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East coast super beetle drag car

69359 Views 471 Replies 46 Participants Last post by  Leonl
This car really isn't a "project", but since I am always changing it, it's kind of always a project. Like most cars I think! I think I will use this more as a logbook for myself than anything. Because I am always changing it, it's tough to remember when I did what. This was my first car I got when I was 13, drove it all through high school and college, than kept making it faster and faster. I've now had it for 19 years. It's a 73 super, all steel, all motor, I built everything including the engine, trans, chassis, and I do all my own bodywork and paint. The only 2 things I didn't do on the car is balance the tires and bore the block and heads, and I was standing next to the guy that did the machine work. I also intend for all of those criteria to always be that way. Nothing against people that go other routes, this is just the way I like it. The car weighs around 1540 lbs right now with the fuel full and without me in it. Personal best times right now are 1.60 60 foot, 7.80 1/8th and 12.48 1/4 without enough 4th gear by quite a bit. The last 2 years I have finally found my groove and won a few races, and unbelievably this year I made slightly more than I have spent. No engine or trans failures helps that statistic quite a bit.
I'm not the fastest guy out there, but I get a little faster every year and that's what matters. My current goal is to get down around 7.55 or 7.60 so I can stay in Pro, but be one of the fastest guys in Pro. I don't want to be the slowest guy in Super Pro! My plans for this winter are more cam and compression, I am moving some weight around, I am removing around 50 lbs, and more gear. Now here's some pictures of the car in it's current state.


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Did some "pretty work", made the bottom hood pin supports, painted the exhaust, quick paint on the wheelie bars, and also put some paint on the jugs. Trying something different with the cooling so with the cylinder tins off it looked pretty bad. Still have to remake the filler pieces between the hood and fenders. Also came up with another fan, but it had a bad bearing on the fan blade side. Tore a bearing out of another motor to get it working. Going to move it inside the car and out of the engine compartment so it will suck cooler air, and not clog up the engine area so much. It'll be easier to pull the engine out too.


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Yay! Single adjustable, 18 settings. From "Almost no resistance" to "Can't move them at all." Also got the spring perches for the Someday List when I go ladder bar.


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Just spent a couple of days perusing your build (in between working, acting like I'm listening to my wife complain about her job and sleeping), and have a question.

I was considering canning the front sway bar on my '71 Super, building something along the lines of what you considered a while ago. I know you decided not to run with what you had built, but you never mentioned why you decided not to go that route. Would you mind if I asked why?

Originally, you built the cross rod (replacement to the sway bar to fit in the bushings) out of 7/8" rod, with a shoulder and threads to accept a heim joint.

I am considering doing something similar, but, instead of using a solid rod and the bushings, using a larger hollow tube (1.25", .250" wall, or something close), with boxed tabs that would allow the tube to be bolted directly to the body. Additional boxed tabbing would then facilitate the heimed trailing arms.

Beefed up tabs would be welded to the '73+ lower control arms, allowing the trailing arms to be bolted directly to them. Or building tubular lower control arms with tabs and heim joints on the inside too.

I am wanting to induce upwards of 6°-7° of caster. I'll also be swapping the early Super front spindles and such to the later stuff, so I can use Rabbit front struts (using their eccentric bolts to get my camber back to zero). I'll tackle the steering box and related heavy junk later on.

I have it all built, in my head, but since I've seen you go close to the same route, and then can the idea, I'm 2nd guessing myself. What did I miss, oh Guru of the Supers?! :D
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I'll try to cover everything you mentioned, sounds like you have your head on straight and you have really thought things out, BEFORE starting to chop and weld. That "system" you mentioned worked great, my concern was strength. I have been accused in the past of being a hack, but if I am not 100% sure something is safe, I will not use it. If something on that broke, I would crash, no doubt about it.

You can summerize drag racing a super with this: there are no aftermarket super beetle drag racing front suspension parts. Any aftermarket lowering parts have the side effect of actually STIFFENING the front end, when we should be doing the opposite. The other issue is caster. You have 2 options to add caster, get the offset bushings that actually pull the control arms and front wheels and everything forward slightly, or get the aftermarket sway bar that has this built in, or you can do both. I have tried everything and never been happy, so the next step is to start building my own stuff, more on that later. At one point I had a stock sway bar and stock struts that I relocated the spring perches to lower a few inches, it moved pretty free, but I was unhappy with how high the nose was. Mostly ego I suppose. The first picture I attached below shows that the nose is very high, but the tires are still on the ground. (also note that the sump is firmly planted on the track)Proof that the front end was freely moving, but as I said, I didn't like how high the car sat at rest. To go lower, I had to use the aftermarket sway bar, which is only available in 7/8" thick, which binds the front end right up to almost no movement. The second picture I attached shows the front end up, tires off the ground, but almost no tire drop. I had to make up for the lack of front end movement with the rear end squat. Not the correct way to do it but it got me off the line. I run 1.53 to 1.55 sixty foots. Tried that "sway bar delete", but didn't trust it.
Here is my next plan. 1) I want to relocate the inner control arm mounts to the top of the framehead instead of below it. This will make the control arm angle closer to stock, not angled way up. At 6-7" lowered, geometry gets screwed way up. 2) Delete the sway bar. Instead of the old system that you mentioned, this time I want truly delete the sway bar, not replace it with something else. I want to build an a-arm setup, adding 2 more mounts about 10" forward of the existing inner control arm mounts. This will allow the suspension to move without forcing it to bend 7/8" bars. 3) I am going to modify the struts to use a different spring that is available at my local race shop. This will allow me to use an off-the-shelf spring that I can swap out to fine tune the front end. I currently have stock springs, which work great on a stock car, but right now I can lift the front end of my car by myself, so stock springs are TOO STIFF. I may also have to re-shock if that is a word.

I hope I answered your questions, if not, let me know and I will try to help. What you described sounds like it could be stronger than what I did, I took that route because I wanted the option to be able to go back to stock if it didn't work. Plus, I have been clinging to the original parts as much as possible so people wouldn't say it's not really a super anymore. I think I am past that point now though. My main concern when I start building the new setup is adding adjustablility, camber and caster.


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I see what you mean with the lack of movement. The pictures really spell it out too.

It looks like you're running the early style spindle and lower control arm. Have you weighed those compared to the later versions? I have several of them at work (I work at an air cooled resto/maintenance shop, I have everything laying around for days!) and will probably weigh them out and see if I'm going backwards with weight.

Speaking of going with the replaceable spring setup (awesome idea, by the way), since I'm planning on going with the Rabbit front strut assemblies, I wonder if the QA1 threaded adapters will fit over them? Cutting the coil bucket off and going with a QA1 threaded adapter would allow fine tuning of the height and maybe some preloading of the spring. Have you considered going with the later stuff?

If you're considering building your own lower control arms, are you considering going with something completely out of the box and changing over to a strut with more aftermarket support? Perhaps a Ford Fox body setup? Springs, struts, spindles, brakes, etc. all built specifically for racing.

Hell, I still have to drag my body down to the pay 'n spray and knock 9 years of chicken coupe storage out of it. Although she's not perfect, I couldn't beat the price (free!).

Now my brain is going to explode with all the possibilities. If you see a mushroom cloud around the Denver area, that's me.
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I've never considered going to later model parts because the later struts can't be lowered as far as the early parts, plus I never liked the stamped steel control arms. I plan on sticking with super beetle struts and upper mounts and just building the control arms, most likely with round tubing in the neighborhood of 1" or so.
I thought about that, considering the cast arms over the stamped steel units. But I've seen curb shot front ends on both versions. Of course, not knowing how bad the impacts were on either one, the cast lower control arm broke, at the hole for the sway bar, while the stamped steel one bent, but held the wheel on. The broken cast unit flopped, taking out the fender, ripping the strut mount and twisting out the upper mount. I can still picture that thing in my head. With the stamped steel one, one could still box it or reinforce it, as one saw fit.

But you have a point with being able to lower the early struts better, with less fuss. I think I'll weigh the components tomorrow at work. Guess I'll have to go in early, to do race car stuff. Oh, the horror! :D
Good point on the break versus bend idea, I never thought of that.
Nice car! Another option for your micro switch for your two step is to plume in a hydraulic brake light switch in the brake line coming out of the staging brake. Question were did you find the best price for the Qa1 shocks I need to get some for my build?
Sorry, I'm not on very pften. I bought the shocks new/used.
Where are you Eric? I'm new here and read every post on this thread. Very good stuff. Update us please!
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