Cal Look Meets Cool Look. Goolsby Customs Builds a 1963 VW Bug

The 1963 VW Bug, technically called the Beetle, featured a whopping 40 horsepower from its miniscule four-cylinder, 1200cc (1.2-liter) aluminum-magnesium engine. The ‘63 model was often overlooked as no major design changes (outside of a redesigned fan housing, window guides and a few other basic tweaks) made it stand out from earlier versions. The 1963 VW Bug was basic transportation and underpowered, yet charming. America has seemed to have a love affair with the Beetle since it first hit U.S. Soil in 1950.

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel Curve

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel CurveWe know of several prominent hot rod builders who got their start modding VW Beetles, jumping in on the “Cal Look” craze of the 1980s. Alan Johnson and Dave Kindig lead that charge, both making a name for themselves in Hot VW circles early in their careers. In fact, the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association staged killer VW “Bug Bash” events throughout much of the early 90s. With magazines like Hot VW’s priming the pump, the bug show era peaked in the 90s but still survives today with events like Kelley Park and others keeping the “People’s Car” relevant.

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel CurveGoolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel Curve

With the latest masterpiece by Goolsby Customs for client Jeff Powell, perhaps the Beetle Bug might enjoy a spectacular rebirth. The Goolsby Gang has thrown down the gauntlet as to what a new Millennium Cal Look bug should be. Simply put, they took it in a hi-end hot rod direction and its one of the most bitchin’ cars to be revealed this year. So much cool stuff going on here with this 1963 VW Bug.

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel Curve


Let’s start with the color – a muted brownish/grayish custom BASF hue Goolsby named “Texas Brown.” It has a bit of a bite to it, drawing you in closer. We think they got the name “Texas Brown” from the native tarantula spiders in the region. Both have quite a bite! The Goolsby team left the exterior alone for the most part but made a few hot rod enhancements by deleting the windshield wipers and vent windows. They also added the trick front and rear nerf bars, a bullet mirror and those arresting Bosch NOS yellow faced headlights.

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel Curve

Inside the bug, M & M Hot Rod Interiors stitched a spectacular cabin using blue leather seat covers with plaid inserts giving it a euro feel. You might remember the plaid inserts of Volkswagen’s Golf line. It works well in here. Custom inserts and map pockets were added to the door panels for more vintage flair. The ivory knobs are a perfect contrast to the color-matched dash.

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel Curve

Like all Goolsby builds, stance and wheel choice are on point with Powell’s Bug. Using Pete Skiba’s Air-Kewld Stage 1 PRObuilt Adjustable Beam and RideTech adjustable shocks all around, the car is ridiculously low! Like maybe two inches off the ground low. And in our game, low is lord. The business end of the bug features a Rancho close ratio Pro Street transaxle. With Wilwood 4-wheel disc brakes and trick Erco spun aluminum 15-inch wheels Powell’s goal of having a euro race-inspired hot rod Beetle was easily achieved. The titanium lightweight Porsche lug nuts are drilled, and safety wired adding even more racy flair.

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel Curve

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel Curve

Engine wise, they went all in. The 40 hp weakling was swapped out for a 2275cc air cooled monster running dual 48mm Webers. With wedge port heads, stainless valves, titanium retainers, 94mm Wiseco forged pistons and a custom ground billet Eagle bumpstick, this beetle has more bite than one of those Texas Brown tarantula’s. Making it all go is the 200mm CB Performance dual friction carbon clutch. To get it to launch, stick and bite, M & H Racemaster 215/65/15 rear tires were called in for duty. We don’t remember the last time we saw M & H Racemasters on a street car! Both Marv Rifchin and Ernie Hashim are smiling down from horsepower heaven.

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel Curve

Goolsby Customs 1963 VW Bug, Fuel Curve

Seeing and photographing this car was a real highlight for us. It brought back great memories while also showing the evolution of restyled, racy air cooled bugs. It begs this question; Which hot rod builder will be next to step up and offer their take on Cool Look? We’re waiting.

Senior Editor, Digital Media

With three decades of automotive journalism under his belt, John Drummond serves as Senior Editor – Digital Media for Fuel Curve and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association where he has worked since 1990. Drummond got his start in motorsports reporting by making a fake press pass to gain starting line access. The ruse worked and he began covering auto races as far back as 1986 in Northern California, eventually getting his stories published worldwide. He has owned and driven everything from a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere to a ridiculously modded Subaru WRX as well as a string of Mercedes AMG’s, most of which had the warranties voided the day after leaving the dealership.

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