Beefed-up Minotaur pickup has presence on or off road

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

Probably the most impressive vehicle taking part in the recent ELK Charity Challenge adventure road rally that went from Dearborn to upstate New York was a bright green pickup that appeared to be larger than life. Though it looked like a Ram that had been working out in the weight room, its badges identified it as a Minotaur, the part-bull/part-man creature of mythology.

Except this Minotaur is no myth. It is the product of Prefix, an automotive supplier with facilities in Rochester Hills and Auburn Hills that not only modifies Ram pickups, but paints all Viper body panels (it also does roadster and Targa-style roofs for Vipers), builds concept vehicles for automotive and aircraft OEMs, produces props for major movie studios, builds racing engines and creates vehicle lighting solutions.

Prefix was founded in 1979 by Kim Zeile, who spent a year at General Motors after getting his engineering degree at Valparaiso University before venturing out to start his own business. The story goes that Prefix was named because Zeile’s goal was to fix things before they were broken.

His company’s first big project was to improve the efficiency of automotive assembly lines. Next came a breakthrough in the way automotive interiors are designed and prototyped. In 2003, Prefix modified a Ford F-150 for the SEMA Show and that led to it doing concept vehicles, including the most recent Lincoln Continental and the Lincoln Navigator with its huge gullwing doors and built-in staircase.

But it’s not just automobiles. Prefix did a 63-foot concept fuselage for Gulfstream’s new G600 and is doing projects for Cirrus Aviation. It did vehicles for the “Transformers” movies, including the full-scale Decepticon Fighter aircraft.

The Minotaur project was born in Baja off-road racing, where Prefix’s Viper-based V10 Arrow racing engines are widely used. When Jhan Dolphin, Prefix director of sales and marketing, was sent to a race, he noticed all the Ford Raptors being used by the teams as pre-runner vehicles for scouting the race course. When he asked racers why they were using that vehicle instead of Dodge or Chevrolet pickups, he was told the other brands didn’t have the Raptor’s aggressive looks or performance.

With the Ram Rebel falling short of what the Baja racers expected, Prefix decided to do its own version, working with racer Kent Kroeker to devise special KORE Tactical suspension components to use Fox 3-inch by-pass shocks to make the truck capable of soft landings in off-road jumps, yet also comfortable for on-road events such as the ELK rally. The package includes wider fenders to cover 17-inch wheels with 35-inch off-road tires, as well as tow hooks, front fascia, aluminum skid plate and Minotaur badging.

The basic package costs around $60,000, including the Ram 1500 truck (Minotaurs are built on Ram 1500 crew cabs with short beds and 3.92 gearing). Optional equipment includes Viper-style side exhaust, 20-inch wheels, custom paint and swapping the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 for a 6.4-liter version (with a supercharger option coming later this year).

While Minotaurs are designed for purchase through selected Ram dealers across the country, people with 2013 or newer model Rams can have the Minotaur package retrofitted to their vehicles by Prefix.

Prefix debuted the Minotaur at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction earlier this year in Arizona. It drove the prototype from Michigan to Arizona, gave more than 3,000 people rides that included 1,650 jumping events and then drove the truck back to Michigan, all with no issues.

Or, you could say, everything had been Prefixed.

For more information, visit the www.prefix.com website.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.