"What is that?" "Do you want to sell it?" "Where can I buy one?" These are all questions Clay Ivey and Ted Trammell have heard time and time again.
As founding members of Georgia Rail - a dune buggy, sand rail and Volkswagen club - the two men share a unique hobby. Trammell is the proud owner a sapphire blue metallic, two-seat sand rail while Ivey drives a Viper red four-seater.
Ivey and Trammell met seven years ago when Ivey joined the Conyers Police Department. Trammell, already a reserve officer, quickly bonded with the rookie officer and the two have been close friends ever since.
After Trammell bought a rail at the urging of his 4-year-old grandson, he took Ivey for a ride and his friend immediately became hooked.
"Ted bought him a rail buggy and came over and took me for a ride," Ivey recalled. "He said, 'You need to get you one, you need to get you one,' so I went out and got me one and that's how it started."
"He said he wanted something like that," Trammell added pointing at his rail. "He wanted one of them cars with no top on it."
A sand rail is in essence a stretched dune buggy without any body panels - a zippy tubular roll cage with four wheels, two or four seats and an engine mounted in the rear. The engines and transmission are typically air-cooled VW engines found in the original Type I or Beetle.
While rails are traditionally built to manhandle sand dunes and rip through rough terrain found in off-road driving, the machines Trammell and Ivey own are street legal and will never see sand dunes.
"As long as you have everything the law requires, you can drive them on the road," Ivey said. "The only things we don't have are windshield wipers. If it rains we have to pull off under an overpass or something."
Both men built their rails from the ground up. They started by purchasing a bare frame and having it painted. Then, as any artist would do, they personalized the vehicles to reflect their styles and personalities.
All the components are purpose built and both rails boast cutting-edge technology. Each buggy has four-wheel disc brakes, hydraulic clutches and enough chrome to signal any passing jet liner. With the amount of craftsmanship and the beauty found in the two vehicles, it's hard not to blame the men for keeping them garaged and away from dirt.
"You can't help but pick up dings and such when you drive them on the street," Trammell admits, pointing out a fresh chip he received on his way to Ivey's house.
Ivey decided on a four-seat rail because his wife and grandson enjoy riding along. Both men have built several rails, and Trammell said he just recently completed his latest creation. In all, they typically spend between $8,000 and $12,000 on the parts alone, and that doesn't account for the countless hours they put into building each vehicle.
"My neighbor has come out and seen me working in the garage to well past 11 p.m.," Trammell said. "He probably thinks I'm crazy, but I just really enjoy it."
With only a little more than 300 miles on the odometers, the two rails are virtually brand new. As soon as one of them complete a project, it seems like another one is on the horizon.
"The first one he got was a little bitty red one," Trammell said. "We built that thing out in the cold and rain in the winter time with nothing but a tarp around us. We've certainly been through a few of them."
Ivey has since built a workshop where he parks his rail and the two can now work on their cars anytime, day or night.
The two men get together nearly everyday to polish up their engines and take their rails out for short drives. Earlier this month, both men drove them in the Oxford Fourth of July parade and on any given Sunday, they can be found parked on the square or out and about in Covington.
Trammell and Ivey recently chartered Georgia Rail as a way to meet and hang out with more buggy owners. Trammell said the club is open to everyone and all types of vehicles are welcome. He says even hot rodders take a particular interest in their rails.
Trammell and Ivey said they enjoy talking with people they see on the streets and are always happy to answer the throng of questions they inevitably receive when people see their cars for the first time.
It's that same fascination that drew the two men toward rails in the first place.
"When we left the (Oxford) parade last week and went down to the square, we didn't get out of there for two hours because so many people came up and asked us questions," Ivey said. "But we don't mind."
"We like to get out and ride on Sunday's after church and cruise one behind the other through the country," Trammell added. "We get around and we always seem to find our way to the Krystal in Covington at 6 p.m. on Sundays."
If you are interested in joining Georgia Rail or would like more information on sand rail and buggies, you can contact Clay Ivey at email@example.com or Ted Trammell at firstname.lastname@example.org.