Random # 166: Early VW Beetle (& a Short History of Rallying in Tasmania in the 1970s)

There are still plenty of Beetles getting about Hobart, as several other posts on this site show.  However, there are certainly fewer of these earlier versions than there are of the smaller headlight editions from the 1970s.   

This one, photographed in North Hobart, was particularly nice, featuring glossy paint, straight, shiny chrome and a tidy interior.  The rear window was adorned with several stickers, suggesting that the car's owner was well into the local Vee-Dub scene. 

In the 1970s, Beetles were very popular rally cars in Tasmania.  It wasn't so much their speed (what speed?, you ask inrcedulously!) that made them a common sight on the rallying scene; their rear-engined, all-independent suspension set-up gave them quite amazing off-road capability and that's why they were so successful.  

All that was required was a set of 'winter-tread' tyres (on the rear only, if the budget was tight), up-graded shocks, a skid plate under the front and a sump guard at the rear, a decent set of driving lights (Cibie Oscars were all the rage) and some basic navigation gear.  Engine mods rarely consisted of much more that an after-market carbie and a set of extractors.  

Another common modification was a set of 'hangers,' usually fashioned from nylon rope looped through the rear engine cooling vents below the rear window, that the navigator gripped as he or she stood on the rear bumper bar, bouncing up and down to gain extra traction to extricate the car from boggy sections of track.  It wasn't high-tech but it worked! 

Beetles were remarkably competitive, especially the later Super-Bug editions like that driven so successfully by Hobart-based Lin Gigney, although the outright speed of Datsun 1600s (P510s), Ford Escorts, Chrysler Galants and Lancers, and rotary-powered Mazdas eventually saw them fade from the rallying scene.  UMPH can't remember the last time he saw a Beetle set up for competition, other than a white one that ran in one or two early Targa Tasmanias.



All iPhone images.

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