Years of planning becomes a lesson in Fab
A bout 10 years ago I was paging through a copy of this very magazine and I saw one of the first tube-framed off-road rockbuggies, and I knew right then and there that someday I would need something like that. It made perfect sense: Have the body and the frame be one, and build them to maximize the execution of extreme trail riding. I wasn't looking for a competition motorsports rig-I wanted only a fun vehicle for off-road exploration, yet one capable enough to attempt everything from mud to dunes to gnarly rock trails. Now after years of planning, drawing, and taking notes about how my ultimate Fun Buggy would look, work, and perform, we finally started the buildup. In our last installment ("Fun Buggy Blueprints," Dec. '06), I went over the design and reviewed my drivetrain choices (small-block V-8, automatic overdrive transmission, aftermarket two-speed transfer case, front and rear steering 1-ton axles), and with excitement in the air I joined the guys from Poly Performance to actually measure, cut, notch, and weld the beginnings of this tube car.
This project is built with a mixture of lightweight sheetmetal structures made of chromoly with all the latest dimple dies, TIG-welding, and heat-treatment for strength as well as a simple cage design of twisted 1 3/4- and 1 1/2-inch DOM tubing. The design process we used had a complete computer aided design (CAD) blueprint showing us where most of the tubes go, and from there it was time to get started on the dirty work.
The work on this machine quickly taught me that fabrication is much harder than it looks. Of course, off-road buggies have been built for years, and that tube-buggy rockcrawler from 10 years ago only just started a rejuvenation of 4x4 owners bending tube and cutting and welding their own off-road creations. But with that growth in home fabrication comes a need to consider the intricacies of building your own vehicle from scratch, not to mention the many tools that make these projects easier. With the multiple forces of geometry involved in a vehicle that can really perform off road, it is important to build a safe and solid chassis.
Think it's too much for you? It may well be, but never let that lack of knowledge keep you from working towards your dream machine. Either work hard to hire a quality shop to build it for you, or get your hands on some tools and start learning on it in your own garage. You just may end up the next Jesse James of 4x4 fabrication.