Off-road chassis design?

I’m interested in learning more about chassis design, especially for something intended to go off road. When a team puts together an entry for a race like the King of the Hammers (, how much of the chassis design comes from experience or intuition, and how much comes through CAD, and finite element analysis?

After watching guys like Project Binky, there’s obviously a lot to be learned through experience. In their dealings, it seemed like they really didn’t use any computer modelling tools, and things have worked out okay. But it seems like a person really needs to have a good grasp of both how to design and simulate in CAD, and know how things behave in the real world. How does one learn that balance? And how does one start learning about things like tubular chassis design without actually building a full sized prototype and then abusing it until it breaks? It seems challenging (at least to me) to start learning more about this kind of stuff without getting an engineering degree or running a Baja team.


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