When discussions over the greatest `Special Saloon` race cars are talked over one VW Beetle in particular is always mentioned in the same sentance as the likes as `Baby Bertha` , Daf-Oldsmobile and the rest of the 70`s legendary cars. The Beetle-Chevy built by Mick Hill for the 1976 season is very much alive and kicking having recently blasted up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Its creator Mick Hill had previously racked up an impressive number of race and title wins , particularly in his 2 self-built Capri V8s culminating with the inaurgural `Super Saloon` title in 1974. Hill raced a Trojan in F5000 in 1975 as his Tricentrol sponsorship had ended and his plans of converting the single seater into a supersaloon was shelved. This left the season open for rival Gerry Marshall in the new `Baby Bertha`Vauxhall to take the Supersaloon title and set the benchmark for the whole genre of modified saloon racing which was at its most popular during the mid-70s. Hill announced his new creation just before the opening round of the 1976 BRSCC Super Saloon Championship opener in May
( see article right ). It was a genuine VW Beetle body on the Trojan semi-monocoque spaceframe with petrol tanks in the aluminium side pods. Power came from an Alan Smith-built F5000 Chevy 5-litre V8 producing 530 bhp located about where the rear seats would be in a normal Beetle. The Trojan`s suspension was used and the tires were an impressive 17inch at the rear and 15 front. A Hewland gearbox was used and weighed only 800 kgs , so the recipe had all the right ingredients.
However unlike Hill`s Capris the Beetle wasn`t a winner straight out of the box. Overheating issues were one problem in a car lacking testing and windtunnel development. 6th at Silverstone when the Supersaloons took on the Grand Prix circuit was about 5 places lower than Hill was used to and the car was slower than the likes of Baby Bertha and the DFVW. But the car itself gained alot of attention and Hill would recall later `I was racing the Beetle at a British GP support race and in the lunchbreak a number of F1 guys came to look at the car. They were impressed with the build and especially how i`d installed the suspension. This was a high point for me`.
One F1 man who helped Hill with the overheating problem was Dr Harvey Postelwaite who got the car into MIRA`s wind tunnel. `He was so keen on the Beetle he gave his services for free`.The side radiators were ditched and side pods cut down and a Can-am style radiator fitted in the front along with a pair of grills.
`Templar Tillers`the agricultural machinery manufacturer came in with sponsorship for 1977 ( see article right ) and all this helped the car was on its way to being a winner.
Sep 26th 1976 - Mallory Park - BRSCC Simoniz Special Saloons race. Autosport reported the car `came right at Mallory`, here ahead of Vince Woodman until Hill clipped the Haipin banking leading to retirement
Oct 10th 1976 - Mallory Park - BRSCC Tricentrol Super Saloons race. More Mallory disappointment as Hill`s car has rear suspension damaged after a first lap nudge from Tony Strawson in Hill`s old car at the hairpin. Colin Hawker is about to pass.
1977 saw a reduced programe by the supersaloon champion Gerry Marshall so Hill enjoyed a season dice with Colin Hawker in the other Volkswagen super saloon the DFV-powered Fastback particulary in the midlands circuits in the BRDC championship. Maybe Hill`s finest moment with the Beetle was winning one of the first races at the newly reopened Donington Park on August 7th 1977 after Hawker retired ( see photo right ). At Silverstone Hill and Hawker diced for the lead until the final corner until Hawker`s brakes failed and mounted the back of the Beetle causing both to retire , a moment captured on camera in Autosport .
Hill allowed 2 guest drivers to race the Beetle during the 1977 season , Mike Wilds took 5th at the Brands Hatch `Frox Blue Jeans` Supersaloon race . Then after Hill had won the september round of the Lombard Scottish series at Ingliston he loaned the car to Doug Niven , whose own car was out of action to win the October final round there. This set up things for 1978 nicely...as Hill had a new project in mind and purchased the Jaguar XJ8 Chevy of Tony Hazelwood. Thats another story but the Beetle was bought by Doug Niven following his success at Ingliston.
Aug 7th 1977 - Donington Park - BRDC Esso Uniflo race. Hill loved Donington Park from its return to hosting racing in 1977 and won there after another battle against both Harker and Woodman.
Aug 28th 1977 - Silverstone - BRDC Esso Uniflo race. There`s probably a time and a place for the only 2 VW hybrids in captivity to try and mate...and the last corner of a race isnt one of them ! Hawker misses his breaking point and takes both cars off `in a shower of fibreglass`. Graham Goode inherited the race win. Mick Hill`s thoughts thankfully wernt published...
Sep18th/Oct 16th 1977 - Ingliston - Lombard Scottish Special Saloon races . Hill wins round 5 and then sportingly lent Doug Niven the Beetle to win the final round a month later.
PLEASE NOTE : Results tables are incomplete and will be added to as more results are found.
Since making this page ive added an entire Mick Hill website with exclusive photographs of the Beetle.
Please follow the link to view :