Old school looks, new age performanceSomeone once told us, A good paint job takes hours, but a good patina takes years. Years ago, this would have been true, but modern advances in technology have allowed us to fast-track the patina process into a matter of days, even minutes in some cases. Enter the in2dirt Rat RZR, a 2016 Polaris RZR XP Turbo that appears to have crawled out of a muggy swamp somewhere in gator country after a long slumber.
When they down to create their latest project UTV, inspiration came from an unexpected source: rust.
During Summer, we had the swamp cooler running in the shop, and it destroyed every bare metal piece left lying around. Wrenches, steel fenders, bare wheels- on anything we forgot to cover, the rust started to form says Mark Hooper of in2dirt. This included some small bracketry and trim pieces they were creating for a current UTV build, which had not yet received a coat of paint.
After taking delivery of a brand-new Polaris RZR XP Turbo days before the UTV Invasion event in St. Anthony sand dunes, the wheels began turning. With the help of some great industry partners, the in2dirt crew began piecing together the worlds oldest-looking RZR in their shop.
The brand-new car was first dropped off at Queen Racing in Lake Havasu, Arizona for some tuning upgrades. An aluminum charge pipe, HKS blow off valve, larger injectors, and Queens own proprietary ECU tuning added a good amount of horsepower to the RZRs already-potent 925cc turbocharged engine, ensuring there wouldnt be many cars that could outrun it (shy of big turbo builds). A set of HMF Titan dual mufflers were added to let the engine breathe freely with its newfound power. For more information, give Mark Queen a call at (928) 302-0986.
With the car back from Queen, it was time to address the suspension. While the XP Turbo comes stock with some of the most capable suspension pieces to ever grace a UTV, in2dirt was looking for a wider stance and stronger components. Racer Tech, based in Holland, Michigan, was a perfect fit, having a long history of building race and play car suspension and chassis components. Their $4,395 long-travel kit was optioned, featuring full chromoly tube arms that widen the RZR by 3.5 inches per side, and extend the wheelbase by 5.5 inches. The high-clearance arms are extremely strong and lightweight, adding only 20 lbs to the RZRs overall weight vs. the stock components. The kit uses 0.75 inch chromoly heim joints and 0.875 inch monoball joints to replace the factory ball joints and smaller heims. The kit comes with four A-arms, two trailing arms, all of the hardware needed to install, plus Summers Brothers extended axle shafts, Streamline extended brake lines, and a set of full extended radius rods and tie rods (not tie rod extenders). A full installation how-to can be found in the May/June issue of UTV Offroad Magazine.
Racer Tech Long Travel Suspension with RCV Axles
A set of dual-rate springs from Racer Tech completed the suspension package, allowing the stock shocks to deal with the added leverage of the longer arms. Racer Tech performed thorough testing of this long travel kit in both recreational and racing scenarios to determine the best geometry and weight balance for the car. For most users, a shock revalve is not needed, as the stock RZR XP Turbo shocks are already valved very heavily, but a spring kit is a must in our opinion.
The in2dirt crew installed the kit in their shop, and worked closely with Racer Tech during the initial spring testing and shock setup phases to come up with an all-around package that worked in any terrain. After countless hours of testing and tuning, Racer Tech had the package nailed.
In order to handle the added power, stronger axles were supplied by RCV. Their complete axles feature a non-plunging outer CV that uses a large silicon cup seal. The machined 300M axles are absolute works of art- in2dirt said they were hesitant to even bolt them up because they looked so nice. The RCV axles have very tight tolerances, and therefore require a short break-in period. Each axle is tagged with a warning label to avoid confusion. RCV claims that their axles are twice as strong as the OEM pieces, and we have no reason not to believe it. During all of the testing, the Rat RZR never suffered once axle failure. RCV can manufacture custom axles in different lengths and configurations as well.
The stock cage had to be ditched for a couple of reasons, the most important being the safety factor- they wanted something stronger than the stock cage for this race-pace UTV. The experts at IMG Motorsports in Lake Elsinore, California supplied a gorgeous 2 seat Eleanor cage, which retails for $1,799 and includes a built-in rear bumper and radius rod support bracket. The cage fit flawlessly, and added a racy look to the wide, hopped up XPT. IMG has many cage and hard-part options available for all popular UTV models, and they hand-build their parts with great attention to detail and precision. The 1.75 DOM cage features an aluminum roof skin that the in2dirt crew covered in vinyl to match the seats, giving a completed look to the interior.
Pro Armor built two custom seats for this car, both in a chocolate brown vinyl with Mexican blanket center sections. The contrast in materials adds a cool look to the interior, and only add to the already-stellar comfort of Pro Armors Interceptor G2 seat.
For the Rat RZRs new shoes, they turned to Southern California wheel builder OMF. The team at OMF has been making billet aluminum racing wheels longer than Yamaha has been making UTVs, and they know a thing or two about wheel strength. The billet 3 piece beadlock wheels feature a reinforced inner bead, interchangeable center sections, and an ultra-strong beadlock ring. The wheels were optioned with the 15×6 inch Type R Lite billet center with the Super Lite drain beadlock ring. They chose the white and gold color scheme to match the pinstriping on the graphics and the suspension pieces, and wrapped them all in Pro Armor 30 x 9.5 Hammer tires. These incredible wheels are not your average recreational wheel- these are made to stand up to much more abuse than the Rat RZR will likely ever see. OMF does have more value-friendly options like the NX-G wheels.
An Assault Industries front bumper, grill, Bomber series side mirrors, center mirror, and fire extinguisher were bolted up to the RZR to add a little flair. Once the car was all buttoned up, it went out for a few test runs to fine-tune the suspension. Once in2dirt was happy with the ride, the car was wrapped by the vinyl wizards at Wolf Designs. The wrap features a rust print pattern printed over matte metallic vinyl, which really brings the color and texture out in the sun. Blue and gold pinstripes flank the RZRs beltline, with some stylistic twists behind the door. On the hood, reminiscent of a Pontiac Trans Am, is a pinstriped pin-up girl graphic. Its old, rusty, and beautiful, all at once. With all of the trim panels pulled off, they painted the rest of the exposed blue plastic matte black. Once the car was masked, the suspension and interior covered, and thoroughly cleaned, the tough paint work began. Using Modern Masters metallic effects paint, the in2dirt team hand-brushed 40 years of rust and patina onto the brand-new RZR turbo. Using up to 12 layers of paint in some areas, they built up a textured finish that appears to be real rust- because it is. The paint is a colored base filled with a ton of iron shavings, which allows the paint to form real rust from moisture or chemical accelerant. Every inch of the car was combed over, creating a unique, 3D paint job that mixed perfectly with Wolfs wrap job. When asked, Mark estimated that they had about 60 man hours into the paint job in the end.
All of the accessories were painted to match, including the Assault side mirrors, grill, bumper, and fire extinguisher, the Trail Tech LED lights, the IMG cage, and the stock dash. A mixture of effects paint and airbrushing brings much more life to the stock Polaris dash, highlighting an area that is usually awash with black plastic. To top it off, in2dirt fabricated some interior pieces to adapt the inside of the car to the rat rod look. The shift lever was replaced with a camshaft out of a Kawasaki V-twin. The grab bar was swapped out for a custom piece made from logging chain and enormous steel hooks. The billet speedometer bezel was encrusted with copper paint and blue patina. The brake pedal is made from the end of an enormous open-end wrench; the gas pedal is a hammer (pun intended). Finally, the coup de grâce- a chain-link steering wheel, hand-welded around a stock wheel for sizing.
The final effect is one of multiplying curiosity- the closer you get, the more you find. There are areas painted onto the brand-new machine that would look at home on a 1960s sedan that has done tours in the snowbelt for the last 5 decades. The rust and patina effects blend well with the overall scheme of the car, paying homage to rusty rods around the world.
Final accessories included a set of Trail Tech 70mm LED lights and a Rugged fresh air pump system. The Trail Tech lights feature three 10 watt emitters with high and low beam function. The 30 watt lights put out 2,500 lumens each, with a throw of about 350 feet. The in2dirt crew didnt want to bolt a big, high-tech light bar on the front of their rust bucket, but the Trail Tech lights blend in pretty well. The kit is just shy of $300 with switches and wiring. When we asked about the Rugged fresh air pump, Mark said we dont build a single car without a fresh air pump. We agree- once you ride with one, you wont want to ever go without it.
We caught up with the in2dirt crew in Glamis to put the Rat RZR through its paces. When it first rolls out of the trailer, people cant help but stare; its a polarizing car. You either love it, or you hate it. We suited up and headed out towards Oldsmobile, following the Rat RZR in a bone-stock RZR XP Turbo. One thing is for certain- Queen Racings stage 2 kit throws a BIG roost.
The Rat RZR stays level through the whoops incredibly well- the guys at in2dirt set the ride height high for clearance in the desert, which translated really well into a plush ride down Sand Highway. The body motions seem very controlled compared with the stock car, and the transition into the bump zones on the shocks are smoothed out by the added leverage and spring. We stopped at Oldsmobile, where we got our chance to drive the Rat. Sliding into those custom Pro Armor buckets is surprisingly comfortable. The wool blanket material in the center of the seat breathes quite a bit better than vinyl.
We know youre all asking the same question- how bad is that steering wheel?
To be honest, it really isnt. The in2dirt crew meticulously combed the wheel (and the grab bar) for burs, sharp edges, or welding slag, smoothing the wheel into an almost polished appearance. While we still do worry about getting a finger tip stuck in one of the chain loops, we didnt have a single close encounter while driving the car. The wheel is slightly larger than the OE wheel and is pulled closer to the driver, so the car is very easy to steer. Sawing the wheel back and forth is different than in a stock RZR, but its also a very comfortable experience. The car feels planted and stable, and the larger wheel seems to slow the steering ratio down slightly, making the car very predictable.
The car is very fast, but we experienced some clutching issues at the top end of our drag runs. At over 80 mph, the belt starts to slip, eventually heating to a point where the car has to be limped around until the belt cools down. Although we experienced slippage, the Rat RZR has yet to break a belt. An aftermarket clutch kit is absolutely necessary with this level of power!
All subjectivity about its looks aside, the Rat RZR is actually a very well-performing car. The Racer Tech suspension gobbles up rough terrain with aplomb, delivering a plush ride with fantastic bottoming resistance and incredible steering precision. The power from the XP Turbos Queen Racing Stage 2 engine is addicting, as is the sound of the HKS blow off valve chirping every time you get off the loud pedal. Its a very well-assembled package; one that just happens to look like a rusty antique. Want to see more photos? Check out in2dirt on Instagram at @in2dirt_media
- CAGE/ROOF: IMG MOTORSPORTS
- DOORS: PRO ARMOR
- DOOR BAGS: PRO ARMOR
- SEATS: PRO ARMOR
- HARNESSES: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES
- STEERING WHEEL: IN2DIRT MEDIA
- SHIFTER: IN2DIRT MEDIA
- GRAB BAR: IN2DIRT MEDIA
- FRESH AIR SYSTEM: RUGGED RADIOS
- WRAP: WOLF DESIGNS
- PAINT JOB: IN2DIRT MEDIA
- FRONT BUMPER: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES
- LIGHTS: TRAIL TECH
- LONG TRAVEL SUSPENSION: RACER TECH
- AXLES: RCV
- TIE RODS: RACER TECH
- RADIUS RODS: RACER TECH
- SHOCK TUNING: RACER TECH
- MIRRORS: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES
- EXTINGUISHER: ASSAULT INDUSTRIES
- ENGINE TUNING: QUEEN RACING
- EXHAUST: HMF
- WHEELS: OMF
- TIRES: PRO ARMOR
- ASSEMBLY: IN2DIRT MEDIA