An older article featured here at 1967beetle.com. Jay and I recently exchanged a few emails with Janet, so I wanted to put this fantastic story in the spotlight once again.
Where do you go in your ’67 beetle? Cruise down to the mall… Maybe hit the beach? or maybe rally around the world….when you retire..! Meet Ed and Janet Howle who could give us all a run for our money and then do it all over again!!
We bought our VW Blue Type 1, 1967 Beetle, Stewball, with the hope that we could win The Great Race, an around-the-world antique car rally which was to start in NYC on February 12, 2008, and go west across the U.S. The cars would be shipped from San Francisco to China, and then cross China, Kazakhstan, Russia and, Europe. We would drive 14,000 miles before we ended in Paris. Great Race Inc. was offering a $1,000,000 purse. We were highly motivated. Why did this event start on February 12? Because this was 100 years to the day of the famous 1908 race which is still the only true car race from New York to Paris.
Why did we pick the 1967 VW Beetle? All rallies have somewhat different rules, but to enter this one, the car had to be at least 40 years old. Since the start was in February, the car would have to negotiate winter snow and ice both crossing the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. and similar conditions in Siberia. The Beetle with its rear engine and rear-wheel drive seemed like a good choice. In addition, the ‘67 has a 12 volt electrical system and a 1500 cc engine. I had owned three Type 1 VWs and two Karmann Ghias. During the competition, I would have to do most repairs and service myself. A fast car was not the goal, a reliable one was, this was a rally, an endurance time and distance precision event, with hidden check points, not a race.
From previous rallies I knew that preparation was the key to endurance driving. I had every system gone over by my VW guru, Bob Hicks of Hick’s VW Service in Durham, North Carolina who only services and repairs air-cooled VWs. I made several modifications which were allowed by Great Race. I replaced the engine with a 2005 new 1600 cc South American engine and added the required fire extinguisher. I took out the back seat, made boards to cover the floor and batteries and with Bob’s input assembled the spare parts I thought I might need. In the U.S. these parts are available new and I felt this was good money spent. My list included; carburetor, fuel pump, distributor, generator, plugs, fan belt, control cables, jacks, and tires. Each car had to carry a driver and navigator and everything we needed for the trip. Janet began to worry there would be no room for clothes and the other essentials to keep us groomed, civilized, and healthy. Jan also insisted on adding a porcelain flower vase to the dashboard in which she put a fresh flower every morning of the rally.
I made three other modifications. Great Race Inc. required a super accurate (expensive) rally speedometer. Fortunately it fit exactly in the space where my standard VW speedometer fit.