I've been riding quads out in the dunes for years and love every opportunity that I have to spend time riding there. Last year I was introduced to the world of side-by-side (SxS) vehicles, and that has given me a new passion for driving them in the challenging dune terrain. Much like an ATV, the SxS machines can go pretty much anywhere in the vast dune terrain but can benefit from engine and suspension modifications as well. Sand is the one environment-with its deep whoops and large launches-that can instantly rob horsepower and push the best suspension to the limits. Sure, you can have a good time in a stock machine, but you're almost guaranteed to have a great time in a modified one.
While gathering parts for a project build I took a visit to No Limitz Motorsports (NLMS) in Corona, California, and met with owner Javier Padilla. At its facility it sells parts for everything off-road and performs custom builds as well. It was here that Padilla showed me a custom SxS that really caught my attention. His company built a beautiful Polaris RZR that was made for one thing: shredding the soft sand and big bowls of our local Southern California dune areas. At first glance, most people would think this machine has no purpose other than making a showroom look pretty, but we were assured it was much more than that.
If this RZR handled as good...
If this RZR handled as good as it looked, what more could you ask for? Well guess what, it did!
In the construction of this machine, not one bit of quality was sacrificed. From the long-travel suspension system to the super-comfortable steering wheel, only the highest-quality parts were used. The goal of the build was to create the ultimate dune machine while making the driver and passenger feel like they were sitting on the couch at home. Going over the list of components that were installed, we'd say the workers at NLMS were on the right track.
When you take any kind of vehicle into sand, you will almost instantly lose valuable horsepower. As with any machine, the first upgrade you can do in order to recoup your lost juice is to install a higher-flowing exhaust system. On this machine NLMS chose to install a Two Brothers Racing exhaust system and one of its own custom fuel programmers to compensate for the increased fuel delivery needed to maximize the power gains. In order to harness that increase in power to the rear wheels, a NLMS clutch kit with helix was put in. This allows the clutch to have a more positive engagement at a higher rpm. This means firmer shift points and consistent feel to the driver. Finally, to handle any increase in engine temperatures that might happen from the motor modifications, a PWR oversize radiator was installed.
"I started my 150-yard run...
"I started my 150-yard run at full throttle and glided over the whoop section and soared into the sky. Even with an uneven takeoff, the RZR leveled out and soaked up the impact almost as if I was landing on a bed of feathers."
With the engine modified to take on the sandy terrain, the next logical modification applies to the suspension. A key to operating a SxS in the dunes is to effectively stay on the gas through any challenging terrain that you may encounter. This means the ability to handle deep whoops that could swallow a quad and, for when you're feeling brave, the ability to handle full-throttle leaps. To deal with the rigors of this, NLMS installed a CST long-travel suspension with Walker Evans Racing shocks at all four corners of this machine. This combination takes the wheel travel from 9 inches in the front and 9.5 inches in the rear to a full 12 inches all the way around. The A-arms are also 3 inches wider per side, which offers much-needed stability in such a narrow vehicle. For even more stability in high-speed turns and uneven dune launches, a set of iTi Performance anti-sway bars were added in the front and rear. Since the A-arms were widened and beefed up, the steering components were as well. The addition of a Gear One steering rack and tie-rod ends would help prevent any premature failures. Finally, a set of ITP 26-inch Terra Cross tires mounted on a set of ITP SS108 black alloy wheels helps to keep this machine connected to the ground at all times.