It’s hard to argue the fact that sitting in a brand new vehicle is one of the best feelings as a driver. You envision where it’ll take you, how you’ll drive it and start dreaming about how to make it your own. It seems so simple! And that’s because, well, it was…
The supply chain shortage we’ve been faced with lately, combined with the continued outrageous growth of this sport, has made obtaining a brand new UTV a little more challenging. Manufacturers and dealers alike want nothing more than to have an array of new models in stock for enthusiasts to jump into, but this is just not in the cards. And in some cases, even when there is inventory somewhere, the sticker shock outweighs the satisfaction a buyer might receive from gripping that fresh, clean steering wheel.
Knowing that the struggle is very real right now, we decided to knock the dust off a well-seasoned 2019 Can-Am X3 X DS which we had here at the shop. The goal was to breathe life into the dormant vessel and convince our hardset expectations that this car could have been found on a showroom floor (but without the hassle of signing on any dotted lines).
As fun as this car was at 64” wide, the one major factor which needed attention was the track width. Thankfully, the suspension gurus at HCR Suspension had just the thing for us: the latest HCR Sport Line kit for the 72” X RS models. Now, this kit isn’t designed to convert the narrower models, but with some help from HCR and a couple extra brackets, we were on our way to an easy retrofit. Since this kit is designed to simply replace specific components and work with factory axles and rods, we had some sourcing to do.
In order to make the conversion complete, we knew we were going to need some serious help from partners like Dempsey Adventures and Assault Industries. With the stout HCR arms, we wanted hardware to match. The factory suspension bolts were worked, worn, and even bent. Not acceptable. One call over to Chuck Dempsey, and we had a Grade 8 Hardware Kit enroute. Now with proper shouldered and custom cut bolts, we had confidence our connection points were just as strong as the HCR arms.
To complete the suspension transformation, we knew a call to Assault Industries was inevitable. We ordered their Billet Radius Rod Chassis Brace, High Clearance Radius Rods, Rear Sway Bar End Links, Front Sway Bar End Links, and Turret Style Tie Rods. Since we had them on the phone, we figured why not add in some other wish list items? So, just like that, we added their Nighthawk LED Side Mirrors, F-22 Front Structural Reinforcement Kit, Radius Rod Double Sheer Bracket Kit, Ghost Tinted Sun Visors, and Bomber Convex Center Mirror. Because, well, why not!
In order to take advantage of this new suspension setup, we knew the 30” tires on stock wheels would not do this wider suspension setup the justice it deserves. We’ve been a big fan of the EFX Motovator R/T tires for a long time, and it just so happened they premiered their 33” size recently. With those wrapped around fresh 15-inch cast aluminum KMC Toro wheels, it was all coming together. The last item to connect the drivetrain to these new shoes was a full set of Titan Axles from the good ‘ol boys at S3 Powersports.
At this point, we knew we were all-in on building the ultimate desert runner. And it couldn’t be considered “all-new” if we hadn’t continued to replace parts. Challenge accepted.
One of the most valuable (and innovative) pieces to this build was going the distance. The crew at AGM Products are known for their hilarious videos and social media humor, but I tell you what, they are not joking around when it comes to their product line. We’ve admired their attention to detail on a long list of tools and widgets we’ve just never been smart enough to use. An issue no longer! Admittedly, we had the luxury of knowing early on that they were working on an external fuel tank for the X3, and we’re not talking about a cumbersome storage-reducing object either. This 8-plus gallon EXR Fuel Tank fits under the driver and passenger seats and conceals as if it was always there. I could go on forever about this magical item, but you’ll have to look out for a full write-up down the road [hint]. Let’s just say the lead character at AGM, Bryan Lyttle, is a genius. Despite a (self-proclaimed) face for radio, he steps in front of the camera all the time. For a good time, check out his YouTube channel.
Since we had to drop the skid plate to install the AGM EXR Fuel Tank, we opted to ditch the paper-thin stock one option for a Factory UTV ⅜” UHMW bulletproof belly. We even made some templates for the new boxed HCR trailing arms and asked the FUTV Army to custom cut some material for those. These custom pieces were drilled and routered, up to standards you’d expect from their kits. It’s all coming together now, but we’re not quite done just yet. Far from it in fact…
Safety and comfort are taken pretty seriously here at UTV Sports since plenty of us have put the rubber side up a few times in our day. Therefore, we believe a solid cage, quality seats, and high-caliber harnesses are a must. SF Raceworks had reached out to us a while back, so we dropped their cage on this build. For a cozy, secure ride, we designed a set of Simpson Racing Pro Sport seats and snagged a pair of Trinity Racing’s 4-point harnesses to compliment the Slip-On Exhaust System in the rear. To complete the cockpit, we opted for a full Rugged Radios setup: the new M1 Waterproof Radio, 696 Intercom, Multi-Mount Dash Kit, Variable Mac Air Pumper Bundle and everything needed to fire them up. To put a cherry on it, we also topped the dash with the new Garmin Tread Navigator.
Cognito Motorsports has provided endless support to the industry for a long time, continuing to improve their designs and never slack on quality. When packages show up with any of their performance upgrades, we know every time it’s going to be an easy install. In this particular stack of boxes, we’d received the Full Door Kit, Spare Tire Carrier, Cargo Carrier and storage bags. The fit and finish of everything is always truly amazing. On these doors, they added an exterior push-button release and added a small pneumatic shock to allow the door to soft-open and actually stay put. The tire carrier was solid and unmoving with two easy-touch release levers, and it was well out of the way so access to the Cargo Carrier was hassle-free. These are some of the few instances when we geek-out on superior manufacturing because it’s unfortunately not a very common attribute of products all the time.
Our X3 had evolved quickly, all stemming from a goal to revive what we already had in the garage and reveal it as brand new. This project well surpassed our expectations! Jumping back into this car after its unveiling, it was nearly unrecognizable to its previous form. Personalizing a vehicle is one thing, but redefining a vehicle’s purpose brings even more to the table. Driving this side-by-side brought up the excitement of hopping behind the wheel for the first time, allowing us to go the distance and tackle desert terrain a little more aggressively than before. We were safe; we’re comfortable; and we’re in touch.
If you find your ride becoming a bit stale, take a minute to reach out to the aftermarket. Reinvent your vehicle to subsequently reinvent your experience. There’s so much more out there than just bolt-on bells and whistles. If you take a step back, use a little creativity and keep an open mind, there might just be a whole new car waiting for you to pick up a wrench.