Weird & Wonderful VWs - The Ascort
Victoria, Australia: In 1955 Volkswagenwerk introduced, in conjunction with the, firm of Wilhelm Karmann, a new sporty looking car on the basis of the VW Beetle. This car had a major effect on the motoring World in Western Europe it put many social builders out of the business! Among the great names of Beetle Special builders were Drews, Denzel, Dandenhauer - Stauss, Rometsch, Beutler, Enzmann, to name only the more important ones in the 1950s. By 1960 the Swiss -company Enzmann (see Wheelspin May2001 for the story of the Enzmann and its return) was the only one producing cars, although Rometsch did introduce a new model in' 1960/61, which never saw series production to any extent.
However, way "down under` in Australia a new name was stirring on the sporty Beetle scene. In 1959 Volkswagen of Australia sold almost 23,000 vehicles, the vast majority being locally assembled Type I s, the parts coming crated up tom Germany. A couple of years before, a Czech born, engineer, Mirek Craney, had bought himself one of the Karmann Ghia Coupes on the continent and had decided that he could build a good looking sports car on the basis of the Beetle chassis.
As a basic shape he started with his Ghia, and, by skilful use of his materials, fibreglass and epoxy resins, he soon had a design which stood in its own right: It was not just a modified Ghia! The body had a double walled construction with a light steel tubular frame over which the body was fitted. The frame incorporated some very interesting features; a rollbar and a reinforced dash panel - exceptionally safe for the 1950s! The result was an extraordinarily rigid car, also fairly quiet, and very largely free of vibration, this being achieved by the use of lots of foam rubber on the inside as sound deadening material.
The car was registered as a full four seater, with rear seat headroom being better than most of its type. Supporting this claim were two doors, allowing good access to the rear.
The chassis was basically the same as that of any other 1959 Beetle. The only alteration., according to the Ascort's specs, was the addition of a stiffer anti roll bar to the front suspension. The brakes, wheels and tires were all standard VW items. The fact that the Ascort TSV 1300 tipped the scales at a full 160 pounds less than a Beetle of the day meant that the braking and road holding properties had a little Left in reserve, which was just as well. The Ascort was not powered by a cooking 1200 cc engine.
Oh no, sir! The car was delivered in one stage of trim and the name TSW should give the game away to knowledgeable readers. TSV was the name given by the German Oettinger firm for their hot Beetle engines of the day! The basic VW 1200 engine, standard output 36hp, was fitted with a 69mm stroker, crank (standard was 64 mm), thus obtaining a capacity of 1296 cc. The compression was raised from 6:6:1 up to 7:5:1, and a pair of Solexes fitted instead of the usual one. The engine was also finely balanced, and ran smoothly up to 5200 rpm, at which the power output was 54 hp.
That was 18 hp, or 50 percent more than standard. This gave the Ascort TSV 1300 a top speed of just short of 95 mph, which was very fast in those days, and compared well with 2 litre cars of the 1950s!
There were plans to fit a 70 hp 1500 cc engine, but unfortunately these never reached fruition. This would have produced a genuine 100 mph plus!
There were several very interesting, and unique, features on the Ascort, indicating that Craney must have been an exceptional engineer. One feature was the placing of twin petrol tanks in the arm rests of the rear seat, quite safe from any front or rear end crash. Each of these metal containers held almost 10 U.S. gallons, giving a range of some 600 miles.
Another feature was the storing of the spare wheel in a horizontal position ahead of the front torsion bars. This formed then a rather crude buffer zone at the front in case of accident, and it also left the rest of the front space free to form a much larger front trunk than in, for example, the Karmann Ghia of the day.
With so many excellent features on the car, why don't we hear about it today? Well, the company formed to produce the car, Continental Coach work Pty. Ltd., planned to manufacture the Ascort TSV 1300 at just under 2000 Australian Pounds, at a time when the Beetle Export cost 972 pounds. However, there are reasons to believe that the commercial planning was not quite so enterprising as the design of the car, and it turned out that the price was unrealistic, and so after a production run of a mere 19 vehicles, the line was stopped, never to start again.
The info for this report has been received largely from Raoul Allerriand, an Australian Beetle fan! He tells us that, in 1981, just seven such cars exist! Four of these are in the Australian State of Victoria, one in the State of Queensland, one in New Zealand, and just one which got away to the USA. The example shown in our pictures belongs to one Lee Everett of Victoria. The car is standard Ascort in most respects except the wheels. Note the twin petrol fillers and the Beetle headlights. Thanks to Lee and Raoul for the info and pix!