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FORD V8-POWERED CUSTOM VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE - FLASHBACK

By Simon Telford | Photos: Mike Szabath, 25 Nov 2017 Features

rebel rouser 1896 nw

Looking back on Bluey Boxsell's custom 289 Windsor-powered Vee Dub

Looking back on Bluey Boxsell's custom 289 Windsor-powered Vee Dub 

This article on Bluey's V8 Bug was originally published in the October 2010 issue of Street Machine

OF ALL the cars that debuted at the massive Meguiar’s MotorEx show, one car stood out among them all for pure creativity — Bluey Boxsell’s Airborne Eight pick-up. A wild hot rod built from parts of more than 60 different pre-’68 cars, Bluey’s car shows what can be done with a little imagination and a whole lot of hard work. Those who know Bluey’s previous car weren’t too surprised by his ingenuity, as his V8 VW tipped us off to just what he is capable of, way back in the Dec ’83/Jan ’84 issue of SM.

REBEL BUG - THE INSPIRATION
With their fat guards and anachronistic running boards, these days VW Beetles are favourites with young blokes who want to get involved in hot rodding but don’t have the cash. Bluey cottoned on to the idea early, while on a tour of duty with the navy. He’d bought a Revell model kit of a 1940 Ford to keep himself occupied and soon got to pondering the similarities between the ’40 and the humble Hitler’s Revenge.

Luke and Jamie Swift's slammed VW Beetles

THE BODY

custom VW beetle rearOnce back on dry land, Blue set about giving an early-model VW some serious reconstructive surgery, fitting a much-modified Peugeot bonnet and cut-down ’38 grille to give the Bug the Ford look he was after. He also filled the rear side windows, leaving a couple of opera-type openings, and flared the guards. Nerf bars, a recessed rear numberplate and ’39 tail-lights with blue dots gave it that real hot rod feel. In true 80s style, the interior was decked out in luxurious crushed blue velvet.

BENEATH

Custom VW Beetle engine bay
Blue got the car moving with its original running gear but a real hot rod needs a V8 driving the back wheels, so he planned a legal V8 conversion, which involved fitting a boxed Austin A40 chassis underneath, with an LJ crossmember and HR diff jammed in fore and aft. For motivation, he opted for a 289 Windsor backed by a C4 trans, and in a neat touch the chassis and running gear were displayed beside the VW-powered car at the Bankstown Hot Rod Show in 1981 as a tease.

“We set it all up with a display board and an arrow between the car and the chassis and stood back and listened to the furore!” Bluey says.

There were plenty of doubters but the whole conversion was approved by an engineer and has been road-registered in NSW ever since.

THE LONG ROAD

custom VW BeetleBluey’s V8-powered Bug was still on the road 27 years after our feature (Dec ’83/Jan ’84)!

Up until just a few years prior to this story, the VW was Bluey’s daily driver and has covered more than 500,000 miles, many of those pulling his teardrop caravan or Road Rocket trailer. It’s had a few cosmetic updates, such as eliminating the opera windows, and a number of paint jobs (including anti-radar black and another with wild flames), but it must rate as one of the most faithful street machines of all time.

“It’s been a really good car, a cornerstone of my business, Custom T-shirts & Trophies.” Bluey says. “It was very controversial in its time. The hot rodders thought it was a street machine and vice versa, but I just do what I want and don’t worry about anyone else. There is only one person you have to please after all.”