Exclusive: Rally Fighter driven in the UAE

We drive a mental street-legal dune-basher/jumper that proves that crowdsourcing works for car design

By Shahzad Sheikh

Rally Fighter in Dubai

I’ve driven incredibly fast cars on tarmac, and I’ve driven extremely capable cars off-road. But I’ve never driven a muscle-powered rear-wheel drive sports coupe, at full throttle across a desert, hitting speeds of I-dunno-what because I was too busy laughing hysterically, focussing hard on the sea of sand and blind ridges ahead and having my core comprehension of motoring etiquette completely rearranged. Until now.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

I was not, however, being pummelled by suspension on the verge of being irretrievably thrashed, getting showered by desert caking am exfoliating layer over my sweat-soaked skin, or terrified beyond belief at the sheer stupidity of going against everything I know (used to know?) about off-roading and contrarily just flooring it and keeping it pinned. And as for those hidden ridges, not to mention bumps, ruts and bushes – I needn’t have bothered even considering them.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

Because the experience was actually as comfortable as cruising down the Emirates Road, there was aircon if I wanted it (turned off temporarily for maximum thrust from the not-inconsiderably lump of a motor) and driving this fast, whilst surreal, seemed a surprisingly sane thing to do, given the terrain-conquering abilities of the machine I was piloting.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

So what is this thing? Well it’s dubbed the Rally Fighter, but it’s so much more than what you’ve immediately stereotyped it as. Oh yes, I know, you’re thinking glorified beach buggy. And on some level your right. A level that occupies maybe 0.5% of the essence of this sensational niche vehicle offered by Local Motors from Arizona.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

It’s a car not only unique in its abilities, but in its conception, its construction and even its dissemination. To address why, this is a car that was designed and developed through crowd-sourcing with engineers, mechanics and designers all over the world contributing to its evolution; it invites buyers to help build it; and finally, it’s an ‘open source’ car. They’ll give you the blueprints of this thing if you want them.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

So how is it made? Well admittedly it’s not the most complicated or sophisticated of vehicles (it prefers to aim for ‘deadly effective’). It’s a tubular steel space frame enclosing the V8 (mounted remarkably back from the front axle making it front-mid engine), drivetrain, suspension and even the occupants inside a tough cage – there’s a YouTube video of this thing nose diving into the ground, flipping right over back onto its wheels and just carrying on!

Rally Fighter tested in the desert in Dubai

Rally Fighter tested in the desert in Dubai

It’s about 4800mm long, 2057mm wide and the height depends on how you’ve got the suspension set up. It can be anything from 1759mm at its highest ride height to 1556 at its lowest. As for that suspension, the springs have immensely strong long-travel coil-over shock absorbers with as much as 18-inches of travel (457mm) at the front and a staggering 20-inches (508mm) at the rear!

Rally Fighter in Dubai

Nestled just under the crude plasticky dashboard and between the front seats is a GM LS3 Corvette engine: a 6.2-litre, V8 producing 430bhp and 424lb ft, driving the rear wheels through a 3-speed automatic, although our white test car, the very same car that’s appeared on the Jay Leno’s Garage YouTube show, was fitted with an optional 4-speed auto. The engine, of course, is very tuneable and you could add superchargers and whatnot to make it more powerful, but it only has to move 1723kg and there is enough torque from the robust motor to give you wheel spin on the go and dune-pulverising acceleration.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

This is demonstrated more ably than I can achieve by Captain Ali Alshawi (ex-army) a former rally champion and race car engineer (that’s him behind the wheel with the refreshingly nonchalant owner Matt Powell ), who hits speeds of around 100kph across the sand, throws it sideways, skims along the sides of dunes, then attacks the tallest ones and promptly launches it into the air.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

‘This thing is meant to be jumped, it was designed for it,’ insists Powell, ‘and you won’t feel a thing, I’ve had people in the car that haven’t even realised we’d left the ground.’ And you can see why – that incredible wheel travel means that it hunkers down with the body almost sitting on the wheels on compression at the bottom of a hill, and then it barely looks airborne with the wheels almost reaching right down to the ground in flight.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

It also explains why this isn’t four-wheel drive (it was considered). Essentially the extra weight of the front drivetrain would make it heavier and harder to jump. As it is, weight distribution is 49% front and 51% rear. However with 17-inch wheels with bead locks, shod with massive 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler MTR tyres featuring Kevlar sidewalls, we ran them with pressures as low as 8PSI on the sand, giving it amazing traction with no chance of the rubber popping off the rims no matter how brutal we were with flinging it around. Extraordinary.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

Alshawi emerged grinning from a cockpit that is much easier to get in and out of and a lot more comfortable than you’d imagine (although you should probably think of the rear bench as a shelf, or maybe for small kids). ‘It’s amazing, it looks like a car, but out here it’s 100% dune buggy,’ he beams. ‘It has perfect power to weight ratio and amazing suspension.’

Rally Fighter in Dubai

He reckoned it could be professionally rallied with very little modification, and whilst he was concerned about the visibility from the cockpit (the long nose makes it difficult to see over dunes) and the transmission heating up (we were out in the desert in the middle of summer, though a larger capacity oil cooler would fix that), he was particularly astounded at this being an entirely street-legal car with aircon, power windows, keyless entry, carpet, rear view camera, navigation and bluetooth and all the comforts you’d expect.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

In fact Powell often uses it as his daily driver. Personally I think it’s a little too wide and sits too high (although it can be lowered) to be used every day, all though it is very easy to driver, thanks to rack and pinion power steering, and the heavy-duty auto. It’s actually ridiculously easy to live with too – and even to maintain (nearly all the parts are from third party suppliers and OEMs from car manufacturers, the rear lights for example are from a Honda Civic, the door mirrors from a Dodge Challenger, and the steering from a Ford F-150).

Rally Fighter in Dubai

Admittedly compared to any other car at this price level, the exposed bolts, basic switch gear and uneven fit and finish, might be a little difficult for owners used to Range Rovers to come to terms with, but when you’ve seen this thing’s pulverising all-terrain ability, it’s staggering speed and even its sexy stance, you’ll think it cheap at twice the money.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

And how much is it? Well that depends. Head over to the factory in Phoenix, Arizona, and help build the car over the first six days (it circumvents some legislation and helps owners to ‘bond’ with their new vehicles) and it’ll cost US$100,000. Don’t help and they’ll add $10k to the price. There are of course lots of custom options and upgrades available.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

Add in about another $10k to get it over to the Middle East safe and sound, and you’re looking at $120,000 for one of the meanest, mightiest, most magnificent motor cars you could justifiably ride around in.

Rally Fighter in Dubai

Having said that, keep your fingers crossed, because Local Motors are keen to expand their business and portfolio and it’s conceivable that a satellite assembly plant could be set up right here in the region, which would make it cheaper and also more accessible to go get involved in the build process. Watch this space!

Rally Fighter in Dubai

Specs
Local Motors Rally Fighter
How much? $100,000-110,000 (see text)
Engine: 6.2-litre, V8, 430bhp @ 5900, 424lb ft @ 4600rpm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: n/a
Performance: Top speed 225kph
Weight: 1723kg

[Huge thanks to Mohammad Alfalasi of The Chase and Drift UAE for setting up and organising this test of the Rally Fighter exclusively for Motoring Middle East]

More info at Local Motors website

Check out the Local Motors YouTube vids

Are you man enough for a Rally Fighter, or do you think it’s just a movie star wanna be? Let us know below.

2 responses to “Exclusive: Rally Fighter driven in the UAE”

  1. Hamad Almazroui says:

    Want to purchase rally fighter need more info about specification,price .
    2014 model
    Delivery time

    Thank you
    Hamad

  2. Abdulla Haji says:

    I wanted to know what would be the estimated time of delivery and where are you located Dubai or Abu Dhabi

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