Phoenix Bugorama '96 Car Show - The Baja View

Last spring's bugorama wasn't all bad, since lots of good baja bugs showed up. Following are a few of the best:

This baja was built by Competition Engineering, Tempe AZ. A fine piece of work! Note the external oil filter & cooler setup - very important in the Arizona summer. The only problems with this setup are 1) that cooler is sticking way up there just waiting for a low tree to knock it silly, and 2) there's about a quarter-mile of oil line (but the latter is not much of a problem). The KC Hilites are a nice touch. This is hard to believe, but I think the motor is near-stock 1600cc! The owner was not around to talk to, but I'll try to update my facts when possible.

Besides being a good looker, this baja has a serious stance. Anyone who's broke their front end while offroading can appreciate this. Single Fox shocks take the bumps out of the front end, while the tube frame lightens the load. One criticism: the plate on the front pushbar is too pretty - it should be gouged with a few rocks or trees.

Maybe that's because the builder is selling this beauty - anybody have $12,000?

The interior is all business. Most noteworthy are the full roll cage and the serious Jesus-bar (also known as an "OH $%&* bar). I like the simple gauge layout - too many cluttered dashes out there. In the shadow on the left of the dash are the toggles for the lights (2 sets). No horn? I guess the owner must plan to go over the top of anything in his way.

The rear end of this baja is something to see - right away, you've gotta notice the custom bump-stop and dual rear shocks. The builders at Competition Engineering installed dual carburetors - this setup is less durable for offroading, but performance is way up there, so I guess it depends on how one wishes to use his baja. Rear disc brakes are a real plus, for Brake Fade Is Not Fun.

This second yellow baja is pretty studly, too. The bullet tail-lights are cool (as long as the trees don't take 'em off), and I appreciate the nets in the windows. Note that the builder put his offroad lights up on the top. This provides better lighting & visibility, but I have this problem with low trees taking tall parts off of bajas. In this case, though, those lights might serve as protection for the oil cooler!

Even the display deserves notice - the owner brought in his own tree to park on top of. Respectable.

The front contains a spun-aluminum fuel tank, which barely clears the steering linkage - but a little is all it takes. I'm also impressed by the headlight mounting brackets - this picture does not do it justice. Good, robust mounts that'll stand up to some serious offroading.

Finally, here's a couple of pictures of the one & only - the baja with the Arizona plate BUG. Dual KYB shocks support the rear end, and the axles on their IRS transmission are genuine Sway-A-Way, not just white powder-coated stock axles. Note the rear pushbar installation. Very Strong.

I like the rack setup a lot, since it's halfway-protected from trees (even though the oilcooler is right out there, again). The front suspension is BAD - widened front beam, adjusters welded in, and longer-than-stock trailing arms. I'm even considering a set of side rails now. All I have to do is fix my dents from the last tree I slid into sideways....