The Fun Buggy is alive! It happened over four years and then all of a sudden it was ready to go. Well, not completely ready to go. There will definitely be more things to do, changes to be made, upgrades, downgrades, and things that seemed like a good idea four years ago but when they came together they didn't work as planned. But before I get the cart ahead of the horse, let me recap some of the most recent steps that led to the photo below, taken on its inaugural run.
Oh, and before I forget, this buggy is also going racing. I didn't build it as a race car, but the guys at Poly Performance convinced me that entering it in the upcoming King of the Hammers race out at Johnson Valley, California, would be a great test for all the work we did. So in addition to finishing it up to be a trail devouring Funmobile, I'm also adding race-spec parts as fast as I can to pass the tech inspection and try to survive a 100-mile desert and rockcrawling race. Wish me luck, and remember to watch the website for a giant gallery of all the pictures from the buildup-many never before published.
1. When I last left off, the buggy was being prepped to be street-legal ("DOT Fun Buggy," Mar. '09). After I got it OK'd by the California Highway Patrol and received a vehicle ID number, I worked around the clock with the Poly Performance crew to get it out the door for Ultimate Adventure 2008. Some problems arose when I blew both head gaskets (notice the water in the No. 3 cylinder). I'm not sure if this was due to the fuel-injection tuning or if an air bubble was somehow trapped in the cooling system.
8. There was constant welding, hammering, and sanding to give the hood a smooth finish. He also used some neat Scotch Brite drum sanders on the end of a die grinder for a uniform look. One trick I learned from Bonney was to use wax when sanding the aluminum. It helps clean out the sanding and grinding disks, which would otherwise clump up with aluminum residue. The hood uses a single hoodpin under the nose that drops down above the Warn 8274 winch. This pin has a snap pin to hold the hood closed, which allows high-speed wheeling yet quick underhood access. The hood turned out so nice I'm fearing the first scratch and will hopefully have it molded and duplicates made from fiberglass or carbon fiber for really stupid wheeling antics that might result in a belly-up buggy.
12. To mount the nets in the chassis, I used a 3/8-inch bar at the top of the net that slid into a round tab at the front of the chassis. Then above the driver's and passenger's head there is a buckle from an old Chevy seatbelt that clips into a tab that is bolted to the roof. I didn't want to weld another bar to the chassis, so I used large tube clamps to attach the bottom of the net to the chassis. Simply undo the belt buckle and pull the bar from the tab, and the net drops open for a quick exit if need be.
13. The cockpit communication between me and the navigator (my friend Dave) is going to be important since the engine, fans, and exhaust are pretty loud and we'll be wearing helmets. We also need to be in contact with our chase team in case we break down or need to prepare them to refuel or fix something at the next pit stop. Rugged Race Radios has a full line of intercom systems and FM transceiver radios designed for use with both UHF and VHF frequencies out in the dirt during racing or trail riding. The intercom system is voice-activated so Dave and I will be able to discuss if we are lost, any weird noises, the weather, or anything else by simply talking into our helmet-mounted microphones. The intercom also has a plug-in for an MP3 music player or a cell phone should we want to listen to some Hank Williams Jr. while bombing across the desert. Since we are also wired into the VX-2200 race radio, we will simply push a button and whatever we say will be broadcast across the radio frequency to our pit crew (also known as the guys emptying the cooler while we're out trying to win). The race radio also comes with a standard handheld microphone making it great for trail riding or just cruising around when you don't want a full helmet on your head.
14. I'll have this new Zamp full-face race helmet around my dome as we bang along looking for the finish line. The helmet was specially wired by Rugged with noise-canceling flexible boom microphones and earphones that will transmit my screams as we launch over the rocks while racing without letting in the background engine, wind, and drivetrain noise. Also the hose fitting on the side of the helmet will run to a Parker Pumper fresh air kit that will blow cool, clean air into the helmet so I don't choke on the other guys' dust. Hopefully we won't be in their dust. Don't laugh! A guy can dream.