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By: Robert Janis


Polaris Ranger RZR4 Becomes Terror of the Desert Baja Bobsled

Matt Parks Ranger RZR4

Matt Parks Ranger RZR4 Right

Matt Parks, western regional sales manager for Polaris Industries is in the ideal job to quench his thirst for speed. Besides selling ATVs, Parks has built a reputation racing them. He took a stock Polaris Ranger XP700 UTV, performed some basic modifications and raced it for a couple of years before graduating to racing full size off-road cars with friends. But recently he got the itch to return to UTV racing and his employer had just come out with what he thought would be the perfect desert race--the Ranger RZR4.  He bought a RZR when it was first introduced last winter.

Soon after acquiring the machine, he and Randy Anderson, owner of Walker Evans Racing Shocks and Wheels, took it out for a test drive in some rugged desert terrain. “We were testing the RZR4 in extremely rough desert terrain with lots of whoops, and we were amazed at how the stock vehicle went through the rough,” explained Parks. “Randy Anderson is a legend who has built championship trophy trucks, short course cars, and rock crawlers for Walker Evans. So, I asked him straight out--‘Do you think this would make a great UTV race car?’ He said that he thought it would be great.”

Anderson’s answer only confirmed what Parks already knew. He recognized that the RZR4 could be a great desert race car because of its extended wheel base. So once he got confirmation from someone else familiar with desert racing machines and received permission from Best in the Desert through UTVRA rep. Cory Sappington, Parks knew that he wanted to convert the UTV and run it in major desert race events.

Due to his involvement in racing for so many years Parks had developed a number of friendships with people who had experience racing ATVs, cars, and UTVs in desert events. One of those people was Mark Holz, owner of Holz Racing Products in Linden, Washington. Parks knew Holz’s reputation for making desert racing vehicles so he asked him to convert the RZR4.

“I had raced a modified RZR S UTV with Mark Holz for a couple of years,” said Parks. “I learned that he was an amazing fabricator, and he had a history in desert off-road racing.  He used to work with Mike Lesley on the factory Jeep off-road team, and he has built a lot of cars. He had recently started building UTV race cars for himself and customers. He had built a short course car for R. J. Anderson, Randy Anderson’s son. I knew him and knew what he could do so I commissioned him to convert my RZR4.”

Parks had some basic things he wanted done to the machine. For example, he wanted it to be reasonably light, and he wanted it widened from 60-inches to 66-inches. He desired a Holz designed long travel suspension, but he also wanted to keep the stock wheel base. That was about it. He left the rest up to Holz.

Matt Parks Ranger RZR4

Matt Parks Ranger RZR4

After the factory RZR was delivered to Holz, he called Parks and suggested that the remaining front seats be moved back about 4-inches. Parks liked the idea. “I’m 6 feet, one and three-quarter inches tall, and I have long legs. So moving the seats back is way more comfortable for me,” said Parks.

According to Parks, the stock RZR engine was modified with a Kroyer Stage 3 kit that Holz sells off the shelf. The modification pushed the engine to about 73 horsepower. “It’s very reliable. I can run it wide open all day long,” said Parks. Parks added that the factory clutch was modified with different clutching, and the stock seats were replaced with Mastercraft seats. The factory shocks were replaced with specially-made Walker Evans Racing Shocks that feature a 2-1/2-inch bore. “The RZR has 14-inches of travel in the front and 15-inches in the back,” said Parks. In addition, the machine features Walker Evans Bead Lock wheels and Maxxis Big Horn tires. Other products he needed were supplied by companies that are run by friends of Parks. “I paid for a lot of products and I got them on special deals from friends,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for hand outs. Every deal was different.” Companies that provided products include Walker Evans Racing, Holz Racing Products, Maxxis Tires, Mastercraft Safety, Kroyer Racing Engines, Utendorfer Graphics, Muzzys, and PURE Polaris Lubricants.

“Holz pretty much did the entire build,” said Parks. “He did the cage, mounted the fuel cells, reinforced the chassis, did the suspension, used his off-the-shelf bumper and skid plate kits that he has for the RZR4 and bolted all that on and he did the tin work--the aluminum skin--and the roof.”

Once he got his hands on the converted vehicle Parks took it out for test drives in the Lacerne Valley in the Barstow area of California. “I found little gremlins that loosened up and needed to be adjusted, and I did a lot of shock testing playing with the right heights and spring rates. There was a lot of fine tuning,” he said. “I spent two to three weeks finishing stuff off myself installing intercoms, wiring, auxiliary stuff like a Baja Designs LED light bar, and I had to wire some on/off switches.”

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