PROJECT WILDCAT TRAIL 700
— And it can still be hauled inside a van! —
By the staff of Dirt Wheels –
This could be the lowest-budget UTV project that we have ever covered in Dirt Wheels. Derek Hunt and his brother Chris spend their days creating incredibly exotic electric bikes for their company, Hi-Power Cycles (www.hi-powercycles.com). Don’t tell anyone, but despite their penchant for things electric, the brothers harbor a fondness for things powered by gasoline. Very few of their high-end electric bikes cost less than what Derek forked out for this bargain with 400 miles on it.
FINDING THE ONE
Marital strife put this baby on the block, and the price had Derek out in the driveway with a tape measure. He checked the specs of the Wildcat Trail online and measured every corner of his Sprinter van, then he was off to Arizona with his fingers crossed but no guarantee that the Wildcat Trail 700 would actually fit in his van! A van, by the way, without a tow hitch, so there would be no renting a trailer to get the Trail home.
Apparently, youth and confidence are great things. He made the deal, and his engineer’s mind opted to lower the air pressure in the tires until the smallish sport UTV slid snuggly into his van. Score!
A Wildcat Trail 700 might seem an unusual choice here. His brother owns a high-revving, need-for-speed Yamaha YXZ1000R, and Derek is 6-foot-3. Plus, he lives in California where most drivers feel that a UTV can’t be too wide, too fast or have too much wheel travel. He explained that he finds the Wildcat Trail cockpit very comfortable, and he likes driving in the trees. He is willing to drive to find those trees. At times, that means trekking all the way to Utah.
PUTTIN’ IT TOGETHER
Fortunately, the previous owner had made a number of common and desirable upgrades to the Trail. It has PRP seats and four-point seat belts installed. PRP also sewed up a vinyl sun top for the machine. A full-width LED light bar is mounted to the front of the stock cage, but it is of unknown origin. The machine was also upgraded to 29-inch Maxxis Bighorn tires from the 27-inch stock tires. As far as Derek knows, the clutching and engine are all stock.
Any 50-inch car has limited suspension travel. There simply isn’t enough room in 50 inches to give the A-arms the room they need for long travel. Derek states that the suspension was far too soft when he bought the Wildcat. He upgraded the stock springs to a kit from Bandit UTV Suspension in Michigan. Bandit was the only company that Derek could find. Bandit confirms that as far as they know, they are the only company. They also make fully adjustable piggyback shocks for the Trail, and all four are under $1200! The stiffer springs on the stock shocks make a big difference, and the 29-inch tires help as well. The tires have more sidewall for tire suspension, and the larger circumference lets the tires roll across bumps more easily.
Frankly, for California, we prefer the wider, longer-travel Wildcat Sport 700, but we must admit that the changes to this 50-inch car have made a large difference.
Inside the Wildcat the PRP seats and belts are an impressive improvement. We were curious why someone would choose to spend that much on seats for what is pretty much a base model, but the comfort speaks for itself. We also like the soft sun top. It cleans up easily, and it keeps the elements away from the occupants without adding a bunch of weight to a small car.
We have to say that the PRP seat belts are nice as well. They adjust easily yet hold you securely and safely in the PRP seats.
WELL ENOUGH ALONE
Derek isn’t sure if there will be further mods for the Wildcat, but meanwhile, he is spending his time looking for places that he can drive it in the trees somewhere. For now, the intake, EFI and exhaust are all stock. Despite the 2-inch-taller tires, performance is good. The Wildcat is very spunky for a 700cc twin. By staying with the stock rims, and thus the stock offset, the car handles normally (and fits in the van). It does have notably better ground clearance with the taller tires.
Derek rolled up to our riding spot, and we were surprised to see that the Sprinter wasn’t the high-top model. He opened the back doors, and the Trail fit snuggly but functionally inside. He has refined the technique, and he leaves the tire pressure alone but removes the roll cage. With a cordless impact gun, it is faster to remove and replace the cage than to mess with the tire pressure! We watched (and helped a little) as he installed the cage. It is indeed a painless process. The cage almost bayonets together, so it would be difficult with one person but easy with two.
With the machine once again safe to drive, our 6-foot-plus staffer piled in with Derek and we hit the trail. Even with two big guys inside, the Trail 700 is a zippy performer that accelerates hard. Perhaps more importantly for a 50-inch car and the trail conditions they would be expected to tackle, the response is instant yet smooth and tractable right off idle. No doubt the taller tires made a difference in low-speed response.
Derek warned that he was comfortable with the suspension but was cautious on cambers. That is only prudent in a 50-inch car. When he bought the car, it showed clear evidence on the cage that it had been on its sides. In reality, we found that he was pretty confident on cambers. Our trails have some narrow areas with humps at the trail sides that lean cars pretty well, but the 50-inch car could mostly avoid the angles.
While we were testing this machine, it stayed in a pack with a Polaris RZR XP 1000 4 and his brother’s YXZ1000R with little trouble. We didn’t feel like we were getting punished by the suspension. For certain there are areas of SoCal that we would avoid in a 50-inch machine, but there are plenty of areas where a 50-inch car setup like this one will be a load of fun. And in this case, the price of fun is a true bargain.
PARTS AND SERVICES
Bandit UTV Suspension: www.banditutvsuspension.com, (586) 419-9574
Wildcat Trail spring kit $204.99–$224.99 a set
Bighorn 29×9-14 tires $221 each
PRP Seats:www.prpseats.com, (800) 317-6253
Wildcat GT S.E. seats $850 pair
4.2 harness $99
Wildcat Trail/Sport harness bar $175
Soft vinyl top for Wildcat Trail/Sport $175
Project Wildcat Sport> https://dirtwheelsmag.com/project-machine-wildcat-sport-700/
Stock Wildcat Trail 700 test> https://dirtwheelsmag.com/2014-arctic-cat-wildcat-700-trail/