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What is a Volksrod?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated Jan 22, 2024
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A Volksrod is a hot rod that is built from a Volkswagen. The Volkswagen has been used to create many types of hot rods and kit cars due to its simplicity and ease of dis-assembly. The air-cooled engine and transaxle design typically make the Volksrod a good candidate for beginning builders as well as seasoned veterans. In the United States, the California street rod scene has given rise to the Volksrod as a more affordable option to the early American automobile that is the heart and soul of street rodding.

By simply removing the fenders and engine cover and adding over-sized tires, the Volksrod can assume a Baja racer image. The Baja bug has been very successful on the desert racing circuit due, in part, to the air-cooled engine. The rear engine design of the Volksrod allows the driver to aggressively attack the desert terrain without worry of puncturing a radiator and overheating. The rear engine also provides a nice balance for a racing vehicle that will encounter many large jumps and hard landings.

The air-cooled engine of the Volksrod is also very easily converted to a powerful racing engine. Many aftermarket manufacturers offer kits which increase the Volksrod engine's displacement. This, coupled with a wide array of intake designs and header exhaust manifolds, allows builders to create a huge amount of horsepower from the small engine package. Many respected engine builders agree that there is no engine quicker from 0 to 40 mph (0 to 24.84 kph) than a Volkswagen.

Subtle body lines and rounded fenders make the Volkswagen a clone of many of the more favored cars of the 1940s. Resembling a 1940 Ford, the modification of the Bug body turns it into a legitimate hot rod. The unit body construction of the Volkswagen allows builders to create many alterations that are simply not possible with a fully-framed vehicle. Thus, the hot rodding world has embraced the Volkswagen and allowed modified versions of the classic little Bug to sit proudly side by side with traditional hot rods.

The fiberglass dune buggy bodies of the 1970s have given way to radically chopped and modified Volksrod creations rivaling the rods created from Detroit iron. There is an entire culture devoted to the Volksrod and improving its image in the rodding world. Promoting events that feature the little hot rods across the country, the clubs have advocated the Volkswagen becoming a viable option as a hot rod foundation.

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Discussion Comments

By drtroubles — On Aug 14, 2011

Has anyone ever tried to build their own Volksrod? Did you find that it was really a good car for a beginner?

I have been reading through some basic information and it seems to me that the Volksrod is a really affordable way to get started out modifying cars. I have been working with basic auto repairs for a few years now and would really like to branch out into something new.

As far as parts go, do you generally think it is generally better to visit actual scrapyards for your material, or is ordering online to go? I have noticed some deep discounts on parts lately. Though I suppose with shipping it could get pricey.

By lonelygod — On Aug 13, 2011

Volksrods have a huge following online. You can actually find entire websites and forums dedicated to this unique vehicle.

For myself I became interested in Volksrods after spotting a model car in my dad's collection. He had a staggering number of model cars, but the Volksrod always stuck out to me. For some reason I just loved its unique shape.

Right now I have a pretty big collection of Volksrod memorabilia. T-shirts, posters, and of course, many models. I love my collection and hope that one day I will be able to build my own Volksrod. I'll just have to wait for a bit of a funding breakthrough though.

By jcraig — On Aug 13, 2011

@stl156 - One other thing to keep in mind is that Volkswagen Beetles have an older, 1940's looking design, which is an essential among hot rodders. In order to stay true to tradition, hot rodders, who are modifying cars, want to utilize cars that were made in the same era as the Fords.

Considering that the basic design of Volkswagen Beetles has not changed since their conception they prove to be a popular choice among hot rodders, who do not necessarily have to use a car from the 1940's. They could use a Volkswagen Beetle from the 1960's or 70's and modify it into a hot rod. Because the design of the car is the same as it was from the 1940's it is still acceptable to use among hot rodders.

By stl156 — On Aug 12, 2011

@Izzy78 - Although a Volkswagen Beetle seems like an odd choice among hot rodders as a substitute car it is actually a car that makes sense. The Volkswagen, with its German engineering, has a great engine and also has good acceleration, both of which is very appealing to hot rodders.

However, what makes the Volkswagen Beetle appeal most to hot rodders is how easy it is to modify the car to become a hot rod. Because of the body design of the Volkswagen Beetle it makes it very easy to simply modify the body of the car and make several changes, such as adding heightened tires, to make the car look more like a hot rod. Also, since the Volkswagen Beetle is in itself a very odd looking car this already gains interest from people.

By titans62 — On Aug 11, 2011

@Izzy78 - That is a good question. I have also always wondered why of all cars Volkswagen Beetles have gained favor among hot rodders. My only guess would be that as the article stated, Volkswagens are usually cheap cars and they have good engines which are appealable to hot rodders. I also think that the German engineering of the car may gain favor among those who are looking for a new hot rod.

By Izzy78 — On Aug 10, 2011

I wonder why the Volkswagen Beetle is popular among hot rodders. The Volkswagen Beetle itself is a very odd looking car and although they are reputable for having great engines, they are not thought of being speed cars. I just wonder how it came to be that hot rodders started to choose Volkswagens as an alternative to Fords.

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