The Black Widow

Jason Torchinsky is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Jason has a book out now, Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is a tinkerer and artist and writes for the Onion News Network. He lives with his partner Sally, five animals, too many old cars, and a shed full of crap.

I've always been fond of VW Beetles, and any real Beetle lover should set aside a special place in their gas-fume-smelling heart for one particular Beetle, the Black Widow. The Black Widow started life as a 1955 oval-window Beetle, boasting a small stable of 36 horses for power. Then, the kooks over at Turbonique, makers of some truly bonkers small jet engines for daredevils and other fun-loving loons, put one of their engines in the Bug, along with the VW/jet engine transaxle they developed. The result was a Beetle that made about 850+hp and weighed about, oh, half of a modern Honda Civic.


The Black Widow was an absurdly fast car; and by the nature of the rocket-type engine used, it had no warm up at all– one button push and you had full thrust, making it a real hit to drag-racing crowds. In one especially notable race, the Black Widow put Tommy Ivo's Showboat— a similarly insane dragster with 4 Buick V8 engines– over its rounded fenders and spanked it, but good; those are pictures of the race shown to the right here.

Like anything truly insane, the Black Widow's life was fast, wild, and short. Apparently, the stock 1955 Beetle's shape is only aerodynamically sound up to about 183 mph– only about 110 or so mph more than the stock engine could ever push the car– at which point it, full of false confidence, takes flight. Which the Black Widow did, but even then the fast little bug was put to good use, in this ad.

Upon rereading that ad, I realized that the Black Widow's driver, Roy Drew, must also have a great story. I mean, he's a drag racer with the nickname "Mr.Pitiful." It just doesn't get any better than that.