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The Rising Class 5 Champion

By Jason Stilgebouer

The Volkswagen Bug is one of the earliest types of vehicles to compete in desert racing, and the legacy of the Bug continues to compete in several different classes. Those class specifications can range from stock known as Class 11 to the wildest configurations ready to tame Baja known as Class 5. The rules for this class are simple; all race vehicles must have the external appearance of a Baja Bug, must not exceed the stock wheelbase of 105″, and maintain a stock concept of VW suspension (trailing arms, swing axles, IRS.) As for everything else, the class is wide open, depending on which organization you are racing in, you can run any engine you would like and are limited to the displacement. In other series, racers are limited to specific engine specifications, though the days of running Grandmas 54 horsepower VW motor in this class are long gone.  

We met up with Cade Garcia, driver of the #500 Class 5 Unlimited Car of AGS Racing, to see what it was all about. Cade’s Class 5 was custom built and assembled by Lothringer, a legendary builder of buggies in offroad racing with further design work by JFK race cars. Weighing in at 2550 pounds, this car isn’t any slouch sporting a 2.4 Ecotec Chevrolet engine mated to a Mendeola S5 transmission – a common pairing that is essentially bulletproof. This power plant would provide more than enough power to get through the rough desert and go on to claim a championship.

Since class 5 Unlimited isn’t truly “unlimited,” they are left with imagination on making their cars handle better in the desert at high speeds. That means as much suspension travel, you can get out of a VW style suspension. The #500 car was able to achieve 14 inches of suspension travel in the front, and 16 inches of travel in the rear mated to Fox Racing Coilover and Bypass Shocks, allowing him to send the car as far and as fast as possible through the desert.

Cade has been around racing since he was just eight years old, growing up around the sport as his family purchased a Class 9 Buggy, which is essentially a one or two-seat buggy with a VW motor in it. As time went on, his family went through three different race cars racing many years by his father, leading to acquiring one of the best Class 5 Unlimited Cars built. This car would go on to indeed prove how great it is with Cade behind the wheel.

At the age of just 19, Cade and his co-driver, Nick Alamada, are here to show that they mean business; having already claimed a championship in the 2019 season, they are trying their hand at a second championship. They are currently sitting in first place for points in Class 5 Unlimited amongst veteran drivers who have been racing for years as they go into this weekend, they will be racing the PCI Race Radios 300 presented by M.O.R.E in Lucerne Valley, California. Cade and Nick are well on their way to not only making a name for themselves in this sport but are on their way to claiming that second championship in Class 5 Unlimited. With many years ahead of them, only time will tell what great things they will accomplish in desert racing.

“After winning the 2019 points championship in Class 5 Unlimited, our goal for this year was to go out and have fun,” said Cade.

Chassis: Built and assembled by Lothringer, further design work by JFK Race Cars.
Weight: 2550lbs 
Wheelbase: 105" 
Engine: 2.4 Ecotec VVT CBM performance
Cooling: CBR triple fan radiator, Derale Performance oil cooler, Susa trans cooler
Transmission: Mendeola S5 
Exhaust: Custom 
Plumbing: Lothringer Race Cars
Axles: ProAm 300m axles, ProAm 934 CVs
Brakes: ProAm 
Fuel Cell: 36-gallon Harmon Cell 
Tires: BFGoodrich Baja T/A KR2
Wheels: Raceline RT291M Ryno 
Body: Fiberwerx VW body 
Front Suspension: 14" travel 
Rear Suspension: 16" travel 
Front Shocks: FOX 2.5 3 tube bypass and 2.0 C/O
Rear Shocks: FOX 3.0 4 tube bypass and 2.5 C/O
Suspension Tuning: JFK race cars, tuned by Cade Garcia 
Wiring: Hotwire 
Steering: 2.5 HOWE Diablo Rack
Lights: Baja Designs
Seats: Sparco
Communications: PCI Race Radios
Additional Features: prep by JFK Race Cars
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    Reece P
  • September 14, 2020
Great write up Curtis. Cade and his family are good people. Love seeing the success!
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