Is this Ripsaw EV2 Tank the baddest off-road vehicle ever?Posted in Features on July 28, 2015
I like to joke with my wife (well, she still thinks I'm joking, but I'm serious as a heart attack) that if we ever come into a truckload of money we're going to need, a substantially bigger garage to house my bucket list of wheeled vehicles; a landing pad for the vintage, Vietnam-war-era Huey helicopter I'll be acquiring; and our own fuel depot to ensure we never run out of go-go juice. As of late, however, I officially retract that statement. Instead, I'm substituting it with "If we ever come into a truckload of money, I'm buying a Ripsaw and setting the rest aside for bail money and attorney retainers." Yep, it's that much fun, and nope, there's absolutely no way I could ever be trusted with one.
We all have our skills that pay the bills. For some, it's beating a flat-rate clock as a technician at a car-dealership, and for others, it's expertly laying down a bead-of-weld that's as concentric as the proverbial stack of dimes. For the Howe-Brother, twins of Howe and Howe Technologies, it seems to be whatever the company set their sights on. Its combined skill sets appear boundless, and from the creations they give birth to—from mastering photo/video skills to aid in the marketing of said creations—its drive and ability truly define American ingenuity.
Beyond its impressive feats of engineering, the Howe brothers are just regular, down-to-earth, hard-working guys, and we recently had the pleasure of hanging out with them for the afternoon at their Waterboro, Maine, facility to check out the new Ripsaw EV2. The latest creation in the Ripsaw line, the EV2 model is a closed-cabin, high-mobility/high-speed lightweight "personal luxury tank" that—if you have the requisite truckload of money—you can call your own. While the Ripsaw is no doubt beyond the fiscal reach of most reader's (base price is $295 thousand), regardless of its buy-in figure, the design principles and engineering behind this wild and extremely innovative tracked monster are guaranteed to leave any gearhead with sensory overload. To see the machine up close and in person is somewhat surreal, and sitting motionless, it could easily be mistaken as an expertly crafted movie prop. When its Duramax diesel mill is cranked to life, however, the combination of its menacing looks and angry sound make your carnal instincts kick in, leaving you with the gut feeling of putting distance between it and you in a hurry— like it's the predator and if you're in its sights, you've become the prey.
As many readers know from watching the Discovery Channel series Black Ops Brothers, what the Howe brothers specialize in is outrageously awesome tracked vehicles. With what started as a concept originally created for the U.S. military as a high-speed/high-mobility tracked vehicle, the Ripsaw is arguably the most notable of these, and now it's available for public consumption in the form of the two-seater EV2 model. Powered by the aforementioned 600hp 6.6L Duramax diesel attached to an Allison automatic transmission, the EV2 can reach speeds of over 60 mph and do so with a sports car-like acceleration. And did we mention it floats? Yep, that's right: a fully sealed aerospace-aluminum "hull" with floatation-capability is a box you can check when ordering out your own Ripsaw. Left unchecked, your forging depth will still be a whopping 4 feet. Fuel capacity is 40 gallons, giving the Ripsaw a 300-mile range between refills.
Depending on options, the Ripsaw tips the scales at around 8,000-pounds; impressively light for a tank that's equivalent in size to a fullsize truck. Combine this with the huge contact patch created by the high-strength rubber tracks and you have a ground pressure that registers in at only 2.5-P.S.I. As a direct result, the Ripsaw ideally suited for tackling loose-ground conditions and depths of snow, sand, or mud that would leave a wheeled-vehicle dead in its tracks. If the terrain does manage to get the best of it, dual 15,000-pound winches (one in each of the front and rear heavy-duty bumpers) are standard equipment. The Ripsaw's tracks travel around a proprietary clutching system designed to handle the monster torque load of its powerplant, and through a combination of coilover and air shocks, available suspension travel comes in at an impressive 13.4-inches.
Climb in through either driver or passenger side gullwing-style doors and you'll land in a cockpit reminiscent of a B-2 Stealth Bomber, only with about 400 percent less switches. Inside you'll find most of the same basic amenities found in current truck and SUV offerings—including heat, A/C, an audio system, and high-end leather seating. Steering is accomplished electronically, with only a quarter turn in either direction to reach the steering locks. Since there's no rear window, a backup camera and in-cab viewing screen make sure you're not backing over your neighbor's Civic.
Even though we didn't get a solid handle on the Ripsaw's overall capabilities during the short window of time we had with the machine, watching the various videos compiled by the Howe brothers will give any viewer a pretty good understanding of where its strong points lie. If you've got the discretionary funds lying around, the Ripsaw lands in the "why wouldn't you buy it" category. For the rest of us, we'll just keep the lust-meter pegged on high.
Meet the ying and the yang of Howe and Howe Technologies: twin brothers Mike (right) and Geoff Howe. Widely recognized from their Discovery Channel series, Black Ops Brothers, and their outrageous tracked creations, their combined talents—matched with an extremely skilled team of employees—are the driving force behind the company.
Unlike previous models, the Ripsaw EV2 (Extreme Vehicle 2) is available for purchase by anyone with a lengthy monetary reach. Custom-built to order, the Ripsaw seen here features a fully sealed aerospace-aluminum hull with floatation capability and tips the scales at around 8,000 pounds. Want one? Give the Howe brothers a shout. This particular Ripsaw had already been spoken for by an overseas customer and was being broken down for shipping immediately following our photo shoot.
As you might imagine, the type of terrain that a lightweight tracked vehicle like the Ripsaw was designed to excel in is the soft stuff; ground conditions like sand, mud, and snow. With gobs of torque and horsepower, combined with a massive contact patch and only 2.5 psi of ground pressure, the Ripsaw blasts through depths of swamp-muck that would leave most wheeled-rigs pulling the winch cable.
With a performance-oriented clutching system, a zero-degree turning radius, and a 75 percent grade climbing capability, the Ripsaw is extremely nimble on its tracks, allowing it to perform antics like this steep, banked turn with relative ease. You'd have to have some pretty big cojones to attempt something like this in any rig wearing round sneakers.
The Ripsaw is capable of side sloping a 70 percent grade before things get scary, which, coincidently, should be the approximate roofline of a Prius Hatchback, just in case you were wondering. Ground clearance is an impressive 21.50 inches beneath the completely flat-bottomed hull.
With 600hp on tap and an untold (we're guessing massive) amount of torque, the 6.6L Duramax diesel mill sending power to the Ripsaw's tracks propels the machine to over 60 mph in a hurry. Actual top speed and output are dependent on the engine's level of tune you opt for when configuring your own Ripsaw.
Coilover shocks at each end of each track and three air-shocks in between provide an impressive 13.4-inches of suspension travel and a high degree of stability when cornering. The tracks themselves are made of a super-high grade/strength rubber and are reported to cost nearly as much as a new, base-model Jeep Wrangler—each!
At the stern of the Ripsaw you'll find a standard-equipment 15,000-pound winch mounted in a substantial and rugged steel-bumper. Directly above the winch is a hatched rear cargo compartment, and above that, a spacious cargo platform on the top-deck. Engine exhaust exits to the right, directly behind the cockpit enclosure.
A second 15,000-pound winch can be found in its own plate-steel bumper running point. Dual gullwing-style doors serve as the entry points into the cockpit. A tube-steel windshield cage keeps low-hanging limbs from compromising the windshield, and a full complement of LED lighting blazes the way after dark.
What!? No ejection seats!? As much as the Ripsaw's interior resembles the cockpit of a Stealth Bomber, this particular rig was not equipped with ejection seats (although if you ask nicely, the Howe brothers may be able to accommodate). In their place, though, you have eight-way power leather bucket seats as standard equipment. On the dash you'll find completely digital instrumentation, and an LCD screen that serves as the backup-camera display, as well as the control panel for heating, A/C, and audio systems.
Along with their outrageous Ripsaw and Ripchair (a high-mobility, off-road wheelchair) tracked-vehicles, Howe and Howe Tech also build the "Bulldog"—a line of fully equipped and larger-than-life International 4800/7400 4x4 fire-service brush trucks. Built to order and rolling on 54-inch tires with locked differentials front and rear, your fire department will no doubt be the envy of all surrounding counties with this behemoth parked in the station.