Combat Center Marines are currently participating in Scion’s military Battle of the Builds competition.
The three finalists, the Salty Dogs from the Navy, Sapper from the Army and Kai Hei Tai, Marines from the Combat Center, were chosen by the vehicle manufacturer out of several entries from around the world after submitting custom designs of Scion’s xB compact economy car. Each team received an xB and $15,000 to build their designs, and are currently working on the projects.
The teams have until Oct. 5 to make their dreams a reality.
The members of Kai Hei Tai designed their xB as a tactical vehicle, dubbed “xB Assault,” which loosely resembles the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle.
Gunnery Sgt. Michael A. Lamar, the team leader for Kai Hei Tai, said he was astonished to learn his team’s design was chosen to come to life.
“We knew the size of the competition, and to find out we were in the top three was amazing,” said Lamar. “The Marines were totally psyched.”
The team received their Scion xB July 22 and proceeded to deconstruct it as fast as they could.
“We took it totally apart,” said Staff Sgt. Rodrigo Gonzales, the range control supervisor of BEARMAT range control unit. “We took off everything but the engine and the suspension in about an hour and a half. It is now completely stripped down to the bare frame. Now we are just waiting on the parts we need.”
Lamar said his team must overcome two major hurdles to succeed. The first is a lack of experience, an off road Scion has never been built in the United States, and second, parts are very hard to find.
“A couple of the team members have family in Japan, so they were calling home asking for this and that,” said Lamar, a Claytonville, Ill., native. The prices for the parts were within their budget but the import taxes were too steep Lamar said. “So that was a bridge too far, and right now we are looking for a total salvage vehicle. That way we can graft the parts into the car.”
Since the team can’t import what they need from overseas, they are looking around the area for a 2006-07 Toyota Rav 4.
“It has the same engine and same transmission, so we will be able to graft the drive train in almost seamlessly as far as the engine, transition and transfer case,” Lamar said. “From there, it’s going to be a lot of work getting the sub frame in for the rear axle. We want to use the front suspension from the Rav 4 so we get more wheel travel.”
After the extensive drive train modifications are completed and before the exterior is finished, the team plans to add a few aesthetic touches to the body, to include modified wheel wells and flared fenders, Lamar added.
“We are working with Kevin, the auto hobby manager, and one of our Marines who grew up doing that back home. Another one went to a technical institute and learned some of that,” Lamar said. “So between the three of them, Kevin and our two guys, we’ll be able to lay the base paint down. We are looking at the possibility of using a car wrap. It is basically like a big sticker, but it is applied with heat and stretched over the car. With that we are looking at the MARPAT digital pattern.”
While progress on the Scion is at a standstill as the team Kai Hei Tai waits for new parts, the members continue to think of ways to improve their vehicle to beat the competition.
Although there is a lot of hard work ahead, there is a payoff, said Lamar. The 1st place team will receive $14,000, 2nd will take home $12,000 and $10,000 will go to 3rd place. Each of the finalists’ Auto Hobby Shops who participated will also receive a $2,500 prize.
The grand prize winners, which will be announced Oct. 18, will also have the opportunity to showcase their creation at the 2010 Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas Nov. 2 – 6.
Winning the cash prize will be nice but his team is not just motivated by the money, Lamar said. It’s a dream come true to get to build and create something unique, he said. Especially when it’s someone else’s money.