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A very special VW at the Volkswagen National Rally in July


My 1970’s Salzburg Rally Beetle replica

By Jakes Cronje


It all started in the early 1970’s, the same time I started life as well.

The sole Austrian Porsche distributor, Porsche Salzburg Austria, seemingly were a bunch of pretty fantastic cooks back in the '70s. Why? Because they were a Porsche distributor, and they wanted to rally.

And they did so, but they entered a Beetle.

You may be thinking "Why don't they enter a Porsche?" but where's the fun in that? Instead they created one of the most amazing rally Beetles, the Salzburg Rally Beetle. It had a Porsche 914 5-speed transmission, and a very heavily modified Beetle engine that put out well over double the stock output to 129 HP.


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My Early years.

My dad was a big Beetle man in the 60’s and 70’s and bought and sold many Beetles during that time on the side to make extra money. His stories of “what a Beetle can do” always stuck in my mind.

As I grew up, I got hooked on rallying during the 80’s in rallying’s glory days when Sarel (Audi Quattro) and Serge (Toyota Conquest) were the local heroes and my bedroom walls was covered in posters from that era.

Rallying was always my choice of sport.

As you get older things change and I then leaned more towards off road bikes and quads, rallying took a sabbatical in my dreams.

The rebirth of a Beetle dream.

Recently a couple of friends and I heard of a Charity event called the Jam Jar Rally, we decided it would be fun and acquired a 1970’s Beetle. Some of the routes we did were the Zuurberg Pass and Die Poort with a total distance of 800km of rough gravel terrain. The Beetle performed flawlessly and I fell in love with it. I bought the car from the team and decided to build a cheap little toy car to go play in the dirt.

GMP Motorsport was approached and asked if it would be possible to covert the standard Beetle into a rally car. The idea was very grey and sketchy, but Grayham thought it was the most insane idea ever and was very excited about it. The build then got completely out of hand, and the one idea just snowballed onto the next idea. The concept went from a basic rally car to a replica Porsche Salzburg Austria and the final result a few months later was a massively modified fully fletched Replica rally car.

The Replica Beetle.

We chose the Salzburg Rally Beetle “theme” from the 1970’s seeing it was Volkswagen’s first rally car.

It made motorsport history in Europe. A lot of research on the internet was done to get the detail and artwork to make the Beetle look authentic.

We decided not to just make it look the part, it needed a heart as well.

I had the honour to have Mike Bishop build me the motor. The result was an 1835 cc big bore kit, race cam, competition big valve heads with stainless steel valves, dual 40mm downdraught carbs. Full-flow oil system with high-flow Melling oil pump and external oil cooler and remote oil filter, Bosch electronic ignition, high pressure fuel pump with fuel regulator. Polyurethane engine mounts were made up for us seeing we kept breaking the standard ones. A stainless steel 4-1 exhaust system was then fitted so the motor can breathe better. Currently we are changing the air intake system to allow clean cool air entering the carbs.

With the heart being taken care of, it needed more attention in other departments. Crucially, we had to stop the Beetle once it got up to speed! So hydraulic disc brakes were fitted front and rear with a hydraulic handbrake. The brake callipers were gusseted as well. Some old school rear spring plate mods were done to try keeping the rear wheels travelling upwards in a straight line as best we can. Billstein shocks were ordered and fitted.

The standard 4 speed Beetle gearbox is still being utilized but has a few mods to it to make it stop jumping out of gear in rough conditions, small issues we found during the Jam Jar Rally.

The gearing is very short and top speed about 150km/h.

As it stands, we have no idea of the Power output! But I feel it is enough.

The interior was a challenge, we tried to keep within the Era and Replica theme, but safety standards has been increased dramatically since the 70’s and if I ever wanted to put the car into a rally, we had no choice but to modernise the interior. The car received a GMP roll cage and then kitted out with everything needed inside a rally car like safety harness, bucket seats, fire extinguishers, GPS odometer, etc.

A new set of modern Dunlop rally tires were also acquired to create the rally theme. Currently the standard 15inch 4,5J Rostyle rims are on but we are in process of making the newly acquired Speedline Corse rally rims fit.

GMP Motorsport ended up spending so much time on the details in building this car it became almost an obsession to get it all perfect. This must be the only Rally car that received that amount of love during it’s built. All rubbers, chrome beadings, lights etc were replaced with new ones.

“When the Beetle was completed it looked more like a museum piece than a rally car and I couldn’t see it being rallied. Many commented that it is just too beautiful to be raced”


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Love at first drive.

During and after the build I had thoughts of selling the Beetle as a Replica, seeing how well it was built and how immaculate the final result was. But the Beetle had other ideas with me, the more I drove it, the more I fell in love with this Beetle. It was absolutely unique and the workmanship on it done by GMP Motorsport was phenomenal.

Then spectating at the recent regional rally at Baywest Mall it dawned on me, everyone was having so much fun rallying and I was standing on the side lines watching whilst I actually have a rally car of my own standing all pretty and begging me to be put on a gravel road. “The Beetle must be rallied” It was decided right there.

With a background of only off road bikes and the occasional few laps in an old 1980’s off road car on my farm, I am now going to do my first rally ever. But it isn’t just any rally, it just happens to be the VW National Rally starting from VWSA factory! And what an awesome event on the rally calendar to start “my rally career” with and most of all in a replica 1970’s Salzburg Rally Beetle.

My navigator is going to be long-time friend Heiko Hnidey who works at VWSA. Born in Germany he has motorsport background, is a complete petrol head and flies hang-gliders. The latter I hope will come in handy with navigational skills, well that’s the theory.

Preserving my “museum piece” will be my first priority and we are just going to drive the stages, try not to get too lost and hopefully I will stick to that strategy and even finish the event. The idea is to enjoy being part of the VW National and I bet that for us even coming in last place, we will feel like we just won the rally to be able to cross the finish line.


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