After his '56 "Split" appeared in the June 2009 issue, Pete Gaesser embarked on a similar-but-different road
It was in June of 2009, and Pete Gaesser of Fayetteville, Georgia was at a show in Griffin when people started coming up to him with the July issue of Hot VWs — his ’56 ragtop was featured inside. Thrilled, he started hearing about something else almost as exciting — the story of a guy who had a Microbus that had been sitting in his garage for over 20 years. Thinking it was time to start another project, Pete decided he just had to track this guy down “like a bloodhound,” and was on the road later that afternoon after he discovered where it was. One look, and Pete had to have it. It was sitting in a barn, with no wheels on jack stands — as it had been for over 20 years — and was a real diamond in the rough. The owner was “taking offers,” and after a week of phone conversations Pete found himself at the top of that list.
The plan was to build the bus in the same motif as his Bug — sort of a custom race look. So as J.B.’s Paul Ripa started ordering the parts needed for assembly, Pete contacted Tim Kasper who would handle the bodywork. Beside the standard metal repairs and panel straightening (using several of Gerson’s green repair panels), they added a few custom touches. Outside, the rear fender lips were cut four inches up, and reinstalled with hinges to make room for changing the large 205/60-15-inch Fuzion HRI tires wrapped on black Porsche ATS “Telephone Dial” wheels a cinch. Magnets help keep the fender lips closed wile driving. He also added a custom interior engine access cover, using the access panel from a Bay Window, but welding in the metal from the Deluxe to keep the rib lines as close to stock as possible. Finally, to get the quality paint job he wanted, in the same silver and black as his Bug — but with a touch of red to make things pop — he enlisted the talents of Rodney Corival at St. Luce Auto Body (who painted his ’56, even though Hurricane Francis had destroyed their shop in the middle of the project!) to spray the PPG base and clear.
While all this was going on, Pete contacted Sewfine Interior Products to discuss the upholstery. After discussing what he was looking for, and receiving a few samples, they came up with a combination of silver and black vinyl with red piping on the seats and door panels, gray carpeting, and black headliner. Once the bus was back at J.B. Bugs, Paul began assembly with a Banjo steering wheel with Porsche crest horn button, a Porsche tach that replaces the speedo, three VDO gauges mounted just below the fan, and a long CSP bus shifter. Other tricks include front and rear Safari windows, driver’s side Naca ducts to provide air to the oil cooler, ribbed bumpers, H-2 headlights and red fog lights, Wagons West’s 4-inch-narrowed front beam, Porsche disc brakes, and IRS kit with a Pro Street gearbox from Rancho Performance Transaxles.
The last piece of the puzzle was the engine, which was assembled by Paul at J.B. Bugs. Using an S-21 (fuel injection) case as the base, it was filled with a DRP 82mm counterweighted stroker crank, Scat 5.400-inch H-beam rods, J&E 90.5mm pistons in L&N Engineering Nikasil cylinders, and an Engle FK-41 camshaft pushing Schubek ceramic lifters and Manton 3/8-inch chromoly pushrods in Fast Fab’s spring loaded tubes. Up top are CB Performance’s CNC machined round-ports, equipped with 42x37.5mm stainless steel valves, dual springs with titanium retainers, modified by J.B. bugs chambers, and Scat 1.4:1 ratio rockers. Dual Weber carbs supply the fuel, while spark timing is controlled by a Mallory Unilite mechanical/vacuum advance distributor. A 1-5/8-inch Sidewinder header with stainless muffler from A1 Muffler gets the exhaust out in style. According to Pete, “Paul got the bus back together, but it came down to the wire for the 2011 Winter Jam in Daytona Beach, Florida. But he is the man, and got it done in time for the show.” Since that time Pete’s taken quite a few awards, including a Best paint. But, this bus isn’t just for show, as it’s “very fun to drive.” And he digs driving it whenever he can.
ENGINE/TYPE 1 DISPLACEMENT/2110cc BUILDER/Paul Ripa. J.B. Bugs, Jensen Beach, FL CASE/VW AS21 (fuel injected), magnesium CRANK/DPR 82mm stroker, 8 dowels RODS/Scat, 5.400-inch, H-beam PISTONS/J&E 90.5mm, forged, L&N Engineering Nicasil cylinders CAM/Engle FK-41, .510-inch lift (w/1.4 rockers), 269° duration LIFTERS/Schubek, solid ceramic PUSHRODS/Manton, 3/8 x .035-inch-wall chromoly, Fast Fab spring loaded tubes ROCKER ARMS/Scat, 1.4:1 ratio, solid shafts OIL SYSTEM/full-flow oil pump, 1-1/2-quart oil sump OIL/Brad Penn HEADS/CB Performance CNC machine round ports, 42x37.5mm, chambers modified by J.B. Bugs, stainless steel valves, dual hi-rev springs, titanium retainers COMPRESSION RATIO/8.9:1 IGNITION/Mallory Unilite mechanical/vacuum advance distributor, Taylor wires INDUCTION/dual Weber two-barrel carbs EXHAUST SYSTEM/1-5/8-inch Sidewinder header from A-1 Muffler, stainless steel muffler FLYWHEEL/200mm, 12-lb., 8 dowels CLUTCH/1700-lb. pressure plate HORSEPOWER/135-140 (estimated) TRANSAXLE/PRO STREET IRS BUILDER/Rancho Performance Transaxles, Fullerton, CA RING & PINION/3.88:1