Subject To Change
A five-year project, Brian and Brenda Hedrick's beauty of a Baja Bug saw many modifications during the building process
Anyone who has ever taken on a car building project knows that things don’t always end up exactly as first planned. Brian and Brenda Hedrick’s 1966 Baja Bug is a prime example of that theory. What started out as a simple Baja Bug project turned into much more, as Brian met a variety of different people, and learned many new skills along the way.
But what got Brian involved with VWs in the first place was his mom’s Beetle, which he learned to drive in at age 16 since it was a stick shift. Living in Tucson, Arizona at the time she would let him drive it all day in the foothills, and he pretty much got hooked. When it came time to buy his own car, of course it had to be a Bug … which he quickly began turning into a Baja Bug, working on it every chance he got. Over the years Brian owned several Bugs, until 1980 when his family moved to Arkansas and he swapped the Bug for a car with a better heater the first winter! That put him out of the scene, until around 1983 when he moved to Southern California, and the fire was re-lit. His uncle, Mitch Hedrick, raced a Class 1 off-road car, and it wasn’t long before Brian purchased a Baja Bug racecar from Peter Perry of Over Drive VW and put it back on the street. That lasted a few years, ck to Arkansas, and that was the end of his VW addiction — for a while! As the years went by Brian got married, started a career, and enjoyed other hobbies, but as we’ve heard many times, he eventually came back to air-cooled VWs as a hobby. As Brian put it, “I guess it just never goes away!”
Then in his mid-40s, Brian embarked on another Baja Bug project, and started with a car he bought for only $50. As he described the build, “I figured it would be the perfect place to start. So, armed with a copy of Hot VWs magazine and the Baja Bugs and Buggies book I got started. I removed all the rusted sheet metal and then cut-off the roof — my hope was to make it look like a ‘vert, but I really didn’t like the looks of the window area. So my search for a real ‘vert body began, and after about a month I found another body and put the real ‘vert body on the good pan I had. Now it was time for a roll cage. Back to Hot VWs to order a Class 11 roll cage, high-mount fenders, and a one-piece fiberglass front end. This was about the time I learned about the internet and VW forums. A friend of mine, David Eck, introduced me to a forum called The Shop Talk Forums. I was hesitant to start a thread at first, but eventually did (called Hedrick’s ‘Vert Project).
“As I gathered parts and read about other projects that the guys on the forum were building my plans changed tremendously. I originally planned to use leaf springs up front and torsion bars in the rear with emulsion shocks all around. As you can see, the car now has coil springs all around. Lots of parts were bought and resold as the plans changed during the build. As I became more comfortable with my fab skills I tried different new things. I saw pictures of other dashes and figured I would try something different on my own. I made my own dash from some ½-inch conduit that I used as a frame and covered it with sheet metal. After all the fab and bodywork was finished the car was painted by my brother, Bruce Hedrick.
“After assembly, our first trip was to Little Sahara in Oklahoma, but the first day there I wrecked it! Back home it was torn down to the bare frame and the damage repaired — thanks to my brother for another paint job! During this time I changed the color to the Torch Red it is now, using a base/clear coat system. I also changed out the drum brakes for discs, and swapped the Ultra wheels it had to the Methods that are on it now. The final thing to be done was the graphics, which were handled by a forum member and his son.”
The current chassis on Brian’s Baja is a custom unit he built from 1-1/2 x .12-inchwall tubing with 1 x .090-inch-wall supports. It helped lengthen the wheelbase to 102-1/2 inches, and supports a 6-inch wider chromoly beam with Tweed Combo spindles, Tweed 2-inch longer and 1-inch wider trailing arms, and swedged aluminum tie-rods with Ford/ International ends. Those disc brakes are Pro-Ams up front and Jamar 4-piston units in the rear. A rack and pinion and 10-inch travel FOA shocks with 200/250-pound coil springs complete the front suspension. Out back he also added 3x3 boxed trailing arms, spring plate eliminators from Dan’s Performance Parts, 930 CVs, 19-1/4-inch chromoly axles, and chromoly flanges and stub axles. Rear shocks are also FOA, but longer 14-inch units with heavier 300/350-pound springs. Tires are BFGoodrich All Terrains all around — 31x10.50x15 front and 32x12.50x15 rear.
Interior is clean and simple, with a variety of VDO gauges, switches and warning lights in Brian’s custom built dash. A pair of Beard bucket seats hold driver and passenger in place with the help of a pair of Crow 5-point harnesses, and the shifter and pedals are mostly stock, with the exception of the aluminum roller throttle pedal. There’s no rear seat, and in its place is a Jaz 16-gallon fuel cell.
Of course, a car like this needs a potent engine, and Brian stepped up with a 2276ccType 1 mill that he assembled with the helpful advice of Mitch Hedrick. The lower end of this mill was assembled with performance in mind, including a CB Performance 82mm forged stroker crank, 5.400-inch H-beam rods, 94mm Mahle pistons and cylinders, Norris 407S camshaft with adjustable straight-cut gears, Scat lifters, stock rockers on solid shafts, and chromoly pushrods. Up top we find a set of Scat heads with 40mm intake and 35mm exhaust valves, a single 40mm Dellorto carb with CB’s upgrade kit, and a ceramic-coated 1-5/8-inch off-road header. A Kennedy Stage 1 pressure plate with 6-puck disc connects this engine to a 5-rib bus 002 gearbox.
In its first show outing, Brian nabbed a first in class at the 2011 Eureka Springs show, and repeated that in 2012! Of course, a project of this magnitude takes a lot of help, and Brian thanks all his friends on the STF Off-Road forum, his brother Bruce for doing the paint (twice!), and his uncle Mitch Hedrick for all his help. But most of all, Brian thanks his wife, Brenda, for being supportive after all the hours in the garage, and the hundreds of times he asked her, “What do you think about this or, what color should I paint that?” With all the options available in a five-year project like this, everything was certainly Subject To Change!
ENGINE/TYPE 1 1600 DISPLACEMENT/2276cc BUILDER/Brian Hedrick, Lowell, AR (with advice from Mitch Hedrick) CASE/VW, magnesium CRANK/CB Performance, 82mm forged stroker, counterweighted RODS/CB, 5.400-inch, H-beam PISTONS/Mahle, 94mm, Mahle rings CAM/Norris, #407S, CAM GEAR/Scat, straight-cut LIFTERS/Scat, lightweight PUSHRODS/chromoly ROCKER ARMS/VW Type 1. 1.2:1 ratio, Scat solid shafts HEADS/Scat dual-port, ported and polished, 40x35mm stainless steel valves VALVE COVERS/EMPI, bolt-on aluminum OIL SYSTEM/CB 30mm pump, Modyne oil cooler, Shell Rotella 15W/40 oil INTAKE SYSTEM/single Dellorto 40 DRLA with CB update kit, matchported VW end castings IGNITION SYSTEM/Bosch 009 mechanical advance distributor w/NGK plugs EXHAUST SYSTEM/EMPI 1-5/8-inch off-road header, ceramic coated FLYWHEEL/chromoly, 12 lbs. CLUTCH/Kennedy Stage 1 pressure plate, 6-puck disc HORSEPOWER/120 (estimated) TRANSAXLE/VW BUS 002 4-SPEED, 5-RIB CASE BUILDER/Stock VW SPECIAL MODIFICATIONS/cleaned/ detailed
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Lasting ImpressionWhen Bryan Ortiz saw an early bus sitting in a driveway when he was just a young boy, he knew he would someday own such a cool looking VW. Years later his beautiful '61 23-Window bus not only took Best Best of Show Custom at the 2014 Classic, it is also featured in the December 2015 issue of Hot VWs!