Reuben Bourke knows more than a thing about style and looking good – and so he should – he is an accomplished architectural associate, and well, he digs VWs, so that rates pretty high in my books too! For a laid back dude, he has a lot of energy and passion for his chosen persuasion of rides, but he knows the world doesn’t revolve around air-cooled motors. “While liking Volksies and Porsches I just love cars in general. A few that come to mind include Rob Beauchamp’s VL Calais, Scott Sullivan’s ‘Cheez Whiz’ 55 Chevy, Rick Dobbertin’s J2000 Pontiac, The ZZ top eliminator and the list just goes on. I can appreciate any car that is built right and respect cars that break the mould,” explained Reuben.
Before this pristine ’56 Oval came into his life, Reuben constructed one very extreme ’68 VW that was packing a 4-inch roof chop, a wild purple haze paint scheme, and wait for it, an EJ20T out of a Subaru! That was a full-on car, but after 14 years of loving, Reuben’s tastes were becoming a little more refined, and it was his growing interests in hot-rodded classics, as opposed to full-on customs, that had him moving the old girl on – as hard as it was. Concurrent ownership of a ’58 beetle fuelled the air-cooled love but was sold off when relocating to Perth.
As the story goes, Reuben became a little bored without having a Dub in his life and the WRX he owned was starting to look and feel a little bland. A needy Reuben went looking for a new ride and it wasn’t long before he spotted the ’56 built by fellow VW aficionado, Bernie Brix. “It took me around four months or so to finally pry the car from his grasp. I just wanted it that bad that I wasn’t going to give up. It was a well-built car which still had some room for improvement, which suited me as I really wanted to put my spin on the car,” said Reuben.
With the car in his garage, Reuben could put together a plan. “It all came down to just going right over the car and detailing each little piece. No matter how inconsequential the part was to someone else or how subtle the change was, I just did the job, I wanted it right for me and my whim for detail. I added stainless trims to the car, polished the paint, repainted parts of the car, added the mirrors and the new bumpers, and found some other trick bits like the NOS 1954 Hella fog lamp for the front and the Porsche 356 headlight grilles. I sourced stuff from all over the world – bits came from the USA, Hawaii, Spain and Italy. The VW scene is huge worldwide.”
One part of the car that really appealed to Reuben was the motor. “I was well and truly aware that the car went like a scolded cat – it was half the reason I bought it, but there was room for improvement. It might look understated, but it goes hard. It has shocked more than a person or two. At just over 700kgs, you don’t need too much power to get a car up and moving. The car revs right out to 7,500rpm and sounds incredible while doing it,” said Reuben.
The original builder, Bernie, knew what he was doing with the donk and then Reuben just went that little bit further for shits ’n’ giggles. “The new heads and carbs I installed have transformed the drive.” The flat four wears a SCAT crank with matching rods with a Mahle piston and ring set. The heads have received plenty of attention to get the motor breathing as hard as a long distance runner, and the twin 48IDA Webers with Jaycee high-velocity stacks create quite a symphony. Gases exit via that trick looking CSP Wasp stepped merged header and muffler combination. Backing up the motor is a Pro Street Rancho ‘box equipped with a Cushloc clutch and a rear axle running 4.125 gears.
“The car has done 13.6 @ 100mph on street tyres with a whole heap of wheel spin. Any time I hit the throttle hard, it just hazed the tyres instantly. I would like to think that with decent rubber under the car I could get into the low 13s. It isn’t out of the question at all,” said Reuben. Pulling up at those sorts of speeds is the responsibility of cross drilled rotors front and back. KYB shocks, OG torsion bars and 15-inch Porsche Fuchs wheels are fitted all around too.
Inside the car is just magical. The dark hue of the main trim items contrasts so well with the Glasurit Diamond Green paint. The best part, most of the goodness in there is all OG VW – class right from the start. The Petri Rometsch style steering wheel with custom horn button and the Flat 4 short shifter with the Porsche 917 turned wood knob are tasteful additions. A Smiths tacho, a handful of other gauges and ribbed ’54 door handles are the icing on the cake.
With his spin added to the car, it has finally lost the dreaded ‘that was such and such’s car’ moniker. “The car is amazing and such a pleasure to drive. It is humbling to see how much impact the car has on people. It resonates with them, and they appreciate what it is all about. You can’t get much better than that.”