Octo VW Show and TheLab shop visit, February 2016

Words and Pictures by Richard Thorpe

I have been speaking with an engine builder in L.A on Instagram off and on for a few years now. Earlier in the year I found myself away with work in California for a few weeks so I messaged Vic of TheLab to see if it would be possible to pop over to his shop and have a look around, take some photos and generally talk VW. He graciously agreed, and also asked me if I was heading to the Octo show held in Long Beach, L.A. I admit, I wasn’t, but he invited me down to have a look and then to head to his shop in the afternoon where he’d invite a few friends down too.

The show opens at 6am (people had been queuing since around 5 am to get in…) and is all over and done with by 2pm due to the heat (even in February it’s quite toasty!). I spent a good few hours looking over all the vehicles, stalls and parts/swap meet. It was really good insight into the American air-cooled scene as I’m only familiar with the UK, and once the initial difference in accents was overcome it was easy to talk to anyone about their vehicles as we were all there for the same reason, so instantly had something to talk about. I met up with Vic around lunchtime to follow him to his shop, and it was there that he introduced me to Jorge from Air Cooled Society (I’m heading back out to California later in the year and we have something in the works with him so watch this space!)

We set off for his shop 6 miles away, and it took just over an hour and a half to get there. I’ll never complain about traffic on the M6 again!!! Vic arrived ahead of me in his 200bhp+ ‘Thing’ which is an absolute monster. His shop is filled to the rafters with engines in for overhaul, new ones ready to be shipped out (you can find his engines in Japan, Tokyo and all over the USA just to name a few), parts, gearboxes, turbos, coolers, you name it and it’s there. He also runs an online shop so he has stock ready to go off the shelf whenever an order comes through and is more than happy to talk VW until the cows come home. Vic is passionate about building the best and more reliable engines and testament to that can be found by taking to his friends and customers. Whilst I was there one of his customers dropped by the shop to say hello as he was in the area, and talking to him about his 2332cc that Vic built for him 10 years ago(!!) revealed that it has never missed a beat the entire time.

Check out his work on Instagram under the name ‘@vicbuilt’