Volkswagen USA has thrown its support behind one of the coolest entries to the 2018 Baja 1000. The ProjectBaja.com team will be lining up in a restored, heavily modified 1970 Beetle, supported by the might of VW America.
The little Beetle, dubbed Tope by the team, has been treated to a comprehensive suite of modifications for off-road racing. it rides on a heavy-duty torsion bar rear suspension, with remote-reservoir Fox dampers and stiffer springs.
Gone is the stock fuel tank, and in its place is a 22-gallon (83-litre) safety cell, feeding a stock 1.6-litre air-cooled engine. Power is put to the wheels through a transaxle with "limited, class-defined" modifications for desert driving.
Although the standard 15-inch wheels remain, they're wrapped in 235/75 all-terrain tyres, and there are skid plates at both ends to protect important hardware on the gruelling Baja terrain. Speaking of gruelling, the cabin is a stripped-back affair with no glass or upholstery. Then again, no Beetle is luxurious, right?
Up-to-date navigation and communications equipment has been added to the mix, along with a proper roll cage. Full harnesses and racing buckets also feature, as you'd expect of a fully-fledged racer.
On the outside, the Beetle is sporting a simple livery and aftermarket auxiliary lighting, to make it easier to work on the car at the end of each stage. Alternatively, the lights are the perfect way to illuminate get the jump on the competition – parking outside their tents, spotlights ablaze, isn't particularly sportsmanlike, but it's sure to cause them problems.
"For decades, Volkswagen Beetle vehicles, Beetle-based racers and Dune Buggies have been competing in this epic event," said Pietro Zollino, chief communications officer, VW North America. "We felt it appropriate to sponsor this team of eager enthusiasts who are following in the wheeltracks of Volkswagen desert racers over the past 50 years. We’re looking forward to tracking ProjectBaja.com’s progress over the course of the event and wish them luck!"
The high-riding Beetle will be competing in Class 11 of the Baja 1000, which runs from Ensenada, Baja California down through Mexico to La Paz, Baja California Sur. The course is 1825km in total.