Super Beetle – Dismantling Begins

So it begins…

To get this project started, there are a few things that need to happen in a certain order. First we need to get suspension parts and brakes on the vehicle so we can take final measurements for the wheels. The initial wheel design is locked down, but we need to get final dimensions both front and rear to make sure the offsets, back spacing, width and brake clearance is where we need it. So far we are discovering that there is a LOT of room in the wheel wells of the Beetle. In the rear we are potentially looking at 10″ wide wheels if we wanted to – easily. That guess is with the stock suspension bits still in place and there is a strong likelihood that the Golf R pieces we we transfer over may be a bit beefier as we very quickly discovered with the front subframe.

So knowing that we wanted to lower the vehicle, we also wanted to ensure that we didn’t adversely affect the handling (bump and torque steer). To help combat this we want to use TT-RS drop spindles. As Doug McClintock from APR points out, “The TT-RS drop spindles make a great change in bringing the control arms up and level with the tie rods. This decreases the bump and torque steer found when lowering the car by changing the camber circle. If you remember people changing to MK1 TT spindles on their MK4 cars, it’s the same reasoning. We’ve had to do a couple of machining operations to make them work, but the were extremely effective on our MaxR project and that’s why we elected to use them here.”

So let’s take a quick look under the rear end of both the Beetle and the Golf R below.

As you can see in the photo above, both the Golf R and the Beetle have a central tunnel that can support both the prop shaft for AWD and the exhaust routing to the rear. The multilink rear suspension common to both vehicles supports the Haldex AWD coupling. While there are some other minor differences, the main part that we have to deal with is the gas tank. Since the Beetle doesn’t have to worry about the AWD system, the gas tank uses some of that empty space. The Golf R on the other hand has a saddle gas tank the straddles the prop shaft and exhaust. This tank requires a different sheetmetal floor pan. So we’re going to have to do some major surgery to get the AWD system and gas tank into the Beetle. While we could go with a racing fuel cell in the hatch, we wanted to try and keep this installation as stock looking as possible, so we’re going to be cutting some metal.

To install the suspension, we’d like to install those drop spindles we talked about previously and to install those spindles we’ll need to swap over the Golf R front subframe. So out comes the stamped steel Beetle subframe:

Next the Golf R’s front subframe is removed. In the photo below you can see the stock Beetle subframe above the Golf R front subframe. Note that the Golf R has a far more robust and completely aluminum subframe carrier unlike the Beetle’s more simple (and heavier) stamped steel unit. Also notice how much more substantial the Golf R lower control arms are to cope with the additional horsepower:

In the photo below you can see the stock Beetle front subframe on the top made of simple stamped steel and beneath it the much beefier (and lighter) aluminum subframe from the Audi TTRS (middle) and Golf R (bottom).

Why the Audi TTRS subframe? Well we discovered the Golf R front subframe doesn’t bolt directly to the Beetle. Missed it by *that* much:

However APR had a TTRS aluminum front subframe laying around and decided to give it a try and it fit perfectly. This begs the question of whether VW started their CAD chassis/floorpan design process using the Audi TT as a base to start with. This would logically make sense since both cars have convertible versions and would be more similar in design than the regular Golf. Who knows for sure, but we have a subframe that matches and that’s all that matters. So here is the TTRS subframe (bottom) and Beetle steel subframe (top) along with APR’s beautiful lower aluminum control arms.

Lastly we test fitted the Beetle’s steering rack and the H&R front sway bars on the TTRS aluminum front subframe and everything seemed to bolt right up. So far so good.

Our next installment moves to the rear end and we start unbolting everything back there to see what we’re dealing with. Stay tuned…


More photos from today’s progress can be found in the gallery below in much larger sizes: