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A New Polaris RZR And Old School Styling Produces A Modern Classic

Posted in Features on November 28, 2015
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There are few vehicles as iconic the history of off-roading than the Baja Bug. For many of us, it was our first dirt vehicles and even for those who have never owned one, many have a soft spot for the formerly ubiquitous little bugs. You don’t see too many of them on the road anymore, but they’re never far from the memories of many off-roaders.

One thing you do see a lot of are however are Polaris XP1000 RZR’s. They seem to have taken over for the bug as the go-to off-road rigs. Even stock, they are very capable, very reliable and easily upgraded to long travel suspension systems. One of the fastest growing classes at most off-road races is the side-by-side.

Greg Cottrell, owner and founder of Rugged Radios, is a guy who has an affinity for classic rides (he has a bunch of old bikes and even has a cool Bultaco Pursang displayed in the front window of his Arroyo Grande shop along with a Class 11 bug) and had an idea of taking his 2015 Polaris RZR and transforming it into a Baja RZR.

He did so because he had a fiberglass front clip for a Baja Bug and in a moment of inspiration, he envisioned putting it onto the RZR. That was the beginning of the Baja RZR seen here.

Cottrell enlisted Nick Valentine NV Fab of Oceano, California to turn the RZR into the Baja RZR that he saw in his mind. It was to be much more than just hanging the clip onto to the front end as the Baja RZR features a well thought out homage to the Baja’s of the past. One thing, it actually has a modified VW dash in place and features such period touches as classic chrome-finished KC HiLites Daylighter’s light mounted to the A-pillars (just like we did back in the day!). KC lights are also used for the headlights, too. The stock RZR taillights are still in place, but a quartet of KC Cyclones (2 amber and 2 blue) now act as dust lights. They fit perfectly with the round aspect of the bug and are the right size to boot.

Valentine made some aluminum doors for it and Crockett’s Premier Auto Body painted it white (as was mine, way back when) with blue racing stripe accents. Of course, the stripes are actually a wrap that was put in place by Linson Signs.

Going all in style-wise, Cottrell had the centers of the PRP Racing Seats custom stitched to resemble Mexican blankets and the steering wheel is a 3-spoke unit that would fit perfectly with any racecar built before 1985. The modified VW dash holds the stock RZR instrumentation and switches and was wired up by Travis and Kyler Jecker

A few things that weren’t around then are the Rugged Radios RRP6100 Race Intercom System and. The com system also has a 50-watt radio that plays music through a set of Rockford Fosgate speakers with a Rugged Radios WM1 Bluetooth system. A set of 4-point PRP 2.5 harnesses keeps the occupants in place while the Rugged Radios MAC1 Carbon Fiber Air Pumper System keeps them full of fresh air.

This “bug” has way more suspension travel than even the Class 5 Unlimited cars of the day, as HCR Racing Long Travel Suspension systems are found front and rear. The front consists of long uppers, lowers and shock towers that give the RZR a 4-inch wider per side stance and a whopping 21-inches of wheel travel. The HCR trailing arms are wider and 3-inches longer than stock giving the RZR a wheelbase of 93-inches with 76-inches of track.

Finishing off the suspension system are RCV Performance Axles and King shocks. The King 2.5 x 24-inch internal bypass shocks with remote reservoirs and finned reservoirs give the Baja RZR tuning options that drivers of old school Baja Bug could only dream about. They work in concert with the HCR system to give the RZR off-road capabilities that makes the RZR an extremely capable off-road platform.

Another nod to the old ways are the cool 15-inch custom American Racing Wheels. They may not be solid Centerline’s, but they have a vintage look that works well with the rest of the vehicle. The BFGoodrich T/A KO2 tires (31x10.5x15) work very well on any surface and condition, but with Pismo Beach being literally a shell toss away, Cottrell sometimes runs paddles and sand tires and launches buckets of sand in the air.

Moving those grains is easy thanks to the Boondocker turbo that Cottrell had installed onto the Polaris 999cc 4-Stroke DOHC engine. Boondocker, out of Idaho Falls, Idaho did the turbo install and engine build, which includes a Gibson exhaust system. Producing horsepower of 175hp, which is a lot more than a VW-engine’d Baja Bug ever produced, this Baja RZR is quick and reliable. We love the old 2180cc VW engines, and they were fast (for a while anyway), but not this fast.

We’ve made no secret that we’re fans of both new technology and old ways. Yes we race vintage stuff, but there’s no denying that when it comes to most things about technology, new is better. But we’re romantics and heart; we love us some classic iron and this Baja RZR is the best of both worlds.

Looking like something out of a shot from Jim Ober’s Hourglass column, this Baja RZR is a capable as it is attractive.

A lot of work was put into the Baja RZR to get the look of a classic Baja Bug just right.

A quartet of KC HiLights puts the lumens out front. The A-pillar lights are chrome finished Daylighters, just like in the old days.

In sand or on the rocks, the BFGoodrich KO2 tires work well, and the 15-inch American Racing wheels look as good as they work.

A real VW dash has been grafted in place and it looks like it’s always been there.

A pair of PRP Racing seats have been equipped with not only PRP harnesses, but the centers have a Mexican blanket motif!

A Rugged Radios RRP6100 Race Intercom System not only connects the occupants, it’s also has a 50-watt radio that plays music through a set of Rockford Fosgate speakers with a Rugged Radios WM1 Bluetooth system.

The steering wheel is a period correct tri-spoke model.

The Boondocker monitor keeps an eye on the turbo, and gives that info to the driver.

A pair of Rugged Radios MAC1 Carbon Fiber Air Pumper System are the perfect size for the car, and the clean air is made clean with Airaid filters and covers.

Providing plenty of safety lighting and even working ascetically is the KC HiLites Cyclone LED’s.

Thanks to the HCR Long Travel suspension system equipped with 2.5 King coilover/remote reservoir shocks, this RZR is more than equipped to take on the actual Baja.

The footprint of the RZR is now 4-inches wider and 3 inches longer than stock, and boasts 21-inches of wheel travel.

While the stock Polaris RZR is pretty quick, the engine in the Baja RZR is downright fast thanks to the Boondocker turbo and Gibson exhaust system.

PhotosView Slideshow


HCR Racing
Cedar City, UT 84721
Gibson Performance Exhaust
Corona, CA 92879
KC Hilites
Williams, AZ 86046
PRP Seats
Murrieta, CA 1-951-894-
Rugged Radios
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
American Racing
Cerritos, CA

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