Out of a plume of dust, a metallic blue beast zooms forward with a roar of its engine. Not bad for a toy.
At first sight, it’s hard to call the Rip Rod, a collaboration between Ford, Hot Wheels and Los Angeles–based production studio Bandito Brothers, anything else. The Rod’s fat tires, candy wrapper colors and long, bent shape are the stuff of kids’ dreams. But its shiny exterior only shows off half the fun; underneath its hood sits a dynamic 1.0L, 3-cylinder EcoBoost® engine, giving it as much power as it has whimsy.
“It’s a very dynamic car to see in action,” says Scott Denby, marketing and strategy manager for Ford Racing. “It’s really an advanced piece of engineering.”
When it was first built, the Rip Rod was a shell of what it is today. Designed by Ford and Bandito Brothers for the SEMA auto circuit last year, the vehicle acted as an impressive prop for the Transit Connect, which would tow it on stage during shows. But after the circuit was over, Bandito Brothers wanted it to become functional. Just as they watched their toy Hot Wheels zoom loops around orange plastic tracks as kids, they wanted to see a life-size one rip through the desert.
So they approached Ford Racing, which wanted to use the Rod as an opportunity to help accelerate the evolution of racing by using a small and flexible engine, lowering the vehicle’s weight while also giving it muscle. They knew the perfect machine for the job: the same EcoBoost that can be found in the Ford Fiesta, Focus and C-MAX, among other Ford models.
If there was any doubt that the EcoBoost wouldn’t be up for the job, it vanished when Bandito Brothers took the Rod to the desert last summer and filmed it ripping donuts in the sand. Watching video of the run, it’s exhilarating to see a childhood toy come to life in such a dramatic way. It’s even more thrilling to think it’s doing it with an engine that is available in a Ford street vehicle.