Modded Volkswagen Beetle – Should You Buy Or Build One?

Modded Volkswagen Beetle – Should You Buy Or Build One?

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most iconic and recognizable cars in the world.  Additionally, a modded Volkswagen Beetle is a common find mainly due to their recognizable shape, remarkable longevity, and enormous fan base.

Some people decide to modify their Beetles to increase their performance, help them navigate difficult terrain or weather conditions, or for better efficiency while others simply enjoy the upgraded looks.

With a “mindblowing” 25hp and a top speed of 62 mph, the original Beetle certainly lived up to its cheap, uncomplicated reputation. But perhaps those were eye-popping fast figures in the 1930s. In contrast, the final 2019 Beetle has a 2.0L turbo-four engine with 174 horsepower and modern tech features inside.

It really is proof of how times have changed. However, one thing hasn’t changed: the Beetle is still a tonne of fun to drive. It’s difficult to look at that jovial body design without grinning at least a little. Here we will explain, all about the mod-potential of the Beetle and also how to build a custom VW Beetle.

History Of The Volkswagen Beetle

Adolf Hitler commissioned the Beetle in the 1930s to serve as the “people’s automobile” (or volks wagen in German). Ferdinand Porsche created a curvy little car that was reliable, practical, and economical.

The “Bug,” as it was lovingly called, gained significance three decades later as a representation of the 1960s. It was a rear-engine rear-wheel-drive car made to accommodate five people.

Look no further than the Volkswagen Type 1, sometimes known as the Beetle, to see possibly the most popular and hackable car in history. No doubt, it’s well-regarded as one of the easiest cars to mod.

The methods by which this car was altered over the course of its 65-year production cycle to meet the needs of a wide spectrum of people demonstrate that successful design, usability, and simplicity are essential for any project or product.

Germany stopped producing Beetles in the late 1970s. But in 1998 Volkswagen introduced the New Beetle but this time it was a front-wheel-drive hatchback. It was essentially a VW Golf but was intended to be a visual homage to the original Type 1 design.

The New Beetle was superseded by the Beetle (A5) in 2011 for the 2012 model year. It is also frequently referred to as the New Beetle. Various variations of this model were still being produced in Puebla, Mexico, up until the final vehicle rolled off the production line on July 10, 2019.

But the popularity of the Beetle extends beyond simply the garages of auto aficionados. Type 1s were employed as taxicabs in Mexico City up until 2012. Around half of Mexico City’s taxis in 2006 were dependable old Beetles. But that number gradually decreased as taxi licenses ran out.

In addition to taxicabs (in which case, perhaps you might even consider learning how to drive for Uber), it’s widely utilized as a foundation for a Volkswagen truck, off-road campers, and ambulances.

Beetle RSi (2001–2003)

The RSi is a 250-unit limited-production variant of the New Beetle. It featured Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, a 3.2-liter VR6 engine with 221hp a 6-speed gearbox, and Remus twin-pipe exhaust. Although it was falsely claimed that Porsche performed the suspension tuning, VW itself actually did it.

It had a rear cross brace behind the rear seats, 3.1-inch bigger fenders, distinctive front, and rear bumpers, a rear diffuser, and a sizable rear wing. The car featured 18×9 OZ Superturismo wheels with 235/40ZR-18 tires. Carbon fiber, billet aluminum, and neon orange leather were used as interior trim while the front seats were Recaro racing buckets.

VW Beetle Years To Avoid

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most famous vehicles of all time. As iconic as the Coca-Cola bottle and the Vespa, it has been deeply ingrained in popular culture thanks to its distinctive rounded shape. In 1938, German firm Volkswagen created the Beetle as a budget-friendly vehicle aimed at the general public.

VW went on to produce three iterations of the vehicle, which is estimated to have sold over 22.5 million units prior to its final manufacturing year in the United States in 2019.

The Bug won numerous industry honors during this time, including the title of “Import Car of the Year” from Motor Trend in 1999 and the Vincentric Best Value in America Award in 2019.

Any prospective automobile buyer considering a used VW Bug should be aware that VW’s past has a few flaws. Here we have listed the numerous drawbacks and issues that affected all three generations. We will outline the years to steer clear of when shopping for a used Beetle.

For a greater overview of Volkswagen’s and its reputation for reliability, we have a guide on how long do VW cars last, in addition to Volkswagen reliability. We also have model-specific write-ups such as the Volkswagen Tiguan problems, Volkswagen Jetta problems, and the VW Atlas problems, to give you a better idea.

VW Beetle Years To Avoid: First Generation Beetle

Between 1950 to 1979, classic VW Beetles were sold in the US. They then made a comeback in 1998. The early model’s straightforward 1.1-liter air-cooled VW Beetle engine made them relatively simple to maintain and repair.

Regardless of the model year, corrosion is one of the most crucial things to check for when purchasing a vintage Beetle. Rusty old VW Bugs are a disgrace. The wheel wells, the front tub, the running boards, the bumper bracket mounts, and any dents in the bodywork that can eventually lead to corrosion are typical areas to check for rust on a classic Bug.

The 1974 Super Beetle and other vintage Volkswagen Beetles produced after 1968 haven’t yet attained the status of collector cars. So bear in mind to purchase a Type 1 Beetle before 1967 if you plan to eventually resell your vintage VW Bug.

The originality of the car will determine how much more its worth will increase. Additionally, it’s simple to find vintage Beetle parts, and upkeep on these vehicles is not too expensive.

VW Beetle Years To Avoid: Second Generation Beetle

In general, each new generation of autos gets better. However, the VW New Beetle went in the other direction. Numerous problems plagued this version of the Beetle. They range from issues with the electronics and interior trim to issues with the engine and transmission.

Repair Pal offers a thorough analysis of the new Beetle. This includes a caution about the likelihood that the engine could overheat as a result of a broken water pump impeller on the Beetle. According to reports, this problem affects nine Beetle model years, from 1998 to 2007. states that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has mentioned concerns with the automatic transmission in the 2004 model year of the VW Beetle. There is a myriad of VW Beetle problems in this era.

According to, the ignition switch was defective in the 2001, 2004, and 2005 Beetle models. This might result in the battery failing to hold a charge and the fusebox melting. Faulty window regulators, which impacted various models from 2001 to 2009, are another typical electrical problem, according to them.

In conclusion, reliability-wise, the new Beetle doesn’t have a great track record. reports that the 2000 model year received the most complaints. They also advise against buying the 2004 model. This is due to its increased repair expenses, particularly when dealing with a defective transmission.

VW Beetle Years To Avoid: Third Generation Beetle

VW acknowledged the shortcomings of the A5 bug’s predecessor. The company made a number of adjustments to the manufacturing procedures at Volkswagen’s plant in Mexico. However, some problems did continue to exist among this younger group.

Engine problems plagued earlier models from 2012 and 2013, especially the 2.0 TSI models. Defective window regulators were one of the most significant electrical problems that weren’t fixed in the subsequent model until 2013.

Additionally, the NHTSA issued a recall for this version of the VW A5 Beetle to replace the faulty Takata airbags. These were installed in approximately 370,000 VW Bugs produced between 2012 and 2019. Volkswagen substantially improved the A5 Beetle in 2016.

As was mentioned above, earlier models from 2012 and 2013 had a number of issues, so it is best to stay away from them.

VW Beetle Engine

New Beetle (1998-2011) Engines And Tuning Potential

The 1.8 NASP (naturally aspirated) should be ignored because it is incredibly lifeless, and switching to the Turbo is the only way to significantly increase power. The NASP 1.8 is an engineering headache, even while adding a turbo to it. If you’re still unsure if that’s a possibility, our guide on can you put a turbo in any car ought to be handy.

The 1.8T is the preferred engine as it can be tweaked fairly easily and doesn’t need many modifications. The 3.2 RSi model, which was produced later, demonstrated the high performance this sturdy chassis is capable of supporting.

Both the 150hp and 180hp versions of the 1.8T offer similar tweaking options. The 180hp version just has slightly stronger injectors and intake ports. (Other options for performance include the incredibly uncommon 3.2 RSi and the slick 2.3 V5 engine).

If you own the 150hp version of the Beetle, a fuel pressure regulator will help deliver adequate fuel to your tuned engine. The new beetle only came with a 1.9TDi 105hp diesel engine, which can, incidentally, be easily modified to produce 130hp. Engine swaps are a common modification for this vehicle.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle

New Beetle A5 (2012-2019) Engines And Tuning Potential

The 2.0 TSi and 2.5 TSi as well as the 2.0 TDi Diesel are the engines we would choose for the A5 platform Beetle. These motors are surprisingly good in this chassis. The 1.4 TSi is a worthy competitor and offers good economy and power, but when it comes to tuning, the 2.0 engines upwards give a better return.

Larger turbocharged engines produce the biggest power boost. Small engines benefit greatly from engine swaps since the more you start with, the more you receive back. Although the return on investment is substantially lower, smaller engines without turbochargers can also be converted.

You would need a lot more power to get a 10-second Beetle. But some that weigh less than 2,500 lbs and have about 500 horsepower can come quite close. This requires a 2.5 TFSi engine that needs to be been substantially modified and converted to rear-wheel drive.

VW Beetle ECU Remap

The OEM factory Map takes into account weather variations, minor manufacturing faults, and inclement weather. Since it is unusual for countries to set distinct objectives for CO2, HC, and NOx emissions, a map will often follow the lowest common denominator.

In order to reduce insurance costs, increase fuel efficiency, and enhance the overall performance of their vehicles, VW also uses engine remaps to increase the power of their engines. This allows them to offer two or more models based on the same mechanical components but with various maps.

You might want to think about remapping your Beetles engine if you want to increase its performance. All VW turbocharged engines have the capability of being remapped to produce an additional 20–30% more power.

A remap makes sense because the great majority of modders will be replacing their components with ones that are higher spec. However, be wary that there will be a requirement for more frequent routine maintenance with a remapped car.

Clogged air filters and injectors, dirty plugs, and leads are a few potential problems that may occur which wouldn’t have occurred with the OEM map.

Volkswagen Beetle Turbo

Two turbocharged engines were available with the second-gen Beetle. The first one is the 1.9 L TDI turbodiesel with 100hp was discontinued after the 2006 model year due to stricter emissions regulations.

The other one is the 1.8 L turbo inline-four with 150hp in the Turbo and Sport models. The 1.8 L turbo engine produced a higher 180 horsepower in the Turbo S variant (sold from 2002 to 2004). In the A5 Beetle, the 1.9L TDI engine from the previous model was kept and a new turbocharged, 1.8-liter four-cylinder TSI engine was introduced in 2015.

VW replaced that 1.8-liter engine with a different 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 174 horsepower for the 2018 model year. This was the only engine available for the Beetle in 2018 and 2019.

Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Upgrades

An engine can burn more gasoline when there is more air in it, therefore increasing induction with a turbocharger modification produces excellent power gains. When an automobile is equipped with a turbocharger, the parts produce superior power improvements and the components used to build turbocharged engines are frequently forged and stronger.

The New Beetle came equipped with the K03 and K03S turbos from the VAG group. The K03 turbo was available from 1996 to 2000, when it was superseded by K03S with a comparable increase in performance.

K03 turbos were utilized with relatively straightforward 1.8T AGU engines. These engines feature the conventional cable-operated throttle, a MAF sensor, and relatively smaller injectors.

The AUM engines, which include MAP sensors in addition to MAF sensors, employ the K03S turbos. These engines have an upgraded drive-by-wire throttle, which provides a quicker reaction and enhances performance and fuel efficiency.

The number of blades in each turbo represents their primary distinction. While the K03S only has eight blades, the K03 has eleven.

190 horsepower is the K03’s safest power level while it is around 215 for the K03S. Anything more puts the turbo’s survival in danger. It is claimed that the K03 and K03S can produce up to 220 and 250 horsepower respectively. This indicates that there is still opportunity for advancement, but anticipate a shorter turbo life.

The next turbo-upgrade option is the K04 turbo which has a considerable competitive advantage. The K04 is greater in size than the K03 or K03S. It has some latency at the bottom but considerably greater power at the top.

The K04 can create roughly 350 horsepower when equipped with the right parts, while the safe limit would be 220hp.

VW Bug Off Road

In the 60s and 70s, few people began to discover that the Beetle was ideally suited for off-road racing. Due to the type of suspension and the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive design, this car could perform well in desert racing without four-wheel drive. Stock Beetles and Baja Bugs, which are modified Beetles, still have classes in this race.

The use of these cars to construct various types of buggies is also fairly common. The most popular of these is the Meyers Manx. This one has a separate open-style body but employs a reduced Beetle chassis and engine.

The vehicle was an instant hit, winning numerous off-road competitions and gaining popularity even as a street car. These or other buggies constructed in the same manner are still frequently seen nowadays.

Baja Bug Volkswagen

An original Volkswagen Beetle that has been modified to operate off-road is known as the Baja Bug. They are mostly utilized in sand dunes, beaches, and open deserts. They are frequently seen in forests and woodlands. A Baja Bug driver loves a good challenge. A Baja Bug can be identified by its exposed engine and taller bodywork.

It all started in southern California with the Baja Bug. It served as a less expensive alternative to the popular sand rail or dune buggies. In 1968, Gary Emory invented the first one of these.

Before fiberglass body panels were commercially available, early Baja racers and amateurs simply altered the mechanicals and body of an old VW to create a vehicle suitable for off-road competitions.

You will attract an absurd amount of attention if you drive a Baja Bug. The car’s exposed engine lacks any type of pollution technology, including mufflers. Definitely a performance beast it is. The spare tire may typically fit in the trunk.

The front and rear aprons, as well as the fenders, are typically chopped away on Baja Bugs to increase ground clearance and suspension travel. One of the main benefits of owning a Baja Bug is that repairs don’t require a master mechanic.

The VW Beetle was created with a focus on functionality. By removing everything from the inside (like the hood, the floor mats, the seat cushions, and the back seats) from the vehicle that you don’t need, the Baja Beetle takes this to a new level. Heaters and radiators are absent and you must completely disassemble the car to the bone.

Building A Baja Buggy

You can build a Baja Bug yourself if you’re handy. With the proper planning and equipment, it isn’t that difficult and can be completed over the course of a weekend.

Four jack stands, a floor jack, a socket set, and ratchet, sprint bars, a new front bumper, bigger wheels and tires for the Baja Bug, a huge hammer, a chisel, masking tape, and safety goggles are required for this task.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 1: Removing The Wheels

Loosen the lug nuts on the wheels. Utilizing a floor jack, raise the Beetle and place it on jack supports in each of its four corners. The four wheels are now removed.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 2: Removing The Engine Cover And Rear Bumper

You’ll need to unbolt the hinges holding the cover to the body in order to accomplish this. Brackets that bolt to the chassis and are removed with a socket secure the bumper in place.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 3: Removing The Rear Fenders And Running Boards

The fasteners holding the back fenders to the body should be removed. The fasteners holding the side running boards on also must be removed. Fender beading between the fenders and the body should be taken off and stored for future use.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 4: Removing Wires And Throttle Cable

The throttle cable connecting to the carburetors should be undone, along with the cables for the taillights. Remove the engine tin from its engine bay by unbolting it. They are bolted onto the trim parts.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 5: Cutting Off The Rear Apron

Cut off the rear apron using a Sawzall or an angle grinder (this is the rear bodywork below the engine bay of the vehicle).

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 6: Removing The Engine

During this phase, exercise caution. Remove the engine from the engine bay. The motor is fastened to the gearbox with bolts and secured in place at the back of the engine compartment by a cross-member.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 7: Cutting The Fenders To The Required Shape

First, use masking tape to draw out the shape you want them to take after the fenders are cut. Now cut the fenders that you marked with a jigsaw. Remember to leave enough bolt holes so you can fasten the fenders to the Beetle body again.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 8: Removing The Welds

On the interior of the engine compartment, there are welds for the channel holding the engine to the body gasket. Remove these welds. To do this, you can use a chisel and a hammer. With the Sawzall, remove the material from the downward-facing channel.

Clean up the cuts with a grinder before spray painting the interior of the engine bay. Smoothly move the paint back and forth across the surface from about 10 inches away.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 9: Reinstalling The Baja Bug Engine – VW Buggy Engine Swap

Reconnect the throttle cable to the carburetors, wire the taillights, and reinstall the engine. The majority of Baja Bugs feature an engine that is 1600 or 1800 cc.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle, Building A Baja Buggy, Step 10: Putting The Wheels Back In

Reinstall the Beetle’s wheels and lower the vehicle and you are now done with your Baja build.

Hot Rod VW Bug

The Beetle is well-liked by hot rod enthusiasts due to how simple it is to modify them. The “Volksrod” scene is quite active, with modifications ranging from heavily modified suspensions and new axles to body panel removal, chop tops, and engine tuning.

There are Beetles in less extreme variations as well. In essence, these automobiles are incredibly adaptable, components are easily accessible. All of this combined with the car’s distinctiveness make it extremely popular for a variety of reasons.

Classic Beetles are well-liked in drag racing for the same reasons they make excellent off-road vehicles. The engine and transmission are immediately above the rear wheels which is the main reason for this. They frequently perform thrilling wheelies as a result of this.

Despite some having non-Volkswagen engines, Beetles are still destroying drag strips with little modifications. In a related race, despite the participants’ prejudice towards Volkswagen, a mostly-stock Beetle defeated a brand-new Porsche 911 in a mile-long race.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle: In Conclusion…

The VW Beetle was the world’s longest-running and most-produced vehicle built on a single platform with more than 21 million vehicles produced. This classic car has been there for 65 years, and many of the older ones are still in use today. Naturally, with so many of these on the road, people have started altering their Bugs for both performance and style.

Modified VW Beetles may be seen all over the world, whether they are works of art or high-performance vehicles. We probably won’t see an end to this trend any time soon. With the more recent New Beetles appearing to be spawning in cities everywhere the Bug is still and will forever be an enthusiasts’ favorite.

However, if you’re not a Bug fan and still want something to modify, we have a guide on the best project cars under 5k, as well as the cheapest project cars on the market. Just like the Beetle, they have an abundance of modification potential and can be bought for little to no money. Maybe there’s a car for you in there.

Modded Volkswagen Beetle

FAQs On Modded Volkswagen Beetle

Are Volkswagens Reliable

Even though Volkswagen’s reliability is in doubt, the Consumers’ Association found that it is still one of the most reliable German automakers. Volkswagen makes several excellent and durable vehicles. However, its Touareg, Atlas, and Passat models are what consistently receive low reliability scores.

Where Is Volkswagen Made

Volkswagen has production facilities all around the world. Actually, there are 100 Volkswagen production facilities spread over 27 nations. On five continents, Volkswagen produces both its cars and its component parts. The largest VW manufacturing facility is located in Wolfsburg, Germany, the brand’s birthplace.

Are Volkswagen Beetles Good Cars

The Beetle was rated better than average by critics who praised its entertaining styling and decent driving characteristics. With ratings of 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the interstate, it was also fuel-efficient. However, detractors criticized the cramped rear seats, small cargo area, and subpar reliability ratings.

Who Designed The Volkswagen Beetle

It took Ferdinand Porsche, the project’s lead engineer, and his group until 1938 to complete the design. Béla Barényi is credited with coming up with the basic idea for this car in 1925. This was five years before Porsche claimed to have completed its initial version. It was credited by Mercedes-Benz on their website, and they also have his original technical sketch.

How Much Does A Volkswagen Beetle Cost

Depending on the age, mileage, and condition of the vehicle you’re considering, a used Volkswagen Beetle can range in price from $7,490 to $43,590. The price range for a vintage or classic car, however, is more in the range of $15,000 to $28,000.

Are VW Beetles Reliable

The Volkswagen Beetle is a reliable vehicle. In fact, it has a 4.0 out of 5.0 reliability rating according to Despite having an above-average reliability rating, the Beetle is ranked 24th out of 36 compact cars on RepairPal.

Does Volkswagen Still Make The Beetle

The Beetle’s poor sales performance was the primary factor in Volkswagen ceasing its production in 2019. Two unique models, the Final Edition SE and Final Edition SEL were created for the final-year range to honor the Beetle’s heritage.

Are Volkswagen Beetles Safe

You’ll be happy to know that the Volkswagen New Beetle has a superior safety rating compared to the vintage Beetle. Since 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has awarded the bug a flawless five stars out of five (NHTSA).

How Long Do Volkswagen Beetles Last

A well-maintained VW Beetle can last 200,000 miles or more. These vehicles are built to last for a very long period. While you own the car, there are some things you may do to extend its lifespan. Pay attention to gauges, lights, and alerts. Ignoring these warning signals could result in costly and serious damage to your car and leave you stranded.

Where Is The Engine In A Volkswagen Beetle

The original – first-gen Beetle was a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive car. In contrast to it, the New Beetle has its engine at the front, driving the front wheels, and luggage storage in the back.

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