I’m a sucker for Baja Bugs. Those little cars were what got me into off-roading in Virginia in the first place. You can say I was a fan of the Scumbug the moment Hoonigan got theirs.
If there is one thing I have vowed to own one day besides a good 4WD vehicle, it’s a VW Beetle turned Baja-dirt missile. I have ideas to make one and turn it into an Ariel Nomad rival for less money, but we’ll get to that one day. Sooner if we can get more funding on Patreon and remain an independent off-road and domestic car media site. Enough complaining, let’s get on the story proper.
I’ve been fortunate in my pursuit of this media content thing that I’ve been doing since 2007. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of the right people to continue to do stories like this. When Vin Antara got back from Baja, I messaged him to ask if I could shoot the Bug and I got back an immediate yes. There was only one problem and we saw it on last Daily Transmission:
Yeah, it didn’t run. So, the guys at Hoonigan (meaning, Dan) pushed it out so I could get pictures of it. For those of you who are astute Bug fans will recognize, this is a 1973 chassis but not a 1303 Super Beetle. For those of you who aren’t, it doesn’t have MacPherson Struts on the front but, instead, it is the smaller Bug that has the original Type 1 leaf-spring front suspension with ball-joints known as the 1300. The rear of Beetles of this generation (1970 to 1979) were all the same with a semi-trailing arm, independent rear suspension using torsion bar springs.
Making It Work for Baja. Kinda
They bought it without knowing much about it. They saw it was a Baja Bug they wanted, and Vin and Brian Scotto paid the owner what they wanted and drove it to Hoonigan for some quick work. A day before running down to Baja California for the 50th running of the 1000. It wasn’t a terrible deal, but it wasn’t perfect either. The suspension needed work and the bodywork wasn’t fitted properly, but it was the perfect car to bash around in. To start, they fitted an aftermarket set of front disc brakes and repaired the rear drum system to work better than it had. Honestly, anything would have been better considering it was pulling hard right when coming to a stop.
One of the biggest issues they ran into after the brakes was the lack of lights. The set on the car were old, weak sealed beam lights that didn’t even come with the original car. They would barely light up the road, never mind be used as light running the chase trails of the Baja 1000. Hoonigan decided to add a Baja Designs OnX6 Arc LED Light Bar for better visual at night. Probably should have mounted it on the bumper, but when you have less than a day to get something ready for Baja, you worry about those details later.
The original tires were dry rotted, so off those went and a set of BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires went on the steel wheels. A 30×9.5xR15 went on the rear while the fronts had a set of LT215/75R15 wrapped the front Jackman-style steel wheels. It’s a shame they aren’t a real set as the Jackman VW 8 Spoke aluminum wheels are getting harder to find. The new tires also required some, well, clearancing. Meaning Vin took a hacksaw from Casey Currie’s team at contingency and trimmed the fenders to better fit the new rubber.
During the night to get to their first camping site, King Off-Road Racing Shocks were installed on the Bug, but it wasn’t all easy. The front suspension was a straight-forward affair. The front still uses the original leafs but the dampers were changed over to a set of King Smoothie Shocks with remote reservoirs. This allows the oil flow in as it thins out from heat and the nitrogen separated by a dividing piston located inside the reservoir keeps the pressure consistent. This pressure keeps the oil from boiling from the low-pressure areas as the damper piston moves up and down inside the body, which would cause cavitation and aeration if it weren’t there.
The rear, however, didn’t work out. When they tried to install the rear shocks, the reservoir bodies would rub against the CV joints of the axles. So, the KYB GR2’s went back on and will be changed back to Kings once they figure out how to mount them without rubbing. Getting a longer tube is what Scotto is estimating will fix the rub as it will allow them to mount it up inside the body.
That Non-Running Engine
While the Scumbug was running for most of the Baja, it wasn’t running when it came back to the Hoonigan Donut Shop. While they haven’t diagnosed what happened, they did discover during their Baja trip that it didn’t have a real filter in it. So, a temporary one was made to at least give them some sort of filtration. It does feature a bobtail header with classic Stinger style exhaust muffler with a spark arrestor. That arrestor was removed to make it sound better when it was firing. Other than those two things and an oil change, it hasn’t been touched. They think it’s a 1600cc dual port engine, which would make sense as that was the stock engine size for US Beetles since 1971.
Inside? Well, It’s Better than Sitting Outside
The inside of the Bug is surprisingly stock. A three-spoke foam wheel with a Grant style hub (which was tapped and repaired by Dan) replace the original four-spoke, late model designed wheel. The seats are a pair of original vinyl buckets that have seen better days but aren’t horribly torn apart. Same goes for the dash, door cards, kick panels and most of the interior. For a Bug that was sitting around for such a cheap car, it’s not a bad looking interior. You can’t deny the EMPI Long Trigger Shifter is a cool touch to any Bug.
The Plans for the Scumbug
According to Dan and Vin, they all want to convert the Scumbug into something that is more race worthy. They are eyeing Class 11, which is the Stock VW class of SCORE International. You can essentially call it Spec Bug as that is what the class is mostly made up of. However, they are taking suggestions in the video.
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