Home » Off-Road Foolishness: 1972 VW Beetle vs 1976 Ford F-100

Off-Road Foolishness: 1972 VW Beetle vs 1976 Ford F-100

Sbsd 3 7 2024
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Good morning! Today is one of those days when I just can’t be bothered with serious cars. So we’re going to look at two vehicles that have been heavily modified to improve their performance on unpaved surfaces. The good news is they both run and drive; the bad news is you probably won’t want to drive either of them.

Yesterday’s battle of the small Fords was another too-close-to-really-call vote. The consensus seems to be that the Focus is the preferred vehicle, but the Escort wins on condition. I’d agree with that assessment. If I wanted a cheap daily driver, I think I’d give the nod to the Escort, because it would be easier to live with.

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But that Focus, in that condition, for that price, would make a great plaything. If your intention was to build, say, a rallycross car, then who cares what condition the interior is in? Just gut it and leave the driver’s seat. You could probably raise the suspension a bit as well, and maybe fit some bigger tires…

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And that line of thinking, right there, is how you arrive at today’s contestants. But it’s one thing to just think about doing it; it’s another to actually break out the tools and start modifying stuff. And it’s even more of an achievement to end up with a running, driving vehicle after you’re done. Let’s dig in and see what these sellers have created.

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1972 Volkswagen Beetle – $3,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 1600 cc overhead valve flat 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Tucson, AZ

Odometer reading: 27,000 miles, but inaccurate

Operational status: Daily-drivable, the seller claims

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I have a confession to make: Off-road Beetles are the only Beetles I really like. Everything that can be done to a VW Bug has been done, from dragsters to lowriders, but it’s the off-roaders that I keep coming back to. A Baja Bug just looks right. And I prefer the “wide-eye” look like this one to the ones with the headlights close together in the front – though it looks like this one never had the holes cut for the headlight buckets. Instead, the way is lit by a pair of aftermarket driving lights, a setup that wouldn’t pass muster anywhere with inspections, but works fine out in the desert.

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This whole car, nicknamed the “Battle Bug” by the seller, has a similar unfinished feel to it. The fiberglass Baja kit was never painted, so it clashes with the metal parts of the body. It looks like they focused more on making it functional and fun to drive than on making it pretty. I can respect that. It has a good-running 1600 engine with a Weber carb and an oil cooler in a roof-mounted air scoop, a nice racy touch. The seller says it was driven daily for a couple of years, but now must be sold for health reasons.

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Inside, it’s a hodgepodge of parts like most Baja Bugs are, with modern seats that look a lot more comfy than typical Beetle seats, and the same cheap aftermarket steering wheel that everyone bought years ago. I had one on a Chevy Nova that looked just like this one. It has what looks like a toy Baja Bug and maybe Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy on the dashboard. No word on whether they’re included, but maybe you can negotiate.

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This car looks like it is set up more for the mean streets of Tucson than the open desert, but that’s pretty much just a matter of a tire swap. And if they really were driving it every day, the sensible radials are the right choice. Oh, and in case anyone is wondering about the down-turned exhaust stinger, that’s to keep rain out. It works, but it kinda looks like a giant kitchen faucet.

1976 Ford F-100 – $3,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 390 cubic inch overhead valve V8, five-speed manual, part-time 4WD

Location: Dayton, TN

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Odometer reading: unknown

Operational status: Runs and drives

In 1975, Bob Chandler took a blue Ford F-250 pickup, jacked it up, stuck ridiculously oversized tires on it, and a new term entered the automotive lexicon: “monster truck.”  Since then, the tires have only gotten bigger, the trucks have only gotten taller, and monster trucks have become big business. But plenty of backyard builders still take old trucks, throw huge tires on them, and go break stuff.

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The seller lists this truck as an F-150, but the fender badge says F-100. The logical starting point for a build like this would be the F-250 “Highboy” 4WD, but logic doesn’t seem to enter into this particular conversation much. The 390 V8 probably isn’t original, and no F-series of this era came with a five-speed, so it’s obviously a bit of a mongrel anyway. It does have a clean title, which is nice.

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The star of the show here is obviously those giant 44-inch mud tires. “Tread Lightly” is not in this truck’s nature, I’m afraid. You can only jack up a truck so high, so monster meats like these require some fender trimming. It wasn’t done terribly neatly, and the rest of the body gives new meaning to the nickname “dentside.” But if all you’re doing is bombing around in the mud, it doesn’t have to be pretty.

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The condition of the interior of a truck like this is beside the point, but it’s nice that they included photos. It’s trashed, of course. And it has a gun rack, of course.

Okay, so these are ridiculous choices. But let’s say you have a few acres to goof around on, and a few grand burning a hole in your pocket – and the tastes of a fourteen-year-old boy. So which one is the better toy: the overgrown Tonka truck, or the desert rat Bug?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
1 month ago

I would like a “neither“ option as well in this case,but I would rather save the truck than that damn beetle I guess.

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago

The bug. And not just because it’s the only one of the two likely to physically fit on a UK road.

Eel of Oppo - Less Legs than UppU
Eel of Oppo - Less Legs than UppU
1 month ago

This is really hard! I say bug b/c we already have one and we do not have space for the ford but these are sick!

Electronika
Electronika
1 month ago

I am sure it defeats the purpose but buy both, part out the truck by selling the 44’s, the 390, axles and tranny and more. use the money you have left over for new rubber for the bug and maybe a cool wrap.

Myk El
Myk El
1 month ago

I recognize that bug! Don’t know anything about it, but I have seen it move under its own power in town.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago

Baja Bug for sure!

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
1 month ago

I’m gonna have to go with the beetle, anything that a buff boy can’t push down the road needs to be reliable and we all know neither of these are. Even more so off-road, where a tow service comes with a courtesy YouTube video and it doesn’t even take a mechanical failure to get stuck.

SirRaoulDuke
SirRaoulDuke
1 month ago

If you live in a part of the country where the county fairs have mud bogs, the Ford is a cheap entry to having some fun in the summer. Ford it is.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 month ago

So often cars on offer are described as daily drivers. Can we maybe define that a little better? Like, are these used to go to and fro of gainful employment or just to the post box down the lane from the trailer park to get the gov check and then to the liquor store to cash and ‘invest’ in a lotto scratch?

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
1 month ago

I’d WAY rather have a scruffy Baja bug, than an absolutely trashed mud truck.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 month ago

Where’s the BOTH button?!?!?!

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
1 month ago

I ain’t even reading the descriptions. Monster truck for the win automatically. F gas mileage!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 month ago

Both of these rule, but I’m a Volkswagen nerd. VWs are at home in the desert, so hell yeah. Farting around with a loud aircooled behind you is a whole vibe. Gimme the Bug.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago

As much fun as the monster truck would be in NYC traffic, and I drove a f100 ex farm truck when I lived on the upper east side in the 80s , I would go with the VW.

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