The Beetle is popular with customizers throughout the world, not only because it is cheap and easy to work on, but because its iconic looks can be personalised and the flat four motor is so tunable. Its very ubiquity makes even subtle changes noticeable.
There are many popular Beetle styles, from a ‘Cal Looker’ to a Rat rod. They vary between themselves, but are very similar in many ways. Also, the California Look has changed during the 30+ years of its lifespan. The most typical way to customise the exterior is to change the wheels and lower the suspension of the car. The favorite wheels are period-style EMPI 5- or 8-spokes, Speedwell BRMs, or Porsche factory rims like Fuchs from the classic 911. One of the original California Look modifications is to replace or remove the bumpers and trim, either to give a cleaner look or to reduce the curb weight; if bumpers are removed, pushbars are common. The stock bumpers are usually chromed or polished, sometimes painted or powder coated. There are many clubs dedicated to ‘Cal Look’, including the DKP (‘Der Kleiner Panzers’, or in English, ‘The little Tanks’) in the USA, which was one of the first clubs dedicated to true ‘Cal Look’ cars. There are also currently many big ‘Cal Look’ VW clubs based in Europe, including the DAS (Das Autobahn Scrapers) in Belgium, the DFL (Der Fieser Luftkühlers) in Germany and the JG54 Grünherz (Greenhearts) in the UK.
For a ‘Resto Cal’ look, a roof rack and similar accessories can be added. There are many other aftermarket parts that can be added to the Beetle, including wing mirrors, chrome wipers, stone guards, mud flaps, and badges. Rear light and front indicator lenses can also be changed.
For a more custom look, smoothing and shaving the body (removing trim and other parts) is done, including door handles, badges and driprails, and replacing taillights and front indicators with smaller, simpler units. Frenching (tunnelling) headlights, frequent in non-VW customs and rods, is not common, but dramatic lowering is, and unusual hood and trunk hinging are commonplace. Another exterior modification that is seen occasionally is for the roof to be chopped and lowered just like other non bettle hot rods and customs, giving a meaner, lower and sleeker appearance.