Off-road VW Baja Bug - Our Shed

By: Glenn Torrens

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vw baja bug 6 vw baja bug 6

To claim you need four-paw traction for off road action is fake news according to Tony and Glenn

Every few weeks, my mate Tony and I consumed pizzas and beers while we continued work on his off-road Baja Bug. Over several months, we repaired minor panel damage and smoothed-out the welds and other blemishes where the bumpers and racks had been installed. The Baja’s four replacement mudguards required some work to fit against the original panels, too, before being bolted-on.

vw-baja-bug-4.jpgThe body’s side trim holes were welded closed and some previous panel damage repaired before paint. My wheeled trolley made work much easier

To make my VW restorations easier, I have a frame on rollers that can support a body-shell or chassis – the VW has both – so they can be easily worked on. The roller-rack also makes painting the body a little easier, especially the interior and underside, so I lent that to Tony for the duration of the build. The idea for painting the bush-bound Bug was simple: fix the damage, scuff-back the Bug’s previous paint (it had been repainted years ago) then apply a coat of fresh colour. But Tony had a crazy idea for paint… full military-style camouflage!

vw-baja-bug-7.jpgAbbreviated mudguards and snub nose were bolted and bonded to the cut-down body

The painting began by applying a factory-style textured stone-guard coating to the Bugs’ under-body and interior surfaces. Applying the camo was easy in theory but a little more tedious in practice: the whole car was painted in a sandstone colour before Tony spent hours masking for the ‘splotches’. Another mate, Laurence, was there to help before the fresh colour was sealed-in under a coat of satin clear-coat. If he was to do it again, Tony reckons he’d use stickers for the contrasting colours.

vw-baja-bug-5.jpgThe flat-four has been upgraded to a 1916cc twin-carb and twin-plug-per-cylinder mill – and distinctive raised exhaust – for great performance in the bush

To assemble the Baja ready for an engineer’s report and registration, Tony installed a SAAS steering wheel and two same-brand flip-forward bucket seats, and the roll-cage from my old hill-climb VW. I also modified a wiring harness from a later Beetle to fit the earlier car so Tony could easily install roof-mounted safety lights and a pair of CB radios The engine was easy: a fully rebuilt engine from VW engine-building legend Stan Pobjoy. He’s the bloke responsible for my 8000rpm, 13-second track/hill-climb/sprint engine and several of our street engines; Tony and I have both been customers of Stan since last century!

vw-baja-bug-3.jpgMy mate Tony has been playing with Bugs since high school… yet he still manages to smile!

The upgraded 1916cc engine has around 90hp – double the Bug’s standard power – and is bolted to a gearbox with revised ratios to compensate for the larger rear Bridgestone Dueller tyres and Tony had Laurence help with the construction of a long range fuel tank, too.

vw-baja-bug-2.jpgThe camo paint job was a lot of work

So… Long range fuel tank? Grunty motor? Roll cage? CB radios? Lifted suspension and dust lights… What’s going on? Stay tuned!



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