Origin Story | The Flat 4 Japan Volkswagen Beetle [With Video]
Words, Photography & Videography Luke Ray
This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 25.
The first stop of my 2017 Japan trip and the first of two (very different) Volkswagens was to be the Flat 4 oval-window Beetle. Seeing a nice oval is a special thing in itself, but to see one modified tastefully and sitting with just the right stance is a rare treat. The Flat 4 office, tucked away in the Tokyo suburbs, is a multi-level building catering for all your Volkswagen needs; A service workshop at the bottom and a higher level filled with historical cars and enough VW parts and accessories to keep an avid enthusiast interested for hours.
We found a spot to shoot just across the road, a simple residential car park where we could spend a couple of hours with the car. With the shoot almost in the bag, I noticed that the sun was going down almost directly over the length of the road right outside the gates. WIth the light rapidly fading and constant traffic casting doubt over my plan to shoot the car right in the middle of the road for the low-light money shots, we had to think fast, but with the car not running on that particular day and language barriers playing havoc with communication, maybe not as fast as we all would have liked.
The traffic calmed, the sun was almost gone, it was all systems go. The Flat 4 crew rolled the car into the middle of the road and I managed about three full minutes of shooting before the sun was gone, the traffic came and we rolled the car back inside the workshop.
Over to Nao Fujita, general manager at Flat 4, to tell us a bit more about the car…
Flat 4 was started in 1976 by our boss Mr Komori and has been in business for 41 years. We sell parts, cars and we also manufacture some parts that are distributed globally such as wheels, steering wheels and accessories.
This chop top Beetle was done by Mr Komori himself between 1973 and 1976. The roof is chopped by 3 inches. He was doing this before any magazines were talking about how to do it. It was all done by using his imagination as to what to do and how to do it. The car is a mixture of a 1960 body, a 1969 chassis and a 1952 roof, all put into one car.
The engine is 2180cc. It has an 82mm stroke with 94mm Bore, 40 IDA carburetors and the compression is about 10 to 1, making 220 horsepower.
The interior is all black leather, still looking good 40 years later. The car has been in the possession of Mr Komori for all this time. It’s always been in Japan except once we took the car to an event called European Bug-In held in Belgium.
We repainted the exterior ten years ago. Other than that, it is just as it was made in 1976.
Mr Komori still owns the Flat 4 business today. He drives his own 1959 Volkswagen every day on his daily commute.