Newbern and Cotten’s Baja Bug Got Major Suspension Upgrade

The new suspension and radiator didn’t exactly help the MotorTrend duo’s cause.

Looks beefy, but it’s not as quick as it needs to be.MotorTrend YouTube

The classic VW Beetle can be stripped down and remade into almost anything you’re willing to take the time to fabricate, but one of the most popular applications is the beefy Baja Bug. The sometimes bootleg-homebrewed cars range in functionality from rally-ready to barely running, but MotorTrend’s Newbern and Cotten are putting in the time to make theirs a legit performer.

Last year, the pair raced their V-8-powered Bug against seasoned Baja racer Cameron Steele. The runs revealed weaknesses in the VW’s setup, prompting a swap to independent rear suspension. That conversion will give the car more travel and let them get more height in the rear without screwing with the wheel geometry. The front suspension isn’t as bad, but the Bug needs better reinforcements and more clearance, so the team installed a coilover kit and a new rack and pinion steering setup.

Making suspension changes in the rear required swapping transaxles, so the pair changed to a bus transmission. Their previous desert run also knocked the Bug’s rear window-mounted radiator off, so they installed a new unit with braided lines and a more secure mount.

The final setup looks gnarly, with a significant improvement in shock travel, but the real test for the car is in the dirt. Unfortunately, their work didn’t pay off, at least during the initial test. Steele ran the desert course 10 seconds faster than the MotorTrend crew last year, but the new setup didn’t yield an improvement on that time, as they clocked in 12 seconds slower than their original run.

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