"What the heck is that thing?"
We heard that over and over throughout the afternoon as we made our way down a desert trail east of Phoenix, Arizona. What people saw on a rocky wash trail frequented by dirt bikes, quads, and 4WDs was the Local Motors prototype Rally Fighter, and we were putting it through some high-speed desert running and some low-speed rock bumping.
It was a modern-day concept that spawned a modern-day vehicle. The Rally Fighter is an off-road vehicle, yet an on-road vehicle. More on this after we tell you a little about this car company.
Local Motors is a fairly new car company that was started with the idea of creating a collaborative community of car designers, engineers, and enthusiasts who could come together to create unique new car designs. They hold online community design contests, and there, other car nuts join to share, learn, and grow new vehicle concepts.
Beyond that, they have a goal to turn some designs into working rigs sold in 2,000-vehicle production runs. Their intent is to offer innovative designs produced in small, highly efficient factories in the USA. Once a car design is adopted by the community, and it's decided it will be produced, a prototype is built. Once the design wrinkles are ironed out, the design can go to production in one of the new micro factories.
The Rally Fighter was conceived and designed by Local Motors community member Sangho Kim and is currently being built in the first micro factory in Phoenix. Local Motors describes the Rally Fighter as a vehicle designed for the American Southwest. It's got capability both on-road and off, and will be street licensed. It's what you might commonly refer to as a truggy-style rig, with long-travel A-arm suspension up front backed with a linked solid axle rear setup. The chassis sports 18 inches of front wheel travel and 20 inches in the rear and is built to have a dual ride height with the choice of 275/70R17 (high ride height) or 265/50R20 (low ride height) Goodyear MTR tires. The car is wrapped in a fiberglass body with functioning hood and doors, and has the creature comforts of air conditioning and heating.
We dropped into the factory (open to the public) to observe the builds of the first four production cars. In fact, by the time you read this, those cars will have all been displayed at the 2010 SEMA show in Las Vegas and new production builds will have started.
We also had the chance to ride along in the prototype car, which runs the original engine choice, a 3.0L BMW diesel. However, production cars are now using the relatively new GM E-rod 6.2L engine package that packs over 400 hp. We headed out for a day in the dirt and ran some two-track roads along with a wash trail.
We rode with Baja champion Ryan Thomas, who put the car through some paces. The Rally Fighter proved to be a smooth, stable platform that was a fun ride. Look to see these cars starting to pop up over the next year as they take hold, with enthusiasts looking for a street-legal machine that can hit the dirt with competence.
Open Source Designs
Most of the design is public knowledge. In fact, anyone can download the open source CAD chassis data and see the exact dimensions and configuration of the tube chassis.
Another way that the public and community can join with the Rally Fighter evolution is with the creation of aftermarket products for the car. Local Motors encourages third-party vendors to create modifications or accessories for the Rally Fighter, and believes the community and car owners benefit from such new products.
The Micro Factory Concept
When customers choose to buy a car, they come to the micro factory to see their car being built and participate in the build themselves. They get to work side-by-side for some number of days, turning wrenches with an expert builder as their car is assembled for about 2 weeks.
In this way, customers get to experience the satisfaction of building their own rides and get intimate knowledge of how the Rally Fighter comes together, bit by bit.