The Local Motors crew gave me a sparkly Gazoo helmet and promised me a good time if I'd just shut up and climb in one of their Rally Fighters for a "trip around the block," which included hitting the jump in their parking lot and sliding around a dirt course for half an hour.
After a tour of Local Motors' Chandler, Arizona "microfactory" test pilot Tony Rivera brought a Rally Fighter 'round front. It took about twenty minutes to free my seat belt from inertia lock, and it snapped right back once I got it on as Rivera left a patch of rubber on his shop's doorstep.
The company's parking area was well-tracked with donut marks, and I had little time to evaluate the build quality of the Rally Fighter's interior before Rivera used a gravel pile behind the office to get us airborne.
I've done jumps on skis before, water tubes, even little hops on motorcycles. But the sensation of flying in a car is decidedly more involved. I felt so committed to the thrust of the vehicle as we soared into the landing, yet so completely out of control.
But at least there was no opportunity to flail. In fact, I had a solid kung-fu grip going on the door handle. The ride only lasted a couple seconds, but that was long enough for my organs to lose gravity and free-float around my body while my eyeballs were pinned open, laser-focused on the landing that would surely turn most cars into pancakes.
But the shocks soaked it right up, and by the time we were level again my face was getting sucked sideways as my driver pegged the throttle and power-over drifted around the crowd of Local Motors employees that had come out to enjoy the spectacle.
My stomach, which had been about ten feet behind the car since we took off, finally returned to its natural position as the rear wheels passed the fronts and we skidded to a stop in a Hollywood cloud of smoke and dust.
It's hard to beat a good hoon session, but getting to enjoy one in a vehicle I couldn't afford with a professional madman behind the wheel was a little extra amazing. My practical side is usually too strong to be hard on my own equipment, and being able to experience such shenanigans without guilt or repair bills put the biggest smile on my face.
I could dump out a thesaurus looking for a Clarksonly-articulate way to tell you "it was fucking awesome," but I think this more concisely describes the experience:
Yeah, that face. These guys know what's up.
After the jump we headed across the street to Wild Horse Motorsports park; an incredible facility with a drift course, drag strip, boat drag strip, road course, and short dirt course.
On the transit I had time to look around the inside of the car. Everything looks and feels solid, though I was a little disappointed to see that the switch labels were stickers, and they weren't all on straight.
But I wouldn't call that a deal breaker. You'll definitely be wide-eyed behind the dash of a Rally Fighter, but if you're using it properly you won't have time to nitpick the trim.
Local Motors had worked out a deal with Wild Horse for access of their short course to impress potential clients and journalists, a deal which had been finalized a few short days before my arrival.
"This is the first time we're running out here," Rivera told me, with a smile that stretched to each end of his helmet. Lucky me! Local Motors's in-house photo crew came along for the occasion, and grabbed some video of a few laps:
The ride on the short course involved a lot of sliding. Rivera was pretty much steering with the throttle, and the Rally Fighter didn't seem to balk at powering over the heavily rutted and hard-packed surface.
We dialed up the speed after a few laps, and stepped the tail way out, linking a few corners into a wild tornado of dusty drifting. My driver made it look easy; it was not his first time in an off-road race setting.
Even with long travel suspension, the jumps felt plenty jarring. Especially after we got a few laps in and Rivera started getting confident. I'm gonna go ahead and take this opportunity to dissuade people with back problems from short course racing.
The Rally Fighter seems like the perfect plug-and-play race weapon for rich guys who want to get into off-road racing and look cool doing it. But the answer to my questions about the vehicle's race experience so far was disappointing; "we know one owner has rally-crossed it," one of the engineers told me, but that was all.
I tried to convince the Local Motors marketing ladies that there were surely some Truck Yeah! readers with desert racing experience who'd be happy to vet the Rally Fighter in competition, but I haven't heard back yet.
Unfortunately I wasn't entrusted in the driver's seat, but it was great to experience some of the more exciting abilities of the Rally Fighter up close. I'm curious to see how the vehicle evolves over time, as Local Motors seemed pretty committed to continuously improving their lineup.