A group of YouTubers and electric vehicle mechanics have built what they say is the world’s first off-road Tesla.
YouTubers Rich Benoit and Steven Salowsky of Rich Rebuilds collaborated with Ethan Schlussler and Edwin Olding of Grind Hard Plumbing Co., who specialize in building off-road conversions, to transform a Tesla Model 3 into an off-roading vehicle. They completed the work at Electrified Garage, an electric vehicle garage co-owned by Benoit.
They started by purchasing a Tesla Model 3 at an auction for about $28,000 that had some cosmetic damage to its hood but was still in decent working condition. The car just needed a list of minor repairs to things like the radiator and air conditioner. Benoit then replaced the battery fuse so it could drive again and modified the car’s software ahead of the repairs that will be made at the Electrified Garage.
There, Bryan Maynard and Chad Hrencecin installed the off-road tires and replaced the headlights with LED lights. They completed the off-road look with the beginnings of an exo cage on the front bumper, matte black detailing and a winch. They also gerrymandered a lift kit for the Model 3 and lifted it two inches.
According to those behind the project, the full cost came out to be $32,146.
In the video debuting the car’s transformation, Benoit mentioned that they were unable to purchase the parts from Tesla even after providing the car’s VIN. Salowsky, a former Tesla employee and colleague of Benoit’s at Rich Rebuilds, clarified that this was partially because of the safety issue and the company’s caution against salvaged cars.
Salowsky told Motherboard that this vehicle was “essentially blacklisted” due to its history. He explained that they could have received other parts for the car such as a new bumper or front hood, but that Tesla would not provide the pyro fuse, or battery fuse, in order to make the car run again. Policies such as these make it so that salvageable cars cannot be recertified and repaired, spurring consumers to continue purchasing new vehicles or parts.
“This is a very complex and polarizing aspect because it goes against a lot of things for [the] right to repair,” Salowsky said. “Accidents happen. At the end of the day, you want to keep a car from not being properly recycled, or ending up in a landfill or sitting in a salvage lot. That's not sustainable at all.”
It is notoriously difficult for Tesla owners to repair their own cars since independent garages often aren’t authorized to and it can be difficult to attain the necessary parts. This is what inspired them to open Electrified Garage in 2018, which has now spread to three locations in the U.S. Benoit and Salowsky built a massive following of 1.9 million YouTube followers by demystifying these electric cars for their viewers. They regularly do similarly ambitious projects on the channel.
The team completed the project in three days and swiftly took the Tesla on its first off-roading excursion, where it successfully navigated through bumpy terrain.
More updates on the off-road Tesla will be shared on Grind Hard Plumbing Co.’s YouTube page. Salowsky says they would like to add a full exoskeleton and roll cage like a proper off-road vehicle. They also wish to modify the software and find a way to use the car’s autopilot function to pull itself up a hill.
“Everybody can't wait to see what the Cybertruck, the Rivian or any electric trucks are going to do. But in the meantime, let's modify what's on the market and have some fun with it,” Salowsky told Motherboard. “How can we make this car look like something out of Mad Max?”