Friday, December 4, 2009

The Fate of Pontiac

As we continue to gear up for production of the Rally Fighter, the exact reasons why GM had to slash the Pontiac Brand are the very same reasons upon which the Rally Fighter and all subsequent Local Motors vehicles are built. This is best summarized by a statement from GM's Head of Sales Operations in the U.S. in an MSNBC article about the final days of Pontiac,

Despite the pain of the shutdown, "it will pay off in the long run,” said Susan Docherty, head of U.S. sales operations for GM.

"This will let us focus our limited resources where they’ll serve us best,” Docherty added. She acknowledged that the once-seemingly omnipotent General Motors simply couldn’t keep spending billions to develop so many different products for so many different brands, and then invest the additional money needed to market them.

One of the final 2010 Pontiac G6 sedans moves down the line at General Motors Orion assembly plant last week in Michigan. The production marked the end of the line for the venerable Pontiac nameplate (

Over spending on development of multiple (and unnecessary) products, then spending exorbitant sums of money to market them are largely avoided through listening to our community of designers, engineers, and consumers from the earliest stages of vehicle development to develop only the vehicles of the utmost desire, using as many existing components off the shelf across multiple platforms; then executing sales and marketing through the channels of that community, branching out to the outer limits by simply being as visible as possible in local car enthusiast communities both in the virtual and physical worlds.

The death of such an iconic brand is an avoidable one had the voice of the muscle car community surrounding the Pontiac brand that started in the 1960's and 1970's around such legendary cars like the GTO and the Firebird been allowed to truly guide the brand responsible for "building excitement." Sure, there were many factors driving the "end" of the Muscle Car Era, but that spirit could have not only lived on, but been well executed in the forms of other vehicles consumers would feel connected to, and as a result prevent the death of such an icon in automotive history.

It's these types of lessons learned from our automotive manufacturing counterparts that the engineering team here at Local Motors will strive to keep at the forefront of our minds as we deliver exciting vehicles to the underserved car loving communities of the world such that we don't suffer a similar fate.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Making a List and Checking it Twice

We might not be Santa Claus here at Local Motors, but we're taking a page out of his book this December.

Since the Rally Fighter prototype is returning from a long roadtrip (it left on the truck to SEMA the last week of October) later this week, then going back on the road for another couple months starting in January, we've got to make the best of our limited amount of time. Therefore, were taking this time to compile two lists:

1. What needs to be done to get the prototype ready for a full battery of off road testing and what is necessary to make it street legal,

2. What needs to be changed/added based on that for our June production launch date.

For those of you itching to see the transformation from Mihai's Interior Competition winner, it will most likely be a few more months before items like the dash and the center console are crafted to the original design Mihai so skillfully designed. The reason behind this is simple - we have one month with the actual protoype in the shop to redesign, modify and test certain things critical to the performance, safety and manufacturability of the Rally Fighter that simply CANNOT be done without the car here. Namely, we will be making modifications to the steering, finishing the wheel wells, adding seat belts, making adjustments to the shock locations, tuning the suspension etc.

Also, some of the modifications made as a result of such modification and eventual testing can affect the volumes within which Mihai's design are executed, so we will need to make those modifications (keeping his design in mind), then adapt the dash, center console etc. to the chassis and subframe. This design work will then continue in 3D CAD while the car is back on the road. Soon after it returns from it's next trip, the roles will be reversed, and the focus will be on building the first article of the dash, center console etc. maintaining the intent of Mihai's vision as close to the original as possible.

Monday, November 16, 2009


After it's official Release Party in Las Vegas on the last night of the SEMA show, the Rally Fighter headed to ATG in California for some final tweaks to the braking, power steering, and the electrical systems. Once there, Dave and the team from ATG in conjunction with a local BMW dealership debugged the electrical system and made the necessary changes to the braking and power steering and after only a couple days (including down time waiting for parts), the car was running and driving around the parking lot!

Here are some quick videos of the Rally Fighter's first drive:

Stay tuned for more photos and video upon our return from the Baja 1000 in Mexico (Nov 19-22) where although we won't be racing the Rally Fighter just yet, we'll have it in the pits and we'll be experiencing the event hands-on both during Prerun and the 1000 itself!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Local Motors Flip Cam Giveaway with Exclusive Rally Fighter Build Content

This could be yours.

A Flip Cam with video of exclusive Rally Fighter build content.

All you have to do is guess when the Rally Fighter will be completed.

Just make your best guess via Twitter by clicking this link & filling in the date and time you think it will be finished:

I think the Rally Fighter will be finished on 0/0 at 00:00 am #localmotors

Sure, with this exclusive content you will likely learn a thing or two about car building and the Rally Fighter build process, but you will also get a chance to see team triumphs & late night pranks. Maybe you'll meet my girlfriend who now visits me at Local Motors headquarters because I rarely return home (we've been pulling some late nights working on the build!) You might get to hear some of Jay Rogers incredible ability to quote just about any movie you can think of.

Who KNOWS what the exclusive content will include?

You can win this AND the Flip Cam if you are the closest to guess the day and time the Rally Fighter build will be complete.

Hint: The Rally Fighter will be premiered at SEMA on November 3rd in the "Making Green Cool Zone" (booth #30215).


1.) Price is Right Rules apply. Over-bidders are disqualified (have some faith, people!).

2.) You can only guess ONCE (yes, we check).

3.) Only the guesses which are tweeted prior to the Rally Fighter build completion will be eligible.

Follow this blog or our Twitter for regular Rally Fighter build updates to help you.

Go Local!

Friday, October 23, 2009

First Ever Engine Install

Another Great Success today! After getting the control arms, chassis, and engine/trans cradle back from the powder coater (Prism Powder Coating just down the street from us) we got busy making the final preparations to install the engine such as bolting the engine and transmission mounts in place, bolting the cradle to those mounts.

Once those things were done, we were ready to begin the install, which took a little finesse since it was the first time we were marrying engine and trans to chassis, but overall the process went very smooth. Overall an amazing job well done by our Build Team to make sure things came together according to plan. Special thanks to Prism for getting the job done on such short notice.

More pics to follow tomorrow. For now, some much needed rest.

Chassis off Jig Table and Going for Powdercoating

Colby, Dave and I had to pull an all nighter to make it happen (we had several of the LM team and our Build Team assist late into the night)but we just finished the chassis and got it off the table and on to the powder coating rack.

The shocks also arrived today, so once we get the chassis back from the local powder coater, we will put them on the chassis and get it rolling post haste.

Here's a few pictures from the day/night. Check out the Build Page for more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SEMA Build Progress from Day 7

Today is the 7th day of what has seemed like one long unending day of build excitement from our Rally Fighter Build Team at LM, so I thought I'd share a few pictures of today's progress. Check the build page for more images.

Some of the projects include, but are not limited to, applying wax for the flooring molds, bumper placement, body mounts, door linkage, and front lower control arms.

Vegas (and the North American Southwest) better be ready!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

BMW 3.0L Diesel Engine Turned Over for First Time

The headline pretty much says it all. We fired the engine for the first time just a few minutes ago. To accomplish something like this with even the simplest of engines without any major "gremlins" (electrical or otherwise) is a real feat in itself, but to do so with such a complex electrical system as the one we started out with from BMW and to determine all of the components needed and not needed to fire the engine is a major accomplishment. We can't fire the engine and let it run just yet because as you can see in the video, it's only mounted to our dolly that we use to move it around the shop, so once we get it mounted in the vehicle we'll fire it up and post some new pictures and video.

Therefore, thanks have to go out to Steve and Oliver from ATG on delivering a stand-alone solution. Congratulations also go out to Colby Whipple from the team here at LM for installing all of the accessories on the engine with little to no information. And of course congrats to veteran Factory Five builders/owners turned Local Motors Build Team members Henry and Steve for deciphering the complex bundle of wires, modules and junction boxes which to them was a sight unseen until they opened the box delivered by ATG. Their knowledge from previous builds was invaluable in making this happen today. The power of the community at work for sure!

Now we need to get the engine and transmission into the chassis so we can run the engine.

Here at LM we mark these monumental moments with a ring of the bell hanging in the office and a shout of "Great Success!" in our best Borat voice. Check out the picture of Henry and Steve as they join in on the tradition.

Also check out the post firing pic of the team on hand for the day, (L to R) Dana, Ernie, Henry, Dave, Brian, Colby, Mike, Jay, Steve.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Body On Chassis for First time Ever

A few images from late last night. We set the body on the chassis for the first time last night, and IT FITS!!! Always a tense and exciting moment when this happens for the first time, especially since we developed this chassis and body a bit different than we're (Dave, Colby and myself) used to. Typically, we will develop the chassis in the computer as we're building it, and while that's happening, away from the chassis, the body is being shaped by hand, molds made, and a first article popped from the mold. Once the chassis is mostly done (minus the roll cage), we will fit a body over it, and develop the bars to fit inside the body in physical space, then draw them on the computer.

This time around (a more efficient and more accurate way in terms of having a production solution) we stuck our necks out quite a bit and did all of the design (body and chassis) in the computer, built the main chassis to completion here in Wareham, while the body patterns were milled on the West Coast, then a body made in Rhode Island (the next state over, about an hour away). Also, I designed the roll cage using rolled tubes to fit along the curvature of the cockpit to allow more headroom and allow better fitment of interior panels, roof liners etc.(and it looks cool) so that added to our apprehension when it came time to set the body on the chassis. Basically, we set it right on the chassis and it fit right away. Usually there are some tweaks that have to be made here and there and sometimes you get some serious interference...not this time.

After that was done, we were all able to sleep much better (even though I slept in the office on the old aero bed to save the 2 hours I'd lose driving home to Boston, then back in the morning).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

First Ever Rally Fighter Center Section, Hood and Trunk Arrive at LM HQ

Here's an image of the Center Section (doors and windows not cut out yet), the Hood and the trunk that arrived today. These are part of the very first set of Rally Fighter panels ever produced, so needless to say, we're very excited and can't wait to mount them on the chassis which you can see in the background (Awaiting roll cage tubes, which are due to arrive in a few days from now). The panels have been trimmed using the scribes we designed into the molds, and both the hood and the trunk have the inner liners bonded to the outer skins.

As you can see in the image, we couldn't help ourselves so Dave trimmed the body in a few places to install a few components like the tail lights, gas cap and the side vent.

Stay tuned for more images of these panels and the carbon fiber panels which are also due to arrive soon. Also, there are more pictures from today posted on the Build Page, so check it out!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Alternative Engine Update - Scuderi Engine...First Video Ever

Yesterday, Scuderi released video - the first ever - of it's Split Cycle engine. It sounds good, but I would have really liked to hear them get into it a little bit to hear how it sounds other than at a constant RPM. With the promise of high horsepower (140 hp per liter) and Diesel-like torque output, it would be great to pair it with a soundtrack.

Oh, how they love to keep us gearheads in suspense! Click the link above for the video clip on the Scuderi site.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Major Milestone - First Body Panels and Molds

Yesterday, we received most of the patterns and molds for the Rally Fighter. Also, when Dave met the truck driver delivering the molds/patterns at our body supplier, he was able to bring back the very first Rally Fighter Body panel, which you can see is the Driver Side front Quarter Panel. As expected, the panel is a high quality (although not Class A surface, it's pretty close) lightweight, sturdy piece. We set the side marker light in the panel to check fitment and it fits just as expected.

Also, if you visit the Build Page, you can see that the center section mold was delivered and is also of a quality construction and matches the initial concept for the structure our supplier created.

Check the build page for more pictures of these parts and stay tuned for many others!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Body Panel Inserts

Now that the molds have been made and we'll begin making the actual body parts, there are a few things that need to be addressed, one of them being the need for Aluminum inserts.

In the areas where we'll bolt things to the body panels such as hinges, latches etc. we will need some reinforcement to prevent the bolts from pulling out of the fiberglass, and to give us the ability to tighten down the bolts properly by spreading out the load not just through the fiberglass but through the Aluminum plate, thus preventing deformation of the body panel.

Above is a picture of the plasma cutter at work cutting out some of the 1/8" thick Aluminum spacers. You might ask why we're only plasma cutting the inserts and not using the more accurate, cleaner method of laser cutting. The answer to that question is that in production we will definitely laser cut all of the flat stock for accuracy, cleanliness, and to save time, but for now when we need the parts quickly, may have to make some small changes to them, and since they will never be visible (they will be sandwiched between the outer skin and the inner liner before we bond the two together) we can plasma cut them using the plasma table. This method by the way, is far superior in accuracy and in the time required to cut the parts by hand, particularly for some of the oddly shaped parts.

Check out the Build Page for more pics.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Engineering Spirit Alive in the Community

Recently, we received an email from Community Member Kevin Willey (TwoShoes) regarding a project he took on to make a shifter knob.

Needless to say, this is recycling at its finest. We applaud Kevin for his ingenuity, and figured there's no better way to let it be known than to share how he did it with the rest of the community. Consider it a source of inspiration...

"Recycling to the max? All the aluminum used in the casting was scrap from my shop. The smelter itself was made from an electric element from a discarded dishwasher, modified to fit tightly to the bottom half of a camp stove propane bottle. Heat retention blanket for the smelter was some old header wrap I had in the shop left over from another job. The casting method I used is called 'loss wax casting' except in this case I used pink insulation foam, retrieved from a local construction site, saved it from the land fill. I simply carve the master, coat it in drywall plaster and pour in the molten aluminum. The drywall plaster was about to be thrown out since it was too old and chunky to be used for drywall any longer. Even the power cord for the electric element was recycled. For a first casting it turned out fairly well, my method need some modification, however I am very happy with the result. Next up is a skull, going to be fun."

Go Local!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Milled Center Section - Ready for Molds

A big step in the process to making the Rally Fighter Body a reality has been completed.

The hand finish work has been completed, and the pattern has been sprayed with Duratec surfacing primer, and polished as evident by the reflections from the shop lights. The surface is now ready to produce molds.

See the Rally Fighter Build Page for more pictures!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Milled Center Section - Smoothing the Milled Surface

Our body tooling supplier has been working at a fast pace (by no means are the frequency of my posts indicative of their apologies for keeping you waiting) to have the molds for the hand-laid fiberglass parts complete and ready for shipment here to Wareham. As I mentioned previously, the patterns don't come off the mill ready for mold making.

The images in this post show the next step of sanding the ridges left from milling to end up with a smooth surface consistent with the CAD data. The blue areas you see on the center section are areas reflecting low spots in the mold. The blue color comes from applying a dye (Dykem) to the surface of the pattern.

As the pattern is sanded, the dye on the high spots of the pattern is sanded away, leaving the low spots clearly visible. This is a process used in mold shaping, auto body etc and although old school, it's highly effective. Once all of the high and low spots have been smoothed out, the next step of mold generation will begin...stay tuned!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Milled Body Patterns

After the buck was built, the fiberglass was applied, and the milling compound packed on, the buck was positioned on the milling table for the inception of the rally fighter to commence. However, as the photos show, the pattern doesn't have the proper finish to generate a mold right from the mill. The surface will have to be refined by hand to remove the ridges left by the mill. Once that is done, the pattern can then be used as a plug, over which fiberglass can be laid to create the molds. From that stage on, the plug will serve as the master pattern to create new molds as they deteriorate from pulling production parts.

Stay tuned for updated photos on the center section once the pattern has been smoothed out and is then ready for the mold making process to begin.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Rally Fighter Center Section Pattern Structure

Recently, we've received some images from the company milling the body patterns and molds for the fiberglass components. This particular image is of the Rally Fighter center section, which was generated from the surface data/drawing previously posted on the build site. The structure is constructed of wood, then fiberglass is laid over the structure to keep it from flexing/shifting. After that, the proprietary milling material will be applied, then the shape will be milled.

Pretty amazing to think that this structure at the size it is was made in just over one day.

More images to follow as we receive them.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Got Backbone? (Part III)

Things are moving rather quickly with the chassis development, particularly in the tunnel area. One thing that helps this process and makes Colby's job faster, easier, and more accurate is having prints to work from that have the lengths, angles etc to cut the tubes as well as their location in the chassis all in one drawing.

As you can see, I've given him the required overall cut length, angles, and stock size. Also, he has the location, number of instances of the part, and the critical dimensions on locating the tubes in the chassis from the key reference points we've established.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Got Backbone? (Part II)

After evaluating the placement of the tape in the physical chassis, I made some changes to the locations, took down the measurements and updated the CAD data. Using the Weldments function in SolidWorks makes this very easy since the tubing profiles are already loaded into the SolidWorks Library, which means all I have to do is draw the path that the tube will follow and select what profile I want.

Therefore, once I was satisfied with the placement of the tape, all I had to do was drag the existing profile paths I had in the model to the determined redrawing cross sections and extruding, no changing cut angles, no inserting reference planes for the new tube location...all of this is generated by the software once I pick the profile path start and end point.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Got Backbone?

These images show the development of the tunnel or "backbone" of the chassis. The tubes have been designed in SolidWorks first taking into account all of the components they will have to package and have been placed with passenger seating in mind. The tape you see in the pictures is a quick way we check the placement of those tubes to get perspective on the "feel" factor which you don't get in the computer.

Therefore, I set a seat in the chassis using the H Point in the model as a reference to check the placement of the tubes/tape, how they affect seating, pedal placement etc., and will modify their locations accordingly. This is much faster than cutting sample tubes, tack welding them in place, re-cutting and moving as needed, then re-evaluating since I can put the tape down and pick it up and move it a number of times to get the right placement and then make the changes in the model before cutting the actual tubes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Farewell to the Voice of the Engineering Community!

If you've been following the Vehicle Engineering Blog over the last few months, you'll know that our intern, Alex has been at the controls of the Blog. Or, maybe you didn't notice since Alex picked up right where I left off doing an excellent job continuing to educate and share knowledge of both the LM Engineer's most technical of advances and the simplest of duties in developing the Rally Fighter with equal ease and effectiveness.

The same applies for many of the Rally Fighter Build Page posts, which Alex also shepherded through the sometimes turbulent trails of vehicle development. This is no easy feat for a first year engineering student, especially considering how quickly we move here at Local Motors. And if that wasn't enough, all of this was done under the scrutinizing eye of the online community. Furthermore, Alex was able to do so largely on his own and the blogs and build posts you've read were completely word-smithed by him with support coming mostly in the form of images to back up his points.

Alex's last day was Friday, and he's moving on to enjoying the last bit of the summer on the Cape, running some races, and hopefully relaxing before returning to Northeastern University. As an NU Alum myself, I recall what it was like on my first co-op job and if I would have been able to step into an environment such as this as seamlessly as Alex ("A-Rod" as I jokingly called him) did. It was both a pleasure and a great asset to have him here in this crucial period in the development of both the Rally Fighter and Local Motors as a company, and we wish him well.

Feel free to do the same by posting your comments here!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Engineering Competition Winner!

Congratulations to FILSKI who has won Local Motors first ever engineering competition!
Congratulations to the braunarsch (2nd place), and ely862me (3rd place)!

Winning designs:

FILSKI (1st):

braunarsch (2nd):

ely862me (3rd):

Every contestant's entry was scrutinized and voted on by the whole LM community, and after the voting was closed (Tuesday 12pm est) these three individuals had the highest scores.
But, every entry was strong and feasible for the Race Edition Rally Fighter; which says how competitive this really was.

Each contestant started with three things; a competition description, an igs file of the roof section of the Rally Fighter, and an igs file of the lights. From these three things alone all of the contestant met or exceeded every required deliverable; providing the community with fantastic innovative designs, and a complete understanding of the designs.

By making our chassis data available this became an open source engineering competition with each contestant employing their own CAD software skills. This is the first of many engineering competitions of this nature as we finalize and release more chassis data for the Rally Fighter.

Everyone here at LM is impressed and awed by the quality of the entrys! Thank you to all of the contestants for their hard work and great effort in this competition. We look forward to the next competition!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Engineering Competition: Voting Time

The submission period for the Roof Mounted Light Bar Engineering Competition has come to an end, and has been a great success!

There are 12 entries, each of which is impressive in it's own right. Each entrant took a very different approach with their design. These diverse submissions are the essence and beauty of the open source aspects of this competition. All we gave to the public was the ignition kit (click here to download it) which includes .igs files of the roof section of the Rally Fighter and the 8'' lights we are using, and the following guidelines.

  • Must mount to the Rally Fighter Frame, (as defined in the Rally Fighter Frame igs file in the Ignition Kit)
  • Must be foldable, reducible, removable or covered to protect the lights on the roof while not in use.
  • Must use the specified 8" lights

Now that the submission period is closed it's time to vote on the best design. But, when I say design I don't mean just aesthetics, I mean consider primarily function, buildability (IE. cost and time to build, strength, weight, simplicity, ease of operation and folding/removal), followed by form and aesthetics. Below you can see a few of the submissions. Click here to come comment and vote on them all. Click here to come comment and vote on them all.
Tell us what you think!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rally Fighter Composites

The word of the day at Local Motors is composites. But not composites in general, composites on the Rally Fighter.

But first a definition of composites:
Composites are materials made from two or more constituent materials with different physical or chemical properties which remain separate and distinct on a macroscopic level within the finished structure. What a composite is composed of depends on the properties and characteristics that are desired. Ideally the "weaknesses" of one are canceled out by the "strengths" of another producing a better material than what the two are on their own.

There are two different composite materials being used on the
Rally Fighter. The first is fiberglass we will create ourselves and the second is a thermoplastic called Fiberforge made by the Fiberforge company.

The body panels on the
Rally Fighter are going to be fiberglass, and the rear fenders and bumper cover are going to be Fiberforge (the dark, almost black material in the rear of the car). Fiberglass:
Fiberglass is made of a glass fiber fabric placed in an open mold and then saturated with a wet resin by pouring it over the fabric and working it into the fabric and mold. The mold is then left so that the resin will cure. Once cured the piece can then be trimmed and removed from the mold.


Fiberforge is a fiber reinforced thermoplastic which is slightly like fiberglass, but is much stronger, modern, and easier to create because of the advance automated process.

Fiberforge thermoplastic advanced composites compared to other materials:
* 60% lighter and 600% stiffer than steel

* 30% lighter than aluminum
* 200% tougher than thermoset composites

* 500% stiffer than injection molded plastics

* 60% less scrap during production than sheet goods

Check out the following video of Dave Riha (one of LM's Engineer) explaining the use of fiberglass and Fiberforge on the Rally Fighter.

Also, tonight at midnight is the end of submissions for the Roof Mounted Light Bar Engineering Competition! Come check out the submissions. Vote on the best design!
Tell us what you think!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rally Fighter Chassis Development

Now that the jig tables in the shop have been cleared off (see them piled high with parts), we have a new edition of whats on the tables at Local Motors. This time were talking Rally Fighter Chassis development!
This is a section of the Rally Fighter chassis that was built for the last BCW (Burgers Cars and Welding). The next BCW will be August 26th, 2009! Come on by!

This is only the center section of the frame as you can see in the image below. You can also see a small section of the chassis jig sitting on the passenger side of the chassis. This illustrates the design and building process of the Rally Fighter as we are developing the chassis jigs in unison with the first chassis buildup.
But, this was not just slapped together. After countless hours of Solidworks modeling and packaging on the computer this is the final chassis design. This is a tubular space frame chassis with all of the insane rigidity and strength needed for baja racing, jumping, and anything else you can throw at the Rally Fighter.
To start building the first chassis our engineers had to make spec sheets to define every part of tubing. The spec sheet shown here is for the roll bar section of the frame and is what our engineers (Mike Pisani and Dave Riha) gave to our master fabricator Colby Whipple. These sheets explain every piece of tubing that Colby will need to cut, bend, and weld.
With the use of the spec sheet above, and many others like it, Colby has completed the center section of the frame pictured in two Solidworks views, and actual picture below. The largest bent tubing piece towards the left of the images is the roll bar, and the square tubing piece to the left of that is the dash bulkhead. Between these two bars is the cabin where seats will be located.

In the following image you can see the orientation of the center chassis section in comparison to the rear assembly (axle, watts linkage, wheels, and tires).

Also, today was the launch of the Buy Button for the Rally Fighter! Just a $99 deposit to reserving a place in line to buy and build your Rally Fighter.

For more Rally Fighter building and engineering check out the Rally Fighter Build Story!

Tell us what you think!