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This classic Volkswagen Beetle will take on one of the world’s toughest races

Run every fall in Mexico’s Baja California Desert, the Baja 1000 is one of the toughest races in the world. Competitors drive hundreds of miles on a mix of roads and primitive trails, stopping only when their vehicles need fuel or repairs. This year, a humble Volkswagen Beetle will take on this challenge.

Beetles have actually raced the Baja 1000 numerous times over the years, something VW is apparently keen to remind people about. The automaker will sponsor a 1970 Beetle entered by in the 50th running of the race, which takes place November 14-18. The race starts in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico and covers 1,134 miles, ending in La Paz, Baja California Sur.

The Beetle, nicknamed “Tope” retained the vehicle’s stock 1.6-liter, air-cooled flat-four engine, but received some modifications for racing. External-reservoir Fox shock absorbers and stiffer springs were fitted to cope with the harsh desert terrain.  A 22-gallon racing fuel cell replaced the stock gas tank, and the tires were upgraded to meatier BF Goodrich All Terrains. Skid plates and extra lights were added and the interior was stripped of anything unnecessary. For safety, the Beetle sports racing harnesses and a roll cage.

Even with the modifications, the Beetle still looks mostly stock. That’s the idea, as the car will be racing in Class 11, which was created specifically for stock Beetles. The rules are designed to keep the cars as close to factory specification as possible, only allowing modifications deemed necessary for safety, and to allow vehicles to survive the race. Baja includes a mix of different classes ranging from mostly stock trucks, to motorcycles, to purpose-built “trophy truck” off-road racers. Those monstrous rigs are usually the ones competing for the overall win. is a Denver, Colorado-based team led by industrial designer Josh McGuckin. The team last attempted to complete the race in 2014, but failed to finish. Better luck this year, perhaps?

Sponsoring a Baja-racing Beetle is an obvious way for Volkswagen to remind people of its racing heritage, but VW doesn’t plan to just sit on the sidelines. It’s cooking up an all-electric race car that will aim to set a course record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb next summer.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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