— Who says you can’t UTV on a budget? —
By the staff of Dirt Wheels.
Polaris just announced the 10-year milestone for the venerable RZR 800. There are lots of arguments over who started the UTV boom, but there isn’t much dispute that Polaris started the production sport UTV category. The RZR 800 was the first UTV with no pretensions at being a work vehicle. It was designed for fun.
We didn’t have far to look for a clean RZR 800 to get back to our sport UTV roots. Our riding buddy, Daryl Davis, pilots a flawless 2012 RZR S 800. He and buddy Chris Pino picked up a matching pair of used S 800s in different colors, complete with a 20-foot trailer, for $20,000. They value the trailer at $2000, so each of them says they started with $9000 in their machines. Both machines had about 1000 miles on them, and they had already been outfitted with most of the popular accessories, like doors, a cage and harnesses.
Since the white RZR S 800 moved into his spick-and-span garage, it has lived a very clean life. Davis loves to keep his equipment detailed to the max, so it looks brand new despite having clocked 2500 miles on it now. Since he has owned it, he added rock sliders and a front bumper, replaced the stock headlights with LED units, ordered up the cool custom wrap, and just recently replaced the stock tires! He has started carrying a new CVT belt in the tool box, but the machine is still running the same belt he bought the machine with. He believes that his 800 is now worth about $12,000, and that number looks close from what we see in local classified ads.
Next on the list are some stiffer springs and a suspension service. Davis spends much of his riding time at Hungry Valley SVRA, and for the somewhat narrow and twisty trails there, he is satisfied with the 800 for his style of driving. We spent several days with the machine in the dunes and in the desert, and it is easy to see why he remains a satisfied owner.
LIFE IN 800 LAND
Even though Davis has done only minimal personalization to the 800, it is very nicely equipped. Most notable is the custom cage from Killer Off-Road Fabrication in Simi Valley, California. The company primarily does fabrication and long-travel suspension for Chevy 2500 and 3500 trucks, but it made the cage with a roof and intrusion bars for this RZR S 800. The cage is white, so when sourcing other protection products, Davis looked for ones in white or had them powdercoated white at Color-Tec Industrial Finishing in Pacoima, California. The machine also came with Pro Armor doors with cutouts. After five years on the car and plenty of miles, the doors still work well.
Not everyone has good luck with no-name lights, but the LED lights and light bars on this 800 work very well and have been reliable. The same is true of the Whip Tech-lighted LED whips. Honestly, the entire machine works well still. Compared to 900cc and 1000cc machines, the 800 with its push-rod twin-cylinder engine is not as potent, but it still has power to climb and play in mild dunes. Twisty and narrow trails are where the 800 is the most fun.
PROTECTION & SAFETY
The car is well protected with the rock sliders, bumpers and A-arm guards. The passengers are held firmly in the stock seats with the Simpson harnesses. After years of use, the harnesses still adjust easily to fit different passengers. The 2012 seats are still nice looking but don’t offer quite as much support as new machines do. The S 800 is already a 60-inch machine, but 2-inch wheel spacers make it 64 inches, just like the modern XP 1000.
While driving the 800 we soon realized that the suspension was very smooth on small bumps and chop, but wasn’t as happy on larger bumps or being pushed hard. We did a little checking and found that the shock spring preload was still at the factory settings. With all the accessories, we guesstimate that this 800 weighs in around 150 pounds heavier than a stocker, so the suspension was riding low.
RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD
We added a full 20mm of preload to the springs on the front shocks and 25mm on the rear shocks. That much preload is less than ideal, but the car still settles roughly a third of the travel. Still, we believe the suspension would benefit from suspension service and stiffer springs. But for now, we have decent ground clearance back, and we aren’t wasting travel when just sitting still. Now that the suspension is closer, the car can be driven harder in the rough. We piloted the car at the Glamis sand dunes, and we were actually thankful for the speed limit on the whooped-out Sand Highway.
While just rolling through the bumps at the posted limit, the suspension handled the endless bumps well. We had the brand-new RZR Turbo along, and the 800 was smoother in the sections that were chewed to chop by tires, but the modern car has superior action at speed and handles abrupt transitions with a more solid feel. This is a very nimble-handling machine, and with the small-diameter tires and light overall machine weight, we didn’t miss power steering.
In every case we stepped out of near-new, state-of-the-art cars to jump in the 800, and it was still a blast to drive. When you are in a group with larger machines, the 800 simply can’t maintain the pace in fast sections. It really wasn’t designed for speed, though, and staying where the driving is twisty and turny helps the 800 stay right with the pack.
It is easy to see why the 800 had solid five-star ratings from owners when it first came out. In fact, the 800 kept those ratings until the RZR S 800 came out with more travel. Models with the high-output (HO) engine are more desirable, but the difference isn’t huge and is felt mostly at high rpm.
It was very interesting to take such an in-depth look back at the machine that started the sport UTV movement. Polaris was the first to see that drivers wanted an off-road machine that gave the same feeling as a good racing buggy but without having to build it from scratch. The RZR S 800 remained light, relatively easy to transport, reliable, and when it does need parts, you simply order them. One thing that the modern Polaris company does well is understand what off-roaders want and then fills the niche. We aren’t ready to turn in our late models, but we can see why we see so many RZR S 800s when we go to events. The RZR 800 may be the most affordable way to get into a cage.
PARTS & CONTACTS:
Killer Off-Road Fabrications Cage, roof & rear bumper Came with car
Amazon: www.amazon.com , (generic products sourced online)
Front bumper $229
Rock sliders $149
34-inch LED bar $100
12-inch LED bar $50
Stereo and speakers $450
A-arm guards: $129 for four
Steering wheel $65
Steering wheel adapter $39
K&N Filter $69
Mirrors $129 for three
Billet cab accents $189
LED headlights $100
Wheel spacers +2 $218 for four
GBC Grim Reapers 26×9-12 $134.50 each
Proline Wraps: www.prolinewraps.com, Full custom wrap (only, not installed) $750
Whip Tech: www.whiptechled.com
4-foot multi-color LED whip $115
Car mount base $34.99
Pro Armor: www.proarmor.com
Doors with metal cut-outs $549.95
Lock & Ride cargo box $249.99
Polaris low-profile front bumper $179.99
Simpson: www.simpsonraceproducts.com, 800-654-7223
3×3 D3 harness $109.95
Color-Tec: www.colortecinc.com, (818) 897-2669
Bumper, A-arm guards and rock slider powder coating Price varies