Through the years there have been many companies that capitalized on the construction of the air-cooled Volkswagens to create unique automobiles. Some of the more well-known examples are the Meyers Manx and the Bradley GT. You Hardcastle and McCormick fans, don't worry, we had childhood lust for the Coyote, even if it was a fiberglass tub surround with Plymouth Fury taillights. The rise of fiberglass technology in the '50s and '60s made it quite easy to whip up a custom body that would mount to the ubiquitous Type 1's floorpan. There were other custom-bodied VWs, and some are extremely rare and sought after. Hebmullers are some of the rarest custom-bodied Volkswagens ever made, and they fetch big money. To our eye, though, they still look an awful lot like a Beetle. The one that really sets our fires burning is the Rometsch.
The Rometsch cars bear the moniker of Frederich Rometsch, a German coachbuilder. Rometsch dreamt up coupes and convertibles that are at times reminiscent of Studebaker Golden Hawks, Porsche 356s, or even Volkswagen's own Karmann Ghia. The one we're crazy about is the Lauwerence Coupe, with a mid-centruy chic reverse C-Pillar. The Lauwerence was named after its designer, and looks to be exceedingly rare. While digging for Rometsch information, it seems the Beeskow coupes and 'verts (again, named for the designer) are more common, as far as super-rare VWs go.
Rometsch used the basic Beetle floorpan and mechanicals while adding a steel inner body, a wooden structure and an aluminum skin, all handbuilt. Upon discovering the construction techniques, we're amazed there are any of these cars still around. Steel and aluminum don't play nice together for 50 years. Galvanic corrosion (electrolysis, basically) means that the aluminum is likely powder any place it came in contact with the steel. As for the wood in the structure - we're sure that it didn't fare well in harsher climes, but was probably fine in Hollywood, where some of these cars reportedly ended up as playthings for the stars.
Still, we're really in love with the look of the Lauwerence coupe after finding it on the website of über-VW restorer Lenny Copp of West Coast Classics Restoration. The humble running gear makes a Rometsch a perfect platform for vintage hotrodding. Find yourself an Okrasa setup, or a Judson supercharger - a copy of the old Floyd Clymer's "Souping the VW" will make you salivate for one of these old chuffers to tinker with - and you'll have a car that is reliable and tough, beautiful, and rarer than pretty much anything short of Pebble Beach.
VW Trends, ClassicVWs.com, and Common Gear were immensely helpful research resources for this entry.