Re: dune buggies & cabins

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Posted by Lee on August 04, 2002 at 19:29:10:

In Reply to: dune buggies & cabins posted by Jessica on July 30, 2002 at 13:55:35:


I have a lot of experience driving VW based dune buggies in the desert, so I might be able to offer some insight.

Good things:

Dune buggies notoriously have excellent traction. A typical Manx weighs around 1,200 pounds, and 800 of those pounds are over the rear wheels. No SUV or other 4WD vehicle has that kind of weight distribution. You can drive on most "4WD Only" routes with ease in a buggy. In fact, you will be more comfortable in a buggy than in just about any other vehicle. Buggies also tend to float over sand, rather than dig in. Dry washes and sandy roads are no problem at all. Tight switchbacks that would trap larger vehicles are easily navigated. You also don't get all the 'desert pinstriping' because the buggy is also more narrow than most vehicles.

Bad things:

The same weight bias that makes the buggy do so well in the dirt also causes some interesting handling on paved roads at highway speeds. If the brakes have not been adapted for the extra rear weight, the front wheels will try to lock up first in hard braking. Your front wheels will also lock up quickly when backing down a hill (you can use the e-brake in these cases, so you still have steering). If you try to do any high speed cornering, you will experience some pretty good understeer (when the rear wheels try to keep the vehicle going straight, thus causing the front wheels to 'plow' in). Fortunately, the lightness of the buggy makes any of these situations easy to pull out of. Just get some time on the car before doing any long trips, and you will be prepared.

You often can't carry as much as you like in such a small vehicle. Choose your provisions wisely.

Buggies often have a stock VW gas tank, which holds about 10 gallons, depending on how it's mounted. You would do well to carry an extra 10 gallons in approved containers. My Manx gets around 20MPG, so a total of 20 gallons should give me 200 miles. Check your buggy to find its limitations BEFORE heading out.

Many people put way too much air in their buggy's tires. A fiberglass Manx style buggy should have the following pressures: Front = 10-12 pounds Rear = 15-18 pounds. These are street pressures, and you may want to drop the rears down to 10 pounds in the sand or in rough terrain. Never go below 5 pounds without bead locks.

I hope some of this was of value to you. Here are some pictures of my Manx:


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