1957 VW BeetleOutlaw "Death"
Year of manufacture1957
Franz Muhr’s interpretation of an Outlaw Beetle strays as far from Volkswagen’s original mission as perhaps any custom Bug. This car stands just 36 inches tall, a mere three feet separating the highest point of its curved roof from the asphalt under the tires wrapped around its American Racing wheels. Even in the world of chopped and channeled lowriders, that’s an impressively low roofline. Lower yet, it barely clears two inches above the ground. The custom Beetle is so impossibly low that the editors at Hot Rod called it “the most outrageous thing we saw the entire year” when they named it one of their top 10 customs in 2008.
“Squat” is an understatement for the car put together by Muhr’s Kustom Coach Werks in Grand Junction, Colorado. Muhr sourced a ’56 Baja Bug project that had been abandoned long before and reimagined it as a VW-powered car that might come from a cartoonish interpretation of a wild Bonneville weekend. The roof was chopped a full eight inches at the B-pillars and an extra inch at the windshield and rear window, resulting in a four-inch windshield from which the driver peeks at the road ahead. The car gained its nickname, “Death,” by virtue of its outward visibility through the gun-slit window openings.
The car stays as planted to the road as it looks due to torsion bars nabbed from a pre-1963 Type 2 that are mounted without shock absorbers. Disc brakes provide stopping power. Because the body sits so low to the ground, the engine and transaxle were actually raised with custom mounts to avoid excessive negative camber. The car’s builder relished in its propensity to bottom out, joking to Hot Rod that adding power helps extract it from perilous situations. The 1,914 cc flat-four features Mahle 94-millimeter flat-top forged pistons and runs at a 9:1 compression ratio. Given that the minimalist Beetle tips the scales at a mere 1,300 pounds, power is not an issue.
“Death” is a raw machine, with the scars, wounds, and patina to prove this Beetle is a cheeky Bug no longer, even if a bright turquoise hue that once covered its body is visible when the doors are opened. Its interior features a right-hand-drive dashboard, seats with visible springs, and burlap-covered door panels and seat backs. Comfort hardly extends to its interior.
For the unintimidated, “Death” awaits.
Please note that contrary to the printed catalogue, this car is titled as a 1957 and by the identification no. 1417120.
To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/tg19.