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Alex Sanders: 2008 Chevy Buggy

Posted in Top Truck Challenge: 2011 on November 1, 2011
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Contributors: Douglas McColloch
Photographers: Sean P. Holman

Buggy class: No-Buck Buggy
Well, it wasn’t exactly assembled for free, but the buildup cost for Alex Sanders’ entry in our Buggy Class was, in its owner’s words, “$2,000 in parts.” Cobbled together out of owner-fabricated components and junkyard finds, this “real-world” buggy sets a new standard in a class that’s usually associated with expensive, high-dollar buildups. Does it have the right stuff to compete with the rich kids? We’ll let you know next month.

Arguably the least expensive rig ever to compete at Top Truck, the Chevy-powered buggy relies on 54-inch TTC Claws on 20-inch (non-beadlocked) military surplus rims to get power to the ground. An 8,000-pound Warn winch up front and a 15,000-pound PTO unit in the back handle retrieval duties, and all tubing and metalwork are owner-fabbed. While protected by a bit of tubing, that conventionally located radiator sure looks mighty vulnerable, though.

The Details

  • Owner name/city: Alex Sanders/Salem, AR
  • Occupation: Mechanic
  • Vehicle model: 2008 Chevy buggy
  • Estimated value: “$2,000 in parts”
  • Engine/aspiration: 350ci Chevy V-8, bored 0.040 over; Mahle pistons, custom 305 heads, Engine Tech valve springs, Erson roller rockers; Edelbrock Torker II manifold, Flowmaster exhaust
  • Transmission: GM Muncie 465
  • Transfer case: NP205
  • Suspension (f/r): Custom grader ball, coil springs, custom shocks/custom grader ball, coil springs, custom shocks
  • Axles (f/r): 2½-ton Rockwell/2½-ton Rockwell
  • Axle ratio: 6.72:1
  • Wheels: 20-in steel military
  • Tires: 54x19.50-20 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC

Alex Sanders, Team #40

  • Most looking forward to: “Tank Trap. It looks like it will be the type of thing I try to find every time I go wheel. Besides, what kind of trails are fun if they’re easy?”
  • Not looking forward to: “Frame Twister. Those logs just look like they wanna break your rig.”
  • Playing on his iPod/CD player: “Powerman 5000.”
  • Sanders says: “I’m that guy who, even if you have never met me, will stay as long as it takes to get you mobile again or get you out of the trails, even if I break my own rig in the process. I will help, no matter what, and will never ask for anything in return. I just enjoy getting to go play in my rig and have the most possible fun I can have while doing it.”

The buggy’s front “grader ball” suspension is a first for TTC, though the setup can provide mega-flex for minimal cost. Essentially a triangulated single-link similar to a torque tube, the grader-ball utilizes a trailer-style ball and mount, typically sourced from a road grader and welded to a frame crossmember, and a coupler that’s welded shut so it can’t separate from the ball. The coupler attaches to the axles via a solid V-link, both ends of which are welded directly to the axle tube; a pair of coil springs controls the rate of flex, and a homemade panhard rod locates the axle laterally. Combine it with owner-built shocks (fabricated from hydraulic rams and delivering 25 inches of travel. Total cost: $0), and you’ve got a unique long-travel suspension setup that doesn’t require a lot of money, or knowledge of sophisticated geometry, to execute successfully. The key is finding a hitch and coupler that can stand up to heavy torsional loads.
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