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Avalanche Engineering - The Assassin

Posted in Features on September 1, 2002 Comment (0)
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Avalanche Engineering - The Assassin
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You only need to look at some of the latest design concepts being paraded about to know that the proliferation of rockcrawling competitions and the exotic creations they've spawned are already having a profound impact on the off-road world. Tube frames, huge tires, and boat-tailed rear ends are design elements that have already found their way out of the rocks and onto the designer's drawing board. As the extreme competitions gain more exposure to a wider enthusiast market, those design influences are likely to become even more pronounced.

One of the more exotic vehicles competing in the national rockcrawling circuit is Avalanche Engineering's futuristic-looking Assassin. Following the novel (and still successfully campaigned) Sniper design, the Assassin is the latest work from the fertile mind of Steve Rumore, owner and proprietor of Avalanche Engineering. "It started as a design on the back of a napkin in Moab a few years ago," Steve said. In collaboration with Drew Barber, one of Avalanche's top fabricators, Steve produced a design that is helping define the extreme edge of our sport.

The most eye-catching innovation on the Assassin is its portal axle design. "Wait," you cry. "Portal axles on 4x4s are old hat, found on 40-year-old Unimogs!" True, but do those Unimogs sport hand-fabricated High Mark axles? High Mark axles started as a concept on that same napkin and feature custom 4130 chrome-moly housings and tubes, nodular iron 9-inch third members, replaceable billet chrome-moly yokes that take 1-1/2-ton U-joints, and 40-spline 300M shafts (a full 1-3/4 inches throughout). Add the billet chrome-moly portal gearboxes that result in an extra 8 inches of ground clearance and a 1.86:1 reduction out at the axle ends and you have what could well be the most exotic axle ever bolted onto a rockcrawling rig. The portal axle's beefy, high-clearance design sets the tone for the entire rig.

Call it exotic overkill, call it cutting-edge, call it far out, but be sure to call it successful. As unusual as this vehicle appears, it immediately backed up its revolutionary appeal with upper-echelon finishes. Unveiled at last year's ARCA stop in Las Cruces with literally zero hours on the rocks, it posted an impressive Sixth Place finish. It followed that up with an even more astounding showing in Cedar City with a Second Place spot. Two first-day DNFs because of mechanical failures and a First Place finish in the inaugural Skyjacker National Rock Crawling Championship for Women rounded out its abbreviated first year.

The Assassin is a true single-seater. While there are other competition rigs with only one riding position, the Assassin sets the current bar in terms of wrapping a purpose-built, terrain-conquering machine in a small, agile, rock-avoiding package. Steve is not exactly a hulking specimen, but it is still a tight fit when he carefully slides into the aviation-style cockpit. He quite literally wears his machine. The tight confines of the seating position help provide superlative vision of the terrain on all sides and under the vehicle. The torpedo-like lines and four corner's worth of coilover shocks combine to provide uncanny stability on side hills without resorting to extreme axle widths.

The Assassin is relatively light, weighing a svelte 3,100 pounds. A tube chassis that weighs a mere 175 pounds helps bring this about. As with many of the newest rockcrawling rigs, the bulk of the weight is in the axles, tires, and wheels. The minimal mass allows the 4.3L V-6 to propel the vehicle in an authoritative manner. The engine is backed by a TH 350 automatic transmission feeding a Klune-V box (at 2.72:1) and then a 3.8:1 Atlas II transfer case.

The suspension is all custom, employing a three-link at both ends and 14-inch Sway-A-Way coilover shocks at each corner. The rolling stock on the Assassin has been interesting. Steve has run everything from 37-inch BFG MTs to monster 48x15x20-inch Michelins. He is planning to run the current season using prototype 37x12.5x17-inch BFG tires wrapped on custom Avalanche wheels with special TrailReady bead locks.

We caught up with Steve and Drew in the sandstone canyons of Farmington and later at the shop in Bayfield, Colorado, for a pair of photo shoots. In addition to building cutting-edge creations, these gentlemen know how to drive. With umpteen years of experience between them driving all manner of 4x4 vehicles in their local Colorado terrain and weather, there is very little that rattles (or rolls) them. The Assassin is capable of astounding antics, and Steve and Drew are more than willing to continue to push the envelope of design and gravity.

Avalanche Engineering has two full-on fabrication facilities in Colorado that can build just about any type of vehicle that you desire. With the Advantage, Titan, and High Mark axles anchoring such vehicles as the Assassin, Sniper, or anything else you happen to dream up with them, Avalanche Engineering may be your ticket to helping define cutting-edge 4x4 technology. With its sights set squarely on four-wheeling supremacy, the Assassin is a sure hit.

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner/hometown: Steve Rumore/
Denver, Colorado
Make/model: '01 Assassin
Engine: 4.3L {{{Chevrolet}}} V-6
Induction: Stock EFI
Transmission: TH 350 and Klune-V
(2.72:1)
Transfer case: Atlas II (3.8:1)
Frontend: Avalanche Engineering
High Mark portal axles
with 9-inch center-
sections, 40-spline
shafts, 1.86 portal
gearbox, and a
Detroit Locker
Rearend: Avalanche Engineering
High Mark portal axles
with 9-inch center-
sections, 40-spline
shafts, 1.86 portal
gearbox, a Detroit
Locker, and
hydraulic steering
Ring-and-pinion: 2.70
Suspension: Custom three-link front
and rear with 14-inch
Sway-A-Way
coilover shocks
Wheels/tires: 17x10-inch custom steel
wheels with TrailReady
bead locks/37x12.5x17
prototype BFGoodrich

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