Homemade Sand Rail
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.
Here are a few shots after I installed the ragtop.
I also played with a few other bugs. Here's a shot of my
1965 Baja Bug.