Breaking The Volksrod Mold: The Berlin Buick

As popular and well loved as the Volkswagen Beetle is, The People’s Car is rarely featured at hot rod events as prestigious as the Detroit Autorama.

Sure, wild Beetle-based customs like the Baja Bandeeto have managed to capture their share of attention, and the fender-less, flat painted Volksrods that rolled into the “basement,” but for the most part Beetles are few and far between at hot rod venues.

The Berlin Buick however fits right in when put up against its hot rod peers. When building the “Berlin Buick” Browns Metal Mods took the usual stripped down Volksrod approach and cast it aside. Instead opting to combine the best of German styling with some reliable and rowdy American muscle.

All that, while incorporating the style and attention to detail of a top notch restomod.

When the unsuspecting Beetle base rolled into Browns Metal Mods it was relatively stock. Neither exceptionally clean nor exceptionally rotten, it was the perfect donor to be reborn as the Berlin Buick.

New York’s Browns Metal mods, as the name suggests, is a shop known for their metal working prowess. But the talent in the shop doesn’t stop there. They’ve been building hot rods in their entirety or over 12 years.

The small team has the skills necessary to take an idea as wild as a mid engine Volkswagen Beetle from paper to reality.

Expecting to see an aircooled motor here? Not In the Berlin Buick, this car now has a Buick V8 propelling it down the road.

Those dream making skills were put to the test when it came to bringing to life owner Robert Freeman’s vision. The first thing to go was the factory air cooled Volkswagen motor. Models of efficiency the standard ’67 Volkswagen motor made a rather unexciting 36 or so horsepower from the factory. Double digit output is simply never going to cut it in a hot rod.

Buick Power

Replacing the diminutive VW motor is an all-aluminum 215 cubic inch Buick v8. On the lighter and narrower end of V8 swap options, the Buick mill was the perfect candidate for this project.

Fitting it in the car without widening the rear end, avoided odd proportions later. In fact the body of the Berlin Buick has stock dimensions in most regards.

Lighter and narrower than many v8s the 215 cubic inch Buick motor was the perfect choice for this swap. Fitting without the need to widen the rear.

Untouched, the Buick v8 makes makes almost four times the horsepower of the Volkswagen motor. Of course this one isn’t stock.

It’s had the factory heads swapped for a later set of Rover manufactured units fit with stainless steel valves. A new cam and flat top pistons were also added to the mix along with a beautiful Hilborn injection system.

Bathed in gold paint and other sparkly bits,  the motor would be a show stopper under the hood of any car.

The Hillborn Injection topped motor sits right behind the driver and passenger seats.

Interior Redesign

In this application the motor doesn’t sit under the hood. Instead it can be found directly behind the driver and passenger seats.

In front of the seats, which were trimmed by Horsehead New York’s Rich Perz Interiors, is a 1949 Buick dash that helps further tie Buick roots into Volkswagen skin.

The dash is filled with Classic Instruments gauges and carries the PPG Tonic Brown and Ginger Beer paint scheme the exterior wears.

Putting the Buick theme in view of the driver is a 1949 Buick dashboard.

Also found inside the car is hidden roll cage and a fire suppression system. With the motor exposed behind the occupants it only makes sense to take a bit of extra precaution.

Backing the motor is a Mendeola 4 speed trans-axle that’s also been painted gold and accented by some machine work.

The transmission spins Driveshaft shop made CV axles.

Footwork consists of 15×4 and 15×12 E-T Classic V wheels shod in Firestone tires up front and Nittos in the rear.

The measurements of the rear tires spec out at a hefty 3345/50. Much, much, larger than Volkswagen engineers ever intended to be stuffed under their factory fenders. 

Ridetech suspension and a reinforced chassis keeps this Beetle low and planted

Chassis wise, like most lowered Beetles this one features a narrowed beam and lowered spindles. However the front is where the similarities with other Volkswagen Beetles stops.

The rear suspension is all courtesy of Browns metal mods. It’s an independent system that’s managed by Ride tech RidePro air suspension.

Additionally the pan of this Beetle has been reinforce ensuring it can handle whatever the driver may throw its way.

A smooth body

At first glance, if you’re not a Volkswagen Beetle fanatic, you might miss the extent of body modifications that have been performed.

Numerous in number, each body modification was done to give the Berlin Buick a sleeker look at any angle.

Shaved, nipped, tucked, and chopped every body modification done to this car was performed to make it look sleeker than Volkswagen designers could have ever imagined.

Starting down the side, the factory running boards have been completely removed. The door handles are also no where to be seen and the doors themselves now open suicide.

Any right angle on the exterior was rounded off to achieve a more modern look, and the trunk and former engine deck lid were also shaved.

Custom bumpers sit at the front and rear, and the headlights have been frenched into the trim. Additionally the trim along the sides comes from a ’57 Buick and the zoomie exhaust exits through ’53 Buick portholes.

The most noticable of all the exterior mods however is the 4 and a half inch roof chop. It’s a healthy amount of the top, but does wonders for the vehicle’s profile.

Executing on a wild idea Browns Metal Mods created a truly one of a kind vehicle that any enthusiast is bound to appreciate.

We love it and the only thing we could have wished for is a ride in the passenger seat.

About the author

Dave Thomas

Currently living near Toronto, Dave spends much of his free time behind a camera at car events, and likes just about anything with wheels, but usually the lower the better. When not taking photos, writing articles, or going upside down on his bike he can be found in the shop wrenching on his 1951 GMC pickup.
Read My Articles

Classic Street Rods in your Inbox

Build your own custom newsletter with the content you love from Rod Authority, directly to your inbox, absolutely FREE!

Free WordPress Themes
Rod Authority NEWSLETTER - SIGN UP FREE!

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

Rod Authority - The #1 Authority for Street and Rat Rods

We'll send you the most interesting Street Rod articles, news, car features, and videos every week.

Rod Authority - The #1 Authority for Street and Rat Rods

Rod Authority NEWSLETTER - SIGN UP FREE!

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

Rod Authority - The #1 Authority for Street and Rat Rods

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...



Hot Rods & Muscle Cars

Classic Chevy Magazine

Corvette Enthusiasts

Rod Authority - The #1 Authority for Street and Rat Rods

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...

  • Hot Rods & Muscle Cars
  • Classic Chevy Magazine
  • Corvette Enthusiasts

Rod Authority - The #1 Authority for Street and Rat Rods

Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.

Rod Authority - The #1 Authority for Street and Rat Rods

Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.

Loading