A retro throwback on a modern chassis
Every once in a while, you see something that makes you stop in your tracks and just stare. That’s precisely what happened when Rugged rolled their General off the trailer just this last week. We met up with the Rugged Crew near Calico Ghost town in the hills off California’s long stretch of Interstate 15. We had chatted with Rugged’s owner, Greg Cottrell, for months about the build- but now that we were standing in front of it, it all became so much more tangible.
Let’s back up to the beginning- Rugged went out and bought a 2016 Polaris General, and essentially threw half of it away. After it was parked at NVFab’s shop in Grover Beach, California, the entire front clip was removed. Piece by piece, they massaged a historically-accurate Willys jeep front end onto the General’s frame, flat fenders and all. The build was extensive, as NVFab had to figure out how to locate the front wheels further forward to fit the new front clip. The original Willys front end even includes a functioning flip-down glass windshield!
SuperATV came to the rescue here, as their 3” high clearance lift kit allowed the wheels to be offset 1.5” forward, just enough to clear the new fenders. The new SuperATV arms allowed Rugged to bolt up a set of 32” Ivan Stewart Edition GMZ tires on 15” Casino Beadlock wheels. Without the arm kit, the maximum tire size Rugged was able to use was 28”!
KC Hilites has a drop-in replacement for the 7” round headlights on most jeeps, so Rugged picked up a set and mounted them in the stock light bezels on the front end. Another pair of 8” Pro Sport HID spot lights were mounted below the windshield, with Amber Cyclone LED turn signals at each corner. Rounding out the Jeep fascia is a winch setup loaded with Factor55 lead components and a Bubbarope 50 ft synthetic winch line.
Rugged outfitted the General with their own RRP660 Plus Bluetooth intercom and RM50-MB 50 Watt multi-band radio for car to car communication. This setup works with either over the ear headsets or full helmet intercom kits. A set of beautiful PRP Premier low back canvas seats fits the bill to a T.
Rugged chose to keep the stock Polaris general doors intact, along with the bedsides. The tailgate was removed and swapped with a spare tire and ammo can carrier to complete the look. A custom flat-top cage was handmade by NVFab, and fitted with a custom sewn canvas top. From 50 feet, most people will think this is a modified old jeep. Only the keen-eyed will be able to spot the differences in the rear body panels and suspension kit. The entire body, rollcage, and canvas top are color-matched, with subtle graphics provided by Linson Signs.
The details are where this build really shines. The whole interior has been color-matched, with custom grenade-topped shift levers, bed tilt levers, an Air Raid siren mounted up front, matching painted HJC open-face helmets, shovel, axe, ammo can storage containers, and a custom-built subwoofer box using a bed mounted ammo can. An XTC Power Products plug and play wiring kit takes care of the accessories and turn signal functionality using the stock Polaris brake lights. While not street legal in California, it is 100% legal for on-road use in many other states, including Arizona, where it will spend a good portion of its life on the road.
Other cool features include a dash-mounted Magellan Explorist TRX7 GPS in easy reach of the passenger, as well as a PowerTank Trigger onboard air system configured to run on 2 20oz pin-valve CO2 bottles. These bottles can be refilled almost infinitely and for cheap, negating the need for an onboard compressor. Rounding out the interior is an Assault industries Tomahawk custom steering wheel and dual fire extinguisher mounts.
We went wheeling with the Rugged Crew in the rocky sections near Calico Ghost town. Greg looked right at home charging the Rugged General up the rocky outcroppings and tight canyons in the area, making quick work of most sections. This thing isn’t just a show car- Rugged built it to be used. The Walker Evans 2.5” shocks soak up trail debris and rocks with aplomb, providing a much improved ride over a stock General. All in, Rugged reckons they added about 500 lbs to the General’s already beefy build, but the car drives and looks much lighter than that. Rugged left the motor and transmission completely stock for longevity, as the General already has plenty of grunt for its intended duties.
From a front profile, the Rugged General is unmistakably old-school. The side profile reveals a bit of an updated look, with the color-matched rocker panels tying the car together visually. It’s a masterpiece in execution, and one that actually works on the trail. The only drawback? Rugged is going to be stopping on the trail to answer a lot of questions from onlookers. However, something tells us they won’t mind chatting trailside everywhere this vehicle goes.
Project: Rugged General
2016 Polaris General 4×4
Motor: Stock 999cc
Transmission / t-case: Stock
Axles: Super ATV
Body: Custom with original Jeep Willys Grill & windshield
Other: Grenade shift levers, Air Raid Siren, Matching HJC Half Face Helmets, Ammo Can Speaker, Shovel & Axe, Ammo Can Storage container
Super ATV Suspension
-3” High Clearance Lift Kit
-Powder coated for extreme durability
GMZ Wheels and Tires
15” Casino GMZ Beadlock Wheels
32” Ivan Stewart Edition Tires by GMZ
Walker Evans Shocks
-Walker Evans Racing 2.5” Piggyback coil over shocks
-50ft Sythetic Winch Line
-Short drum comp fairlead
NVFab Nick Valentine, Grover Beach CA
XTC Power Products
-Plug and Play Turn Signal Kit
-Amber Cyclone turn signals
-Gravity 7” LED Headlights
-8” PRO SPORT HID
-Assault Industries Tomahawk Steering wheel
-Fire Extinguisher mounts
-RRP660 Plus Bluetooth Intercom
-RM50-MB 50 Watt Multi-Band Radio (UHF, VHF, HAM, CB)
Magellan eXplorist TRX7 GPS
PRP Premier low back canvas seats
Linson Signs graphics
Powertank Trigger Air System
(2) 20oz Pin Valve Co2 Bottles