I know what you're thinking. "Bob, there's no way that's a VW Beetle. Look at it! It's some kind of rare supercar from the David Lee Roth era. Don't kid a kidder."
Friends, I'm here to tell you you're right. And wrong. Because while the looks of this car scream "high-power exotic," the title tells another story. Witness the 1980 Aquila—or rather, the 1963 VW Beetle with a fiberglass drop-on body made by American Fibre Craft in 1980.
The tells the story. American Fibre Craft was just one of countless 1970s and 1980s companies that made fiberglass bodies for air-cooled VW Beetles. Headquartered in Cupertino, California, the company only made one design—the swoopy Aquila you see here.
Damn if it isn't almost convincing. Unlike other VW bodykit makers, which turned air-cooled Beetles into crude knockoffs of Rolls Royces, Porsches and Ford GT40s, the Aquila pursues a unique shape. There's a little bit of Lamborghini Urraco in it, perhaps a touch of BMW M1, but overall it's a thing of its own.
Nearly. As R&T web editor Chris Perkins points out, the example you see here ends up looking more like a die-cast miniature of a sports car than an actual human-sized vehicle. Blame the weird, deep-and-wide panel gaps—unlike most fiberglass rebody kits that used a single huge "tub" with bolt-on accessories, . Maybe it's the slightly-too-low ride height, the silver-backed wire wheels tucked a little too far inboard. It's a sharp looking car—and it definitely doesn't strike you as a kit car at first glance—but the proportions are ever so slightly off kilter.
American Fibre Craft seems to have , leaving only this single gullwing design as its legacy. And this particular example seems to have changed hands numerous times, last seen up for sale in , then before that in , and before that, in . We don't think you can trust the odometer, which shows just 134 miles in the most recent listing but had 1019 more miles when listed last year.
And don't plan on out-running your lie: With a 1200-cc VW engine showing no obvious performance upgrades, this particular Aquila is likely making use of, generously, around 45 horsepower. The ruse is up as soon as you start the engine:
But that's not the point of a rebodied VW like this. It's not about raw speed or screaming sound. It's about the harmless joy in dressing up a commonplace car as something special, something never-before seen and immediately desired.
In a way, the Aquila comes out as the unforeseen victor. It's estimated that American Fibre Craft only built around 150 examples of this sleek, low-slung body. Undoubtedly far fewer remain today. This is the only example we've ever seen, and it's a clean looking, running, driving car—perhaps the only one of its kind in the world.
Maybe that's enough for you to open your wallet. , seemingly a major price hike over its and .
But you can't put a price on uniqueness. We guarantee that, if you buy this unusual machine, you'll get questions from curious onlookers wherever you go.
Particularly when you go to the DMV to register it. The body may scream 1980s supercar, but the paperwork still calls this a '63 VW.