A Sideways VW Van Makes A Surprisingly Good Race Car

When you think of a perfect track car, does this come to mind?

YouTube | Barcroft Cars

When you think of a perfect track car, what pops into your mind? Is it a monstrous bruiser like the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE? A precise corner-carver like the Porsche 911 GT2 RS? Or is the answer really always Miata? 

If none of those apply for you, we strongly suggest you consider a sideways 1976 Volkswagen Camper Van for your track day escapades. At the very least, you'd always be the only one in a crowd. YouTube channel Barcroft Cars recently sat down with Jeff Bloch, the creator of this topsy-turvy microbus, to take us through the looking glass and show us how the project came together.

If you're wondering where exactly someone can legally track such a unique build, you may not be familiar with the long-running 24 Hours of LeMons amateur endurance series. Competitors have $500 to buy and track prep (not counting tires, brakes, and other life-essential safety gear) whatever car they can get their hands on. Races are held all of the country each year, and the friendly, carnival atmosphere lends itself to some truly off-kilter builds.

Bloch, a veteran police officer who races under the moniker "Speedycop," is no stranger to the weirdness of LeMons, having built a competition car out of an old police helicopter a few years ago. This time, he and his team wanted to do something with a VW microbus that no one had done before. Turning it 90 degrees onto its side is a solid start.

Of course, tipping a bus over is easy—it's turning it into a race car that's difficult. Block and company dropped the 1976 Type 2 shell on a 1988 VW Rabbit base, with mounting points on each bumper and all along the body. Next, they replaced the bus' roof and undercarriage with lexan panels mounted to a tube frame setup, covered with one-way vinyl to give the allusion of a solid bus while still providing visability. The whole package is powered by a 1.8-liter, 16 valve GTI engine putting out about 120 horsepower and capable of propelling the "Trippy Tippy Hippy Van" from 0-60 mph in eight seconds on the way to a 100 mph top speed. For good measure (and a little class), there's a wooden Nardi steering wheel out of a Maserati in front of the driver's seat.

And we have to admit, "trippy" is the perfect word to describe how it feels watching Bloch open the rear engine cover of the bus, only to reveal the rear clip of the Rabbit at a perpendicular angle. But unconventional looks aside, the project is overall a success—Bloch and his team raced it for 224 laps on a 2 mile road course last month without a hitch. He reports in the video that it's a little top heavy, but corners like a dream. A beautiful, feverish dream.