A sandrail, or sand rail, or sandcar, or "rail" is a lightweight motor vehicle specifically built for traveling across sandy terrain. It's most popular to operate a Sandrail in actual sand dunes, like Glamis, Pismo and Rasor in California, St. Anthony Dunes in Idaho, or Little Sahara in Utah. Sand dunes are located in all parts of the world and across the US. Sandrails are typically light weight cars that use high flotation tires, allowing the car to skim over the surface of the sand without getting stuck. A sandrail has a low center of gravity which permits it to turn even on the face of a sand dune. Many types of off-road vehicles are relatively top heavy and can only safely climb or descend steep hills with a mostly perpendicular approach to inclines or downhills.

Sandrails are built from a tubular space frame chassis that incorporates an integrated roll cage. There are usually no windows, doors, fenders, or body panels. The engine is typically at the rear or mid-engine mounted. Lightweight and air cooled engines like Volkswagen engine from the VW Beetle, early air cooled engines from cars such as Porsches or the Chevrolet Corvair were originally used, but many of the new high dollar models now feature water cooled engines such as those found in Subarus, Hondas, Chevrolet Corvette and Cadillacs.

The front tires are sometimes narrow to allow them to dig into the sand while turning, other designs with better weight distribution (using lighter motors such as Subaru) can use wider farm implement tires up front to gain more flotation and minimize the sand thrown into the laps of the occupants when turning. Sandrails often use large rear "sandtires" (to provide traction and flotation) that incorporate rubber paddles. Sandrails are almost always rear-wheel drive.

The vast majority of the cars use a manual transmission, although automatic transmissions are used as well. The downside to an automatic is typically reliability since they have limitations on the force it can handle.

The sandrail industry has grown dramatically due the increased popularity of the vehicles. New turn-key cars can cost between US$20,000 and US$100,000, depending on how exotic the design is. The most popular configuration will seat four adults and have around convert|400|hp|abbr=on, weighing around convert|2000|lb|abbr=on empty. Jumping two to four ft (0.6-1.2 m) off the ground is common play seen at most duning events, with some exceeding heights of ten feet.

The use of helmets while "duning" is increasing due to the increased performance of the sandrails. In most duning areas all sand vehicles (motor cycles, Quads, sandrails, Rhinos) are required to have a whip antenna with a flag at the top, at least 8' off the ground. This helps to prevent collision as vehicles go over sand dune hills, minimizing accidents.


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