Sand Cars Features

This two-seat long travel sand car is powered by a turbocharged EJ25 Subaru engine that makes 270hp with 9-lbs. of boost.

Genesis IV - by Desert Dynamics

Genesis IV - by Desert Dynamics. Nick Harrington’s newest sand machine was the prototype model built by Desert Dynamics.
By Nick Harrington | March 1, 2013

Photos by Neal Rideout


A California native who currently resides in southern Nevada, Nick Harrington has participated in the sport of sand duning for most of his life. He built his first buggy back in 1979 while in his late twenties and, except for the 15 years that he was flying helicopters and airplanes for a tour company in Hawaii, Nick has always lived relatively close to the dunes. He’s owned seven other sand cars during his duning career, the one featured here being his eighth, and Nick said he would have also had one while he was in Hawaii except there are no dunes there to ride. So, he made a promise to himself that when he returned to the mainland that the first thing he would do is get back into duning and build another car.
Although Nick has an extensive career as a pilot going back more than 40 years, and he has even flown in combat duty, he typically doesn’t jump his buggy much. He only did it here to show the car’s versatility and prowess.
Over the years, Nick and I have worked on a few different types of technical and how-to related stories that have appeared in Sand Sports Magazine. One of them outlined the process of converting a buggy with a VW engine to a newer Subaru powerplant. After the engine retrofit and everything was dialed-in, Nick was happy with the performance of his buggy and stated that he enjoyed his little Subaru powered beam car, and that not everyone could afford a big long travel sand car, including himself. But, like most things in life, change is inevitable and Nick soon realized the benefits of modern sand car technology. In his own words, he said “As I got older and the pains manifested themselves in more places, I decided two things were necessary. First of all, I had to sell my existing sand rail and quad to show good faith in my journey to the house General. Secondly, I had to polish my skills in the fine art of begging for my wife’s approval.
“After getting her on board, I started calling various sand car shops and e-mailing builders for quotes on a reasonably lightweight two-seat car. Most of their quotes were so far out of reach that I just about gave up. One day, while on the flight line, I ran into a fellow pilot friend named John Waugh. He told me that he was actively involved on a new project with Dave Lawson, the owner of Desert Dynamics in Hesperia, California. John and I made an appointment to visit with Dave, and together we made the drive from Las Vegas, Nevada to Hesperia, California. Dave was very friendly and gave us several hours of his valuable time. I told Dave what I was looking for in a two-seat lightweight car and he informed me that he was currently working on a new project that he called the Genesis Series.”
We are certain that if you called Dave and asked him a few questions that he would do a much better job at explaining all of the features and details of the Desert Dynamics Genesis Series. But, essentially, the Genesis IV model is an upgraded and refined version of the three related models in the Genesis lineup. Before we talk about the IV model, it may be helpful to outline the basic features of the other three designs so you can have a better idea of the progression.
The Genesis I is Desert Dynamics’ entry level mid-travel setup that is designed to use mostly stock VW components. Genesis II is somewhat of an entry level lightweight setup for mid-travel, and it also includes features such as aluminum side panels, trunk and some extra goodies. Moving on to the Genesis III, this is also a lightweight frame which is equipped with custom A-arms up front and trailing arms in the rear. The suspension will accept either King or Fox shocks. And, finally, the Genesis IV is a reasonably lightweight car that’s fitted with a long-travel suspension system that incorporates boxed chromoly A-arms in the front and dual-pivot trailing arms in the rear. The chassis is also outfitted with aluminum side panels, hood, roof, and a trunk wing. Additional options are a custom dash and center console.
Yee Haw! Talk about kicking up some sand! Nick’s Desert Dynamics Genesis IV buggy is agile and a blast to drive in the dunes.
Nick choose the Genesis IV model and, shortly after placing his order, Dave jumped right in and began building the car. He drove to Dave’s shop several weeks later and the frame was tack-welded together and still in the chassis jig. Dave solicited Nick’s input on a few of the features, and he also offered additional suggestions on what he believed would make it a better car. Nick agreed with his suggestions and he made immediate corrections to the frame.
He cut the top rail off and replaced it with a section of tubing that had a nice radius bend, and then he removed the extra cross beams from the back of the chassis to alleviate the dual sport look. He also modified the front nose section giving it a very sleek appearance. The one thing that Dave was adamant about was that the car had to have a wheelbase of at least 115 inches, or he would not put his name on it. Dave wants to make money like everyone else. But, he also insists on building a safe product, stressing the importance of safety and making sure it’s in balance with the car’s performance.
Interior is clean and simple with aluminum dash, console, and coated floors. Sand-sealed switches, warning lights and EMPI shifter are offset by a 4-into-1 gauge from Summit which monitors RPM, volts, water temp & oil pressure.
It’s always a boost to the ego when we have the opportunity to tell other people that we “built” a car ourselves. When in reality, the only thing most of these people did was simply hang some bling, wire the electricals, haul it over to a powder coating shop and choose the graphics to be applied to the body panels. In most cases, the real credit goes to those who design and fabricate the frames, A-arms, trailing arms, panels, trunks, hoods, consoles and dashes, as well as mount the power train and other components. They are the true talent behind the build, and they should receive the rightful credit.
The car’s aluminum body was wrapped with custom graphic skins designed by Teran Marshal. The car definitely looks sharp.
Nick also added, “I’ve seen some beautiful cars out there on the market and Dave’s Genesis IV rates right there with the rest of them at an affordable price. I know for a fact that Dave scrapped at least six sets of A-arms and trailing arms before he was satisfied with the end results. He also scrapped several dashes and consoles before he was happy with the body on this car, and these expenses were out of his own pocket in both time and money. Dave was a man of his word throughout this project and for that I am very grateful.”
As with most prototypes, you can understand that this car was not built overnight. Prototype designs are usually worked on during spare time away from money making orders. This project took Dave approximately one year to complete, no thanks to Nick’s nagging and lack of patience. However, now that Dave has all of the important information logged in his computer, building future Genesis IV cars should be completed much quicker. As you can see from the photos, this Desert Dynamics Genesis IV is a beautiful car, and Nick tells us that it handles like a small sports car with the assistance from a stock Subaru power steering pump which was modified to increase the volume of fluid.
In the planning stages of building this car, Nick transported his stock Subaru EJ25 engine down to Outfront Motorsports where they completely rebuilt the motor and set it up for a T-3 turbocharged application. Nick stressed that he wanted to run pump gas, so the boost was set at 7-9 pounds. This allowed for a quick spool time, and the engine produces 270 horsepower to the rear wheels. After having the engine dyno tuned at Outfront Motorsports, Nick asked that they weigh the car because he and his duning buddies were very curious about the overall weight. They were surprised to learn that the car weighs 1,780 pounds as you see it, which is a respectable weight to horsepower ratio.
John at RC Trans in Las Vegas built the stout 091 6-rib VW Bus transaxle, and told Nick that it is capable of handling 300hp with a 4.57:1 ring and pinon gear set. John builds a quality product, stands behind his work and he has built transaxles for Nick’s entire group of friends. The transaxle is setup with gearing which allows Nick to glide through the dunes in 3rd gear.
When it came time to setup the suspension, Nick decided to use King coil-over shocks with separate bypass reservoirs that allow adjustments for both the compression and rebound. The vehicle’s wheel travel up front was designed for 18 inches, and the rear was set for 22 inches. As Nick put it, “This olé grandpa isn’t out there doing wheelies, or too many of those big jumps anymore, but I liked the look.”
Nick’s Genesis has a smart appearance and it definitely grabs your attention when you see it in the dunes. To attain this look, he decided to go with a full graphic wrap that was designed and installed by Teran Marshal, the owner of Team Acme in Henderson, Nevada. Teran provided a top notch service for Nick and he worked on the rail until midnight in order to get it ready for the Mesquite, Nevada Car Show. We just love hearing about people taking their off-road cars to a street car show, taking home the special interest and best engineered trophies.
Car shows are nice and all, but this buggy was designed and built to run the dunes and spray sand in its wake. When it comes time for Nick to spin the paddles, he usually heads out to Dumont because it’s very close to his home. But, over the years he has visited all the popular spots on the west coast. It’s a lifestyle that Nick is not planning on giving up anytime soon, and his Genesis IV is bound to inspire lots of people to build a new car and enjoy the sand sport for many years to come.

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