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How much horsepower is too much for a Volkswagen Beetle restomod? If you’re autosports champion John Reynolds, a tuned 500+ horsepower Subaru engine is just about right for this 2,000-pound classic. Meet Reynolds’ Super Beetle, possibly the fastest bug in the world. And with its bone-stock looks, it’s certainly the quickest sleeper Beetle.

Drivers have been hot-rodding beetles for years

Blue 1973 Volkswagen Beetle racing along a remote road in California, desert ridgelines visible in the background.
1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle | Nicole Johnson via YouTube

The Volkswagen Beetle, though engineered by Ferdinand Porsche, was always a budget-friendly people mover. But if it has wheels, someone or another will try to soup it up.

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the best-selling cars of all time. And from Germany to Mexico you can see lovingly maintained Beetles, some with more modern rims, and even the occasional “Porsche” sticker. But few have as much grunt to back up these visual mods as John Reynolds’ Super Beetle.

Not many years after VW began to offer the Beetle in the U.S, modifiers found they could jam a big engine into the backseat and flip the transaxle over. But the resulting hotrods were easy to spot. A true sleeper Beetle would require further technological developments.

Read about the Mexican factory building Beetles until 2003.

John Reynolds is a champion off-road driver

The back of a blue 1974 VW Super Beetle bug driving down the highway.
1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle | Nicole Johnson via YouTube

The King of the Hammers is a unique off-road race. The California course alternates between technical rock crawling and flat-out desert racing. Therefore, completing a race requires a well-engineered custom vehicle. Winning requires capability, know-how, and nerves of steel–according to Driving Line. John Reynolds is the driver and builder who won the very first King of the Hammers race.

Reynolds also loves the look of a classic Volkswagen Beetle. But considering the original bugs put about fifty horsepower to the wheels, Reynolds–who is exceedingly comfortable getting a little sideways–decided he wanted to modify one. But unlike his King of the Hammers trophy truck, Reynolds wanted his Beetle to look bone stock.

He started with a 1973 “Super Beetle.” This second generation replaced the original Beetle’s front beam axle with front struts. Many purists don’t appreciate the Super Beetle’s curved windshield, but Reynolds needed its improved suspension for his restomod project.

The stock-looking Super Beetle is a racing champion

In the above video, you can see John Reynolds cleaning up on a drag race course with his sleeper bug. His little Beetle has a Subaru WRX engine tuned for 517 horsepower. The opposed four-cylinder “boxer-style” engine even fits in the Beetle’s stock engine compartment.

Reynolds chose a Subaru transmission, modified for the RWD bug, for his restomod. Though it looks nearly stock, it has much wider rear tires and a roll cage, dead giveaways for those in the know. Hear Reynolds discuss his VW Beetle restomod project and see him take it for a spin in the video below: