Now here’s something you don’t see every day: BJ Baldwin, most known for his radically awesome Trophy Truck racing, as well as his beloved Loki SUV prerunner, piloting a strange vehicle that looks more at home on Mars than the West Coast outdoors.
Called the “Ferret,” it’s actually based on a Daimler-produced vehicle built between 1952 and 1971. Hailing from Great Britain, these curiosities were light reconnaissance vehicles meant to dart into an area, scan for enemies, and then leave without alerting anyone.
Thanks to Toyo Tires, BJ Baldwin, and Action Vehicle Engineering, however, sneakiness was abandoned in favor of go-anywhere-ness, and we’re all the better for it. Toyo’s recent commercial gave us a look at Baldwin taking the Ferret through forest, river, and desert, all the while showcasing the Open Country M/T. But that vehicle, man; we had to know more!
We spoke with AVE’s CEO, Billy Hannon, to get some background. “I’ve been doing car rigging and car stunts in the Hollywood area for about 20 years now,” said Billy. “I built all of the life-size Hot Wheels cars, set some world records, and even made the Double Loop Dare for the 2012 X-Games.”
No stranger to oddball requests and tight deadlines, it was through Toyo’s marketing agency that Billy came to hear about the idea for the Ferret. “It was a pretty cool vehicle already, and we bought it out of Maine,” he said. “We were given four weeks to do a bunch of stuff to it, including mating an V8 to the stock, single-geared drivetrain (one for forward, one for reverse), installing custom King shocks, and plenty of other issues. But we made it work.”
The original Rolls-Royce straight-six motor was removed and swapped for an LS3 V8, and made to work with the stock single-speed transmission with all-wheel-drive. The center tires, normally just spares mounted to the body, were made to be able to spin and prevent the vehicle from high-centering. “BJ loved driving it,” said Billy.
The team took the Ferret to a few locations for shooting, including Big Bear Lake, a ranch in San Diego, and Ocotillo Wells. Billy was pleased to see it all come together and be functional by the deadline. “Toyo thought I couldn’t get it done, and having been in the film industry, I knew I couldn’t say ‘no,'” he told us. “But it lined up and everyone did their part. Raceline built us custom beadlock wheels, King made us custom shocks, and we made this 8,000-pound car run and drive.”
It’s always amazing to hear just how quickly companies like Action Vehicle Engineering can whip up something so capable and well-built. Our hats are off to all parties involved, and we look forward to seeing the Ferret do some more demonstrations in the future!