Henry Spicak’s 1956 VW Beetle

We caught up with Henry and his eleven-second V-Dub at Summernats Slam

Photographers: Simon Davidson

WANDERING the pits on Day One of Summernats Slam at Sydney Dragway, you couldn’t miss Henry Spicak’s eye-popping yellow Beetle packing a cool vintage drag vibe. We were blown away to hear more about Henry’s history with V-Dubs, but were sad to learn that ’Nats Slam would be his Beetle’s last race meet in his hands after nearly four decades.

First published in the February 2021 issue of Street Machine. Photos: Simon Davidson

Your VW looks like it could tell some stories!

It is a 1956 Beetle that I race here at Sydney. I’ve been racing Volkswagens for years, starting way back in the 1970s at the old Castlereagh track. I’ve owned this car for 38 years, but I built it into a race car in 2000. I have to say, though, this is my last race meeting in it.

Why are you stopping after so long?

I got over all the maintenance, all the crawling around on the ground and working so hard to try and compete with the later-model cars, so I have sold the Beetle to a fellow in Queensland. He wanted to keep my number on the side, but I had to say no because that is my licence number and I will still be racing!

What is under the lid?

This car runs a 2330cc air-cooled Volkswagen four-cylinder with IDA Weber carburettors and a four-speed manual ’box. It’s all Volkswagen in this car! It normally runs high 11s, and I think the best it ever did was around 11.8@112mph, but I’m having problems with the clutch slipping today.

That’s rapid!

It only weighs 700kg, and while it isn’t anything too flash, it works well. I just use ordinary fuel, but I do have a shed full of clutches at home, because I have raced all over the place – up in Warwick and all the way down in Portland, too.

What was the car you ran at Castlereagh? Was it similar in style?

In 1977 I had a black Beetle with orange windows, which was my first venture into drag racing. That car ran mid-13s and used a roller-crank 2180cc Volkswagen engine. I drove it at the ’77 Chesterfield Nationals and remember having to use a post in the pits to hammer seized rockers off their shafts. After that, I said I’d never do open-heart surgery at the track ever again, so that car was turned back into a street car and sold off a few months later.

You must have picked up some tricks in all these years racing dak-daks.

People think I’m a bit funny, because they’ll come up and show me photos of the car with the wheels in the air, but I’m not excited by it. I always say: “Going up isn’t going forward”, so while it looks great, it isn’t fast.

You would have had a bunch of tough street Beetles then, too?

One of my Beetles – another yellow one actually – was on the cover of Street Machine back in 1982. Initially I told them I didn’t want it featured, because I owned it and built it, so who am I putting it in the magazine for? Eventually I gave in and Jon Van Daal photographed it, and I still have the photo of the magazine cover on my phone today.

What will replace the Volksy?

I will be driving a VF SS ute. I was going to use it to tow the Volkswagen, but it has a small cam and is an auto, so once I get it to run more consistent times, it will be good.