Top 3 Best Dune Buggy Kits

beach buggy

If you live anywhere near the desert or a beach with sanddunes, or if you’ve ever visited one of these locations, you’ve probably seen a dune buggy. They are those low to the ground, off-road vehicles with oversized tires that make them perfect for moving through the sand. A dune buggy is sometimes called a sandrail, although they started out as two different vehicles.

Sandrails were built on tubular, open-framed chassis, wheredune buggies were most often modified from other vehicles, like the VW Bug, and although they often had open chassis, that wasn’t always the case. These days both vehicles are inherently the same. You may also hear the term “sand car” to refer to this type of vehicle. In most cases, it’s just a regional dialect.

One of the aspects of owning a dune buggy that is considered the most fun is building it yourself from a kit. It brings back the excitement of tearing apart an old Volkswagen Beetle to turn it into a dune buggy as they did back in the day, but without some of the headaches. You generally need to buy a few kits to build a complete buggy, and there areplenty to choose from.

We’ve looked into some of the best kits on the market and chosen our favorites from the pack. To help you decide which kit is best for your needs, we’ve also come up with a handy buyer’s guide so you’ll know when you see the right kit come up. Since there are a few different types of kits out there, we won’t be ranking our selections but instead giving you our overall favorites.

Types of Dune Buggy Kits

There are a few confusing pieces about a DIY dune buggy.The first is that you can either buy an entire kit from a company, or you can use a “donor car” and buy specific kits for specific parts of your buggy from a company.

A donor car is one that might have a good chassis or solid engine for a buggy, but not be ready to take on the sand as-is. Utilizing a donor car is often a good cost-saving option, but can be more mechanicallydifficult than purchasing a full kit. It can also require more knowledge of welding practices and parts than a full kit would.

If you choose to use a donor car, you’ll want to look for a company that sells do-it-yourself kits for different aspects of the vehicle. Some of those types of kits include the following: 

  • ​Roll cage kit
  • ​Custom bonnet kit
  • ​Nudge bar kit
  • ​Door sill kit
  • ​Interior kit

If, however, you choose to go with a full kit, you’ll still have some options to choose from. For instance, would you rather have a cruiser style car with two or four seats versus a side-by-side model? Would you like to have all of the assembly work of the body and chassis done for you, or would you rather do that work yourself, knowing it will take extensive welding skills?

Beyond the basic roll cage and chassis situation, you’ll also have to decide which type of fiberglass body you’d like to have in your kit. Do you want a four-seat VW style body? Would you rather have a two-seat body with a shorter wheelbase? What about a “T” style that looks like a sportier Model T? You could also choose to have no body, and instead have a sandrail feel.

As you can see, the options are almost endless for what youcan do to make your dune buggy unique with the full or partial kits offered by some of America’s leading kit car or buggy manufacturers. That means a lot of decisions for you, so let’s take a look at how these choices could affect you down the road.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Right Kit

blue buggy

Image source: Pixabay

Choosing the right kit can be the difference between givingup and getting out on the sand. It can also be the difference between throwing your tools and enjoying a new learning experience with your buddies. To help you decide which kit is right for you, we’ll talk about your options and try to steer you in the right direction depending on your experience level.

Knockdown Kits: Mechanical Knowledge Required

Let’s start with the most basic consideration you’ll needto make before purchasing a dune buggy kit: How mechanically inclined are you? We aren’t saying that yo  can’t learn as you go with these kits, but we are willing to bet you’ll give up a lot quicker if you choose a full kit that needs to be 100% assembled by you if you’ve never even changed your oil before.

The kits were referring to are known as knockdown kits. They come with a tacked floor section but require you to build the rest solo.These kits are similarly difficult to building from a donor car, especially if that donor doesn’t already have a roll cage and you’ll need to purchase a kit to put that together. Both require welding and overall mechanical knowledge and know-how.

​Side-By-Side Kits: Moderate Mechanical Knowledge Required

If you don’t feel like you’re ready to take on the kind of work you’d need to put into a knockdown kit or donor car, you can always opt for the middle ground of a side-by-side kit. These kits come with two chassis side assemblies that are tack welded together, and the front floor section. They also include a box that contains the rest of roll cage and rear cage tubes. The side-by-side kits are great because they offer you an opportunity to do a little bit more yourself to learn, while also giving you less to put together overall, which can be less challenging for a first-time builder. You’ll still want assistance with this one, so don’t think it will be a solo project, but it should be simpler than the knockdown kit we talked about earlier.

​Top and Bottom Kits: Beginners May Apply

​The final type of full dune buggy kit you can buy is the top and bottom kit. These are designed specifically to be easy to put together, but they also tend to be the most expensive to purchase and ship. The whole floor of the chassis on these kits is tack welded together, and the upper roll cage comes fully assembled.In this kit, you are only responsible for assembling the side uprights and diagonals and the rear cage. This is the kind of kit you can do on your own, so you won’t have to worry about the possibility of losing friends over your project car. The other nice thing about this style is that most manufacturers can walk you through your choices if you’re a true beginner.

​Street Legality

​In many states, dune buggies can be built to be street legal (we encourage you to check with your local DMV to figure out the rules in your area), so you’ll have to decide whether or not you’d like that to be part of your build. If you do want to make your buggy street legal, you’llneed to research the laws in your state to find out what qualifies.Some states, for instance, require a vehicle to have doors to be street legal. Others simply need you to have a certain number of mirrors and all of your lights ready to go. It really depends on where you’re located. If you decide not to go the route of street legality, you can do a lot morecustomization and have a bit more fun with your kit, whichever kit you choose.

​Best Dune Buggy Kits

​Now that we’ve talked about what dune buggy kits are and how to choose the correct type of kit for you let’s take a look at some of our favorite kits. Don’t forget, we are not giving these kits an overall rankingbecause we feel that every individual is different and your choice shouldreflect your skills, not the product we like the best.

​Meyers Manx Kick-Out SS Dune Buggy Kit

AMT AMT651 1/25 Meyers Manx AMTS0651
  • Build 1 of 4 Ways - "Manx" or Street, Meryers Dune Buggy or Baja Version
  • Requires assembly - paint and glue NOT included
  • Stock Car special hollow vinyl tires & Goodyerar Super Dune tires

​This kit is what you think of when someone mentions a dune buggy. Its style is reminiscent of California dreams, old Elvis and Steve McQueen movies, and 1970s Saturday morning children’s cartoons. The chassis is styled from a vintage Volkswagen Beetle, but the engine and transmission can be whatever you want them to be. Build it for speed or build it for a cruise.The kit comes with a fiberglass body, an overhead roll bar system similar to the sporty vehicles James Bond drives, a windshield, and more. You’ll have to purchase the rolling chassis separately, if you need one, although this car can fit on a Beetle chassis if you have access to a donor car. Purchasing the rolling chassis also means you’ll get the engine with it,  which is a bonus.This kit creates a car that is street legal automatically, so you won’t have to worry about making that decision. It looks stylish and sleek, but might not be as much fun to take out on the sand as some other kits we’ve found. The kit is simple to put together and could easily be a one-man job if you’d like the challenge. Of course, you’re welcome to work as a team as well.Likely because of the minimal effort you’ll need to put in personally, the price tag on the Kick-Out SS is on the higher side. Still, if you’re looking for the old school style with all the bells and whistles of a new kit car, this is a good option for you.

​The Scorpion 2-Seat Off Road Kit by V-Dub Store

orange buggy

Image via Pixabay

​This kit is built for all of the elements. It is more of a sandrail style than a dune buggy since it will only have a body if you custom build one. The kit comes with a two-seat frame that gives you ample room in the cockpit. It has a 98” wheelbase and a 4” raised roof. You can choose your metal, and it will come to you already cut, bent, and notched. The Scorpion kit also comes with flanges and hardware to mount the rear cage, pre-welded under bar mounting, a seat back brace, eight front-end clamps, and a shift box with shift rod support that fits a Beetle transmission. You can also upgrade to a Bus transmission for just a few extra dollars. In addition, you can add basic, half tacked, fully tacked or fully welded brace kits.This isn’t as complete a kit as the Manx option we talked about above, so it may be more suitable for moderate to high experience levels versus true beginners. It is a much less expensive kit since you’ll be purchasing seatbelts, seats, steering shafts, a floor, bumpers, and more all on your own. Luckily, purchasing a la carte often means money savings in theend.

​Roadster-T Chassis and Floor Kit by Berrien Buggy

​The Roadster-T features an 80” wheelbase and a fiberglass floor that was designed to fit the Roadster-T body, also available through Berrien Buggy. This model looks like a sporty Model-T, but with a modern twist. The chassis uses a VW type 1 running gear and may require shock mount modification on the front end depending on the year of your running gear.This kit is meant to be us d in conjunction with other kits or a donor car, so it isn’t for the faint of heart, but the style it offers can’t be denied. Strength is also a non-issue with this kit. The fiberglass floor is ribbed for added strength, and the black finish is gel-coated so that it won’t rust or need paint even over time.This chassis moves the driver and the shifter further back for added style. It is made from square tubing and features a one and a half inch additional body lift to give you additional tire clearance. Body mountingholes are pre-drilled and sealed so that you won’t have bolts hanging below the chassis. There are still many customizable parts that can be added to this kit as well.

Featured Image via Pexels

Janice Friedman
 

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