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projects just for fun

Build an exciting brush buggy


By DAVE BENNETT and GLEN HOSTETTLER

The trailblazing little brother of the well-known dune buggy will take hills, streams and culverts
in stride-yet it's easy to make from standard VW components

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No need to worry about becoming stranded in the
bush when you've got a gung-ho brush buggy be-
neath you. As these photos show, the spunky little
vehicle proves to be at home in the water, on rocky
ground, and even in the air. Needless to say, strong
seat belts and the sturdy roll bar are basic
necessities for wild maneuvers that, while thrilling,
are not for novice drivers. You can have the brush
buggy for about $400

• HEARD ABOUT the new recipe for fun? It goes depends, of course, on the initial price paid for a
like this: Take one sedate German sedan (Volks- Volkswagen. If the work is to be done at a ma-
wagen) ; add an eager hobbyist with cutting torch chine shop, add another $250 to your original
and arc welder; blend in Yankee ingenuity, and investment for the VW.
before too long, you have a brush buggy—82
inches of four-wheel excitement. building preparations
Although related to the much-modified and All electrical wiring between the body and
often exotic dune buggy, the brush buggy is pow- engine must be tagged and disconnected. Then
ered by a stock Volkswagen engine—and is con- undo the gas lines and remove the body-to-frame
structed almost entirely from standard VW com- bolts. Gearshift, clutch, brake pedal and accelera-
ponents. Much to the surprise of conventional tor assemblies are disconnected next, followed
four-wheel-drive vehicle owners, a brush buggy by the steering column (unbolt it at the steering
will, in many cases, outperform conventional box knuckle). The body can now be lifted off
machines designed for rough-country use. with a chain hoist.
The secret of the starting performance of a With the body clear of the frame (a full-length
brush buggy is its light weight—most of which belly pan serves as the frame for a VW), the
is located over the rear axle. Coupled with the engine should be removed—this will make the
lack of a normal transmission and drive train that later operations of cutting and aligning the frame
hangs down to snag rocks, and their short but much easier.
wide stature, brush buggies become capable of
climbing hills, creeping over rocks and fording sectioning
streams which would leave four-wheel-drive jock- Before removing the 10-in. section from the
eys stranded—or at least winching themselves belly pan or frame, mark the rear cut where the
out. transmission tube first begins to narrow at the
Pricewise, brush buggies are well within the forward side of the torsion tubes. Then mark off
reach of most outdoorsmen. With an arc welder the next 10 in. Before beginning the cuts, how-
and acetylene torch at your disposal, you can ever, the shift control rod (running from the gear
build a buggy for less than $400. This estimate shift lever through the tunnel to the transmission)

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fun projects

Section to be removed is 10 in. long, measured from front of torsion tubes to forward end of vehicle

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When making cuts to remove 10-in. section, be care- Installing roll bar is a two-man job. When level, the
ful that control cables in tunnel aren't damaged bar must be securely welded to the torsion tubes

Cowling braces are lengths of electrical conduit Fuel tank from VW truck or bus fits snugly between
bent as detailed in drawings. Then template is fitted legs of roll bar. Filler spout is moved to center
No longer a sedate sedan, brush buggy with short
wheelbase is ready to take to the hills and trails

must be unbolted at the transmission and worked


through the front of the tunnel. With both sec-
tions of the belly pan securely blocked or jacked
up, make the cuts, taking care not to damage the
clutch, throttle and emergency brake control rods
within the tunnel. With the section removed,
undo the emergency brake bracket in the tunnel
(just inside the section above the cut).
The tunnel behind the rear cut is then split
back about 3 in. on all four sides to allow the

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fun projects

brush buggy, continued up with the seat and steering knuckle and welded
to the cowling brace. A hole is later cut in the
front section to slide into the rear when joined. front of the cowling for the column.
Using a chain "come-along," the sections are The simplest and surest method of making the
matched up and overlapped 2 in. The rear sec- cowling is to first cut a cardboard template ac-
tions should also be split at the forward corners cording to the provided measurements. Check the
and peened to the contour of the front panel. fit of the template and then cut the metal from
Before beginning the main welds, carefully the trimmed template. Working from the center
check alignment between sections. Horizontal outward, the cowling is spotted with small welds
alignment is checked by measuring both sides to the bracing. If the metal begins to warp, cover
from the rear torsion tubes to the end of the the main area of the cowling with wet cloths to
forward section. Vertical alignment is measured dissipate the heat. After grinding the welds use
from the floor upward to the joint of the sections. fiberglass or auto-body lead to fill in the joint.
Make the top welds, turn the vehicle on its With the cowling installed, a small metal instru-
side and run a bottom weld across the seam for ment panel can be suspended from the cowling
strength. Finally, the section of tunnel which was braces over the gearshift—this panel need only
earlier removed must be trimmed, spread and contain the essentials such as starter switch, light
welded in place over the new tunnel joint. switch (if lights are fitted) and oil-pressure
gauge.
roll bar and strongback
The roll bar is made of 1-3/4in., thick-wall air- control rods
craft tubing, leveled and welded in place atop The disconnected control rods (clutch, throttle
the rear torsion tubes. (The roll bar should be and emergency brake) should protrude through
pre-bent to the required size at a muffler or ex- the rear of the tunnel. They must be cut to the
haust specialty shop.) The strongback, one of proper lengths and hooked up to the appropriate
the most important items in a buggy if it is to connections. The rear hydraulic brake line, which
withstand rough usage, is a 1/4-in.-thick, 6-in.- must also be shortened, can be re-installed at this
high steel plate cut to fit between the two upright time.
arms of the roll bar. The center section of the
strongback must be notched to clear the trans- battery box and carrier
mission housing. The strongback is welded to the The battery supporting frame is welded in
torsion bars and roll bar. place behind the right rear torsion tube. The top
of the battery should extend no higher than the
gearshift engine itself when re-installed.
Work the gearshift control rod back into the The framework for a carryall box or basket is
tunnel and slip it into the transmission coupling. built from l-1/2-in. angle iron and is welded to
Then mark it for the proper length (use the hole the roll bar and roll-bar braces. Then, plywood
atop the tunnel where the gearshift assembly bolts sides and bottom are bolted in place.
on). Again remove the rod, cut it where marked
and then weld, taking care that the two sections fuel tanks
are correctly aligned. Precision here is necessary, For maximum range, a 10-gallon fuel tank
for both the twisting and the back and forth mo- from a VW truck or bus is utilized. The fill spout
tions of the rod govern gear selection. Finally, should be moved to the center of the tank, so it
the control rod is installed and bolted to the will fit between the driver and passenger seats.
transmission, and the shift lever is screwed in
place. optional equipment
A Volkswagen truck reduction box on the end
cowling and steering of the standard VW rear axle housing will give
Angle-iron braces are cut to fit along the front the buggy an additional 3-3/4in. of ground clear-
of the belly pan and are bolted in place to serve ance, and will lower overall gearing to 1.4 to 1.
as a tie-in for the tubular cowling braces. Because the reduction boxes are often difficult to
For steering, the original Volkswagen column come by, many builders install them afterwards,
and wheel are retained in the buggy. After in- since it involves no major redesign of the parts
stalling a seat (the stock seat guides should still but merely a slight modification to fit the con-
be in place) the steering column can be lined ventional axle housing.

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