Best wedding present ever

When you’re struggling to juggle work, life and family commitments it’s easy to lose focus on your car project – and that’s precisely what happened to 35 year-old Irishman Liam Neale. Fortunately for him, though, his soon-to-be wife Caroline and VW nut friends were on hand to put him and his drag Beetle back on track…

With two kids, Eden (aged 3) and Arthur (aged 1), it’s fair to say design manager Liam from Maghaberry, County Antrim has his hands full. Trying to balance family, work and hobbies is never an easy task, and on top of that a life-changing experience was fast approaching. He was about to get married!

drag beetle main

Liam purchased his Jeans Beetle back in 2007 and spent the following few years bringing it up to scratch, buying a container full of parts from VW Heritage (including a half floorpan, window rubbers, trim, headlamp rims, fan housing, door cards, mats, brake parts and ignition components) in the process. Having upped the engine capacity to 2276cc and fitted twin 44 IDF carbs, he started drag racing it, fitting work, family – and now kids into the equation.

dragstrip 2upside 2up

However, after several successful seasons he felt it had reached its full potential and not being able to get it to run as it should, decided to put it on the back burner. “I’d juggled family life with racing and all the prep that goes with it for three years, but I realised it was getting too much and that this season would be my last,” Liam explains. “With a long list of issues to sort and zero time available I thought I’d put the Beetle away for a few years, or at least until the kids had grown up a bit. I planned to help others at the track when I could, of course, but I had to put my family first at the end of the day.”

on forecourt 2upchart 2up

Needless to say, his fiancé and the loyal band of friends in his local club, Die Irische Luftkühler Rennfahrer (The Irish Air cooled Racers), had other ideas. Unbeknown to Liam, his Beetle was secretly trailered from where it was in storage to a workshop belonging to Ben Lawrence where it was to undergo a complete makeover. The lads in the club had chipped in and purchased a new merged header from RJ Volks, while Ben worked his magic porting the manifolds and tuning the 44 IDF carbs on a dyno with Dave Wheatley and Liam McKinney at Elite Motor Performance in Armagh. Dave also tidied up the wiring and fitted new bolts to the removable rear valance, all jobs that Liam himself had lined up at some point if only time allowed. They also gave it a polish and fitted a personalised plate, courtesy of Neil Wilkinson at Rockvale Graphics.

Beetle rear shot NEW

A pre-wedding club get-together was duly arranged, with Ben suggesting that after a few pints they should head back to his place for some pizza. Obviously Liam didn’t have any idea of what lay in store. “We walked back to Ben’s and he asked me to help him open the garage door so we could all take a look at the progress he’d made on his own VW build,” recalls Liam. “To my amazement, when the door raised, it wasn’t the sight of his Oval that greeted us but my Beetle! I stood for a few seconds trying to work out if it was all a dream until I read the personalised plate that and realised it was an early wedding present!”

number plate

Needless to say the car looked and sounded fantastic, the icing on the cake being when the Die Irische Luftkühler Rennfahrer crew handed him a case of Kleenfreaks car care products and the all-important dyno readout. “To my amazement it read 187.9bhp which I was well pleased with,” smiles Liam.

group shot NEW

With now wife Caroline at his side, it must have been quite a special moment for sure and it certainly did the trick in terms of re-igniting his passion for the car. “I will be racing next season and my Mojo is well and truly back,” confirms Liam. “But most importantly of all, I know that I have the best friends anyone could ask for.”


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of VW Heritage




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