Shifting gears

By Victor Yoon


Ben Greif ’12 is neither a mechanic nor a professional driver, but that isn’t going to stop him from building and racing in his own car. He plans to work with the company Local Motors to build his own Rally Fighter, a hybrid street car with off-road rally capabilities.

Greif first learned of the Rally Fighter while reading the May 2010 issue of the magazine, Popular Science. He was drawn by its uniqueness and its ability to perform as both a high performance off-road vehicle and a road-legal “everyday” vehicle.

“I was just in awe when I first saw the double page image of the car, but I thought my parents would never go for it,” he said.

He researched the car and proposed the idea of getting the Rally Fighter to his parents, who eventually came around to it. He had already expressed an interest in racing to his parents, and they found off-road racing to be a safer alternative to track racing.

“Well, I was already obsessed and even though I thought that it seemed absurd at first, once my arguments were laid out my parents saw that it really wasn’t that crazy,” he said. “You see, the other option was that I wait until I’m 18 and spend 40 grand on the fastest street car I can get,” Greif said.

Greif plans to build the car around May 2011, but planning begins much earlier.

In May, he will go to Arizona, where Local Motors’ closest microfactory is. He will be aided by the instruction of a Local Motors supervisor and two assistants, most likely his father and his brother, Nick Grief ’07, who will be physically involved in the building of his car, Greif said.

Although they will have a pre-built chassis, and some of the very special or difficult work will be done by Local Motors’ workers, he and his assistants will be responsible for building the rest of the car, from putting in the engine and brakes to the seats and seatbelts.

“All the work that can in good reason be done by the buyer is done by the buyer so that the car can be registered as a custom vehicle. This is so that Local Motors doesn’t have to put the Rally Fighter through expensive crash testing.,” Grief said. “It’s extremely expensive to do crash testing and other safety tests, especially for a car with a limited production of only 2,000 units that’s coming from a fairly small company,.”

Not only does Greif plan to build the car himself, but he plans to also pay for the car himself. With money he received as Bar Mitzvah gifts and the money he made from working at Bristol Farms grocery store over the summer, he will be able to pay for about 80 percent of the car.

His parents will lend him the rest, and he will pay them back without interest over the next few years, in an arrangment they worked druing the planning process.

He has already put in a reservation to buy the car.

“Although reserving the car just puts one on hold for a not very committing $100 deposit that’s refundable, I was still grateful because it showed that my parents were willing to consider it,” he said.