Driven In Baywatch? Pair Of Thunder Ranch Riots

The Riot was a fiberglass kit car built on a VW chassis by a company called Thunder Ranch. There is little information about the company today and we can find no record of how many were actually built. The seller offers two of these fun-looking cars, neither of which is in running condition, but one is more complete than the other. The pair can be found in San Bernardino, California and available here on craigslist for $4,500. Thanks, Pat L, for more of your sleuthing discoveries!

Thunder Ranch was a builder of kit cars, like the racy-looking Riot which was designed to utilize a VW Beetle chassis and drivetrain. The company closed some years ago and – while the molds and tooling were sold off – there is no evidence that the buyer continued the tradition. You could probably use any VW engine you wanted in the car, with the 1600cc Bug engine being the most common. The seller has two of these cars. The red one was featured in the Baywatch TV show and is mostly complete, with upholstery and a gas tank being its shortcomings. The yellow one has an interior, but no engine, transmission, or gas tank. So perhaps you can make one car out of two by simply sourcing a new fuel tank. The seller provides just one photo, so the second pic is from the net so you can see what they should look like from the back side. They look like they would be a blast to drive!



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WANTED 1981-1983 Chrysler Imperial Looking for an excellent condition Imperial, preferably in original, unrestored condition. Contact

WANTED 1967-1969 Pontiac Firebird Looking for an original 400 convertible, 3 or 4 speed preferred. No restomods. Contact

WANTED 1987 Mercury Merkur Ideally rust free, nicely optioned, solid running car w/ man. trans. Also consider 85&86. Contact


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  1. doug


    Like 2
    • Tony Primo

      I’m not too surprised, riots don’t usually last too long!!!

      Like 10
      • JAC

        Unless your in Seattle.

        Like 12
      • Karl Marx

        A riot is un ugly thing, und once you get one started there is little chance of stopping it

    • Harold Spry Member

      I have one. But not for that price. The body was over 10k when new.

  2. Tom71mustangs Member

    Nice one, Tony.

    Like 8
  3. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Not a bad project for short money.

    Like 3
  4. Jamrs

    Thunder Ranch was a company owned by Tom Mcburnie. It was located in Sante California. Tom was a master custom car builder. He became famous for building the Miami Vice Daytona Ferrari. Then he got sued by Ferrari. He also build the Ferrari GTO from molds he got from Joe Alphabet. He built a series of VW based roadsters as well. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that he has passed away. I worked for him for a while. He was a very talented guy. I make reference to my time at Mcburnie Coachcraft in my soon to be released memoir “The Glass Thread”

    Like 6
  5. Steve Clinton

    Thunder Ranch Riot, all I see is an ugly Dodge Viper wannabe, IMHO.

    Like 3
    • Rick Rod

      Depends on what your style is. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You either love it or hate it.

    • Harold Spry Member

      It was built long before the Dodge Viper was around. So i guess
      the Viper wanted to look like a Thunder Ranch Riot

  6. David Mihalko

    Tom Mcburnie was the designer and owner of Thunderranch, it was in El Cajon CA, Tom sold off over 10 years ago and the company he sold off too went under as well. Last I heard Tom is still building cars with his son Dirk in Lakeside CA area.

    Like 1
  7. Malcolm Boyes

    Dunno..could be a nice project to fix em both up..VW parts are certainly plentiful .I’d keep the red one ..its celebrity should add a little $$ down the road ( And I know Hass. so I’d get his moniker on it..Shelby style!). Fixing and selling the yellow may well cover the costs..Not bad looking IMHO..

    Like 2
  8. David Sanborn

    Good grief! Had these been local to me I’d have snapped them up for an EV conversion!

    Like 4
  9. Chio Laugal Member

    I don’t know how you get in with no visable doors and there may be no gas tanks because I don’t see a gas cap anywhere. Also how can you have rear wheels on a VW with out a transmission?

    • Ron

      VW IRS suspension has swing arms which the axles attach to, so you can remove the tranny and the wheels can still be on the car…

    • Ralp

      You raise your right foot and you step in the car, repeat with left foot and then sit down…..

      Like 3
  10. William R McDonald

    It’s not on Craigslist anymore!!!!

  11. Ralph

    It looks like it was sort of styled like the Corvette Indy show car from 1986.

    Like 1
  12. raymond beeso

    just looked at one of these cars unfinished at my neighbors house.found it here.wander what it is worth no engine/windshield/steering just rolling chassic?

  13. Alan

    I doubt that particular red one was on Bay Watch. I bough the BW Riot from the show’s former Producer in Allentown PA around 1995. Replaced the VW engine and added a single large wiper arm etc. I sold it to a guy in Clarksburg West Virginia that I believe was school teacher there.

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