If you want to do serious overland travel, a Jeep, Land Rover or a compact pickup will get there, but after a week or five in a rooftop tent, things start to get a little cramped. For all their advantages, the smaller vehicles simply don’t have the GVWRs to take all your toys. A fullsize truck fits the bill, but it can be a little big for some trails. Now there is another option—introducing the Bremach T-Rex. Bremach USA has been building trucks in Northern Italy since 1950. In 1970, the company began devoting its engineering skills to four-wheel drives, mostly sold in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. That may explain why you haven’t seen them on the road.
Bremach USA, the company’s North American division, is about to change that. Currently, they are importing the cab shells and chassis assemblies for a variety of applications for finished vehicle that will be manufactured at their southern California factory. As drivetrain specialists, they offer the Bremach T-Rex with powerplants that include natural gas, a Cummins diesel, gasoline, and 100-percent electric, with other fuels such as propane to follow.
The standard gas engine for the U.S. market will be the GM 6.0L Vortec V-8, rated at 323 horsepower at 4,600 rpm and 373 lb-ft of torque at 4,400. The initial diesel engine will be the Cummins 5.9L I-6, rated at 235 to 325 horsepower at 2,900 rpm, and 460 to 610 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 RPM. Sold as a “Remanufactured Vehicle,” the Cummins model will carry a full warranty, and may not even require ultra-low-sulphur diesel, urea injection, and some of the other CARB and EPA restrictions on 2011 Cummins and other diesel trucks.
The fully electric model will have some range limitations, but the VLV (Very Low Voltage) brushless, permanent-magnet DC motor operates at only 114 volts. It develops about 300 horsepower, and can hum down the highway at 65 mph with a 100- to 200-mile range, depending on speed and load. It could be ideal for short delivery or dock work. We can imagine any number of fun trails in Moab that could bring you back to the campground and a 110-volt plug in less than a hundred miles.
The series-hybrid T-Rex model uses the VLV motor as a generator. When the 100kWh lithium-ion battery pack reaches a specified limit, a 2.2L GM Ecotec gas engine rated at 149 horsepower at 5,600 rpm fires up to recharge the battery and power the drivetrain. The VLV motor also uses a regenerative braking charge system, which was developed by Bremach USA.
Gearboxes and Axles
Transmissions offered will include the GM 4L85E automatic, the Allison six-speed automatic, and a manual transmission if requested. The Bremach is full-time 4x4 with automatic locking hubs, locking center differential, and locking rear differential. Both the center and rear diff-locks are hydraulic. A front diff-lock with mechanical control is available. A block of eight solenoids controls the locking center and rear differentials and as many as three power take-off ports from the Bremach transfer case (standard) and from the Allison and engine as options. The standard transfer case is a Bremach BK 20 two-speed unit. An optional BK 20 four-ratio box is available.
This is an “extreme-duty” Class 3 truck, with a payload capacity of 7,500 pounds and a GVWR of 14,000 pounds. To handle this load, straight axles are fitted with parabolic heavy-duty leaf springs, double-action gas-charged shocks, and front and rear stabilizer bars. Huge Brembo dual-circuit disc brakes are standard (similar to those used by Ferrari and Lamborghini) and incorporate a Bosch ABS system. Under heavy loads, a weight sensor modulates the ABS brake bias accordingly. The ABS can be disengaged.
Both 16-inch and 17-inch wheels will be offered. The T-Rex we tested was running aggressive 37x13.50 R20 LT Nitto Mud Grappler tires, with a maximum load capacity of 3,800 pounds at 65psi.
Not unlike the Mercedes Unimog and the Swiss Bucher Duro, the Bremach T-Rex is a multi-function workhorse. The unique frame of the Bremach uses 4-inch-diameter steel tubes inspired by aerospace technology. These are welded to an additional subsection for maximum strength and rigidity. Available wheelbases include 102 inches, 122.4 inches, and 135.6 inches.
Inside and Out
The T-Rex’s strong exoskeleton cab design is not for looks. It is virtually a rollcage. The all-steel cab is mounted on high-strength bushings to reduce vibration. Sound-absorbing thermo-acoustic panels in the steel doors, floor, and firewall further reduce noise. Both two-door and four-door models come equipped with fully adjustable suspension seats. Dial indicators adjust to the weight of the occupant.
The basic dash layout is easy to read. A multi-purpose center console contains the necessary gauges relevant to the powertrain in use. An option will include a full information screen with back-up camera, and multi-media including GPS navigation, music, video, photos, phone, DVD, XM, internet, weather, WiFi, and full access to the OBD-II engine sensors. On the electric models, there will be a battery management system. In theory at least, providing there is a satellite or Internet connection, a vehicle could be monitored from almost anywhere in the world to check its location and mechanical condition.
An overhead console holds a Sony music system that sends tunes from CDs or an iPod to Sony speakers. AC and power steering are standard. Sorry, no cruise control. Despite its imposing stance, the vehicle’s center of gravity is low. The Bremach has 11 inches of ground clearance, a 31-inch claimed fording capability, 44-degree departure angle, and 48-degree approach angle. There aren’t too many backroads the Bremach couldn’t follow. Its maximum width of 69.7 inches makes it very maneuverable in tight places. For comparison, a Ford F-350 is 86 inches wide.
A first glance at the T-Rex tell you this is a very compact, purpose-built machine without an ounce of fat. The tubular wrap-around bumper up front leaves room for a winch. Hella high-intensity lights and long-range driving lights do the job. The rear bumper is equipped with a half-pin on each side to allow it to be folded up for better departure angle. An option on the cargo bed will be remote-controlled side panels that rise up out of the way for easy access.
Drive One, Buy One
The T-Rex we tested in the hills outside of Chino, California, where Bremach USA’s facilities are located, was powered by a GM 6.2L V-8 out of a Corvette, similar in configuration to the 6.0L engine Bremach will offer. The transmission was a GM 4-L85E four-speed. A seat-of-the-pants impression confirmed that this was definitely a truck, not a car. Being empty, the ride was very stiff. Perhaps with a full load, it would smooth out. Bremach can reduce the number of leaf springs for use as a “daily driver.” We did not take it “four-wheeling,” so to speak, or “rockcrawling,” but clearly the T-Rex could gracefully make it over a trail like the Rubicon unscathed. On the highway the ride was still a little choppy, but even with the aggressive traction tires, the road noise was comfortable.
Want to own one? Bremach USA is currently taking orders. Delivery time is roughly 90 to 120 days. These are built-to-order trucks. Manufacturer suggested pricing starts at around $96,000. There is a three-year/30,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. As you might guess, having a fully equipped Bremach T-Rex in your driveway will cost more than an F-550 or a Cummins powered Ram 5500 with similar GVWRs—but think of the “cool factor” and bragging rights you’d have.