With its rear engine layout that provides a lot of grip over the rear tires, a VW Bug makes an excellent candidate for an off-road vehicle. More commonly referred to as a Baja Bug, a VW modified in this way is a fun on- or off-road vehicle. And building one isn't actually as difficult as you might think. With the right parts and a good plan, this can be done in a day or a weekend.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Sprint bars
- New bumper for front
- Larger wheels and tires
- Small indicators
- 4-inch taillights
- Stinger exhaust
- Chrome engine dress up parts (valve covers, etc.)
- Sawzall or similar cutting instrument
- Quality blade
- Large hammer
- Socket set and ratcheting wrenches
- Jack stands
- Masking tape
- Safety glasses
- Work gloves
Jack up the car and place it securely on jack stands at all four corners. Remove all four wheels.
Remove the rear bumper and rear deck lid. The bumper is usually held on with brackets that bolt to the car. The deck lid is held on with the hinges.
Locate and remove the bolts for the rear fenders and the running boards. Set aside the beading that goes between the fenders and the body.
Move to the engine bay and disconnect all the wires to the lights and undo the throttle cable for the carburettors. Remove the engine tin that surrounds the motor.
Using the sawzall or cutting tool, cut the rear apron (or sheetmetal) off about six inches from the top of the opening for the engine bay straight down to the rear apron, which is the bottom most portion of the body.
Unbolt the engine from the gearbox and remove the motor.
Place the fenders back on the car and using masking tape make off the shape that you want the fenders to be. Remove the fenders and using a jigsaw carefully cut the shape that you marked. Cut over the tape to prevent damaging the paint. Be sure to leave enough bolt holes so the fenders can be bolted back onto the car.
Use a hammer and chisel to cut the welds on the channel that holds the engine to body gasket. Use the sawzall to cut downward from where the back of the fenders mount to the firewall. Clean everything up with a grinder and paint the inside of the engine bay.
Install the engine and stinger exhaust system. Mount the taillights in a new spot and rewire them. The best place is just inside the top edge of the engine bay. Rewire everything and reconnect the throttle cable. Move to the front.
Install the new sprint bars and front bumper and place the wheels back on the car. For a Baja, it is best to use wider wheels and off-road tires.
Tape off the shape that you want the front fenders to be with masking tape. Cut on the masking tape to prevent scratching the paint. Using the jigsaw cut out the shape in the fenders. Make sure you leave enough room around the headlights.
Tips and warnings
- Baja Bugs usually have some type of modified engine, so either rebuild the motor or have it rebuilt for more power. Also, cars that are going to be used off-road a lot should have upgraded, heavy-duty suspensions installed.
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