Having been around cars for the majority of my childhood, it was natural that I wanted to modify my first car as soon as I had bought it. Unfortunately, being a student presented one problem: modifying a car is too expensive.
I quickly realised that one of the most cost-effective methods of modifying a car is the “rat-look” trend which has been prevalent in the VW scene ever since the word “barnfind” existed. Owners of such cars would take an old car, restore all its key mechanicals, but fully embrace the natural patina of the car, leaving much of the bodywork and interior as-is.
The first thing any rat-look build requires is rust. Many people opt for faux rust either in the form of RustyPaint or a vinyl wrap, but in doing so it’s possible to lose the ever changing nature of the rust itself. In order to retain the car’s structural integrity, and because I liked the colour of the car i’d purchased (now named Lester), I chose to rust a second-hand bonnet as a starting point. This was done using a combination of good quality paint stripper (Nitro Mors no longer cuts the mustard), and an orbital sander.
As standard, the VW Lupo is a very tall car and suffers from body roll, so the next step was to fit a set of fully adjustable coilovers. This improved the handling characteristics no end, and totally transformed the way the car could be driven.
Inspired by a video produced by car modification guru’s Moog and Marty, of Mighty Car Mods, I set about decopaging the passenger wing (also a second hand item). I chose to keep the material very close to home, using a large collection of old VolksWorld magazines, all in black and white. They were secured using a spray glue. Once the British weather had contributed, colours ran through from the back of the pages, bringing a great patina effect. This was preserved using a clear yacht varnish.
Next came the issue of the car’s stance. On it’s original 6J 14″ alloys, it looked good, but it just wasn’t enough for what I wanted. I took a set of 13″ 4.5J steels to Lee at his workshop in Stockport, where he widened the wheels for me. The fronts were taken to 7J, and the rears to 8J. To fit the rears, arch extensions were required. The ones you see on the car were originally chrome, and purchased on eBay for £6, but given a repray in the car’s body colour. These were secured using Tiger Seal adhesive mastic.
The wheels were then powder coated in gloss white, to help them stand out against the rest of the car. They might be difficult to clean, but it’s worth it for the overall effect.
Inspired by the 90’s VW scene trend of smoothing everything in sight, I set about smoothing over the front grille. The front of the grille was masked off, and expanding foam injected from behind. Once cured, the tape was removed and I added a skim of filler over the top. To be honest, I wasn’t very happy with the surface finish I achieved with this method. To help mask that I am not the best with bodywork, the grille was painted with shark teeth, inspired by the Flying Tigers of WW2.
To finish this off, the headlights were wrapped with yellow tint, helping the car stand out on unlit roads, with some black vinyl giving an “angry-eye” effect.
Over the years, I became increasing fed up with scraping the car across speedbumps, onto driveways, and through potholes. It was too low! Instead of adjusting it higher, which with 13″ wheels didn’t look the way I wanted, I saved some pennies and built up a collection of air springs, struts, switches, and suchlike.
I installed the system over the course of a couple of weekends, removing the rear seats to accommodate the large air tank and compressor (I rarely carry more than one passenger anyway). This system allows me to park the car as low as I like, without compromising on ride quality or handling.
Daytime Running Lamps
I decided that I wanted to fit daytime running lamps to the car for visual effect, but the universal bulbs I had ordered did not fit the original indicator lamps. I modeled up a new bulb holder using Solidworks and had two 3D Printed in Nylon for durability.
The bulbs themselves are Switchback BAU15S bulbs which retain indicator functionality.
You can download the bulb holder STL file here if you’d like to make your own.