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2000 Volkswagen Beetle -'00 VW Beetle

A Bug's Broken, beaten and stripped; from shell to show-stopper

Justin Fivella
Dec 12, 2007
Photographer: Sam Du

No stone left unturned, the Beetle represents years of hard work. And it's at times like these Joe recalls the ill-fated morning he recovered the stripped shell of what he once called his car. In that instant, as it lay in pieces, Joe remembered feeling that his dreams of owning the perfect Beetle would never be realized.

Eurp_0712_02_z+vw_beetle+front_view Photo 1/21   |   2000 Volkswagen Beetle -'00 VW Beetle

After thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours, only an empty carcass remained. "To see the car complete and know just how far it's come puts me at a loss for words," Joe said. "I'm just amazed we actually pulled it off."

Although it's a clich to suggest a picture can't do something justice, in this instance, this timeless phrase is apt. No matter the angle, inside or out, lapping a track or winning shows, this Beetle is remarkable. "All my hard work seems worth it when people approach and say they used to hate Beetles until they saw mine.'" Inevitably, this Beetle has seen more changes than most. While nobody's really counting, we noted three stereo systems, two sets of wheels, two body kits, four turbos, two blocks and many axles. "When I created the car I wanted it to be show-and-go; something that would do justice to the long history Porsche and VW share," Joe said. "Once I started in that direction I wanted to create a car that would be a worthy successor to the Beetle RSI Cup cars."

Eurp_0712_10_z+vw_beetle+sound_system Photo 2/21   |   2000 Volkswagen Beetle -'00 VW Beetle

A longtime car enthusiast, it wasn't until 2001 when several of Joe's friends stumbled upon a yellow Beetle on eBay. Shortly after, the ex-Eurotek car was in their hands and on the long road to the top. Buying a completed show car can be a double-edged sword because knowing none of the work is yours can create a conflict. To cure this, Joe and his friends tore into the stereo system with $5000 worth of Kenwood Excelon pieces, and within two weeks it was back on the show scene.Shortly after winning some shows, Joe started building the Beetle of his dreams by attacking the exterior and adding more power. After the existing Caractere kit was tidied, Joe swapped out the upgraded K04 turbo for a larger T3/T4.

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"After that I was at ATP getting a FMIC," Joe said. "And once I got a taste for more power, I just wanted to keep pushing."And push it they did, with Joe deciding to remove the car from the show circuit and spend the remaining year hot-lapping at various track events. Just as Joe began pushing the limits he found the stock block's too, when he grenaded a rod and torched the engine. Upset at the loss, Joe is now able to make light of the situation. "If I were to do it over again, I'd just skip to the top, no T series and no stock block," Joe said.

With cash in hand, Joe contacted Eurospec Sport in Gilroy, CA and based his project around one of their 2.0 Euro blocks. Built for abuse, the shiny block was stuffed with forged internals, a ported head and a GT3040R turbo.

Eurp_0712_05_z+vw_beetle+driveby Photo 4/21   |   2000 Volkswagen Beetle -'00 VW Beetle

While the car was under the knife, Joe also started the stereo concept that still remains. "I decided everything in the car needed to be modular, so I could show it one day, then pull it out and race the next," Joe said. So he chose to revamp the Excelon set up. Still waiting for the motor to be finished, Joe addressed the drivetrain, adding a Eurosport Spec six-speed 'box, a Peloquin differential and a huge clutch. As if that wasn't enough, almost everything destined for the bay was either polished or painted, too!After the new mill was broken in, Joe spun the dyno to over 320whp. And while the car looks like it's never seen the track, Joe races the Beetle regularly. Traction deficient at best, he still managed 12.5sec at 119mph, breaking many axles and motor mounts in the process.

Now that he had a fast car on track and a phat car behind the velvet ropes, Joe was close to his pursuit of the perfect Beetle until that fateful Christmas morning, when he discovered his beloved Beetle was absent. When it was finally recovered, the car was sitting on the ground without wheels, with everything but the new motor and drivetrain taken. Although sickened, Joe saw the "opportunity" as a chance for a fresh start.Over the next 16 months the car went under the knife as Joe addressed every aspect. From that day forward, the path can best be described as pure insanity. "I was lucky enough to score an OEM RSI body kit from Europe for a hefty $4000," Joe said. Although sacrilegious, Joe chopped the exclusive kit and massaged it to fit his custom FMIC and existing body mods.

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Next came the outrageous interior, chock full of hidden screens, gadgets and enough gauges to keep an F-18 pilot busy. They included a Wii, hidden laptop, multiple screens, a second battery and enough SoundStream components to drive you crazy.

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At this point the original yellow was ditched in favor of Porsche's Speed yellow with a green pearl. However, Joe then felt the car needed to be even more outrageous. So 19" DPE wheels were selected. He also added a custom center-hinged carbon hood, and a screen replaced the third brake light on the GT2 wing. Joe added a Lincoln Navigator seat motor to the wing, making it adjustable. Clever beyond belief, he also added pneumatic inboard jacks to raise the car, as well as Porsche/Audi big brakes.

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Still not content, the center console was customized, along with the removal of the OEM fuel tank in exchange for a fuel cell. Think those two holes in the back are a mistake, think again; those fuel fillers are functional.

While Joe is content with his creation, he claims it'll never be done. Currently he's adding a host of new upgrades that include an even bigger GT42RS turbo, new stereo ideas and maybe different suspension.

Caught in the moment, it's easy to write-off a car as just a pretty face, or a project as big money, but people like Joe Ninoba prove that such assumptions and stereotypes are made to be broken.

By Justin Fivella
63 Articles

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