What’s extremely low, old, and green? Wait, on second thought – don’t answer that. Let’s just move right into the tale of this killer slammed Type 1 shall we? One of our favorite things about being in the magazine biz is getting to hear all of the great stories behind each build, especially because we can relate to each and every one of them. When we first laid eyes on Clifton Brown’s 1967 Volkswagen Beetle we were instantly inspired and upon further inspection and checking out the “build sheet” we knew we had to have it featured here in Slam’d Mag.
It’s not because this beetle is insanely modified or outrageously built to be trailed and shown, nope – the reason behind why Cliff built this VW boils down to wanting a family wagon and something he could continue to enjoy on a daily basis. The cars that stand out aren’t always the full-tilt “show cars” that barely get driven – sometimes it’s the ones that get built and driven regularly, acquiring battle scars along that way that Cliff lovingly refers to as “character” that make the most impact. These are the cars that foster ever-lasting memories as they manage to spread a smile across your face while you blast down the open road. What starts as a build for the passion of cars transforms into a passion for life and enjoying every moment of it with the ones you love in tow.
Fifteen years ago, Cliff’s intense automotive passion began with a newly printed drivers license and a love for old Volkswagens. Over time he slowly migrated into the minitruck scene where one of his builds, a 1992 Nissan Hardbody, graced the pages of Mini Truckin’ almost ten years ago. In the process of giving his Hardbody a complete makeover which included a RHD swap, turbo motor and a myriad of custom metal work a thought hit Cliff square in the jaw, “This isn’t even going to be fun to drive, I’m literally making it non-fun at this point.” This realization would mark the beginning of the end for Cliff’s Hardbody as it sat collecting dust in the corner of his garage until the inevitable day where it was sold off to make room for other builds. For Cliff, it was time to get back to the enjoyment of actually driving what he created instead of racking up “plastic accolades” with a build that by it’s very nature prevents the enjoyment of the open road.
With the decision made to move on to a new project, Cliff knew he wanted something that was fun to drive but also something that would be fun for his whole family (with a little one on the way at the time). Being a fan of old Beetles since he was a kid he figured he would build something he had envisioned as a wee tyke. Going back to his roots with a classic air-cooled VW seemed the perfect fit, and as fate would have it, Cliff’s friend Justin had decided to let go of his 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. This quickly renewed Cliff’s passion for all things automotive – especially the low ones.
Soon after getting his new project home he began to tinker away in the garage with little things here and there. First up, he bolted on a new set of 17-inch wheels wrapped in low-pros. Just out of curiosity he decided to attend a local air-cooled get-together to see what the local VW scene in the the North East had to offer. There were a lot of comments on his wheel gap, which was now more apparent with the new low-profile tires that found themselves wrapped around 17×7-inch Airkewld smoothies. The local VW snobs that night had no clue what was about to come, as Cliff is quite handy at “fixing” pesky little things like “wheel gap.” Cliff quickly decided that just lowering the VW wasn’t going to be enough; so he would get to do what he loves most, cut it up and call it custom. Cliff tore into his bug and began to cut and weld until it sat flat on the ground.
To achieve his desired height, Cliff went to the drawing board to coordinate his attack on the Volkswagen’s tight chassis to accommodate the air setup that was impending. Accomplishing the feat of running his 17×7-inch wheels while going as low as he wanted yet still being able to drive just a mere 1/4-inch off the ground was achieved by tubbing the front and rear along with raising the gas tank, engine and transmission which was mated with a custom exhaust. After learning all it took to get his bug to sit and drive perfectly, Cliff’s shop BrownBags Customs, quickly became known in the Volkswagen scene of the North East.
Underneath its humble skin lies a slew of custom work to achieve the look and ride that Cliff aspired to. Up front the beam was narrowed six inches along with custom drop spindles, lengthened ball-joint arms, air shocks in the front, flipped tie rods and a notched frame-head to accomplish an amazingly low driving height. In the rear, Slam Specialties ‘bags were utilized along with custom built lower bars. Helping the chassis’ altitude is a pair of VIAIR 480 compressors. They focused on tucking the massive smoothies deep into the fenders (yes, 17s are massive on a Beetle) while providing proper ride comfort no matter the condition of the pavement.
After Cliff was pleased with the ride and appearance aspect of his Beetle he turned his attention to the time-weathered interior. First up was a TMI VW Interior Kit to revive the overall look of the interior, which was accented with a SCAT shifter, custom bamboo shelf and metal basket to hold all of the kids toys and trinkets for the beach trips. A custom rear shelf was also built which is home to a set of 6x9s and a 12-inch Kicker Subwoofer to help liven up the tunes a bit.
“People from all walks of life, all ages, and all nationalities seem to love a slammed bug, it’s pretty cool. Plus, every older person has a story about once owning one and I’ve actually heard a ton of cool stories and history from some of the locals.”
Lastly was the performance aspect of the Beetle. Cliff kept the original engine jokingly calling it “1500ccs of fury.” While some go to great lengths to detail the engine compartment, Cliff’s detail work includes oil, grease and road grime proudly boasting its frequent driving. It may not be the fastest air-cooled around but the chatty 1500cc engine gets Cliff and his family reliably to their destination. Of course things were tidied up a bit, as Cliff is somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to his vehicles. But that didn’t stop him this time around since the end goal would ultimately be a reliable cruiser.
When he was finally complete he was able to stand back and give it the once over satisfied that his goal to create something that was fun but could also haul family, friends, and four-legged companions (Cliff and his wife are very active in rescuing pitbulls) was achieved. His most cherished moments are cruising around with his son Ethan aka “Soda Pop” who loves to ride in daddy’s “vroom vroom” with the hopes of having an ice cream cone in hand as he mimics the air-cooleds lively sounds when pops jams down on the throttle.
Cliff’s Beetle has taught him to have fun again with custom cars and not be engulfed in the competition that show vehicles can breed at times. His original plan was to simply lower it and compliment the stance with a well-fitted set of wheels but of course, like many of us, especially those that have transitioned from the custom truck scene, the slippery slope that is modifying cars was imminent. As one thing always leads to another and before he knew it, Cliff ended up with this stunning Beetle as his “daily driver” and is proud of the miles he continues to clock.
The end result of Cliff’s labor was a Beetle that could drive while hovering just off the pavement and still being enjoyable, with his family filling the cabin. Cliff shared, “This Beetle is all about function, not just looking good at shows” – mission accomplished. Ultimately, Cliff created a launching board of automotive passion for his growing family, something that he’s proud to share with both his wife and son keeping the passion alive for the next generation.
No regard to the destination, the journey is why many of us have become car enthusiasts. The rumble from the engine whether it is a healthy V-8 or a stock air-cooled engine brings a grin from ear to ear, we create memories with family and friends, and over time they wear the “character” of these moments both inside and out. Enjoyment behind the wheel no matter the chassis is an ideal we must all hold on to, as Cliff and his beautiful ’67 Beetle are reminders that the car community is something that should be an escape from our daily lives not just a competition to be won.
“No custom car is complete without the help and love from family and friends alike. Thank you to my wife, Afton, and kids for putting up with my time in the garage, my friends for the extra set of hands, and to anyone who helped along the way. It’s appreciated more than you know. Thank you to my friend Justin for calling me and pretty much talking me into buying this project from him and giving me a decent start.”
Stay tuned, as Clifton and the BrownBags Customs crew are currently wrapping up a killer build on a Ghia that we might just get our hands on soon enough!