IT’S NO SE­CRET that I en­joy play­ing with VW Beetl es. The small, noisy, curvy, da k-d akky,happy,s mile y-face lit­tle rearengine car is now one of the world’ s most recog­nis­able, pop­u­lar and easy-to-own clas­sic cars. As reg­u­lar read­ers will know from my ex­ploit sin hill climb sand salt-lake rac­ing, Bugs can be made to go sur­pris­ingly and sat­is­fy­ingly fast.

But you may not re­alise a Beetle can be made into a for­mi­da­ble of f-roader, too !

So re­cently, I’ve been work­ing on a ter­rific cross-coun­try V W. Built toasty le known as a Baja Bug, the littl ed a k-d ak has raised sus­pen­sion, tough 4WD-t y pe t y res and an ab­brev iated body, a ll to tack le trick y terra in. In fact, ‘Baja’ comes from an an­nual off-road race on Mex­ico’s Baja Cal­i­for­nia Penin­sula, t he Baja 1000, where Beet les mod­i­fied to t his recipe have been com­pet­ing since t he late 1960s.

Ac­tu­ally, t his Baja is not my car, but my mate Tony’s. Hav­ing at­tended the same school as me, Tony is one of the peo­ple I can t hank (blame?!) for my in­ter­est in V Ws. To cut a long stor y short, Tony had a Baja Bug Way Back Then and wanted to build an­other one.

I had a suit­able project-sta rter – a stripped 1968 Beet le body and chas­sis – so Tony bought it from me and the t wo of us be­gan work. We live nearly t wo hours apart so the loose plan was for me to camp at Tony’s for a cou­ple of days ever y few weeks, with the t wo of us drink ing beer and eat­ing piz­zas un­til t he Baja was built.

My f irst task was to pre­pare t he chas­sis and sus­pen­sion while Tony con­cen­trated on t he Beet le’s body mod­i­fi­ca­tions. The Beet le’s bodyon-chas­sis de­sign made t his easy: Tony took the body to his house and I worked on the chas­sis at mine. My up­grades in­cluded t hicker, laser-cut f loors in t he chas­sis, a change to V W’s later-model trail­ing-arm t y pe rear sus­pen­sion (for longer sus­pen­sion travel and bet­ter on- and of f-road per­for­mance) and front sus­pen­sion mod­i­fi­ca­tions to in­crease ground clea ra nce.

Mean­while, Tony got to work on t he body: t he front and rear sec­tions were cut away ready for a new snub f ibre­glass nose to be bonded-on. The rear chop leaves the en­gine ex­posed so to re­main road-lega l, Tony bought tube-t y pe front and rear bumpers (avail­able of f-t he-shelf from some

V W spe­cia lists) and a pro­tec­tive wire-mesh guard to keep litt le f in­gers away from the en­gine’s mov­ing parts. Tony a lso crafted a rack over t he rear win­dow, plac­ing the weight of the spare wheel over the V W’s strong

– and in our case, up­graded - rear sus­pen­sion.

Once t he chas­sis was re­built I de­liv­ered it to Tony’s, ready to be even­tua lly re­united wit h t he Baja shell af­ter we com­pleted the body-work and laid-on a coat of paint. Stay tuned!


01 We be­gan our Baja build with this tatty Beetle shell and chas­sis. Rust in the nose doesn’t mat­ter as this sec­tion of body will be cut away dur­ing the off-road body con­ver­sion

02 The al­most com­pleted body and prepped chas­sis ready for the next stage of the build. 02

01 01 Baja kits in­clude four fi­bre­glass guards, a bon­net and this snubby nose that is bolted and bonded to the VW Bug’s cut­down front body

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