When I bought this in 1984, the sand rail frame had been made
from thick-wall tubing and created by a professional welder.
It had a 1500cc VW engine and was in running condition. It was
strictly for off-road use, with no body, no windshield, and
only one seat. I towed it home in a blizzard and had fun the
next day in a foot of snow.
I reworked and braced some of the frame, lowered the gas
tank, and added another seat. I made the body from surplus
aluminum sheet, and installed all the parts to make it
street legal: safety-glass windshield, lights, turn signals,
horn, mirrors, seatbelts, fenders (for certain city
ordinances), windshield wiper, speedometer, etc.
I had to get a State Patrol inspection. I thought he would
check the lights and safety equipment, but all he did was
check the engine serial number to ensure it wasn't stolen.
When I took it to a car dealership for an appraisal, the
guy just laughed and asked me how much money I had in it.
How else can you appraise something like this?
After it was licensed, finding insurance was huge challenge.
For some reason, nobody wants to insure a car built from
leftover junk by some backyard mechanic. I finally had to
switch my other (real) car to another insurance company so
they would insure this one.
It was a lot of fun off-road, with a center of gravity so
low you could drive it sideways across an extremely steep
hill and it wouldn't roll over. It could go almost anywhere,
and I loved driving it to the top of a steep boulder field
and pulling up beside guys with Jeeps. It took some of the
wind from their sails.
It had some drawbacks. It was cold in anything but the
warmest weather. It didn't have much power, and I couldn't
afford to soup it up. It had two wheel drive, and sometimes
I managed to get it into places where a come-along was
needed to get it out. I finally sold it to a high school
kid. I hope he survived.
With some surplus rubberized fabric, I hand-stitched a ragtop.
I also played with a few other bugs. Here's a shot of
my 1965 Baja Bug.
I bought this bug for $55 with the engine sitting in the
rear seat. I couldn't find anything wrong with the engine,
so I installed it, and it ran fine. I never knew why
someone had pulled it. The front and rear of the bug were
banged up, so I just converted it to a Baja Bug. Eventually
I rebuilt the engine, and drove it for a few years. Then I
sold it to a guy at work, who drove it for several more years.
Not bad for a car with a total investment of under $300.