POLARIS RZR DUNE BUGGY
Bringing back the classic fun machine
— Project UTV by Rugged Radios —
Imagine cruising down the coast in an old 1969 Manx dune buggy with the wind flowing through your hair and the sweet sound of waves crashing on the beach. Now, imagine that you are stepping hard on the skinny pedal and the roar of a Polaris RZR XP 1000 parallel twin-cylinder engine fills the air, made menacing by the whirring sound of a turbo skyrocketing the rpm as you boost towards a massive dune face. This isn’t your daddy’s Volkswagen-powered dune buggy. Rugged Radios president Greg Cottrell loves to take iconic machines from the past and recreate them with a Polaris frame and powerplant, and this buggy is like no other.
PERFECTING THE FIT
Retrofitting a fiberglass body of one machine onto a Polaris RZR is a daunting task if you want it to be just right, and that is where fabricator Nick Valentine stepped in to make this build come to fruition. NV Fabrication was handed a 2016 Polaris RZR XP 1000, which was immediately stripped down to the frame. The MGM fiberglass long-pan buggy body on the Rugged Radios “beach buggy” is an actual kit body intended for a Volkswagen pan; instead, it needed to fit over the Polaris frame. In order to make it work, a lot of fabrication was required. Much of the frame was hand-fabricated—changing some suspension mounting points, designing and building a new roll cage that fit the style of the era but protected the inhabitants far more than an original dune buggy, and a lot more.
The suspension mounting points and trailing arms all had to be designed specifically for this build. The hood of the MGM body sits a lot lower than that of a RZR, which didn’t allow much room for shock mounting. The rear trailing arms of the Rugged Radios beach buggy had to be lengthened by Campbell Enterprises, so the wheels would fit in the wheel wells of the MGM body properly. By the time NV Fabrication was finished with it, all that was left of the original RZR frame were the main frame rails, engine mounts and some of the front suspension mounts.
OUTFITTED FOR SPEED
Once the body and frame of the Rugged Radios beach buggy were complete, it was time to throw parts at the machine from renowned companies in the industry. The Polaris engine couldn’t simply be left alone with its 999cc parallel twin cylinder that put out a sturdy 110 horsepower. Of course not! Greg installed a Boondocker bolt-on turbo kit that would bring power numbers near or over 200 horsepower. A big clutch kit was installed to handle the new power output, along with a Gibson exhaust system. A UMP fresh air filter system was adapted to the buggy to let it breathe deeper and cleaner. A Lonestar Racing fuel cell was installed under the seat of the buggy since the stock gas tank was no longer usable with the new frame and body design.
It is very important to know that if you want any machine to go faster, adding power isn’t the first solution—handling improvements are. The stock 2016 Polaris RZR XP 1000 comes stock with Walker Evans shocks that can handle some abuse, but they don’t soak up the rough stuff like a set of their top-of-the-line Velocity shocks do. The WER Velocity shocks are fully compression, preload and rebound adjustable with crossovers that can be tuned specifically to the type of driving you like to do. Reid Nordin of WER helped dial in the Velocity shocks for this build so the machine could tackle the dunes like no other. Back in the ’60–’70s, VW-based dune buggies had basically about 6 inches of wheel travel; the beach buggy now has over 16 inches of travel on each corner of the machine.
Greg wanted the Rugged Radios beach buggy to represent what the company is all about. Rugged Radios designs and manufactures communication systems that are designed for work, race and play applications. The company sponsors off-road, on-road and sports teams of all calibers that are successful with the help of quality communication systems that Rugged Radios provides. Their product line is vast, and you can find something for most all applications. That includes systems that allow you to talk with your buddies while you are out on a recreational ride, or let you contact your race support team or fellow employees out on the job.
With that said, the beach buggy was fitted with a RRP660 Plus Bluetooth intercom that allows the driver and passengers to stream music wirelessly from any Bluetooth device through helmet com kits or headsets. The system has voice activation that will cut off the tunes when you need to talk. You can also answer your phone and charge devices as well. Next, a RM-25R 25-watt dual-band mobile radio was installed. This system allows you to communicate with devices that are up to 10 miles away on UHF and VHF frequencies. The system is powerful, efficient and easy to install. The last of the Rugged Radios parts installed was their MAC1 Blower system that force-feeds filtered air into your helmet (they offer helmets that accept a pumper hose in their product line), so you can drive for hours while your head stays cool and you breathe fresh air.
ACCESSORIZING THE BUGGY
PRP seats got involved with this build by creating custom short back seats for the build that match its style yet still provide comfort and safety. PRP seat belts were installed that are a four-point harness style to help keep you stuck in your seat during rough driving. While piloting the buggy, it is important to be able to see your surroundings, and Assault has that covered with their new Sidewinder convex side mirrors, along with their Stealth Series convex rear-view mirror. A quick-release fire extinguisher was installed on the machine, along with a speedometer bezel to add a little more style to the build.
KC Hilites brightens up the night with their impressive lighting systems. Their Daylighter LED lights and Flex LED lights are among those capable products. A set of two Flex LED lights were installed on each of the A-pillars of the buggy’s roll cage, which provide a beam of light that can see over terrain. Two Daylighter LED pods were bolted up on the front of the Rugged Radios machine in the similar style you would find on the original Manx buggy.
Finally, a set of Whip It LED flag whips and an XTC street-legal turn-signal kit rounded off the lighting systems on the build.
Now, we know what you want—to hear about how the Rugged Radios beach buggy handles! While very carefully lifting a leg over the Sparkling Blue paint on the fiberglass body of the UTV, or buggy—or whatever you call this contraption!—we entered into a time capsule. Looking out the front window while strapping into the PRP harnesses brought back memories of a time long past, especially when the engine was started and we were sucked into the back of the seat with power and handling that a VW owner would have given up their first born to have in the past. The Boondocker turbo kit added a lot more get-up-and-go to the Polaris engine. It was smooth power through the bottom- to mid-end range, and then kicked like a mule once the turbo boost increased the power curve at the top end. Thirty-inch GMZ Sand Stripper XL-HP 16-paddle tires mounted on GMZ Casino beadlock rims scooped sand like nobody’s business when the throttle was pushed.
The Walker Evans Racing shocks handled like a dream in the sand. They rarely bottomed out, and on their way to doing so, it was a plush and forgiving compression. The crossover springs let the piggyback shocks soak up cross ruts and chop in the sand, while the bigger spring tackled the big hits. The 4-inch-longer wheelbase created by Campbell Enterprises’ longer trailing arms lessened the bucking of the buggy in whoops compared to how a stock RZR would handle. A Lonestar Racing sway bar system provided some stabilization in the suspension system as well. The 30-inch front GMZ Sand Strippers guided the Rugged Radios machine wherever the pilot wanted it to go with three large ribs designed into the tire for turning traction in the sand.
The Rugged Radios beach buggy goes down in our book as one of the most unique and fun machines we have ever had the pleasure of coming in contact with. The younger editors and testers grasped how cool the buggy is but could not fully understand the feeling of nostalgia that the older crowd enjoyed while seeing the build up close and personal. The fabrication was meticulously done, while the body fit so well that it could pass as an original until you walked up to it and had to pick your jaw up off of the floor. Rugged Radios prides themselves on going a step above the rest, and we felt they did so with this beach buggy.
RUGGED RADIOS CONTACT LIST
ASSAULT IND.: www.assaultind.com, (714) 799-6711
BOONDOCKER: www.boondockers.com, (877) 522-7805
CAMPBELL ENTERPRISES: www.campbellent.com, (480) 782-5337
GMZ RACE PRODUCTS: www.gmzraceproducts.com
KC HILITES: www.kchilites.com, (888) 689-5955
LINSON SIGNS: www.linsonsigns.com, (805) 541-6484
LONESTAR RACING: www.lsracing.com, (480) 834-2990
NV FABRICATION: www.nvfab.com, (805) 748-8453
PRP SEATS: www.prpseats.com, (800) 317-6253
RCV PERFORMANCE: www.rcvperformance.com, (815) 877-7473
RUGGED RADIOS: www.ruggedradios.com, (888) 541-7223
WALKER EVANS RACING: www.walkerevansracing.com, (888) 933-7223
WHIP IT: www.whipitlightrods.com, (208) 283-7616
XTC POWER PRODUCTS: www.xtcpowerproducts.com, (480) 558-8588