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A dune buggy is a recreational Vehicle with large Wheels, and wide Tires, designed for use on sand Dunes or Beaches. The design is usually a modified vehicle with a modified engine mounted on an open Chassis. The modifications usually attempt to increase the power to weight ratio by either lightening the vehicle or increasing engine power or both. They are also often referred to as air buggies, and those with an open frame chassis are called Sandrails.

A similar, more recent generation of off road vehicle, often similar in appearance to a sand rail but designed for different use, is the "off road Go kart". The difference between a dune buggy or go kart and an "off road" buggy or kart is sometimes nothing more than the type of tires fitted -sand tires or all terrain tires - but "off road" go karts and buggies are a rapidly developing category of their own.

Design Edit

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 Volkswagen. The Beetle is preferred for a variety of reasons. Most significant is the position of the rear mounted Volkswagen, 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 Volkswagen 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.

Function Edit

Initially dune buggies were designed for navigating desert or beaches (hence the word "dune"). However, dune buggies have become more diversified in terms of the terrain they can handle and are being built for more generic off road tasks, such as CORR / SCORE indoor track racing. Some are even built for and used as on-road vehicles. Typically the function is determined before the buggy is created in order to maximize the comfort or abilities of the vehicle.

Although dune buggies can be bought (as a kit), many drivers make their own. This is done by separately buying chassis, engine, tires, steering wheel, and axles. Some builders make their own chassis, which creates a special, customized vehicle.

A 1961 or later Volkswagen sedan is the preferred donor to create a Dune Buggy. The VW Type 2, Type 3 and Type 4 do not make good donor cars, however the engine, transaxle, wheels, and instruments can be used from these models.

Other parts that can be salvaged from a donor VW for use in a Dune Buggy include the front axle and suspension, frame, pedal assembly, shock absorbers, seats, battery, fuel tank (1961 or later), steering column, brakes, instruments and switches, windshield wiper, horn and emergency flasher unit.

Military buggies Edit

Because of the obvious advantages a buggy can afford on some terrain, they are also used by the military. The buggies built for the US military are called Desert Patrol Vehicles (or DPV). They were previously called Fast Attack Vehicles or FAV and are used by US Navy Seals. The DPVs are built by Chenowth Racing Products Inc., a San Diego based company. As with most military material, they are not sold outside the government.

Tube Framed Buggies Edit

Over time Buggies have been altered to allow maximum recreational use. They are now available in varying sizes.

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The most common form of non-racing buggy consists of a 'tube frame' which is simple to construct and sturdy. If the frame bends or breaks it is simple to fix. Steel tubing is preferred to "pipe" as pipe is rolled and welded, tubing is mandrel drawn, making it stronger and with consistent wall thickness.

Engine size varies depending on the suspension, frame strength and performance needs. Engine size has varied from 50 cc for small light buggies to 7+ liter engines designed for professional racing. Dune buggies use both automatic or manual transmissions, sometimes based on application and engine power, but often based simply on personal choice.

Fiberglass Dune Buggies Edit

Fiberglass dune buggies come in many shapes and sizes. The most popular are those seen on TV like Wonderbug and Speed Buggy. These types of dune buggies are known as "clones". Many companies worldwide have, to varying degrees, attempted to copy the original fiberglass dune buggy the "Meyers Manx" built by Bruce Meyers.

Kit cars are a variant that use the dune buggy philosophy of substituting significant amounts of a car with custom parts to resemble production, modified or Prototype cars. For instance: American Fiberglass Product’s “Humbug” has similar features to a classic Corvette, Berry’s “Mini-T” was a nod to the Ford Model T, or BMB Automotive’s “Surviver” is a scaled down version of the Lamborghini Cheetah.

Dune buggies in popular culture Edit

  • In the The Thomas Crown Affair (1968 film), Steve McQueen's character drives a dune buggy along the beach in a seminal and often parodied scene.
  • The Seattle grunge band The Presidents of the United States of America (band) has a song called Dune Buggy on their 1995 The Presidents of the United States of America (album).
  • Dune buggies were especially made popular by the Mad Max movies.
  • For a brief time in the mid-1970s, Spider-Man used a modified dune buggy as his "Spider-Mobile".
  • The 1973 cartoon series Speed Buggy featured an anthropomorphic dune buggy, voiced by Mel Blanc.
  • The film Watch Out, We're Mad (...altrimenti ci arrabbiamo! - Italy, 1974), with Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, turn around a red with yellow top dune buggy.
  • In the 19-2000 Music Video by the Gorillaz. The band drives around in a Meyers Manx Dune Buggy.
  • In the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, the Countess is killed by a dune buggy driven by the villain.
  • In the Elvis Presley movie Live a Little, Love a Little Elvis' character, Greg Nolan, recklessly drives a dune buggy during the first two minutes while the opening credits appear.
  • In Half-Life 2 the player spends a long time travelling in a skeletal dune buggy armed with an experimental weapon and an infinite ammo crate on the back.

See also Edit

  • Meyers Manx - Fiberglass bodywork is added to a shortened VW pan to create a popular roadster
  • EMPI Imp
  • Baja Bug
  • Mini Moke
  • Volkswagen

External links Edit