The Ultimate Baja Bug Enthusiast Site

Baja Bug

Baja Bug

This website was created for Baja Bug enthusiasts. It is meant to be the ultimate Baja Bug resource. If you have a VW beetle, a baja bug, or a full blown class 5 unlimited then you have found your new home. We here at the class5coalition invite you to join the forums, post up some photos and share your knowledge and stories.

For us, it’s all about off-road racing, but we love beetles of all kinds.

You can find the forums by clicking the link above in the navigation.

The term Baja Bug generally refers to an original Volkswagen Beetle modified to operate off-road (open desert, sand dunes and beaches), although other versions of air-cooled Volkswagens are sometimes modified as well.




Baja Bugs originated in Southern California in the late 1960s as an inexpensive answer to the successful Volkswagen-based dune buggies of the mid-1960s, especially the Meyers Manx. The building of the first Baja Bug is generally credited to Gary Emory of Parts Obsolete, circa 1968. The first Baja Bug in racing is credited to Dave Deal, the famous Californian cartoonist, in the Mexican 1000 of 1968. The first fiberglass Baja kit (bug eye kit) was not introduced until 1969 by the Miller-Havens company. In the early days before fiberglass body panels became available, enthusiast and racers simply made their own modification to both the body and mechanicals of a stock VW to develop a machine suited to harsh, off-road environments. The metal fenders and front and rear aprons of the car would be partially cut away to allow more for ground clearance and suspension travel. This came to be known as a “Cut Baja”. More engine power was attained by fitting dual port heads and modifying fuel injection systems from VW Type 3 cars to work on the Type 1 Beetle engine.

[edit]Kommandeurwagen Type 82E

VW Beetle

Kommandeurwagen Type 82E

Coincidentally, long before any of this happened, Volkswagen actually built something very similar in the factory. It was a war time model called the Kommandeurwagen Type 82E, and it consisted of a KdFwagen (Beetle) body on the chassis of a Kübelwagen. The body was not altered like a baja bug’s but the concept was the same: a Beetle built for tougher terrain. It served mainly as transport for field commanders, hence the name. Only 669 were built before production of all KdF models was halted in 1945 because of heavy damage to the factory by Allied air raids.

[edit]Why the Beetle?

The Beetle was popular in less-developed areas of the world because of its rear-mounted air-cooled engine, flat floorpan, and ruggedtorsion bar suspension. In fact, advertising of the period touted the fact that the Beetle was so watertight that it floated. Those same attributes made the Beetle the perfect choice for the basis of an off-road vehicle as evidenced by the car’s success both then and now in the Baja 1000 off-road race.


Basic modifications are simple. A lightweight, shortened fiberglass front body panel is fitted after the sheet metal from the trunk lid edge forward and rear engine deck lid and everything rearward (rear apron and engine compartment) is removed. The rear treatment leaves the engine totally exposed to aid in cooling. A tubular steel cage front and rear bumper is fitted to the body and floor pan for protection of engine and occupants. Shortened fiberglass fenders both front and rear meant removal of the Beetle’s distinctive running boards and the likely addition of more tubular steel parts (side bars) in their place. The rugged torsion bar front and rear suspension standard on the Beetle, allows it to withstand the rigors of offroading and the rear ride height to easily be raised slightly and stiffened to make clearance for larger heavy-duty off-road tires and wheels. The relatively light front end of the Beetle allows some compensation for the lack of four wheel drive. The taller sidewall tires provide more flexible ride comfort and rocky road ground clearance. The Beetle suspension “stops” can be moved to allow more suspension travel. Longer shock absorbers for the increase in suspension travel, provide more dampening control over bumps giving more driver control and comfort. Some people eliminate the torsion bar suspension and install coilover-type springs that mount to a roll cage, allowing extreme amounts of travel with a very comfortable ride.

[edit]The Baja Bug today

Due to the slowly dwindling supply of suitable donor cars, Baja Bugs have been greatly supplanted in recent years by tube-framed, purpose-built buggies known as sand rails. They remain a popular choice in desert regions and many are fitted with highly modified Volkswagen engines. A few home-built hybrids have Ford Pinto engineChevrolet Corvair,PorscheMazdaSubaru or other four- to eight-cylinder water-cooled engines. Customized roadgoing Baja Bugs remain fairly popular as well.

Recently, Volkswagen attempted a revival of the Baja Bug with the Dune concept in 2000.


Baja Bug, Off Road, Racing, Beetle, VW – if you’ve got a VW Baja Bug or a new class 5, class 5 unlimited or Class 5b race car then please stick around and check out the forums.

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[edit]See also