Finding yourself a vehicle that’s linked solely to one state in the US is something you don’t find everyday, which is why Naples, Florida’s Swamp Buggy is so unique not only in its design, but also how it managed to become a symbol that’s synonymous with the rough and swampy terrains of southwestern Florida. There is much to look at in this make-shift vehicle, from its exterior design to its raw untamed power that gives quite the yearly spectacle in Swamp Buggy races that excites every grown up and kid who happens to witness such an event. Let’s take a closer look at Naples, Florida’s iconic Swamp Buggy.
The chassis frame must be made from high grade super strong steel tubing, molded to shape then welded together to form the base of the buggy. Now, to the juicy part – the engine. The motors of these monsters range from 300 to 1000 horsepower, with a minimum of around 5.8 liter engine and lots of torque. Builders make sure to make the engine reliable as it is not fun to be stuck in the middle of a swamp with a broken ride. To keep the weight of the vehicle to a minimum, 50% of the metal used will be aluminum and this includes the railings which must be bended to shape then welded to the body to keep everyone safe on board. Once the engine’s been mounted on the chassis, it is then outfitted with torsion and suspension bars that absorb the pounding as the wheels hit the rough terrain.
To keep up with the engine’s brute power, big wheels must be installed. So after, the deck board is lowered unto the chassis using a forklift and welded to the chassis, wheels are very carefully attached and builders make sure they are extra thick and extra wide for that extra grip in the slimy mud. Now that our buggy is almost complete, a steering wheel is attached next. Then, after the seat mount, the driving deck steps and a few final tweaks are in place, you have a complete swamp buggy.
It’s amazing to think about how far the swamp buggy has come since its initial conception. When it was first started by Ed Frank in the 1920’s, it was just a Ford Model T body installed onto a large chassis then some large tires. It proved effective in navigating the swampy terrains of the Everglades but the improvements did not stop there. Come by the end of the Second World War, some creative people who had their own builds modified their machines with discarded airplane parts, larger tires and, of course, more powerful machines. This enthusiasm created a hobbyist culture within the south Florida region since and that culture is alive and well today, a hundred years later.
If you wish to know more about the swamp buggy, head on down to good old Naples, Florida and see them in action with the annual swamp buggy races and even catch them on patrol as some of these bad boys are being used by the good guys in rescue and retrieval operations by local authorities. For event schedules, check out the Tourist Guide section in our website.