Dune Buggies Like The 1971 ‘Ruppster’ Inspired Modern Side-by-Sides

We've come a long way in the past 40 years

The Rupp Ruppster was impressive, even by today’s standards, but it is remarkably dangerous.

The Rupp Ruppster in all its 1970s glory.
(Images: Rupp Industries)

The Rupp Ruppster dune buggy was produced in 1971, It came with a Rockwell JLO 230, two-cycle engine that made about 12 horsepower. It used the Rupp torque converter transmission setup, which was similar to the tech Rupp used in their lauded snowmobiles. Rupp states that it can come with a manual or electric starter.

Rupp’s Ruppster shared many components with the Rupp Go Joe ATV. You can read about that vehicle (here). In many ways, both of these vehicles were early examples of where the industry started. Add the old Honda ATC 70 to the mix, you get a great road-map to the off-road fun vehicle past.

Rupp Industries was revolutionary for the time. They built some of the earliest examples of fun bikes, trikes, quads and dune buggies well before others got the hint. Sadly, they went under in 1978.

The Rupp Ruppster was a killer machine

According to Rupp, it could go up to 40 mph and climb a 45-degree grade. The Ruppster could carry up to two people, as long as they didn’t mind being rather cozy. Also, it did not come with a roll cage from the factory. Many dealers and owners added one, for self preservation.

Built on a thin tube chassis, there was no suspension to speak of. Still it did have very cushy, 21 x 11 “balloon style” knobby tires. The ride has been described as smooth, with a terrible noise – thanks to that JLO 230 engine sitting by your eardrum. Helmets helped, but the noise was still considered harsh.

RUPP RUPPSTER | OldMiniBikes.com
[Photo via: OldMinibikes.com]

They came from the factory mainly with a red fiberglass body. Back in the early 70s, they retailled for about $1,000. Examples are still floating around the internet with some fantastic restorations here and there. I found everything from a rolling chassis for $500 to a fully restored model (with a roll-cage) for $7,500.

Transport a Rupp Mfg Ruppster two person dune buggy to Massillon | uShip

Mind you, these things are very small and were never built with any kind of safety protocols like we have in the modern era. So, drive one at your own risk. Still, they were cool as hell and the stuff of kid’s dreams, fifty years ago.

Speaking of awesome old off-road vehicles…

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.