How to Build an Off Road Buggy

by Kelvin Hayes
Dune buggy kits enable assembly with no fabrication required.

Dune buggy kits enable assembly with no fabrication required.

Off road buggies come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are 1-seat dragsters called "sand rails," and others are coupes with a small 4 cylinder engines designed to cruise around the dunes. Yet others are 4- to 6-seat vehicles with high powered V8 engines and 24 inches of suspension travel and are designed to "fly" over the dunes. Depending on the size and scope of your buggy, this could be a 3-6 month process to build one on your own, and it all starts with getting a solid building plan in place.

Project Planning

Evaluate what kind of buggy you want to build. Will it be a 1, 2, 4 or 6 seater? Will it need to jump and therefore have a robust suspension? What level of engine performance do you want your buggy to have? These are all questions that must be answered so you can outline your parts and design plan.

Locate a chassis, suspension and engine provider. These three elements are the most important parts of a buggy. Get price quotes from each provider before you buy, to ensure you'll stay within your budget. Many buggies builders will locate a used 4 or 6 cylinder engine as the foundation for their power train and rebuild or upgrade the engine to produce maximum output. Ensure that the engine is compatible with the chassis you're ordering. While you can build a chassis from scratch, there are many pre-made chassis available that are professionally designed. Some of these chassis are rolling, which means they have the suspension components already installed.

Purchase the chassis, suspension components and engine.

The Build

Sand, prep and paint the naked chassis. Do not assemble the suspension or engine at this time. If your chassis came with a suspension installed, use masking tape and paper to protect all components that will not receive paint. While most of the buggy components will be similar to other buggies, the chassis paint is where you'll be able to express your creativity and make your buggy unique. Choosing a flashy paint scheme is also safe, allowing you to be seen by other drivers.

Install the suspension components, including wheels, using the instruction manual to ensure proper installation and adjustments. In sand conditions, the front tires should be narrow and have no tread--ideal for "skimming" over the sand. The rear tires will need to possess a "paddle" style tread pattern. On hard dirt, a standard off-road tread pattern will suffice.

Purchase the interior components including bucket seats, seat belts, foam padding for the head rails, throttle and brake cables, accelerator and brake pedals, wire harness, headlights, steering wheel, rear view mirror and OHV safety flag. All of these items will be installed after the engine is mounted, but ordering them now will eliminate down time.

Mount the engine to the frame, ensuring that it's placed on rubber dampeners for reduced vibration. Ensure that the coolant and engine oil levels are correct before testing the engine.

Mount the transmission and connect it to the power-train and the rear drive axle. With the basic structure and primary components of the buggy assembled, you're now ready for the final assembly components.

Run the throttle cable from the carburetor to the accelerator pedal. Attach the brake cable to the master cylinder and ensure the brake fluid revision is filled. This may require "bleeding" the brakes free of air pockets. Refer to the master cylinder's manual for specific brake bleeding instructions.

Attach all interior components like the seats, safety harnesses, wire harness, shift kit, headlights steering wheel, tachometer and engine gauges. You're now ready to test the buggy for any faults before taking it off road.

Items you will need

  • Buggy Chassis kit, power-train and drive-train
  • Socket and wrench sets
  • Hammer
  • Air compressor
  • Pneumatic wrenches
  • Paint shop
  • Online buggy parts store


  • Buggy kits save you money and time because they do not require custom fabrication.

About the Author

Kelvin Hayes has been writing professionally since 2009 as a freelance copywriter. He runs his own online business, writing ebooks, reports and information products. Completely self-taught, Hayes prides himself on creatively completing writing projects by pulling from his wide range of life experiences.

Photo Credits

  • sc buggy racing image by scorpiofoto from