This article will not be about how I contacted named business’s to do the jobs for me, or how I paid a deposit on a brand new shell and eagerly waited for it to come out the mold or how I splashed the cash on top named parts, since so many people I have met along the way have either donated or sold me parts…
My story goes a little differently… Back in September 2008 Dad spotted a mk1 SWB GP Beach Buggy going fairly cheap on eBay and told my Mum to bid on it for him. The auction ended and he decided she had bid too much but seeing, as they couldn’t back out; Dad hired a trailer and off he went to Sheffield to pick it up. Since Mum was the owner and Dad didn’t want it, it was passed on to me. I didn’t know about any of it until I saw the yellow wreck of a buggy on the drive one day and that was when I was told it was mine! I’m not even sure I had even seen a “beach buggy” until that moment.
So there I was, proud owner of a fibreglass wreck!
It had been involved in a crash, the front arch and headlight nipple was missing, the back seat space was none existent and there was an endless amount of holes and dings. I did lots of fibre-glassing over the next year before I started university, which slowed down the whole build.
Some of the cracks were so deep that a grinder had to be taken to them to make sure that after filling – it wouldn’t rattle out. One of the first modifications I made was fitting a high-level break light, which hadn’t seen done before.
The pros and cons of starting with a wreck of a tub!
Pros: Being able to make few modifications that couldn’t have been done had I bought a brand new shell – such as:
• Creating a lip round the bottom of the shell to sit tight around the chassis
• Moving the wiper holes so ensure the wipers sit flush
• Building the sides down to cover the chassis from the outside
Cons: Well, needless to say – the effort that goes into fibre-glassing and sanding involved making everything as smooth as a babies bum and of course deciding on a colour!
Possibly one of the most frustrating moments was marking up/drilling the holes for the back-lights as didn’t match up. I only found out after that GPs were stacked on their side, which meant the back arches either side were not identical. Although this year Dad did see to it that this was corrected, giving the arches more of a curve.
In 2009 work started on the chassis, the frame head was rusted and patches had to be welded in, then new floor pans were added…
…but it wasn’t until 2012 that they actually got a coat of paint. Throughout the summer there was time to get the gearbox and engine suitably cleaned up and the gearbox was even put in.
In August I got my “bargain of the build”, a set of Centerline wheels with some decent Pirelli tyres on, from a Jaguar car collector. Then that’s when the fun slowed down, because I started University that coming September but slowly small jobs were done when there was spare time and Dad also put a lot of time and effort into preparation as well.
I’m proud of the alterations my beach buggy has already undergone compared to the normal “buy everything and bolt it on build” to name a few:
• Cut out the handbrake section from just in front of the handbrake to just behind where the tunnels been shorted on to of the tunnel and replaced it with a new plate incorporating the hand bracket and removing the heater control slots.
• Reducing the amount of metal inside of the manifold to create a nice flow
• Adapting a Vauxhall steering rack
A few other things mentioning is the modified roll bar which started of as a very rusty old hoop. A bar was added for strength and to be used for the harnesses and plates were formed to bolt it down to the chassis, which you can’t really see when the seats are in place and hopefully it’ll make it more rigid and use able if I chose to use seat-belts instead. There is also piece of round bar welded at both sides, with a hole also in case I use seat-belts as well as tabs at the back to bolt to the top of the shell, making it even more rigid and even more unlikely to be pulled forward (forgot to take a picture of this).
As well as the diy steering column support/bracket.
Along with the steering column, as there is more than what meets the eye. It uses the old switches with the newer 1302/1303 steering shaft so I can use universal joints at the bottom.
The pinholes that needed filling seem to be have been never ending throughout. It was also decided that the best place for the battery would be under the back seat, so once that was moulded it inspired the construction of the brace to go under the back seat area for added support.
Now that I’ve graduated, all focus is on getting it finished by the end of 2012! And together with my Dad I started to rebuild a twin port 1600cc engine as planned… But nothing ever goes to plan, the flywheel/crank was lightened/balanced and when it came to taking the flywheel off to make it easier to put the crank into the cases, the dowel pin that was marked to correspond with the flywheel and the opposite dowel pin both came out the crank and stuck in the flywheel! So we didn’t know which way the flywheel went on, it was a 50/50 chance! Since we did have a deadline (NEWS 2012) we started to build his 1835cc that he intended to use in his buggy build. But if I am lucky enough to find some 1600 cases I just might change my mind once again… If you know me, you will know just how indecisive I can be!
After spending most of summer 2012 trying to decide on a colour, I’ve settled for the cliché beach buggy orange! I realised looking back that when I saw it sitting on the drive, that was the colour I originally though it should be! So now, just 3 (maybe 4) years on, it’s just a simple case of getting it painted and finish putting everything that has been prepared back together!
Without the help of many of the beach buggy enthusiast I have met along the way I would not have made it this far. Chad was one of the first buggy owners I met, I cannot remember how or why but I remember meeting him at his house and him giving me a generous amount of parts he had in his shed. As have others – thank you to everyone who has passed on their “hand-me-downs” Dan, Shaggy, Snoopy, Gary, Hunter, lovebug, Robbo, Morph… Peter, for the bits you have made for the buggy, and Dad for the bits he’d collected for his buggy and for helping me put it all together! (Phew it feels like and award ceremony)
Hopefully when my mk1 GP is out on the road, Dad can have his garage space back and we can start the whole process again with his Invader that he intended to build while I was growing up!