July being autoevolution’s Custom Builds Month, we’re looking at some of the most famous, strangest and most wonderful custom builds of all time. This 2008 vehicle fits the bill, not just because it’s still technically a car but because it was made by none other than world-famous Ford performance tuner Roush Technologies.
At the time, Kurt Systems needed something extra special for training horses. Kurt Systems specializes in horse and camel training equipment and, by the sound of it, was looking to bring this strange vehicle to mass production.
Roush delivered on its part: this contraption that looks like it’s being pulled by the horse in the front but is actually a rolling lab for monitoring and assessing the horse’s performance. And a long-distance companion, of course. The idea for the vehicle was to have something that would improve horsepower by removing the human factor and, thus, the possibility of errors.
The entire body of the vehicle is custom made. From above, it’s shaped like a giant U, with the horse placed and moving between the front wheels. It looks as if the horse could be hurt at the slightest wrong move, but in reality, it’s got as much space in there as it does in a stable. In fact, the Roush car allows the horse to trot inside face-forward and then turn around in the spot, before being hooked up to the machines.
Indeed, the Roush car doubles as a rolling lab. On board, powered by 12-volt and 240-volt electrical supplies, are a variety of systems including computerized oxygen, heart, blood and fitness monitoring, as well as electronically-controlled reins that allow the driver to steer the horse in the same direction as the car. Precision hydraulic-controlled accessories are also part of the equipment, like a silicone saddle to which weight is applied, thus mimicking jockey weights.
The body of the Roush car is made mostly from GRP, while the front “stall” area is enclosed by soft, padded, pneumatically controlled arms that can be used to surround the horse. Furthermore, the car is specifically designed to drive at the same time as the horse, with speeds ranging from a trot up to 37 mph (59.5 kph). In other words, all measures have been taken to ensure that the horse isn’t accidentally injured by the car that’s supposed to help it train for the race.
“The Kurt equine trainer program is an unusual but powerful example of the diverse engineering capability which exists within our company,” Roush Executive Chairman Andrew Williams said at the time of the big unveil. “Here is a commissioned project for an overseas-based world leader in its field, coming to Roush for its ability to follow through a concept upwards development, through to pre-production product maturity. The project needed to draw from our extensive automotive and specialist vehicle experience – but combined with systems integration knowledge at the most sophisticated level”.
As noted above, when it was announced back in 2008, the plan was to take the Roush car prototype into production, but it doesn’t look like Kurt Systems ever did.