Underneath the sheep’s clothing of this 1956 Volkswagen is a feral Porsche-inspired wolf. Even what you see is deceptive: fenders, door skins, engine lid, front trunk lid, running boards and even a set of chromed bumpers were all made of aluminum.
Thirty-five years ago, Miles Collier had the idea to clone a VW Beetle; however, he was not creating any ordinary beetle. The inspiration: A Hot Rod VW built to appear stock while utilizing spare or repurposed Porsche racing and road car parts to increase performance. From its origins as the “Peoples’ Car”, this Porsche-outfitted, souped-up hot rod Volkswagen started its afterlife in Costa Mesa, California, at Dick Troutman’s fabrication shop.
Troutman was part of the famed Troutman and Barnes duo who together completed some of the most successful sports car builds of the 1950s and ’60s, notably the first Chaparrals and the Lance Reventlow Scarabs. In the mid-1960s Troutman built a custom Porsche 4-door 911 and later a 914 pickup for clients, and in the early 1980s was involved in restoration of another of Collier’s cars, so the opportunity to construct this VW proved inevitable.
Troutman hand-formed aluminum panels and parts, restored the floor pan and added some impressive modifications, such as; Porsche 718 Spyder style adjustable front torsion bars, Porsche 911 rear torque tube and shock towers, trailing arms, anti-roll bar, and a 911 5-speed transaxle. A 356 Carrera GT inspired fuel tank was fabricated as well as a dry sump oil tank fitted behind the rear seat with a door flap added for access to the outside body pillar. To complete the build, he finished out the interior in 1956 period trim and painted the car Prairie Beige, a 1956 OEM VW color. However, it was the Collier workshop team in Naples, Florida who ultimately completed the mission, which has evolved through its 30-plus year conception.
Originally, the Collier team fit a rare Porsche 1800cc 547/5 flat-fan racing engine, the type used in an Elva Porsche. This engine proved excessively temperamental and required too much detuning for road use.
The most recent improvements include replica Porsche Speedster seats, installed for driver stability, and a custom alloy roll bar that satisfies safety concerns by allowing a three-point seat belt and helps with torsional stiffening. Porsche-inspired through and through, the current engine is a powerhouse Porsche 914/VW Type 4 – 2.6-liter built by Jake Raby. Now running 0 to 60mph in roughly five seconds, with the handling of a superbly set up 911, this Beetle is a far cry from its 1956 beginnings!
The Beetle is part of the renowned Miles Collier Collection @ Revs Institute