Editor’s note: As a marque, Kia is synonymous with a lot of things. “Excitement” usually isn’t one of them. But Corey McKinney doesn’t care. He’s taken his 2013 Kia Optima family sedan and turned it into a mean, clean, two-toned street machine.
When I was growing up, I always enjoyed going to races and checking out all of the cars and trucks in the race and on display. I turned into a desert rat and loved pre-runners. My first truck was a 2000 Ford Ranger, and the first thing I did was put a 5.5” lift on it, new gears, a skid plate, stabilizer bars, BFGoodrich® All-Terrains, and took it to the sand.
The tuner car scene is new for me. I just got into it about 2 years ago. I went to a car show, and I said, “That’s what I want to do now.” Luckily, my wife and I were in the market for a new car. We needed a family car, but I wanted something that was still fun. We’d seen the Kia Optima for a couple years and felt that it was a sexy looking sedan. However, I wanted to keep my options open and look around. We went and test drove the Optima first, then several other cars in its class.
After we car shopped, we decided to wait and discuss it before we made a purchase. We left town on vacation and couldn’t stop talking about the car. The excitement of a new car was taking over our vacation. I went online and started looking at what was available for the Optima, and I was amazed at all the aftermarket cosmetic and performance parts that were available. I decided this was going to be the car that I got into the tuner scene with. I called the dealership while we were still out of town. When we returned, they had the car with our color and options reserved for us.
Then in June 2016, I went on a KDM cruise with my son. At the meet-up spot, there were more than a hundred different KDM cars there and a couple that really stood out were from Team Hybrid. I had seen the Team Hybrid name around, but I wasn’t really familiar with who they were or what they were actually about. I spoke to them for a few minutes, and they were really cool to talk to, but then we had to get going on the cruise.
A couple months later, I went to a charity car show and ended up parking next to a group of Team Hybrid cars from the Oxnard Chapter. They were extremely friendly, asked me about my car and were very open to discussing their builds. Throughout the show, I talked on and off with the Oxnard Chapter Director, Sergio. He told me to go on their website, and check it out. As I was sitting at the car show, I logged into the website and read all about the team. I decided it was something I wanted to be a part of, so I filled out an application online and submitted pictures of my car. Later that evening, the Recruiting Director called me and I ended up becoming a probationary member that night. Now, my son Camden is also a member of Team Hybrid, and he has a project car we are working on together.
Hybrid luv to our Founder/President, James Lin, Hybrid Management of Co-Leaders, Hybrid Hunnuyz and of course, the Team Hybrid Family. Lastly, huge thank you to our team title sponsors, BFGoodrich, Meguiar's, AMSOIL, Mishimoto, K&N Filters, AEM Intakes, NRG Innovations, Password JDM and Whiteline.
Here’s a list of the modifications Corey has made to his Optima.
Engine and Performance:
Suspension and Traction:
Editor’s note: Joey DiGiovanni — aka Joey D — was one of the first true believers in the potential of UTVs. From photographing grassroots UTV events, to creating and running UTVUnderground.com, Joey D has been there from the beginning. Here, he gives us an in-depth build breakdown of his personal RZR XP4 Turbo build he calls FatRodv2.
When I launched UTVUnderground.com, it was purely intended to be a hobby to help me build my ultimate UTV. At the time, the Yamaha Rhino was king, and so I planned to build the ultimate Rhino that I dubbed the FatRod. It was low, wide, and pushed the limits of UTV design.
Fast forward almost a decade, and the sport has evolved in ways no one could have predicted. UTVUnderground.com has turned into more than I ever thought it would be. The design and development at the OEM level have increased along with aftermarket offerings, and because of that, I wanted to showcase how far we have pushed this sport with my latest build.
Although I wanted to build a new ultimate RZR, I also wanted to pay homage to our humble beginnings, and especially to the person who gave that original FatRod its identity: my late, great friend Rick “Wally World” Wallace. Wally was one of the most accomplished painters in our sport. His work graced many of the most iconic off-road vehicles our sport has ever seen, and having his talents bless the original FatRod was an honor and privilege.
The plan was set to take the newly released 2016 Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo platform and build the FatRodv2 (version 2). The RZR, in stock form, is already far superior to my fully custom FatRod Rhino, but what made that Rhino a standout wasn’t just its overall design, it was its theme, its look and, of course, its over-the-top paint and custom body. I knew I wanted to duplicate that look and feel, but I also wanted to improve upon that original build. With that, I would have to find a new painter to help bring my vision — or should I say Wally’s — back to life once again!
We started with a 2016 Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo and quickly met up with our friend Tim Berendes at SDR Motorsports. Tim has played a vital role in helping me bring multiple builds to life, so naturally I gave him first crack at being a part of this one. He jumped at the opportunity to transform and assemble the FatRodv2, and it was off to SDR’s shop in Riverside, CA, to get the build underway.
I decided to run an SDR Sport Cage for the XP4. I had run their “shorty” cage on some builds, but my kids are getting older, and they needed some additional head room. In addition, the “Sport Cage” has a solid look and looks fast even sitting still. We added SDR Hi-Bred doors and front bumper, and Tim designed and built the cage with an easily removable automotive glass windshield.
We also decided to match the look of the original FatRod by going with 5 traditional-style round lights on an adjustable light bar. Vision X provided their new 4.5″ LED CANNON lights for the top and 2.5″ Cannons for the A and C pillars. We would also install a Vision-X dome light. To cap the lighting package off, we added Heretic billet headlights and tail lights that incorporate some insanely bright LEDs and give the vehicle a true custom feel. SDR’s rear wing also has a custom integrated LED bar tied to the tail lights and features a bright white cargo light. We also installed a pair of 4′ Whip-Tech LED whips.
While the 144hp Pro-Star engine is certainly powerful, I knew after I drove the vehicle for the first time that I wanted to add some horsepower to compensate for the added weight. I wanted to throw some serious sand, and that’s where the crew at Packard Performance came in.
I delivered the FatRodv2 to Utah, and they installed their big turbo 210hp kit that features a massive Borg-Warner ball bearing EFR Turbo with alloy supercore. The kit also includes a stainless exhaust and header, high-flow aluminum charge tube, aluminum air filter tube, high-flow fuel pump, piggy back fuel controller and some of the finest TIG welding you have ever seen. They finished the kit off with their custom-tuned clutch package and ECU tune. In all, the upgrade gave us an added 100hp to the wheels taking the stock machine from 110hp to 210hp all while running on pump gas at around 17lbs of boost! The best part is we don’t have to worry about overheating the RZR anymore. The bigger turbo flows the factory cooling system so much better — getting the RZR over 200 degrees now is a challenge.
The more you crawl on the FatRodv2, the more you will find, and while it does have more bells and whistles, everything I put on this machine serves a purpose.
With the added power, we called on Sandcraft RCR to help us strengthen our driveline. We installed their billet engine mounts, drive shaft, billet carrier bearing, and front differential sprague carrier and roll pin. This package added serious power and ton of strength and reliability throughout our entire driveline. There’s no more rattles, and the driveline feels tight upon acceleration. It feels just like my truck.
We left the suspension up to Grounded 4 and Walker Evans Racing. I wanted the nimbleness of a stock-width suspension, but the strength of an aftermarket race-inspired kit. Grounded 4 sent us their Stealth Fighter suspension system that features high-strength chromoly boxed construction, high-clearance lower A-arms, and retain nearly stock weight all the way around. They supplied us with Summers Bros. axles and boxed rear radius rods. We paired the arms with custom tuned Walker Evans Racing 2.5″ Velocity Series shocks and Walker Link rear sway bar links. The suspension is plush, but able to take all the hits.
Wheels and tires are always an important decision. For the hard-packed stuff, I selected a set of 15″ Walker Evans Racing polished beadlock wheels and wrapped them in 30″ BFG KR2 Baja T/A UTV tires. The combination is not the lightest, but it gives the FatRodv2 a stout look and durability while going hard in the desert.
On the interior, the Fatrodv2 resembles a luxury pre-runner. The carbon fiber starts at the hood and ends at the console, thanks to FourWerx and their insanely perfect front factory replacement hood and center console. The carbon fiber dash by GlazzKraft houses our RacePak iq3 RZR dash data logging system and allows us to monitor all our car’s data, including speed, engine temp, belt temp, boost, RPM, oil pressure, and more. Navigation is handled by an iPad mini mounted to the dash via a Mob Armor mount made specifically for the GlazzKraft dash.
Communications are covered by PCI Race Radios. We installed an icom 50w Race radio and PCI 4 place intercom. The car also features PCI Race-air to keep our helmets fresh with clean air. PCI Race Radios has been in off-road communications for a very long time: their on-site support is second to none, and their products are always on point.
You can’t build a custom car without putting in a stereo system. Tim and I turned to RockFord Fosgate and installed their sick new PMX-3 head unit, which not only gives us Bluetooth capabilities, it also features a digital screen that displays a ton of information and looks high-end. The head unit controls our SSV Works 5-speaker system which is tuned perfectly. When we hit the hill the party never stops, thanks to these awesome companies and their products!
The dash was finished off with a new Switch-Pro’s digital switch panel that allows us to control all our electronics with a push of a button. The switches are programmable and remain close together for easy location and labeling. We have begun to add Switch-Pro’s products to all our new builds because of their quality, looks, and ease of installation.
No interior is complete without custom seats. Simpson helps keep the FatRodv2 comfortable and looking good via their front Vortex bucket seats and matching 3-seat Vortex rear bench. We added Simpson latch-and-link 2″ padded harnesses to help keep me and the family held in tight on those high-speed runs.
Axia Alloys made sure we finished the FatRodv2 off right by supplying their billet side mirrors, 12″ sun visor / rear view mirrors, and various clamps and mounts. Clean, sleek, tight, and proper best describe their products, and they really keep everything mounted to the cage looking thought-out and clean.
With all these electronics, we knew we were going to need more power to push them all. The Achilles heel for all my builds has been drawing power, both during use and when parked in the shop for months at a time. Nothing annoys me more than when I want to fire a car up and the battery is dead. Putting a tender on isn’t always convenient due to the under-the-seat battery location. To solve this problem, we turned to our friends at Odyssey Battery and UTV Wiring. Odyssey’s PC1200 & 925 batteries work perfectly to pair side-by-side within the factory battery box location on the RZR. We then added UTV Wiring’s dual battery kit with battery isolator and power disconnect switch. This well-thought-out design allows you to put all your accessories onto one battery, but gives you the security of having a backup should you drain the main battery while letting your stereo supply the party vibe all night long. You can rely on the secondary battery to still start your RZR. Now, there are some things we realize we could improve after building the machine. Therefore, FatRodv2 will head to UTV Wiring’s shop in Arizona to go under a full re-wire. We will treat it like a racecar and upgrade numerous electronic components, fusing, stereo, and more.
The final bolt-on mod was certainly not the least important. It’s no secret that the UTV community — particularly the RZR platform — have been hit hard by vehicle fires. When building a custom machine like this, you want to protect your investment. We have been running fire extinguishers for many years, but not until recently has a company actually put effort into developing a race-quality fire suppression system. Safecraft developed an automatic thermal fire suppression system for UTVs this past year, and we jumped at the chance to run it. From the outside, the system just looks like any other Safecraft fire bottle mounted to the cage, but instead of being on a quick release, it is hard mounted with a stainless steel braided line that runs through the rear firewall and ends with a thermal sensor mounted right above the engine. This thermal sensor — once it reaches a temperature associated with fire — will pop off and dump the NOVEC fire suppression agent to extinguish the fire. What’s special about the NOVEC agent is that once it sprays, unlike more traditional agents, it will not destroy or corrode your vehicles sensitive wiring and mechanical components. Simply wash it off and keep it rocking!
When I launched UTVUnderground.com, it was purely intended to be a hobby to help me build my ultimate UTV. Fast forward almost a decade, and the sport has evolved in ways no one could have predicted.
With the build in order, it was time to put the final touches on the FatRodv2 which brings us back to the beginning of the story. Wally was an amazing painter, but Wally’s time here on earth came to an end prior to starting this build. I wanted to use this version of the FatRod to not only showcase how far UTVUnderground.com had come, but to also honor my late, great friend. Except for our friend John Melvin of Mad Melvin Motorsports, no one in the UTV game was doing it like Wally.
By night, Melvin is a RZR builder and racer. By day, he owns and operates JM Collision out of Arizona. While the specialty is body & repair, John has made a name for himself as one of the sport’s go-to painters. John and I spoke about the project, and he came back to me with a plan to not only bring my vision to life, but give me a paint job that even Wally would have wanted for himself. Together with Axalta Coating Systems, the automotive industries biggest and best automotive paint products company, John went to work on sanding, priming, sanding some more, and painting. He laid down a triple-black base coat that looks wet even when covered in dirt. He not only put the paint on all the metal, but he took our plastics and gave them a coat of paint too that looks like the body of any steel car out there.
With the base coat laid out and looking prime, Melvin called in his buddy Al of Al’s Pinstriping. Al is an old-school pinstriping machine, and just like the old timer that Wally called upon to finish the OG FatRod, Al came in and gave the FatRodv2 the finishing touches in needed. Hand applied, hot rod-inspired striping was applied to the entire RZR. Every single logo on this machine was done by hand; there is not a single sticker on this build. I gave the two full creative freedom. The only thing I asked was that the original “Big Daddy Roth” font was used for the FatRod emblems and that the custom “Full House” logo that Wally created for me was recreated. “Full House” was a logo Wally came up with to honor my own family. Three KINGS and Two QUEENS represent the three boys and two women that make up my immediate family. When Wally showed me his work the first time I almost cried with joy and I felt the love he had for me as a friend through his thought and detail. John and Al brought all those memories back, and while I made sure that John had Al put his JM Collision logo into the paint, Al, instead of putting his own, graced the front hood with Wally’s iconic signature just like the original FatRod had. It was an awesome gesture that I know Wally would have appreciated.
The more you crawl on the FatRodv2, the more you will find, and while it does have more bells and whistles, everything I put on this machine serves a purpose. Putting the FatRodv2 together was an amazing process, and I plan to be ripping this awesome Polaris RZR for a long time to come!
This build breakdown was originally published at UTVUnderground.com. For more on Joey D, follow him and UTVUnderground.com on Instagram.
Del Albright could pass for any other regular as he sits in a wood-paneled Moab diner. He’s got a mug of coffee and a plate of huevos rancheros in front of him, and his kind eyes and full, gloriously white horseshoe mustache give him the air of a folksy mountain man. His attitude is calm and carefree, like a man who’s been on vacation so long he can’t remember a time from before. But make no mistake, Albright is a fighter, and he’s been fighting nearly all his life.
There are any number of reasons to fight, some noble, some less so: for love, for money, for honor, or just because. Albright chose one of the noble reasons: freedom.
Albright grew up in a world defined by the Cold War. It was Soviet oppression against Western freedom, a conflict that saw the United States taking a leading role. But as a kid, Albright wasn’t necessarily analyzing the global political divisions of his time. However, he did experience — and understand — a visceral kind of freedom at a young age. It was 1962, Albright was 14 years old, and he became an off-roader.
“My dad bought a 1952 Studebaker Commander. We tore the body off, shortened it, and made a dune buggy out of it,” he recalls. “That’s how I started off-roading. That Studebaker was our toy. We’d go rock hounding, hunting, fishing, and exploring in the Southern California desert. We went to Glamis and Ocotillo Wells — they’re famous areas now, but there were very few people then. We just free-roamed.”
It was natural for Albright to look outdoors for things to do: “We didn’t have any electronics at home. We were poor, so everything was outside.” Furthermore, there were very few restrictions and regulations on accessing the outdoors. “It was just open road, and it taught me a lot about freedom,” he says. With all the time Albright spent outdoors, it was only natural that he would begin taking a deeper interest in biology, botany, and other natural sciences.
His father, a World War II veteran, also added his take on individual liberty to the backdrop of open lands. “He talked about freedom, fighting for his country, and the freedom to go do this sort of thing: hunting, fishing, rock hunting, whatever. He helped establish my passion in life to explore freely and be an adventurer.”
It wasn’t long before Albright’s commitment to freedom was tested. “I finished high school and started junior college, but I was just goofing off. But Vietnam came along, and with my freedom fighting attitude, I volunteered to go in the Army.”
Albright turned out to be an excellent soldier, and the Army noticed. Before long, he was being sent to Officer Candidate School, and after being commissioned, he rapidly progressed through a number of other specialties. “I became a special operations guy: Green Beret, Airborne, Ranger…I did everything the Army had to offer, and some that the Navy had to offer. I worked with SEALs, worked on dive teams, jumped out of airplanes with scuba tanks on…just all kinds of movie stuff,” he says.
All the while, Albright’s experience in the Army reinforced his commitment to freedom. “When I saw how people were trampled, mistreated, and kept in poverty in South America and then Vietnam and Southeast Asia…well, I fought for their freedom, and I came home with that attitude [after six years in the Army].”
As a guiding principle, fighting for freedom is unimpeachable. But there isn’t much of a market for professional freedom fighters, especially outside of the military. So once Albright was discharged, he returned to the outdoors for the next chapter of his life.
“My buddy and I were sitting on a rice paddy dike one night in Vietnam. We were under fire, it was raining, and we were miserable. We’re under a tarp, trying to stay dry and pass the time, and I said, ‘What are you going to do when you get back?’ He only had a couple of weeks remaining [in his tour of duty]. He said he was going back to school for forestry and logging. And I said, ‘That sounds good. I’ll do that too.’”
When Albright left the Army, he went back to school and got a degree in forestry and began working for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). “I went in as a forester helping manage the trees on state land. The other side of the organization was fighting fires, and I got more interested in that. After a few years, I went over and became a fireman,” he says.
Just like that, Albright traded freedom fighting for firefighting. Over the next 26 years, Albright would move up the ranks, eventually being promoted to fire chief. But instead of sticking around to enjoy his position, Albright retired. “Once you get up to being a chief, you’re no longer fighting fires, you’re fighting papers,” he quips.
Luckily, throughout his career with Cal Fire, Albright still managed to find time to enjoy the outdoors, instead of treating it solely as an adversary. “I was still Jeeping and four-wheeling, and I was volunteering to help keep trails open,” he says. That hobby introduced Albright to what would be the next chapter in his life, a chapter that would enable him to combine his love for the outdoors and his penchant for freedom fighting.
“[Being outdoors] was how I grew up, and it instilled in me a desire to keep that life for my friends and family,” Albright says. He began by writing for the outdoors community — American Rifleman, American Hunter, and other magazines — about the importance of preserving access to public lands. Eventually, Albright landed at the BlueRibbon Coalition, an organization that promotes the preservation of public lands for the public.
For Albright, there’s a delicate balance. “It’s about taking care of nature, but still enjoying it and being able to go see it,” he says. His misgivings are towards a brand of exclusionary environmentalism that coopts the Wilderness Act of 1964, which was originally created to preserve large swaths of natural resources and block enterprises that would destroy those resources, such as oil drilling or real estate development.
In Albright’s estimation, the Wilderness Act has been tweaked and pushed far beyond its original scope, allowing for Wilderness areas to be designated in our collective back yards. And with the Wilderness designation, roads and trails are closed, effectively making those chunks of land largely inaccessible, even if, as Albright says, “you hike your ass off.”
“I used to take my parents in the back of my Jeep. They couldn’t hike anymore, but they could see from my Jeep window. So when a road or trail got closed off, that closed them off from seeing our history and culture,” he says. “So many places I used to go — ghost towns, cabins — are now Wilderness or other restricted areas, and you can no longer drive to them. Of course, they either burn down or fall apart, and they’re gone. That’s my heritage disappearing.” That’s Albright’s freedom fighting instinct kicking in. To him, it’s not right when American citizens are indiscriminately prohibited from accessing large parts of their own country.
“I’ve taken my passion and turned it into a job. That’s the secret of life in my estimation."
On the other hand, Albright recognizes the need for structure and organization in how trails are used and how access is managed. Four-wheelers, dirt bikers, and all motorized enthusiasts must be educated on how to traverse public lands without tearing them up and preventing future visitors from enjoying them. “The BLM and Forest Service have to do their job: on one hand, you have the extreme closure people, and on the other, you’ve got hardcore wheelers who want to leave it all open,” he says. “It’s all about compromise and finding a balance. That’s why people like me need to do this. There has to be somebody speaking up for the responsible motorists, like how there’s somebody speaking up for radical environmentalists.”
Luckily, in addition to organizations like the BlueRibbon Coalition, Albright has another partner in his corner. “BFGoodrich is one of the biggest supporters of the trail system. With the Outstanding Trails program, thousands of dollars every year are donated for specific trails where there’s a club or group taking care of it, maintaining it, and showing ownership of their public lands, with $160,000 donated in the last 12 years,” he says. “The money goes to good use.”
Since becoming an advocate for land use and public lands access in 2001, Albright hasn’t lost sight of what he’s fighting for, but he’s also not so naïve to think that this issue will be resolved any time soon. And yet, he seems just as happy to be fighting this fight. “I’ve been doing this six days a week, 12 hours a day,” he says. “But I’ve taken my passion and turned it into a job. That’s the secret of life in my estimation. It’s a neat trick.”
Tom Holm was having a bad day, and it was about to get a lot worse. He was driving from Northern California back to his Southern California home and had pulled over to stretch his legs. As he walked around his truck, he noticed an epithet had been keyed into the blue paint: POLLUTING MOTHERF*CKER.
In the early 2000s, Holm was host of a TV show called Adventure Highway. The show combined epic North American road-trips with beautiful outdoors locations and activities. “Every episode was me driving a vehicle to a great, beautiful destination. One week we might drive to Vail and do some backcountry skiing. The next, we’d drive to Half Moon Bay and go big wave surfing,” he says. “I was making tons of money, and it was great fun for a couple of years, but there was something missing. We were driving these big-ass 4x4s and motorhomes through redwood forests and other pristine locations, and it was kind of getting under my skin that we were doing that.”
"I was making tons of money, and it was great fun for a couple of years, but there was something missing. We were driving these big-ass 4x4s and motorhomes through redwood forests and other pristine locations, and it was getting under my skin."
In the days leading up to this particular bad day, Holm had been in Northern California shooting an episode about ocean kayaking, and the valet at his hotel had been a jerk during his entire stay. “I couldn’t understand why,” says Holm. “I handed him my keys and he said, ‘Thanks a lot, motherf*cker.’ And I thought, wow that’s terrible. But I’m there a couple of days, and on the last day, he hands me my keys with a smirk. There was a little blue paint on my keys, but I didn’t really think much about it.”
But after seeing his defaced truck, Holm was thinking hard about it. “I was pretty pissed,” he says. And that was just the bad part of the day.
Here’s when it got worse: “As I’m driving home, my wife calls me up and she goes, ‘Get home as quickly as you can. Our son will likely not live through the night.’”
Holm’s young son had been diagnosed with leukemia at the age of three, and it was something that added to the unease Holm felt about driving huge diesel motorhomes through the outdoors. “When my son was diagnosed, the doctor had me read this study that said diesel fumes are highly carcinogenic. I thought I was poisoning my son,” he says.
“As I’m driving home, I’m praying to God, ‘Keep my son alive. I know I need to change. I’ll do whatever I need to do. I’ll commit myself to the environment. I’ll commit myself to using whatever skills I have to influencing people to pollute less.’”
The good news is that Holm’s awful day got better. His son made it through the night, recently earned a college degree in Behavior Neuroscience, and is now training to become a U.S. Navy SEAL. Holm also fulfilled his promise. He dove into environmental studies and earned a Master’s degree (summa cum laude) from the prestigious Scripps Institution of Oceanography. During his subsequent Ph.D. program, Holm was named the Lead Scientific Safety (SCUBA) Diver during the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology’s inaugural expedition in Greece.
So what does Holm, a self-avowed environmentalist, have to do with the automotive industry and BFGoodrich Tires? It’s a connection that seems at odds with the pursuit of horsepower, or the impulse behind building the wildest, sickest, raddest, gnarliest vehicles. But one just has to look at the EcoTrek Foundation, the nonprofit Holm founded, to see purpose and direction that neatly dovetails with the automotive industry.
EcoTrek’s goal is to help “preserve cultural and natural resources by driving the use of renewable power, products, and practices.” At the macro level, Holm and EcoTrek have been involved in conversations whose fruits we are just beginning to see: the increased availability of diesel engines from GM and Ford; the use of aluminum — a lighter and more easily recycled alternative to steel — in Ford’s truck bodies; biodiesel pilot programs in the United States military; and more.
But outside of this advocacy and consulting, EcoTrek has been deeply involved in practicing what it preaches. Instead of just talking about using renewable fuels and materials, Holm has designed and built numerous vehicles using products made from recycled materials and converted vehicles to run on cleaner, renewable power sources: biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, electricity, hydrogen, compressed natural gas, and propane.
For example, EcoTrek used lightweight materials in the hood, wheels, and tires of a Kia Optima Hybrid, to decrease vehicle weight and increase its fuel efficiency. EcoTrek also built a Saturn Sky to run on ethanol while increasing its horsepower output.
“It’s not the truck for the truck itself, but it’s that truck as a vehicle to get me somewhere, to be able to fulfill a purpose."
As promising as those fuels are, the fact remains that using most of them is impractical: the technology isn’t yet mature or accessible enough for most. Which is why biodiesel has become an area of focus for EcoTrek. Biodiesel is a “drop-in” fuel — it requires no engine modifications, and can be blended with petroleum-based diesel with no notable loss in performance. Plus, using an algae-based biodiesel takes advantage of the fact that algae consumes or absorbs the very carbon dioxide produced by burning biodiesel. Compared to a plug-in electric vehicle charged by power generated from a coal power plant, the entire system of biodiesel production and consumption is arguably cleaner and more sustainable.
To make this point, EcoTrek converted a Hummer H2 — arguably the most recognizable symbol of gas-guzzling wastefulness — to run on biodiesel, tripling its gas efficiency in the process. There have also been a gamut of full-size and heavy-duty trucks — a hybrid Silverado, an algae-based biodiesel F-350, a flex-fuel Avalanche — that have served as statements for what is possible, even after taking environmental concerns into account.
Ultimately, these converted and modified vehicles are just a means to an end. EcoTrek’s scope goes beyond just building concept vehicles. What sets EcoTrek apart is its scientific and anthropological work in preserving cultural and natural resources. “It’s not the truck for the truck itself, but it’s that truck as a vehicle to get me somewhere, to be able to fulfill a purpose, to be able to do archaeological expeditions or environmental expeditions,” says Holm. “And we want to do so in the least invasive ways. We don’t want to go to these pristine, naturally beautiful locations and pollute them or be very intrusive.”
To that end, Holm has turned to lighter, smaller builds. His latest is a diesel-powered Chevrolet Colorado: "It’s a great vehicle that is fuel efficient, and highly capable off-road," he says, while retaining all the load and towing capacity he needs for his expeditions.
In 2017 alone, EcoTrek was involved in reintroducing native species to California’s Channel Islands and charting ancient seaborne trade routes in the area; releasing olive ridley sea turtle hatchlings in Mexico; and exploring Mayan cultural sites.
"I’m just looking at the next few steps in front of me because I can impact them. And I know the ripple I create now may cause a wave down the road.”
That these expeditions take place in demanding and remote environments gives Holm an opportunity to put his ideas to the test. “I’m often going to very extreme environments. It’s not like running Moab where you’ve got buddies with winches and ropes. You can die in many of the places we go if your vehicle isn’t there for you,” says Holm. “We have generators, watermakers, and life-sustaining equipment, but if we can’t get back to civilization, we’re dead!”
“Out of necessity, I had to study suspension, I had to understand fuel capacities to be able to extend our range, and I had to be able to work with tires that could provide us with proper traction and durability,” he continues. “I’m a really big fan of BFGoodrich All-Terrains because we often journey several thousand miles on roads to get to the trailhead of our off-road destination. We need a tire that can sustain us in both of those environments.”
Holm doesn’t view his concepts as closely-held, top secret knowledge, either. “We’re trying to find ways to make our vehicles and these concepts viable. We try to demonstrate to other scientists and other outdoors enthusiasts some applications they can use,” he says. “I don’t look at my vehicles as unique one-offs. I think of them as the first one because I want there to be hundreds of what I build. I’d rather my ideas be utilized as opposed to being spent.”
When Holm founded EcoTrek, he was on the cutting edge of mainstream environmental awareness, and for a while, he was the only voice in the wilderness. “Going back 15 years when I started EcoTrek, there really wasn’t any interest outside of fringe environmental groups,” he says. But there’s certainly a growing awareness and sensitivity to the environmental impact humans and their vehicles have. It’s a thread that can be seen in responsible land use and trail access organizations, as well as in the growing overlanding community.
But Holm makes a case for environmentally friendly measures as more than just a feel-good venture. “There is a huge economic uptick to what I’m talking about. Municipalities, cities, and governments, including our own, just recently started setting emissions requirements,” he says, which means there are lucrative contracts for converting fleet vehicles to adhere to those requirements. “At commercial vehicle shows, you’re starting to see the emissions-free vehicles and electric vehicles we’ve been talking about for 15 years."
And with EcoTrek’s work with the United States Navy on biofuels for ships, planes, and tactical vehicles, Holm can even see a national security benefit. “Maybe the military can use biofuels so we don’t have to be dependent on the Middle East. Maybe we can grow our own fuel in America. Maybe we can use wastewater to grow algae that can be turned into algae biofuels in some of our remote bases so we don’t have to worry about logistics or the lives lost [transporting fuel].”
As the possibilities and opportunities flow from Holm’s mind, he makes sure to keep his aspirations modest. “I’m bright, not brilliant. And I think I am passionate, but not fanatic,” he says. “I’m not looking at the entire journey. I’m just looking at the next few steps in front of me because I can impact them. And I know the ripple I create now may cause a wave down the road.”
Editor’s note: We met Adam Arsenault and his yellow BroadSword Racing Jeep at the 2017 Warfighter Made Open House. Here, the Marine tells us why he competes in off-road endurance racing, and how he balances the demands of being an active duty serviceman and his desire to test himself in a car.
Tell us a little about who you are, and what BroadSword Racing is.
I'm Gunnery Sergeant Adam Arsenault. I've been in the Marine Corps for 17 years and deployed 7 times. Several of those deployments were to Afghanistan, where our unit radio call-sign was "BroadSword.” The men in that unit were some of the finest I've ever served with, and not all of them came home, so when it came time to name my race team I thought it would be a fitting tribute to one of the most difficult, yet rewarding times of my military career.
How did you become interested in off-road endurance racing?
I grew up around recreational off-roading, mostly Jeeps, but it wasn't until the Marine Corps transferred me to Southern California that I became involved in competitive off-road endurance racing. I saw a post in an off-road internet forum asking for chase crew volunteers for the Baja 1000, so a friend and I loaded up his truck with tools and we drove to Ensenada, Mexico without knowing anyone on the team or even what we were supposed to do! It was an incredible adventure and I immediately fell in love with the sport. Since then, I've spent every bit of free time and money I have chasing the next off-road racing adventure. Ironically enough, this year I drove a Class 7 truck in the 50th anniversary of the Baja 1000 for the same team owner who I first volunteered for 10 years ago.
Why off-road endurance racing?
During my military career, I have become comfortable with austere environments. It's a strange mix of peacefulness and excitement. The peace comes from the beautiful terrain and wide open spaces where few humans dare to travel. The thrill comes from the realization that help is not close by and you must overcome whatever obstacles you encounter on your own. As Marines, we are taught to "adapt and overcome." Endurance off-road racing embodies this same mindset, and that really appeals to me.
Endurance off-road racing is also very similar to a military operation in many ways. A group of like-minded people from every corner of the country and from all walks of life come together for a "mission" to get one race car from point A to point B. This mission involves reconnaissance (pre-running), logistics (pit stops), communication, and navigation, which are all skills that we have honed over multiple combat deployments. These skills often go unused after returning home from a deployment, so off-road racing gives us an outlet to relive the positive experiences from our combat deployments. Win or lose, at the end of the day, we always get the race car back home, and through that process we build camaraderie, much like we did overseas.
As active duty Marines, how do you find the time to prep and race a vehicle at such demanding events as King of the Hammers and the Baja 1000?
It's definitely not easy. We don't have the time to race as much as we would like, so we focus on the big races every year, such as KOH and the Baja 1000. We've been lucky to race KOH seven out of the past eight years, and in 2014 we were actually able to race the entire West Coast Ultra4 series.
Our military commitments will still occasionally interfere though. For example, we missed KOH 2012 because we were in Afghanistan, and I missed a driving opportunity at the 2014 Baja 1000 because my unit was on standby to deploy to Iraq. Although we hate to miss races, we fully understand that we made a commitment when we joined the Marine Corps, and personal sacrifice is part of that commitment.
Do you have any memorable stories you'd like to share?
One race like KOH or the Baja 1000 is good for a lifetime of stories. There are so many that it's tough to narrow them down to the most memorable, and with the remote nature of desert racing, most of the time it's only the driver and co-driver who get to experience them. Because of this we try hard to capture as much as we can during the race through the lenses of GoPro cameras in order to share our experiences with others. We captured one such story during KOH 2016:
During the 2016 King of the Hammers EMC race, we came across the #26 car of Duane Garretson from CGYS Motorsports flipped on its side at race mile 32. As we slowed down to make sure they were okay, we noticed they had a tow strap ready to be hooked up, so we stopped to pull them back over. Even though we lost a few positions, it only cost us 40 seconds and we would have wanted someone else to do the same thing for us. Other teams have helped us during past races, so we always look for opportunities to "pay it forward" and continue the cycle.
Duane Garretson was able to get back into the race, and they finished the entire 115-mile course, but they were 1 hour past the 6pm cutoff time. Despite starting 39th (next to last in our class) and stopping to help the #26 car, we fought our way to 7th place by race mile 72 (of 115). Unfortunately, that’s as far as we made it. We broke an upper front suspension joint which ended our day early.
Even though we didn't finish, hopefully our video encourages other competitors in every form of motorsports to do the same thing in the future. The old adage still rings true today: "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."
Follow BroadSword Racing’s Instagram to stay up to date on their preparation and racing schedule.
Editor’s note: It’s fine if you don’t recognize Seth Quintero’s name or face. In most states, he’s not even old enough to drive unsupervised. But if the past couple of years is any indication, Quintero is set up to be a force in off-road racing. After all, he was the 2015 UTV World Champion, the 2015 WORCS Champion, and a Red Bull athlete. Here, Quintero answers a few questions about his family, what it means to race, and why he’s on BFGoodrich Tires.
How did you get your start in racing?
My dad raced dirt bikes. He started racing before I was born. He raced track and desert, but after I was born, he mostly did desert racing. Our family loves the desert, so to integrate our family time, our love for the desert, and his love for racing, he chose to stick with the desert racing. In 2006, my parents bought me a little 60 quad for my birthday. I was 4 at the time. When the next desert racing series started a month later, they had a youth race after the big races. My parents let me race it, and I loved every minute of it. I was hooked.
Why do you race UTVs?
There are a couple of reasons why I race UTVs. One, the safety aspect of it was a top priority for my parents. My dad was in a really bad accident racing his dirt bike, so having a roll cage and 5-point harness really eased their nervousness with me wanting to race. The second thing is the affordability of the sport. We are a small race family, working class I guess you could say. The cost of racing UTVs is not cheap by any means, but it is more affordable than trying to race a trophy truck or a Pro4 or Pro2. The cost for entries is a lot less, and honestly, if you keep up on the maintenance, these RZRs will last forever.
And the fun! The fun of racing these is the best part. I have the best time racing UTVs. The rush of going as fast as you can with no hesitation is awesome. Best adrenaline rush ever.
Why do you race?
I race because it’s in my blood. Since I was little, it was all I talked about. It’s all I ever wanted to do. If I’m not racing, I’m watching videos about racing. Racing is my happy place. It’s the time where I am in control of my own destiny. It’s what drives me.
What series do you compete in?
For 2018, I will be competing in Best In The Desert UTV World Championship race. I will also be doing some WORCS short course racing and AMA District 38 (another desert racing series) when it doesn't conflict with BITD. There are also 2 other race series I am hoping to get involved with but we haven't set any solid plans yet for those.
What role does your family play? Is everyone involved? Who does what?
My family is my race team, and everyone plays a role, even my grandmas! I would not be where I’m at if it wasn't for my family helping. My dad is my mentor and my crew chief. My dad and I do all my race prep from start to finish. My dad is also my spotter for short course. He wears many hats when it comes to the race team but being my dad first is always his top priority.
My mom is awesome. She handles race prep as well, it’s just a little bit different. She handles my schedule, organizing our meals, cooking, packing, runs parts, some of the social media, race registration, keeping us on task, and her favorite: the water bottle and umbrella holder. We tease her about that. She always has an umbrella and water bottle on the start line for me. She leaves just before the race starts though. She’s not a fan of the start, but after I race off, I can see her cheering me on from the sidelines. She's my biggest fan for sure!
My sister also handles some of the social media stuff like pictures and video edits when she can. She tries to make as many races as possible, but it gets tough for her with a full-time job and school. I also have my extended family that helps when they can with our desert racing. My Uncle Carlos is an awesome fab guy! He actually built my first RZR. He also helped build my first desert car this year, and for the first couple of those races, he was my co-driver. He has been in the industry for a really long time, so he is really knowledgeable. I am so lucky to have him as my Uncle and on the team.
My other Uncle JB also helps with the desert racing when he can. He helps in the pits with checking over the car, gas, or tire changes. (Luckily, we haven't had to do one yet!)
My Grandpa (Papa) also helps in the pits like my Uncle JB. He also brings his service truck when he can for extra tools we might need. And last, but not least, both my grandmas try to come to as many races as possible. They give me all the moral support, snacks, and good luck than any other racer!
How do you keep the family aspect intact while running a race team?
We keep the family aspect by keeping close. We do everything together on and off the track. When we are traveling for races, we like to make little mini vacations out of it. We do some sightseeing along the way, or take a couple extra hours on the way home to check out new spots we haven't been before. We are a family first. No matter what, making memories and being together is always our number one.
What’s your best memory of off-road?
My best off-road memory in racing would have to be winning the 2015 UTV World Championship Race. There is no greater feeling then winning the biggest UTV race of the year.
My best non-racing off-road memory would have to be a family trip we took up to Mammoth, CA, for camping, fishing, and off-roading. We still talk about it to this day.
How do BFGoodrich tires affect how you drive and compete?
The tires give me so much confidence. I know how well they are made and how durable they are. I have never had a flat tire in any of my races since I have been using them — knock on wood! This year alone, I was in 18 races with zero flats.
Put it this way: I haven't run a spare tire on my RZR since April 2017. That’s how good these tires are for UTV racing. I can hit any jumps or whoops and go over the gnarliest rocks with total confidence. Knowing that I can trust my tires so much, I can focus my attention on winning races.
Learning the ins and outs of BITD. I’m so stoked that BITD is letting me race and giving me a chance to run with the big guys out there, even though I’m not quite old enough. I know our team has a long way to go when it comes to BITD racing, but I am confident we will get there together. I’m really looking forward to the Mint 400. It has always been a dream of mine to race it. And of course, the famous UTV World Championship race. My whole family loves this race just as much as I do.
Long term, my goals are to race everything. To be able to have many different racing experiences, whether off-road or on pavement. To make racing my career and to make a living racing. I want my kids to be able to come watch me race one day, and hopefully I’ll leave a legacy to them so they can enjoy racing as well.
This summer, I drove from Denver, Colorado, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, with my girlfriend, Ally, and our two dogs. Knowing that we would be living out of the truck for an undetermined amount of time, I had to rebuild my 2013 Toyota Tundra.
The Tundra is lifted with a Toytec 3.5" BOSS Suspension Lift, with Camburg Racing upper control arms. We mounted a set of 35" BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KO2s, and a few days before the trip, we added airbags because the truck started to sag a bit with all of the gear.
On top of the Tundra, I had a custom rack built with 1" steel tubing and expanded metal across the top. I wouldn't recommend 1" in this application as it flexes a bit. We had a weld break on one of the mounting points and had to get it fixed along the way in Palmer, Alaska, by Rod Rossing at Northern Industrial Training. He stayed after work on a Friday night to help us out.
For recovery tools, we mounted a Hi-Lift jack and MaxTrax to the top of the rack above the cab. We also packed the largest come-along I could find, just in case. We also had an ax and shovel mounted to the side of the rack as well.
I also mounted Rigid off-road lights on the truck: a small light bar on the front bumper, a fifty-inch light bar across the front of the rack above the cab, and six small Ignite lights circling the rack. The Ignite lights are extremely handy, as you can point them in any direction, and light up an entire campsite, while drawing only a small amount of power. Alongside the rack, I mounted a Hinterland Industries awning to provide some shelter at a campsite. The small light bar in the front, called a Capture, housed a GoPro for the trip that we could turn on at anytime from inside the cab to capture images of bears and other wildlife.
On top of the truck was our home. We slept in a Freespirit Recreation Adventure series M49 tent. It takes about two and half minutes to set up, and about 10 minutes to pack down. It was spacious and as comfortable as a bed. The tent itself is waterproof, and we kept all our bedding inside, even when packed down. It felt like a tree house with how high we were above the ground – and it added confidence when thinking about grizzly bears.
In the bed of the truck, we rebuilt the storage system and platform with edge-to-edge plywood. Half of the platform hinged up and away from the cab of the Tundra to access the storage that was out of reach when standing at the back bumper. The platform also served as a bed for the dogs. We have two large breed dogs that needed to be kept safe at night, and they were too heavy to lift up into the tent. We put several wool blankets down and they slept comfortably with screened windows opened.
We built a solar shower on top of the truck out of 4" black ABS pipe, a pressure cap, a Schrader valve to pressurize it, and a spigot to attach a short garden hose. The shower was mounted to the rack with pipe clamps.
To keep our food bear-safe and cool when needed, we used a Yeti 65. As the trip continued, we realized how valuable block ice was to find. It lasts longer and is more functional with a lot of smaller items in the cooler. Every night we took the cooler out of the back of the truck to make room for the dogs to sleep, so we moved the cooler over and over. It was 100% bear-proof for 2 months.
Some other packing pro-tips:
The entire trip was just over 9,000 miles. We drove from Colorado through Oregon and Washington, up into British Columbia. We explored a lot of BC, although it wasn’t all on purpose, as we had to avoid the tragic forest fires going on. We went through the Yukon and arrived in Alaska by way of Whitehorse. Once in Alaska, we drove south to Valdez and slowly worked our way west to the Kenai Peninsula. We stayed there for a little over two weeks before heading back towards Anchorage. Finally in a larger city, we stocked up on supplies and aimed our sights on Denali.
From Denali, we went to Fairbanks where we contemplated for about 15 minutes before deciding to tack on an extra 24 hours of driving, just to go to Prudhoe Bay. We wanted to see what the infamous Dalton Highway would have in store for us. We knew the truck could handle the rough road. This desolate road did not disappoint: grizzly bears, musk ox, snow, fog, pouring rain, snow, mud that took weeks to wash off, and barely any other humans.
On the way home we added another detour by going to Jasper and Banff, Alberta, passing again through Vancouver. We crossed the border in Washington and made our way back down south to Oregon for a pit stop before the final leg back to Colorado.
With all those miles and various weather and road conditions, the Tundra performed perfectly. By the time we got home, the truck’s mileage was tipping 150,000. All in all, it was a trip of a lifetime.
Kelly is in the habit of making trips of a lifetime. Read about one of his previous journeys here.
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