T2D 90s-look Volkswagen Beetle – the type 2 Detectives loads do it again!
Remember that time we invited the air-cooled kids from T2D along to the UK’s premier water-cooled show with their Brasilia and they won Best of Show? Well, they’re back pushing the boundaries ones again…
Words: Mark Walker
Pics: Paul Knight
TRENDING T2D 90s-look Beetle – the type 2 Detectives loads do it again!
Imagine if your day job involved choosing what cool car you wanted to build next. Paul Medhurst and Mark Fulton at Type 2 Detectives are two such lucky guys, although they’ve had to put a lot of effort into building a business that has earned them the right to create fun build after fun build. And let’s not be coy, each one of them is also a business decision, they’re not simply building their own private collection.
The fact that fashions regularly seem to re-surface some 20-30 years after they were first popular is a phenomenon that puzzles many. Is it a response by a fresh generation of people donning a nostalgic pair of rosetinted spectacles? Or is it more about there being a finite number of ideas in the world, so old ones come back when we run out of fresh ones? Whatever it is, the resurgence of 1980’s-style builds is one of the current hot tickets in the air-cooled Volkswagen scene, as evidenced by last year’s VolksWorld Show (organised by sister publication, VolksWorld), and the Porsche Rubystone Bug from Type 2 Detectives you see here.
The difference with this one, though, is that it’s not a fresh generation adopting fashions of yesteryear, it’s two guys that experienced the late ’80s VW scene first hand. So perhaps this car is more a reaction to what they remember as being cool, with an eye on what might be popular with their current customer base.
If you didn’t go to the most recent VolksWorld Show, and haven’t noticed the resurgence in ’80s and early ’90s-style builds, where have you been? Although Stu Betty has been banging the B289 movement drum for many years, and putting on displays at some of the bigger VW events, it’s largely been about resurrecting and recognising old builds. Only in the last year or two have fresh new builds in this cheerful style started to come out of the woodwork. Last year’s So-End issue of VolksWorld, and Donald Harvey’s Best of Show winner at Sandown all cemented the idea that the ’80s are definitely back with a bang!
True to form, the T2D car is based on a late model – a ’72 as it goes, but that’s largely unimportant as it follows the late ’80’s trend of backdating with early panels. Though the scene turned against this idea in a big way when originality became everything, if you actually stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense. I mean, ’70’s VWs are generally a bit easier to live with when it comes to the driving experience, with more modern door locks, 12V electrics and lights, even disc brakes on some models. Add the prettier, more curvy looks of an earlier Beetle and you’re onto a winner, right? Do it right, like the T2D boys have, and, unless you’re really in the know, you wouldn’t even notice this car is a late model at first glance.
The idea for the build came about when a customer of Type 2 Detectives mentioned he may be selling his project before completion. The car was based on a solid Bug to begin with and had already been converted to early panels and painted orange.
“Paul and I have always wanted to build an ’80s-style car in Porsche Rubystone. It’s just the best colour to paint a Beetle. So we jumped at the chance to finish this car to our tastes,” says Mark.
Unlike most builds of yesteryear, this car hasn’t been built with poor quality aftermarket wings and panels. It also hasn’t had a cheap paint job by a local ‘specialist’, the second round of body and paint was done by Spikes Vintage Restoration, so you know it’s been done to an impeccable standard.
The team were very definite about the colour, too. Although many of the ’80’s pink cars were painted in Porsche Raspberry (a 1972 colour) or Magenta (a ’74-’77 colour), Rubystone is a later colour, used on the 964RS of the early ’90s, so it wasn’t even around in the ’80s. It’s a bold choice, no mistake, but arguably less in your face than the earlier colours, although you can hardly call any pink colour subtle. True to style the boys had Spikes paint a lot of the external trim parts in body colour too – headlamp rims, horn grilles, handles, wing mirrors, tail light bezels and bumpers – the latter having the trick ’80’s mod’ of having the brackets welded to the back and the bolt holes welded up for that super smooth look.
Likewise, the original wing top front indicators hit the bin and amber bulbs now reside inside the headlamp buckets, behind a pair of Porsche 911 lenses. It’s all coming back now. Where on a lot of old cars the underside was simply Hammerited and ignored, this one has been brought right up to date, being painstakingly prepped and coated in Raptor for looks and longevity.
It would be easy to use all the modern suspension techniques on a car like this but Mark and Paul wanted to keep it close to its influencing form, so chose a two-inch narrowed beam and disc brake dropped spindles for the front, then treated the rear to a pair of adjustable spring plates. All this stuff was available in fledgling form 30-odd years ago, it’s just most of us couldn’t afford it, so found cheaper ways to get a similar look.
Now for the wheels. Hmmm. So many options… Choosing Porsche pattern discs and drums made the decision more straightforward and, always with an eye on the market, 4. and six-inch detailed Fuchs replicas were bolted on. They looked good then, and they look good now, though it’s ironic to think that at a time when budgets were tight most cars rolled on genuine Fuchs as repros weren’t available, yet now, when there’s more money floating around, repros are the more common choice. Figure that! Tyre choice was another crucial decision. Old schoolers will remember 135 and 165 as the magic numbers. Maybe 145, perhaps even 125 if you were brave, but certainly nothing bigger. And definitely no low profiles. Yet with hindsight, those skinny rears often looked a bit lost in the ’arches, so Mark and Paul decided to break from tradition a little here and pair some classic 135 Firestone F-560s with more up to date 195/65-15 Bridgestones. Not period correct per se, but a deft combination of old school looks with today’s fitment aesthetic.
One other thing to note that separates this build from one done in the late ’80s or early ’90s is the door mirrors. Andy colour coded the original late Bug mirrors, as opposed to fitting a pair of Vitaloni Baby Turbo or Baby Tornado plastic ones – the hot ticket back then but pretty naff in my opinion. Random fact of the day: you can still buy those mirrors mentioned new, which is great news if you’re restoring an old build, but I think the boys made the right choice not to take advantage of that fact for this car.
True to form, the engine is a mildly detailed 1641cc unit with a pair of Kadron carbs and a tuck away exhaust (remember those?). There’s a nod to the chrome dress-up kits of old in the alternator backing plate and those corrugated silver foil heater tubes and aluminium lower pulley. Ditto the contrasting paint colour used on the tinware, and it all just works so well with the rest of the car. If it were mine, I’d have gone for a dual quiet pack muffler, but that’s just my taste, and it’d probably mean having to raise the rear a tad to make one fit without getting smashed to bits on the first speed bump.
The interior can really make or break a ‘retro’ car like this, but Paul and Mark had an ace up their sleeve here. Where we went down the local scrappy and bought the cheapest pair of recliners we could find [MG Metro Turbo in my case! — MP] they had a far classier pair of Porsche 911 sports seats (not regular tombstones) in mind. Re-trimmed in red and black Porsche Pepita cloth and black vinyl for a customer, who then changed his mind, the seats became available at just the right time. The rear seat was trimmed to match and some simple black door cards and a grey carpet set finish things off nicely.
You may have noticed the interior metal of the car is fully painted and there’s only a half headliner, late 1200 Sparkefer-style, making the interior pop with colour almost as much as the outside. A Gene Berg shifter with the nicer early-style handle makes shifting gears a pleasure, not a guess, while a nicely refurbished ’72-on stock safety steering wheel was fitted when the aftermarket Grant one originally slated for use was found to sit too close to the late model stalks. It’s a but subtle perhaps for a build of this sort, but it’s also kinda nice to see one of these wheels being used, as most were ditched back in the day. “It was just one of those simple projects when the right car, and all the right parts, seemed to either turn up at the right time, or we already had them,” concludes Mark. “It’s a car that takes us back to our youth but, if we’re honest, is a lot better than the cars we all had in our youth,” he adds with a grin.
Projects like this that seem effortless are a joy. It’s like the universe is somehow approving and assisting with the build, and perhaps that’s exactly what is happening in this case.
If you love this car as much as I do (and I really do), then hop on over to type2detectives.com and give Mark or Paul a call – you could soon be driving the slickest ’80’s-style Beetle build of the year.
“It was just one of those projects when everything turned up at the right time"
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