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Forging a Family of 5 1600 Baja Bug Racers for the Future!

1600 5 VW | Baja Bug 5 1600

This is the ultimate class of the Baja Bug. The 1600 5 VW Class places limits on the amount of wheel travel, size of engine and suspension type. The 1600 5 VW is faster than many of the other classes. The 5/1600 Baja Bugs distinct lines make it a crowd favorite. Check out the Photos section for some nice photos of the Baja Bug 5/1600.

1600 5 VW | Baja Bug 5 1600

This is an article by Win Deen, the Coalition Director. Yes that is Deen becoming one with the cactus of the Baja Desert.

Class 5-1600 Baja Bug Rule Changes
by Win Deen

The Baja bug (5-1600) SCORE International made this class in 1969 when a VW with the front nose, rear end and all four fenders cut off with a cutting torch, a make shift roll bar, stock shocks, turn signals windshield and wipers, and a little larger tires, the forerunner of the 5/1600 Baja Bug. It was a street legal car coming to race the treacherous Baja 500, hence the name. After a few races they soon realized they needed to make rules for this very popular, quickly growing class of funny looking VW's. So the rules stated stock factory equipped Baja style VW, with limits on the amount of wheel travel, size of engine, and stock suspension. If you had an old bug to sacrifice you could go racing with the class 5 1600 VW.  
Let's look at what has happened to the Baja Bug 5-1600, the affordable family backyard racecar. These families take great pride in their cars. They are usually built, prepped, painted, polished, and loved by their owners, and tight families who love playing together; who can't wait until the next race for there 5-1600 VW Baja bug.

But things are changing. The new 5-1600 VW is more like Herby on steroids; better parts, faster motors, stronger transmissions, high tech equipment, etc. Look at the cost of micro stubs: $1500 for hubs and discs. Then there are new arms for $500 + and the cost for setup if not done in-house, plus 930 CV's, if you don't already have them. Then you need longer axles ($350-+). Just when you think the spending is over, bigger, longer shocks might have to be used. How much are you willing to spend? Was it necessary to change these rules? Arguments go either way: easier to prep and more travel. Is it a stock manufactured part? No, but the Class has definitely evolved into more than Herby. Disc brakes are better because they are stronger. When it comes to brakes, stronger is safer. If you don't want them, don't buy them.

Let's look at that argument. Both the old school and new school Baja Bug 5-1600's VW wins races. Danny Ledesma, in his old bus stub axle 2 2:0 14" Fox Shocks won the 2005 Baja 500 by 2hrs 15 min. Also, Jeff Sacks' micro stubs w/2.5 bypassed King Shocks' wins many races.

What about the topic power steering? This could be a very controversial rule change. If the rules were designed for a 'stock' 5-1600 VW Baja Bug, then in what year did Volkswagen come out with factory power steering? I don't think they did. Sure, they had CV's, axles, shocks, disc brakes, dual-port heads, fuel injection, but never power steering. Remember this is an affordable cost-effective class with every racer on the same playing field. That's why the rules are so strict. When the rule were made for the class single port heads were certainly cheaper in the early '60's and that's what most of the motors came with. If this is supposed to be an inexpensive class to race, then how is it that adding another $1500 to $2000 to our already financially strained budgets is going to help the Baja Bug 5-1600?

Who thinks that to be competitive, you need power steering? I, for one, do not. Ivan Stewart was interviewed by Off-Road.com about his pro truck. Even though he does not race 5/1600 VW Baja Bug , his opinions holds true for all racers. In short, he stated that with technology, cars go faster every year. The faster you go, the more your tendency to break. When you break, you must then find better parts that will not break. Then your 5-1600 Baja Bug will go faster. It is a continuous cycle.

Rules in the pro truck class were designed to give everyone the same advantage regardless of how much money you have. Rules are rules. If you repeatedly keep breaking and the parts you need are not within the framework of the rules, and they cost too much, then SLOW DOWN! You're over-driving your class. It's a given that your 5-1600 VW will break, no matter how much money you put into it. Now, finishing is the secret. If you finish, you win. The one who beats his car to death trying to win the race in the first 5 miles usually breaks before the first checkpoint. Fastest isn't always the best. Sometimes in the process you beat yourself. A prime example of this is Robbie Gordon, a name everyone knows, and one of NASCAR's finest. He had one win in 8 years of racing. No doubt about it, he's one of the fastest. But 8 years! Wow! And in some of the best equipment money can buy, he still breaks. An entry from the 5-1600 VW website relayed how someone happened to mention he was going to sell his pair of 5-1600 VW Baja Bug racecars and move up to Class 8. He said," With the same money I've been dumping into my 5-1600 VW Baja Bug, I could've had a nice truck. Why go 70 mph, when for the same money I could be going 120mph?" Now both his cars will be listed for sale.

I've got news for him, if he tries to race an 8 truck on a 5-1600 VW budget, he won't be able to keep up with the 8 truck class, which will find new ways of spending money to stretch the rules like every class does. This happens in all the classes, spending more leads to going faster and breaking harder.

There is a natural progression to go from affordable racing, to out-of -control big bucks in the quest to be Number One. So, don't take the 5-1600 Baja Bug away from the family racer, the out-of pocket guy. Don't make it impossible for this class to grow. There is a reason that we all started with the Baja Bug 5-1600 VW class, so think about what all the new rules could do to our class.

Sometimes changes are necessary, like when parts become obsolete or when safety has been compromised. I'm all in favor for change and the needed changes will bring new blood to our Baja Bug 5-1600 family. This will provide more competition and ensure the safety of all involved. But when the recommended changes to make your 5-1600 VW faster or to drive easier are so expensive and unsafe, you should consider switching to another class if you want to go faster.

Do we really need power steering on our off road 5-1600 Baja Bugs? Do we want to take responsibility for making this class unaffordable for the first timer, forcing them into another class, limiting this class to just old timers? Do we want to cut our class in half? Do we need to start another 5-1600-S class? In other words, those who can afford it will jump at the chance to go a little faster in what should remain a low budget class.

So, am I going to run right out and buy all that new stuff? Nope! Unless you do.

Note about the author.
Win has spent much of his life in the Southern California deserts and in the Baja, racing, chasing, pitting and as a member of the BF Goodrich radio relay team.

1600 5 VW | Baja Bug 5 1600

Contact Info:
Win Deen
Baja Coalition Director
(619) 443-0703 info@bajacoalition.net
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