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Dune buggies are usually created using one of two to three different methods.

The first involves alteration of an existing vehicle, most notably the older Volkswagen Type One (Beetle, or Bug). The Beetle is preferred for a variety of reasons. Most significant is the position of the rear mounted Volkswagen engine, which with removal of bodywork transfers a high proportion of the weight to the rear driven wheels for extra traction. The engine is air cooled, simplifying engine modification, and the absence of a radiator eliminates a source of failure. The low price; robustness of the front suspension; and the sizable quantity of spare parts from other VW Beetles and Type 2 buses are a further advantage. Corvair engines are also a popular way to upgrade to 6 cylinders and sometimes vehicles are fitted with turbochargers to provide as much as 180 horsepower. For example, one such conversion was a 1970 Manx 2 on a 1961 VW chassis. It was fitted with a 180 HP turbocharged Corvair engine, with reverse rotation, mated to a VW transaxle.


The second method involves construction of a vehicle frame from steel tubing formed and welded together. The advantage of this method is that the fabricator can change fundamental parts of the vehicle (usually the suspension and addition of a built-in roll cage). Buggies of this type are called sandrails because of the rail frame. Sandrails, as with the VW Bug, often have the engine located behind the driver. Sizes can vary from a small engined one seat size to 4 seat, 8+ cylinder vehicles. Sandrails can have panels or custom shaped body coverings over the rails and tubing that comprise the vehicle, though many are left bare.

The third is only a temporary fix. These dune buggies represent mixes of the above two design philosophies, typically after a converted vehicle sustains damage from age, hard use, or accidents and spare parts are not available or affordable. This type of creation is called The Boston-Murphy style.

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beetle, buggy, styling