Air-cooled VW History

Alternative uses for VW Beetle engines

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The aircooled 4-cylinder horizontally opposed cylinder or "flat four" Beetle engines have been used for other purposes as well. Especially interesting is its use as an experimental aircraft engine. This type of Beetle engine deployment started in the sixties. A number of companies still produce aero engines that are VW Beetle engine derivatives: Limbach, Hapi, Revmaster and others. Kitplanes or plans, notably the Volksplane, owner-built experimental aircraft were specifically designed to utilise these engines.

Up until 2001, Beetle engines were also used to run several of the ski lifts at the Thredbo ski resort in NSW, Australia.

In Australian remote opal-mining communities, VW motors are used as air compressors for air-powered equipment. Two cylinders on one side are used as a motor while the other side of the head is modified to produce a flow of compressed air. The opal fields are very dry and hot, so an air-cooled compressor has an advantage over a liquid cooled one. The Dunn-Right Corporation of Anderson, SC offers a conversion kit.

In Europe, Beetle engines were used to power mobile water-pumps used by the fire-department. These pumps came in the 1950s, and some are still in use today. The rotating Mercedes-Benz emblem atop the Europa-Center in Berlin, Germany, is driven by a Beetle engine. The Zamboni HD ice resurfacing machine was powered by a LPG-powered Beetle engine. Zamboni was the world's leader in LPG conversions for the Beetle engine.

The Amazonas, a Brazilian-built motorcycle manufactured from 1978 to 1990, used a modified 1600-cc Beetle engine and gearbox. With a dry weight that could top 350 kg (800 pounds), the Amazonas was billed as the world's biggest (heaviest) production motorcycle. The VW transmission's reverse gear, rare in a two-wheeled vehicle, was a useful feature in such a heavy motorcycle. There was later the Kahena with similar construction.

Many three-wheel motorbikes, known as "trikes", have been built with Beetle engines. The engines as well as transmission and some suspension components are also commonly used in construction of dune buggies and sandrails.


beetle, aircooled, engine