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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 beneath 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 like this: Take one sedate German sedan (Volkswagen) ; add an eager hobbyist with cutting torch and arc welder; blend in Yankee ingenuity, and before too long, you have a brush buggy—82 inches of four-wheel excitement. Although related to the much-modified and often exotic dune buggy, the brush buggy is powered by a stock Volkswagen engine—and is constructed almost entirely from standard VW components. Much to the surprise of conventional four-wheel-drive vehicle owners, a brush buggy will, in many cases, outperform conventional machines designed for rough-country use. The secret of the starting performance of a brush buggy is its light weight—most of which is located over the rear axle. Coupled with the lack of a normal transmission and drive train that hangs down to snag rocks, and their short but wide stature, brush buggies become capable of climbing hills, creeping over rocks and fording streams which would leave four-wheel-drive jockeys stranded—or at least winching themselves out. Pricewise, brush buggies are well within the reach of most outdoorsmen. With an arc welder and acetylene torch at your disposal, you can build a buggy for less than $400. This estimate

depends, of course, on the initial price paid for a Volkswagen. If the work is to be done at a machine shop, add another $250 to your original investment for the VW. building preparations All electrical wiring between the body and engine must be tagged and disconnected. Then undo the gas lines and remove the body-to-frame bolts. Gearshift, clutch, brake pedal and accelerator assemblies are disconnected next, followed by the steering column (unbolt it at the steering box knuckle). The body can now be lifted off with a chain hoist. With the body clear of the frame (a full-length belly pan serves as the frame for a VW), the engine should be removed—this will make the later operations of cutting and aligning the frame much easier. sectioning Before removing the 10-in. section from the belly pan or frame, mark the rear cut where the transmission tube first begins to narrow at the forward side of the torsion tubes. Then mark off the next 10 in. Before beginning the cuts, however, the shift control rod (running from the gear shift lever through the tunnel to the transmission)
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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 careful that control cables in tunnel aren't damaged

Installing roll bar is a two-man job. When level, the bar must be securely welded to the torsion tubes

Cowling braces are lengths of electrical conduit bent as detailed in drawings. Then template is fitted No longer a sedate sedan, brush buggy with short wheelbase is ready to take to the hills and trails

Fuel tank from VW truck or bus fits snugly between legs of roll bar. Filler spout is moved to center

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

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