Sand Cars Features

Mike Bernardo’s Monster Manx is a true grit dual sport vehicle. Not only is it stout enough to tackle harsh desert terrain with rocks and deep ruts, but the car is also agile enough to carve sharp turns in the soft sand. It’s also a wheelie machine, and can hammer through the whoops, below, without missing a beat or losing its line. DeJong did a good job on the design of this car, and it also looks great in action.

Second Time Around

DeJong Sand Cars Monster Manx with 640 horsepower GM LS7 engine is Mike Bernardo’s newest off-road dual-sport car
By Chris Anderson | July 24, 2013

Photos by Chris Anderson


Back in 2011, when Mike Bernardo set out to build his next sand car, he didn’t have to look any further than the shop of Vince DeJong’s, DeJong Off-Road Car’s located in Murrieta, California. As many of you already know, this is a company that has been building quality sand cars since 1997, notably their flagship unit, the “Monster Manx.” After all, Mike’s previous car was also a DeJong and it did a good job of proving itself to be a reliable, go-all-day duner during the five years he owned it.
Mike, who is employed as an equipment operator and lives near Beaumont, California, had a long talk with his wife Tammy about the new sand car that they’d like to build. Together they decided on a 120-inch wheelbase DeJong MX2 off-road machine. From a structural standpoint, the car features a fully TIG-welded 1.5-inch 4130 chromoly chassis which utilizes fully boxed 4130 A-arms up front and boxed dual-pivot trailing arms in the rear.
Supporting the four corners and providing an absolutely cushy ride are Fox Racing Shox. The front suspension is equipped with 2.5 triple bypasses and 2.0 coil-overs at each wheel that provide 22 inches of travel. The rear suspension finds stout 3.0 triple bypasses and 2.0 coil-overs at each wheel providing 20” of travel. The car’s suspension system has been tuned and completely dialed-in by Tyler Scott of STS Suspension Services. In addition, DeJong outfitted the car with Pro-Am Spindles and wheel hubs, as well as a Howe 2.5 power steering rack. The car rides on Sand Tires Unlimited (37-inch front and 36-inch rear) ribbed tires and paddles which are all mounted on Champion bead lock wheels.
To power the car Mike chose a stroked 440 cubic-inch, dry sump LS7 engine that was built by CBM Motorsports. It uses a MEFI computer and electronic ignition system, an aeromotive fuel pump and dual UMP air filters. Valvoline VR1 engine oil is cooled by a CBR cooler. The exhaust and mufflers were custom built by Tom Face. After the engine was installed and the wiring harness hooked up, it was transported to DanZio Performance where it was dyno tuned and tested, reportedly producing a peak horsepower of 640.
No sense in building all that HP if you can’t get it transferred to the sand. With that in mind, Mike had California Performance assemble the Mendeola S4D, which was built with an 11.5-inch 4.57:1 ring and pinion, billet aluminum side plates, 300M axles and 934 CVs. It also utilizes a bellhousing to accept the heavy duty 9-inch twin disc clutch.
Mike and Tammy wanted to make sure their daughter, Jillian, was well protected so they mounted her suspension seat directly in the center of rear passenger area. Then, on each side of it, they added storage bins. This three seat design is really laid out nicely, not only providing that extra space that’s necessary but also a cushion area should anything impact the side of the car. The Twisted Stitch seats are fitted with Simpson 5-point harnesses. The rest of the interior consists of a Momo steering wheel, Race Pak digital gauges, Mendeola shifter, CNC pedal assembly, fresh air blower system, PCI race radios and an in-dash Lowrance 5-inch HD GPS. In the event of a fire, the vehicle is equipped with an onboard fire bottle that is plumbed directly to the engine compartment and can be manually triggered by the flip of a switch.
From the outside you can tell this full bodied Monster Manx is all business. Wrinkle finish powder coating by Precision Powder Coating was selected for the chassis and several of the articulating components. Worth noting is the fully enclosed rear engine compartment tins, with hinged deck lid, as well as the full radius windshield. Contrasting black and white paint and graphics were done by Streight Edge, of Canyon Lake, California. When it comes to hitting the dunes at night, Mike flips a switch and the Baja Design HIDs and Vision X 42-inch LED light bar illuminate the sand like daylight. Another cool feature is that the car is street legal and plated in Arizona, thanks to the functional halogen headlights, brake lights and blinkers. It has seen the streets and highways many times in Arizona and California.
The Bernardo’s told us that they make about four to five trips each year, which are mostly to Glamis. And, like all duners, this is one family that can hardly wait for the duning season to arrive with each passing summer. Be sure to look for Mike, Tammy and Jillian (who is usually wearing her white framed shades) blasting up the right side of Olds throwing a monster sized roost!

 A Few More "Sand Cars" Stories...

Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame Proudly Presents the Class of 2014
Desperado - BFD Off Road's Wild Two Seater
Sand Pincher
Golden Anniversary of the Meyers Manx

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