Like all good stories these days, we’re going to start in the middle, but only for a few seconds so the audience gets both confused and invested. We’re going to talk in this article about what the latest is for the “Mad Max” Tesla. They’ve upgraded the car a bit since last week’s initial video, and they took it to a Supercharger to see if recent news was true.
But, you’re probably wondering how we got here. WTF is a “Mad Max” Tesla? Is this some new package Elon Musk took from a movie, like Ludicrous and Plaid? While that would be cool, the truth is much cooler for poor morons like me. Last week, Rich Benoit, a.k.a. Uncle Rich, the guy who makes the Rich Rebuilds videos, worked with another popular YouTuber to turn a salvage title Model 3 into an off-road beast.
I’ve learned from my previous efforts that hardly anybody clicks on the videos here, so I’ll go ahead and recap the video real quick.
Rich worked with Grind Hard Plumbing Company (they’re a YouTube Channel, not plumbers like Mario and Luigi) to work on this project. First, Grind Hard bought the wrecked Model 3, which seemed to have mostly front-end damage mostly caused by a woman supposedly named Sophia Chang. Rich, who runs Electrified Garage, knew what to do to get the vehicle running again.
The biggest problem was the fuse in the battery pack, which he replaced, allowing the Model 3 to run again. Rather than try to restore the vehicle to factory specs (or, like many “rebuilt” salvage cars, factory looks with janky work under the skin), Rich and Grind Hard decided to turn the broken Model 3 into an off-road machine.
After stripping away all of the damaged front-end parts, they stripped it back to the more rigid parts of the car’s body, and this gave them metal to tack onto with a welder. They used pipe benders to build a custom front bumper from several lengths of steel tubing, but much further back from the factory bumper’s location. This gave the vehicle a much better approach angle. Radiator and condenser were relocated to where the frunk used to be.
To provide air flow for the condenser and radiator, they had to open up the Model 3’s hood. To do that, they cut the top layer of metal on the hood, exposing the honeycomb pattern of the hood’s frame. This has holes in it already, so they only needed to remove the adhesive and paint the honeycomb metal black. This ended up making for a surprisingly good look, considering.
To add off-road capability, they added spacers to the vehicle’s suspension, cut away material around the front wheel wells to make space for larger tires, and swapped in off-road tires. This gave more ground clearance, better grip on mud, and better wheel/tire geometries for going over obstacles.
Lights were replaced with some LED units bolted in where the stock headlights once were. Several sets were used to give good lighting under different conditions, and the area behind the headlights was painted black to make the setup look better. A winch was also added to the custom front bumper (which actually would end up getting used later).
Many other small things were done to make this all work, all of which is better detailed in the video at Grind Hard Plumbing Company.
The vehicle proved to be surprisingly capable when they first took it off road. It managed to go through the same sets of obstacles that Rich’s Sherp was able to conquer, and did all of this with no real issues. It would get stuck briefly at times, but always managed to get itself out with some help from spotters.
More Abuse (and Upgrades)
In the second video, they put it through some much harder abuse at an off-road park.
When Rich’s Sherp got stuck, the Mad Max 3 came to the rescue, but not before revealing its first weakness. As soon as it hit a deep puddle at speed (something nobody should do in any road-oriented vehicle), the back bumper came off from all of the water pressure. Rather than attempt to replace it, they simply ripped it off the rest of the way and used black spray paint to make it look better.
The rear wheel wells likewise weren’t up to off-road duty, and were simply removed. As Elon Musk says, “The best part is no part,” right?
With those issues out of the way, and slightly cosmetically improved with the use of a rattle can, they were able to use the Mad Max Model 3 to go help the Sherp get itself out of the mud. When you consider that the Sherp is a ridiculous amphibious tank-like machine, it’s impressive that the Model 3 was able to render assistance.
After helping pull the Sherp out of the mud, they put the Model 3 through increasingly bad mud until it too got stuck, but it took some fairly awful conditions to get it there, and it only got stuck when the tires got caked with mud. Tesla’s drive units proved that they’re pretty good at dealing with extreme conditions, and probably could have done even better with bigger mud tires.
Once they found those limits, they decided to see what punishment the suspension could handle. After several jumps that took all four wheels off the ground, they managed to make a rear wheel go whompy (broken control arm). Before anybody thinks this is an insult to Tesla, keep in mind that it survived several jumps where the vehicle caught air before a major suspension component broke. That’s actually quite impressive for a road-oriented vehicle.
In typical off-roader fashion, Rich and the guys at Grind Hard took this as an opportunity to further upgrade the suspension with better control arms, better shocks, etc. If you upgrade something every time it breaks, you can slowly add a lot a capability to an off-road vehicle.
To complete the look and add some functionality, they used suction cup roof racks and added a freight pallet, painted black with spray paint, to give the top a cargo basket of sorts. To this, they added an LED light bar and a spare tire (attached with a ratcheting strap). This gave some storage as well as an aggressive rally look like you see many Subaru owners go for.
They also added fender flares to the wheel wells for an improved off-road look as well as some functionality. Finally, it looks like they painted the lowest parts of the side skirts black to match the fender flares. This basically completed the look, and provided some protection to the bottom.
Despite not being able to supercharge on the first attempt, and only charging for 5 minutes on the second attempt, they determined that the salvage car will indeed charge at Tesla’s stations. The problem they personally ran into was that the car was still in the original owner’s name per Tesla’s records, and they didn’t want to give the prior owner (again, supposedly someone named Sophie Chang) their card number.
So, if you buy a salvage-titled Model 3, just be sure to talk to Tesla and get the thing put in your name, and it should supercharge now (as long as nobody owes Tesla money on the car’s charging fees).
Featured image: a screenshot of the Mad Max Model 3 helping another off-road vehicle with its winch. Screenshot from the Rich Rebuilds YouTube Channel.