Marc Buehler's 1951 VW sedan

I've owned this car since 1972, doing a body-off remake in the late 70's and now in 2009-2010, a complete restoration to its 1975-1978 personality.  This web site documents this process.

History:

This classic 1951 split window received its first "Cal-Look" (see side panel) transformation by Billy Arroya, a member of Der Kleiner Panzers, date unknown (late sixties?). I first saw the car when Gary Reid, also a DKP member, owned it and from then on, I knew I wanted that car.

It was 1972 when Ron Fleming (FAT Performance) called me to tell me Gary was selling the car!  Being one of the first to know this was key to obtaining it and I needed to act fast before word got out.  I rounded up the money, rushed down to  Ron's shop where I met Gary and purchased the car. Thank you, Ron Fleming!

When I took ownership of the car, it had a Beckers lacquer red paint job (dechromed), the upholstery, custom aluminum dash panels with VDO gauges, chrome wheels, and  a 1700cc, single port , motor that  really screamed. It was such a great street racer ("hey, it's only a single port motor!") that I didn't stick in a 48ida motor until the street racing money dried up.

The car was missing parts or had the wrong ones or they were  worn out, so I began a quest to find everything needed on my list. Racing with the Underdog, helped in making contacts that shortened my list.

During this time, I replaced the chrome wheels with BRMs, and stuck in an 1835cc, 48ida motor. I built a trans with close ratio gears and a ZF limited slip and except for minor items, I just drove and enjoyed the car until 1975 when I started to do the make-over I had been planning. 

I had already pulled and taken apart the motor when Hot VW Magazine called and wanted to include my car in the now famous article on "The Look" (see side bar). I quickly stuck in an old motor (which is why there are no pictures of my motor in the spread) and bolted back on the few things I had already removed. After the photo session, I returned to stripping the car, preparing it for paint.

 I almost lost the car when I handed the car over to a painter with serious health problems.  He used to work on Detroit's concept cars in the early Fifties and had a small shop next to mine which he basically used for storage.   The split sat in his shop for over a year and I could not get a hold of him.  Fearing the worse, I finally broke into his shop and "stole" back my car.  

I had other on-going projects to finish first, so it sat in my garage for another year until I once again started on it. This time, I removed the body and had the pan chemically stripped.  I didn't dip the body because I did not want to destroy the headliner that I loved so much.  

I had a body and paint shop finish the body work and paint the car while I tended to the drive train. I had 2 transaxles, one built by my business partner and one by me. Both had close ratio gears, one with all the good stuff for racing and the other with a ZF limited slip, good for the street.

I built the most radical motor I could and still be able to drive it on the street....barely.  The motor was a 2234cc with Carrillo rods, Arias slipper skirt 92mm pistons, Engle FK89 cam, and all the good stuff available in 1978.  I wanted the best, so I had Fumio do the porting on the big valve, welded heads.  I paid a small fortune for these things (Fumio's labor alone was $800.... in 1980). 

Due to a career change, a move to Washington State, a divorce, and an economic down turn, the motor and race trans was sold and the car fell into a dismal mess with paint bubbled, chrome replaced by rust, etc.  I lost any and all ambition to work on the car as I would have to start over. 

Then with the help of my best friends,  Bob and Linda Spencer, the support of my wife, Robin, and the community on www.cal-look.no/lounge, my passion was restored and in 2009 started the complete reconstruction of this car.

The rebirth of the car was completed in 2011, using  as many parts and pieces from the seventies as I could.  I am surprised and pleased at the overwhelming response the car has received including landing on the cover of the August, 2011 Hot VWs magazine. 

  

 

       
Hot VWs -Aug. 2011   Street VWs - Nov 2011   Ultra VW - Nov 2011   VW Depot - Mar 2012   VW Tech - Jul 2012

 

                                                                                                                                               click on envelope to email me

The California Look  as seen by Marc Buehler

It was the late sixties, Viet Nam, hippies, free love, moon landings and VW bugs. The VW first became popular in southern California, because they were cheap, easy to work on, funny looking and maybe a little anti-establishment.  Individualization usually led to big tires, whip antennas and anything and everything you could bolt on.  It was fun driving down the road and seeing someone else in a VW who had also "customized" their bug. Social type VW clubs where the only requirement was that you liked VWs were formed.  Volkschargers of So California was one the first and largest with between 100 and 200 members. 

But this is Southern California, the trend setter in hot rodding, and with the help of pioneers like Dean Lowry and Gene Berg, it was soon discovered that the purposely restricted stock VW motor responded eagerly to performance modifications.

The hot VW was born and it was inevitable that some clubs would start catering to the performance car enthusiast and the first, the most famous, and the club that was the trend starter was Der Kleiner Panzers or DKP.   

I don't remember what year it was but it was probably 1967 or 68, I attended a VW car show put on by a local VW dealer.  There was one car there that stood out from all the rest. It was clean looking, no chrome, lowered front, custom dash and it was appliance white (an unconventional VW car color back then). This car was awesome and certainly different than anything I had seen before. It was created and owned by Greg Aronson, a member of DKP (and the "A" in FAT Performance). That was the start of the California Look, and a new trend was started.

 

 click on this front cover  picture to see the February, 1975 Hot VW  article

   This look became common in So. California, but it was Hot VWs magazine that gave it a name, defined it and presented it to the world in the February, 1975 issue shown here. Appropriately the cover featured Jim Holmes' car, the one Greg Aronson built years before. There were 5 examples of the "California Look' in this issue and I'm honored that my 1951 split window was one of them.