Hot Wheels has selected a 1956 Volkswagen Beetle as the finalist for the 2022 Legends Tour. nicknamed “Berlin Buick” and powered by a mid-mounted V8 engine.
Owner Rob Freeman drove from Syracuse, New York, to Southern California to participate in the Los Angeles stop of the Legends Tour 2022. He told Hot Wheels he started toying with the idea of building a Beetle with a mid-engine when he was a kid. He started the project several years later by buying a 1956 oval-window model for $1,000 and removing the factory-fitted air-cooled flat-four engine.
He chose to power the Beetle with a Buick-sourced 215-cubic-inch (3.5-litre) V8 because it’s a relatively compact and lightweight engine – these attributes also explain why the evolutions of this eight powered a long list of European cars for decades, although Volkswagen never used it. The V8 is mounted behind the front seats, in the space formerly occupied by the back seat, and it sends 300 horsepower to the huge rear wheels via a manual transmission. The list of modifications also includes a bespoke independent rear suspension system.
With the powertrain sorted, Freeman turned his attention to the body. He lowered the roof about four inches, removed the running boards, and went so far as to install chrome side trim from a 1957 Buick. The exhaust system is one of the more interesting modifications to this Beetle: The V8 exhales through eight ports (four on each side) shaped like portholes that Buick installed on some of its cars in the early 1950s.
Open the suicide doors, peek inside, and you’ll spot a steering wheel and dash pieces donated from a 1949 Buick. Custom upholstery lines the seats, door panels, and floors, and the engine is installed just a few centimeters from the passengers.
Freeman’s Beetle will compete in one of the semi-finals scheduled for later in 2022 for a chance to join the Hot Wheels catalog of 1/64 scale die-cast models, which means it could find its way to your local toy store (and eventually to your office) in the not-too-distant future. To win, he’ll have to fend off competition from a growing list of competitors, including a 3,000+ horsepower dragster based on a Porsche 928, a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle powered by a Volvo engine and a turbodiesel-powered 1931 Dodge Rat. . Rod builds as a family project.
Some of Berlin Buick’s competition will come from abroad. As this heavily modified Beetle basked in the California sunshine, a panel of judges including former Jaguar Land Rover designer Ian Callum chose a 1963 Ford Anglia-based hot rod (pictured above) to represent the UK during the 2022 Legends Tour. Called “The Misfit” and built by Michael Charalambous, it’s powered by a supercharged BMW 3 Series engine and built on a bespoke chassis that incorporates Ford and Hillman Imp parts.