Ascort TVS 1300 GT

Apparently, 19 of these fibreglass sports cars were made…in Australia. Volkswagen Beetle motors. Motors that were hand-tuned by a man named Oettinger. Who'd guess that Aussies would create a Beetle-based car with grand touring manners to surpass even the Porsche 356?

OK, maybe that's not the case. Maybe it is. I'm sure that eventually an Ascort owner will chime in the comments and enlighten us to its road manners. It is pretty much as it looks, a Karmann Ghia merged with a 356; it seats four and was designed to be a grand tourer, not an Alpine corner carver like the 356.

Believe it or not, the hot versions of this car could reach speeds in excess of 155 km/h (96 mph)! 

So who do we have to thank for this incredible machine? A little-known Czechoslovakian transplant to Australia, Mirek Craney, who, says, that its inventor was self-taught in just about everything, from plastics design to clocktower repair. So when approaching the problem of creating a car that would surpass his Karmann Ghia, Craney naturally used his connections as the importer of OKRASA, er, Oettinger Kraftfahrtechnische Spezial Anstalt hop-up parts to fit a significantly more powerful 1,300-cc flat-four with 54 horsepower. 

He also used his alternative materials knowledge to create a sporty-looking, Ferrari Superamerica-inspired body, apparently reinforced for strength over what you'd get from a Beetle. Using the floorpan from the People's Car, the body was mounted on rubber mounts to dampen vibration, with front and rear luggage compartments boxed in for strength, with polyurethane foam to keep strength as well as reduce road noise. Weight? Approximately 657 kg (1,450 lbs.), which is quite good—and should explain its strong performance.

How do I know all of this? Because many of Craney's original notes and design specifications on the car have been preserved by, and it makes for fascinating reading.

Around 13 are accounted for, with many partially restored. It seems like a well-engineered car, and one that just couldn't be made to earn a healthy-enough profit. Price? About the same in 1969 as a Citroën DS, and less expensive than both a Porsche 356 and Jaguar XK 150, but with far less—zero, in fact—racing pedigree than those marques.

Would you have taken a chance on the Ascort?

Yay? Nay? If you think it's the only bizarre Australian sports car, take a look at the Giocattolo Group B…an Alfa Romeo Sprint with a mid-mounted Holden V8 and breakdown kit that included a bottle of rum. Not a typo…