These Aussies Are Building a High-Tech Racecar With A Beetle Engine, and They're Documenting It On YouTube

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

High-tech computer-aided design has made relative child’s play out of laying out new ideas when building cars and eliminates tedious, expensive, and time-consuming trial-and-error. Some Australians have taken to YouTube to show off what they can do when they turn their multi-core processors toward the most basic form of motorsport: Formula Vee.

For those who aren’t hip to amateur motorsports, Formula Vee is a class of single seat, open-wheel racecars powered by Volkswagen air-cooled flat four engines, such as those found in the original Beetle. Engine size and modification regulations vary between nations and sanctioning bodies, but in general, these are very low-powered racecars.

Aerodynamics, light weight, and handling balance can make a significant difference when all the cars have maybe 60 horsepower, so using computer power to maximize design isn’t as surprising as it might seem. Thomsen Motorsport has detailed the process of its design, which at this point runs and drives, but hasn’t yet turned a wheel in anger.

The builders start from a wooden plug on which they form the body, and continue to design and build the steel tube-frame chassis, exhaust system, subframe for the powertrain, suspension, and even a custom fuel cell.

One of the most recent videos steps away from the computer screen and looks at a shakedown run in a parking lot — sure to draw the attention of the local constabulary in the oft-litigious United States, but apparently quite acceptable Down Under, even with its notorious anti-hooning laws.

It’s a fascinating look at the process of building a racecar, and one that applies no matter the formula. Follow along with the project on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • -Nate -Nate on Dec 08, 2016

    I thought Formula Vee was limited to 1200 CC (40hp) VW engines ? . The image shown has a twin port and I haven't seen the 'D' cased 1200 twin port engine since the 1980's.... A young guy I know found and bought an original Formula Vee car and let it sit in the corner of his shop unloved until he left it behind when he sold the whole shop out of boredom . GRrrrrrrr. I so wanted to make it run and give it a spin . -Nate

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    • Turboencabulator Turboencabulator on Dec 08, 2016

      @Chris Tonn You guys should check out Project Binky on YouTube. They're stuffing the drivetrain of an ST-185 Celica GT-4 into a 1980's Austin Mini. It's from the gang at Bad Obsession Motorsports. It's funny and very instructive! It would be worth it to make a post about them too.

  • -Nate -Nate on Dec 08, 2016

    ? does this mean it'll be run with Positive Earthing too ? . . -Nate

  • Redapple2 Another bad idea from the EVIL gm Vampire.
  • Daniel J Alabama is a right to work state so I'd be interested in how this plays out. If a plant in Alabama unionized, there are many workers who's still oppose joining and can work.
  • ToolGuy This guest was pretty interesting.
  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."