V8 Powered, 1959 Volkswagon Bus, 23-window Deluxe

Lon's V8 VW logo

V8 Powered, 1959 Volkswagon Bus, 23-window Deluxe

That's right, a V8 powered VW Micro-Bus. So if you get your doors blown off by this vintage 23-window Deluxe, you are not halucinating. If you want to experience some real "Fahrfegnugen", climb behind the wheel, stomp on the gas, and scare the hell out of your inner flower-child!

1959 Volkswagon Bus

In case you were wondering, we did not convert this classic VW bus into a V8 powered monster (so all you VW purists out there can hold your fire). The conversion was accomplished back in the 1980's by an off-road racer by the name of Frank Howard.

fully restored at recent car show.

In addition to the 283 Chevy V8, he replaced the VW trans-axle with a 1963 "Tempest Torque" TransAxle from a '63 Pontiac LeMans (in the YouTube video we refer to it as a Volare front-end, which is wrong). In 1963 both the Tempest and the LeMans Sport Coupe had a rear mounted "trans-axle" connected to the engine via a flexible driveshaft enclosed in a "torque tube". This set-up gave the cars a 50/50 weight distribution and made the cars very quick and easy handling. However, technical problems and complaints about transmission noise led to the rear transaxle being abandoned. The following model year dropped the trans-axle in favor of a more conventional engine/trans/rearend combination.

In this case the axle portion of the Tempest Torque is mated directly to a standard GM Turbo 350 transmission which is connected directly to the V8 motor. The Tempest Axle stubs plug right into the stock VW reduction gearbox/brake unit (this gearbox assembly was only designed to handle the 60hp of the original VW motor, but has held up pretty well). The suspension for this "rearend" is a combination of coilover shocks and Volare-type torsion bars--a set up patterned after an off-road race truck suspension. The front end is all stock VW.

1959 Volkswagon Bus

After a few years the bus was sold to "Iron Man" Ivan Stewart, a well known off road racer. He and his son did the cosmetic portion of the 80's rebuild, and in the summer of '86 it appeared in Hot VW magazine.

1959 Volkswagon Bus

1959 Volkswagon Bus

In 1988 it was purchased by its current owner, Lon Atkinson, for about $2000. He continued to upgrade and tweak it. He drove it and played with it for ten years, till the engine died. At the time the need to pay for college for his three kids relegated the Bus to his garage for the next five or so years, and another three in the middle of a flower garden in his back yard (kind of fitting for the favorite mode of '60s "Flower Power" transportation).

1959 Volkswagon Bus, canvas top. 1959 Volkswagon Bus, front seat.

In November of 2006 it was drug out of Lons yard and towed up to here Hot Rod and Custom Stuff where we were given the task of making it road worthy again. His actual instructions were something like, "make it run and make it stop." So we did.

1959 Volkswagon Bus

Once we completed that task, Lon got new tires put on, reinstalled the interior and top, hit the body with a little rubbing compound and brought it back for these photos. By the way, the photo at the top of the page was taken back in 1990, before the van was grounded.

1959 Volkswagon Bus 1959 Volkswagon Bus

You don't see too many VW Bus' with roll cages.

V8 Powered, 1959 Volkswagon Bus

One Chevy 350ci small block.

Visit YouTube!

This video compilation was of one of the first test drives after the new engine was installed, but before we ironed out all of the suspension and braking problems. Stepping on the brake or gas tended to make the bus want to change lanes and the brakes just were not up to the task of making a safe stop in an emergency. All problems which we had to correct. We also took the bus to a dyno shop so we could get the motor dialed in right and find out how much horsepower and torque we were getting to the wheels.

01 - 02 - 03

Hot VW Magazine Article


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Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, 2324 Auto Park Way, Escondido, CA., 1-800-HOT-ROD-5.

Hot Rods & Custom Stuff - builds, restores, paints, services and sells parts for classic autos, cars, trucks and street rods.