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Previous Next Up Topic Public / Dune Buggy Build Showcase / Deserter S1 build (29917 hits)
By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-03 01:06
Back in August of last year I got the itch for a dune buggy. The last buggy I built was decades ago. It was strictly an autocross machine. This one will be for street. I found this Deserter Series 1 locally and brought it home. I got somewhat lucky as there were literally thousands of dollars worth of new parts included with it as well as a freshly shortened chassis and a rebuilt engine. I started working on the chassis last fall and have made good progress.

Yes I know the tires are bald and I have already ditched those ridiculous coilover wannabe shocks...

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-03 01:24
When I began work on the chassis I discovered that whoever shortened the chassis didn't realize that you needed to mind the cable conduits running through the tunnel. They were all rudely hacked through. The inside of the tunnel was packed with pine needles and the bottom plate was fairly well rust pitted.

So I flipped the chassis over to remove the bottom plate. About 200 spotwelds later it was off and I could get to the hacked tubes.

I spliced together the throttle cable, clutch and parking brake tubes. The fuel line was gone. All the rest of the tubes I removed.

I added a new fuel line.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-03 01:33
My final work inside the tunnel was to add a shortened shift rod, adjustable coupler and new shift bushing.

Just before I welded the tunnel bottom back on I gave it a coating of Corroless which is a POR-15 type paint from Eastwood. Where I couldn't reach I used an internal frame paint from Eastwood. I have never used it before and thought I would give it a try. It seemed to cover really well and I got it way down inside the frame horns and up in the front frame head. The jury is still out on how well it will protect. I'm thinking it's better than none.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-03 18:54
A few pages from my build notes. I was describing in simple terms how to build a dune buggy.

Plans to restoring the tunnel and chassis.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-03 19:11
While I was working on the inside of the tunnel I saw that the rear pan rails of the floorpans, although solid and expertly welded, were not straight. Also the weld seams did not match top to bottom. I realized that the person that shortened the chassis had overlapped the pans after cutting instead of removing a section. The pan was done some 10 years ago and since that time rust had formed between the overlaps. He had patched in pieces of the pan rails to get the edges to line up. What resulted was a crooked zig-zag that looked pretty bad.

I decided to replace the rear sections. The front part of each pan was good so I kept that.

I purchased new rear pan halves and got to work shortening them. I laid out the lines according to the Deserter build manual instructions and removed the required sections.

I slid the 2 pieces together and butt welded the seams.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-04 17:37
After the replacement pan halves were shortened I removed the bad rear sections. It looks quick here but there was a lot of checking, fitting and trimming involved. After both sides were welded in I sealed the welds with seam sealer.

Then paint. The paint is a gloss black farm implement paint I have had good results with in the past. You can brush it on and it levels out nicely. I get it from Tractor Supply Company.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-04 17:46
To reinforce the pans I installed 1.25" square tubing in the pan rail around the outside. I stitch welded along the edges and rosette welded through from the top side.

The tubing was fitted with sections of round tubing recessed into the tubing so the bolt heads do not stick down below the tubing.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-04 17:50
Once the bottom reinforcement was complete I seam sealed the welds on the replaced floorpan sections and gave it a coat of paint.

That finishes the major restoration of the floorpan.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-13 23:35
I have been busy on the Buggy project and the chassis is nearly complete. Still remaining is installing the new CV joints on the axles. Here are a few more pics of the completed chassis.

Don't worry about the smooth tires. They are mockup wheels just to get the chassis rolling around.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-23 00:15
The front beam that came with the project was rusted in the shock tower area. The PO had welded those clamshell repair pieces on the beam and did a fairly good job but it just looked clunky and cobbled. The beam is right out in front and visible on a buggy so I wanted something that looked nice. I found a new beam and started in to prepare it.

I decided to add Sway-a-way style adjusters. I have never done those before but there are lots of how-to's on the various forums so I dug in.

The final result worked out pretty well. I installed the beam with a set of caster shims.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-09-28 01:34
Chassis is ready to be lowered to the ground for the first time. Wheels are 15x7 rear with 215/65-15 tires. Front are 195/65-15 on 15x5.5 wheels. The wheels are Western Bullitt. Not sure on the final wheel choice yet. Once I get the body on the chassis I can decide on final wheel choice. I have several sets to try.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-11-21 01:56
I have decided to put together some wide 4 lug steelies for the buggy. VW centers welded into recycled 15" wheel hoops. Here are some 15"x6.5" hoops from a Dodge Caravan. The rears will be 8" wide hoops sourced from a Chevy truck rally wheel. Not the lightest solution but no adapters and I can set the exact backspacing that I need.

By minivolks Date 2012-11-24 12:08
Are you going to install a roll bar?  If so, now is a good time to create mounting points.  Make them so you can bolt the roll bar so you can take the roll bar out if you ever need to take the body off.
By Michael T 1299 Date 2012-11-29 07:10
The roll bar or roll cage will be done sometime during this trial assembly process. I haven't decided if it will be a simple bar or a complete cage.

Mike T
By Bob E #19 Date 2013-02-13 13:06
Awesome work, just awesome.
Boston Bob E - -
By Rick M 333 Date 2013-02-13 23:00
Nice attention to detail, Mike!
By Michael T 1299 Date 2013-03-27 02:03 Edited 2013-03-27 02:10
I have back in the shop pre-assembling the buggy and the first thing I noticed was the body didn't set square on the chassis. it was skewed off center and exposed too much tire on the right front and left rear. So I set about fixing that. I used clamps and some wedges and a heat gun and got it pretty symmetrical. It took a few days and I am happy with the results.

Mike T

By Michael T 1299 Date 2013-03-27 02:09
I had to clearance the passenger side rear of the body in front of the torsion bar cap. The body was hitting that and causing it to kick off to the left in front.

The drivers side cleared fine.

Mike T

Attachment: 100_6341.jpg (923.2k)
By Michael T 1299 Date 2013-07-26 02:04
This spring I bought a few caches of VW parts from Craigslist. I ended up with several engines in unknown condition. I ended up with 2 running engines out of the stuuf I had bought. A 1600 dual port and a 1500 singe port.

Work resumes on the Deserter.
By Michael T 1299 Date 2015-10-04 22:16 Edited 2015-10-04 22:26
Progress has been slow but I have been admonished to post anything I do on this project in case it could help someone else. Good idea.

I discovered this buggy was originally equipped with wide rear steel wheels so I thought I would build it with steelies. Maybe 8" rear and 6" front. But then I found some 7" wide 4 lug VW pattern aluminum slotted wheels and decided to use those in the build instead. I already had some 14"X 5.5" Western wheels and the pair of 7" wide ones would go good on the rear.

They were dirty and corroded but I decided to attempt to restore their shine. I started out by removing the clearcoat with paint stripper. The two 5.5" Western wheels were clear coated. The  7" no-names were not. I started the sanding with 100 grit paper. This removed most of the deeper scratches. Then sanding with progressively finer grits of wet paper to end up at 600 grit. Then to the Harbor Freight polishing kit. Turned out good if do say so. Some of the deeper gouges are still there but generally look acceptable.

Michael T

By AMAC1680 Date 2015-10-06 13:13
Nice !
Keep it coming.

By Michael T 1299 Date 2018-02-24 21:32
I noticed that most of my photobucket picture links were broken so I replaced them. Work is resuming on the Deserter soon.

Maybe I can get an Admin to get rid of the broken links. Or restore edit function so I can do it. Not sure how that works.

Mike T
By Michael T 1299 Date 2018-02-24 21:57 Edited 2018-02-24 22:05
The bodywork will be coming up as soon as the weather warms up.

The finish is covered with fine cracks over the entire surface. Plus there are 2 areas with accident damage. Left front and right rear. those are repaired with a combination of fiberglass and also some filler. I will need to dig into those to see the extent that I will need to redo the repairs.

The PO cut out the bottoms of the battery and "spare tire" well. He did that to modify the body for IRS. I'm ok with that. Has to be done for clearance. I will need to repair that as well as raise the bottom up to clear the semi trailing arms. What I don't like is the "Hatch" he cut out in the back over the engine. It is not esthetically pleasing. I intend to do a similar thing. Only a little wider with seams either side of the bump out over the engine.

At least I got the removed pieces.

The rest of the body is in pretty good shape. Originally it must have had a top and maybe side curtains. But there aren't a lot of extra holes to fill.

By Lloyd B 2301 Date 2018-02-27 00:36
Michael T,   I am not sure how to, and do not want to delete any other pictures in the posts.  I did look to see if I could edit the broken ones out, but at this time, not sure if can be done.
By Michael T 1299 Date 2018-03-02 04:57
Thanks Lloyd. I can live with it. Just looked messy. Thanks. Mike T
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