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During his tenure at the California Design Center as Volkswagen's chief designer in America, we worked with Derek Jenkins on a number of occasions; both on the SEMA concept cars he created for VW, as well as his personal Mk5 GTI (et 6/07).
Through these interactions we discovered he was a genuine gearhead, but the extent of his obsession wasn't fully apparent until he let us peek inside his home garage: Sat on jackstands was the grey-painted tub of an air-cooled Buggy that had been his personal project since 2005. On the spot, we made him promise to give us first dibs on his Dub.
In the meantime, a career change took Derek to Mazda, where he became Director of Design for Mazda Americas. So when his schedule didn't having him flying to Japan or Europe, we loaded the Buggy into a trailer and headed for the surface of the moon to capture these great photos.
As a child, Derek's father was into Baja Bugs, inculcating him with Southern California's air-cooled culture. This inspiration led to concepts such as the '01 Microbus and '04 Concept T that came out of VW's studio. He also hankered after his own old-school project that wouldn't be subject to the meddling of committees or the dictates of new vehicle legislation. "I looked at Karmann Ghias, Type 1 Bus, VW Thing... but Buggies were in my blood," the 40 year-old vehicle designer confessed.
With his Baja roots, the original intention was to build a full-scale version of a remote-control Buggy - big wheels, raised stance and exaggerated proportions. But as discussions progressed with friend Bob Wake, it moved more towards a street concept - inspired by modern motorcycles and cars like the Ariel Atom, Lotus Elise, etc.
Key to the Buggy's construction was Dave Barrett at Manx Chassis. He's the "go to" guy for tubular Buggy chassis and helped Derek realize his dreams.
Approaching the project as he would a professional brief, the designer started by sketching some ideas and outlining the framework. "You have to define the boundaries early to avoid costs skyrocketing as ideas develop," Derek explained.
The sketches outlined a typical stance with larger diameter wheels at the rear but they experimented with the rake of the front screen in comparison to the position of the roll-bar, the positions of the trellis frame pieces, the wheelbase, etc. "It was like working with a clay model," Derek explained. "We could move things around to achieve the proportions I wanted."
In order to mock-up the chassis, they needed the wheels for the correct stance. So before work started, a set of six-spoke SSR Type-C wheels were purchased. The decision was based on weight, price and range of sizes. The forged 16x7'' fronts are about 13 lb, and while 18'' rears were initially considered, a pair of 17x8.5'' rears were finally chosen.
Tires similarly presented a challenge since he wanted the same tread pattern in both tall and low-profile sizes. He eventually settled on BFG's Scorcher T/A rubber, which was available at the time with red tread sections. These are no longer available but he wisely bought three sets as insurance. The red tread would also help define one of the project's accent colors.
A second accent arrived when Derek visited a Ducati dealer. He'd been looking for inspiration and the gold fuel cap became a centerpiece of the design. It also led to cadmium plating on brake and engine components to incorporate its tones.
The fiberglass body is based on the 1970's Manx tub and is virtually unmolested. Some changes were made to the depth of the fender lips, which can be trimmed to your preference. The Ducati fuel cap then dictated the location of the fuel tank, which Dave Barrett mocked up under the hood.