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Aaron Phillips Sidewinder

Good story here reuniting two old class mates… Aaron tells us more. 

 I was always looking to restore a beetle and my sister contacted me to say there was one near her for sale, I went and had a look and managed to get it for £80 it all looked good but I never knew what size the engine was or how much the parts would cost me to get it back on the road, anyhow I uploaded a photo to facebook and a couple of days later I got a message from a old school mate even though we were mates on facebook we had not really spoke since school 14 years ago, turns out Gary lives about 5 minutes walk from me even though we are 45 minutes drive from where we grew up. The message said what are you doing with that old beetle, I told Gary that I wanted to restore it he explained his involvement with vw’s over the years and was good enough to come and have a look over the car, he quickly told me it was worth the £80 just for the 1600 twinport engine and the centrelines was a bonus so I paid the money and Gary towed it home for me I could not wait to see if she ran.  The next day there I was armed with a jerry can and fresh fuel and some new fuel pipe, I checked the oil and fitted the fuel pipe direct to the pump and turned the key second attempt and away she went big smiles from me and Amy then she stalled as the pipe come out of the jerry can, sorted that and started her back up again on the button, by the time I walked to the back of the car the engine was on fire and what was the first thing to hand 2 cans of apple tango hence the colour some might say, so there she was burning off all the oil leaks and me shouting at Amy to get some water I should have known better as this would not be the first old car I had restored, anyway it was good enough to hear it running and I was happy, I found myself a lock up and started on the bodywork by the end of the day I looked like I had spent the week with Danielle Westbrook the amount of white powder everywhere.  After a couple of weeks Gary contacted me and had seen the progress I had made and said he would come and have a look and I was only too happy for his advice, he could not believe his eyes what looked like a great beetle turned out to be a lemon but I was determined to do it.  Gary spent the next 2 hours trying to talk me into doing a beach buggy, I locked up and come home confused, got the laptop out and found Gary’s buggy photos and showed my mum and Amy and they said it was great but up to me what I wanted to do.  I called Gary the next day telling him what a headache he had given me and asked some questions, still unsure I left it for a couple of weeks and met up with Gary for a couple of beers and it was decided a beach buggy it would be, the next day Gary armed with his grinder had a great time cutting the body off.

I then set to having the chassis shortened to the correct length to fit the tub for the GP shell after looking at loads of photos.  After the shortening was done I set to painting the floor, beam and gearbox assembly, things started to looking good, I was looking on vzi and come across a mk 1 gp shell which was in Manchester so much to Amy’s disgust there we were at 3.30am that weekend driving up there, well Amy slept most of the way.  It needed a lot of work as I was not happy with the strength of it so I set about re-inforcing parts I felt were weak and making appropriate repairs to.

Whilst repairing the shell, myself and Gary were on the constant lookout for parts I may have needed. Gary sourced me a nice set of Wolfrace Slotmag wheels and also a rough looking roll cage among other bits. After a trip to the powder coaters the roll cage looked great.

The repairs to the shell were complete and I had also sourced a pair of Weber 40IDF carbs and manifolds. The only issue was clearance, Gary said they will fit but you may need a set of Type 3 short manifolds. Our next task was getting the body painted. We travelled all across Essex and East London getting prices, but they were so high it just wasn’t viable. The only option left was to paint it ourselves or get a new gel coated shell. My facilities were not up to scratch to produce a good enough finish so I looked into getting a new shell and initially done a deal to get a GP MK1 shell that was old stock from Pro-laminates, but upon inspection I found the flake wasn’t even all round, so I dismissed that idea. I was then given a chance to buy a new Sidewinder shell for very reasonable money and it was an easy decision for me as the chassis had been shortened to take this size shell.

And so the new shell was bought in Kawasaki Green with a Miraflake finish. It fits the chassis perfect too. In addition to the new shell I also splashed out and had a set of moulded rear seats made,

now I had a brand new shell and a rollcage that was just not up to the standard of the rest of the buggy so this was sold and I had a custom polished stainless steel cage made also from the same guy I had some other bits made, like the laser cut fan guard thanks to Peter Gibb’s handy CAD work made this possible and I also had a laser cut sidewinder badge, there are some other bits in the pipe line.

Myself and Gary managed to get ourselves a great big workshop which has made the build much easier once we were settled in and got xmas out the way I was down there every spare 5 minutes I had.  I decided on the acewell Speedo and savage switches and then the wiring started and again thanks to Peter Gibb’s wiring diagram this was quite easy after a couple of calls to Peter just to check a couple of bits it all went well the hardest part was the savage switches but it was well worth the time and effort, the custom made seats were ordered and arrived about 2 weeks later and they really do set the buggy off.

But then in August my mum passed away I was devastated and did not want to do anything but be on my own so there I was sitting down my workshop for weeks just looking at the buggy and thinking to myself what now what’s the point my mum was always saying get it finished there’s not much left to do get it done, a couple more days passed and with the company of my cousin and the reminder of my mum’s words I then carried on.  I had ordered some real carbon fibre from eBay with the plan to do the centre tunnel how hard could it be (it was a nightmare) it had 4 layers and has come out very well but I don’t plan to do it again anytime soon.

 I finished off the last little bits of the wiring, put some fuel in and spent the rest of the day trying to get her running but she would not fire so the next day my uncle come down and started looking over it I thought he’s old school he will get it running but we were not having much luck, we started checking over it and found that I had not replaced the rota arm, what a muppet I felt, still fitted the rota arm and away she went but then the jets were all wrong I decided after a couple of weeks trying to set the carbs up to have it set up by Harry Harpicks he’s pricey but he knows his stuff,

there were many times I almost walked away from it and I understand why there are so many unfinished projects on sites like eBay all I can say is stick with it as the end results are well worth the time and effort.

The whole build took me just over 2 years but I more than likely could have had it done in a year if I never kept changing my mind and had not been so picky with the wiring as I wanted this all in cable ducting, it’s unnecessary but it’s just how I wanted it.

I would like to thank Gary for talking me into building a buggy and his help along the way and to Peter for his CAD drawings and knowledge when I phoned him for his advice and for his wiring diagram.

Thanks to everyone who has given me help and advice along the way. Also thanks to Amy and my mum for putting up with all the headaches I’m sure I gave you over the years.

Next for the buggy:-  replace the 1200 gearbox with the 1600 one I have waiting to be painted, rear disc conversion also needs to be fitted and I plan to build a bigger engine well I need something to do over the winter.