starting out in off-road racing


Well-Known Member
I get asked this question all the time, I want to start racing off-road what class should I start out in? here is the answer that I give them. get a 2-1600 car a used one runs $12,000 to $20,000. it's the most competitive class in off road and the fastest you can go for the least amount of $$$ . some times I get this answer back, I want to drive a truck. I just tell them to get a taste of racing without spending a lot of $$$ do the 1600 first, then get a truck if you still want one. tell me what everyone thinks the best class to start racing in. be realistic


Well-Known Member
2-1600 is a good class to start off , you can get class 9 cars cheap too. Buy used for sure, don't build. I've also seen class 5 -1600 at a reasonable price.

Don't forget all the other goodies prep, trailer, chipping in for your crews gas ,food and hotel. Start out in a sanctioning body that has reasonable fees too, like MDR.

Thats my 2 centavos !!

Eric "Bajaboy"
if you want to start in a buggy 1600 is a great class that will teach a lot when you get into faster race cars. If you want to start racing trucks 7s is a great class that will teach you how to save your equipment and be really smooth.

Matt Scaroni
SMD Motorsports
My Truck Jumps So Sick


Good thread!

You should also compare operating costs.

Class 9 vs Class 1/2 1600 vs Class 5/1600 vs Class 11



Crayola Killer
Class 9 is a great class to start out in IMHO. Reason being, you cannot overdrive the car without breaking something, and parts are pretty cheap compared to a 1600 car. Not only that, you have to be aware of your surroundings, faster cars coming up behind you, working your way through the dust and so forth. A class 9 might not be the fastest car out there but they are not the slowest either. If you can be competitive in a class 9 with 15-20 entries, you can just about step into a 1600 car and be competitive. Damen Jefferies started out in class 9 and look at how talented of a driver he is. I've seen a class 9 with a trailer AND spares go for as low as $6,000.00. Thats a turn key operation. Might not be the fastest class 9 but you can build it up from there. Also, for the money, a cheap class 7s will get out run by a competitve class 9....I've seen it happen.

Racers Only


Well-Known Member
Here is my take- get a 5-1600 car for a couple reasons. Cost-this class uses race parts, expensive at first glance, but cheaper in the long run. These cars require some skill to drive due to the raised center of gravity, so they develop good skills. They are not hugely fast, so you can develop reasonable speed early in the learning process comapred to the other cars. The cars are pretty reliable and prep is not as costly as any truck, period. Transmissions and engines are also pretty low dollar and require less teardown throughout the year than trying to run a competitive 1600 car or any truck. A complete used race package with the good parts can be found for about the same price as a 9 car. Also- it takes less to run the car in respect to tow vehicles, etc...than a truck. You can tow with a 4 cylinder. I like 9 cars, but because of the required parts, there is a lot of maintenance involved replacing stock parts. The trannies are not as stout as a bus box and cost plenty to keep running throughout the year. Ball joints, spindles, etc... need constant upkeep/replacement. I know that a 9 car beats the crap out of you where a 5-1600 is a little less harsh, making longer drives a little more pleasurable.

If your gonna go, go BIG


Jerry Maguire
Why do people still run 9 cars? It just seems that it wouldn't be worth it? Whats the appeal?

I can only lead you to water, I cannot force you to drink it.


Well-Known Member
It's affordable and the competition is very tight. All the cars are basically the same, so it comes down to driver skill and raceprep. Class 9 was originally started as a way to get into desert racing on a budget. That still holds true. Racing a 9 car beats the hell out of sitting on the side lines, wishing you had that Protruck or Class 1 that you'll never be able to afford. Not everyone can afford that kind of car.

All of the limited classes offer lots of great racing. Remember, you're racing against the others in your class. In Class 9, you usually have a large number of entries which makes the racing that much better.


Well-Known Member
1600 is a little more universal. Race parts last forever and easy to work on compared to 5-1600.


Bait Fish
i race a class 5-1600 car in Mexicali, Mexico where all the labor costs, except prepping, are cheaper, roll cages, shock mounts, etc... Escencially all to shops are cheaper, im currently in the process of changing to a 2-1600 race car becuase it has lower maintanence than a 5-1600. In the vw off road comunity in Mexicali theres a saying that A bug will break every trip. if you want a good 5-1600, you need the same parts you would need for a 2-1600 (combo spindles, arms, r and p, heims of international ends, bypass shocks, torsion leaves and plates, adjusters,etc...) and the 2-1600 being lighter will break less often and give you a lot more speed, thus resulting in more speed less maintanence.

If budget is the priority, class 9 is the way to go, but i agree with Martin that they are harsh on the body, and you can trash a chasis after 12-15 races cause the frame takes a lot of punishment.

el tiburon

p.s. class 9s are so cheap, that thats where mexican owned cars are more competitive, you can get a class 9 around 3500 ready to race minus spares, trailer and pit equipment.

"if something can go wrong, it'll probably will"
pinche murphy


Well-Known Member
i'm not an experienced racer, but i would be more interested in a class 2/1600 over a 5/1600 because at most of the races i go to, i see alot more entries in the 2/1600 class. i think it would be more fun to race with a bigger group. Class 9 usually has a really good turn-out also. i am seeing less and less 5/1600 cars. come to think of it, almost no class 5 cars, and diminishing numbers of 11 cars too. i think there are alot less people in bugs today than there were just a few years ago. has anybody recently started racing in any of the cheaper classes? what kind of surprises did you run into? How much was your car? this is a good thread.

put on your seatbelt...


Well-Known Member
actually their are more 5-1600 cars now than in the past 10 years. i dont remember their ever being more than about 5 class 11 cars running at one time.
5-1600 and 1/2-1600 use the same parts, both stock vw. 5-1600 is alot harder on parts and they do beat you up more than 1/2-1600 mainly because of the short wheelbase.


Well-Known Member
I say class 9 But then again it really depends on how much $$$$ you have to put up to race .
Why do people race class 9 ??? Why the Hell Not ! Class 9 has to be one of the most fun classes
out running... A family with a small budget can take the car to a race and race just like anyone out
there racing . You might as well say why race a 11 car...... .Sure It's not a TRUCK or super fast car but IT"S RACING .


Well-Known Member
Dont be fooled. There is no cheep class in off-road racing. If you do the car prep right, plan on a race in a nine car to run you $1000 to $2000 a Race. And that is if you dont have a motor blow, or have to change a 900 dollar fuel cell. Rodger

Rodger Schank


Well-Known Member
The parts you run in a 5-1600 will identical to a 1/2-1600, but here is the thing for learning. Be honest with yourself, how soon do you want to see some success. Pro 1600 is the most competitive class with near 50 entries every race. This is the way it was back in the mid 80's. Of the 50 cars entered, you have to run at or over the edge if you want to do well. For experienced racers, this is a little more comfortable, but for beginners, to run in that group will cost you a lot of money before you learn the edge. Just the way it is. Since 5-1600 is a somewhat smaller class, there is a little more fun factor and a little less competition. You cans see a little bit of the winners circle at an earlier point in the learning curve, I feel. That is what will keep you coming back. Rob Mac runs Pro 1600 because it keeps his skill level at its very best and that is what it takes to win. We are talking about a guy who has been WINNING races for 20 years, not a beginner. The 1600 class is probably the nest competitive class in the dez, period, but maybe not the best beginner class.

If your gonna go, go BIG
Nobody has brought up entry fees, fuel (for race car/chase/tow, etc), plus accomendations (sp?).
On a 9 or 11, you can only run pump, wheres as any other class you need to run race fuel in order to be competetive (not because the race gas makes you faster, but because your $5k+ motor will only run on this).
At over 5 per gallon nowadays...well you know where im going with this.


Well-Known Member
Had a buggy once, never a VW again ;) Seriously though for starting out an old Toyota will make a very dependable race truck for fairly cheap. They're built the best in limited form and unless your breaking parts its just an inspection, oil change and go.

89-94 4wd Extra Cab Truck- 22re, 5spd
Get the extra cab, longer wheelbase is far more stable at speed. Start with a wreck/rebuildable. If it's a front end wreck you can sell a good condition bed for about $500 to get pay for the fiberglass bedsides, if it has Air Conditioning thats worth $250 easily and the body parts and front 4wd stuff are work a couple of hundred each. Make sure the doors are good, they're expensive and the aftermarket ones don't fit worth beans.

Take out all the 4wd parts to make it lighter, you will get a stronger frame and better mounting points for the front suspension. The 5 speeds are dependable you won't need to do anything except pitch in a centerforce clutch. The fuel injection will be a power limiter later but for the first few years it will be a totally dependable system. Make sure the motor is good so you don't have to spend money there for a couple of years.

Get good resevoir shocks, the investment will pay off throughout the life of the truck and you'll probably run the same set for many years.

Truck - $2500-3500 - Less $500-$1000 sellable parts
Straighten frame $250(doesn't matter if bent as long as it drives straight/you'll be adding enough support to keep it in place anyway)
Shocks - Sway-A-Way 2.5" $1200.00
300M SAW Torsion Bars - $500.00(est)
Wheels/Tires (6) - $900.00
Fuel Cell - $250.00
Seats - $400.00
Belts - $200.00
Steel - $500.00
Fiberglass Bedsides - Free from selling the bed
Biberglass fenders - $275.00

For about $7200-$7500 you can build a very reliable stock mini or 7s truck that is a very good platform to build up from as money/experience needs. You won't be smokin' the other trucks but you'll get a decent ride and a truck that in all likelyhood will finish a desert race and beat half the class that doesn't. As fab skills or financial improvements happen you can easily dump another $10-15K into a motor and bigger suspension that will get you competitive with most anybody without replacing any of the original purchases. Don't skimp on suspension, not only does it save your body, it makes the truck faster, more reliable, and less maintainence intensive. Going cheap will always bleed you dry in the long run but if you start sensibly you can stretch your dollar pretty well and learn a bunch at the same time...Curt

VORRA Class 7


Well-Known Member
re: "Why do people still run 9 cars? It just seems that it wouldn't be worth it? Whats the appeal?"

Spoken like a true dezert race fan. You Don't get it do ya Jr.

Funny, I always say the same thing about Fords.