Famed Baja 1000 winner Malcolm Smith has the perfect explanation for how uncomfortable it is to ride in the passenger seat of an offroad machine: "The passenger seat is 20 mph faster than the driver’s seat." When she first ventured into off-road, Kristin Flanders had very little experience driving in the dirt or in sand dunes. She didn’t grow up with off-roading, so was happy to let her husband Ryan handle the driving. As time went on and she logged many passenger miles, she began to get the desire to sit on the other side of the car, the side with the steering wheel.
Inevitably, waiting around for the hubby to quit playing with the family UTV got old. They measured the trailer and found that judicious packing would allow a Can-Am X3 to slip onto the deck behind Ryan’s radically tricked-out—and accessorized to the point of being mind-boggling—Polaris RZR Turbo. Kristen had always intended that her "Lady Venom" machine would be more real world. She may have even taken the build slowly, but once the hubby rolled her new car end over end, the task gained urgency. As the saying goes, happy wife, happy life and all that. So, Ryan dug in to dig himself out of the doghouse.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
Ryan Flanders is one of the principal team members at Kombustion Motorsports. Kombustion sells accessories, does repairs and performs builds on all popular UTVs, so whatever Kristen wanted, it was possible to make it all happen. After the tumble, it was pretty obvious that a new custom cage would be part of the build. The current cage ties into the rear bumper for added protection. Kristen had strong opinions about the colors and design of the machine. She wanted a streamlined look, and since she isn’t very tall by male standards, the cage is quite low.
Before the install it was powdercoated a light blue. As long as parts were heading to Armor Coatings, the suspension parts, ZRP radius rods and the ZBroz spring kit went along with the cage for a subtle shade we’d almost call salmon. The ZRP high-clearance billet aluminum radius rods are works of art in natural aluminum, but they look great in Kristen’s chosen color as well, and they still offer additional clearance.
Inside the car are custom Simpson Racing seats with faux alligator leather inserts and Assault belts. Outside the car is finished up with a custom Envision wrap designed by Kristen and Andrew Pemberton. To keep junk out of the car and to provide more real estate for the wrap, Assault door skins close up openings in the side of the machine.
PROJECT LADY VENOM CAN-AM X3 X RS PARTS LIST
The Can-Am’s 172-horsepower, triple, 900cc, Rotax Ace turbocharged engine is plenty potent in stock form, but the Flanders family spends time at the dunes, and added power is always welcome when your hubby’s car has over 200 horsepower. For Kristen, an Evolution Motorsports Stage 3 kit keeps the build affordable yet adds boost that you can feel. The engine has instant response, runs clean and strong, and it sounds great. The couple’s closest sand dune area is Little Sahara in Utah, and with some truly impressive dune climbs, the added power is fun and welcome without feeling like it is stressing the powerplant. Plus, it makes keeping up with Ryan’s 110-octane, race-gas-guzzling power monster easier.
The suspension feels great. The car rides up in the stroke, and the action does a great job isolating the passengers from abuse. We would have thought a bit more than the ZBroz spring kit would be required, but just the springs do the trick.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Kristen likes the social aspects of gathering with friends off-road. Perhaps that explains the fact that the Rockford Fosgate Stage 5 stereo retails for more than the engine mods! We guess that both mods increase power if you think about it. Regardless of the motivation, she has the power of music at her fingertips.
Even though we shot and tested the car at the dunes, it is a dual-purpose machine. For the desert and dirt trails, she runs Fuel Assault wheels with 32-inch Fuel Gripper tires for their traction, flat resistance and great wear resistance. Plus, the Fuel tires are D.O.T-approved. Utah allows limited street use for UTVs with street-legal equipment, and Lady Venom is equipped with the required equipment and a license plate. Kristen needs that D.O.T.-rated tire combo to go with the plate.
For dune running, the combo is Raceline 15-inch Ryno wheels with Skat-Trak USA 32-inch Ruff Buff fronts and 15×10-inch 12-paddle rears. The Raceline/Skat-Trak combo was extremely potent in the Utah sand.
We didn’t drive the Lady Venom in the dark, but with a Heretic Studios 40-inch LED light bar on the roof and another smaller bar on the upper shock tower backing up the stock lights, there shouldn’t be any trail too inky for this machine.
ON THE TRAIL
After running with the Flanders’ for most of the day, we were impressed with the grip that Kristen has on serious dune running. She has a car that suits her size and driving style. She designed every aspect of the look of the car, made the color choices and figured out what performance, comfort and safety equipment would go on it. Starting with a Can-Am X3 is already a great beginning for a project like this. The X3 has excellent handling, a comfortable cockpit and great suspension. With the addition of 32-inch tires and the spring kit, she has refined the excellence of the stocker’s handling very nicely. We had our RZR S along as our machine, and it is a stunning performer, and usually we feel a little disappointment climbing into other cars after the S. That wasn’t the case here. Lady Venom runs hard, handles very well and had great suspension for what we were doing.
Kristen made sure that this car suited her exactly. Consequently, our 6-foot-1 test driver found it a little hard to see out of the car when it was smoking bowls in the dunes, but Kristen sees out of it just fine. She started with a solid plan, and with her husband Ryan being a knowledgeable UTV expert, she had plenty of quality guidance. The resulting time at the wheel of her own car has only fostered her independence. She has a ladies-only outing in the works that sounds pretty involved. Girl power and Lady Venom—that sounds like a good combo to us.