The words “Mad Max” and “Tesla Model 3” don’t typically mix. A reference to the iconic dystopian film franchise invokes images of large, brutally designed off-road machines traversing a barren wasteland. The Model 3, on the other hand, invokes images of a pristine urban landscape powered by clean energy. Needless to say, the two images are about as far away from each other as oil and water.
But when one adds a rogue Tesla mechanic into the mix, even the most unlikely concepts can start making sense. This was certainly the case when Rich Benoit of the Rich Rebuilds YouTube channel was tapped for help in creating a legitimate “Mad Max” build on a Tesla Model 3. This is not just a Model 3 with a lift kit. No, the project would involve a serious rebuild of the all-electric sedan to make it as capable — or perhaps even more capable — than legitimate off-road vehicles.
In true Rich Rebuilds style, the groups involved in the project, Grind Hard Plumbing Co and the Electrified Garage, bought a salvaged dual-motor Model 3. The Model 3 is fairly new, having only about 17k miles on the odometer before it was declared a salvage car. This meant that a good number of parts from the vehicle, especially its interior, were still in mint condition. And with a Tesla acquired, the Grind Hard and Electrified Garage team went to work in creating a true “Mad Max” Model 3.
A ton of work was performed on the Model 3, particularly on the car’s front end. Custom bumpers were installed on the vehicle, together with a 12k-pound winch and some extremely bright headlights. The front sway bar was removed to give the vehicle a better approach angle as well. Part of the hood was cut out and large off-road wheels were installed, providing the “Mad Max” Model 3 a truly intimidating presence.
A test drive of the vehicle in an off-road course showed that the “Mad Max” Model 3 was just about as capable as any other serious 4×4 out there. Driving the vehicle, the YouTube hosts remarked that the Model 3’s all-electric motors actually gave the vehicle an edge against combustion engines when off-roading since the torque is immediately accessible anytime. The Rich Rebuilds host even brought over his trusty Sherp — an amphibious vehicle that puts regular off-roaders to shame — just in case the Model 3 needed help, but the opportunity never presented itself.
The market for all-electric cars that could do serious off-roading is still emerging, but carmakers are already preparing for it. Rivian’s first two vehicles are promoted as luxury all-electric trucks that could go anywhere, and GM’s Hummer EV is equipped with special features like Crab Walk that would allow it to navigate extremely rocky trails. The Cybertruck is also designed to be tough enough to handle the most difficult of roads. None of these vehicles are in consumers’ hands today, but if the “Mad Max” Model 3 is any indication, it appears that EVs definitely have some potential in the off-road segment.
Watch Rich Rebuilds‘ “Mad Max” Model 3 project in the video here.