Copyright © 2007 - 2023
Copyright © 2007 - 2023, Coachworks For contact data Click Here.

Land Speed Record Racing

Our Platform: Denzel-powered, 1959 Karmann Ghia Coupe

In may of 2009, we got a phone call from our friend Britt Grannis informing us of the rule changes to The 36hp Challenge which created a new category for the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. We just knew we had to compete as we are longtime 36hp high-performance enthusiasts and the rules seem to be tailor made to our interests!

So, we got our butts in gear and put together the 1959 Karmann Ghia pictured at right. We decided to power it with the legendary Denzel engine, but at the time there were only three other known running examples in the world, and we didn't have all the pieces. It was very difficult and we made it to the Bonneville Salt Flats just barely in the nick of time, and proceeded to set new records straight away. And so it came to pass that at 50 years of age, this Ghia set a world-record and at least seven "firsts."

In 2010, we got out there and did ourselves even better, and now, as we approach the 2011 events, we're again preparing to move the record ever faster.

On this page and a few related pages, the following serves as a bit of a table-of-contents:

We recommend you peruse the various sections that describe vehicle and then go to the page documenting our first year's efforts, 2009, and especially the (photographically illustrated) "blog" section as the narration there gives the back story and carries you through the process of how we fielded this wonderful Karmann Ghia. (One reader opined, "Rivetting!!!!! Like a great novel, I couldn't put it down and wish I had been there to help.")

Our goal was to campaign the first Karmann Ghia to enter The One Club, and The One Thirty Club!

We have achieved the first goal! Maybe next season we'll achieve the second!

Our Racing Achievements


Read about our 2009 efforts here.

Our Firsts

Speed Records

In 2009, we also set the following records. While there was only one top speed in our category, as with "firsts", there are various claims to "fastest". Note: Our fastest time was 101.32, but we lost the slip. The fastest acknowledged was 101.163:

Other Achievement


In 2009, we were in a big rush, so for 2010, in the off-season, had the time to try lots of jetting combinations and selected choices we 'd start with and set aside a few sets we might pick based on what air density we actually find up at Bonneville, informed in part by experience from tuner friends in Salt Lake City, which is much closer in altitude to Bonneville than we are in Oakland. We also did some minor work here and there to do a better job than when we rushed it into service the preceeding summer. Notably, we fixed the major oil leak.

Read about our 2010 efforts here.

Speed Records

We retained all our claims to "fastest" from 2009 and merely pushed our numbers up; our new speed was 105.777. (No one managed to beat our 2009 numbers, by the way.)

Other Achievement


The 2011 season is just now getting underway! We'll report back by the end of September. However, in the mean time, you can read up about our 2011 efforts here.


Oops! OBVIOUSLY, this page needs updating! Not just for 2012, but back for 2011! (All I've got are excuses on that one!)

Meanwhile, here's a link to what we did in 2012...

(In the image at the right, that's Britt Grannis sanding out paint flaws.)

About the 36hp Challenge:

The 36hp Challenge has arranged with various sanctioning bodies to permit our vintage, relatively slow vehicles to participate in land-speed racing without undue safety equipment. We are racing under the umbrella of The One Thirty Club, a sub-group of USFRA - the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association.

Our Category and Class:

This year the rules allow the Karmann Ghia to compete so we are campaigning a 1959 Karmann Ghia. Within that category, there are five classes available. We have chosen the DSS class - "Dual Super Stock". The class description is as follows:

DSS (Dual Super Stock)-Pre 1960 period style dual carburetor and non-28PCI single carburetor systems only, fitted to modified stock VW 36hp cylinder heads or period aftermarket 36hp dual port cylinder heads(or replicas)! Requires any Bosch distributor and coil. Dual spark plug conversions O.K.. No displacement, camshaft or header limitations.

About The One Club:

The One Club honors those who have managed to meet or surpass 100 mph in their vintage 36hp powered vehicles, as here.

Richard has been building high-performance VW based engines since the late 1970s, and began building Porsche and Okrasa engines - and collecting parts for Denzel engines - in the mid 1980s. His engines are well known, even famous in some communities, and he has served clients from as far afield from California as Germany, Britain and Australia. We are now offering a complete rebuild service, turn-key engines and sometimes the associated parts.

About Our Platform:

This 1959 Karmann Ghia is an original California car and served in the San Jose area for decades. Its original paint was Bamboo with a Dark Green roof, and the colors we're using are very close to the original shades.


So that this page isn't overloaded with images, please check out this page for more on the body and its assembly.

(Image below: Aaron Castillio replacing the front left drum.)










About our engine:

In order to not clutter up this main page with engine photos, we have another page with lots of them - click here.

We have set up some additional pages to provide imagery and additional information on the following:


WATCH AND HEAR IT RUN! Click here. NOTE that the audio does _not_ do the engine justice - it cuts out when the real volume becomes earsplitting! (Our initial guess was that it exceeds 120 dB but on reflection, perhaps it's more like 90 dB.) There is also a timing problem with some players so that the sound is offset in time from the actions in the video.

In this video, you can see some of the various gauges of our Stuska Dynamometer, however, the tachometer is on the fritz - it works well at idle, but after about 2000 RPM, it goes bonkers. Other gauges, however, like the oil temp, fuel pressure, oil pressure, are rock steady and show you what's going on - no load was used in this few minute run.

In the following photos we see the bottom end, in two views, pulley and flywheel sides, as it was when the bottom end was finally complete and top-end assembly had already commenced.


























About our Transaxle:

This is where the primary assembly took place, next to a Porsche 356 B Cabriolet (1600S) that's in the process of restoration. This photo was taken after everything but the brake assemblies had been installed. It actually took about 4 core transaxles from three different decades of production for us to select all the right parts.

Note that we usually use solid axle boots but simply ran out of time - these split boots were already attached to one of our core's axle tubes and we saved time by just bolting them on!

We have a page dedicated to the transaxle here.







Comments? Additions? Please email us!



Contact Us