A dune buggy – also called a sand car – is a four-wheeled recreational vehicle with wide tires, large wheels, and low clearance, designed mainly for use on sandy beaches, sand dunes, open roads or off-road desert recreation. The term dune buggy first came into use in 1940, according to the Dictionary of American Family Names. The origin of the name is from the word denudate which means “sand-beside.” The vehicle was originally called a sand-bagging buggy, and its more popular name was probably due to the fact that these vehicles were regularly used by U.S. military personnel during World War II for sandbagging training.
There are two general styles of dune buggies: the open track and the dirt track. The open track vehicle is fitted with all the necessities of a road vehicle, such as full air suspension, electric starters, power steering, transmission and windows. It's just like driving a regular family sedan, except that it's completely waterproof (the driver just needs to wipe his nose whenever he gets stuck) and has no tail lights. These vehicles are sometimes fitted with bug lights. Dirt track vehicles, also called mud tires, have smaller, lighter tires that provide greater drag. They're perfect for beach driving, speed-sport racing and off-roading, but they're not safe on gravel or mud surfaces, as the tires get rubberized quickly.
Dune Buggy conversions come in several forms, including gas-powered, diesel-powered and electric. Diesel engines are the most common type for dune buggy trucks, due to their low cost, but gasoline or propane engines can be used if the budget doesn't permit the purchase of a diesel vehicle. The type of drivetrain and clutch system used depends on the intended use. If the purpose is to transport a single person, an open track design is suitable. For larger hauling capacity, sand or slip-on clutch system is preferred.
Because dune buggies are so popular, many manufacturers have made custom versions of these vehicles. Most of these are reasonably priced, but some can cost thousands of dollars. Most conversion packages include everything needed to restore the vehicle back to its original function, although additional modifications, parts and accessories may be purchased to customize the appearance of the vehicle. These modifications may include altering the wheelbase by increasing or decreasing the wheelbase, altering the suspension, installing larger or smaller tires, modifying the tires and rims, and selecting a body style to better match the intended use.
Gas and electric engines are both capable of producing considerable amounts of torque. The gasoline engines are usually more powerful than the diesel ones. The difference lies primarily in the compression ratio, which affects the amount of steam that is produced by the engine. Higher compression ratios produce higher horsepower, but higher amounts of steam may also be required.
In addition to performance enhancements, many dune buggy owners choose to purchase aftermarket parts to customize their vehicles. Many of these parts are compatible with the vehicle's existing components. However, it is important to consult an experienced mechanic before purchasing any aftermarket part. Most reliable aftermarket parts are produced by reputable companies such as Sand Racing, Warstock Roadsters, Pace-rated, Bullydog, Supertech, Fastate, Extreme Dimensions, and Mooger.