VEHICLES
PARTS
EVENTS
Published on 08/23/2018

Small Car, Big Block

WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

ANDREW LARSON, MATT BEST

We are cruising down Woodward Avenue during the yearly gathering on the famed stretch of road in Detroit. Spectators lining the street on this Saturday afternoon point at our rumbling vehicle and give us a thumbs up.

Then the car’s owner and driver, Ernie Miyamoto, flips a switch and the body of his 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle lifts off the frame to reveal a Chevrolet Performance ZZ572/620 crate engine.

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Published on 08/23/2018
vehicles, parts, events
WORDS:

DAN HODGDON

PHOTOS:

ANDREW LARSON, MATT BEST

Small Car, Big Block

We are cruising down Woodward Avenue during the yearly gathering on the famed stretch of road in Detroit. Spectators lining the street on this Saturday afternoon point at our rumbling vehicle and give us a thumbs up.

Then the car’s owner and driver, Ernie Miyamoto, flips a switch and the body of his 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle lifts off the frame to reveal a Chevrolet Performance ZZ572/620 crate engine.

Onlookers madly scramble for their phones to snap a photo before we are gone again. It’s the same scene we were first witness to when we met Miyamoto at a gas station earlier in the day. Everywhere the car draws a crowd.

“When you’re driving the car around people give you a thumbs up because the car is cool,” Miyamoto says later. ”Then once you elevate the body and everybody sees what’s under the hood the people just go nuts over the car. You just can’t help but smile and laugh yourself because these other people are enjoying something that you actually built.”

Miyamoto has lived in Davisburg, Michigan, his whole life and is a car guy through and through. He even owns his own shop, Moto Fab, where he does hot rod fabrication. He specializes in headers and exhaust but also builds cars from the ground up. The hobby is a family affair, as his father is a hot rod guru, and brother Larry (who we met on this year’s HOT ROD Power Tour) owns a 1970 Chevelle featuring the same Chevrolet Performance big-block crate engine.

"You just can’t help but smile and laugh yourself because these other people are enjoying something that you actually built.”

 

The-Block-Chevrolet-Performance-Woodward-Dream-Cruise-ZZ-572-Big-Block-Chevrolet-VW-Beetle

Miyamoto has lived in Davisburg, Michigan, his whole life and is a car guy through and through. He even owns his own shop, Moto Fab, where he does hot rod fabrication. He specializes in headers and exhaust but also builds cars from the ground up. The hobby is a family affair, as his father is a hot rod guru, and brother Larry (who we met on this year’s HOT ROD Power Tour) owns a 1970 Chevelle featuring the same Chevrolet Performance big-block crate engine.

Miyamoto’s father originally built the Beetle on a dare in 1985, primarily from leftover parts off of other cars.

“He found this Beetle down in South Carolina, brought it up, cut it apart, made the frame for it,” Ernie explains. “He made the frame for the car, decided to put a Chevrolet big block in [it] and we did the hydraulic flip-up body. But the whole idea of the car was to make it look like a Beetle as much as possible.”

About five years ago the Beetle went through a facelift during which time it was repainted, freshened and received a 502 crate engine. After about a year though, the Miyamotos decided they were looking for something with a little more power and decided to go with the ZZ572/620 engine from Chevrolet Performance.

“It didn’t have any problems on startup,” Miyamoto says. “You get in the car, hit the key, it fires right up and you’re buzzing down the road.”

The limited warranty that comes with the engine also was a major selling point. In fact, he often recommends Chevrolet Performance crate power plants to customers.

“You get in the car, hit the key, it fires right up and you’re buzzing down the road.”

The-Block-Chevrolet-Performance-Woodward-Dream-Cruise-ZZ-572-Big-Block-Chevrolet-VW-Beetle

“For the price, reliability, warranty and the power that you get out of the car, in my opinion, you can’t beat it,” Miyamoto says.

According to Chevrolet Performance, the ZZ572/620 engine makes 621 horsepower and is capable of handling 645 lb-ft of torque. In Miyamoto’s Beetle it is hooked up to a TH400 transmission. The Beetle also features a Heidts front suspension and a Dana 60 rear end with 3.73 gears to drive on the street. The huge Pro Street rear tires are Hoosier Quick Time D.O.T. versions, while Mickey Thompson radials are on the front. The wheels are OEM and have been modified to run the GM bolt pattern.

Among the wildest features of course is the ability to lift the entire body off the car.

The-Block-Chevrolet-Performance-Woodward-Dream-Cruise-ZZ-572-Big-Block-Chevrolet-VW-Beetle

“The idea of the car was obviously to make it look like a stock Bug and to show off the car,” Miyamoto says. “But to show off everything my dad went to the next level and put a hydraulic pump on there with hydraulic cylinders. From a switch in the car, the body can go up and then you can show everything.”

Showing off is one of the highlights of the Woodward event for Miyamoto. The stretch of road is one of America’s most celebrated cruise spots and he has fond memories of spending Friday and Saturday nights there with his cars over the years. He explains that the official cruise is called a one-day event, but it’s a really a celebration that lasts an entire week.

“You come out, you get to show off what you’re doing, you get to have fun, you get to see everybody else’s stuff that they have,” Miyamoto says. “It gets congested, it gets frustrating sometimes, but all in all that’s what it’s about. That’s why people come out here. They come out not only just to watch the cars, but to people watch, too.”

There are certainly plenty who watch that Beetle.

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