Alex Dearborn

Back <--> Next Photo 1969 Deserter GT 1600. Dark red with grey and black interior.

In 1998 a friend called..... "Hey, there's one of your old cars on the roof of a body shop in New Jersey! " I guess that activated my Deserter gene which had been dormant for a decade or three, so I headed down to Pegasus VW Repair in Elizabeth, NJ to have a look. There were two unbuilt Deserter GT kits is excellent original condition. The hardware kit was unopened, and marked on the cover was "Packed by A.D." and a 1969 date. I took one kit and it didn't take long to get Reeves Callaway to take the other. Pete Callaway kindly delivered the goods to me in Topsfield, and we were off and running on the project.

Alex Finigan referred me to a decent 1969 IRS VW lying dormant in New Jersey. Jack's Garage got the job to shorten the pan and build the car. After this phase, the project went to Jim Wolcott for various "engineering" projects, and then to Brim Bell for paint and trim. Most of the sorting out has been done with Dave Twitchell at DTE Motorsports.

The Deserter GT body wasn't designed for the IRS chassis, so we had to do some surgery on the body, and put a square hole in the right side pod for a small side-post battery. The pods were then filled with self-hardening styrofoam for added rigidity and side-impact protection.

The body was mounted to the VW pan in the usual way, but we used at least eight more brackets to secure the body front and rear. Further efforts to reduce noise, vibration, rattles and resonance included spraying the backside of the body panels with Duraliner . We got sound deadening/absorption material from

Porsche 914 seats turned out to be the narrowest seats I could find, and were mounted as low in the pan as we could, so I could look through the windshield. The steering column was extended, and the shifter moved back on the tunnel, all to fit my 6'3". It was decided not to add a top at this point, so I installed rain-drain holes at the pan low points, and used Sunbrella fabrics for the interior.

The chassis consists of a stock balljoint front end with Selectadrop, and Karmann Ghia disc brakes. We are running stock beetle oil shocks on the front right now, but they are too stiff. This is one of the few unresolved issues with the car . The rear suspension uses front linkpin shocks and Porsche 944 cast-aluminum hubcarriers, which bolt up to the VW IRS pickup points, and allow us to use 944 rear disc brakes. By dumb luck, the front/rear brake bias is fine. Jim Wolcott machined the front Ghia brakes to accept Porsche 911 Fuchs alloy wheels, size 5.5X14. This made it possible to retain the critical stock Beetle front wheel offset. We bolted up 8X15 Fuchs alloys at the rear. Tires are 185/60X14 front, 235/70X15 rear.

A 1969 Porsche 912 engine appeared just in time for the project, and seemed cheaper and maybe better than a VW engine uprated to match the torque. The transaxle is a stock "FreewayFlyer" box sourced from one of the many vendors. This gives a very tall cruising gear; about 3500rpm at 80MPH. VDO 356b instruments are used to match the 912 engine.

This is a road car, civilized to the max for long-distance drives. It turned out quieter, tighter, smoother-riding and better handling than my 1961 Porsche 356b Roadster. The recipe for this is achieving that trio of engineering objectives........ rigid body/chassis structure, soft, compliant suspension, and low unsprung weight.

........ Alex Dearborn 8/05