his team…myself and my team, have
always had fairly good results along the
way. But nothing like this year. This year
has been outstanding, not only for myself,
but the full team, myself and my cousin.”
So says 2014 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing
Series Pro Buggy champion-in-waiting Chad
George. While he hadn’t quite clinched the
championship as RACER went to press, it
was his for the taking – unless there was
an unusually large turnout in the two
remaining rounds, all he really needed to
do was start one of them to seal the title.
That was thanks to an impressive season
that included five wins and 11 podiums out
of 13 rounds. His cousin, Garrett George,
accounted for another two victories.
Chad has three previous titles to his
name, two in the Unlimited UTV class
(2009 and ’ 10) and one in SuperLite
(’ 11). He then sat out a year after
struggling in Pro Lite. Garrett had a
reasonably strong Pro Buggy season in
2012, before spending most of last year
sitting on the sidelines. But emerging with
a pair of new Funco buggies in 2014,
they’ve had a stellar season.
Much of that comes down to the fact
that buggies are not just what the
Georges drive; it’s what they do. Funco is
a family-owned builder of sand cars. It
Chad George spent a couple of years lost in the woods
before coming back to Lucas Oil Off Road Racing in Pro
Buggy, a racing version of the vehicles he knows well.
WORDS & IMAGES Richard S. James
grandfather, Gil, discovered the joys of
duning and changed his focus from drag
racing to sand cars, building custom
tube-framed sand cars when most of the
dune riders were in homebuilt machines
or modified Volkswagens.
It wasn’t long before desert racers
noticed what George was building, and
started buying his cars for racing.
Legends such as Ivan Stewart and Steve
McQueen raced Funcos in the 1970s.
Back then it was more about the
racecars. Now, the racecars are a sideline,
and the recreational sand cars are the
main focus of the business. Though they
may be built for the dunes, these aren’t
exactly your typical dune buggy.
Just like sports cars, vehicles built for
playing in the sand come in all shapes,
sizes and specifications. As a Mazda MX- 5,
Porsche Boxster and Ferrari 458 Italia are
all sports cars, so there is a big variety in
sand cars. When you think of what Funco
is building, think toward the upper end of
that scale. The fact that 90 percent of
Funco’s customer base is in the United
Arab Emirates and Qatar – a part of the
world where there is a lot of sand and a
lot of money – should tell you something.
“The cars we’re building now are upward
of 200 grand,” says Chad. “You have
something that’s basically like a Bugatti
for the sand, but it drives like a Pro 2.”
These “luxo-buggies” include soft
leather seats, iPads mounted in the dash
for navigation and entertainment, and
even headliners. Mechanically, they’re not
far removed from the Pro Buggies Chad
and Garrett race. They have bulkier
suspensions, because they’re heavier and
have a bit more travel. But where Pro
Buggies are powered by normally aspirated,
four-cylinder engines making a litle more
than 200hp, Funco sand cars have LS-based
V8s, usually super- or turbocharged.
“Our standard package is a 440 with a
4.0 Whipple blower,” Chad explains. “I
Buggies play a big
part in Chad George’s
life. (ABOVE) George
and a part-built
Funco sand buggy,
and (RIGHT) giving it
the gun in his Pro
Buggy race machine.