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Rally Fighter

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Local Motors' Road-Going P51

Photography by: Kenda Lenseigne

We've all gotten used to the idea that vehicles come from a corporate oligarchy of a few big multinational manufacturers, are designed by a team of engineers, and are built in a centralized sprawling factory where workers scurry like ants, fitting parts on a constantly moving production line. After all, Henry Ford introduced the system in 1913, and since then, not a whole lot has changed. Local Motors stands that paradigm on its head.

All aspects of its vehicle designs are crowd-sourced by 20,000 or so enthusiasts, each of whom has the opportunity to throw in their two cents. Rather than picking up a vehicle from a dealership, the proud new owner is invited to build it themselves, assisted by Local Motors staff. And their “microfactories” could easily fit inside the cafeteria of any of the big guy's plants, but feel like a tech startup, where the laid-back atmosphere counterpoints the employees' intense passion for their jobs.

When team RECOIL showed up to check out the Rally Fighter, clouds of burning rubber wafted across the entrance as a staff member took time out to thrash his personal drift car in the parking lot. All with the full consent of management, who also gave approval for a “bring your gun to work day.” So, not your typical car company, then.


Rally Fighter

Making its debut to the gun world at SHOT Show 2013, the Rally Fighter was conceived as an off-the-shelf, factory prerunner truck. A product of its desert environment, it's fast, nimble, sexy, and did we say fast? With its muscular haunches and brutal styling, it's never going to be mistaken for a Miata. And because only 2,000 will be produced, you probably won't end up parking next to another one at Home Depot, assuming you can come up with the 100 G's needed to take possession.

Each one starts out life as a pile of chromoly DOM tubing, pieces of which are cut, placed into a jig, and welded on until a frame emerges. When you see the number of cross-braces incorporated into the design, you get the feeling that it could survive pretty much anything short of a 2,000-pound JDAM bomb. It's allegedly a four-seater, with enough room behind the driver and navigator to fit a couple of pint-sized humans — or a case of beer, whichever's most important at the time. While it offers most of the creature comforts you'd find in a supercar, the interior is stripped-down and fairly Spartan. There's no need for a complex entertainment system as, let's face it, if you feel the need for additional stimulation while driving this thing, you should probably seek professional help.


Weight is kept to a minimum through the use of glass-reinforced plastic body panels, much like those in GM's Corvette. Unlike Kentucky's second best export, however, these aren't painted. It was decided that the kind of paintjob you'd expect on an exotic supercar wouldn't hold up to the rigors of off-road racing, so instead the Rally Fighter is vinyl wrapped. Collected some pinstripes on your fenders? Just peel off the vinyl and slap on another layer. And if you're bored with plain colors, this sheet material offers options not found in nature. Gold carbon-fiber, anyone?

Apart from the chassis and body, the majority of major components are readily available from your local friendly NAPA store — so no waiting around for weeks while spares meander in from Italy. Originally designed with a BMW turbo diesel providing motive power, there are currently a couple of engine options that offer much more grunt. Starting with the proven 6.2L LS3 lump, which in this guise produces 430 horsepower, an optional supercharged version is available which boosts output to a pants-soiling 640 ponies. All that horsepower is sent to the ground via either a four- or six-speed automatic transmission — manual boxes are not recommended for desert racing, as long hours of rowing through the gears take their toll on the driver.

Ford's legendary 9-inch rear axle keeps the wheels from falling off and is pinned to Mother Earth by a pair of King remote reservoir shocks, offering 20 inches of wheel travel. A multi-link independent front suspension is built around a couple of massive wishbones which are hogged out of billet aluminum by in-house CNC machines and damped by a matching set of coilovers. Instead of the skinny rubber normally found on cars in this price bracket, beefy but readily available 285/70R-17s are spooned onto 17-inch alloy wheels. Based on our experiences, this is good thing, as the Rally Fighter will light them up at the slightest provocation.


More of More

We've driven our share of lifted trucks, so were expecting the usual feeling of being perched on top of a pogo stick, with only a vague connection to what was happening at the vehicle's four corners. Instead, once you haul your carcass into the cockpit and place it into the Recaro's embrace, the cabin kinda takes you back to an '80s Porsche 944 — there's a retro feel, and you sit in the seat rather than on it.

Hit the skinny pedal and there's a lot of body roll and pitch as the lanky suspension loads up and the low gearing launches you forward. Due to its elevated ride height, you feel like you're progressing much more rapidly than indicated by the speedo and when it comes time to scrub off some of that momentum, the 13-inch ventilated binders leave you looking at pavement as the nose dips and ass end rises. The Rally Fighter brings out the small boy in everyone who spends time with it. It would appear that the answer to any question posed in design discussions was always, “More!” And we like that.

Local Motors has a small test track outside their facility, where their staff driver got to commune with his inner Stig and demonstrate to our photographer just how much suspension travel the vehicle offered. Giving her the right-hand seat and winding up at the loading dock, he booted it along a 100-yard gravel approach to a 6-foot-tall jump, clearing it in style and landing without hitting the bumpstops. Much whooping ensued. Check out the video at


Local Motors Rally Fighter
6.2L LS3 V-8
Four- or Six-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
430 Horsepower


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