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How to Get the Most Horsepower From Your Air-Cooled VW

by Jeff Slater

Most notably used in Volkswagen's legendary Beetle, the small-displacement, four-cylinder, air-cooled engine was a reliable workhorse that powered some of history's most recognizable vehicles for decades. However, the distinctive mechanical whirring sound made by VW air-cooled engines will soon be a thing of the past, as the German automaker has phased out the design in favor of more efficient and modern water-cooled engines. Due to the huge volume of cars and parts produced, owners who wish to modify their air-cooled VWs have plenty of available options in the quest for more power and speed.

Replace ignition components, such as the igniter module, spark plugs and wires, to restore vehicle horsepower and performance. This is especially crucial on older cars or vehicles that have been sitting for any extended time.

Install a sports exhaust system to let your engine breathe more easily by reducing power-robbing back-pressure. A high-flow muffler and mandrel bent piping allow exhaust gases to exit more easily.

Add a custom turbo kit for the ultimate horsepower upgrade. The kit will include the turbo unit, intercooler, boost gauge and larger fuel injectors. The turbocharger works by pressuring ambient air and forcing it into the engine, where it is ignited with a proportional amount of fuel. Power gains of 50 percent over stock are not uncommon with this modification alone.

Tip

  • Aftermarket tires, brakes and heavy-duty clutch are recommended when radically increasing engine output.

Warning

  • Modifying your air-cooled VW can damage your engine; proceed with caution.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jeff Slater has been a freelance writer since 2007 and was first published in the York University student newspaper "AfterWord." Currently based in Toronto, Slater regularly contributes technology and automotive news stories to CarCasher.com. He holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from Riverton University.

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