The cost of wheels issue should not be that big a deal for a new/restarting/rebuilding org either. The best wheels certainly cost a lot, if you even know where to get them, if you expect to win. But, I would argue that a decent push team with a well executed, inexpensive buggy could roll on pneumatics or inexpensive solids and still contend for the second day. I know there were many years that KDR was excited to just get that and I have a feeling that Pioneers/CIA/Kap Sig/AEPi/DTD/Kappa all feel the same.
The trouble is that everyone is so secretive and the lore around buggy is that it's a big secret that's expensive and hard to do. Maybe if some basic things about construction and design were handed to undergrads in some kind of workshop open to anyone, the level of participation would go up. I know I felt like buggy was something I couldn't get involved with when I was a freshman until I joined KDR for non-buggy reasons.