I'm Racing A Volkswagen 411 And Towing It Home In The Ultimate Act Of Vehicular Masochism

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Back in Ye Olde Days of Jalopnicke, editor Murilee Martin—bless our Saucy Minx—had a feature called Down On The Street. One day, he featured a Volkswagen 411, or Type 4 in aircooled-ese. We’re racing that exact car this weekend, and I’ve called dibs on towing it home. Now it’s sinking in: oh no, what have I done?

I did the idiotic thing of calling dibs on a car before we race it. The first Lemons car I raced—the “Bunnywagen,” as I dressed it up as a giant Puffalump bunny—was a Type 4-engined Type 3. The second I heard a California team had a Type 4 that they were just going to pass on to another team when they were done with it this weekend at Buttonwillow, I had to call dibs.


I didn’t know how, and I didn’t care how—I was going to figure out some way to tow this sucker back to Texas. It is a wonderful, almost perfect 411 that had even been featured on this website before, and it must be mine.

Now I’ve finally come to grips with just how potentially disastrous of a decision this may be. We’ve still got to race it first. Any number of horrible, car-destroying things could happen between now and the end of the race.


The car is an automatic, and in case you think that’s not so bad, keep in mind that this is an archaic Volkswagen transmission from the 1970s with only three speeds instead of today’s seven, eight or more. It lingers on each gear, slowly considering if it wants to move the car forward any faster. (Spoiler: not by much!)


We’re out there racing among some hilariously quick Mazda Miatas, Chevrolet Camaros and Porsche 944s. I really hope they all don’t hit our slow car. Mind you, my lone experience with a Lemons car that was intended to be passed from team to team ended with that car dying on track and getting punted onto its roof by two faster cars battling for position—with me in it. Please, everyone: look ahead and avoid hitting the very, very slow VW!

The brakes are hilariously manual—such that you have to really, really put all your effort into jamming on the brake pedal. The drums tend to pull just a little to the passenger side under heavy braking. It’s a weird behavior I immediately remembered from racing the Bunnywagen, but still one that I haven’t felt in a while.


But man, I feel like I practically own the car already—not so much in having the stress of running the team’s operations this weekend, but the pervasive need to not break the car. Please don’t hit our car. It’s a 411, and it’s beautiful. It’s fantastic aircooled Volkswagen unobtanium and I love it so much. I must take it home, hoon it along the way, and hoon it some more before racing it—hopefully in the MSR-Houston Lemons race later this year.


Fortunately, I’m not completely insane. I’ve warned my teammates that if the 411 doesn’t make it, I have the Porschelump 944 to run in its place. But let’s be honest: I’d rather have the Type 4 run.

We’re towing the 411 back with another Volkswagen, of course: the Atlas. Stay tuned for occasional updates on how the family sedan of yesteryear compares to the three-row kid- and stuff-hauler of today.