Experiences you're exposed to in your youth often lead you on a certain path thanks to a roadmap that has been burned into your brain cells. Imagine growing up in the Toronto area and hanging out at one of the coolest local VW race shops in town, where plenty of edgy street VWs, off-road racers, Porsches, and early replicas were always on hand...now that would be neat!
For Oliver "Olli" Hempel, his days frequenting Mantis Racing in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, were well spent. Checking out original Kelmark GTs, Pumas, and occasional dune buggies left him thinking about just how he'd build a car if he had the chance. There are two paths a car builder can follow: one that strives for purity in creation that would restore a manufacturer's design back to the original, and one that takes the stock version of the car and helps it evolve to the next level through customization. Olli Hempel just so happens to be the guy who is always thinking of how he can dial in a design even further.
An avid reader of both KIT CAR and Street Rodder, Olli has spent endless hours poring over literally hundreds of issues and has gained incredible inspiration from masterful contemporary builders like Chip Foose and Bobby Alloway. Automotive artisans like these men have heavily influenced his own personal build style, as evidenced by his FFR Cobra that was featured in our January 2006 issue. For Olli, injecting a perfect stance, just the right wheels and tires, and breathtaking horsepower wrapped up with meticulous body prep and a mile-deep paint vibe contributes to the overall look that his cars must achieve.
Since Olli completed the Cobra, he put down plenty of miles on it, but having a family, someone was always left without a ride. By chance, while Olli was visiting a Cobra Internet forum, he came across some images of Bruce Meyers' new Manxter dune buggy that had just been unveiled to the public. He recalled those days spent hanging out at Mantis Racing, and the desire to have a street buggy came flashing back to him as if he had just taken a ride back in time in a certain well-known DeLorean. With the car based on a full VW floor pan, it was a true four-seater that would allow him the versatility of taking the whole family along for the ride wherever they decided to go. After speaking with Bruce on the telephone, Olli booked a flight to California to meet him and check out the latest offering in person. Impressed by what he saw, Olli ordered one of the new kits and even located a suitable VW rolling chassis to be shipped back to New Jersey, since most of the VWs back home suffered from decades of rust from lives spent in the Salt Belt.
Once the new project landed, Olli's creative design skills went into high gear, starting with the rolling chassis. The car would have to look as good underneath as it did topside. After disassembly, he had the base blasted clean and started on its rebirth by applying a lustrous coating of House of Kolor Black Sparkle Pearl before loading in all the components. To be certain the car could achieve a perfect stance, he contacted CB Performance for one of its adjustable front beams, which was equipped in the rear with Sway-A-Way 25mm torsion bars with matching spring plates and KYB low-pressure gas shocks all around. Rounding out the chassis with plenty of stopping power, a set of four-wheel disc brakes from CB Performance was called into duty.
With the chassis now completed, Olli decided to infuse plenty of horsepower into the mix. He contacted Steve Johnson of S&S Performance Subaru of Alpine, California, for one of its fire-breathing 2.5-liter WRX turbo four-cam neck-snappers that could take the buggy from stop to blur in mere seconds. With 260 hp on tap, a stout transaxle was a must. Olli placed a call to Eric Debord in Olive Hill, Kentucky, for one of his bulletproof cases loaded up with extra-strong internals, including Weddle close-ratio gears, super diff, Porsche 930 CV conversion kit, and Sway-A-Way axles. Not to be outdone by the chassis, Olli detailed the drivetrain to the max with a mixture of polish and liquid glamour before setting it all rolling on a decadent combination of Budnik GTX wheels shod with BFGoodrich rubber.
Armed with decades of influence from the rodding world, Olli set out to prepare the Manxter's body with meticulous fanaticism. By getting its lines razor sharp while adding numerous little details, he paid attention to the lessons learned from his mentors. Now that the body prep was complete, he reached into his years of experience in spraying House of Kolor gleam and laid down a dramatic coating of Sunrise Pearl complemented by neat flames on the side pods and tail.
With everything coming together, it was time to focus the final bit of attention on the interior. Here was yet another area that Olli decided needed lots of customization. He set out to make plenty of subtle changes, starting with padding the tilt top reminiscent of the early Carson-styled tops seen on '50s-era hot rods. He then selected a pair of Beard off-road suspension seats for ultimate comfort while utilizing Manxter fiberglass units in the rear. The stitching chores were handed over to Tom Thompson of Tijuana Kustoms in Westbury, New York, to work his magic to create a contemporary cabin that would be as durable as it was comfortable. Wrapping it up with a MOMO steering wheel and Auto Meter gauges, you'd think Olli had reached perfection, but it wasn't until he designed the custom aluminum fuel cell accented by carpeted underhood flames that he reached his goal.
All we know is that Olli's Manxter Rx certainly is a prescription for fun, and we know his latest ride will impress everyone who sees it!
Oliver "Olli" Hempel
Montville, New Jersey
|Frame: ||'71 Volkswagen Beetle |
|Wheelbase: ||94.5" |
|Rearend: ||VW IRS transaxle |
|Rear Suspension: ||Sway-A-Way 25mm torsion bars with matching adjustable spring plates, combined with KYB low-pressure gas shocks |
|Rear Brakes: ||CB Performance disc brakes with drilled and slotted rotors custom-drilled to Ford bolt pattern |
|Front Suspension: ||CB Performance adjustable beam along with KYB low-pressure gas shocks |
|Front Brakes: ||CB Performance disc brakes with drilled and slotted rotors custom-drilled to Ford bolt pattern |
|Steering: ||TRW |
|Front Wheel: ||Budnik GTX 17x7-inch |
|Rear Wheel: ||Budnik GTX 18x10-inch |
|Front Tire: ||BFGoodrich KDW 205/45ZR17 |
|Rear Tire: ||BFGoodrich KDW 255/55ZR18 |
|ENGINE & TRANS |
|Make: ||Subaru 2.5-liter WRX STI EFI Turbo 4-cam with 16-valve heads, water-cooled 4-cylinder |
|Crankshaft: ||Stock |
|Pistons: ||Stock |
|Water Pump: ||Stock |
|Radiator: ||Griffin with Zirgo electric fan |
|Alternator: ||Stock, polished |
|Heads: ||JDM WRX 2.0-liter |
|Induction: ||Subaru EFI with JDM WRX 2.0-liter turbo |
|Air Cleaner: ||K&N |
|Ignition: ||Stock |
|Headers: ||S&S Performance |
|Mufflers: ||Never! |
|Engine Mods: ||Engine management through a Micro Tech LT-10 with EFI programming by The Dyno Shop in Santee, CA. Engine built by S&S Performance Subaru in Alpine, CA, with final paint and detailing by owner |
|Transmission: ||'74 VW four-speed IRS by Eric Debord of Olive Hill, KY |
|Shifter: ||Berg |
|Trans Mods: ||3.88 ring-and-pinion combined with Weddle close-ratio gears; Sway-A-Way axles meet up with a Weddle Porsche 930 CV conversion kit along with a matching Weddle Super Diff and side cover |
|Manufacturer: ||Meyers Manx, www.meyersmanx.com |
|Body Mods: ||Rearview mirrors by Hot Rod Concepts molded to body, custom hood pins and side-pod grille inserts, '74 VW taillights, reworked front bumper and custom-fabbed rear bumper, all by owner |
|Bodywork: ||Owner |
|Paint Type: ||House of Kolor Sunrise Pearl with accents in House of Kolor Black Diamond |
|Painter: ||Owner |
|Gauges: ||Auto Meter Ultra-Lite II |
|Wiring: ||American Autowire installed by owner |
|Steering Wheel: ||MOMO |
|Steering Column: ||ididit GM Tilt |
|Seating: ||Beard off-road heated front suspension seats with Meyers rear buckets |
|Upholsterer: ||Tijuana Customs of Westbury, NY |
|Material: ||2006 Nissan Xterra for seats combined with molded nylon loop carpet |