The 2017 Baja 1000 goes down next week. And this year being the 50th anniversary of the race, it’s going to be a big one: over 380 vehicles are already registered. Volkswagen will officially be on the starting line and in the mix, too. With a 1970 Beetle.
Baja Bug-style “stock” Beetles are quintessential Mexican race cars, even though (because?) they’re the slowest and weakest in the field every time. Tiny little air-cooled engines pushing skinny tires through deep sand ruts is a recipe for disaster, and yet a dedicated group of ambitious lunatics attempt to run the Baja 1000 and 500 in these pokey little cars every year.
Few generally even finish finish within the race’s time cap, which is usually about 33 hours. But nothing embodies the spirit of Baja better than a barely-modified VW fighting for every inch of the 1,000-odd off-road mile race.
As of this writing, there are 10 “stock” Beetles, known as Class 11 cars, signed up for the ’17 Baja 1000 including VW’s official entry, which is actually a factory-sponsored privateer team out of Denver led by an industrial designer named Josh McGuckin.
McGuckin will be joined by co-drivers Matt Wilson, Matt Fisher, Evan Chute, Nick Wilson and Emme Hall. Hall is the Reviews Editor at CNET Roadshow, so we can look forward to her account of the race soon after the event.
As for the specifics on their car, VW explains that the ’70 Beetle “received a heavy-duty rear torsion bar adjuster, while the dampers were replaced with external reservoir Fox units, stiffer springs were fitted, and the stock gas tank was replaced by 22-gallon safety cell. The tires were changed from 165R-15s to 235/75R-15s BFG All Terrains; the rear trailing arms were reinforced; and skid plates were added for protection at the front and rear. All of the glass and upholstery were removed, communications and navigation equipment were added, and the stock seats replaced by racing buckets, with full harnesses.”
Plus, obviously, a roll cage and loads of lights.
So while it’s not “stock”, Class 11 is about as close as a car could get while still having some prayer of finishing the event.
The VW horizontally-opposed 1.6-liter air-cooled engine is paired up with a type 1 transaxle and will really have its work cut out for it. The race is supposed to span about 1,200 miles this year, though the Class 11s and other vintage vehicles get to take a mercy shortcut to somewhat mitigate old car carnage.
Myself and our own Jason Torchinsky will be racing the 2017 Baja 100 as well. Torch has secured driving time in what’s known as a Wide Open buggy: a rear-drive Subaru-powered open-wheeled machine. I’ll be navigating with my friends at Off-Road Brands in their BajaLite again.
Buen viaje to everybody heading down!