Before the Golf, Volkswagen had a line of vehicles based around the rear-engine/rear-drive layout that made the original Beetle so successful. They were fun, economical and defined Volkswagen as a brand. There are still fans that flock to these cars to drive them in stock form, wildly modified, or some stage in between.
Karl Heinlein is one of those enthusiasts who opted for an in-between stage. His 1962 Type III Notchback is a mixture of restoration and plain old hot rod. Heinlein's VW wasn't built to any particular predefined style or template, but evolved from his vision of a perfect Notchback. Hints of Cal Look have influenced the restoration and the performance bug definitely bit hard during the engine build, but the car has a style all its own.
Heinlein admits to starting off with a huge mistake. He bought the car at night without giving it a proper inspection and later regretted it. During the initial disassembly, he found accident damage hidden under mounds of Bondo, all sitting on top of a rusted pan. He went ahead with tear-down, frustrated yet undeterred. The body was repaired using the front apron from a donor '64 Squareback then sent to Leonardo's Body Shop in Garden Grove, California, for the respray. The car left the factory wearing Ruby Red, but Heinlein wanted a classier, more understated look. Sterling Grey Metallic was chosen from the BMW palette.
With the body off, Heinlein went on wrestling with the pan. Both floorboards needed to be replaced, but new items were no longer manufactured. Luckily, a friend happened to have a '67 pan that fit the bill. Jerfab in Orange, California, spliced the fresh floorboards into the original pan. The resulting assembly and various suspension pieces were then powder-coated for greater durability.
Next, Heinlein turned his attention to the mechanical systems. A suspension game plan was put in place based on power expectations. The stock rubber subframe bushings were replaced with billet aluminum to eliminate deflection and hold the suspension in the intended geometry. To help combat squat from the added torque, larger Sway-A-Way torsion bars were added to heavy-duty spring plates. The front suspension was rebuilt mostly with factory parts to return it to prime operating condition.
The heart of this Notchback is the powerplant. The Type III was originally delivered with a 1500cc flat four, but this obviously wasn't going to provide the type of motivation to meet Heinlein's intended performance. He wanted to do something other than simply increasing displacement, so he decided on forced induction. The factory never intended these cars to withstand the extra stresses of a turbocharger, so extensive work had to be done to hold it together.
Displacement was raised to 2275cc while compression was lowered to 8.25:1 by Proformance (also based in Orange). The new internals consist of a DPR counterweighted crank, CB Performance rods originally from a Chevy application, with 94mm pistons and long barrels from Cima. The cam is a custom grind from Proformance and actuates 44mm intake valves and 37.5mm exhaust valves through chrome-moly pushrods and Scat rockers.
The turbo is a T03/T04 hybrid mated to the engine via a custom Brintech intake system. The turbo pulls through a single 650-cfm carburetor and blows into the heads without intercooling.
Sparking the mixture is an MSD ignition system using an MSD distributor controlled by a 6AL box. Once burned, exhaust gases exit through a CB Performance system using 1.625-inch headers collected into a single muffler.
The sound of the car is somewhat confusing to VW enthusiasts. It still has a flat-four sonic quality, but there's also something different going on. Heinlein may fool the average import racer into trying something, but other air-cooled boys will be wiser.
To finish the project, Heinlein had the interior re-skinned at Octavio's Kustom Upholstery. He wanted a classic and mostly stock look, so the seats were done in cloth and vinyl similar to what came from the factory. Small touches, like extra gauges in the center of the dash and modern seatbelts, give subtle hints to the car's potential.
To add a little Cal Look flash on the outside, Heinlein chose Porsche Fuchs wheels, 4.5x15 inches up front and 6x15s out back. They look perfect with the understated paint job and factory chrome.
Although we normally feature water-cooled VWs in this magazine, we have a soft spot for the air-coolers. Heinlein's '64 Notch is one of the finest we've seen and all the staff said they would love to own one like it. The funny thing is, even though we all admire the car, each of us has a list of things we would have done differently. That's the beauty of an air-cooled: everyone has a personal vision of the perfect example. And everyone is right.
1964 Volkswagen Type III Notchback
Longitudinal rear engine, rear-wheel drive
2.3-liter flat four, T03/T04 hybrid turbo, 650-cfm Road Demon carburetor, MSD distributor and ignition control box, Small Car Specialties Street Eliminator Heads, Scat 1.4:1 rockers, Manton chrome-moly pushrods
Four-speed manual with Super-Diff, chrome-moly retainer, steel shift forks, overdrive fourth gear (built by Der Transaxle)
Sway-A-Way torsion bars, heavy-duty spring plates, billet aluminum subframe bushings
Four-wheel discs, stainless steel hard lines, braided soft lines
Porsche Fuchs alloys, 4.5x15 (f), 6x15 (r)