CONCORD, N.C. – Although roving hordes of brain-eating zombies are not as likely a danger as recent movies suggest, some feel it is best to prepare for such a threat. A special display during the Sept. 19-22 AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway will showcase a few very capable “undead-escape vehicles,” including a Mercier-Jones hovercraft prototype and a Local Motors Rally Fighter.
Like most scary fictional creatures, the slow-moving but unstoppable zombie character is an exaggeration of real-world phenomena. Movies really brought the zombie to life, so to speak, in the late twentieth century, the most influential example being director George Romero’s 1968 film, “Night of the Living Dead.” After 45 years of gestation, the idea of a “zombie apocalypse” is now a part of our national dialogue and media diet. In addition to the movies, TV shows, comic books, video games, smartphone apps and websites, there are comedies, musicals, and 5K and marathon runs devoted to an undead armageddon.
Should the undead start walking (and eating) among us, there are a few rugged and fast vehicles the experts recommend for the garage.
The top choice among zombie evaders is Local Motors’ Rally Fighter, an American-made, multi-terrain rocket that is street legal and emissions-compliant in all 50 states. The RF is essentially a Baja-style race truck capable of 160 miles per hour and crazy jumps in urban, rural or desert settings.
Its GM-built 430-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine and automatic transmission can be serviced by your local Chevy shop, and the 17-inch aluminum bead-lock wheels with Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear Wranglers are tall enough to run over crunchy zombie bodies. The suspension has 18 inches of travel in front and 20 inches in the rear, so you will hardly notice curbs or downed telephone poles.
RF is as agile as a sports car, thanks to a design team that sweated out every ounce of extra weight. The body is lightweight fiberglass, and what appears to be a paint job is actually a custom vinyl wrap that weighs 12 pounds less than traditional paint. Overall curb weight is 3,800 pounds. Like Baja racers, the RF is rear-drive only, because the components necessary for four-wheel drive are heavy, expensive and susceptible to breakage. (Transferring the RF’s center of gravity forward would also alter its “Dukes of Hazzard”-style jumps into end-over-end wrecks.)
Since preparing for a zombie apocalypse can strain the budget – what with building a bunker and planting “Home Alone”-style traps all over your property – Local Motors offers the Rally Fighter in five different levels. Stage 1 costs $19,500 and buys the chassis minus powertrain. From there, the program graduates steadily to Stage 5, which costs $99,900 but includes a visit to the Chandler, Ariz., Local Motors shop, where a professional will oversee and participate in the build. Zombie attacks are hard work, so the RF pampers driver and passengers with power windows and locks as well as full air conditioning and heat – leather trim and full carpet are optional.
Another agile undead escape vehicle being displayed during AutoFair is the new Mercier-Jones hovercraft prototype. This sleek hovercraft, the first of its kind in terms of luxury and technology, is an advanced vehicle that can travel over land, water and a variety of other terrains. Traveling on a cushion of air that allows it to hover over the ground, this vehicle can provide an escape from zombies in even the roughest of terrains.
The Mercier-Jones hovercraft will be unveiled to the public for the first time at Charlotte Motor Speedway the week of AutoFair and will be on display at the world’s largest automotive extravaganza, alongside the Rally Fighter, a Can-Am Maverick XRS utility terrain vehicle from Carolina Truggies, the Organic Transit ELF electric power car and a variety of amphibious and off-road creations.