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Steampunk Volkswagen anyone? Answered

Dear Fellow Instructable Steampunk aficionados,

I'm starting plans for my biggest steampunk project ever... a steampunk Volkswagon Beetle!;-)

We haven't bought it yet, but my wife and I are heading to Brazil for the summer, and are planning on buying an old VW Beetle, (or a "Fusca" as they affectionately call them locally), to bum around in a sleepy beach town.

These cars were once very popular in Brazil, but have been replaced by far more fuel efficient, and largely ethanol powered cars. So an old Beetle can be had for cheap... And my wife has given me the okay to go ahead and steampunk it out to my hearts delight!

My initial plans are for purely cosmetic changes. (I'm not planning on installing a steam-powered engine any time soon, although that would certainly be cool;-)

I've seen Jake Von Slatt's photos and videos of his steampunk car project, but I thought I'd check with the folks on Instructables to see if anyone has any suggestions. (And when I say anyone, I put heavy stress on my German steampunk colleagues;-)

All suggestions (and photos) are welcome! Please post here...

Will keep you posted on my progress.

Winged Fist

Update: 6/27/12
(An eventful day)

Today we became the proud owners of a 1975 Volkswagen Beetle! The body is a bit beaten with a few signs of rust, but I'm told that the engine is sound, the electrical work is good and the tires are pretty new. If all goes as planned, I'll get to drive it for the first time next week, when I arrive in Brazil. (Then let the steampunking begin;-)

Today I also became a member of the VWoodies user group on Yahoo. Lots of great pictures and inspiration for modifying an old VW Beetle. And the moderator, Senhor California, has an amazing 70s model Beetle he has completely modified into a Woody, which he keeps in Brazil! (In my opinion it has quite a steampunk flare to it).

And not coincidentally, today I received in the mail my Hula Girl bobble dashboard ornament, and my California Pacific VW Parts and Accessories catalog from jbugs.com

It's looking like this car is going to take on a steampunk/woody/surfer theme...

Update: 7/23/12

Well it's been exactly a month since I posted this query, and I'm proud to report that this project is almost complete! After almost two weeks of non-stop renovating and remodeling, scraping sanding and painting, our quasi-steampunk, faux-woody VW Beetle is nearly finished!

There are still a few details to finish, (like getting the driver's door to stay closed when we're driving;-), but other than that I'm very pleased with the way this old bug has turned out!

This past weekend, she took her maiden voyage, sporting her new look - to the beach of course. (Praia Linda, in the Lake Region of Rio de Janeiro, in case your interested). The one unsolicited comment we overheard was that she looked like an old armoire... and not in a good way;-)

The transformation from a bricklayer's workhouse to a beach woody was a laborious one, but now our '75 Fusca can spend her golden years carting beach chairs, coolers and kayaks instead of hauling bricks and cement;-)

I plan to post a full Instructable on this project, but for now, wanted to give those interested a taste of the nearly finished product.

(I'm also amazed with how much the finished product resembles the photoshop rendition I created, before I ever laid eyes on the car).


Is your Beetle a flat screen or the curved window and plastic black dash like your photomontage?

It is a nice idea for a project, the UK volksworld magazine featured a very tasty steampunk Beetle a couple of years back. The car had a certain captain Nemo quality to it with lots of brass fittings and polished wood interior. http://www.volksworld.com/news/cars/492033/steamfunkin-50-split-window.html

After building a custom dash for my 1303 (curved window) Beetle convertible I thought about adding wood panelling but still have not got round to it. Check out this forum about some guys in the US selling kits. framing.http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=512304&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

nlewis4 - My Beetle is of the flat windshield variety, if that's what your wondering...

Not sure where you see the black plastic dash, but mine has a metal dash, basically just the body of the car, as is most common here in Brazil. (I bought a plastic insert to cover the dash, but returned it as it didn't match the theme I was working towards)..

Thanks very much for the link to Volksworld. I wish they posted photos of the interior of the car on their site... Love to see what a Nemo-esque VW interior looks like;-)

In refurbishing our Beetle, I tried to eliminate plastic where ever possible, and use as much wood or wood-style and brass as I could. For instance I painted the metal dashboard using the technique I detailed in painting metal to look like wood.

Since you mentioned your custom dash, I've included a few photos of mine, as a sneak peak of my soon-to-be-posted instructable.

I created knobs for the headlights and windshield wiper fluid with regular old wooden drawer knobs; used a soldering iron to burn in the symbols; and then varnished for a nice color and shine.

Since there's no radio in this car, I decided to cover the hole in the dash with a piece of cedar, and a brass knob scavenged from a piece of old furniture on the streets of NYC;-) Doesn't serve any purpose other than to look nice;-)

Thanks for the comment, and thanks for following!

steering wheel and dash.jpgdash knobs.jpg

My questioning about the flat screen or flat screen was due to your artists impression of the woody panelling being on a curved window 1303 or Super Beetle which has a plastic black dash not the metal dash. Now I can see your handywork with the interior I can see it is a standard Beetle with a flat screen.

I think you are on the right track with the wood handles and glove box in your Steam punk car. Had you thought about taking the paint back to bare metal instead of painting it to look like wood? The car needs to look like it has a bit of Science Fiction from the 1800s about it to look like a real steam Punk car. You could also experiment with small lightbulbs filled with clear or coloured resin as the switches. 

Doing a Google image search for Jules Verne machine throws up loads of great Steam Punk type transport. 

I hope the image is the inside of the UK car is some help Im sorry about the quality 


Oh, I'd forgotten about this project!

(I've just "followed" you to save me forgetting again.)

Thanks for following Kiteman! Hope to have a full Instructable ready on this project in the next week, to celebrate my one year anniversary as an Instructable member;-)

Update: 6/28/12

Thanks to the wonderful car enthusiast site, The Samba, today I printed out a copy the "Manual do Proprietário: VW Diagnose e Manitenção;" or an original copy of the 1974 VW Owner's Manual... In Portuguese! (Cost me about $4 bucks at Staples;-) This should be close enough to our 1975 model to be useful.

From the same site, I also found a copy of the original wire diagram. We'll see how useful this is;-)

And thanks to the free 2-day delivery services of Amazon.com, I also got my hard copy of "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot, 19th Edition." (And it actually arrived in less than 24 hours since I placed the order!) This looks like it will certainly come in handy!

Also thanks to Amazon, I received my cast iron mermaid today, which will soon become a fancy  hood ornament.

And lastly, I completed a new artists rendition of what our car may someday look like; Behold the "FuscaPunk - VaporBug!"

FuscaPunk VaporBug.jpg

Dear Winged Fist

That's a real great idea!! The Volkswagen are ideal to pimp them to a nice Steampunk Car. I restore VW's since many years and I will create the next winter my own Steampunk VW Buggy. Visit my site on www.vintagevolkswagen.wordpress.com. The ALBAR Buggy you see there will be restored. I'm looking forward to see your first pics then...

Sincerely The Chocolatist

Chocolatist - Thanks for the words of encouragement! I looked at the Vintage Volkswagen site, and saw some very nice pictures! Is that the ALBAR Buggy you plan to steampunk? They have many like that around the beaches in Brazil, made from modified VW Beetle engines.. . They call them a "Bugre";-)

Dear Winged Fist I heard that Brazil is still the place to be when you drive a Bugre! Yes, the white ALBAR Buggy from 1969 will be pimped next winter, because the car needs a makeover. I own it since more than 12 years and it's so much fun to drive it. The new color will be black velvet, white-red wheels, brown leather interieur with a lot of wood, brass and copper. Because this car was built before 1972 it's easy to get the papers from the goverment after the makeover. Most of the Steampunk parts I will make demountable, so it's easier to pass the check from the traffic center..;-)

PS: Check out this link: http://www.autoblog.com/2012/06/11/carlex-design-goes-steampunk-with-mini-countryman

Chocolatist - Thanks for this link. That's an amazing looking car! And it's got the exact same copper wire hubcaps I envisioned for my SteamBug! Can't wait to see your Steampunk Bugre... And your're welcome to drive it to my beach house in Rio anytime;-) (Maybe a World Cup party in 2014?;-)

My wife tells me that in Brazil, only cars built before 1965 are exempt from inspection regulations, so I have to make sure my modifications are "legal." She also tells me that the inspection rules are very strict, so I need to do more research to see if the wooden door panels I envision will pass inspection.

I bought some metallic copper paint yesterday to detail some of the interior (and almost an identical stearing whell cover to the one in the pictures) , but I doubt it will look as good as the MiniSteam;-)

Thanks for sharing!

That is an absolutely awesome idea!


Before you start, though, are you going to be able to get the car back to the US? If you are going to able to get it back to NY, you'll want to do bigger mods than if you're going to be forced to leave the SteamBug in Brazil.

Kiteman- My wife and I have a beach house in Rio de Janeiro, about two hours outside the city, so the plan is to leave the car there to use for local errands and bumming around the beach.

As fun as it would be to bring such a unique creation back to NYC, it wouldn't be financially feasible or practical. Plus in Rio we have a garage to store it, so I won't have to worry about exposure to the elements (or the streets of New York!)

Back in the 70s, when VW's were all the rage in the States, there were a number of companies that sold kits for modifying a Beetle. One was the "Super Woody," which consisted of wood door panels, a-la the surfer's "Woody.)  Another was the Wunderbug Kit, which was a 30s-40s style Ford hood and grille, modified for a VW Beetle. There was even a Rolls Royce grille kit, modified for the Beetle! (This last one was made famous by Tommy Chong in "Up in Smoke." which is probably where I got the idea as a kid;-)

So far, here are a few of my ideas: 
• Wood door panels (a tribute to the surfer's vehicle of choice)
• 40s Ford hood
• Metallic gold painted fenders
• Brass headlight rims
• Copper wire hubcaps
• Brass Mermaid hood ornament (after all, it is for a beach town;-)
• Brass "clown" horn (maybe mounted to the door?)

Attached is a (poorly) rendered rough sketch I mocked-up in photoshop.

Winged Fist

PS I love the name "Steambug." Way better than the Portuguese: "Vaporpunk Fusca";-)


Oh, that is a very good start - I was picturing coils of copper tube and brass gears.

As fun as that sounds Kiteman, it still needs to pass a government inspection, or risk a slow demise in an impound lot!;-)

Shame on the lack of artistry in government bureaucracy...

Here's an original ad from the 70s for the "Super Woody" kit. CErtainly a good start for a steampunk-themed beach car;-)

super woody.jpg