Porsche-Powered! 1969 Safari Dune Buggy

There are probably three different ways that you can build a dune buggy. The first would be to do what I did with a friend years ago and mash something together from a discarded VW Beetle, tools needed? A hammer, screwdriver, pliers, and a rented oxyacetylene torch – this is the “let’s just see what happens” approach. The second way would be to buy a kit, which includes a body and fittings, as well as a subject Beetle, follow the directions and assume that one has the proper tools and mechanical know-how. The third way would be to go for broke and build an uber refined and professional buggy like this 1969 Safari Trail example that has turned up in Wausau, Wisconsin. It is available here on eBay for a current bid of $5,755, twelve bids tendered so far.

It is appropriate that this dune-buggy is titled as a 1969 model because that’s the era when dune buggies were all the rage. While the Meyers Manx was probably the most famous, there were plenty of other manufacturers that got into the mix too like this Safari Trail example, manufactured by Safari Industries originally of Gardenia, California. There is an article about Safari Industries here that you can review for more information about this bygone company.

This dune buggy is truly an amalgam of different parts, 1969 body, 1961 Chassis, 1967 transaxle and front beam, and a ’69 to ’76 vintage Porsche 914 engine. All of that considered, this vehicle does have a legitimate Wisconsin title, attesting it to being a 1969 model. The seller found this neglected buggy in 2019 and performed a full restoration. Apparently the condition of the body was neglected but in “remarkable” condition. Additionally, the floor pan was sound too so this Safari underwent a disassembly, an underside sandblasting and refinishing in an epoxy-based coating with the body being refinished in a two-stage Dodge Viper blue hue. Finishing it off is the application of silver racing stripes. I have to say, it looks fantastic! It’s one of the nicest dune buggies I have ever laid eyes on. The seller also mentions that he has a new roll bar that is included in the sale but he has not installed it, preferring to not cut the body. I’m not sure of the brand of recently installed aluminum wheels but they complement the exterior perfectly.

The mechanical improvements are extensive and are listed in great detail in the listing. As previously noted, the engine was sourced from a Porsche 914 but there is no word regarding the original displacement of the four-cylinder engine as in 1.7, 1.8, or 2.0-liters. Whatever the case, the engine has been rebuilt with larger pistons and cylinders as well as having had extensive cylinder head work performed. Ditto the brakes which have seen the inclusion of new stainless steel lines and a master cylinder. The seller claims that this dune buggy runs and drives like new, I’d wager that it runs a lot better than that.

The interior of this Safari is a typically spartan affair but not as spartan as some. It does have a CD player and interior lighting all supported by a new wiring harness. While all of the exterior lighting (headlights, taillights, side markers, license plate, and back-up lights) was replaced with modern LED fixtures, all of the interior lights and the gauges too, actually work. There is even a fuel gauge in place for the first time in this off-roader’s history. Note the gear shifter, it is Hurst unit that was a common VW Beetle upgrade in the ’70s.

There has been an incredible amount of effort and expense bestowed on this Safari Trail dune buggy and all performed at a high level of professionalism. The conundrum would seem to be that it is now too nice to take off-road and expose to salt and sand. But even with all of the mechanical embellishments, a dune buggy is not particularly viable as an everyday driver. The target market for such a vehicle is probably narrow but whoever the successful bidder is, will be acquiring, what is probably, the best of the best. And, as the seller concludes, “It would be hard to find a nicer buggy for sure.” I think he’s right! How about a show of hands, anyone ever owned a dune buggy and if so, how did you like it?

Like This? Get Our Daily Email

Comments

  1. 19sixty5 Member

    Being a Corvair guy (among others) this needs an engine swap. I would *think* a 914 engine could be sold for a decent price? A 140 horse Corvair engine in this would be lots of fun. Nice looking buggy!

    Like 6
  2. CJinSD

    The trouble with trying to sell the 914 engine for meaningful money is that only the 914-6 had a Porsche engine. This is powered by a VW type 4 engine, like a bunch of 411s, 412s and Vanagons. I really like the dune buggy body though. It reminds me of a Schuco Beach Buggy 351120 that my sister had when we were kids.

    Like 4
    • Mark in WNC

      Nice buggy but a lot of hype from someone who doesn’t know much about Volkswagens.

      Like 2
  3. Matt G

    The ad says it has 96mm pistons, which is bigger than any stock bore for that engine, so unless it is a stroker it displaces either 1911cc or 2056cc depending on whether it is based on a 1.7/1.8 or a 2.0.

    Like 2
  4. don

    I always wanted a Dune Buggy, but living on the East coast would mean it would sit for 9-10 months of the year ! The only thing I wold change on this is the taillights ; they look like those plastic coaster things restaurants give you that light up when your tables ready – I’d go with the tried and true Bug lights or the 65 -66 Mustang lights.

    Like 4
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      That’s about all one can get if you’re going with LED tail lights. Nothing that looks period correct. They look the part….fugly modern gadgetry. Though you will be seen better by that semi bearing down on you as you drive to the local Cars & Coffee.

      Like 1
    • TRPIV

      +1 – Somehow the Mustang tail lights seem to work on these dune buggies.

      Like 2
  5. Hemidavey

    tons of work went into this, I’m surprised bidding is so low. Type 4 engines are great, probably out of a VW buss or 914. im think about bidding, my kids would love it. I’d change a few things, lights for sure and have to give a cool 60’s color with the big flake! Looks like it could use a set of seats, position is extreemly low?

    Like 1
    • CJinSD

      I think the photos all wearing time and date stamps from fifteen years ago scared off the bidders.

      Like 1
      • Jim ODonnell Jim ODonnell Staff

        CJ:

        From the listing:

        OMG! I have had a million messages about the date on the pix…THE CAMERA DATE IS WRONG! The pix were literally taken 10 minutes before I listed the buggy. I bought and restored the buggy last spring…NOT in 2005!

        JO

        Like 3
  6. DrPrepper

    Extensive head work done….hope some of that went to the exhaust seat issues these engine had

  7. Dickie F.

    In 2011, after the loss of my wife to the big C, my son and I rebuilt a locally built full length beach buggy, which had a fibreglass canopy with doors.
    It turned out quite well and we decided to explore the Southern Africa continent, by avoiding the highways and using most the gravel roads.
    That little roadtrip went a little haywire and we spent the next 6 weeks driving from country to country and ended in Cairo, Egypt.
    We had started in Cape Town, South Africa.

    We only had 2 breakdowns, a broken clutch cable and we ran out of fuel once.
    We had driven the full length of the east coast of Africa, without four wheel drive, powered by a 1600cc Beetle engine.
    Those beach (dune) buggies were tough.

    Like 12
  8. peter

    take the VW motor out and put a Subaru motor in its place. Then lots of power to go anywhere..

    Like 2
  9. Joe Haska

    I had a garge sale find, many years ago, it was a Dune Buggy that needed alott of help, but it was cheap. I drug it home ,got it running and sold it to the 1st person that gave me enough ,that I thought, I got paid for my trouble. After that I never really had much interest, until now. I agree it has to be the best one on the planet and who wouldn’t want it. I don’t care what powers it VW, Porsche, Corvair or Briggs & Stratton, I think its way cool and I would love to have it !

    Like 2
  10. Steve RM

    The front axle is not a 67. 67 bugs used a ball joint front end.

  11. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    I never owned one but my sister and bil had a dune buggy they built from a kit. They also put a Porsche engine in it. They then moved from Sacramento to Honolulu and took the dune buggy with them. They loved it and kept it until both passed away. I suppose it’s still in Honolulu to this day they’re real popular over there.
    God bless America

    Like 2
  12. John Oliveri

    I’ve always wanted one,few of my friends had them in the 70s, and we live in NY, talk about SUVs behind a Yaris, how bout a 76 Coupe Deville behind you in this, lotsa fun,very dangerous on the cross Bronx expwy, I’d change the steering wheel to a small spongy one and get the foot gas pedal from Moon, loose the CD player, get Audiovox in dash 8 track am/fm, and some Tenna Mindblower speakers, trip back in time

  13. Mark

    Reminds me of one I Built in 1968 when i was a senior in high school, but it was only a 1200cc motor

  14. Robert Woodward

    I miss my 1968 Buggy with it’s Corvair 110 motor. Buggies are fun, but not something you keep for a long time because they are so darty on the road and even with the Corvair motor it wasn’t something that was fun to drive over 60mph.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10215809426297882&set=a.1626653555500&type=3&theater

  15. Chris James

    I had a street legal buggy back in the early 80s based on a Koyote body. I drove mine as much as possible in the non snow months rarely taking it off the road before mid November.
    Snowmobile suits can keep you nice and warm lol
    I see cars like this and it makes me crave another.
    Beautiful car, well done

    Like 1
  16. kenzo

    SOLD ! $8800+ change.
    nice toy

    Like 1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.