06 May 2011

Own a Piece of Mulholland Drive History: Paul Newman's Insane 300hp VW Bug


Even casual observers of legendary actor/director/racing enthusiast and professional driver/philanthropist Paul Newman can tell you that amongst his widely varied personal interests,
the boy liked his cars... and particularly the fast ones.


The late-great movie star also possessed an independent streak that contributed to his aura and celebrity appeal, thus in the wake of initial Hollywood success of the early 1960s -starting with 1963's The Hustler- the free-thinking Newman went and got himself not a new Cadillac convertible, Rolls, or Ferrari... but a cherry-red 1963 VW Beetle Convertible.  He was soon recruited by VW's agency in the US to pose in ads with his car-
a no-brainer for Volkswagen.



Paul Newman's fame and wealth swelled by late Sixties with epic performances in Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Then while training to drive a race car for the shooting of 1969's Winning, Newman acquired a serious interest in real-world racing that was to develop into a second career for him (and his salad dressing ain't bad, either!). 

I myself attended a Trans-Am race in the mid 80s where Newman ended-up at the top of the podium, and he once even finished 2nd-in-class at the prestigious 24 hrs of LeMans- the man was really a pretty skilled race car driver- not a poser at all. Alas, once Newman started hitting the track regularly, he never again shot films during the summer racing season.

But it didn't take long for crazy ole Paul to get a delightfully crazy idea in that same Summer of '69: "I wonder what a V-8 like that would do in my Vee Dub?" Of course there's only one way to find out, and the task fell to California-based Indy car builder
Jerry Eisert (apparently cost no object). 


What Eisert's shop put together for him came to be known up on Mulholland as the "Newman Bug"- a very professionally-executed 300 hp VW Beetle convertible featuring not just Ford 351-W V-8 power but an exotic race-style suspension, 5-speed HD gearbox from a Ford GT40, heavily reinforced floorpan/unibody, much chrome, a front-end customization to accommodate a radiator/cooling system, aluminum brakes, etc... an incredibly balanced and capable package considering this machine was created from an air-cooled, 40 hp economy car first designed in the 1930s... and the whole back seat is now stuffed with engine.

In the wake of it's complete restoration, the historic 1963 VW 'Newman Bug' has now been put on the market: they're asking $250,000... and it just might bring it, a special car in every way:

A sleeper if ever there was one... looks stock from this angle if 
you didn't notice the size of the exhaust pipes

Just went through a full tear-down restoration- nice stance

Newman Sat Here: Note heavily fortified sills- to keep
the V-8 from torquing the car into a pretzel

Billet/leather steering wheel- lovely

Rollbar arcs over a tufted cover where lurks the heart of the beast

Ford 'Windsor' V-8 mounted amidships

Screaming like a banshee... right behinds ya

Custom cooling tubes run the length of the car/Ford racing rack-and-pinion

From the look of all the custom work it must have cost a fortune to make


Normal engine compartment now full of muffler
and a custom-designed auxillery radiator


These vent tubes pull hot air out of the engine bay and run it through
the radiators
... all beatifully sorted out and executed brilliantly

Well-engineered install of an aluminum (primary) radiator up front

Chrome fuel tank tops it all off (sorry)

IMDb   OldBug.com   LATimes   Wikipedia   h/t Speedunque




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5 comments:

LL said...

Slick bug!

Reaganite Republican said...

Yeah it is

Matt said...

That is a piece of work. That thing shouldn't run at all without breaking in half.

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

I had a 63 VW in my yut. It only had a 4 cylinder in it.

Anonymous said...

If only the front air grill could be hidden... I love VW "sleepers" -- made a couple myself. The key, of course, is to keep it as original-looking as possible. If I had this one (donations welcome), I'd change wheels to Porsche slotted (looks like VW).

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