buggies

May 05, 2020 /// issue no. 125

There is an interesting fact about the engine tuner of Ken Block’s original Gymkhana STI. William Knose was a long-time employee of Crawford Performance in San Diego, California. Crawford was well known at the time for Subaru-tuning, but for a completely different reason. Tucked away in an unassuming industrial park, Crawford was stuffing turbo Subaru motors in to off-road sandrails and still does that to this day.

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Sandrails are the bespoke version of dune buggies. In the 1960s, enthusiasts took Volkswagen Beetles and turned them in to custom “beach” vehicles. These VW Bugs were ideal for the sand as their rear-engined layout helped traction and the air-cooled motor didn’t have the complexities of a water-cooled system to protect from the elements.

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It turns out there is nothing new under the sun. Exomotive builds external-chassis track car kits for first- and second-generation Miatas known as the Exocet, but also offers the “Off-Road”. The Off-Road is basically the Race chassis version of the Exocet with a 3” Paco Motorsports lift kit. Don’t get me wrong. This is a financially frivolous decision, but a great value if you have a rusty Miata sitting in your side yard already and know you are going to spend the summer in quarantine.

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If you don’t have the space to dismantle a Miata, look no further than this C5 VetteKart auction which ends tomorrow. This certainly isn’t the first of its kind. MotorTrend’s Roadkill show built a VetteKart with a C4 Corvette. They claimed they were having fun with an essentially worthless chassis. I completely disagree with that assessment, but agree that an even lighter weight lightweight V8-powered chassis sounds like a beautiful thing.

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The wealthiest amongst us are building a different kind of off-roader. While these have a heavy influence from Porsche’s factory desert rally racers, I liken them to the rich man’s buggy. Professional racecar driver Leh Keen has been building some wild off-road air-cooled Porsches. Baja ready light setups, MCS suspension, and a spotless interior center the builds, yet every safari 911 owner seems to crave filthy Instagram photos. I appreciate that we can live vicariously through the truly financially frivolous amongst us.

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In personal news, the C5 Corvette Z06 racecar project is back at the house. More updates on it soon, if nothing more than a good wash this weekend.

Coffee time,
Steven


daily automotive addiction.