This past Thursday, I went to lunch with my friend Jeff to a local deli and on the way out, saw this Jim’s Garage rock crawler in the parking lot. This is not something you see every day, so inquisitive minds wanted to “know”. We walked over and found two gents discussing how they were going to unload the rock crawler and move it from one trailer to another.
After a few questions, we were able to ascertain the builder of the rock crawler was from somewhere in North Carolina while the owner of the vehicle was from somewhere in Alabama; I suppose they picked Greenville SC as a place to meet. I asked if it would be alright for me to take a few pictures of the rig and they were kind enough to agree, so I started clicking away…
This is not exactly my cup of tea, but I appreciate serious craftsmanship when I see it. This rock crawler is something else! The builder said he put the entire frame together himself. The center console and dash is all aluminum and I asked him if he had also worked on that. He said that came from another fellow that made it special. This is what the dash looks like:
The rock crawler was pretty much complete, however it was not wired up nor painted. The engine was not running as it had yet to be wired, plumbed, etc. As you can tell, there is no instrumentation either. I asked a few more questions about the powertrain. This is where it got really interesting. Lurking under all the sheet-metal and that awesome tube frame is a very low mileage LS3 from a C5 Camaro. I asked about the throttle and the owner said is is a “fly by wire” unit. I did notice none of the pedals were installed, however the owner said he had the correct electronic throttle pedal for it. Wiring came from MAST and that included the ECU too. The owner said the entire kit came tuned to match the hot cam in the engine.
The rear suspension and axle are something else in order to stand up to abuse and the power of the LS3. Unfortunately, I don’t have more info about all the components. The two gents were really busy and I did not want to push my luck asking more than I should. Here is that awesome rear axle and suspension.
Somebody really did their homework on this machine. The suspension is over the top, but anything else would be “uncivilized”. As you look at each picture individually, notice the builder cut no corners: the welds are impeccable and notice the generous use of grade-8 hardware. Those end links are amazing. Nothing is left to chance here – a truly purpose built machine.
The fuel cell sits behind the seats and the floor above the rear axle is a very nicely made piece of cut sheet steel. Very nice work indeed, with the builder’s name part of the pattern. Matter of fact, I had no clue who the builder was until I went through the pictures and saw this detail!
In closing, the owner told us he plans to take the entire rock crawler completely apart and ship the frame off to have it powder coated. Then, the body panels will be wrapped in vinyl and then the fun part starts. Assembling, wiring and getting this thing ready for prime-time will be one hell of fun job!
I can only imagine the large sum of resources invested in this rock crawler. Having built and worked on many cars myself, I know this kind of stuff takes commitment and deep pockets. However, when this thing fires up in anger and starts attacking off-road venues, man! What an awesome ride that will be!
And finally, right before I left I told the owner his rock crawler reminded me of a similar vehicle used in the film The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. He told me he had never seen the picture but he was going to try to check it out.
Well, interesting thing YouTube. Here is that final chase scene from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – make sure you watch the part where the off-road vehicle skims the surface of the water (starts at around 2:35)… Wonder if the Jim’s Garage rock crawler could do this? Hehehe…