With the launch of the latest Beetle, VW created an edgier design, less cuddly than before and one that's been attracting more aftermarket interest. So VW of America planned to unleash some modified Bugs at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas last November, encouraging a number of tuners to have a go.

Without hesitation, VW tuning shops across the nation accepted the challenge to work on the iconic vehicle. These included fifteen52, FMS Automotive, Galpin Auto Sports, Rotiform, VW Vortex and even european car Magazine. We all put the Beetle under the knife in the hope of changing people's perception about the formerly "cute" car.

Once the projects were completed we all headed to the 2012 SEMA Show to distribute the cars among the two million square-foot of trade show space. The desired effect was achieved; the cars winning the respect and admiration of visitors, with VWVortex taking home one of the show's top honors: the PlayStation Gran Turismo - Best European award.

Yet with the cars widely dispersed, we thought it would be fun to gather them into one space and review everybody's hard work. Our own Surf Bug was featured last month (EC 4/13), so we'll brush over it here somewhat, and sadly the Vortex car was receiving work on the East Coast and unavailable for the shoot.

That said, if you're looking for inspiration for a Beetle project car, we've got a pretty diverse bunch for you to enjoy, whether you're looking for show, go or both.


We've all done it. We buy our significant other a vehicle, swearing we won't touch it. But as time passes, you wait for the other half to get over the honeymoon period with the car and swoop in, just adding a set of wheels. Then you just add an intake and exhaust. Finally, you decide to just add air suspension and gut the interior, sending the car for bodywork and paint plus a rare imported body kit. Like we said, we've all done it...

For Jay Johnston, his girlfriend's Beetle was meant to be hers - after all, she picked it out at the dealership. But after a few months behind the wheel, Jay had a conversation with Matt Crooke at fifteen52 - specialists in wheel design and custom vehicle builds - and couldn't help himself. He gave his girlfriend a few months with the car and then began the build process for its debut at SEMA.

First up was the baseball-glove interior. Operating from a home workshop, a local interior guru (simply known as Adrian) helped Jay realize his vision for a stunning interior inspired by the original Audi TT.

After several long nights with Matt, the Air Lift air suspension with AutoPilot v2 management was installed, allowing the car to sit very, very low. And since Matt and Jay go back 15 years, they devised a plan to develop unique wheels for the car - producing a show-stopping set of 20" Tarmac TR three-piece wheels with brushed aluminum centers framed with polished lips. Needless to say, the new wheels took home the top prizes at SEMA for Best Wheels from http://felgenoutlet.de

The final component was the Alpil aero kit imported form Japan. Its inspiration was apparently derived from the Porsche GT3, providing a motorsport undertone to the car.

2012 VW Beetle

Engine 2.5L five-cylinder, Volant intake, Arqray exhaust

Drivetrain six-speed DSG automatic transmission

Suspension Air Lift air suspension, AutoPilot v2 management

Wheels & Tires 20x8.5" f. 20x9.5" r fifteen52 Tarmac TR three-piece wheels, 225/30 f, 235/30 r Nitto NeoGen tires

Exterior Alpil body kit, VW Carbon Steel paint

Interior custom baseball-stitched tan leather seats with matching rears, tan door and roof inserts, alcantara headliner

Contact fifteen52.us


The stance movement has taken the world by storm, taking the importance of the right wheels and suspension from the European scene to the import and domestic arenas. And Rotiform has been riding the top of this wave with its extensive range of cutting-edge wheels that find themselves on project cars across the nation.

When the company took ownership of its Beetle project it had to meet three prime objectives. 1, get it as low as possible. 2, clean up the engine bay. 3, look as mean as hell.

Lowering would require some finesse, so they used the Air Lift kit with Accuair management, also fitting the independent rear suspension and subframe from an Audi A3, as well as Dorbritz Designs rear control arms. They did this to tuck prototype 19" Rotiform superconcave NUE three-piece wheels. These would feature matte anodized red centers with polished lips.

Under the hood, Rotiform went for an East Coast VW trend, shaving and smoothing the engine bay and rain tray, even relocating an Odyssey battery into the fenderwell. The bay was then painted gloss black to highlight all the fabrication. The job took two weeks and showcased the 2.5L five-cylinder under the hood with its GIAC software and Duarte exhaust.

Rather than an exterior respray the body was treated to a vinyl wrap in 3M matte Metallic Silver, once the side markers and exhaust cut-out had been shaved.

Of course, no Rotiform project would be complete without its famous French Bulldog, Orbit, a star of instagram (@rotiform_brian).

2012 VW Beetle

Engine 2.5L five-cylinder with GIAC software, custom Duarte downpipe and exhaust, smoothed bay and rain tray, relocated fusebox, Odysset battery in fenderwell

Drivetrain five-speed manual transmission

Suspension Air Lift Slam air-ride kit, Accuair e-level management, Accuair EXO-Mount dual tanks, Dorbritz Designs rear control arms, Audi A3 independent rear suspension and subframe

Wheels & Tires 19x10" f, 19x11" r Rotiform superconcave NUE three-piece wheels with polished step-lips, anno-red centers, 225/35 R19 f, 235/35 R19 r Nitto Invo tires

Exterior Beetle Turbo front bumper with LED headlights, shaved side markers and exhaust cut-out, 3M 1080 matte Metallic Silver vinyl wrap

Interior Launch-edition VW seats, nav, Fender sound system, gloss black trim panels, Rotiform mats

Contact rotiform.com

Galpin Auto Sports

Chopping the roof on a car takes balls. Many people think it's simply a matter of removing a section from the pillars and welding it back together, but it's far more complicated than that. Since the top is usually narrower than the bottom, you have to allow for the different angles, spending hours aligning everything. You also need new glass all around.

A roof chop is generally tackled only by experienced bodyshops with expert craftsmen, and very rarely on a shape as curved as the VW Beetle. However, the team at Galpin Auto Sports decided to step away from its usual musclecar and domestic projects to give the new Beetle a go.

Once the cuts had been made, 5.5" were removed from the A-pillars and 2.5" from the B-Pillars. A pair of custom scoops were fitted in place of the rear windows to creat a more dramatic outline and reduce the amount of custom glass needed.

Having done all this work, the GAS team was confident enough to paint it Onyx Black with a Cal-Look treatment on the doors in Candy Apple Red metalflake.

Helping to accentuate the custom treatment was a set of 20" wheels that were custom-made by Forgiato and inspired by classic Fuchs-style Porsche wheels.

Since the stance of air-cooled Bugs was always raked, thanks to the front torsion bars, Galpin decided to recreate the same appearance with a pair of Neuspeed lowering spring up front, while the rear remains stock.

Inside, the factory seats were stitched in a 1950s design, while the dash was painted the same Candy Apple Red as the exterior.

2012 VW Beetle Turbo

Engine 2.0L four-cylinder 16v TSI turbo with Neuspeed intake

Drivetrain six-speed manual transmission

Suspension Neuspeed front springs

Wheels & Tires 20x8.5" Forgiato custom wheels, 245/35 R20 Nitto NT555 tires

Exterior roof chop, custom glass and lexan windows, metal rear window scoops

Interior custom stitched seats, dashboard and door panels painted red metalflake

Contact galpinautosports.com

By Ezekiel Wheeler
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