SHIFT/Monterey | Lot 209
1971 Volkswagen 'Hang Glider' Transporter by Peter Brock
$27,500 USD | Sold
| Culver City, California
14 - 15 AUGUST 2020
- Built by Shelby Daytona Coupe creator and hang-gliding pioneer, Peter Brock
- Offered directly from the Brock Family, its owners since 1973
- Used to support the Ultralite Products hang-gliding team
- Buick aluminum V-8, seamlessly fitted by the great George Boskoff
- Featured in an episode of the YouTube series Jay Leno’s Garage
While revered in the automotive world for his design of the iconic Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray and Shelby Daytona Coupe, as well as his his pioneering import-tuning and racing accomplishments under the auspices of Brock Racing Enterprises, Peter Brock is equally famed in a different sphere – that of hang-gliding. His Ultralite Products was at one time the world’s largest hang glider manufacturing facility, and Mr. Brock is widely credited with helping develop long-distance hang-gliding into a professional sport. The gliders are launched from a high altitude and then must be followed on the ground, often hundreds of miles, to their destination, necessitating a team vehicle that was capable of climbing mountain paths and then traveling at a relatively rapid clip once at sea level again.
The BRE team support vehicle was this unique Volkswagen Transporter, acquired and customized in 1973 to meet that need. Mr. Brock chose a Volkswagen based on the drivetrain’s proven off-roading success at Baja, and a 1971 model in particular for its disc brakes. An aerodynamic roof rack was carefully blended into the body, to support the carrying of four roughly 100-pound hang-gliders.
When asked by the host of Jay Leno’s Garage, “What did you do to solve the horsepower problem?” Mr. Brock responded, “The way I usually do it: I put a GM V-8 engine in it.” A Buick 215-cu.-in. V-8 was chosen and carefully adapted to the Transporter’s original drivetrain, retaining the original transmission, with strengthened gears and superior bearings fitted.
Since the V-8 is water-cooled, a custom radiator was fit into the Transporter’s nose, disguised with black paint, and piped back to the engine; fittingly, the tubing used to build gliders was deployed here as conduit for coolant. Additional cooling power is provided by a subtle scoop on the driver's side of the body, which feeds air to a surplus oil cooler pulled from an A-7 Corsair II fighter jet. All of the metalwork to fit the engine was performed by George Boskoff, another exceptionally talented Shelby alumnus who had been a major player in the first Sunbeam Tiger. Mr. Brock noted that the engine is just 125 pounds heavier than the original Volkswagen engine, and that at speed, “you cannot really feel the extra weight” because of the “couple hundred” horsepower.
Having remained in the Brock family since new and been maintained in fine condition, including an engine rebuild performed in 2000 at Caldwell Development, Inc. (a high-performance concern founded by John Caldwell, yet another BRE veteran), this is among the most fascinating and significant Transporters – one that really did "transport," that contributed to the genesis of the sport, and was built by one of the all-time great names in American automotive design and performance.