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“Custom-coachwork VW Beetle” might sound like a contradiction in terms, but in the first decade or so of the Volkswagen’s resounding success, Europe’s greatest car designers vied to create stylish versions of the basic Bug.
The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, always attuned to quirky special classes – think past years’ oddities such as Cars of the Cowboys and Hunting Cars – has announced a special class for 2019 that will present a group of custom-coachwork Beetles to celebrate the 70th anniversary of VW’s arrival in America.
“The custom coachwork VW is the flipside of the Bug’s original American mission and message: The perfect fodder for an Amelia Concours special class,” Bill Warner, founder and chairman of the northeastern Florida concours, said in a news release.
With the announcement of the concours class, Warner also issued a challenge to find a very special car that has dropped off the radar. That car is an Italian-design VW produced by Pietro Frua, an acclaimed coachbuilder who built just one example of the attractive compact car on a Beetle platform.
This is the second time that Warner has tried to locate the unique coupe. His last attempt was 10 years ago when the concours was also featuring a VW class. He’s hoping the second time will be the charm.
The Frua VW has a strong local connection to Amelia Island through legendary VW/Porsche dealer Hubert Brundage, who established his dealership in nearby Jacksonville more than six decades ago. Although Brundage has passed away, his Brumos Porsche is still well-known, especially for its motorsports victories.
As well as being an early promoter of the rear-engine cars from Germany, Brundage was the one who convinced Frua to design and build the Beetle-based concept car that Warner seeks to showcase.
Brundage’s idea was to present the auto company with a production alternative to the Beetle.
“Mr. B’s Frua-bodied Bug was a departure from other VW custom coachwork as he wanted to show VW what was possible with the VW design,” Warner said. “Most VW custom coachwork offerings were created to sell individual cars. Mr. B had bigger ideas.”
Although the Frua design was not picked up for production by Volkswagen, it is cited as a possible inspiration for VW’s later Type 3 lineup of fastback, notchback and squareback cars that supplemented the Beetle and microbus.
Aside from the missing Frua coupe, the Amelia Island Concours is assembling a class of seldom-seen coachbuilt Volkswagens that will show what an inspiration the revolutionary automobile was for the world’s designers.
The Amelia Island Concours takes place March 8-10, 2019, at The Golf Links of Amelia Island at the Ritz-Carlton Resort. For more information, visit the concours website.