Paneling & Plumbing The Fun Buggy
I don't see four-wheeling as a way to get somewhere. I see it as the destination. I don't want to go driving up a dirt road to go fishing. I want to go wheeling to try and conquer the toughest trail obstacles and find new places to go wheeling. When you realize that four-wheeling is your recreation and pastime, not just a means to get from Point A to Point B, then building a buggy just may be your next project. Many off-roaders appreciate that building their dream machine from scratch opens up near-limitless parameters for everything from drivetrain to suspension. And don't forget that most of us 4x4 junkies just love being in the garage or shop tinkering, and nothing requires that more than a buggy. You're constantly challenged to come up with the best parts for your ride and then figure out how in the world to mount them all in one big off-road wheeling machine.
My Fun Buggy project is still coming down the home stretch, and as with many things, the finishing touches take the most time. Whether it's the bodywork, plumbing, or wiring, if you don't take your time you'll be cursing when something needs to be fixed on the trail. This month the guys from Poly Performance and I will concentrate on the body panels, floor, and firewall of the buildup along with some of the plumbing we installed to get the fuel, brake, and steering fluid where it needs to go. It's pretty simple stuff really; it just takes time and patience.
As the buggy is just about done, we took a long weekend to tear it completely apart for final welding and a coat of paint. Like Tom Sawyer, I convinced the local college four-wheeling club, the Poly Goats, to come help me work on the buggy. This involved many hours of exciting Scotch-Brite polishing to get the chassis clean and prepped for welding and paint. Thanks, guys. After rolling it over a few times for welding by Drew Burroughs of Poly Performance, we dragged it into an empty part of the shop and laid down multiple coats (and 40 cans) of semigloss black Duplicolor paint. We didn't prime the chassis because we plan on sandblasting and powdercoating it down the road, after a few wheeling trips to determine any changes we'd like to make.
Bodywork: Inside & Out
Since it's a buggy, I'm not overly concerned with a body, and in fact that was part of the impetus for building a buggy: no body damage. I also don't want it to look like a Jeep or other factory vehicle like many buggies do. I want people to recognize that it's a buggy and built for maximum performance in a wide range of terrains. Therefore, I only add panels that are needed for wheeling in snow or mud and that can be removed in warmer months. In fact, I have no problem getting bundled up for wheeling if I need to. Along those same lines, building body panels such as the floor, roof, and firewall is important to protect occupants against heat, spinning driveshafts, and in case of a rollover. Plus many of these panels became integral for mounting components, especially electrical components like the fuel injection and ignition controls.
I covered many of these steps in "Freddy's Fab Shop" (Nov. '08) as well, but here are some more details.