push through huge expanses of mud. What were we saying about traction? Becoming stuck has never been so easy – providing you went looking for it. While the area may have been as overwhelming in size as Kansas, we can report that no-one was found parched and malnourished, standing by the side of their Jeep, trying to funnel lake water into it to see if it’ll spark back into life. Or maybe we just haven’t been looking hard enough…

The thrill of the new (6)

The machinery wasn’t the only thing from the USA at Yarwell on the first Saturday of February, either, with a handful of American owners behind the wheel. But while the likes of Steve Ransom in his modified TJ were busy seeking out the most extreme nooks and crannies of the site, there were plenty of new Jeeps flying around too – no bad thing at all. It’s good to see new vehicles being able to tackle this sort of terrain.

Explore what they can do with their Jeep

Back when Jeep arrived in the UK, every 4×4 on the market had low box and at least one live axle: now the Wrangler is one of the only vehicles left whose basic design isn’t compromised by the need to put school-run manners ahead of off-road ability. ‘As a club, we try to encourage new members to explore the capabilities of their Jeeps,’ continued Neal. ‘Most tend to be impressed with the friendly approach of the club and its welcoming, helpful nature. The club team works hard to present an environment which enables new members to feel welcome.’

I wonder how many new Range Rovers or Discovery 4s you would see confronting Yarwell on a Saturday afternoon… Unfair? We’re talking about Wranglers, after all, not new-shape Grand Cherokees. So the equivalent would be Puma-engined 90s. And how many of those do you see at the average Landy bash? You get the point… Nevertheless, whether it’s new or old, this is a club that really does tick all the boxes for any owner of the legendary Jeep brand. ‘Our club ethos is to encourage all owners to explore what they can do with their Jeep and hopefully offer something for all tastes,’ explained Neal.

Many of the 30-odd vehicles that turned up were the owner’s daily drive – and there can be nothing better than owning a 4×4 which keeps your smile as wide when dropping the kids to school as it does when spending the day in its element at fantastic sites like Yarwell. Yarwell is so fantastic, in fact, that the Jeep Owners Club is already planning to go back there. In fact, it’s going to host their main summer event on 4-5 July. A few weeks after that, the club will be heading forth on a big expedition to no less exotic a place than Corsica. And if you’ve ever gone trail riding there… well, you’ll probably be turning to the classified ads right after this and seeing if you can find yourself a Jeep. Once you’ve got that small matter sorted out, the club is at

Back to’ 85

Back to’ 85 (2)

The Volkswagen hobby has undoubtedly changed since the 1980s. Pre-1968 VWs in good shape were still aplenty back then, so enthusiasts often embarked upon ambitious project cars, featuring daring alterations. Over in France, a VW shop called Simili launched a line of fibreglass Beetle products, from wings and bonnets, to deck lids and pre-1962 taillights. Yet, their most impressive piece proved to be a complete Split Window roof (conceived for 1958-64 Bugs) that included the characteristic smaller windshield frame. These various components were the work of Bruno Bossut, owner of Simili, and his brother Etienne, a well-known artist specializing in fibreglass to this day. In order to promote the name of the company, Bruno decided to build a project car dubbed ‘Old Grise’ (Old Grey) around 1984-85.

 the fake ’53 Split with Paris as a beautiful backdrop

the fake ’53 Split with Paris as a beautiful backdrop

A Bug that would be fast and could easily pass other cars

He located a ’61 sedan and went to morph it into a ’53 model, known as ‘Zwitter’. The conversion involved all the aforementioned products, along with fibreglass bumpers, running boards and dash. Etienne had purchased a Porsche 356C that both brothers studied with attention – the coupé eventually served as inspiration. Additionally, Bruno likes off-road races and rallies, such as the Rallye de Monte Carlo. ‘I wanted a Bug that would be fast and could easily pass other cars, especially on my local winding roads where I lived back then’, he explains. Back to’ 85 (2)

The construction involved the floor pan of a ’73 Beetle. It welcomed a transmission equipped with rather unusual gears, which came to be following some brainstorming between Bruno and French gearbox guru Claude Pelin. The duo devised a unit fitted with a long first and second gear (2.44/1.52 instead of 3.78/2.06 on a late 1303 for example). Utilizing a 1.07 third and .82 fourth translates in tighter gears and a very efficient ‘box on twisty roads, when backed with an engine with extra torque! These transmissions met some success in France during the ’80s, as Simili sold over 60 of them. Claude Pelin also helped with the front beam, inspired by rally racing.

Fully dechromed when modified 30 years ago, the body has been fitted once again with side mouldings during its lengthy restoration

Fully dechromed when modified 30 years ago, the body has been fitted once again with side mouldings during its lengthy restoration

Alterations included more caster and camber, custom adjusters to lower the car, tubular beam stiffeners, Koni shocks with lowered mounting points (to utilize stock-length shocks) and a custom disc brake kit using Citroën parts – this setup worked very well. In the back, Bruno installed less exotic components, specifically Koni shocks, Type 3 drums and modified rubber stops as the vehicle was slightly lowered. Long before ‘sleepers’ gained acceptance within our hobby, he also elected to paint his fake Split in a subdued hue, in stark contrast with the popular pastel colours of the era.

A lasting impression

The shade of grey in question actually dressed old Citroën 2CVs! First motivated by a stout 1600cc motor followed by a 1915cc, Simili’s project car became a regular fixture at European VW shows. On a personal note, I vividly remember riding shotgun with Bruno to the 1987 edition of the Bad Camberg vintage meet – and the distinctive sound of the straight cut gears of the transmission made a lasting impression, too! The Beetle changed hands in 1989, with the new caretaker keeping it until 1998.

Clean interior, eh? A pair of Cobra Classic buckets dressed in vinyl replace the factory seats

Clean interior, eh? A pair of Cobra Classic buckets dressed in vinyl replace the factory seats

That’s when another hero of our tale who lives near Paris came into play, Arnaud Valery. He came across the Split a year earlier, as he explains: ‘While riding in a bus to my high school, I noticed the shape of a 1302 in the back of a garden. I eventually got in touch with the guy who had it, which led to the discovery of another Bug that he owned: the famous Old Grise. The car had not been running for five years by then.’ With its ATS ‘Cookie Cutter’ wheels and gauges hidden behind the speaker grille, he seemed to remember the vehicle…

He settled on 6Jx15 and 7.5Jx15 American Racing Torq Thrust D rims, machined to the 5x130mm Porsche bolt pattern

He settled on 6Jx15 and 7.5Jx15 American Racing Torq Thrust D rims, machined to the 5x130mm Porsche bolt pattern

He thereby dug in his collection of Super VW magazines and, sure enough, found a memorable 1989 road test article, pairing a then-new Golf GTI against the Split. Arnaud had to have it and an 8-month negotiation ensued. Eventually, he sealed a deal and 10,000 Francs or about UK£1,100 changed hands. Oh, the transaction also involved the aforementioned 1302 by the way!

Arnaud was finally the owner of one of approximately a dozen Beetles equipped with a full Simili Split Window roof – only five of them have been accounted for as of today. By July 1998, the scruffy VW had fresh brakes and the 1915cc engine ran well, so he enthusiastically ventured on the road. The fun was short lived… A few days later, one of the rear wheels passed Arnaud on a forest road, resulting in a damaged rear wing and plenty of sparks coming from the back of the car!

The restoration

He consequently entrusted a body shop to start the restoration; sadly, the Beetle remained untouched during the following eight years – Arnaud was back to square one. Around the end of 2006, his finances allowed him to get serious about reviving Old Grise. And who better to revive it than Simili? He called the shop and found out that Bruno Bossut had sold the business, but the new company owner, Stéphane Schwartzman, was eager to help! He knew the ins and outs of the Split, having been involved with Simili during the late ’80s. When taking delivery of the sad-looking Bug, he actually discovered a vehicle in decent shape, with the fibreglass having aged quite well in particular.

Ultimately, it took Arnaud close to 15 years to finally complete his ‘historical’ project car

Ultimately, it took Arnaud close to 15 years to finally complete his ‘historical’ project car

The body still needed help, starting with heater channels. Work began with refreshing the suspension, brakes and 4.37-to-1 gearbox (still the old ‘Pelin’ unit), in order to pass the equivalent of the local MOT. The 1915cc, assembled by French VW specialist Car Concept around 1985-86, had proved very reliable – it even motivated a Baja Bug during two Baja races in Spain.

But after all these years, Arnaud felt the Split deserved a fresh engine, so he appointed Feller Service to build him another 1915 around a VW AS41 case. It features an 8-dowelled 69mm VW crank, Mahle 94mm pistons and cylinders, a Scat C35 camshaft along with ported/polished VW043 heads. Induction comes thanks to a pair of Empi 44mm HPMX carbs, while a NOS Bosch TZH ignition kit (found on some Porsche 914s) supplies the sparks.

A Berg 30mm pump feeds the oil to a full-flow system that integrates an Empi cooler. Finally, burned fuel treks through a CSP Super Competition exhaust. Still mostly unrestored, the Split hit a handful of shows in 2007; but the bodywork really began two years later.

Stéphane had sold Simili by then, yet offered to continue the project at his house, as both enthusiasts had struck up a friendship by then. In September 2009, a company called Decap’ Soft soda-blasted the shell, so as not to damage the fibreglass, before William Charbonnier could handle the final repairs and paint during the following eight months.

Rather than repainting the car in the same Citroën ‘mouse grey’, Arnaud selected a darker colour correct for 1953 Standard Beetles, L225 Jupiter Grey. While William finished the metal work, Bertrand at Simili restored the floor pan, installing dropped spindles and a 1.5-inch narrowed front beam; this allowed to better fit different wheels than the ATSs that did not suit Arnaud’s taste. He settled on 6Jx15 and 7.5Jx15 American Racing Torq Thrust D rims, machined to the 5x130mm Porsche bolt pattern, then wrapped with 185/65 and 195/70 Toyo tyres.

The fibreglass wings feature turn signals hidden behind the horn grilles, a kit offered by Simili back in the ’8

The fibreglass wings feature turn signals hidden behind the horn grilles, a kit offered by Simili back in the ’8

KYB shocks reside at all corners, whilst braking duties rely on a Tarox 6-piston brake kit in front, complemented with Empi discs in the rear. Stéphane Schwartzman finished putting the car together, including the 1956 sunroof’s system (the Split featured a fake fibreglass ragtop until then!), plus the first generation Porsche 911 outside mirror and colour-coded pop-out windows. Under the bonnet, a 1953 ‘square’ fuel tank is mounted thanks to a custom-made steel plate.

Stainless nuts and bolts, purchased from Darren Dilley at LanD in Canada, can be found here and there as well. Bruno had chosen loud Tartan upholstery when originally building the car, but it had seen better days. Arnaud could not convince himself to use the same type of fabric, hence the decision to dress the interior with red vinyl, a task beautifully performed by upholsterer Pascal Proust. Check out the Cobra Classic bucket seats, found in an Austin Mini catalogue, with sliding and tilting rails from a Peugeot 205. Watson Streetworks in the U.S. supplied the trick wring loom, with the bulk of the electrical system hiding in a Plexiglas box located under the rear seat.

Complete ‘historical’ car

Simili’s fibreglass dash remains in place and welcomes a Porsche 356 tachometer, calibrated by Hollywood Speedometer to read 8,000rpm instead of 7,000. The same Californian company changed the face of the 356 speedo from mph to kph; the gauge hides in company of two other instruments (oil temp and pressure) behind the removable speaker grille. Additionally, notice the cool Banjo 3-spoke steering wheel with a Porsche horn button, along with a genuine ’70s Hurst shifter restored by Jeff Shan in America – he powder-coated the unit and fitted a walnut knob.

A pair of 44mm carburettors feed the mild 1915cc engine – a fun combo to drive around Paris!

A pair of 44mm carburettors feed the mild 1915cc engine – a fun combo to drive around Paris!

More goodies came from the U.S., in the shape of a pedal assembly from Scott Stuart at Pedal Werks. This special order unit was conceived to mount on the 1973 floor pan, yet integrates a cruiser pedal and resembles 1953 pedals. Ultimately, it took Arnaud close to 15 years to finally complete his ‘historical’ project car, thanks to the help of enthusiasts mentioned in the article – Stéphane Schwartzman and Jean-René Feller in particular. This Split-lookalike has played an important role in defining the European scene and we should be grateful to Arnaud for giving the Simili Bug a new lease of life!

Deluxe Delight

This superb ’72 Deluxe Bay window
Microbus was originally purchased
by the Canadian Embassy in
Indonesia and has more recently
been overhauled by Sthefanus
Giovanni to look as good as new!

Our ace Indonesian (and European!) contributor, Dokke Sahertian described this Bus as ‘Perfect!’ when he first spotted in during one of his regular trips to Indonesia. As you may be aware, there is a huge VW scene In Indonesia, and the restorations are every bit as good as you’d find anywhere else in the world. And that is certainly the case with this ’72 Bay window Deluxe Microbus, which has been lovingly overhauled by Sthefanus Giovanni (Stevie to his friends) from Surabaya.

This superb ’72 Deluxe Bay window Microbus was originally purchased by the Canadian Embassy in Indonesia and has more recently been overhauled by Sthefanus Giovanni to look as good as new!

This superb ’72 Deluxe Bay window Microbus was originally purchased by the Canadian Embassy in Indonesia and has more recently been overhauled by Sthefanus Giovanni to look as good as new!

Stevie is certainly not a newcomer to the scene –far from it. His previous restorations include a 1971 1302, which his father bought brand new and Stevie later restored (the car still lives in his garage as it has such sentimental value). After the Bug, Stevie restored various cars including a Karmann Ghia, a 181, a Barndoor Bus and a Porsche 356… clearly this was becoming quite a serious hobby! However, Stevie explained that it was love at first site with this Deluxe Bus.

Great background story

And not only was it such a cool looking vehicle, it also had a great background story, too. It seems this Bus was purchased by the Canadian Embassy in Indonesia where it lived a fairly sheltered and priviliged life ferrying dignitaries and officials to and from the airport and private functions etc. After several years of service, the vehicle was sold to a collector of ex-embassy vehicles, who did little with the van other than store it alongside various other vehicles.

Stevie explained that it was love at first site with this Deluxe Bus

Stevie explained that it was love at first site with this Deluxe Bus

Stevie knew about the Bus for several years and would often drop in and try to buy it. It took 7 years of dedication, but he eventually talked the guy round, and was finally able to purchase the Bus and begin a comprehensive rebuild of this rare Deluxe. So what is so special about a Deluxe? Well, as the name would suggest, it has a few luxury options including chromed, opening quarter lights, chrome mouldings in the window rubbers, deluxe side trim and bumper trims. Then there’s the side markers, chrome sliding door hinge, heater rear window, padded dash, jail bars in the rear windows, two tone paint, Deluxe clock on the dashboard, and a chromed nose badge.

A Deluxe fitting

And that’s not all, there’s also a day/night dipping rear view mirror, front grille chrome trim, chrome trim on the door cards and chromed inner door handles… quite a lot of goodies! But, perhaps the most important is that huge sliding sunroof, which lets in an amazing amount of sunshine on a nice day –now that’s what we call a Deluxe fitting! Whilst the van was in fairly good condition throughout, there was one problem that Stevie had to tackle. At some point the vehicle had beenconverted from the original Canadian/USA LHD spec to Indonesian RHD format. Stevie really wanted it to be as authentic as possible, hence he decided to convert it back to the LHD.

But, perhaps the most important is that huge sliding sunroof, which lets in an amazing amount of sunshine on a nice day – now that’s what we call a Deluxe fitting

But, perhaps the most important is that huge sliding sunroof, which lets in an amazing amount of sunshine on a nice day –now that’s what we call a Deluxe fitting

It turns out the Bus had been modified to RHD using parts from a VW Mitra (an unusual van created specifically for the Indonesian market), but Stevie removed all this, made suitable repairs to the floor and chassis, then reinstated a LHD steering box and column and finished it off with a new steering wheel. This kicked off the mechanical overhaul, which included new brake lines and fully overhauled brakes at each corner. Of course, the suspension was also overhauled with new parts and seals fitted, plus a fresh set of Boge dampers were picked to smooth out the ride.

Pastel white over chianti red is a classic combination

Pastel white over chianti red is a classic combination

It makes a change to write about a Bus that hasn’t been slammed or tubbed, and we’ve got to say, it looks great at stock height, too! Finishing off the rolling stock is a set of sand blasted and refinished 14-in steel wheels fitted with new, genuine hubcaps and beauty rings and a set of period style GT Radial 185/75 narrow white band tyres.

The transmission was deemed good to go while the engine, a 1.7-litre Type 4 motor with dual Solex carburettors, was treated to a freshen up and a good dose of detailing. But it’s the body that makes this van pop when you see it. Fortunately, the sunny climes of Indonesia meant that there was precious little rust to deal with, and Stevie and his bodywork guys were able to fast forward to dent removal and general straightening of the bodywork.

Bus really is as good as new

A lot of time was taken ensuring everything was as good as could be, and even the complicated sliding roof was carefully overhauled and test-assembled prior to paint to ensure it would fit and operate correctly. The colours are the original pastel white over chianti red and there’s absolutely no denying that this is one of the nicest Deluxe colour combinations ever. With pastel white bumpers and restored Deluxe trim, it’s easy to see why Stevie fell for this superb Bus. Locating all the correct deluxe window rubbers (with chrome moldings) took some time, but with freshly overhauled bumper trims and new door seals etc, this Bus really is as good as new.

Original 1700cc Type 4 motor has been overhauled

Original 1700cc Type 4 motor has been overhauled

Amazingly, even the sliding sunroof operates perfectly (very few do these days!), and it’s 100% water-tight, as Dokke can confirm following a lift back to the airport in monsoon-like rain! Moving inside, Stevie found himself with a bit of an issue… what to do with the interior. He commented, ‘It wasn’t perfect, but it was very, very good, so I didn’t want to remove originality just for the sake of it’. A good plan, we think. It certainly retains a real sense of character and reminds you that this is a classic vehicle. All too often we find a car has been almost over-restored and there’s just no way to replicate the smell or feel of a true, factory installation.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was very, very good, so I didn’t want to remove originality just for the sake of it

It wasn’t perfect, but it was very, very good, so I didn’t want to remove originality just for the sake of it

The only deviation from stock is the addition of an air conditioning kit. Sure, the sunroof is a great way to get fresh air into the vehicle, but with temperatures creeping as high as 35-degrees Celsius fairly regularly, the addition of air conditioning is easily understood. Incidentally, there’s also an additional blower fitted, to ensure the passengers get a fair share of the ice-cold air! All in all, it’s a fabulous project, and a great example of what many consider to be the best of all the Bay window Buses. We’d certainly love something as sweet as this to enjoy on a sunny day, how about you?