It’s been described as one of the coolest entries in recent years, the appearance in next year’s Baja 1000 off-road race of a heavily modified 1970 Volkswagen Beetle.
And behind the ProjectBaja.com team in the annual California-Mexico event will be the might of VW America. “For decades Volkswagen Beetle vehicles, Beetle-based racers and Dune Buggies have been competing in this epic event,” said Pietro Zollino, chief communications officer for VW North America.
“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 Beetle, dubbed Tope by the team, has been modified for off-road racing, changes that include a heavy-duty torsion bar rear suspension, with remote-reservoir Fox dampers and stiffer springs.
Gone is the stock fuel tank, and in its place is an 83-litre safety cell, feeding a stock 1.6-litre air-cooled engine. Power is put to the wheels through a transaxle with “limited, class-defined” modifications for desert driving.
Although the standard 15-inch wheels remain, they’re wrapped in 235/75 all-terrain tyres, and there are skid plates front and rear to protect hardware over the gruelling 1825km of terrain.
The cabin is a stripped-back affair with no glass or upholstery. Up-to-date navigation and communications equipment has been added to the mix, along with a proper roll cage. Full harnesses and racing buckets also feature.
On the outside, the Beetle is sporting a simple livery and aftermarket auxiliary lighting, to make it easier to work on the car at the end of each stage.
The high-riding Beetle will be competing in Class 11 of the Baja 1000, which runs from Ensenada, Baja California down through Mexico to La Paz, Baja California Sur.