Why Baja Bugs?

a.k.a. The Problems with Other Vehicles


I hope you're enjoying the Baja Page. It's great fun, but I don't know that it's changing the world. Maybe some of the 17-year-old-kids who write in are affected by it, but beyond that....

It all started when I got my internet connection at home, and could finally surf out & check out non-work-related stuff. So I went to the VW pages, and asked, what about bajas? They're great... excellent German engineering... go fast over rough terrain... you get the idea. Some classic VW purists said "go ahead and ruin your classic VW, build a baja." I took offense, and had to mention to them that my baja was the victim of a rear-ender and we're lucky it's rolling at all, and the engineering lends itself to a superior vehicle, not just a stock underpowered sedan with a weak heater, and that they can go ahead & spend $10000 and 7 years to get... a $1000 car, because they've restored it to original and that's what it was brand new, a $1000 car.

Then I thought of what Mark Twain said to the heckler, "Sir, we have freedom of speech in this country. So Get Your Own Forum!!" (shut him up good, the way I read it)

These crazy VW things are so much fun! This weekend I'm building a new pushbar to go along with the new front end. The old setup experienced severe contact with mother earth - check out Bent Beam - front view, and Bent Beam - side view if you're interested in mangled front ends, that still make it home under their own power!

My friend was backing his ford truck into hunting camp, and broke an axle. Bummer, shouldn't have broken but he was offroad and you know how warranties get - $1600 to fix! YEEEEOW! I've just built a new front beam, better than ever, with lots of spare parts to boot - for $300. These truck-boys are paying that for one tire, and I STILL have more clearance than they do, down the center of the vehicle where it counts. If I don't truly have enough clearance, I'll scrape up my $20 skid plate and ding the hard steel pan of my car. Boo Hoo. I wonder how much cracked differentials cost?

Now I get to design and build my own pushbar - estimated $50. And have fun doing it. I, like many men, like building things. As a little boy I was a master of Lincoln logs and tinker toys (in the days before Leggos), but I never got to drive my creations to JJ's Cantina at 70mph! I will build a pushbar to protect my baja from Volvos and minivans, from lightposts and fenceposts, and from rocks, stumps and trees. It will be a good pushbar, something useful, something to be proud of. There's plenty of worse things to spend money on.

Then, I'm gonna go flying by some trucks on 4-peaks road, and I'll laugh as they try to catch me, and as they start to skip sideways on the washboard road because they're too heavy and have solid axles, I'll do a few controlled 4-wheel slides because my lightweight, independently-suspended vehicle is very predictable. It's rained today, so there should be some 24-inch mud puddles to romp in, and I know I'll get out under my own power. I might go play in the creek (it's flowing now) and the worst that will happen is I'll have to float downstream for a little ways until I get traction again. OK, I'll bring along my comealong just in case something gets wet. Hook to a rock, or tree, or build a blinkin' cairn of rocks to pull out from - with a 1000 lb. car you can do such things.

Goodness forbid the worst happens, I happen to know where there's a VW of compatible year for sale for $250. Interior shot - motor gone - tranny shot - somewhat stripped - rather dented but repairable. Parts Car! I think I'd have to call my Ford-axle-breakin' buddy and respectfully ask him to help me haul it. He won't offroad any more so this is all he's got!

Another friend has a jeep. And it goes places my baja won't. It crawls through rocks, it gets traction on the bottom of rivers, and it climbs hills like crazy. But Durn it's slow! I tend to leave him behind, drink all the cold beverages waiting for him, and get angry when he says "what's your hurry, I just got here." It's thrilling climbing those rocky, holy hills, but 99% of our trail riding is over old mining roads, forest service roads, washes and the like. Thus, 99% of the time I'm riding with him, I wish we had my baja. Furthermore, his insurance is sky-high compared to mine - his late-model jeep is a 4-wheel-drive liability, whereas my 1969 2-door sedan is tiddlywinks to the insurance company. And my tailbone always hurts after a day in the jeep - with that much weight, he needs a stiff suspension. In the baja I hardly notice!


This is an update to the above article - for I just got back from romping. I've learned a few things since writing the original article.

The evolution business leaves us wondering where we've been compared to where we are now? Lookit - it's evolution, slow change, improvement hopefully. But sudden change causes wild reactions.

I like this baja game, and it's what I do for fun. So when I had too many spare parts, I built a spare motor. It's a stock 1600cc, whose sole intent is to make the state emissions people happy. Mighty kind of me, I know.

When breaking in a new motor, one goes easy on it. Must seat them rings nice and gentle. Must dial in that carburetor. Must not burst an oil line. So when I built my hot motor, I never realized exactly what I'd built. When I built my spare motor, I learned how anemic a stock 1600cc is! Of course, not all 1600cc's are the same and this one is specifically weak, per design. But when I bolted the hot motor back in, my baja ROCKS! I climbed hills tonight I used to struggle up. I dove through the gulley that made a hockey-stick out of my tie rod. I flew over rough stuff that shook my teeth last time I went there. I rode ridges that used to worry me, but now I have skidplates - no worries! I've learned in a moment just how far I've come!

How many people can say such a thing? Not many 4x4 people build spare motors - cost is prohibitive. Even if they have spare parts, they can't swap them around like I can - Volkswagen lends itself to easy maintenance. My spare motor might be worth $600 turn-key. Tell THAT to a V-8 man! He's spending that much on a short-block. I can pull a motor and swap it in 1/2 hour. He's lucky to do it in 1/2 day!

Who could possibly know as much about a personal achievement as a baja fanatic?


So ladies and gentlemen, if you choose to go out and buy a $25,000 sport-utility vehicle, don't sell your baja - buy a trailer!


What's YOUR opinion?