1956 Volkswagen Double door Panel aka Porsche Bus

The Porsche Bus has been a long time Lüfteknic project which like many, evolved significantly over the years. The initial plan was to get a shop truck to haul parts and generally move things as needed. Being a Porsche shop with a strong history in the air-cooled VW world, a domestic or typical import pickup wasn’t going to fit the mold. Around this time we discovered thesamba.com (circa 2001-02), at the time it seemed these early buses were everywhere. The Panels, which were the least popular compared to the other pre-58 models, weren’t very expensive at the time.

Many chances came and went, and once this particular 1956 model was located in California, it was purchased site-unseen. It is also a double door, so you can load or unload from either side, a particularly useful feature when it comes to hauling engine parts, cases, transmissions, wheels, tires, tools, or whatever else you might want to throw inside. This particular VW spent most of its life as a fuel truck at a small airport in California, so although well used, was relatively rust free and  straight.

Fast forward a bit and the Bus sat, languishing as the time and funds demanded to operate a new business took precedence. The original plan was to throw in an updated 2.0L VW motor and freshen the mechanical pieces and press it into service. As parts stockpiled in the warehouse, the idea was thrown around about install a Porsche motor and transmission into the Bus. Could it be done?

Ed and Robert got the blueprints out of each vehicles shop manual (VW bus and 911) and started coming up with the gameplan. Paper engineering came first. Working on the rear of the Bus first. The 911 rear torsion bar housing gave shape to drivetrain placement, as well as the rear suspension. Once we had done our math and testing, the sawzall came out. The VW frame rails were re-inforced, and after getting into the swap the result is not far off what could have actually been produced by a manufacturer.

About this same time Robert called down to some friends in Florida at the 901 Shop, and they happened to be performing the same swap into a 1966 single cab Transporter. They had successfully swapped the 911 front suspension into their bus!

Encouraged, work continued on the full 911 conversion. Bits of 911 are used along with many custom fabricated items in order to fit the flat-six engine, 915 gearbox and 911 front and rear suspensions into the VW. A lot of the choices made were ultimately decided by what was available and around at the time. For example there was a 3.2L from an 80s Carrera which was in need of a rebuild that was to be the original motor. The 915 gearbox was on the shelf from a parted-out 911SC.

Slowly things came together, and the build pace increased once a completion goal was establish: Bulli Brigade 2013. Bulli Brigade is a car show / get together / happening in St Petersburg, Florida, centered around the older pre-1968 split window Type 2 VW Transporters. Around this same time we received a call from a customer: he had totaled his clean, low mileage 993 C4S, and would we like to buy it for parts? After inspecting things and being fairly sure of the mechanical health of the 3.6 liter Varioram engine, a price was arranged and the Porsche Bus build took on a whole new character.

In typical fashion, the Porschebus was completed beyond last-minute, leaving hours after the rest of the crew caravanning down the East Coast had left Richmond. We went around the block a few times, loaded up, and headed south. True to character, the Porsche Bus never skipped a beat (and hasn’t since), even in its current ‘unfinished’ state. It completed the 1500 mile first test drive without issue.

Handling is surprisingly sharp, and the ride is remarkably smooth, although the sensation can be likened to driving a 911 from a folding chair sitting on the hood. Needless to say with 10 times the power as delivered (30hp to 300hp), it can surprise even modern sports cars when it comes to speed. Final plans for the bus include a possible re-paint to its original Dove Blue color, among other ideas, although none of these options have been decided for sure.

While the final product is a bit more extreme and attention-grabbing than originally planned, it’s a blast to drive and it attracts more attention and comments than any other project we’ve been involved with to date. Everyone has a story about a VW…

-Chassis: 1956 Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter double-door Panel with reinforced chassis and fabricated engine and suspension mounts to accept various Porsche 911 running gear, 911/930 steering rack. Luftkraft Fabrication steering wheel, 917-style shift knob connected to modified 915 shifter, and 356A fuel tank. Original seat, OEM cab divider, complete vehicle MIL-spec wiring harness fabricated w/ Deutsch connectors.

-Drivetrain: 3.6 liter 993 twin-plug Varioram flat-six, 915 5-speed gearbox, Sachs 911SC clutch w/ Patrick Motorsports conversion flywheel, 997 RSR-influenced exhaust pipes. Custom fabricated throttle and clutch linkages, etc.

-Suspension: 930 torsion bars front and rear, 911SC rear trailing arms, 930 front control arms, 911SC front hubs and Bilstein Sport dampers all around. Custom fabricated steering and shift linkages.

-Brakes: Porsche Boxster front calipers, 3.2 Carrera discs, 911SC rear calipers and discs, OE Porsche pads all around.

-Wheels: 16×7 front / 16×8 rear factory forged Fuchs wheels, 205/50 and 225/50 tires, respectively.

  • Voted by peers at Bulli Brigade 2013 – Best Commercial
  • Voted by peers at Charlotte Transporter Show (CTS) 2015 – Best Commercial

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