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The Beetle Years (1970 thru April 1976)

My dad was part-owner of a short-track effort in Central Florida in the mid-50's thru early 60's, so I've been around racing pretty much my entire life. It wasn't until I met Mike Eakin (now known as "Purple Frog") as a freshman at FSU in 1968 that I realized I could do this as well. Until that time basketball was my consuming passion, but any dreams of playing sports for a living were quicky destroyed by sharing the floor during practice sessions with future NBA players Dave Cowens (who later starred for the Celtics) and Roland Garrett (five years as sixth man for the Bulls). It hard to see now, but if you look very closely you can still see "Spalding" imprinted backwards on my forehead - those guys fed me my lunch daily! <g>

"The '62"

I was all about big American V-8's and turning left, but Mike exposed me to the concept that the lowly VW Beetle could be a performance car. Before the 1969 school year my dad traded an old Jeep and $375 for a '62 VW that became my daily driver, then I spent most of my time and all my money modifying it over the years. While going to school I was also working for EMPI Southeast (the local VW performance shop in Tallahassee), so I was able to slowly build a 1600cc engine with dual-port heads, a single Zenith 32NDIX, carb, a 3/4 cam, 10:1 compression, lightened flywheel, and extractor exhaust. We never put it on a dyno, but we guessed it was putting out around 100 hp and verified multiple times on FL 267 thru the Chattahoochee National Forest it would run a legitimate 100 mph.

Here's what we ended up with:

This was taken at the only autocross I ran at Dale Mabry Field in 1972 (note the rear wheels turned around to give us the wide-stanch look). Because of the engine modifications I was put in the B-Mod class, and when I got outrun by a '65 Chevy pick-up (also modified) I decided I needed a dedicated vehicle rather than using my daily driver.