Ian Brown’s UVA Fugitive Restoration Project

Ian Brown’s UVA Fugitive Restoration Project

Written by the JK Team
Published 24 June 2024
Just Kampers

Last Updated: 10 July 2024

Ian Brown from the JK Team has bought himself another VW, rescuing a UVA Fugitive 2 from a field as his next project!

Not content with having his 1970 Racing Beetle in dozens of pieces, he's decided to take on another massive project to really challenge himself. 

We're using this blog to keep track of how Ian's getting on with his UVA Fugitive project, as he's working away on it during his spare time. Make sure you check back regularly to see how he's getting on!

Ian's UVA Fugitive Restoration Project:

Rescuing the Fugitive from a field

Update One: Buying my dream car

Introduction: Rescuing the Fugitive from a field

We asked Ian about his latest Volkswagen, and what he’s got planned for it, and here’s what he told us:

“It’s a UVA Fugitive 2 from the mid-1980s which has been sat rotting in the corner of a field for many years.

“The entire frame is rusty beyond saving, so I’m remaking it from scratch with new steel tubing mounted on a jig. The only salvageable parts are the rear torsion tubes and the fibreglass body panels."

“It has all the original fibreglass wings which are very hard to find, so I’ll eventually make some moulds of these, so that copies are available to other Fugitive owners!

“I’m building a homage to the Fugitive 2 that was a giveaway car which Custom Car Magazine built in the late 80’s, which was yellow. Mine will follow the same styling but with a white finish with a light metalflake.

“It’ll be powered by a supercharged 1600cc Type 1 engine, mated to a Cogbox gearbox out of my circuit race Beetle which has crazy low ratios, so it’ll be lively!"

Image via All Car IndexImage via All Car Index
Image via All Car Index

“Fugitives are notoriously small inside (I’m just over 6ft tall with size 13 feet and I simply don’t fit), so the new frame will be around 15cm deeper, the floor will be lower and slightly wider (so I can fit in it!) and the ride height will be raised front and rear.

“The rear suspension is swing-axle, so the entire gearbox and engine will be mounted lower in the car to give the correct camber. This has the added benefit of creating a large space above the gearbox to mount a sizeable lockable storage box to make the car slightly more practical.”

Ian told us he’d be taking photos and writing regular updates as he gets stuck in with his latest project, so watch this space if you want to see him transform this rescued Fugitive into an impressive homage!

Update One: Buying my dream car

In 1985 while in high school I discovered Kit Car magazines and always longed one day of building and owning one, lured in by the dream of owning an exotic supercar for a fraction of the cost of the real thing. Growing up in the 80’s on a weekly diet of Miami Vice, the Ferrari Daytona replica was certainly one I swooned over (The Miami Vice Ferrari Daytona used in the TV show was also a replica) Ferrari and Lamborghini replicas were at the top of most peoples lists, but what really drew my attention was a picture of a sand rail on a beach which turned out to be a UVA Fugitive 2, it looked so tough and I absolutely fell in love with it.

UVA’s race car back in the late 80’sUVA’s race car back in the late 80’s
UVA’s race car back in the late 80’s

When I started work two years later, during my lunchbreak I purchased the very first issue of Volksworld and became immediately hooked on the whole aircooled VW scene and I said to myself “One day I’m gonna live my dream and build myself a UVA Fugitive”. The problem with dreams of course is that at some point reality kicks in….Firstly it was probably the most impractical car on the planet and secondly I’d never held a spanner in my life and didn’t have access to a garage or workshop, so building a car from scratch wasn’t really a viable option.

Reality eventually came in the shape of a rust free and more practical 1974 1200cc Beetle which was my first car allowing me to learn some basic mechanics, followed by a long line of Beetles, Bays, and Split van and even a beach buggy.

This angle shows just how shallow the car isThis angle shows just how shallow the car is
This angle shows just how shallow the car is

37 years passed by, but I still had a hankering for that sand rail I saw in those magazines all those years ago. UVA Fugitives are a rare sight these days, but luckily my colleague here at JK had one.

Ian Wheeler has owned his for many years and this was my chance to finally sit in one and see how it felt. This was when another dose of reality hit…I don’t fit!! The thin fibreglass seat is on the floor, but my head was literally 1cm from the main roll hoop and being over 6ft tall, I had to bend myself into a pretzel just to get in and out.

Shortly afterwards Ian said his friend Ian (yes we are extremely common!) had a Fugitive 2 for sale, but the bottom tubing was badly rusted and would need replacing… It was at that point that it dawned on me that this car could be the perfect candidate as while replacing those bottom tubes I could lower the floor giving more headroom and more room for my knees (and size 13 feet).

Taken just before the front of the chassis broke off…not joking! Taken just before the front of the chassis broke off…not joking!
Taken just before the front of the chassis broke off…not joking!

A plan was hatched and it was time to view the car and see how bad it really was. Ian had planned to restore it one day, but too many projects combined with trying to run a business meant it was one of those projects he felt he would never get round to. It was located at the bottom of Ians field, partially sunken in the ground but to my amazement all the original fibreglass panels were there, including the hard to find genuine mudguards. This was too good an opportunity to miss. The car wasn’t in great shape and that’s putting it mildly, the fibreglass was great, but water had been pooling on the aluminium floor meaning the bottom rails were totally gone, so I would need to replace at least the bottom 30cm of the car.

Many people would have walk away at this point, but bearing in mind I was going to modify the bottom of the car anyway, it made sense to start with this one, rather than spend four times as much money and then cutting up a perfectly good example.

A deal was struck and Ian kindly delivered to rail to JK HQ so I could start the process of disassembly.

The nicest dashboard I’ve seen on a Fugitive, that’s stayingThe nicest dashboard I’ve seen on a Fugitive, that’s staying
The nicest dashboard I’ve seen on a Fugitive, that’s staying

Once the fibreglass side panels were removed (which was a feat as they’d been riveted AND fibreglassed to the frame) it was clear that the rot had gotten to the upper tubes as well and what originally looked like surface rust turned out to be holes.

Basically wherever you had a popper, rivet or screw going through the steel tubes, water had seeped through these and rotted the tubing from the inside out (the poppers were for the original wet weather kit with clear PVC/vinyl doors). Something to bear in mind which is leading me to consider using silicone adhesive instead of rivets for the fibreglass side panels and floor.

It was at this point that I made the decision to not just replace the bottom tubing, but to replace the entire frame. The additional tubing would only cost an additional £250 which is a small price to pay for peace of mind, knowing that everything will be new and structurally sound.

In Part Two I’ll cover the disassembly and show you what remains after I’ve filled the metal recycling skip… spoiler alert, not a lot!

26 days ago