VW Trike Project


About 1979 I got interested in VW Trikes. I gathered all the brochures and specs and decided to build my own. Well, it had to get done on a shoestring budget. Raising three kids and buying a house on Navy pay and Patty's PacBel service rep job didn't leave much for toys. I started the project and actually made it to the point of a test drive with less than $600 invested when my Navy tour was up and we moved. The trike project got put on hold for 11 years.

In the spring of '91 my son, Jacob, came home from his freshman year at U of F, and bugged me to finish the VW Trike. Yes it had been moved across the nation and had languished in neglect for the last 11 years. We redid the frame and controls and got it wrapped up for him to ride back to school in the fall. Building a motorcycle is not too hard but as they say, the devil is in the details. Seems that the final touches are what takes forever. Our trip from Raleigh, NC to Gainesville, FL with the trike is another "moving" story,

Here are the photos of the finished product.

The Raleigh to Gainesville Trip

We were working a deadline and trying to wrap up the loose ends so we could test ride it. After all, this was a 1964 Beetle engine that hadn't been on the road for at least 13 years. I hooked up a long piece of fuel line so we could gas and go and made a mental note to trim the line later.

The trike successfully passed the trials and we set to on working out the bugs. I made a list of the final things Jacob needed to finish. Trimming the fuel line was on the list. The big trip was planned, Jacob on the trike, I would ride along on the Suzi. Raleigh to Gainesville about 550 miles, easy days trip. The day of departure arrived, we were packed and ready to go but it was raining. We delayed for several hours and finally decided to head out at about 4 PM during a lull in the storm.

Things went pretty well for about an hour, then it started a light rain, the worst kind if you're behind a windshield, just wet enough that you get the road mist and dirt but not raining hard enough to clean off the shield. Visibility? Close to nothing. We stopped at Fayetteville for supper. I called a halt, trying to keep one eye on the road and one eye on my son in the heavy I-95 traffic in the rain now that it was almost dark, was more stress than I could cope with. We stopped for the night.

Sunday morning we take off bright and early. Weather was fair, intermittent rain showers interspersed with baking sun. We wasted a lot of time donning and discarding rain gear. The rain gear was too hot when we ran into the sunshine. Probably should have just gone with being wet.

About halfway across South Carolina I look in the mirror and no Jacob. My heart skipped a few beats. I pull to the side of the road and wait a few minutes--still no trike. So I make a U-turn and head back up the shoulder of I-95 going the wrong way. About a mile back he's broke down by the side of the road. The description of the rattling and shaking sounds like major engine failure, my greatest concern.

I hook up the towrope (Hmmm, did I anticipate this?) between the trike and the trailer hitch on the Suzi and pull him to the next exit a little over a mile. It started to rain.

The little quick stop service station had a large awning where a truck fill up station had been. They gave their permission for us to pull under this "truck port" to survey the problem. Seems that the long fuel line (yeppie, it never got trimmed) had worked it's way lose and got sucked into the fan on the VW. The fan had to come off, which entailed, removing the fan shroud, which required removal of the intake manifold, but that couldn't happened until the bodywork came off. Major tear down in Podunk, SC on a Sunday.

I asked the service station folks if there was a salvage yard nearby that might be open. They just smiled and said no. One of the patrons asked what we needed and when I said VW parts, another piped up and said that Frank down the road worked on VWs, maybe I should try him. So I ride the 3/4 mile to this guy's farm, knock on the door, and explain the situation. He takes me to his barn where I find that he builds racing engines for VWs. He's got a mini-junk yard with just about every part you would ever want. He has the fan and lends me the breaker bar and socket needed for removal. Talk about a stroke of luck! He was going to give me the fan, I insisted on giving him enough money for a nice dinner for him and his wife on me. Southern hospitality is alive and well!

So after a 5-hour delay in SC, we're back on the road. The only other problem with the VW Trike is the rubberneckers. This is unique enough that everybody has to slow down or speed up to take a look at it creating some very scary traffic problems. At one point a carload of Japanese came flying by and slammed on the brakes so they could get pictures!

At about 5 PM we stopped for dinner in Brunswick, GA (400 miles from Raleigh). The sky seemed to be clearing (we had be in and out of rainsqualls all day) and I'm suppose to be at work at 8 AM the next day. Jacob and I part company and I head north. Another, very stressful, 700 mile interstate day. My road trips haven't turned out well at all.