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August 2006 4xForward - Tube Buggies

Posted in Features on August 1, 2006
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Contributors: Rick Péwé

We've all seen the rampant explosion of tube buggies in the 4x4 world, whether you like them or not. Ten years ago these things were but a dream or an occasional oddity, but now you're hard-pressed to find a trail run that doesn't have at least one tube buggy or a Jeep morphing slowly into one. Some people think that these creations are ruining the sport, and others feel it's what drives innovation and creativity in our arena. The world of professional rock racing has driven it even higher, with many of the advanced technologies and products filtering down to the regular consumer level for us to use. One of the first real tube buggies was the Scorpion made by Soni Honegger, and now built by Preferred Chassis Fabrication, out of Tucson, Arizona (www.scorpion4x4.com ). We featured it in "Swiss Army Knife" way back in the August '97 issue, nearly 10 years ago. At the time I was a fresh feature editor, many of our readers were in grade school, and David Freiburger (currently Editor-in-Chief of Hot Rod, Car Craft, and so on) was our Editor, and gave us some of his musings in his 4xForward ("The Most Capable 4x4 Ever") in that issue. It's interesting enough that I felt we should share a shortened version of it with you a decade later, in case you're wondering how the tube-buggy craze started.

"I had dreamed about it and mulled it over many nights, and then unexpectedly, there it was before my bulging peeps. Actually, I'd be giving myself a huge compliment to suggest that I could dream up a creation as awesome as the Scorpion MK I, which is the shag-nasty 4x4 buggy on this month's cover. We called the story "Swiss Army Knife" because the Scorpion is cutting edge, it folds every which way, and it can do anything. Soni Honegger and owner Heath Biggs completely hand-fabricated this one-of-a-kind 4x4 for pure function. It's an extreme variation of what I had in mind when I longed for a full-tube-chassis 4x4 in the Mar. '97 4xForward.

"There's no way a two-dimensional magazine can depict the buggy's amazing function, and even in person, not many can comprehend how the thing works. I suspect that few can duplicate it either, but I'm confident that knock-offs and simpler redos of this space-frame, go-anywhere 4x4 will be the future trend in ultimate trail rigs. Think of the advantages! By starting with a homebuilt tube chassis, you can place the drivetrain wherever you want, tire clearance is unlimited, and suspension design is wide open. The approach and departure angles can be beyond 90 degrees. If you have no body or minimal sheetmetal, there's not much that's going to rust too badly and nothing to dent and look ugly. The weight savings compared to a production-based vehicle add up to a faster, more capable, and less-breakage-prone 4x4. And if anything does break, it'll be twice as easy to repair thanks to your clever design. Safety is also an issue, since the integral 'cage is much more rollover-proof than a rollbar bolted to a sheetmetal floorpan. Lest you think all this tech is only for rockhounds, don't overlook the overwhelming advantages in mud, sand, and even high-speed desert running.

"OK, there are some logical objections, but I have answers. Illegal? You can find a way around that. After all, the Scorpion does have license plates. Just investigate your local laws, then find a way to make it work even if it's just for off-highway use.

"Too complicated? Granted, the Scorpion has a trick suspension system, the likes of which we've never seen. Other than that, it's the model of simplicity. But all you'd have to do is use a conventional leaf-spring suspension and you'd have a reasonable facsimile of the capability minus the mind-blowing technology.

"Too expensive? No way. I know guys with way more invested in their trucks than it took to build the Scorpion.

"Maybe I've minimized the hassles in building such a beast, since I thought about doing it myself and realized I just don't have the fabricating skills. But I've also seen similar buggies based on stock frames, suspensions, and drivetrains."

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