What to look for and what to avoid when shopping for a VW Bug???

atomicjoe23

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Hey guys,

I'm thinking of building a bug. . .I found one in a local junkyard (no engine, but the transaxle, a trailing arm version I believe vs the swingaxle type, is there and the body is complete and dent free, I think it's just one of those the owner wanted to get rid of it and couldn't sell it type deals, but I won't know for sure until I go look at it again) and I think I can get it for a steal.

I'm pretty sure it's a pre-'71 (IIRC it's a '68, but at the time I saw it I wasn't looking for a bug so I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it. . .go figure).

So if I am new to VW Bugs what should I look for and/or what should I look to avoid when buying a bug?

I know that the pre-'71 model years are preferred since they don't use MacPherson struts and that there is supposed to be more aftermarket support for the king-pin (link-pin?) front-ends than the '66 and later ball joint front ends.

I've been reading "Baja Bugs & Buggies" by Jeff Hibbard so I'm learning about the bugs ahead of time, but it seems like this might be a good way to make an affordable, but fun recreational desert vehicle. . .I just have to keep myself from going off the deep-end too fast (a tendency I have had in the past. . .and vehicles will sit unrealized for a long period of time. . .something I want to avoid, by starting with a simpler, more affordable style of vehicle right off the bat).

Thanks for the help and pointers!
 

Baja4Autism

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Go to class11coaliton.com it'll answer all your questions for Class 11 cars. If your looking more towards 5/1600 you may be better off reading the CRUMCO thread. If your looking towards Class 5, just find a reputable fabricator and open your checkbook. If you do stumble over to class11coalition, King Dave is the man, and Dennis Sleten is very well versed too. Their both regulars on the site.
 

atomicjoe23

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Thanks Baja4Autism. . .I'll check out Class11coalition.com and the CRUMCO thread. . .simple is my initial goal and I will upgrade as my driving skills demand and allow.
 

Gonzo 5/1600

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Since it sounds like you're looking for a platform to build a playcar rather than a racecar the year becomes a little less important.

First off how fast do you want to go?:D If you're going for the best suspension combination you want the early (link pin) front end, and the later (trailing arm irs) rear end. Since no model came from the factory with this combo you'll have to convert to one or the other or both (1966-1968) depending on the year. But if you're just mostly cruising around the stock suspension will still get you lots of places.

Post 1971 cars are still fine, the supers are the ones that have the macpherson strut front.
Good Luck!
 

atomicjoe23

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I like to go fast. . .but I realize that my driving skills will be the limiting factor at this point as I don't have much seat time in a desert rig (or off-roading that much at all!). . .

. . .I have read about the link-pin front ends so far, but haven't made it to the ball-joint front end section yet, seems the link pin would be preferable just because of the increased aftermarket support. . .that being said I guess my preference would be to go with a link-pin front end and a semi-trailing arm rear.

Which would be the more affordable to convert to/from? Start with a link-pin front end car and convert the rear or start wiht a semi-trailing arm rear-end car and convert to the link-pin front end?

I will have to double check, but I think the bug that I saw was a semi-trailing arm rear-end. . .at the time that I saw it I didn't even know there was a swing axle rear-end!!!
 

punchdrunk monkey

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Check for rust. Some pans get bad. Typical spots are under the rear seat where the battery is. You can buy replacement pan halfs if they are rusted but make sure the tunnel is in good shape. This is where all the strength comes from.
 

DEZERTBOUND

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'dent free".... and you are going to make it a Baja bug?;)

haha, take that you car collectors...

Go to "project vechicles" section on this site.
 

Wilson

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I like to go fast. . .but I realize that my driving skills will be the limiting factor at this point as I don't have much seat time in a desert rig (or off-roading that much at all!). . .

. . .I have read about the link-pin front ends so far, but haven't made it to the ball-joint front end section yet, seems the link pin would be preferable just because of the increased aftermarket support. . .that being said I guess my preference would be to go with a link-pin front end and a semi-trailing arm rear.

Which would be the more affordable to convert to/from? Start with a link-pin front end car and convert the rear or start wiht a semi-trailing arm rear-end car and convert to the link-pin front end?

I will have to double check, but I think the bug that I saw was a semi-trailing arm rear-end. . .at the time that I saw it I didn't even know there was a swing axle rear-end!!!
Either conversion is going to take effort and money -

"Ball joint-IRS" pans will require changing the frame head at the front to a "link pin" type in addition to the purchase of all the "link pin" beam/spindles/trailing arms/steering hardware.

"Link pin - swing axle" pans will require modification of the rear torsion housing to include the "IRS" pivots, you'll need to get an IRS transaxle (not the same as a swing alxe trans), CV's, axles, trailing arms, etc..

Neither conversion is difficult (if you're comfortable with a MIG welder and plasma torch), but both take time and money. How much money is up to you,and what you're starting with. It's probably cheaper to convert an IRS pan to a link pin front..... What you don't want for an off-road play car if you can avoid it - a "ball joint-swing axle" pan. There are a couple of years where that's the case, and you probably want to stay away from them. They work okay off-road, but not as well as a "link pin-IRS" car. Good luck!
 

atomicjoe23

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I figured converting an IRS rearend car to link-pin front-end would probably be the way to go, but I just wanted to double check that.

No problems with welding and cutting here. . .just finished my ATA in Welding Technology, (stick, MIG-steel & aluminum, TIG-steel, stainless, & aluminum, OFW, and Plasma & OFC cutting were all required). . .got to build a single seat race buggy while I was in school, was fun, but now I'm ready to build my own rig instead of someone elses!
 

QurtysLyn

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Check the Heater Channels, they like to rust through, and as they're part of the body support, it leads to bad things. We're replacing one of mine soon.

Link-Pin can get more travel out of it than a Ball Joint, but Ball Joint are plenty capable off road. (Ask a Class Nine guy). But given a choice, take the Link-Pin.

Stay away from '66 to '68 if you want Link-pin and IRS, as they have neither.
 

Co-Dog

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Check the pan carefully. Lift the carpet, if any. Many times the rust on a VW starts from the inside. Leaky seals allow the water to sit under the carpet. It gets trapped in the front where your feet are, and in the rear under the back seat, where the battery sits. There is bound to be some rust, but it's best to avoid a pan with holes in it. If there is one hole that you can see, there is lots more rust that you can't see. Another place to look is at the rear of the front fender wells. There is a place where the defroster ducts come up from the heater channel where water, that gets in from a leaky hood, will sit and cause the problems that QurtysLyn is dealing with.

If you have found a good pan and body, I would go with a class 11 style. Cheaper to build and better resale value. Otherwise, you should buy somebodies unfinished baja bug. If you've got patience, you will find a real steal. Seems like they sell for 25% or less of what it costs to build them. You may find that you don't like VW's. They tend to be high maintenance vehicles, but teach you to do better work so that you can do less work. In other words, they are only as good as the skills of the person working on them. If you take pride in what you do, you may enjoy the love/hate relationship that comes with a VW. Good Luck.
 
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Throw a late model fuel injected water cooled motor in it - like a subie.
 

atomicjoe23

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Stay away from '66 to '68 if you want Link-pin and IRS, as they have neither.
Good thing to know. . .ThanksQ

'dent free".... and you are going to make it a Baja bug?;)

haha, take that you car collectors...
I'm definitely NOT one of those guys. . .purists will hate me!


I'm gonna have to print this thread and take it with me to the junkyard when I go look again. . .lots of good info, but too many places to remember for a vehicle that I'm unfamiliar with.

Thanks for all the posts!
 
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Ball Joint, think Class 9 Challenger front end, strongest in stock form but you can't do much beyond compared to a link pin front end that can go from mild, like a 1/2-1600, or wild, like a full on 5 or 12. BJ front end in good shape with decent shocks not a bad thing. If you don't find a yard queen Baja - look for a 69 on - likely to be cheaper and have suffered less exposure.
 

Racbaja

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If the car has a ball joint front end don't worry about it. They now make conversion kits that allow you to run a Link pin front end that is bolt on. Like everybody else said check pan for rust. There are a lot of good deals at www.thesamba.com especially unfinished projects that can save you some coin.

Ron Plunkett
Plunkett Racing 557
 
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