Back in the summer of 1989 the UK VW Scene was still establishing itself, the UK biggest VW festival, Bug Jam, was in its second year and Volksworld magazine was about the same age. Many of the show cars were home grown affairs, wizards, pastel paint, graphics, empi products and turbo body kits (please don’t ever bring back those awful body kits….please!!).
To say this car set a new bench mark in the VW scene is a bit of an under statement. Built in just 5 weeks, and apparently according to volkslore legend, it was built as a bet over a beer or two. Work started just seven weeks before its planned appearance at that years Bug Jam show at Santa Pod in 1989.
Billabug started life as Jay Townend’s Volkswagen Beetle daily driver and was sitting at the back of the workshop. Soon Jay and his partner in crime, Gary Constable, had a deadline and a mission to create a car like no other ever seen in the in the UK before. First to go were the body seams and the swage line from the roof and engine cover. This was no easy task and involved welding two inch strips of metal along the entire length of the car. The engine cover was cut up and then put back together to carry the theme throughout the car. All of this work had to be completed very slowly as not to warp the bodywork due the the heat from welding and it all had to be grinded back to create a seemless finish.
One of the most striking features of the car is the lack of the ‘B’ pillars, nothing like this had been seen on the UK VW scene! A section of the door was grafted on to the roof so to keep the windows lined up and the chassis strenghtened. The rear windows are made from perspex and can be removed. While all the exterior handles were shaved off and replaced with solenoids to complete the smooth look.
Billabug’s many features could be missed at first glance. The engine is a work of art, with its hidden carb, smoothed out tinware, relocated coil, hidden fuel pump and lots more. It was described in the 1989 Bug Jam report as “causing a few double-takes too with its hidden carb, splatter-paint case and smooth good looks”.
Take a look at some of the movies in the download section or the gallery if you would like to see some more. Bug Jam ’89 saw Billabug take home an award for the best interior. It is based around the Billbong surf material and the boys at Thump! Thump! even had some matching jackets made up to match the interior, madness!
This car is regarded by many in the VW Scene as the most inspirational Volkswagen Beetle ever made in the UK and Europe. This didn’t stop Billabug changing hands several times over the next few years and it started to take it’s toll on the old VW Beetle. Always driven to the shows and enjoyed by the owners and finally became a daily driver in the winter of 1994. With no heaters, leaking windows and poor visability I bet it was a long drive to work!
By the end of 1995 Billabug was up for sale and looking a shadow of it’s former self. Many parts were broken, partily spripped and sitting in a leaking council lockup in South London. Would this be the end of the road or would it live to