This is Local Motors' Rally Fighter, the first car openly developed and built using crowd-sourcing. It will change the auto industry forever. More importantly for me, with its P-51 fighter plane-influenced design, it might be the coolest-looking car ever.
The Rally Fighter is the first-ever crowd-sourced "creative commons"-like car, is the culmination of 35,000 designs by 2,900 community members from over 100 countries. Local Motors, the company behind it, plans to change forever the way cars are designed.
For starters, Local Motors doesn't even have a designer for their cars on staff. Each major system of the vehicle — whether it's the exterior design, interior design or doors — heck, even the name — are developed in an open source development process. Once there's enough support for any single design, Local Motors will develop it openly. That means members of the Local Motors community not only choose which designs are developed, but also, they get to help develop them. Contests are held for the development and the winner receives a monetary prize based on the importance of the system to developing the overall vehicle. Thus, door design might receive less money than say, exterior design.
That includes the "where" as well as the what. Local Motors cars are built in regional micro-factories. The first vehicle the community chose to build — the Rally Fighter — will be built at both Local Motors' headquarters in Massachusetts, but also in Arizona, where the car — built for off-road and desert races of the American Southwest — will be primarily used. Each car the Local Motors community designs will be based on regional desires, tastes and preferences.
Better yet is the manufacturing — it's done by the soon-to-be-owner. That's right, once design and engineering is fully developed the buyer goes to the local Local Motors Micro-Factory and builds it — with a little bit of their help.
Brilliant idea? Yes. Even better is that they're looking to work with the major automakers and not against them. The best analogy we've yet heard for the available market for Local Motors is to imagine a glass mason jar filled with marbles. The mason jar represents the total potential U.S. automotive marketplace and the marbles represent cars built by major automakers. You'd notice that there's a lot of nooks, crannies and openings in between those marbles. That represents unfulfilled niche markets that, frankly, just aren't covered by current vehicles available from major automakers because they're too costly for them to build in small runs. Rogers wants Local Motors to be the sand that can fill the crevices of that marble-filled mason jar.
That's what separates Local Motors from a company on the brink of failure like Tesla. Tesla, with its designs on the mid-size sedan segment, looks to replace major automakers. Local Motors wants to work with them. Each Local Motors system competition is looking for the best ideas, not new ideas. So, for instance, why design an engine from scratch, when, like the Rally Fighter, it can use BMW's perfectly good M57 3.0-liter turbo-diesel? Why build a tail light from scratch when you can just use a set from a Honda Civic? Need a Transmission? Use the 6-speed ZF auto tranny. Need a door handle? The Miata's works just fine thank you very much. Go through the car's galleries in this post and try and spot what's being used where. I think you'll be shocked at how much parts-sharing is going on here.
But that's just the start. Imagine a company able to help automakers build the niche products they want to make but just can't because the volume isn't there to make it profitable? Are you an automaker with an E85-burning engine? Contract with Local Motors to make a small volume car in the Midwest with its large ethanol production. Have a compressed natural gas engine? Let Local Motors build a car with it in areas with great CNG infrastructure. There's a lot of space in between marbles they're able to fill.
So let's talk about their first product — the Rally Fighter. Thanks to the very concept caresque styling, when you walk up to it, you're immediately struck with how attractive the Rally Fighter looks. It's got a look inspired by the historic P-51 Mustang fighter plane, right down to the pregnant belly bulge in the fuselage. The lines are swoopy in the right places and it's high up off the ground thanks to 18" of suspension travel necessary for clearing the big rocks n' boulders you'll find in Baja and other rally races.
Although the car's built for both off-road and on, because it's lacking so many weighty creature comforts, and thanks to the big BMW diesel engine, it's capable of 36 MPG on the highway or 30 MPG in an off-road setting. All while pumping out 265 HP and 425 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.
It's 189 inches long, 69.25 inches high in "high ride height mode" and 61.25 inches high in "low ride height mode." The wheelbase is 115 inches, track width is 69.5 inches and it has a curb weight estimated between 3,000 and 3,200 lbs. It seats four and it's awesome.
We can't wait to drive it. Do you want one? Head over to Local Motors and drop a deposit down now. The full price will be approximately $50,000 and looks to be well worth it.