Go Baja Bug, go!

Forget the Atlas or the Touareg, at this year’s 50th Baja 1000 race, Volkswagen is returning to its roots with this handsome 1970 VW Beetle. The German automaker will sponsor the Denver, Colorado-based team ProjectBaja.com, which will be running the iconic Bug in Class 11.

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The Beetle, nicknamed "Tope," comes with its original VW horizontally opposed 1.6-liter air-cooled engine, and a type 1 transaxle with a few modifications designed specifically driving in the desert. Of course, these minor modifications remain well within Class 11 rules.

A heavy-duty torsion bar adjuster has been fitted in the rear, while the dampers were replaced with external reservoir Fox units. Stiffer springs have been fitted, as has a 22-gallon safety cell alongside the stock gas tank. The tires have been swapped from 165R-15s to more capable 235/75R-15s BFG All Terrains, the rear trailing arms have been reinforced, and a skid plate has been added for extra protection from the elements.

1970 VW Beetle Baja 1000
1970 VW Beetle Baja 1000

The car has been completely stripped – all of the glass and upholstery has been removed in the pursuit of lightness. Communications and navigation equipment were added, of course, and the stock seats have been replaced by racing bucket with full harnesses. The Baja Bug even comes equipped with a roll cage and sports auxiliary lighting.

"For decades, Volkswagen Beetle vehicles, Beetle-based racers and Dune Buggies have been competing in this epic event"” said Pietro Zollino, Chief Communications Officer at VW. "We felt it appropriate to sponsor this team of eager enthusiasts who are following in the wheeltracks of Volkswagen desert racers over the past 50 years. We’re looking forward to tracking ProjectBaja.com’s progress over the course of the event and wish them luck!"

The 2017 Baja 1000 will begin in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, and will encompass 1,134 miles (1,825 kilometers) of tough terrain before finish gin in La Paz, Baja California Sur. Here’s hoping this handsome Bug makes it all the way to the finish line.

Source: VW

Gallery: 1970 VW Beetle Baja 1000

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Volkswagen of America, Inc., today announced that it will sponsor the ProjectBaja.com Class 11 Volkswagen Beetle in the 50th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000® race, November 14-18, 2017. ProjectBaja.com—a team of Denver-based enthusiasts/racers led by industrial designer Josh McGuckin—has made completing the grueling event through the Baja California desert one of their life’s ambitions.

“The Class 11 Beetle harks back to the origins of desert racing,” said McGuckin, “We like a challenge and racing a Class 11 in the SCORE Baja 1000 is the ultimate. Our story started in the same way as many Class 11 teams: we were inspired by seeing the little underdog Beetle bouncing through the desert while the big Trophy Trucks made it look easy. Last time we attempted the event, back in 2014, we failed to make it to the finish line, but we are hoping to use everything we learned and 6 years of car development to help us get there this year.” McGuckin’s driving team will be accompanied by CNET Roadshow writer Emme Hall, who will report first-hand from the co-driver’s seat along with Matt Wilson, Matt Fisher, Evan Chute and Nick Wilson.

The 1970 Beetle, nicknamed “Tope”, has been restored and modified for desert racing by ProjectBaja.com. The vehicle runs with a stock Volkswagen horizontally-opposed 1.6-liter air-cooled engine and a type 1 transaxle with limited, class-defined modifications for the rigors of driving in the desert.

The Beetle received a heavy-duty rear torsion bar adjuster, while the dampers were replaced with external reservoir Fox units, stiffer springs were fitted, and the stock gas tank was replaced by 22-gallon safety cell. The tires were changed from 165R-15s to 235/75R-15s BFG All Terrains; the rear trailing arms were reinforced; and skid plates were added for protection at the front and rear. All of the glass and upholstery were removed, communications and navigation equipment were added, and the stock seats replaced by racing buckets, with full harnesses. A stout roll-cage was also fitted. Externally, the car also sports auxiliary lighting, because the SCORE Baja 1000 doesn’t stop when the light goes down.

“For decades, Volkswagen Beetle vehicles, Beetle-based racers and Dune Buggies have been competing in this epic event,” said Pietro Zollino, Chief Communications Officer, North American Region, Volkswagen. “We felt it appropriate to sponsor this team of eager enthusiasts who are following in the wheeltracks of Volkswagen desert racers over the past 50 years. We’re looking forward to tracking ProjectBaja.com’s progress over the course of the event and wish them luck!”