If seeing the picture of Troy River’s shortened VW Bus pulling a wheelie doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I don’t know how you can call yourself a hot rodder.
Troy’s motto is “Life is too short to drive boring cars”, and he lives by that. His garages contain a wide variety of hot rods. There are several Volkswagens: his Murder Bug, a ‘64 Bug, a Baja Bug, a Thing, and his daily driver 1970 (full sized) Bus. He’s also got a Dodge Viper, two Shelby Chargers, a Jeep, and a pickup.
From that lineup, you can probably guess that Troy’s got a real fondness for VWs, and it goes back to the very beginning of his hot rodding journey.
“When I was 15 I was looking for a car,” Troy said. “I’d been saving up money cutting grass. I wanted an older car. I would have loved to have had an old Mopar muscle car but those were way out of my price range.
“I saw some Beetles that had been made into hot rods. I decided to start looking for one and found my Baja Bug, a few miles from my house. I bought it for $1700 and never looked back. I’ve been obsessed with them ever since.”
If you’re more of an American V8 kind of hot rodder, you may not be aware that hot rodding Volkswagen flat four engines is pretty common. It was a big thing in the 70s, and with the Beetles’ low curb weight, modifications like a cam, pistons, headers, and intake could result in a pretty quick car. Like 10 seconds in the quarter-mile quick.
Troy’s got a huge variety of the classic air cooled VW engines in his cars. They range from the original 1192 cc, 40 horsepower (!) engine in his 1964 Beetle to the highly modified engines in his ‘67 Murder Bug (which has quite a following in North Georgia car shows) and Baja Bug. Troy told me parts are still readily available for them, and that they’re fun to work on.
“They’re super easy,” he said, “which is one of the reasons why I’ve had so many. I’ve had an engine out in literally five minutes. There’s not much mechanically that I haven’t done on one of them.”
But his newest Bus isn’t in Garage Hot Rods for its horsepower. It’s here because it’s a very cool customized classic car.
And because it pulls wheelies. Forward and backward.
Troy got the Bus in October. He bought it from someone – also, as you might expect, a big Volkswagen guy – that he’d met at a car show a few years ago.
The Bus was originally built in the 1980s by a father and son who owned a Volkswagen junk yard. Apparently, cutting up VW Buses was something they used to do often, mostly because there were a lot of the Buses back then.
Although Troy’s Bus looks like an extreme custom, it is actually fairly easy to shorten them because the engine and drivetrain are completely contained in the rear of the vehicle.
“I can see where they cut the wiring,” Troy told me, “and the accelerator and clutch cables. Outside of that it’s pretty straight forward. You don’t have any driveshaft to worry about.”
When Troy got it, the Bus needed some work, especially the brakes. He took it to a local VW guy that Troy relies on for routine work, who got it up and going. “He got it to where it ran well enough to do a wheelie,” Troy said, “and stop good enough to bring the back tires off the ground.”
Then Troy set out to put his touches on it.
Troy and his wife Lindsay decided on the coral and cream two color paint. They also added just a little bit of painted on patina for a nice aged look.
The 1600 cc engine is slightly larger than the one Volkswagen installed originally, but it is still basically stock. The four-speed manual transaxle is also stock. The transaxle is the same as what was used in a Bug, but has gear reduction boxes added at the axle tubes to provide more torque for the larger Buses. Troy’s Bus still rides on the factory suspension and four wheel drum brakes.
Inside Troy put Mexican blankets on the seats, and made and installed carpet, door panels and a headliner. He also added a custom platform in the back.
A first generation Volkswagen Bus is certainly not the best handling car ever produced, and you can bet that’s even more true with the wheelbase on Troy’s shortened so dramatically. He says it’s a handful to drive.
“I haven’t really had it on the road yet,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of driving around the neighborhood. You definitely have to be careful. You can just about sit there and do a 360. If you brake too hard, the back tires come off the ground. If you accelerate too hard the front tires come off the ground.”
Troy’s got the Bus looking and running the way he likes it, so he told me his future plans are to “just have fun with it. I’ll take it to some local shows, and probably eventually sell it for the next fun toy.”
Personally, I’m hard pressed to imagine that Troy’s next toy will be more fun than this one.
All photos courtesy of Troy Rivers
Click here to see more pictures of the Bus
You can follow Troy on Instagram via @CarCrazyTeacher