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The Company Pivoted From The Rally Fighter To Building Autonomous “Pod” Vehicles In 2016

Local Motors Rally Fighter Shuts Shutting Shut Down LS3
The Local Motors Rally Fighter. Photo via Local Motors.

Arizona-based Local Motors, the firm responsible for the singularly cool LS3 V8-powered Rally Fighter coupe, is shutting its doors after 15 years. If you’re unfamiliar with the Rally Fighter, that’s probably because it’s exceedingly rare. Just a few dozen were produced from 2009 through 2016, each one built in a “micro-factory” with the participation of the buyer so that it could be legally registered as a kit car.

The LS3-powered Rally Fighter made its prime time debut on Top Gear America in 2013, piloted by the rallycross driver Tanner Foust, who recently signed with McLaren to race in Extreme E, where the GMC Hummer EV competes. We attached the video below. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a video with the Local Motors Rally Fighter and Car King Jay Leno.

The Rally Fighter was discontinued to make way for something entirely different in 2016: a fully autonomous pod/bus thing called “Olli”. Capable of driving 60 miles on a single charge, always with a human driver on duty for safety, Olli was produced making extensive use of 3D printing. Olli 2.0 arrived in 2019, and while neither it nor its predecessor were widely available, they were tested on the streets of Toronto.

Unfortunately, on December 16th, an example of the Olli 1.0 shuttle crashed into a tree and left its human driver with critical injuries. That’s not believed to be the driving force behind the firm’s closure, however.

Olli by Local Motors. Photo via Local Motors.

Lack Of Funding Locks Down Local Motors

The Local Motors shut down was first reported by The Drive, which was tipped off to some public LinkedIn posts on the matter. As of this writing, the company has yet to make a formal announcement.

“I am disheartened to announce that Local Motors will cease to exist as of January 14,” reads one post, from Local Motors VP of Sales and Customer Success Chris Stoner. “I was only there a few months, but loved every minute of it… The autonomous vehicle space is an exciting emerging market with plenty of opportunity. Experiencing first-hand the skill and dedication of the people I worked with, I have no doubt AVs (like Olli) are the future of transportation.”

An anonymous source told The Drive that Local Motors’ shuttering is the result of a lack of funding. Which is an all-too-common theme for any automaker trying to make it. Not everybody has Rivian money.

Before Local Motors drank the autonomous vehicle kool-aid, the Rally Fighter was an entirely different – and from what we can tell, successful – endeavor. Powered by a 430-horsepower 6.2L LS3 V8 backed by a GM-sourced 4-speed automatic transmission, the Rally Fighter was styled after the P-51 Mustang fighter plane. It was an off-road monster, with 16 inches of front suspension travel and 20 inches in the back; a double-wishbone front suspension design; and a four-link 9-inch Ford axle with leaf springs in the rear.

The Local Motors Rally Fighter was also notable for being the first car ever designed through co-creation, whereby members of the public provided input that guided the design process. It was developed in just 18 months.

Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron has held multiple positions in the automotive industry, from magazine videographer to dealership sales. And because his background isn't diverse enough, he's currently attending engineering school at University of Michigan Despite his expertise in covering the American performance vehicle industry, he's a devout Porsche enthusiast.

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