How To Build A Buggy For Sand
There is no greater way to experience the thrill of dune shredding than in a dune buggy. These fast, lightweight vehicles are designed to give riders an exhilarating ride over sand.
You can choose to either purchase a dune buggy or build one yourself. The advantage of building your own dune buggy is that you can customize it to your liking and give it as much power for increased performance as you like.
The easiest way of building a dune buggy is by modifying an existing vehicle, usually an old VW Beetle. The frame of the VW is the best for this because of its lightweight design, simple drivetrain, and ease of customization and repair. If you choose this route, be prepared to take apart the Beetle and replace some of the parts to make your buggy.
Another alternative is to purchase a dune buggy kit. Different varieties of these are available on the market and are great because they reduce the assembly needed. You can opt to purchase a pre-made dune buggy. If you have a chassis ready, all you’ll have to do is get a fiberglass frame to fit on it. Some kits come with a chassis as well as the tubes for assembling a roll cage. This helps save you the hassle of building a new frame from scratch. Regardless of the kit you choose, you’ll still need to hook up the engine and transmission.
Basic Buggy Components
Here are the basic components you need to pay attention to when building a dune buggy:
- Low center of gravity – this will give your buggy a better chance of climbing steep dunes without tipping over.
- A long wheelbase – to improve the buggy’s stability
- Rear engine placement – this way you won’t risk having sand blown into your face by the fan as you drive
- Tube frame design – this makes it easier to integrate a roll cage as well as a fiberglass body
- Paddle tires – when driving on sand, you need tires that are great for floating on the sand without sinking. This prevents you from getting stuck
- A light engine- dune buggies have to watch their weight. if you use an engine that’s too heavy, you make it difficult for the vehicle to stay on top of the sand. A heavier engine also makes the buggy unstable, especially when going down declines.
Building the Buggy
- Decide on the Donor Car
Building your dune buggy from an old VW Beetle comes with lots of advantages. Firstly it’s economical because you can reuse some of the parts such as the suspension and chassis. It can be difficult to find newer versions of some of these components so salvaging them is the way to go. Additionally, this method saves you from having to do too much assembly, thereby saving time.
- Decide on the type of chassis
You can opt for either a ready-made chassis or a DIY one. The former can be purchased as part of a dune buggy kit or on its own. The advantage of purchasing a chassis as part of a kit is that the master cylinder mount, the seat track mounting, pedal mount, etc. are all factory installed. Some even have the fiberglass floor pre-drilled and bolted in place, making your work that much easier.
If you do go the DIY route, ensure that you have a large working area, welding tools, and mechanical experience to build one.
- Deal with the wheelbase
As mentioned earlier, a longer wheelbase results in a more stable buggy while a shorter wheelbase gives you better cornering. Since you’ll be driving on sand, it’s preferable to go with a longer wheelbase. To determine the wheelbase, measure the length of the vehicle from the center of the front wheel to the center of the rear wheel.
- Sort out the suspension
Your buggy needs great shocks and a suspension system that will give a smooth ride even as you fly over sand dunes. The choice of shocks to use depends on your preference but if you don’t know what to go for, then we suggest leaving this part of the project to the professionals.
- Decide on the cockpit
One advantage of building your own dune buggy is you get to customize the cockpit depending on your desired comfort level. You can choose between 2-seater and 4-seater options as long as the chassis can handle it. When choosing seats, remember to allow room for helmets and to give a minimum of about 2 inches clearance between you and the roll cage. For easy installation, you can have seats mounted on slide mounts bolted to the floor pan.
The engine – you can either buy a new one or reuse the engine if building your buggy from a VW Beetle. The engine should be mounted on the rear part of the buggy frame between the seats. Note that an air-cooled engine is easier to work with than water-cooled ones because you won’t have to worry about carrying or changing the cooling fluid. The engine will simply cool as you drive, minimizing the chances of overheating.
The battery – it’s advisable to spring for a new battery to give your buggy enough power to shred those dunes. The battery can easily be mounted on a battery bracket near the engine and you can choose from a 12 or 24-volt battery depending on the power you want.
The frame – the easiest way to give your dune buggy a classy frame is to go with a pre-made fiberglass frame. These types of frames come with all the bolts needed to easily attach them to the chassis.
Come Talk to Us
Red Dot Engineering can provide everything required to help you build a complete dune buggy. We have the tools to carry out welding, fabrication, laser-cutting, and anything else needed for your custom project build. Get in touch with us today and let’s get started on the dune buggy of your dreams.