A stock Volkswagen Beetle is comparatively underpowered by modern standards and even as early as the 1950's companies were developing aftermarket performance product for Volkswagen owners that wanted a little more power. After a short period of time Beetles began entering drag racing competitions and holding their own on the strip.
In the 1960's enthusiasts (particularly in California) started to emulate these drag racing cars by stripping of all the chrome, upgrading the wheels and tyres and modifying the front suspension to give a nose down appearance. This style became the foundation of the Cal Look that we see today although it has evolved over time.
Today the Cal Look has become incredibly popular mainly due to the relative inexpensive of the Volkswagen Beetles and the cost involved in creating an eye-catching Cal Look example. There is a myriad performance parts available compared to those available in the 1960's and unleashing large amounts of power from the flat-four engine is fairly achievable on a modest budget.
One of the main features that identifies the Cal Look is the smooth body where most or all the exterior trim etc has been removed. This can be traced back to its drag-racing roots where reducing the curb-weight of a car is a key ingredient in achieving a good time on the drag strip. The steel wheels are also usually replaced with lighter alloy wheels with popular choices being Porsche Empi 5 or 8 spoke wheels. The choice of 5 or 8 spoke is mainly determined by the age of the car they are being installed on because older Volkswagen's had 5 studs whereas the later one only have 4 studs.
A common popular half-way variant on an all-out Cal Look is the Resto Cal Look. These Volkswagens are essentially stock with the exception of a lowered stance and tuned engine. They are often fitted with aftermarket period accessories such as roof-racks, fender-skirts and air conditioning units.
The Cal Look is no longer only popular on Volkswagen Beetle and is now also very popular with Campers, Ghia's and Type 4's.