Is this the perfect road trip car?
He's old, he's slow but Pedro the Baja Bug could be the ideal car to hit the road in this summer, here's why...
So you're planning a road trip amid the insanity that is a global pandemic. The locals could be hostile to outsiders so, if you don't want disease ridden natives chasing you down the road throwing stones, you'll need to get them on side. Pedro is just about the cutest zombie apocalypse survival vehicle out there! My criteria when I bought my car was that he should be able to make even the sternest border guard smile, and he did. Pedro proved those credentials when I drove him across Iran and Pakistan, not only did he make the border guards smile, they made me tea; the army gave me presents and one particular policeman proposed!
Pedro with police and army officers at a check point in the Baluchistan Desert, Pakistan
An added bonus from all this attention is, should you break down, someone will stop to help. If the worst does happen you can rest assured that spares will be easy to come by in pretty much every country of the world. Pedro has been significantly modified from the original Volkswagen Beetle design however most of these changes are cosmetic, underneath lie basic VW mechanicals and a simple flat 4 motor, albeit an uprated 1835cc unit. The Beetle is the most common production car in the world meaning you are never too far from an owners club of a specialist garage. As I discovered in Kathmandu, Nepal when the local owners club visited me at the VW specialists while they were fixing my oil leak.
Pedro getting some tlc at a VW specialists in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Chances are you'll want to get off the beaten track on your road trip, avoiding covid hotels and crowded campsites? No problem, even a standard Beetle is great off road thanks to its lightness and the camber of the rear wheels. The 1972 Beetle I drove across the Sahara Desert performed brilliantly in the sand, turns out there's a reason most beach buggies are VW based. Pedro has the benefit of a baja bodykit, meaning the front and rear body overhangs have been eliminated. This is better for off-roading as body overhangs can snag on uneven terrain or rocks. All Terrain tyres improve the ground clearance further and side mounted jerry cans extend the fuel range as he was built to cross the Himalayas.
Pedro in Tibet with a view of Mount Everest and the Himalayan mountain range.
Once you've left civilisation behind Pedro is all set for off grid living. There's a shovel for digging your own toilet, an axe for chopping fire wood and all manor of camping accessories stashed under the bonnet including a stove with a thermal generated USB power port for charging phones, torches etc. A roof mounted solar panel feeds a solar charge battery inside the car for juicing up larger items, like laptops, camera batteries and, if you like your creature comforts it'll even run a 12v electric blanket. Speaking of comfort, I don't enjoy sleeping on rough ground with rocks digging into my back, fortunately I no longer have to! Thanks to Nene Overland in the UK Pedro is now equipped with a Hannibal roof tent, this has transformed camping for me! The memory foam mattress is so comfortable, it's really easy to put up and down, plus you're off the ground, away from any nasty beasties...well the ones that can't climb anyway!
But what about performance I hear you ask? 0-60? Yes, he'll get to 60 eventually. In the right setting, like a ploughed field, Pedro will outrun a Ferrari! I can't say the same for Lamborghini, they make tractors. It's not all about speed though, Pedro is a go anywhere character who can charm a smile out of just about anyone be it in London, Singapore or anywhere in between. You can read more about our travels in the article linked below. Better still, buy the book on Amazon.
I drove from the UK to Singapore in a 1969 Baja Beetle.
There's just one catch, if you want a Pedro you'll have to build your own because he's not for sale. You won't be the first either, he has inspired several similar styled adventure baja builds over the years as far afield as Argentina, the USA and even this very cool radio controlled model in Australia! Well they do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!