For a guy like Joey Ruiter, the idea of cognitive dissonance–holding two contrasting ideas at the same time–isn’t a notion to be feared, but rather one that must be embraced for the sake of innovation. His body of work is what some would call eclectic and varied, but when it comes to the off-road stuff, it’s nothing if not inspired.
We first got a taste of Ruiter’s product design back in December 2013, when the Reboot Buggy made its online debut. What it spared in terms of aesthetics, it more than made up for in sheer utility and attitude. It was motivated by a 383ci V8 generating 470 horsepower and had long-travel suspension and 40-inch tires on all fours. “Interesting” barely scratched the surface when it came to describing the off-road machine.
Ruiter wasn’t done with shaking up expectations, however. In September of last year, he pulled back the veil on his unique take of the Dodge Challenger. The modern-day muscle car has undergone many treatments since it arrived in 2007, but nothing could prepare the world for this: the Challenger A/T concept.
We caught up with Ruiter over the phone to get his perspective on the concept, as well as learn what challenges had to be overcome. Here was what he had to say.
Joey Ruiter: “This is just sort of all thing combined. Big, powerful, off-road. I was inspired by Michigan winters, crappy roads, and being able to get to where you needed to go. We built the Reboot buggy a couple of years prior, and we learned a lot about suspension geometry going from on-road to off really quickly. It is possible to have both.”
Q: What made you pick the Challenger as your platform in the first place?
JR: “The scale allowed for a bigger wheel diameter, the width was there, it was heavy, but with a V6 supercharger we could make it work. The Challenger encompassed what we wanted with a muscle car while still being a bit subtle.
There’s no fake spoiler or fake vents. Once upon a time, we had rendered a Camaro. It wound up looking too Transformer-y, and it didn’t look proper overall with the tire swap.”
Q: What is the balance here between practical and “far-out”? What is the method to the madness?
JR: “I think it’s playing in both worlds at any moment. We do a ton of modern stripped-down design, but when design get too pigeonholed, it loses that ‘spark.’ I try to find something that’s two opposites at the same time. As a design exercise, we bounce back and forth from extremes.”
Q: How much would the A/T Unlimited conversion cost on average?
JR: “For a capable DIY, $9-10K dollars, you can go all out with a Challenger A/T. It’s really about being honest too–how much is going off-road? This would be as capable of a stock Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. The two-wheel-drive doesn’t inhibit you; it’s the timidness to go balls to the wall that inhibits you.”
JR: “None on the road at the moment. We’ve had requests from just about every U.S. state, a few bright white ones for Dubai, even five Hellcat requests. Four out of those five Hellcats belonged to gun shop owners looking for something awesome. It’s funny how opposite the crowd comes. A lot of construction owners wanted it for their sites as well.”
Q: How would the average Joe go about getting the conversion done to his own vehicle?
JR: “We refer customers to custom shops, as I can’t be a part of the process that goes full-custom. The variables and personalities are too daunting. We have the data and the layout to convert the cars, and we can send that along to any custom shop that feels capable of handling it on their own. Realistically speaking, I’m part of a prototype shop, and there’s definitely better fabricators out there that can handle something like the A/T Unlimited concept.”
If you’ve made it this far, then you realize just what sounds so appealing about putting a Challenger on a set of bigger shocks, tires, and lift. Sending one of those bad boys out on a desert mission or some light dirt trails sounds like a blast.
We highly recommend you get a broader view of Ruiter’s oeuvre by checking out his website. What do you think would make for a badass, bonkers off-road car project? Give us your two cents below!
Images courtesy of Joey Ruiter