PCH, Power-To-Weight Edition: V8 Peugeot 403 or Blown Beetle?S

The Dirtbag XJ-S pounded the Sepia 1940 Mopars like a Canadian carny pounding a case of Moosehead in yesterday's Choose Your Eternity poll, which was about what we expected. After all, a V12 Jaguar can beat most any PCH contender, up to (and perhaps including) a Citröen. We'll test that hypothesis later, but today we're going to try our hand at Hell Projects featuring lightweight vehicles with hoon-centric engine power. You see, you need to consider the possibility- however remote- that you might one day crawl out of the crater of boiling sulfur in your garage and actually finish a project. At that point, the hell must continue, as you careen out onto the public roads in a barely controllable deathtrap pawing and snorting at the ravaged pavement with ten times the horsepower its designers intended.


Any Peugeot 403 stands on its own as a Hell Project, but what do you get when you restore one? You get 65 horsepower, that's what! Clearly, some added motivation is needed here, and what better choice than the good ol' small-block Chevy? Can you fit one in a 403? Yes, indeed- just ask the guy who's already done most of the work on this 1961 Peugeot 403, which is already set up for Chevy power. Hell, The General himself will sell you a brand-new crate motor today! Then all you'll need to do... hey, hold on- did we say the seller has already done most of the work? Perhaps we were a bit hasty there, but lots of stuff has been done. You get front and rear suspension, a narrowed Ford 9-inch rear, and "tons of parts in the car, more than I can list." In a break from PCH tradition, we've got a seller who appears to know what he's doing in the garage, which means you'll be in for dozens instead of hundreds of sanity-puncturing surprises as you attempt to finish the job.

Small-block Peugeots are fine and all, but all the weight is on the front of the car instead of over the drive wheels. Not good! That's why the real Project Hell Hoon goes for an air-cooled VW, for a virtually weightless car that provides tons of exciting oversteering fun. Like, say, what you'd get with this 1974 Volkswagen Beetle with supercharged 2110cc engine, on sale now with an asking price of $3,500. I've owned a few stupidly overpowered performance-upgraded Beetles, and by some miracle I'm still here to tell you that the handling and braking characteristics of such a vehicle are, uh, interesting. Yes, that's the word I was looking for! So, you've got a car that weighed 1,831 pounds new, hack 400 pounds of unnecessary crap out of it, and then you replace the 46-horsepower 1600 with a howling supercharged unit belting out four or five times as much power (when it's not burning valves or blowing cylinder heads completely off the vehicle, that is). Was the engine built right? What kind of fuel-delivery system (if any) do you get? Is your life insurance paid up?

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