The debate over whether a Slingshot is a motorcycle or an automobile is like the debate over whether a hot dog is a sandwich or not. There are two sides to the argument, and no one can be convinced to budge from their position.
However, Polaris, the manufacturer behind the Slingshot, says definitively that the Slingshot is a three-wheeled motorcycle. It is not an automobile. It does not have airbags and it does not meet automotive safety standards, so there you have it. Regardless of its categorization within the motorcycle and powersports world, we can all agree it’s one cool vehicle, especially when it gets customized to the max!
Enter Richard Rawlings, owner and founder of Gas Monkey Garage. You likely know him as the star of hit series such as “Fast N’ Loud” & “Garage Rehab.” Since the inception of Gas Monkey Garage in 2004, Rawlings has made a name for himself by being anything except ordinary. Having built two commissioned custom cars for Hot Wheels, setting numerous world records and cementing Gas Monkey Garage as a household name, Richard does anything but blend in. That’s why Polaris sought out Rawlings to see what he could do with a Slingshot when given the freedom to put his personality into a custom build.
The Polaris Slingshot, a wholly-owned brand of Polaris Inc., continues to define the category through style, ride experience and community with its three-wheeled autocycle. With AutoDrive and manual transmission options, an open cockpit, side-by-side seating, 5˝ ride height and a 2.0L four-cylinder engine, the Slingshot makes a statement – and that’s just in stock form!
Within the Slingshot community, many owners personalize their three-wheel ride – often with bold paint and graphic schemes, lighting kits, and robust sound systems. But, let’s remember, that’s not necessarily Rawlings’ and Gas Monkey’s style.
“Half the fun in owning a Slingshot is customizing it and making it your own,” Rawlings says. “For us at Gas Monkey Garage, we put a build plan together that would allow us to get after it and have some fun, because that’s what Slingshot is all about – personalization through customization.”
As you can see, Richard and his team went where no one has gone before. While most go lower, Richard went higher, raising the height of the Slingshot utilizing big, meaty tires and a custom front bumper with plastic removed for more clearance. His team also customized a roll-cage with roof rack, and added excursion-style roof lights.
Named the Gas Monkey urban assault Slingshot, it doesn’t take more than a glance to see it is like nothing else on the road – truly capturing Rawlings’ outgoing, adventurous personality.
“This is a utilitarian version, in my mind, of the Slingshot,” Rawlings says. “I think what we created could be a new generation of customization and style for Slingshot. As we say at Gas Monkey, the attitude is 100% based on altitude. We custom-built all the suspension on this. We had Slingshot build us a custom hood so we could put the hoops through for the Fox shocks.
“The rear swing arm was definitely a necessary evil for us. We had to work at it to get it to look right and be the right proportion. I was pretty stoked when we got it right. It sits right, it feels right and it looks good.”
In addition, Gas Monkey built full, custom upper and lower control arms, sway bars and tie rod ends. They also built custom panels to allow for more clearance for the 35-inch Nitto tires. But, the craziest thing was the fact they built this custom Slingshot in under 60 days!
“We were given 90 days, and I challenge my team to work fast… we did in less than 60 days start to finish, and that’s engineering everything from scratch,” Rawlings says. “The Slingshot team was great because they let us do exactly what we wanted to do, and I think I blew their minds when I showed them the first rendition. I’m proud of my team for being able to pull it off and I’m proud of being part of the Slingshot family.”
In addition to being asked to build a custom Slingshot, Rawlings and Polaris teamed up to shoot a five-part video series on the build. After much anticipation and weeks of showcasing teasers and behind-the-scenes videos, the one-of-a-kind, custom Polaris Slingshot was revealed at the 2021 SEMA show in Las Vegas. The video series can be viewed on Polaris Slingshot’s YouTube channel.
“Our owners, including Richard, take it to the next level and leave no stone unturned when customizing,” says Chris Sergeant, VP of Polaris Slingshot. “They personalize every detail, and each Slingshot becomes a canvas of our owners’ self-expression.”
Starting at $19,999, the 2021 Slingshot lineup features four models – each available in a manual or AutoDrive transmission. With an open-air cockpit and side-by-side seating, the three-wheel Slingshot garners attention. Polaris offers a complete line of accessories, including added storage, color painted accents and more to allow drivers to personalize their ride straight from the factory.
Obviously, Rawlings went above and beyond in true SEMA fashion, and we love it. More photos can be viewed below!
If you have a motorcycle, ATV, UTV, snowmobile or jet ski you’d like to feature in MPN’s Ride of the Week series, sponsored by CanDo International, please email MPN Editorial Director Greg Jones at [email protected]