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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Mike B
Mike B
2 months ago

The lead image alone had me excited and letting out a Kool-Aid man style “Ohhhhh YEAHHHHHHHH” to vote for the Ferd. I’m not a Ford guy, but I love big dumb mud trucks.

It looks rough, but if it runs and stops 3K is a very reasonable price. I don’t think you can even get a set of 44’s these days for 3k. Not that you’d buy the truck and put them on something else, but you definitely can’t build this truck for anywhere near this price. Body is beat, but that’s good on a rig like this, dents add character, and corrugated sheet metal is stronger. Judging by the way the cab and bed don’t line up, I’m wondering if they have body lift pucks under the cab but never got around to the bed. Not that big a deal.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike B

Pretty sure that isn’t even the right bed for this truck. I just can’t see how it would line up in anyway. Doesn’t matter to me, I would take the bed off and make it a wood floor’d flat bed.

Mike B
Mike B
2 months ago

Good point!

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
2 months ago

Ima hug the bug.

Always liked these rugged little creatures.

Staffma
Staffma
2 months ago

I feel as a member of this site I’m legally obligated to vote Baja Beetle.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
2 months ago
Reply to  Staffma

Torch has both a beetle and an F-150, so there’s no obligation for either.

Staffma
Staffma
2 months ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

True, although I would say that Torch is primarily known for beetles, the F150 is more recent.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
2 months ago
Reply to  Staffma

Very much so, and the beetle has been his “signature” of sorts for a long time, even before his time with “the German lighting site” per his articles about his past.

SAABstory
SAABstory
2 months ago

You had me at Beetle

Cyko9
Cyko9
2 months ago

Baja Bugs always get my attention, and this one looks pretty good. In comparison, the Ford looks beat, which wouldn’t be bad for an offroading toy, but I don’t like how that frame looks. That bed is sitting pretty low.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
2 months ago

Bug. No desire for a trashed cletus-mobile, thanks.

Yngve
Yngve
2 months ago

While neither stirs any major passion for me, both seem like they’d be fun toys. That said, I went through my air cooled flat four phase in my late teens/early 20s (74 Super Bug, 62 Bug, 74 Porsche 914), and reckon I could get some ‘truck stuff’ use out of the Ford without worrying about the ramifications (it’s amazing how much damage you can do by throwing rocks/bricks into the back of a truck bed).

Truck for me.

Racingtown
Racingtown
2 months ago

I had a friend in high school who drove a baja bug. In order for it to pass CT inspection the engine had to be covered. Surprisingly, chicken wire was sufficient to get it plated.

So, Bug it is.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
2 months ago

I would rock that Beetle. Maybe not for thirty-five Benjamins, but I would take it. Easy vote for me.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
2 months ago

Baja Bug. Much more easily hoonable with less worry about running over someone’s dog or worse.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 months ago

Is it me, or does the Ford look like the frame is bent? In any case, I have little desire for a monsterish truck that has been thoroughly abused by a Tennessee hillbilly.

I’ll take the Baja. Looks like a simpler project and I have an odd desire to rebuild and tweak a VW flat four just to see how much I could get out of it.

Dumb Shadetree
Dumb Shadetree
2 months ago

That truck is trashed. The bed mounts are obviously shot, the body is rough, the interior is rough, the mechanical work is questionable. But 6th-gen Ford’s are a weak spot of mine and I want it. It is the good kind of trashed – where you don’t mind breaking it – and the asking price is pretty much buying a set of mud tires and getting a free truck.

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
2 months ago

I’m not the target market for these but I sure would enjoy running that FERD further into the ground.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

If I hadn’t just spent an appreciable portion of my liquid assets getting the blown-up Roadster in a garage with a new engine stand and a pallet hosting a motor with many fewer miles, I’d jump at that Baja. They are cheap fun, many smiles, and parts are plentiful

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
2 months ago

I’ll take the Baja Bug. Pull the engine and ship it to Jason. Then put a bored out spec engine in its place. Last would be to replace the rims and tires. This thing NEEDS white spoked steels on it

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

I’d want to look at the lubrication system as well. I seem to recall that you need some specific modifications to properly run a rooftop cooler. But, if it was a DD for a couple years, should be fine, right?
Definitely with you on the white spokes!

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago

Bug, please!

It does have some rough edges but I could live with most of them.

it looks like this one never had the holes cut for the headlight buckets

Minor point: it looks like the passenger-side hole was cut and then shoddily repaired before being shot with primer. Some investigation would be required to determine if the stock wiring is viable. Places with inspections would also probably require an actual mechanical latch (similar to stock) on the frunklid.

A slightly larger concern is the apparent crookedness of the rear bumper/engine guard thing. In picture 3 of the CL ad it appears to be higher on the right.

OTOH today’s alternative is an awful truck, so nothing on the VW is a dealbreaker. 🙂

Last edited 2 months ago by A. Barth
Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
2 months ago

Air cooled Beetles and sixth generation Ford trucks are my two favorite vehicles of all time (I own a ’76 Beetle and a ’77 F250 highboy), so I’m voting for both. Hopefully Shitbox Showdown voter fraud isn’t a crime. But if it is, I plead guilty.

The condition of the truck makes me nervous, but I can forgive a lot for 44 inch tires. I’m sure that truck isn’t street legal everywhere, but it is perfectly legal here in Florida (probably?). That truck would be fun off road, but I enjoy driving ridiculous things for mundane tasks, so I would use it as a daily-ish driver. I want it.

The Beetle actually looks like a nice car for the price. I used to not be a fan of Baja Beetles, but they have really grown on me over the last few years. For this particular vehicle, I really like the roof scoop and the aftermarket seats. This thing looks like it would be incredibly fun to drive. I also want it.

EastbayLoc
EastbayLoc
2 months ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

Yeah,, kind of what I was thinking. Both are fun for off road. The Ford is more trashed/used up. I would take that bug and head straight to the desert after fitting the right knobby tires to it of course. And if needed the bug could be driven around town. The Ford not so much.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
2 months ago

I have been in way too many old trucks like that at the off road park. I can remember the smell of them now.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago

Baja Bug. I like the alliteration.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
2 months ago

I wouldn’t kick either out of my garage for dripping oil on the floor, but I voted monster Ford. Might as well light my debit card on fire trying to feed it, though.

Isis
Isis
2 months ago

I have a Raptor, so I picked Baja Bug. If I still had my jacked up Subaru instead, I would probably pick Monster Truck.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

Oh man. I just got the biggest nostalgia boner ever. I don’t think I’ve seen TSL Super Swamper Boggers since high school.
I can hear them growling against the road right now. I can feel them.

*waawaawaawaawaawaawaawaawaawaawaawaawaawaa*

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Build muscles sawing that wheel, too!

Large Marge
Large Marge
2 months ago

Both. Shut up and take my money.

Buzz
Buzz
2 months ago

I voted for the truck because it is cheaper and seems more useful, but the bug is probably a better rallycross car if that’s what you’re shopping for.

If you’re not already watching the Nitrocross Baja Bugs, you really should be.
https://youtu.be/phA_utyyaS8?si=OSxc6AkmrUbgdBd7

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
2 months ago

I know it’s probably the worst of the two vehicles but I just can’t bring myself to vote against the monster truck

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