Dune Buggies - the Basics Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Dune Buggies - the Basics

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Owning a dune buggy can get rather expensive but is extremely fun. This entry will give you some basics of what you need to get started when purchasing or building your first dune buggy. Here are the necessities to owning a dune buggy that must be considered:

  • Cost - The more you pay initially, the less you pay in upgrades.

  • Towing vehicle - Unless your buggy is street legal, you will need a vehicle to hostel it around. The vehicle in question should have enough power and torque to get the job done. Trying to pull a 1000-pound buggy sitting on an 800-pound trailer with a Geo Metro will not get the job done. If you cannot afford a tow vehicle that will fit your application, delay your purchase of a dune buggy.

  • Storage - You will want to keep your buggy in the garage, if possible. If you are married, just throw your spouse's vehicle out in the elements while your beloved buggy stays dry. You can leave the buggy outside under a tarp, but if you have any chrome parts on it, they will still rust with time.


Arguably, the most important part of your buggy is the frame. Without a solid frame, you will spend most of your time welding instead of driving. The frame should be solid and built to suit your body dimensions and driving style. Ask yourself: 'Do I want a wheelie machine or a climber? Do I have a lead foot?' etc. Some people (with an endless supply of cash) elect to purchase a prefabricated frame while others seek used frames. For your first buggy, try to find a used, maybe homemade, frame that you can fix up relatively cheaply. The majority of buggy people that you meet will say, 'Everyone started out with a buggy like that'. Take what they say under advisement - they speak from experience. If you marvel at their machine, you can envision the endless customisations are possible.


Just as the frame is the most important part, the engine is the most expensive. Consider this; if you are 5 foot 3 inches tall and weigh 140 pounds, do you really need a 1997cc stroker with dual 45mm carburetors? A power plant with that kind of muscle will cost around $2500. On the flip side, if you are 6 foot 3 inches tall and weigh 240 pounds, a stock 40 horsepower 1600cc engine will not be sufficient power to propel you over the dunes. If you cannot afford a fire-breathing engine, buy the best that you can afford. Just make sure that you have dual valve springs, due to the higher rpms. If you do not use dual springs, you run the risk of floating your valves and causing major damage to your engine.


In order for the buggy to produce forward locomotion in sand, you must use paddle tyres. Instead of 'tread', like on your daily driver, paddle tyres have ridges, called paddles. These paddles scoop the sand, causing the tyres to 'float' on the surface of the sand. Flotation is very important when driving in the sand; if your tyres do not float, you will only bury your machine in the sand.

Another very important and often overlooked fact about paddle tyres is tyre pressure. Avoid the temptation to fill those massive tyres with lots of air. When driving in the sand, you do not want more than 10psi of pressure in your paddle tyres. The best thing to do is experiment. Put 10psi in the tyres, find a hill that looks intimidating and hit the gas. If you do not make it to the top, drop the pressure down in 1-pound increments, you will see a slight difference on each pass. Do not go below 4psi. Less than 4 psi of air puts the tyres in jeopardy of being pinched by the rims. The last thing you want to do with a $250 tyre is pinch it by being careless. It has been known that people get 50 feet from the parking area only to bury their machines due to improper air pressure.

Shoulder Harnesses

Shoulder harnesses are four or five-point seat belts. This type of seat belt is used in motor sports such as drag racing, nascar, etc. Prices start around $35 each, but again, buy the best that you can afford. You wouldn't like it if you or your passenger were to tumble out of your buggy in the unfortunate event of a rollover because you didn't have shoulder harnesses.

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