Tom's 1970 EMPI Imp dunebuggy
No roof, no doors, but twice the fun!
This fiberglass dunebuggy came way through my brother. I had taken a new job and on my way to work I spotted this buggy. I couldn't believe my eyes, it was just parked in the driveway. So needless to say, I made it a point to drive that way on the way home, making sure to slowly drive by it and see more of it. A few drive-bys helped me to identify the buggy as an EMPI Imp, one of the two models made by the famous EMPI of Riverside in the '60 and early '70s. A few days of doing this, I deducted it was probably a '70 or '71 model, the last two years these buggies were made
I admired it for a while, knowing that even if the owner would sell it, there was no way I could afford to buy it. That's where my brother steps in. We were up in that neighborhood about a year later, conducting some business, and I told him to drive by this house. He was intrigued. We stopped and knocked at the door, hoping someone would be home on the Saturday afternoon. Well, the owner was home, and he came outside with use to show us the car. He told us that he wasn't interested in selling it, but that he was looking for someone to figure out the brakes.
We exchanged numbers and agreed that we could be hired to fix the brakes. If we couldn't own it, at least we could get it running, take it for a drive (got to check our work, right?), and make a few exra dollars. That night, my brother gets a call from the owner, saying he and his wife bought a new car and if we were interested in the buggy, he'd be willing to sell it to my brother. That next morning we loaded the truck with a tow-bar, chains and our usual assortment of tools, and we drove over there. That afternoon, we had the Imp in our driveway.
My brother was now a proud owner of an EMPI Imp. We both shared a deep admiration for the EMPI Imp. We spent all of that day getting it running, figuring out what needed to be replaced or repaired, and discussing how he want to make it better.
Fast forward a couple of years, and my brother makes the decision to move to Colorado. He knows that he can't take the Imp with him and that he will need a car with doors, roof, and heaters. I traded him my '87 Scirocco 16V for his Imp and his '74 Westy, which suited me great.
Since taking ownership of the Imp, I've worked on a few improvements. One obvious improvement was the wheels. The Imp had these ugly mismatched steel Baja wheels on it, initially white, but my brother repainted silver later on. I was able to located the wheels on it now, stripped/refinished them, and topped them off with stock Bug dome hubcaps. They helped to give the Imp the retro look I was looking for.
As it sits....
So right now, it is my fair weather driver and fun car. It's got the 1200cc (40hp) Bug engine, stock transmission, and the new wheels. Overall, it's a nice looking car from afar. It needs to have some body parts recreated, as previous had cut and hacked at the body to suit their needs. That will happen when I take the car apart for a full ground up restoration. It will happen, as this car deserves it.
In the future....
Beyond the cosmetic restoration, I'm hoping to do some upgrades to the car, including an uprated engine. That will probably be a 1679cc Type 1 (a Bug 1600 with bigger pistons) and a bunch of vintage and retro parts to make it look the part. I don't want it to be a race car (believe me, it's quick with just the 40hp now, as the car weighs very little), I want a nice street car that I can drive when and where I want. Stay tuned for more!
Here are some photos I've taken of the car:
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