Over the years, the Porsche wheel trend has become particularly popular in the VW and Audi scene, with companies like H&R Springs selling wheel adapters to modify the bolt pattern of cars, contributing to the growing OEM+ movement.
From old Rabbits to newer GTIs and Jettas, the Porsche wheel craze thrived through the ’90s and remains popular today. But Steve Gaspar took it a step further; from the wheels to the brakes and interior, he wanted his entire New Beetle project car to be entirely Porsche-themed.
Now in his 40s, Steve has accomplished his goal. The ’02 Turbo S sports a Porsche makeover with Ruf inspiration. The road towards building the car didn’t come easy though, especially as his first water-cooled Volkswagen. In fact, his background isn’t even in cars but music.
I’ve been writing songs my whole life, he began. I’ve played keyboard and toured with a lot of people. When I wanted to settle down, I began producing records and writing songs. I’ve been nominated for a Grammy and recently wrote music for some American Idol artists.
Undeniably, music played a big role, but cars were always in the back of his mind. His first ride was an air-cooled Beetle inherited from his father. That’s how I got into the whole VW thing. Years later, I ended up buying a Porsche 911SC, he told us.
Steve’s Porsche was a sign of good things to come. It planted the seed of what would eventually become this stunning Bug.
After buying the 911, he joined his local Porsche club and became heavily involved in concours. Like an OCD clean-freak, the Porsche was garaged under not one but two car covers, never to see the light of day except for detailing sessions and shows.
The car wasn’t driven either, only seeing the road from a trailer. But in the long run his hard work paid off, earning several awards at regional events and even a first place trophy at the national Porsche Parade in New York.
His passion for Porsche eventually coaxed him into shopping for a German car when his wife needed a new daily. Growing up with air-cooled Beetles, I thought the New Beetle was cool. It’s totally different but it was nostalgic. It was the perfect car for my wife, but she got a 90mph speeding ticket the first day she drove it. So I bought her a Jeep and I started driving the Beetle, he laughed.
More advanced than what Steve was accustomed to, the Turbo S featured a potent 180hp 1.8T engine with six-speed manual and sports suspension. He immediately fell in love and his imagination ran wild. I wondered what would happen if Ruf built a VW Beetle, he told us. Ruf has been a benchmark for Porsche tuning and my intention wasn’t to make the Beetle look modified but to appear as if it rolled off Ruf’s assembly line.
As Steve’s first water-cooled VW, he was going to need some help. With a general idea in his head, he phoned Mark Plummer at the Ruf Auto Centre in Texas. They were either going to blow me off right away or get excited. Fortunately, they were wonderful. They were more than happy to help get parts like the brakes and wheels. And when I needed stuff they didn’t make, that’s when they really stepped up.
The first order of business was the interior. A steering wheel with custom silver stitching was designed specifically for Steve’s Beetle at Ruf’s manufacturing plant in Italy. A sleek shifter and accompanying knob followed, modified by High Speed Motorsports to fit in the center console. On the passenger side, a prominent billet aluminum grab handle was fabricated with the Ruf logo.
OEM+ goodies followed such as the rare billet aluminum climate control pieces from the Beetle RSI model sourced from Mexico. Audi TT vents were also used throughout the dash, with the center console molded and painted to match the body.
Hugging Steve and his passenger were a pair of Recaro Sportster CS seats. Upholstered in black leather, the chairs were painted Reflex silver on the back as Porsche would do.
The next major task would be the wheels and brakes. Ruf delivered its trademark five-spokes measuring 19x8.5" front and 19x10" rear. A set of H&R adapters mated the 5x130 Porsche wheels to the 5x100 VW hubs for a perfect fitment. It’s a really nice staggered setup and they tuck under the fenders, he told us.
As for stopping power, Ruf modified two brake kits. They made it as much Ruf as possible, rebuilding them with Ruf pistons and seals, he explained. The fronts consisted of 14.1" rotors with personalized Brembo six-piston calipers, while the rears utilized 20AE GTI parts.
To tighten the handling and provide a respectable drop in ride height, Vogtland coilovers were installed.
When it came to exterior changes, Steve kept the mods minimal, deleting the badges and molding the rear valance. He added a hood cowl over the windshield to elongate the front. Along the sides, Caractere skirts were fitted but he filled the vents to ensure the appearance was sleek.
The most daunting job was the Audi TT gas cap. This required pulling the entire rear clip and modifying the electronics so the door would fit and operate like factory.
Steve had one last element to address: power. While a 500hp Beetle to give a 911 a run for its money would be nice, the goal was to keep it as reliable as possible. So he decided to use APR software, a Stratmosphere intake, diverter valve and Samco hoses to improve the boost and throttle response of the 1.8T.
An APR downpipe and cat-back exhaust were installed once a Ruf tip had been modified to fit the bumper cutout in the rear valance that was designed to resemble Porsche styling.
Truthfully, this car would drive circles around my older 911. It’s no slouch. For some reason, it seems more fun, too. With my 911, it almost got to the point where I was scared to drive it. I lost what the car was built for, but I’ve never reached that point with the Beetle, Steve concluded.
For being his first VW in decades, Steve has shown us how easy and hard it is to build a Porsche-themed car. The project has cost him more than six-figures, for which he could have bought a new 911, but where’s the fun in that? He’s created a Beetle that’s gained recognition from VW and Porsche fans alike. Even Ruf would be proud of this project!
My intention wasn’t to make the Beetle look modified but to appear as if it rolled off Ruf’s assembly line.
et Tech Spec
2002 VW Beetle Turbo S
Owner: Steve Gaspar
Location: Trumbull, CT
Occupation: Songwriter, producer
Engine: 1.8-liter 20v four-cylinder turbo with APR software and turbo-back exhaust, Ruf exhaust tip, Stratmosphere Hyperflow intake with aFe breather, diverter valve, Samco boost hose kit, Hose Techniques Super Blue vacuum lines, 42 Draft Designs vacuum line T-fitting and restrictor, VF-Engineering mounts, Optima Red Top battery, polished billet aluminum oil, coolant, fuel, windshield washer reservoir and power steering caps
Drivetrain: six-speed manual with Sigma Six short-shift kit
Brakes: 14.1" front, 12.1" rear drilled/slotted rotors with Ruf/Brembo six-piston front and 20AE GTI rear calipers, Ferro-carbon front and Hawk rear pads, stainless lines
Suspension: Vogtland coilovers, 22mm front, 25mm rear Eibach sway bars, VF-Engineering front sway bar end-links
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" front and 19x10" rear Ruf wheels with 235/35 R19 front and 255/30 R19 rear Continental ContiSportContact 3 tires, 22mm front and 30mm rear H&R adapters, Ruf anodized lugs
Exterior: shaved hood, filled license plate holes, rocker panels and rear tow hook cover, Caractere side skirts, DTM splitters, Audi TT fuel door, Speedster hood cowl, custom exhaust blend, 3M tint, Phaeton antenna
Interior: Recaro Sportster CS leather seats with color-matched shells, Ruf leather steering wheel, shift knob, molded and painted center console, black leather armrest with top stitching, embroidered mats, billet aluminum grab handle, Turbo S dash plaque, VDO boost gauge, RSI polished climate control knobs, polished vents, billet cupholders and mirror switch, Audi TT vents and shifter trim, Euro switch, stainless door sills
Thanks: Mark Plummer at Ruf Auto Centre, Hugh Stewart at High Speed Motorsports, Phil Caggiano at Eurotek Designs, Martin Garcia at Curran VW, Ron and Co at Derby Auto Body, Lam Nguyen, Stephen and Sue