OUR CARS – TORRENS
BUILD YOUR OWN BAJA BUG
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!
“MY MATE TONY IS ONE OF THE PEOPLE I CAN THANK (BLAME?!) FOR MY INTEREST IN VWS”
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