Justin’s “Whipper Snapper” Dual Sport Buggy
This is how the Young Guns of our sport do it…
In the off roading and sand duning worlds, you could say that there are 3 types of drivers out there, male and female, who love to get on the throttle. The first type represent the “old guys rule” tent (you’ve seen the shirts, right?) because they have loved the dunes for years and they offer up the most experience from behind the wheel. The second type tends to fly under the “pedal to the metal” flag, with guns a-blazing and full-bazooka amounts of horsepower to match their insatiable thirst for speed. The third type of drivers is sometimes referred to as the “young guns” of the sport. These are the youngsters who have an incredible amount of talent and desire to constantly reach their goals of eventually becoming the best of the best.
Enter into the life of a kid named Justin. In fact, Justin Cooney is your All-American kid. He grew up under the wing of two incredible parents, Robert and Laura Cooney. Their passion for the off road sport is only surpassed by the love of their son, and Justin embodies the terms “Young Gun” and “American kid” to the capital Y and A.
Not long ago, the Cooney’s began exploring the desert hobby, first by buying one of the initial releases of the venerable Yamaha Rhino. At that time, the Rhino was literally the craze vehicle, and the Cooney’s went all out with their family ride. You have an idea of the usual modifications: long travel kit, more power from the motor, seats, extended cage, and upgraded tires to make it a true “family” vehicle. Justin grew up learning to observe the desert and drive a little alongside his parents. And it wasn’t long until his need for adventure turned out to be a need to obtain a ride of his own.
As Justin graduated high school and started attending college, he began saving his extra money to buy himself a buggy. As the time passed, he eventually bought a rail; a two seater with a 1600 VW motor. This car provided the turning point in Justin’s off road expertise. As he gained more experience, Justin knew that he would want to upgrade to a bigger and stouter car.
Fast forward about 2 years and he had his sights set on selling his original desert car in favor of a true desert, dual sport, 2 seater. And, it just so happens that opportunities present themselves in the perfect order. After much deliberation and some family advice, Justin picked up the cherry two seat, dual sport car you see on these pages!
This car is truly a one-off product. Not only was it built to be a true dual sport car, all of the primary upgrades to make it a race-worthy Class 5 car were performed with the intent of racing this beast in the near future. When Justin was looking for the perfect car, he knew this one included all of the features he desired in an off road car, not to mention one that he might be inclined to race one day.
Essentially, Justin’s car is built around a one-off Big Boy chassis. It’s a chromoly two-seater, pre-runner design that is gusseted and X-braced at all critical points for increased strength and rigidity. The occupants are protected with custom Aluminum sheet metal to ensure the desert stays in the desert. The chassis itself is powder coated a charcoal grey to provide the ultimate durability.
Powering this car happens to be a tried and true VW motor, specifically a 1776 cubic inch unit that is fed by two 44 Weber carburetors. Transferring the power to the ground is a close ratio 002 bus transmission, which was built by The Wright Gearbox. Attaching the bus tranny to the outer VW stub axles and modified 3×3 trailing arms are 930 CV Joints. On the outer portions of the rail are conventional BFGoodrich tires, specifically 32/11.50r15 Mud-Terrain T/A KM2’s. Stopping those meats are dual disk brakes in the rear with dual piston calipers.
It seems like there is only one-way to go with suspension these days: a long travel system. Justin wanted a plush ride that would also give him the ultimate in suspension performance. This desire was completed with this buggy because it has Fox coilover shocks all the way around. In order to provide more suspension control in the rear, King bypass shocks were installed to keep the dampening progressive and the car under control at all times.
Rounding out the list of items on this one-of-a-kind car is a 5 gallon spun aluminum gas tank to keep the rides long and fun throughout the daytime and nighttime hours. Keeping the occupants comfortable inside the car are fully suspended Beard seats complete with 4-point harnesses to keep the driver and passenger safe at all times. The inside is also equipped with a Lowrance GPS that is custom mounted in the aluminum dash.
Justin, being the “young gun” that he is, drove the heck out of his buggy on the day of our photoshoot. And, after taking advice from his parents for all of these years, it was only fitting that his dad was riding shotgun the entire time we were out shooting pictures. I wish I had some video of his excitement, but we’ll save that for next time. Until then, he’s going to keep the throttle down and fun times flowing in his very unique dual sport buggy.
Stay safe in the sand jungle!
Photos (Click to enlarge!):