I will cover some history of over-sand vehicles.  Driving on beaches goes back to the horse and buggy days. Every photo of vintage ship-wrecks along our Cape Cod beaches has horse & wagons or buggies on the sand. I would expect soft sand gave them trouble but that would be expected on any beach.
So wheeled vehicles were used to spectate, to haul survivors or remove wreckage.

A gathering of friends on the beach in the early 1900’s.

When the motor vehicle arrived, it was used exactly the same way for the same purposes on the sandy beaches.  The biggest problem was the motor vehicles’ power came from a rear drive-wheel with little traction, and a wagon is being pulled by outside power.

A 1925 Ford Model T Sandmobile

Early auto tires needed high pressure to keep the tires on the rims, and this also contributed to poor traction. As the years went on, the tires  got wider which helped some.   Henry Fords Model T became a popular over-sand vehicle which was fitted with various additions to the wheels both for sand and snow.
The big cars used larger  tires to support its weight.  These tires were quickly  adapted for use on  the light Ford “T” bone cars & pickup trucks.

1930 Model  A  Ford Coupe

Hunting and fishing camps out on remote sand dunes needed  an over- sand vehicle to transport people  and supplies.  A beach buggy proved to be an asset.  And thanks to Henry Ford, his later  Model A & B ‘s proved to be an even better vehicle for use over the sand with a more powerful engine and a 3-speed transmission, with wider rims & tires.
Lowering the air pressure allowed the tires’ contact area to pooch out creating a larger footprint giving more traction.
Remember, these were two-wheel drive vehicles going places where only four- wheel drive go today.  With a two wheel drive vehicle, only one wheel drives, usually the right rear in forward and the left rear in reverse.

I’m not going to get into four-wheel drives & posi-trac differentials.


The biggest problem was the tube tire. At a lower pressure, it  allowed sand particles to seep past the tire bead.  These particles got between the inside of the tire and tube, causing an irritation to the tube and eventually creating  tiny holes,  resulting in a flat tire and an undrivable  vehicle.  I can tell you all about that aggravating experience which happened over and over!

The next problem was pumping up a deflated tire  to drive home on a paved road.  Some innovating mechanics took an old refrigerator pump and attached it to a belt driven by the engine.  This compressor was a fast way to pump up.   I was in envy  of these contraptions.
A company, Enginair, came up with a tiny compressor that screwed into a spark plug hole and was operated by the engine  compression.  It was slow, but it worked for those of us without a real compressor.  The sand creeping into a tire was solved by the tubeless  tires, which were first used as a standard item on Chrysler vehicles about 1946.  I was one of the first to use them and was told by old-time beach drivers that they wouldn’t work because the tire would come off the rim at low pressure.  Any one that changed tubeless tires, knew  that it was a real task to break down a tubeless safety rim without a special machine.

A 1936 Ford woody, two wheel drive, wagon, and with  balloon tires,   giving dune tours in  Provincetown .

The late 40’s & early 50’s became a boom of various over-sand  vehicles and  Beach Buggies along our Cape Cod beaches, along with dune buggies, used on the mid-west dunes and sand rails used on the west coast for racing on sand.

Model A Ford dune buggys

The Myers Manx fiberglass body on a VW chassis became very poplar in the ’60’s

Surf-fishing became a very popular sport along both the East Coast and the West Coast.  All along the East Coast, Striped Bass were sought-after by many surf-fishermen, along with other species of fish.

My first over-sand experience,  about 1957, was with  a friend from Scituate in his 1948 Chevy convertible.  He made wide rims and installed large tires  to drive on sand.  He took me over the sand cliffs of the Boston Sand and Gravel pits  off the Driftway in Scituate.  It was an experience I’ll never forget…….Jim, driving up and over sand hills with ease….it was  a real thrill!


My Dad had the perfect truck to be converted to a beach buggy.  It was old, but tough. In the 50’s there was little to no camping gear to add for creature conveniences.  This would include cooking gear, water…enough for a weekend, a sleeping area and other comforts.  But most important was getting this old truck over the sand and learning how to drive on sand.

This is what my 1936 International “C” looked like new.            It was purchased by Lloyd Frisbie for his plumbing business from 1937 to 1950.  Then replaced by a ’50 Ford pickup.
My Dad then used it to carry & store his small tractor.  I obtained it in 1958.

The first area addressed were the tires.  Off to the local garages to find large worn tires that were still usable. The big cars ran 8:20 X 15″  tires….perfect for most beach buggies. Most of the time these were free.
Next was a collection of accessories for getting yourself unstuck.
Bumper-jacks worked best, plywood jack pads, shovels, rope or chain, and an air-gauge for accurate low tire pressure.

15-gallon keg for water, dog house for sleeping, a Jerry can for washing water, awning fly, 8:20′ x15 tires  on 10″ rims.


The closest  remote  beach was  a barrier beach of a few miles.  Duxbury Beach  could be accessed two ways….one from Green Harbor through a private parking lot overlooking the ocean and the other was over a half-mile wooden bridge from Powder Point  in Duxbury.
In the early days there  were no fees or permits needed.  An over-sand vehicle could. drive the beach to the Gurnet and Saquish beach.
On a nice spring Sunday, I got my friend from Scituate to accompany me to Duxbury Beach via the long wooden bridge off Powder Point to the inside trail, south along the bay.  A stop was required to lower the tires’ air pressure of 20 pounds.  This pressure allowed driving on the road back to the St. George Street garage to pump-up.
We drove to High Pines a two-mile run.  We crossed over to the beach and returned on the beach side……all without a hitch—- WHOOPIE!

We pumped up the tires at the garage and drove back home to plan the next addition.
To shorten this up a bit, the additions came slowly and as needed….Jerry cans for extra water, a kitchenette I custom made,  a 15-gallon keg on top to carry water,  a dog-house on top with a mattress for a comfortable night’s sleep, a large cooler, an awning, folding table & chairs, and many other creature comforts.


Part 2.  will consist of some adventures on beaches from Humarock to Provincetown.

W. Ray Freden.




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