An air cooled, rear engine VW beetle doesn’t exactly grab our interest. The coolest thing about them is that you can change the belt in under ten second—if you haven’t seen the video, it’s worth checking out. While there isn’t much room for improvement to the platform with the obvious limitations inherent in the rear-engine design, we live in a world where creativity sometimes meets up with capability and serious ambition.
Dan Longacre, of Antioch, California, built a Bug that we have more than just a little interest in. Dan put a 4.6 liter Northstar front-wheel drive engine out of a 2000 Cadillac DeVille into his 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. Along with the engine came the 4T80E transaxle, narrowed suspension, a full custom roll-cage, and a custom frame.
As the third generation NAPA shop owner, Dan has been around cars his entire life and putting a build like this together is nothing out of the ordinary for him. “I have always liked factory builds of small cars with big engines and the concept of using factory pieces to provide a reliable package,” Dan explained. He uses this as a daily driver, so reliability was paramount in this build, but power was also just as important.
Dan removed the rack and pinion steering unit and replaced it with a fabricated solid piece that had the factory threads on each end to allow use of the stock tie rods and adjustment points. The front-wheel drive setup required the front and rear brakes to be switched. Dan used a modified V spindle that allowed the stock Cadillac bearing assembly to bolt to the front with some fabricated caliper mounts, “The result is huge four-wheel disc brakes that retain all stock components,” Dan told us. “The radiator is mounted behind the seats and uses all factory hoses and fan units.”
Have we gotten the point across yet that this car took some serious fabrication? This isn’t as simple as the already complicated Ford to Chevy engine swap, this swap crosses a thirty-year difference in models, American to import, and front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive… with the engine in the back!
The beetle also makes use of a modified Cadillac console shifter, steering column, and gauge cluster. “The biggest challenge was the wiring and computer system,” Dan explained. “I was surprised when it fired up first try and ran great!” The end result is a reliable cruiser that is capable of a 13.3 second quarter mile at 103 miles per hour. Can you say sleeper?
It’s made just a little bit of a change since Dan bought it.
We agree with Dan: the idea of putting V8 power to little cars is what hot rodding is all about. Dan contacted us about his Northstar-powered Beetle, and if you want your car or truck to be a part of our Street Feature series, all you have to do is shoot us an email and tell us about your ride and we will make it happen.