Jul 20, 2009
Race Car by Racers, for RacersBy JR Nerad
Those of us who follow racing fanatically often get the itch to get off the couch and do some racing. Those who have done so, though, know that the cost of racing can be very high. But one branch of racing -- off-road -- has a lower cost of entry than many others, and now a company called Local Motors is making the entrance into desert racing even easier. Its new dedicated desert-racing vehicle, the Rally Fighter, was designed in conjunction with what the company calls “the world’s largest community of car designers and engineers.” One big difference is that the community embraces open collaboration to develop cars, a spin on the open-source model prevalent in the computer community.
The Rally Fighter is an off-road racer designed and built for the deserts of the American Southwest. It was drawn up by community member Sangho Kim of Pasadena, Calif., and developed in collaboration with the Local Motors community. Sangho and Local Motors did not aim to design a car everyone wanted, but rather, a car for a specific niche within their community: desert racers.
“If you aim to please everyone, you will please no one,” Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers said. “With each car Local Motors develops and builds, we aim to satisfy the passions of car enthusiasts in specific regions. By including our community in the development process, we can deliver the car that customers want. The company is certainly part of the decision-making process, but more than anything, we are here to listen to desires and make great cars.”
The 3,000 community members at Local Motors discussed and voted on body styling, engine choice and even interior design for the Rally Fighter. The final result is an intensely capable and head-turning desert racer. Its most unusual feature is the use of the BMW M57 clean-diesel engine. This gives the race car significant torque, reasonable horsepower and excellent fuel economy/range. The welded steel tubular space frame is clad with thermoplastic and carbon fiber body panels. To ensure its ability to race in the desert, it features 18 inches of suspension travel, and it offers manually adjusted ride-height options.
The Rally Fighter will be built in limited production in unique, regional micro-factories, the first of which is planned for Phoenix. Local Motors says it will soon announce cars for several more regions around the United States, and it aims to eventually build 25-50 micro-factories catering specifically to car enthusiasts in local regions.
"We are passionate about American automotive. We want to bring the fun and pride back, and we will do it one region at a time," Rogers said.
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