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Empi Dune Buggy

• CATEGORIES: Features, Unusual

UPDATE: David Crawford reports that his father built 36 different Empi’s that ended up all over the western US. In the comments below, he wrote,

“My dad, Bill Crawford, of Tuolumne, CA, “sparkplugged” the build, on those 2’VW based cars. He bought a set of plans for the EMPI Sportster, and made a whole bunch of mods. He planned to build one article, and 20 years later, there were @ 36 of them built, and running around.
Three of them went to South Dakota. A friend in the Phoenix area, over the years, took 3 of the cars from Norcal, and sold them in the Phoenix area.

Most of the cars were built in his home shop, and about 10 of the cars were assembled by students in a high school auto shop survey class that he taught. There are still several of them floating around Norcal.

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Original Post June 2012:

The Empi Dune Buggy was an early metal kit for VWs. There were several styles.  According to tunacan.net, “The EMPI Sportster was a sheet metal buggy built on a modified VW Beetle floorpan. It was available in a two passenger model or a four passenger model. All Sportsters featured a “Deluxe Folding Windshield” and were constructed of 20-, 18-, and 12- guage steel.

Jim, who pics are shown below, wrote:

“We got the Empi running and driving the night before the Durango car show. I washed, scrubbed and entered this quality piece of early 1960s dune buggy Americana and am shocked that I didn’t win a trophy! Crazy huh? All sarcasm aside, little kids loved it, old men remembered it from “back in the day”, rat rod guys thought it cool, I was really surprised at how much attention and photos it created. Still though, no trophy? People just don’t appreciate a good old fashioned, fugly, all metal dune buggy these days, sigh…”

Jim notes that he strategically positioned himself near the only flat fenders at the show.  You can see some of his older flatties here.

Nelson’s Empi Dune Buggy

nelson-empi

 

15 Comments on “Empi Dune Buggy

  1. Matt

    Nice rig, I prefer that to the manx syle buggies. Looks very military, almost to the point of needing a belt fed weapon on the roll bar. The modded MB next to it is very cool. There is a build of it on pirate.

  2. deilers

    It you happen to spot the link, feel free to paste it into the comment box and I’ll add it to the post.

  3. dj bill

    I just saw one of those on a VW site, the SAMBA …I think they were selling an incomplete one for $1500. I was under the impression it was a one off but I see it isn’t.

  4. Mitch

    I talked with the owner of the Flattie next to it while at EJS this year. He’s done alot of very cool subtle mods to that rig.

  5. Brennan

    Hey, that’s my Willys! ( the slightly modified one )

    You can see the ‘Rango’ buildup on the Pirate4x4 Willys section or the Expedition Portal Jeep section.

  6. Jim

    It is winter here, snow on the ground but I drive the Empi to and from the dumpster every few days. If you have ever seen the Willys I have built I am all about flat earth colors, camo, utilitarian military parts etc. Im thinking that a military camo face lift would be fun for the Empi plus make it even more red neck which really annoys the local Subaru driving Obama supporting vegan hippies who frown when they see me driving it in town.

  7. Nelson Sparks

    I have an EMPI Sportster which is practically identical to the green one pictured. Whoever built one, built the other. Same doors, same boxed in lights in back, same hump backed tank with quantity indicator, same flip down seat in the back, same riveted construction, same visor, same 66-67 slotted front wheels probably originally same green and black color. I picked this one up in Modesto

  8. Jim Boswell

    Nelson, that’s interesting, there were people building multiple Empis back in the day, I found this one in Phoenix maybe 6 years ago. Every now and then someone knows what it is and tries to get me to sell it but I fear if I do Ill never be able to get a another on the cheap. I have been pretty amazed at how nimble it is off road, have always had 4WDs but this thing will go anywhere you point it without complaint. Post a photos of yours, would like to see it.

  9. David Eilers

    Jim

    I’ve posted the photo Nelson sent. It is from the Craigslist ad from which he bought it. He also wrote, “You can see the visor on the windshield frame and hinges for the doors, like yours. I’ll get some more pictures of all the features it has in common in the next few days”

    I can hook you two up via email if you’d like.

    – Dave

  10. Mike Crawford

    FYI….
    My dad, Bill Crawford, of Tuolumne, CA, “sparkplugged” the build, on those 2’VW based cars. He bought a set of plans for the EMPI Sportster, and made a whole bunch of mods. He planned to build one article, and 20 years later, there were @ 36 of them built, and running around.
    3 of them went to South Dakota. A friend in the Phoenix area, over the years, took 3 of the cars from Norcal, and sold them in the Phoenix area. Most of the cars were built in his home shop, and about 10 of the cars were assembled by students in a high school auto shop survey class that he taught.
    There are still several of them floating around Norcal.

  11. Nelson Sparks

    Mike, thanks for posting, mystery solved! Like I said, I had seen three nearly identical and realized someone out there had built a number of them. I guessed it was in the Modesto area. Tuolumne is a bit of a surprise. 36 is very impressive, much respect for your Dad. Did he have a name for them? When I got mine it had a keychain with a big brass tag and 23 stamped on it. Was mine #23? Do you have one? The one pictured above was one I saw being sold on Craigslist in Phoenix before it went to Durango. I think it may be in Florida now

  12. David Eilers

    That’s a great story David. I’ll redo the EMPI post with that info. Thanks for sharing it!

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