Fiberglass Dune Buggy Characteristics
These comments are based mostly on my personal opinions and experiences, I highly recommend that you talk to other dune buggy owners to get their thoughts on this subject, and if possible; find a dune buggy to test drive for yourself. Submitted by Gary Holbrook on ???????????
Safety. How safe are these vehicles to drive? Well, assuming that we are talking about the average fiberglass dune buggy that is relatively well-built and maintained, there are those that would compare the safety factor as being just above that of a motorcycle, but significantally below that of today's factory-built vehicles. And to be honest, I can't argue with that way of thinking at all; in fact, I totally agree. The 4 wheel platform does make the typical dune buggy more stable than a motorcycle, but it is important to remember that each and every one is hand made by those that may (or may not) know what they were doing. Dune buggies are smaller than most cars, normaly the seat positions are lower (reducing normal overall vision in some cases), bodies and chassis designs have not been crash-tested, no air bags, most do not have full roll bar cages, and once again, almost each and every one is homemade! (Note: There are a few US commerical companies that are offer the purchase of turnkey dune buggies, but these are still not considered production line models) I try to keep all of the above considerations in mind every time that I take my dune buggy out for a spin. I would imagine that I drive more defensively that I do in my Toyota 4Runner, by leaving more space between myself and other cars and trucks that are on the road. I am constantly looking around as much as possible, even with out thinking about it, to see what critical situations may present themselves in the next few moments (plus the open cockpit allows for a much better panoramic view!). I also find myself scanning the skies and horizon to look for indications of bad weather approaching.
Driving my dune buggy, honestly, is an absolute blast. I crave the open air feeling on good weather days (driving during the late afternoons and at night is so much the better) and the smaller turning radius of the reduced wheelbase makes the steering of these vehicles nimble and responsive. Now, driving on the freeways can be another matter entirely. I am fortunate enough to have a dune buggy that feels okay at 70 mph cruising speeds, but the shorter wheel base and inefficient overall aerodynamic shape (at least by today's standards) can make it a serious challenge on windy, gusty days. A good crosswind can have you and your buggy drifting lanes in a second. Tailgaters can also be a problem; there are those that want to drive right up to your rear, just to see the engine operate. Slick roads can also be a problem, these vehicles are so light (especially the front end).................
Once again, fiberglass dune buggies are not production vehicles, there are certain characteristics that should be kept in mind while owning, driving and maintaining this type of vehicle:
Weight comparison vs VW Beetle (1973 VW Beetle weighed 1984 lbs based on the 1973 Beetle manual that can be found on thesamba.com. My dune buggy weighs 1584? lbs)
1807 lbs for a 1970 VW Beetle, manual on thesamba.com
Inspection - maintenance (good checklist can be found in the Manual section on the samba.com), come up with your own checklist that fits your dune buggy
Each dune buggy is going to have it's own version of a check list
Fair weather vehicle
Air pressure greatly reduced (helps unstiffen the front end)
power steering, power brakes not needed
Keep a toolkit on hand with extra parts
Where is the spare?
Other vehicles on the road, do they see you? Bright body colors help
For those not used to driving a convertible, on a sunny day you can cook yourself at a stoplight if you have to sit there for awhile. Some dune buggy owners combat that by installing a bikini-type top, similar to those found on Jeeps. Full coverings (correct term?) are also an option, these are usually attached with snaps, velcro, and they take advantage of the slot that is in most dune buggy windshields.
Front tires that are too wide can make steering more of a challenge. Front tires that are too narrow can be an issue as well, on wet pavement the front end may want to "track" straight forward instead of of normally progressing through the turn. A realtively light front end may add to this delima even more.
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