UTV PROJECT: POLARIS RS 1+1

Gabe Payne stretched an RS1 to add a second seat By the staff of Dirt Wheels

Even with the extended wheelbase, Gabe Payne’s Polaris RS1+1 will lift the front wheels if the route is steep enough. It did remain easy to control.

Polaris’ unique RS1 is an interesting machine. So far Polaris is the only major brand in motorsports that has dedicated development time and production and marketing effort for a single-seat UTV. Polaris started with a small range of single-seat ACE models that were closer to an ATV with a roll cage and steering wheel. The RS1 is a single-seater, but it is much closer to a RZR XP 1000 that has the driver compartment narrowed up for a single seat.

An RS1 shares the XP 1000 engine, drivetrain and suspension complete with Walker Evans needle shocks. While the XP 1000 is already a short-wheelbase machine for a modern sport UTV, the RS1 is even shorter. Gabe Payne fully appreciated the many benefits that an RS1 offers for a serious trail machine, but he wasn’t as excited about the short wheelbase, 64-inch width or the lack of a second seat. To embrace the positive points and fix what he saw as drawbacks, he came up with an ambitious plan to create a totally unique trail weapon.

NOT A BOLT-ON

So many project machines that we see are a collection of parts. The machines are not engineered or fabricated so much as they are exercises in masterful shopping and critical spending. Gabe did indulge in some shopping, spending and bolting to create his fighter-jet-themed trail weapon. What truly makes it unique is solid engineering, extensive fabrication and out-of-the-box problem solving. This may be a two-seater, but it is far from a side-by-side.

Early on the RS1 was seen everywhere. We saw couples that purchased two RS1s for little more than the price of one premium two-seater—that way nobody must be a passenger. Happy wife, happy life at its finest. RS1s have a great following as race machines as well. With the rear radiator mounting and narrow profile, it makes a fine weapon for many types of racing.

We haven’t seen many RS1s for sale used, but Gabe found a stock one and purchased it. It didn’t stay stock long. Gabe and good friend Jerry Hansen cut the frame in half before tackling the fabrication to stretch the stock RS1 into the 1+1. Gabe is lucky to have good friends like Hansen and plastic welder and fabricator Randy Peters, who joined the party.

Between the three of them, they worked on the project for weeks. They stretched the frame, roll cage, shift cable, rear brake lines, drive line and wiring harness. The finished chassis has tandem seating like a jet fighter, with the passenger sitting directly behind the driver. Then Peters took over joining the body panels to make it look like a production machine.

Having a 78-inch track width allows the RS1+1 to take cambered routes that would challenge narrower cars. Payne used a little caution and drove right across the camber.

TIME TO BUY

The completed chassis has a wheelbase close to as long as a Polaris XP 1000 4, but with the oddly sleek and narrow look of the longer body, it looks even longer than it is. With the narrow driver/rider compartment, an RS1 always looks like the suspension and wheels are protruding a long way outside of the main body. Gabe exacerbated that look, installing a 72-inch-wide HCR long-travel suspension kit. The master plan called for 35-inch Maxxis Roxxzilla tires, and that would have been a bunch of rubber for the stock gearing. Four-inch GDP portals allow running the 35s and still having reasonable ratios for technical driving and rock crawling. Portals add roughly 3 inches in width per side, so the track width stretched from the stock 64 to somewhere near 78!

For the low tire pressures typically employed with the Maxxis Roxxzilla tires, Gabe felt a 15-inch beadlock rim was in order. KMC was chosen for the job.

The RS1+1 is a striking machine. The builders saw the seating arrangement’s similarity to a fighter airplane, and asked Uintah Designs to make the military-inspired wrap a reality.

INSIDE JOB

It doesn’t make sense to buy a single aftermarket seat for the back seat. Matching PRP seats and harness-type seat belts handle keeping the people where they belong. A few rocker switches were added to power the rock lights, lighted whips and a winch. A winch is almost a must on a machine like this, so one was mounted up front.

Storage in the micro-bed and the cab interior are at a premium, but RS1 door bags from Polaris are a big help. Three bags are stacked to add handy storage.

While stretching the RS1, Gabe and friends needed to stretch the skid plate and a roof. Both look perfect. The crew were quick to appreciate the airplane-style seating, and Uintah Designs was tasked with giving the machine a classic jet-fighter look. The kit is ultra complete, including mirroring the rooftop graphic inside the car on the underside of the roof panel. Lighted mirrors and a turn-signal kit allow Gabe to drive the RS1+1 to Sand Hollow to hit some of his favorite trails.

From a front angle, the seating is even more reminiscent of an open-cockpit airplane. It certainly is a unique view in the UTV world. This is one UTV that is not a side-by-side.

HOW IT WORKS

With such unique dimensions and features, the RS1 has a lot to offer a serious trail addict. Despite being a small machine, it has outstanding legroom and a comfortable seating position. It is one of the best machines available for tall drivers. Most sport UTVs have the front wheel well intruding into the space for the driver’s left foot. With the center seating position, the driver’s feet extend between the wheel wells.

There is a rise in the middle of the floor to provide driveshaft clearance to the front differential. Polaris provided a clever double brake pedal that allows the driver to use either foot for braking. Left-foot braking is very handy in technical trail sessions, and we could see from the wear on the pedal that Gabe routinely employs left-foot braking.

Tire placement is critical in technical driving, and the narrow body of the RS1 allows outstanding visibility. From the driver’s seat you have a clear view of both front wheels and suspension arms. With mirrors, the same is true of the rear wheels. 

A stock Polaris RS1 would have no chance at a line this steep. With the RS1+1’s extended wheelbase, the car simply drove up and over. A normal UTV would have dragged the side rails.

HOW THINGS GO WRONG

When you are clambering a UTV over and around obstacles, there are several reasons you could be forced to abort the attempt. You could catch the suspension arms, but the RS1+1 HCR suspension kit has about as much clearance as it is possible to build in. That includes the highly arched rear radius rods. It is possibly even more likely that the car could get hung up on the sides of the chassis solidly enough to lift the wheels off the ground. Grounding the chassis could happen trying to bend around an obstacle or while climbing across it.

Obviously, the outer frame sliders of the RS1 (or the RS1+1) are vastly less likely to catch or drag than a machine with standard side-by-side seating. Factor in the RS1+1’s jump from 29-inch tires to 35-inch Roxxzilla tires and you can see that the clearance is excellent from every possible angle.

HCR’s suspension kit provides the strength for the suspension to “go wide” and easily support the GDP portal gear-reduction units. The arms also offer outstanding clearance.
These substantial trailing arms widen the track and extend the wheel travel. Like the front, the clearance is maximized. The suspension offers a lot of articulation for varied surfaces.

MAKING IT EVEN BETTER

As effective as the RS1 is for extreme trail use, the short wheelbase is not always a benefit. It helps in tight quarters, but is not an aid for steep, rough climbs, straddling obstacles or handling steep drops. The radically extended chassis of the RS1+1 does allow it to make wildly steeper climbs without trying to flip over backwards. It can handle drops from significantly major rock steps or dirt banks as well.

With the 78-inch track width, the RS1+1 is at ease on radical cambers that would be sketchy with a 64-inch machine. At the same time, it was impressive how nimble the longer machine remains.

The shifter is on the opposite side of the machine, so all three door bags had to be mounted on the left side. They are handy. The RS1 doesn’t offer much in the way of storage.
HCR’s rear radius rods look tough and maximize obstacle clearance. Owner Gabe Payne oversaw rides at UTV Takeover at Sand Hollow. He helps keep the trails clean.

SOME OBSERVATIONS

As soon as we saw the RS1+1, we could see the potential advantages the machine offered as a trail tool. We didn’t have the opportunity to drive the RS1+1, but we did ride in it. The rear seat area is not as roomy as the front but does offer sufficient comfort. Like the front seat, the rear offers excellent visibility to the sides and decent visibility straight ahead. Choosing the GDP portals ensured that the gearing is excellent in low range, and the standard 999cc normally aspirated engine has ample response and available performance.

When we were ready to shoot action, Gabe headed straight for the climbs and drops we would never have asked him to try. This machine is even more effective than we expected it to be, and we expected a lot! Roxxzilla tires offer amazing traction, and these are the competition compound. There were few traction issues and next to no wheelspin on Utah’s signature rock slabs. We did see the tires spin in the sand, but traction remained impressive for a “sticky” tire designed for hard terrain and rock.

Some wide-stance machines have compromised turn ratios, but we didn’t see any restriction for the RS1+1. This is a case where folks had the vision to shrug off the extraordinary amount of work required and embrace a plan to completely remake a machine to a new level. As projects like this go, this one seems quite reasonable in terms of actual dollars spent. Of course, that doesn’t take into account the sweat equity that Gabe and his friends expended in pursuit of the dream.

The result is more capable than any home-brewed project has a right to be. It makes vastly more expensive and specialized rigs look clumsy and even handicapped. We are actually sad that we don’t have the time and talent to build one. It looks like an absolute blast to drive.

PARTS AND SERVICES:

DIRT WORKS: www.dirtworks.com

Full windshield: $399

HCR RACING: (888) 928-7223, www.hcrracing.com

KMC WHEELS: www.kmcwheels.com

Wheels Polaris RS1 dual-sport long-travel suspension kit $4,999.99

Grey powder coat finish: $250

MAXXIS TIRE: www.maxxis.com

Roxxzilla 35×10-15 Competition compound tires: $382 ea.

POLARIS: www.polaris.com

Door bags: $99

PRP SEATS: (800) 317-6253, www.prpseats.com

Seats $499.99 ea

Harness $139.99 ea

RYCO MOTORSPORTS: www.rycomoto.com

Turn signal kit: $305

SUPERATV: www.superatv.com

Gen-3 4-inch dual-idler GDP portal gear lift: $3,000

UINTAH DESIGNS:  www.uintahdesigns.com

Custom Air Force-themed wrap: $1,800

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