Intimidator UTV Breaks the Mold for Small Town Manufacturing
Story and Photos By: Brandon Bunch
It’s the story everyone wants to hear; the small-town, red-blooded American family that started from nothing, and put their noses to the grindstone to build up a successful and thriving business—one, or rather several businesses that are incredibly efficient in manufacturing and assembling well-made products right here in the USA. Robert and Becky Foster, owners and founders of what has become The Intimidator Group, first got their feet wet in the business world as a young seventeen year-old married couple in 1983 by opening a 24 foot fireworks stand, believe it or not.
Their entrepreneurial spirit and hard work led to the success of Fireworks World, and allowed them to start Wholesale Tire Company in 1989. In 1998, Robert’s childhood mechanical passion for mowers and the technology that drives them took center stage when he sold his car to buy the equipment necessary to design and build the first zero-turn Bad Boy Mower in his garage with the help of his friend, Steve Cadwell. Bad Boy Mowers became unbelievably successful, and in 2013 Robert and Becky sold their share of the company to focus on and launch Intimidator UTV. The Intimidator Group now contains six companies, and they graciously invited us out to Batesville, Arkansas to take a tour of the production facilities and jump behind the wheel of the new GC1K machines.
Upon arriving at the airport in Little Rock, we were met by two smiling gentlemen that were eager to help us with our bags and load them in the van for our hour and a half drive to Batesville, and off we went. I soon was informed that the man driving the van was actually the owner himself, Robert Foster, and was accompanied by Intimidator’s Director of Technology, Matt Foster. It’s not very often the owner of a company as large as this drives his personal van three hours round-trip to pick up a bunch of media goons from the airport, so it was very clear right off the bat that The Intimidator Group is not your usual corporate conglomerate.
The next morning we set off for our day of adventure, and the first stop was the Intimidator Group’s fabrication facility. Being led around by Robert, he talked us through every aspect of the operation. Subassemblies for Spartan Mowers, Intimidator UTVs, and the Bad Dawg UTV accessory line are all fabricated from raw materials using high tech equipment throughout what looked to be an extremely efficient manufacturing process. The layout of the production line was well thought out with the flow of materials in mind, and included the latest in tube and plate CNC laser cutters, and a mix of both human and robotic welders to achieve the maximum in consistency. From there the welded parts are transported through the massive in house powder coating facility, and then onto trucks awaiting transport to the new 204,000 square foot manufacturing facility.
After a very short trip we arrived at the magnificent new building, which is adorned with twenty foot tall stainless steel Spartan and Intimidator warrior helmets ensuring there’s no mistaking who this building belongs to. Our time to take it all in was limited, but one thing that continuously grabbed my attention was the care that Robert had for both the company and it’s employees. From stopping to conversate with workers, to straying from his own tour to pick up random bits of trash, the enthusiasm that Robert displayed was downright infectious to anyone that surrounded him. Walking through the facility, we started with the receiving area where components were unloaded from trucks into staging areas for the assembly line, and then into the main section of the building where Intimidator UTV and Spartan Mower assembly takes place.
Mower assembly was in full swing as we walked past the lines, but the UTV line was on standby giving us the opportunity to take a closer look at the machines in several stages of completion. The Intimidator UTV line-up consists solely of work-focused utility models, and inspecting the chassis made it clear that they are all built like tanks—with the weight of the machines reflecting that fact. Ease of assembly, ease of maintenance, and extreme durability were all important goals throughout the design process, so the machines all share many over-built heavy-duty components. The suspension and knuckle assemblies all accept the same automotive style slip-over brake discs, and power is delivered to the rear wheels of every model through a massive electronic-locking Team differential. This all brings down the cost and complexity of the Intimidator UTVs, and while everything looked and sounded great, it was finally time to get behind the wheel of the GC1K machines.
We hopped into trucks and trailers loaded up with various GC1K submodels including the 3-seat GC1K, GC1K Crew, and GC1K Truck Series, and headed off to Cushman, a nearby rural town with access to graded dirt roads and two-track trails that run deep into the wooded hills. After unloading we chose our machines, and I jumped in the GC1K Truck Series with a half-full water tank strapped down in the 5-foot 8-inch bed, which also converts to a flatbed. Weighing in at 500 pounds, it only reached half of the cargo bed’s 1000 pound capacity, but I hoped the unbaffled water would at least give me a good idea of the UTV’s power and handling capabilities.
The ride began with a short run of windy paved road that ran back into the hills, and we all cruised along at about 40 mph. All GC1K models come equipped with a TGB 1000cc V-twin gasoline engine that’s rated at 83hp and 67lb-ft of torque, and I had no issues keeping up with the crew even when tractoring up the steep grades. The CVT transmission seems well tuned with the power delivery of the engine and never cried out with any sounds of belt slippage even when abusively laying into the throttle from a stop in High gear. Intimidator claims the GC1K is capable of 65 mph at the top end and I had no problem reaching 60 mph later in the day behind the wheel of an unloaded 3-seat GC1K. Shifting into Low gear changes the drive ratio from 2.76 to 5.24 and doing so made the weight of the water tank feel almost non-existent under acceleration. All GC1K models are rated to tow 2500 lbs via the integrated 2-inch receiver, so I wouldn’t expect to feel much strain on the driveline by having only 500 lbs. in the bed.
The sloshing water was definitely felt when braking or navigating corners at speed, but with smooth and steady steering inputs I had no fear of losing control, and body roll was minimal. The electronic power steering offers a lot of assistance making the steering very light, and the automotive-style brakes had no problem bringing the big UTV to a halt, although it did require substantial pedal pressure. The stiffness of the tank-like GC1K chassis and suspension was very apparent once we hit the dirt with rocky ground and chatter bumps transmitting through to the seat and steering wheel, but larger bump absorption was handled pretty well by the ten inches of suspension travel.
We arrived at a rocky abandoned old mine and had the opportunity to lock the UTVs into four wheel drive via the dash mounted switch, and crawl around on the rocks and splash through puddles proving the GC1K is capable of fun… But make no mistake, the GC1K is definitely a work-focused utility machine. Substantial vibration is felt from the engine, especially at higher RPMs, and when asked, the Intimidator engineers explained that the vibration is a compromise from using heavy-duty rubber engine mounts designed to last the life of the UTV. Another compromise to allow for more strength and durability over outright performance is the weight of GC1K models. Coming in at 2300 lbs the GC1K Truck Series is a whopping 463 lbs heavier than it’s direct competition at Can-Am, but the engineers at Intimidator were proud to say the extra weight is a result of being overbuilt to survive abuse far greater than its maximum load capacities.
Just because Intimidator made the decision to build a tank of a UTV doesn’t mean they slacked off on comfort and convenience however, as the luxurious-looking bolstered seats are among the most comfortable and supportive that I’ve planted my butt on. The 3-seat and Crew GC1K models are available in Base trim, and Stage 1-3 packages—with the Stage 3 package including a 7-inch dash mounted touch screen, preload adjustable Elka shocks, and 15-inch aluminum wheels with 30-inch 8-ply radial tires. The shocks that come equipped on lower trim packages are all preload adjustable as well, and the upper rear shock mounts on all models have three mounting positions to allow for more wheel travel, or a tighter motion ratio to support more weight in the bed.
Features like these along with the tough rotomolded bodywork and heavy-duty structural components that reside everywhere you look should ensure that the GC1K is a UTV that’s more than capable of getting the job done, while lasting for years and years to come. Pricing on the GC1K is in line with the competition, with the 3-seat base model starting at $13,799 MSRP while the top-of-the-line GC1K Crew Stage 3 starts at $18,899 MSRP. Robert Foster and his team behind the scenes at The Intimidator Group are incredibly passionate about the American made products they produce, while going above and beyond to ensure that their employees and customers are cared for every step of the way. They’ve built an empire based on this ideology in the grass cutting industry, and we expect to see them find the same success with UTVs as well.
Find more information, dealers, and full specifications at IntimidatorUTV.com, and hit the link below to check out the full gallery of images from our visit.