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Fastest Bug On the Salt Flats: Volkswagen Beetle Exceeds 205 Miles Per Hour at Bonneville

Photo Credit: Volkswagen of America

1935 was defined by two milestone events in automotive history. In Germany, the first two prototypes of the 'People's Car" were  constructed with guidance of Ferdinand Porsche. These vehicles quickly emerged as the precursor of the Volkswagen Beetle serving as an influential design ranked alongside the Ford Model T in significance. In the United States on a massive bed of salt in Utah, British speed record setter Sir Malcolm Campbell bettered an effort from a previous outing on Daytona Beach. On September 3rd of 1935, Campbell piloting his Rolls-Royce engined Blue Bird sailed to a 301.129-mile per hour land speed that stood for two years. 80 years after both moments, Volkswagen and the Bonneville Salt Flats combine for a new historic achievement.

The stage for land speed records since the early part of the 20th century, the Bonneville Salt Flats, the sight of a yellow compact car exceeding the performance threshold defining most supercars could be the wackiest if it wasn't the Volkswagen Beetle (one of the world's most versatile vehicles). For the 2016 Utah Salt Flats Racing Association World of Speed event, a specially-configured version of the modern Volkswagen, the Beetle LSR (Land Speed Record) roared through a flying mile at a speed of 205.122 miles per hour with the speedometer eventually reading 208 miles per hour through the run.

Piloted by Automobile magazine's contributing editor Preston Lerner through the Bonneville Speedway located near Wendover, Utah, the Volkswagen Beetle LSR featured a lowered suspension, limited-slip differential, a Salt Flat wheel/tire combination and an stripped interior outfitted with a roll cage as well as race seat. However, the main source for the 205.122-mile per hour success was a heavily-modified version of the Volkswagen EA888 turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine found in the stock 210-horsepower Beetle R-Line. Producing insane horsepower similarly seen in the Beetle race car used in the Red Bull Global RallyCross Series, the gasoline engine was souped-up by upgraded by new pistons, camshaft, connecting rods and a meaner turbocharger system. The Volkswagen Beetle LSR's 543 horsepower and 421 pound-feet of torque measured at the flywheel arrives from the engine said to have produced greater than 600 horsepower. 

Talking about his 205.122-mile per hour record conforming to Southern California Timing Association G/BGC rules, Preston Lerner described the effort in the Volkswagen Beetle LSR, "as a serious thrill. "We had enough power to go even faster if the salt hadn't been so sketchy. But seeing 208 miles per hour briefly on the digital readout was an experience I'll never forget." said Lerner.


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