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Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW?
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liquidrush
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:41 am    Post subject: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

Who were the first guys who cut a bug apart and thought...hey, a tube frame instead of the body would be pretty cool. I've always wondered that.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:03 am    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

As for the "very first" I don't know, but our man Bruce was a big part of making it big and getting some good numbers out there to show that VW's were going to be a hot contender for years to come. In usual big company fashion, VWoA initially said "no, you can't have money, and if you talk about our engines racing any more we'll sue you" Now they say "Look back at all this desert racing history we created! Woooo!" (now, you know, that all the hard work was done by the pioneers, and they surely profited heavily from the general publicity.)

https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2017/10/09/bugs-in-baja-volkswagen-marks-50-years-of-desert-racing/
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:27 am    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

Tiny Thompson owned a fab shop and created the Burro and Les Choat ran a VW junkyard that supplied Thompson all the VW bits and pieces. According to a magazine article Choat did his first VW based buggy in early 1960. I don't know when the first Burro was made.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 12:40 pm    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

Dustymojave. Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 1:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

I just saw this the other day.

Link
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jsturtlebuggy
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 1:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

Said to have to say that Gil George (Funco Motorsports) passed away on October 23th this year from what I understand was a auto accident.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 1:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche.

Hitler told Porsche, for public consumption, to build a car for 2 adults and three small children. Hitler told Porsche privately to design an off road capable car for three fully equipped soldiers

Der Kubelwagen unt der Schwimmwagen are examples of that.

it was designed for rough roads from day one.
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jsturtlebuggy
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 2:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

The Wampusskitty was the first true tubular chassis built for off road racing.
There was approximately 30 chassis that were built by Funco.
Even Mickey Thompson drove one in the early days. Also Malcolm Smith drove one in the 1968 Baja 1,000 race.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


This one is mine. It had been restored by Bill Lott (RIP) of Fibercraft before I bought it.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 5:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

If you are talking just tube frame rail buggys versus pan cars with roll cages then I would refer to the ORMHOF website on who those pioneers are. When it comes to tube Rail Buggies the Legends are Gil George of FUNCO and Lynn Chenowth. I can think of a dozen early 60ís guys that had huge influence on our off road history. ORMHOF is just part of it and all of the pioneers have not got inducted yet into the museum.
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dustymojave
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 12:40 am    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

A number of elder offroad guys told me many decades ago that the father of offroad VWs (not counting Kubelwagens and Schwimmwagens was Scott McKenzie, founder of McKenzie's Offroad supply house. That business evolved from Scott's partnership in SandMaster offroad. But Scott was building VW Bug-based offroad cars in the 1950s.

I got some chuckles from that post above identifying ME as Pioneer. But, my own 1st ride in an offroad car was in Elmer Waring's personal Burro in 1965 in the desert around Willow Springs Raceway. Ernie worked with Les and Tiny to build Burros in that era. He was later the Chief of Tech for NORRA for the Baja races, and for SCIDA Sprint Bug and Buggy races at places like Ascot Raceway. Also General Manager of San Fernando Buggy, makers of Glitterbug fiberglass buggies and Hi Jumper tube frame buggies.

Joe Vittone and his EMPI of Riverside, CA started producing Sportsters in 1960, about the same time as Burro production started. San Fernando Auto Body (later known as San Fernando Buggy) started building their own VW pan and steel tube buggy in the early 60s shortly after the EMPI and Burro started. In the early 60s, there were guys in my neighborhood (a few blocks from San Fernando Auto Body) that had Baja Bugs with bigger rear tires, and cut bodies.

I feel the Burro was the 1st production tube frame buggy. But I'm sure there were quite a few home built buggies before that. I credit Gil George with creating the 1st tube frame VW based buggy of the general truss-side design that is still produced by companies like Acme/Berrien.

I've been around this stuff a VERY long time. Like some others on here, Dennis Hale, jsturtlebuggy. But I'm a generation young to have been a true pioneer in VW offroading. I turned 5 years old in 1960 when others were producing buggies.
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jsturtlebuggy
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 8:40 am    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

I heard from a reliable source (he owns 3 Burros) that if you showed up at Tiny's shop with a tape measure, Tiny would kick you out of his shop. Burros do not always have the same wheel base side to side.
Tiny used a lot of 1in square tubing to build the chassis and plywood for the floor.
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liquidrush
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:07 am    Post subject: Thanks for all of the great info! Reply with quote

Some great reading in there. Thanks!
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dustymojave
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 5:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

jsturtlebuggy wrote:
I heard from a reliable source (he owns 3 Burros) that if you showed up at Tiny's shop with a tape measure, Tiny would kick you out of his shop. Burros do not always have the same wheel base side to side.
Tiny used a lot of 1in square tubing to build the chassis and plywood for the floor.


I was at Les Choate's Les' Auto Salvage in Compton back in the early 70s getting a pair of wide rim wheels for my Baja. Les' guys made them. 7" rims made for Chevy Rally wheels on VW centers. Anyway, the conversation got around to Burro buggies. One of the comments related to Tiny not liking tape measures. So there's some confirmation for ya.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 7:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

Well, it's not a VW but I'll bet we had the first BMW rail. Back in 1971, I was going to school in Germany and living in a small village named Haegelberg. My best friend..Wolfgang aka Wolfy.... and I bought a car from a local farmer for about 20 Marks..about $5. It was a BMW Isetta convertible from the late 50's. We got it running and drove it all over the place. We were 14 years old and having a blast racing around on the old farm roads and trails.

When we were in school, we parked it at his Dad's sawmill lumber mill there in the village. He yelled at us regularly for leaving it in the way. He'd have to use the fork lift to move it. One day, Wolfy called me and told me to get to his house right away. There's been a disaster! When I got there, I discovered our car was smashed! His Dad was moving it to the top of the garage with the fork life and accidentally dropped it over the top of the garage. It was smashed beyond repair! sob! Sorry for the size of the photo's and the wasted white space. Just scroll down.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

We looked at the wreck for days before we had a brilliant idea. We removed the body and welded water pipes in place to form a cage in case we wrecked it. (We wrecked about once a week) We drove that all over even crazier than before. It was lot's faster too!
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

I wish I knew then what I know now! I would have packed it up and shipped it back to the States along with the DKW WWII German Army Messenger motorcycle that we got running and rode all over the place too. I bet they still talk about the two crazy idiots racing each other down farm roads with a DKW motorcycle and a BMW dune buggy rail.
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Big Al
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 10:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Out of curiosity, who were the pioneers of the off road VW? Reply with quote

The Thomas Crown Affair did a lot for dune buggies. Friend of mine had a tube frame buggy in the late 60's. He decided he wanted to build one and bought a giant tig welder. Then he taught himself how to weld with it. It wasn't like a rail now with all the bent tubing but it worked.

Al
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