Something Wicked This Way Comes

Quietly hunting Hemis.

[Our beloved Ambersand submitted this some time ago, and due to my own incompetence I somehow missed it, or forgot about it, or lost it. We tried to get it all polished up and ready to run yesterday, but we weren’t quick enough. As such, we’re running it today. Got an article you think we’d like? Send it to for us to review, and maybe we’ll run it on a Submission Thursday sometime soon. I’ll warn you right now, we won’t run everything, and I may send it back to you asking for a re-write. I’m not a total grammar nazi, but your writing voice has to be clear and coherent. Also, if you’re including photos, embedding them in the article is fine, but please include them as attachments to the email as well. Pulling images out of a Word file can be painful. So, that said, click through to enjoy Amber’s contribution!]
The evolution of the Beetle has been a long, sordid one. It started out as the “people’s car,” having been designed by Ferdinand Porsche back in the day for the German masses. The first two ever to touch U.S. soil were imported into the states in 1949, rockin’ sweet 25hp motors. They gained popularity with the hippies in the 60’s and up until mid 2003, the old school version rolled off assembly lines in Mexico. People have experimented over the years with those little motors, hoggin’ em out, making em bigger, badder, MOAR, and they’ve been doing something right because in today’s drag racing circuits, it’s not uncommon to see an air-cooled VW spank many a muscle car or ricer off the tree.
Today we take a trip down nostalgia lane, to where all the insanity really started, the Black Widow.
Naw, it's not a Hemi. Hemi-eater, maybe…

She was born a 1955 Oval. For those that don’t know, she’s an Oval simply because that’s the shape of her back window. A cute little unassuming bug, she was just putt-putting along at 36hp, minding her own business, that is until the guys at Turbonique got hold of her a few years later.
Out came her tiny motor and pathetic transmission. In went a purported 850 horsepower microturbine engine that’d suck the stripes off the road if given half a chance and a Turbonique exclusive jet engine transaxle. She went from struggling to do 55 mph to clocking 9.36s and 168 mph in the quarter mile, beating out a car that was just as impressive – Tommy Ivo’s, Showboat, with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Buick V8’s.
Photos of the illustrious spankage.

Roy “Mr. Pitiful” Drew was her driver and they had many an impressive run until that fateful day back in October 1966, just a month after spanking the V8’s off poor Showboat. He was giving her one last test run down the track before heading out west to show off her mad skills. She was hauling along, pickin up speed, but as we all know, everything has a point at which it’s no longer aerodynamic. Roy found this out at 183 mph, just shy of the ¼ mile traps. She spun, lifted, launched and rolled into a nose first heap.
The Black Widow was damaged so badly she was, by 1966 standards, beyond repair. Unfortunately the damage was never fully documented save for a handful of photos. Based on those photos I’m guessing she was in need of at least an entire front clip, hood, doors, roof, front beam, rims, tires, steering column and the list goes on. Her whereabouts have never been verified but the assumption is that she was scrapped after the accident. Luckily for Roy, he walked away upset but unscathed.
And what was the first thing he said?
Yeah Roy, so are we.

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21 responses to “Something Wicked This Way Comes”

  1. highmileage_v1 Avatar

    Hell, I'd drive that to work!

  2. dustin_driver Avatar

    "Sorry about that." Classic.
    I've been meaning to do a writeup about Turbonique for a while now, but I've fallen down on the job. I probably still will. Just got to get in touch with somebody who actually ran a Turbonique-equipped car . . .

    1. Ambersand Avatar

      I'm trying to find Roy. That would be the most amazing interview EVAR.

      1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

        Yes, please do!

      2. bgzich Avatar

        U go Kid Kid Love Dad

  3. Charles_Barrett Avatar

    Kudos Amber…! Well-written piece. I have posted a link to this write-up on the Wall of a Facebook friend from my grammar school days. Teddi just loves her some vintage Beetle lore (she has a couple Bugs in her garage as well). I'm sure she'll enjoy reading this…

  4. Deartháir Avatar

    Is that the infamous Teddi Baer or something like that? Not only an awesome name, but a Beetle fetish as well. I like her already.

    1. Charles_Barrett Avatar

      Indeed it is. I shall initiate a Facebook introduction…!

  5. tenbeers Avatar

    I'd click "Like" if such a feature existed on this here screen-tube page.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      You can add it to any of your favorite social networks, (including google buzz!) via the little share buttons above.
      Me? I hate the internet.

      1. tenbeers Avatar

        I hate being social. I quite enjoy buzzing though. In fact I'm going to work on that right now.

  6. Blueplate Avatar

    Wow, just wow. The complete and utter insanity, er, hooliganism, of building a 200 mph powerplant into a funny body shaped car with absolutely no wind tunnel testing? Great write up– thanks for filling the apparently huge holes in my Type 1 knowledge. Makes Herbie look like a joke!

  7. SEEVWTV Avatar

    Awesome article! 183 mph, 850 horse power! Wowzers! I love what people do to old bugs.

  8. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    Ain't nothin' sleepier than a VW Beetle painted like a lump of feces, even one that looks like that. And there ain't nothin' more awesome than jets.
    That's some proper balls-out engineerin'.

  9. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Nice, Ms Amber! Every Beetle I ever drove acted like it had a drogue chute deployed at any speed – and about 65 mph was a sensible max.
    I find it hard to believe that a roll at 183 mph only resulted in the damage depicted. Friends rolled a Beetle (driver fell asleep crossing the Great Salt Lake at night, woke up on the salt, panicked and rolled the wart with a quick flick of the steering wheel) and there wasn't a whole lot left, though they all escaped with miraculously little damage.

  10. engineerd Avatar

    This is insane, dangerous and ill-advised. The chassis was designed for only 4.23% of the horsepower of the Turbonique setup. Assuming a safety factor of 2 (typical for a car), you could maybe safely put 70 hp in the Beetle. Not 850. Batshit insane doesn't begin to describe this. Every responsible person should shun this egregious defiance of physics.
    Which is why I love it. Absolutely wonderful! I nominate Mr. Pitiful for the Hoon Hall of Fame.

    1. Ambersand Avatar

      Heh…and to think some of the ones parked in my barn right now are running 1/4 of that or more…sick stuff.

    2. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      I love it when you bust out the engineer speak…

  11. CptSevere Avatar

    Anyone who stuffs 850 turbine horsepower into a Beetle and lives to tell about it is a freakin' hero. This is what I love about the intertubes, never heard about Turbonique before here and (REDACTED). What an awesome and wonderful Bad Idea that thing is. Not to mention Tommy Ivo's sick dragster. Man, being there and seeing these two freaks of nature going flat out must have really been something.

    1. Adem Avatar

      Not to mention crashing a '55 Beetle at 183mph, with 1966 spec roll cage/seat/head restraint/etc. Seriously, I can't believe that the driver wasn't red pulp.

  12. Watch Shrek Avatar

    I usually don’t leave comments on articles, but your post encouraged me to commend your writings. Thank you for writing up this great read, I’ll make sure to bookmark your site and come back once in awhile. Cheers.