Dune Days

The incredible mechanical design and skill going into senior Neil Cassidy’s project is the epitome of drive (Photo courtesy of Neil Cassidy).

Neil Cassidy

The incredible mechanical design and skill going into senior Neil Cassidy’s project is the epitome of drive (Photo courtesy of Neil Cassidy).


How often does a citizen of Greenville, South Carolina get to ride in a dune buggy? Unless that person is rich, or knows someone who owns one, probably not very often. These smaller, powerful vehicles are versatile on most terrains, and with some modifications they can become street legal. As such, they are popular projects with adults and seniors alike.

“For my senior project, I decided to build a dune buggy. I bought a homemade frame built by a man in Tennessee, along with a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle air-cooled engine. My goal for my product was to make a running and driving vehicle, and hopefully make it street legal,” said senior Neil Cassidy.

This is no small undertaking, and there are a few major issues that can arise when working on this type of project. 

“I’ve had to order a lot of parts, so for a while money was an issue. Also, diagnosing the problems I had and finding out what parts I actually needed to order was challenging as well. Trying to manage my time between doing the class work for senior project and the physical work on my project was a pretty difficult task,” said Cassidy.

Having a large project can be difficult and frustrating, but luckily seniors are required to enlist the help of an expert.

“My mentor has helped an incredible amount. If it weren’t for him, I definitely wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have with my project. He is very knowledgeable on Volkswagen engines, and anything mechanical really. I am very grateful for his help,” said Cassidy.

Cassidy’s product is special for multiple reasons; however arguably the most interesting reason is that he will own a personal dune buggy, and that opens the door to new experiences.

“I hope to be driving it around town this summer, and maybe some short road trips up to the mountains. That depends on how much I trust it to not leave me stranded. I might sell it after the summer, but I want to keep it for as long as I can. That also depends on whether my dad wants it out of his garage or not,” said Cassidy.

Despite all this, Cassidy realizes that his project is massive and reflects on not only the scale of his project, but also the physical class.

“If I could change anything about my senior project, I would not have set my goal so high in the first place. Either that, or I would make a very specific goal oriented timeline that I would stick to. As for the senior project class, I would change how much work we are given. I understand why we are given journals and research documents every week, but they make it extremely difficult to work on our products when we have journals and research documents on top of other homework for our other classes,” said Cassidy.

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