If you want the best possible Old School Cal Look car, you need the best basis possible...
Mark Cross was brought up on custom cars as his father, John, was a rodder and had friends were into VWs. He told us, “My father started building Hot Rods in 1977, so I’ve never known anything other than cars. His good friend, Kev Rooney took me for a ride in his Cal Look ’67 in the mid ‘80s, and took me to Bug Jam in his ’62 (Fiat Adriatic blue with black EMPI 5s) in ’89 or ’90. The ’67 was the first tastefully modified Beetle I had seen, but the ’62 was what confirmed me as VW guy.”
While working in the USA, Mark picked up copies of Hot VWs magazine and that’s when everything changed. “I picked up a copy of Hot VWs to aid my search for a motor for a dormant Speedster project back home,” he said. “And in this copy was a tough-looking 12-second Dove blue ’55 Oval owned and built by Buddy Hale. After fingering the pages of the article for the next couple of hours I thought, oh well, maybe one day, and carried on looking through the adverts for engine builders. My job in the USA soon finished and I returned to the UK with my new motor for the Speedster and big plans of getting it finished.”
But virtually as soon as he arrived back he was sent away again with work, this time to Norway.
“My firm had me on the next plane, and the Speedster was back in mothballs. After a couple of years in Norway it was becoming clear I was going to be here for a while, and the Speedster was becoming a disappearing memory as I was thinking more and more of the Cal Look Oval. I decided if I wanted a nice car back at home I was going to have to find the nicest complete car I could and get somebody else to throw a big motor in the back for me.”
“After searching unsuccessfully for over 12 months I enrolled the help of my Norwegian/Swedish-speaking girlfriend, Monika. Searching the internet in foreign languages seemed to be the answer. She found me a L275 Light beige ’55 Bug Run ‘Best Vintage’ winner in just a few weeks.”
The car was owned by Henrik Otterson from Sweden and there was a problem – it wasn’t actually for sale! Mark went on to explain, “It took a few emails back and forth in Swedish before Monika got Henrik to agree to sell the car. She got me a rough price and an appointment to go up to Sundsvall in Sweden to view it.”
“The car was exactly what I was looking for! One week later, after the money transfer had cleared, I was on a train heading back to Sundsvall. It was a 12-hour drive in an unknown car, in the dark and torrential rain. I was very glad when I pulled on to the ferry in Gothenburg to start my 25-hour relaxing crossing back to Newcastle. Portsmouth was another nine-hour drive but I was on familiar turf and it wasn’t raining, so I enjoyed every minute of it. I got it home, put it in the garage and flew back to Norway where I spent the next few years saving money and collecting performance goodies.”
The fact Mark had time on his hands meant he was able to pick the best components without compromise. His thought process was that if he blew all his money on something he wanted he’d simply wait until he was flush again before he ordered something else. As he puts it, “The car was only going to be a weekend toy, and I wanted to go fast!” As mentioned, he’d spent ages gathering together his dream parts and when he had everything he needed he told us, “a good friend, Andy Jewell stepped up and offered to assemble it for me. Andy’s own Anthracite ’62 was so close to the spec of mine, his experience would save a lot of time and money. Andy spent a lot of time fitting and fabricating to make everything on the car right.
Many hours were spent modifying the aftermarket heavy-duty gearbox cradle mount to incorporate the brace bar uprights and get the motor so it sat in the correct position so no valance mods were necessary to clear the exhaust. “Andy fabricated and installed a brace bar in the luggage area that extends down to the rear gearbox cradle, this with the Berg traction bar, and the intermediate mount keeps the rear end tied up to prevent twisting, bending, and breakages.
“To enable fitment of the CB wide 5 rear disc brake kit, he had to remove the early rod handbrake section from the tunnel and replace it with a later cable handbrake section. Many hours were spent fabricating, modifying and strengthening the engine tin to retain the factory look but have functional tinware that wouldn’t crack and fall apart, and would fit the wider stroker motor. Andy installed the front beam which Alex Taylor of Defcon 3 had narrowed by 3.5 inches and installed later ball-joint type shock towers to prevent any inner wing mods being necessary.”
The main hurdle now was the engine, and for this Mark went to John Walklett, a man who has built up a very good reputation for his engine building skills with plenty of wheelies and 12-second passes in his blue ’63 ragtop on gold Erco rims. Having seen his car in action and heard good reports about his work, Mark told us, “John cast his eye over my collection of engine parts, came up with a list of parts I still needed, and put the 2332cc motor together in record time.
Starting out with such a good basis for this project, Mark didn’t really have to have anything done to the body, exterior trim or the interior as every element was to show-winning standards. However, there was one panel which had to be replaced and that was the rear valance. The was replaced with a new reproduction panel made Wolf Parts in Sweden. As Mark puts it, “That’s the only non VW panel on the car!”
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