The EMPI Sportster was a sheet metal buggy built on a modified VW Beetle floorpan. It was available in a two passenger model or a four passenger model. All Sportsters featured a "Deluxe Folding Windshield" and were constructed of 20-, 18-, and 12- guage steel.
The two passenger Sportster was the metal equivalent of the Imp. This model was available in many different stages, from basic to almost complete.
The two seat model featured a small pickup style cargo bed. It shared the 82.5" wheelbase with the Imp. Maybe this model was seen a more durable, albeit heavier, dune buggy. It was probably better suited for dirt trail use, whereas the Imp was probably a better choice for the sand dunes.
The four seat model was built upon an uncut floorpan.The four passenger Sportster was marketed with a more utilitarian flair. Kind of the station wagen of the Sportster line. The family and commercial applications were the primary markets it was ideally suited. Another benefit of the four passenger over the two passenger was that the floor pan did not require shortening. The kit, SPK-130, retailed for $795.00 in the 1969 catalog.The kit included the following: front end unit, rear unit, top bows, top rails, canvas top, and wiring loom. The kit was crated and all metal pieces were dipped and primed, ready for the customer's paint.
According to EMPI, the tools required for assembly of a Sportster were "Regular mechanic's hand tools, plus welding equipment, arc or acetylene, and spray painting outfit." A new customer also needed "..a standard VW, with good engine, transmission, chassis, wheels, steering, seats . . . and a few other parts like gas tank, speedometer, etc." EMPI claimed that the "assembled kit bolts on to standard Volkswagen frame SIMPLY ... QUICKLY ... 2 men can do it easily in a day." My projects never to seem to be that quick.
In the tradition of great marketing, EMPI offered many accessories for the Sportster owner. A "Dyno-Tuned" exhaust system was offered for both the 40hp(1200cc) and 1500cc engines. A "Sportster Tow Bar" attached to the front axle and allowed you to take your Sportster where ever you needed. Of course most of the rest of the EMPI accessories were available to customize and hot rod your Sportster. EMPI even suggested their Corvair engine adaptor be used to get your Sportster around. That could have been really useful with a fully loaded four passenger Sportster!
The Sportster was definitely an interesting buggy in the sea of fiberglass look-a-likes. All of the above information, and the illustration, came from a 1969 EMPI catalog. If you have any additional information about the Sportster or pictures of a Sportster, we'd be glad to hear from you.
Update!! The 1999 VW Classic my friend Kristine and I found a Sportster assembly pamphlet that appears to have been produced for 1964. It's not a very detailed assembly reference, but it does show some great pictures of the Sportster and has information about the modifications necessary to put together a Sportster. It was definitely an interesting project.
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