2,662cc Air-Cooled and Turbocharged VW Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

2,662cc Air-Cooled and Turbocharged VW Engine

This 1969 Volkswagen Beetle was just $600 when Steve Dalton bought it in high school. Having tweaked the performance of the car every year, he's gone way past that mark and several iterations of the VW engine. Today, it's a 2,662cc air-cooled and turbo'd VW with a bunch of aftermarket goodies.

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There’s just something inherently awesome about seeing a Volkswagen Beetle wheelie off the line at a dragstrip. It’s even cooler when you know the engine making it happen is also a VW and not some sort of swap. We caught up with Steve Dalton, the owner of such a Beetle, during Sick Week 2024. His air-cooled and turbocharged Volkswagen engine competes against a sea of V8 horsepower, and it holds its own, so we wanted to know how the 1969 Beetle and the VW engine got to this point.

1969 Volkswagen Beetle

We chatted with Steve at Bradenton Motorsport Park on day two of Sick Week following Steve’s pass to get the scoop on his bug. We don’t get to feature too many Volkswagen engines, so we were excited to learn that Steve has owned the car since high school, and he’s been working to up the performance level every year.

“This was a $600 car when I bought it in high school,” Dalton told us. “We’ve gone way past that mark and there’s been several iterations. It was a daily driver and I put an 1835cc engine in it, and it maybe made 90 horsepower. I then began to make a little more money and built a little better motor for it and ended up with a 2276cc. That was my daily driver forever and it made 160 horsepower with just two carburetors – standard stuff. I just kept pushing it, just like all these other people out here. What it is now is 2662cc, so 162 cubic inch. It’s still Volkswagen architecture, but it’s an aftermarket case, aftermarket crank, aftermarket heads, aftermarket rockers, and all that stuff.

VW engine

“This current iteration features a turbo from Turbo Direct. It’s got an older FuelTech FT500 in it to manage everything. On the track, I recently switched it over to run methanol, so it runs M1 and makes killer power, but I’m still getting a good handle on it. My buddy, Richie Webb, helps me a lot with it. On the street, it’ll run E85 or pump gas. You just tap the dash, change your map, and away you go.”

As Steve mentioned, his VW engine still features Volkswagen architecture, but utilizes a number of aftermarket components for added performance and horsepower.

VW engine

“For the case, you can buy this thing brand new, it’s called a TF-1,” Dalton says. “A guy in Washington named Todd Francis makes it. You could build it as a stock 1600cc if you want, but he also options it out. He moves oil galleys around, so you can put a big bore in there. He drops the cam .100” so you get more clearance for stroke.

“The heads are from a guy in Sweden named Johannes Persson and his shop called JPM Motorsports, which makes a really nice cylinder head. It still has all VW valve angles and stuff, but killer flow, super stable valvetrain. Geers Engineering in Westminster, CA did all the machine work to make everything work together, and they do the occasional repair when I miss the tune up and torch stuff.”

VW Beetle

With Steve’s VW engine running methanol on the track, his ETs have gotten considerably lower than his previous engine iterations, but early in 2024, he’s still working out the kinks and getting a better feel for the added performance, which is aided by a turbocharger as well.

“I’m still getting a handle on the whole methanol stuff,” he admits. “Today, I basically bogged the staging, so the turbo only made 19-lbs. of boost and went 10.31 at 134 mph. Yesterday, it made about 25-lbs. and went 9.65 at 149 mph. I was real happy with that.”

Obviously, this is a car that used to street drive all the time as a daily driver. But, does it still have pretty good street manners?

VW Beetle

“This thing is awesome,” he says. “We cruise 75 mph no problem. I’ve had a turbocharged combination in there since 2019. I did Hot Rod Drag Week with this combination on C16. I had a 10.35 average. I broke both axles clean in half on the last day of the last pass and rolled through the beams. They gave me a 20, which killed the average to a 12.40 or something. I did Rocky Mountain Race Week with it still on C16. I got my 10.35 average for the whole event with that. I think it did a best of 10.19 or something.”

As any car guy can relate to, Steve wanted to go beyond those 10-second time slips, but in a tight engine bay like that of a VW Beetle, there’s not much room after a certain point.

VW engine

“Packaging on this thing is an absolute nightmare – there’s just no space,” Dalton says. “An intercooler is not really an option unless I cut the whole back of the car out. I don’t want to do that, so I added a second set of injectors, made my own rails and stuff, and put another set of 210s in there and just put it on methanol. It makes awesome power. It made 600 hp to the tire.”

While Steve’s first day of Sick Week saw a 9.65 at 149 mph, he admits he doesn’t need to go that fast as he doesn’t want to hurt the engine.

“The engine’s got 140+ mph in it, but last year I torched the head at Bradenton, so I was done and out,” he says. “I figure if I can run low 10s, maybe nip a high 9 towards the end of the week, that’d be cool. If everything is going good, we could sneak up on the tune up and really crank on it. I’ve got a chute plugged right into the bumper. JCL Race Cars built it for me. I figure I’d try and bump that 150 mph number at the end of the week. Well, I went out yesterday with a medium tune up in the thing and it’s right there. The plan is to try and back it down a couple mph for the week and see if I can make it through the week. Then, day five, just throw the sink at her, see what happens.”

VW Beetle

Steve was keeping to his plans of running low 10s at Sick Week after his 9.65. He saw ETs of 10.31 at 134 mph, 10.08 at 147 mph, and 10.27 at 114 mph. Unfortunately, Steve wasn’t able to continue following day four in South Georgia Motorsports Park, and had to end his Sick Week just shy of the final day back in Orlando. But, knowing what kind of competitor Steve is, his VW will be back soon even better than before.

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade1Elring – Das Original and NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].

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