Sandrails are dune buggies for sand dunes. (Doh)

It won’t be long if you’re getting involved in dune buggies before you come across the term “sandrail”. Sandrail refers to a specific type of dune buggy. Sometimes they are called sandcars or rails or sand rails, but these refer to a buggy is typically designed to work best on sand dunes.

The sandrail dune buggy is designed to be as light as possible so that it works effectively on sand, which is very difficult to drive on. It is a purpose-built vehicle, commonly with one or 2 seats but there can be up to 4, with no glass or doors. It is generally built from lightweight tubular steel, because weight is the overall factor. Normally the engine is at the rear, though it can be mid-engined.

These vehicles will usually have a built-in roll cage because of the likelihood of accident and rollover, and really when it comes down to it they are little more than a chassis and rollover cage built around a powerful motor.

A sandrail specifically built to have a low centre of gravity, because it is often climbing steep dunes, and rollover is a problem. They will often have high flotation tires to give maximum purchase on loose sand. A vehicle such as this is able to climb sand dunes easily and turn on a significant slope without running the risk of rollover. The tyres at the front are often very narrow, as all the weight is on the back of the vehicle and the front wheels are simply designed for turning.

Sandrail on Sand Dunes
Image via Wikipedia

Unfortunately it is not legal to drive on sand dunes in many places, however there are dune buggy clubs which have permission where it is legal to drive on the dunes and in these cases sandrail enthusiasts can partake in what is one of the most exciting automobile sports that it’s possible to be involved in. A good sandrail has an extremely impressive power to weight ratio, often with more than 400 horsepower for an all up weight of under 2000 pounds. The excitement is extreme.

And the excitement doesn’t just stop with the driver. Sand buggies can be extremely exciting to watch, with fast steep climbs up what are sometimes enormous sand dunes, with the buggy commonly becoming airborne at the top.

Here is a fine example of a sand buggy that didn’t quite make it..

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