SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - AUGUST 2017

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 31 of 103

Enter The Sandmaster Darin Necessary Restored Bobby Ferro’s Sandmaster SS1 Race Buggy By Dan Sanchez Photos By ICON Media The 1970’s brought big displacement engines in the muscle car and drag racing arenas, but in off-road, it was all about lightweight and speed. Many racers at the time turned sand buggies into hardcore off-road race vehicles that at first glance, seemed light and dangerous. Yet vehicles like the Funco Sandmaster buggy of Bobby Ferro would frequently land hard after catching air, bang into other buggies on the course, flip over several times and simply get right back on the race course and continue on. Ferro’s Sandmaster SS1 is one of many buggies that also challenged SCORE’s Baja 1000 and Baja 500 races. In the 1970’s these vehicles dominated the course with guys like Malcolm Smith, Bob Gordon, Parnelli Jones, and Rick Mears, behind the wheel, showcasing what their driving skills can do in a vehicle that would be considered a toy by today’s standards. Bobby Ferro’s Sandmaster stood out not only because the vehicle set SCORE Baja 500 records and won the Baja 1000 twice, but because it was driven by of the most fearless drivers at the time. Ferro, a stunt man by trade, proved that fear and precision could dominate in Baja. It stood to reason that the buggy he drove, had to keep up with the demands he placed on it, and be strong enough to finish the race. Originally the car was built in 1971 from a new Funco SS1 chassis. The car made its first race debut at the 1971 Palm Springs Westward Ho 200, and had many successful wins afterward, including winning the Baja 1000 in 1971 and again in 1975. Ferro also drove the Sandmaster to three Baja 500 wins in 1971, 1972, 1974 (he won again in 1976 with a different vehicle) setting new records in ’71 and ’72 with his overall finishes. Other racers such as Rick Mears, also got behind the wheel of the Sandmaster SS1, when it was shipped to Japan so that Mears could drive it in the JORRA race in 1972. That might have been the end of the buggy’s racing career, as it was planned to be sold after winning the Japan race. The deal fell through, however, and the buggy was shipped back to the United States. After several more years of competition, Ferro and the Sandmaster SS1 took a hard crash at the 1973 race in Riverside. Ferro was knocked unconscious, and with the throttle wide open, the buggy left the race course and rested on the I-60 freeway. The repairs to the Sandmaster were extensive, including replacing the entire roll-cage and front-end components. This is where the buggy got its nickname “Frankenstein” as it was pieced together from different parts. In 1974, the buggy crashed again and it was ultimately stripped and sat for several years. Rich Horvath, who had been working part-time for Sandmaster, came across the old SS1 and bought it while he was still in high-school. Horvath did some work to repair the vehicle until he sold it to John Daly in Hesperia, California where it sat until Darin Necessary purchased it in 2015 and restored it to its original condition. The original Funco Sandmaster chassis was cleaned and rebuilt to 1971 specs and utilizes the VW Type I-beam and stock trailing arms with heavier duty Porsche 356 spindles and one Bilstein monotube shock with air-cooling fins on each side. The rear suspension utilizes Sway-A-Way torsion bars like it did back in the ‘70’s, and include a set of spring plates and three Bilstein high-pressure monotube shocks on each wheel. The buggies ran large diameter wheels which gave them extra ground clearance but also absorbed some of the road shock. To keep the buggy original, Necessary used a set of 7.75x15 Sandblaster Jr tires in the front, and Sandblaster Jr 9x15 tires at the rear, both mounted on Centerline wheels. While most would have upgraded the brakes to a set of discs, Necessary wanted to keep the buggy original and utilized a set of VW drum brakes front and rear, that still stop the buggy in its tracks. The power plant for the restoration also had to be up to 1970’s specs. Necessary utilized a 2180cc VW engine with a Zenith 32 NDIX carburetor that was built by McCool Motorsports. An original Sandmaster intake manifold is used along with a single exhaust tube header. A VW transaxle was also rebuilt and used with the Funco chassis and is operated by the hand shifter inside the vehicle’s cabin. The single PRP racing seat was reupholstered in ‘70’s vinyl to look like the original, while a new set of Diest safety harnesses are used to secure the driver. Originally the buggy would have had a three-spoke steering wheel, which Necessary replaced and utilized an old three-gauge pod with Sandmaster analog gauges as the vehicle’s dash. The Sandmaster’s body was also restored with its original silver metallic base, applied by Glen Necessary, with black stripes on the side and stars along the front. A large aluminum skid plate and bumper guard are all that protect the driver from rocks and hard landings, but with a strong chassis and a will of steel, the Sandmaster looks like it’s ready for its first race. SJ

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