Dale Keller's 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.

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.