Electric pickup trucks are polarizing all on their own. You have the early adopters who tout their performance as the best thing since sliced bread, and you have the opponents who point to their immense curb weight among other cons. As if that argument wasn't heated enough, SoFlo Customs and Apocalypse Manufacturing have fueled the fire with lithium-ion by building the world's first lifted Rivian R1T.
It'd be one thing if they only modified the frame and suspension, but clearly, it goes beyond that. Just as important to Apocalypse was the Rivian's styling, which they told me looked too much "like a Kia" in its stock form. We'll get to that soon enough, though. Let's talk about the suspension.
The lift is what first caught my attention when I saw a video of the Rivian in its previous form a few weeks back. I've written about this at length before but suspension mods on electric trucks are way trickier than on gas or diesel pickups. That's largely because of their independent rear suspension, but once you exceed a certain height over stock, the front suspension becomes increasingly challenging too. The crew at Apocalypse found that out firsthand when jacking the Rivian sky-high.
At first, they expected it to involve more frame modification than suspension work. However, the owner of SoFlo Customs and Apocalypse Manufacturing Joe Ghattas told me it quickly spiraled into something more. Whereas they originally planned on simply dropping the subframe and bringing the electric motors down in relation to the rest of the chassis, they soon decided the only way forward would be custom-making a host of suspension components.
"We had to fabricate every single part from scratch," Ghattas told The Drive over the phone. "We thought we were going to be able to just slide that subframe down a bit. We ended up having to make our own spindle from scratch, upper and lower control arms from scratch, and our own steering setup there to extend the rack back to where the driver reaches."
"This thing is chock full of sensors; it picks up resistance off one area or another and you've got a dashboard full of lights," Ghattas continued. "It took a lot more than I thought—we're nine months into this project—but we're really happy with what came out the other end. I drove this car yesterday to the Dolphins game, and it's a mixture of a sports car and a big truck all together. You want the feel of a Ferrari and be able to drive over curbs, and that's what I got out of this."
Ghattas mentioned the sensors. There are tons of 'em tied into the R1T's suspension, which consists of adaptive dampers that are hydraulically cross-linked as well as air springs. That's what sets it apart, Ghattas insists, and it took a lot of trial and error to get these systems to play nicely with SoFlo's new hardware.
"We went through a full set of airbags—blew 'em all up because the slightest differentiation of angles on these things makes a big difference," Ghattas said. "This thing was engineered with very tight tolerances and we had to recreate all of that."
The same can be said for the active safety features, which presented a new set of challenges when fitting that extreme bodywork. Apocalypse is known for for customizing trucks with angular fenders and the like, but the Rivian uses a whole suite of integrated body sensors to relay information for adaptive cruise, automatic steering, and braking. They all had to be reworked with the truck's super-aggro fiberglass body panels. It was worth it, though, according to Ghattas.
"I would have never given that car a second thought," Ghattas said. "It looks like a Kia on the outside. But jump in it and it's lightning fast and the ride is really impressive. I was looking at this and it has nearly 1,000 horsepower, it does zero to 60 in like two seconds, but it's ugly as sin on the outside so that's what we went to fix. We rebodied the entire truck, jacked it up so it can clear 38-inch tires, put a nice skid plate on the bottom so you can actually take this thing off-roading. They've done all the hard work by figuring out the torque vectoring and electric drive setup; all I had to do was make it taller and keep it intact."
Ghattas actually loves the R1T so much that he wants SoFlo Customs and Apocalypse Manufacturing to collaborate directly with Rivian in the future. He had this to say at the end of our call:
"I'm so incredibly impressed with the technology in the Rivian. I think it's an amazing truck. Its only downside is the look, and someway, somehow if I could become Rivian's Shelby or Brabus, I would love to be."
The plan is to sell the quad-motor truck, named the Apocalypse Nirvana, to anybody who wants one for around $150,000.
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