VW Bugs have had a rich history in drag racing ever since the days of the ’60s “Inch Pincher” and its peers. SoCal native Mark Prothero keeps the legacy alive and well with his bright green, Wally-winning NHRA Super Stock Beetle.
Mark’s dad Mert, a member of the famed L.A. Roadsters, and his uncle Van, a drag and Bonneville veteran, brought him up to be a car guy, taking him to local events including Lions Last Drag Race.
Even though heavy into the SoCal car culture, Mark didn’t start racing until six years ago. He appropriated his mom’s pristine VW Bug, eventually turning it into an 11-second runner, competing at local Bug-Ins.
He yearned for more but didn’t want to molest his mom’s beauty, so he located a clean ’57 and sought out two of the West Coast’s premier VW race emporiums, Ron Lummus Race Cars for vehicle construction and Jack Sacchette’s Jay Cee Enterprises for power.
Ron Lummus laid the foundation by fabricating a 10-point chromoly cage to the “pan car” and raised the engine and trans 4 inches, allowing him to slam the bug, lowering the center of gravity and creating a better stance for the swing axle. Ron says the lowering creates a situation akin to sticking a blown and injected Hemi in a Nash Metro; most of the engine protrudes above the body. To alleviate this situation one of his custom-fabricated deck lid and wing combinations is used to enclose the flat-four engine.
Ron’s fabrication skills are clearly evident from nose to tail, including the wheelie bar. He narrowed the front and rear suspension 6 inches, and the QA1 shocks contains his custom valving. Lummus custom billet aluminum disc brakes are on all four sides. A neat feature is the Chevy brake pattern, which allows for greater wheel options. The aluminum interior featuring Racepak instrumentation is also Ron’s handiwork.
A one-piece front end, doors and rear fenders—all carbon fiber—hold the weight (including Mark) to a very svelte 1,630 pounds, just right for the NHRA SS/VX class in which Prothero competes.
Jack Sacchette’s JayCee Enterprises constructed the 135-ci flat four. It features many of Jack’s custom pieces, including billet cam, tool steel lifters, push rod tubes and crank trigger ignition. The mighty mite dynos out at 250 hp at 9,000 rpm.
The engine is connected to a genuine Type 2 VW Bus magnesium gear box assembled by Dave Folts Transmissions featuring one of Dave’s swing axle conversion kits. A Ron Lummus Rev 6 clutch is part of the trans package, as is a Lummus Verti-Gate shifter.
The success of this project is easily measured. At last year’s Indy Nationals Marl snagged a Wally by winning Class Run-offs. There he was bunched with V-8 Stick Combo cars. The class is run off your index (SS/VX index is 11.60) with no break out. In the tradition of David vs. Goliath, Mark marched through that field of mighty V-8s to claim his prize. Additionally, at the recently completed Summitracing.com Nationals held in Las Vegas, Mark won his class.
Lastly, and in some ways, most importantly, Mark wants to thank his wife Christine and daughter Maddie for their continuing support.
Ron Lummus Racing
Dave Folts Transmissions
JayCee Ent. makes the power and Lummus Racing gets it to the ground.
The 135-ci engine produces 250 hp at 9,000 rpm.
The Lummus winged dog house is essential to cover the engine in its elevated position.
The cleanly fabricated, all-function, no-frills interior features Racepak instrumentation.
The Lummus billet aluminum disc brakes are visible through the Weld Wheels.
Owner/driver Mark Prothero breezes though tech at the recent NHRA Vegas national event.
Two of Mark’s departed friends who were integral to the operation will always be fondly remembered.
Text by Pete Ward and Photos by Richard Brady and James Drew