Knock ’em Dead

There aren’t a whole lot of New England cars that have the first impression impact that Tom’s fastback does. The paint has long since been perfectly ruined, it rolls incredibly close to the pavement in the sort of way that only an air cooled Volkswagen seems capable of, and it rumbles like mechanical hell itself. Oh, and then there’s the hand.

Sometimes we don’t deliberately seek out a project that we live with and work on for close to a decade. A friend had sent Tom McIntosh a picture of a ’64 Beetle that he had found, but it was a glimpse of this green fastback in the frame that caught his attention. It had been sitting for long enough that the fuel had broken down into a horrid tar. The car, however, was mostly complete, and only needed certain fuel injection pieces to become drivable again. Early fuel injection systems being what they are, it was only a matter of time before the flaws in these delicate old items warranted a change to dual carburetors, making it at least more reliable for the occasional beer run. He dropped the car using the stock suspension for a season, until finding a shortened type 1 front conversion beam from Autowerks Suspension. The rear was pushed as low as it could go, and some 8″ wide wheels fit, while retaining skinny fronts for that California style.

Despite what some corners of the internet will have you believe, stance is not everything. With that addressed, stance absolutely was the next intense phase of the project. At this point in time there were very few type 3 Volkswagens on air suspension, so with very little pre-existing knowledge on fitting bags to this chassis, Tom spent a winter cutting the car up. What’s the worst that could happen? It was already forgotten garbage at one point, and there’s only one way to find out if it’ll go as planned. What followed were a shitload of ups and downs, more than a few moments where giving up felt like the right idea, and some help from his father. In the end, the rear of the body was tubbed to fit the wide wheels, they built custom brackets and links for the rear suspension, and reworked the front end to work with a single air bag.

After all that, the car was an honest, functional, ratty cruiser. The original interior hung in there, sort of, and Tom sort of shied away from showing it off on the internet, and it only made it out to a small handful of events in this form. Wheels were admittedly a little wobbly during this period before being replaced by the current set of custom smoothies, but it had character and was good for around town drives and dropping in at the occasional show. Within a short period of time, some new connections came up, and the next phase of the fastback’s development began.

The Hathaways are heavily credited with helping keep this build alive, after meeting Blake at the last brokedown event out in Gardner and offering a whole VW Squareback’s worth of parts for entirely free. Brad Hathaway eventually ended up building a motor for the car, using 87mm forged pistons, oval port race heads from Brothers VW, an Engle 110 cam, and a pair of Weber 40 carbs. Trust me, in the end, this motor sounds incredible, and the car is much quicker than the New Hampshire vanity plate would lead you to believe.

I shit you not I could stare at this thing inside-out all day, particularly with the interior having been freshly redone by Mitch’s Kustoms. Seats just almost too plush for such a compact interior. Piping in keeping with the style of the late 60’s, and enough original details maintained that it maintains a uniquely worn personality that matches the exterior. I even acutely appreciate the use of a Wolfsburg crested steering wheel, as opposed to all the Nardi and Momo examples that we become used to seeing in European cruisers of any era. Even Tom admits that receiving the car back from Mitch was the moment he really developed a love for the car itself, and it most definitely shows as a more complete project now thanks to this effort.

Giving up was never an option, and building something unique is a great way to learn from your mistakes. Projects like these are a way to make friends, develop skills, and gradually turn something into your ideal whatever. It took seven years for this car to get where it is. Some take more, others take less. Get in the garage and build something for yourself. Knock ’em dead.

Midnight Special are Sadie Fortin and Brian Buckley

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