PROJECT POLARIS GENERAL 1000

— Four-star warrior from a workhorse — 

By the staff of Dirt Wheels

The rounded profile of the System 3 RT320 tires offers a pleasant feel to the steering in turns. There is ample traction, but we didn’t feel any tendency for the tires to catch and lift the inside wheels.

The General is the commanding officer in the army of sport utility UTVs that Polaris builds. The machine has been a sales success for good reason. It offers RZR-like performance and suspension in a trail-friendly package that is ready and able to work. If you want to play/hunt/camp but need to convince the family or the tax man that you are buying a tool, the General is ideal. No matter the type of UTV that you are considering, it is typical for an enthusiast to add all the extras they desire when selecting a new machine at the dealer. The Dickie family, who own Power Sports Nation (PSN) in Nebraska, had a very different plan in mind.

With decades of experience dissecting used machines to sell, rebuild and restore their parts for sale, the company is intimate with the strengths and weaknesses of popular machines. They had specific ideas in mind for a UTV to act as a support vehicle when the boys are racing the various UTV off-road series in the Midwest. They were also looking for a machine that would be fun to hit trails with—fun enough that taking the race machines trail driving wouldn’t be a temptation.

When one of the dealers they work with took a tired 2016 General in trade, they knew they had a great starting point. In addition to routine wear from 8000 hard miles, the General’s 1000cc twin had one cylinder with low compression. The family had owned Rangers and RZRs, so a General build was something they had wanted to do for a while. After thinking about it for so long, they knew exactly what to do when it fell into their hands. 

This is a mild climb, but the PSN General handled all the climbing we felt comfortable doing. The closer you get to the Missouri River, the steeper the drops are.

WHAT TO DO

PSN started with a full tear-down to assess what needed attention and how they could improve on what they had to work with. They started with the main driveline and suspension bearings, bushings and all wearable parts, and went with parts they trust. They chose All Balls because they could easily order every part needed from one place. All Balls doesn’t require ordering individual parts but has all-inclusive kits. Starting with new wheel bearings for every wheel, they moved inboard to the pivot bushings on every A-arm, then replaced the ball joints to make sure the suspension parts would be just as tight as new. For the driveline they installed All Balls U-joints in the driveshaft, and to make sure the power got to the wheels, they used All Balls 8Ball extreme-duty axles. With the wearable parts fixed, the crew was confident that the suspension and driveline were better than new.

MORE THAN PARTS

Power Sports Nation began as a source for quality used parts, but now has an extensive rebuild shop that remanufactures engines, transmissions and differentials. With the engine low on compression in one cylinder, they pulled the engine and decided to replace everything so that they wouldn’t face any more problems. While PSN generally builds OEM-spec replacement engines with a full warranty, they wanted to find some extra power for the General but have it reliable. Starting from the bottom up, they went with Hot Rods’ full replacement crankshaft with bearings. For the cylinders they wanted a stock bore and compression, and Cylinder Works offers a kit with Vertex pistons that would keep the reliability. The head is where they knew to find more power, so they sent it to Millennium Technologies to have it ported to allow more flow. They rebuilt the ported head in-house with new valve guides, valves and cut valve seats. Winderosa was able to provide every gasket needed to reseal the motor. With the last bolt torqued to spec, they installed it back into the General.

Seeing the PSN General railing these woods lets you imagine that Cameron Dickie is out looking for one of the PSN team cars at a Midwest off-road race.

BETTER BREATHING

The new engine was running hard and ready to put the power to the ground, but with air flowing better in the head, PSN needed to be able to get the air out better. HMF has a Performance Series dual exhaust that has a great sound that allows it to be trail driven without annoying other users, but makes the driver want to put the pedal to the floor to hear it sing. HMF was also able to supply Defender bumpers. They are a perfect color match and provide great protection in case of a rogue tree jumping out at them on the trail or having a strap break while pulling a machine back to the trailer.

While they were able to find extra power with motor work, they believe that the true secret to great power is in the tuning. PSN reached out to Gilomen Innovations to work with them on a special tune to complement the port work and exhaust. GI was able to make a custom tune for 91-octane pump gas that would work with their driving style and make sure that the General stayed reliable. Like they do on every retune, Gilomen added more power, set the fan to kick on at 185 degrees, removed the misfire codes and removed all limiters. Gilomen also engineered a clutch kit to match the selected wheel and tire setup, and to provide smooth engagement.

CREATURE COMFORTS

One of the beauties of the General platform is the cab design and layout. It has ample comfort, the seats are upright enough to provide excellent forward vision on the trail and the fully lined doors are a nice touch. Most UTV doors have an exposed inner framework, but the General door has a fully molded inner panel like an automobile. Still, there is room for improvement. DragonFfire was the choice to order accessories from. For seating, they selected HighBack XL buckets for comfort and for ease of jumping in and out of the machine. The seats have great support and fit drivers of a larger stature. The 3-inch, four-point harnesses keep passengers secure in the seats and keep them comfortable all day. The harness mount is specific for the General with a quick-detach behind the seats. That makes it easy to remove the seats to access anything under them. The DragonFire bed-mounted cargo rack is the perfect size to hold 5-gallon fuel jugs or other cargo they want to keep up off the bed floor. It is tall enough to slide a full-size cooler or other extra cargo under. The steering wheel quick-release is a theft deterrent if you keep the wheel with you. It provides cab room for sitting and watching races, and it eases climbing in or out of the driver’s-side door.

Tough tires and wheels, awesome shocks, a handy bumper and a Zoomy exhaust—what else could a General need to handle the rear echelon?

DIRT DIGGING

DragonFire is also the source for System 3 wheels and tires. The 14×7 SB-3 beadlock is a true beadlock rim that literally clamps the tire bead to the rim with a bolt-on ring. You can drive with a flat if you must. Most likely the tire will be damaged, but the tire won’t come off the rim. Just because you can drive with a flat doesn’t mean you want to, so the Dickies chose 8-ply RT320 Race/Trail radial tires to minimize the chance of flats. The tires climb any terrain and run high-speed hardpack without any fear. They are designed to go toe to toe with rocks and win every time. These are stout tires intended to work in every situation.

This base-model General came from the factory with modest shocks that were beyond tired. Searching for a better ride, PSN purchased a set of Fox QS3 shocks from Fox supplier Western Power Sports. Fox QS3 shocks are more compliant on slow trails while adding control at higher speeds, and they make you want to keep riding all day. The Fox shocks offer preload and three-position compression adjustment to further dial in the ride.

The General’s stock seats were quite nice 8000 miles ago. For now and the future, DragonFire seats and harnesses offer comfort and safety.

PEOPLE MATTER

While outfitting the General, the Dickies kept Nebraska’s weather in mind. A variety of Polaris accessories ensure comfort, including a roof. A pop-out full-coverage glass windshield locks shut to block wind and wet, it props securely open a bit to vent the cab, and for real barn-burners it props fully open on gas struts. It helps that there is a back window as well. There are no side windows, yet, but there is a Polaris cab heater, so perhaps they won’t be needed. Now that the cab is a comfy and protected place, there is a sound system complete with a radio tuner and an antenna.

DragonFire’s quick-release steering wheel is super handy. In the background you can see the controls for the Polaris audio system and the cab heater. Bring on the cold.

TRAIL TIME

We were impressed with how well this General transformed from a tired beater to a trail-ready machine that can be used for support while the family is racing. It is capable of pulling machines back to the trailer or hauling everything needed to change a flat on the track. Naturally, more of our readers covet a trick General for trail sport than as a race-support tool. So, like the PSN Ranger in the March issue of Dirt Wheels, we headed to Talsma’s Trail Park just over the border from Nebraska in South Dakota.

This Polaris windshield is a nice piece. It seals the front of the cab well, locks open a couple of inches or opens fully. Sporty driving is likely not a good idea when fully open.

The park trails have a wide range of conditions—from easy two-track pasture running to super techy and twisty drops and climbs. We were able to tackle everything we saw in the PSN Ranger, but in virtually every trail situation the General—starting as a sportier platform—was more fun, capable and comfortable. The turning was quite good. We credit the rounded profile of the RT320 Race/Trail tires for some of that ease. We don’t like the feel of a tire with a flat tread shape or one that has a distinct edge. With the pronounced two-tracks at Talsma’s, we felt sure that we wouldn’t catch an edge and lift the inside wheels without good cause.

DragonFire’s bed-mount rack gives you storage up out of the bed, as well as under-the-shelf in-bed storage space. It is very handy.

Despite going with a taller tire, the General proved responsive and an able climber. Surely the added power and response combined with the Gilomen clutch tuning helped there. You would never know that we were on anything but stock-size tires—at least until the ruts got deep and we were grateful for the added clearance. Talsma’s doesn’t have anything like long whoop sections, but there were ruts, rocks, roots and G-outs to test the Fox suspension. Again, the difference over stock is pronounced. The car always exhibits controlled and reliable handling. In some of the twisty, cambered gullies we did overcome the General suspension’s ability to flex, and that lifted the one or even two wheels, but the machine remained calm.

Steep, tight woods trails are big fun with the nimble and quick General. A stocker is great, but the PSN General runs stronger, has upgraded suspension and it has a cab area that pampers the passengers.

SUCCESS?

Since the Dickie family made a good purchase, thanks to the wounded stock engine, the total price for the fully modified General is roughly the same as a new stock General. At the same time, this one has more engine and suspension performance than stock, greater reliability from the tire and wheel package, and a far more comfortable cab area. Keep in mind that it is set up to handle plenty of work or play cargo. Sure, it is intended as a race support vehicle, but it could easily support hunting or camping. It isn’t a beauty or a showpiece, but it is a General we’d be proud to have in our garage.

The only way to make the cab better for cold-weather work and play is to add side windows. That could still be done. This may not be a showpiece, but it is a fun and effective trail machine.

PARTS LIST

Power Sports Nation: (402) 371-7002, www.powersportsnation.com

Full engine rebuild $3299.99

Rebuilt transmission $1,799.00

Replaced all bearings and seals

Polaris stock replacement parts

Polaris heater

Radio $709.99

Polaris Lock & Ride pro-fit tip-out glass windshield

Roof $309.99

Polaris Lock & Ride pro-fit glass rear Warn winch Full assembly

Work done in-house by Tyler Murphy, Grant Brunssen, Dillion Harlow

All Balls: www.allballsracing.com

Wheel bearings $27.05

U-joint $20.95

Front 8Ball axle $155.99

Rear 8Ball axle $155.99

Ball joints $33.27

Rack tie-rod kit $111.11

Front lower arm kit $59.95

Front upper arm kit $27.90

Rear suspension kit $69.99

DragonFire Racing: (800) 708-9803, www.dragonfireracing.com

D-shaped steering wheel $79.99

Quick-release hub/spline kit $181.99

Harness mount $74.99

H-style 4-point 3 inch harness $119.99

HighBack XL seats $839.98

General cargo rack $199.99

HMF: www.hmfracing.com, (216) 631-6980

Performance exhaust $954.95

Defender HD deluxe  front bumper $379.95

Defender rear bumper $239.95

Cylinder Works: (515) 402-8000, www.cylinder-works.com

Stock bore cylinders $889.95

Vertex: www.vertexpistons.com

Pistons are included in Cylinder Works kit

Hot Rods: (515) 402-800, www.hotrodsproducts.com

Crankshaft  (modified by PSN) $800.00

Gilomen Innovations: (507) 645-4555, www.gilomeninnovations.com

ECU tune and clutch kit $500

System 3 Offroad: (800) 708-9803, www.system3offroad.com

SB-3 beadlock $165.99 ea.

RT320 Race/Trail tire $215.99 ea.

Spider Graphix: www.spider-graphix.com, (317) 996-5555

Custom graphics Price varies

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