There’s a few cars that I have a certain irrational affection for. Well, really, I suppose there are a lot of cars I have an irrational affection for, but on that irrational list definitely sits one of the rarest and strangest air-cooled Volkswagens ever built: the crude, wonderful workhorse known in Mexico as the Hormiga. There’s a few of these in America, but not many at all, so whenever one shows up for sale, it’s a big deal. What may be an even bigger deal is when one with a Nissan 240SX motor shows up for sale, because I think there’s a pretty good chance that this is the only vehicle of that description in the known universe. And it’s only $16 grand or “any serious offer!” Is anyone near Long Beach, California? If so, don’t you think you should be driving over there right now?
Look how incredibly, gleefully crude these things are! They were designed to be built without complicated metal presses or anything like that, a quick-and-dirty, cheap-to-build mechanical beast of burden for developing areas.
Originally, these had Volkswagen’s legendary air-cooled flat-four Type 1 engine, the same one that powered over 20 million Beetles, inside the cab there, driving, unusually, the front wheels.
This one, though, is said to be powered by a Nissan 240SX engine, which likely means the 2.4-liter inline-four KA24DE engine that made 155 horsepower – that’s about 300% more than the original air-cooled engine Hormigas came with, so this should enjoy a pretty significant performance boost, as all of you Hormiga owners can likely imagine.
Because there’s now a radiator involved in the setup, the Hormiga needs a grille, and I think I recognize where it was taken from: it’s from a sibling, a VW Type 2 T2c with a liquid-cooled 1.8-liter inline-four engine. These modified Microbuses were built at first in Mexico starting in 1991, and then later Brazil, where these buses-with-grilles kept going until 2012. Given the origins of the Hormiga, I’m pretty confident that’s where that grille came from.
Those triangular front turn signals, though, I’m not sure about? It’s kind of driving me crazy.
So, what would you do with this vehicle if you get it, I assume you’re asking yourself, as you count out 8,000 $2 bills from your secret stash hidden in bags of cat litter. Well, aside from being a distinctive and charming daily driver, note that this truck has a pretty good-sized flatbed at the rear, a literal blank slate upon which you can express your vehicular desires, with a little creativity.
To me, it’s screaming out for some kind of camper conversion, and I think you have a ton of options when it comes to that.
Like, if you have a bit of money to spend, you could pick up pretty much any in-bed camper setup and plop it on there, with the right extra supports, and boom, you have a modern camper! Some of these can be pretty luxurious and fancy, too:
Those get expensive, though. You could try DIY-ing it, and making a whole camper with 2x4s and plywood sheeting! It wouldn’t be that hard, and you could put in insulation and flooring and windows and an A/C unit and make something pretty great, if a bit labor intensive:
Who has that kind of time, though? And what if you’re on a tighter budget? In that case, I have lots of great ideas! With some plywood and a cheap pickup truck camper shell, you could easily knock this out in a weekend:
Jam that full of old carpets and thrift-store furniture and you’ll be camping like a broke king in no time! Still too rich for your blood? What if you just drop like $300 on some plastic garden shed from a big-box hardware store? That’s like a camper!
Still too much? Ugh, fine, cheapskate, how about this: lay down some astroturf and pitch a tent on the bed there:
That’s almost free and it’s still sort of a camper. Beats sleeping on wet grass!
One more thing; since there’s still lots of Cybertruck hype, this Hormiga, with its similar low-poly looks, is a great starting point for a budget knock-off Cybertruck:
You can make it out of plywood and cover it in aluminum flashing. Cheap, easy, and effective! You can even make a simple “face mask” the same way, and some rattle cans of silver paint, and boom, everyone thinks you’re Elon Musk!
This thing is incredible, a real one-in-a-million chance. It’s also likely the fastest Hormiga ever to exist! Someone get this thing and tell me all about how much more fantastic your life becomes.