Meet the man who makes offroad lift kits for Toyota Priuses
Step aside Jeep, the Prius is on the trail
I want you to think of an offroad car...go on, I'll wait. You're back? Good. Now chances are that for you, the Toyota Prius wasn’t exactly what came to mind. But for Eric of Prius Offroad, the Prius is the perfect candidate.
Eric's experience with offroad vehicles started back when he was building prerunners in Pismo Beach, CA. During that time, he and his wife separated and she moved to Chico, CA to be closer with her mom. When she also took their newborn son with her, Eric was forced to commute 7 hours each way from Pismo to Chico in a Ram 2500 Laramie Diesel. That's when he realized man that putting a ton of miles on a really expensive car and getting 12 mpg was not the way to go. It was time for a change.
That change came in the low coefficient shape of a Prius. Given that up until then Eric was a truck guy, people looked at him like he was crazy.
"You're the last person in the world I'd think would buy a Prius," they said.
While the mpg definitely improved, the ground clearance did not. Just getting around town without scraping the front bumper on parking curbs, driveway approaches, and speed bumps turned out to be quite the challenge. He looked online for ways to alleviate this, but all he found were companies overseas that fabricated polyurethane plastic spacers and didn't do anything to correct the car's camber or caster. Not only that but the factory studs also needed to be replaced with sub-par extended studs, and there were even reports of the kits falling apart. That simply wasn't a chance he was willing to take, especially with a newborn son in the car.
Much like Ken, he took matters into his own hands and fabricated his own lift kit on CAD. Several prototypes later, Eric had a working lift kit for his Prius and some 27" All Terrain tires to round out the build. As it turns out, the Prius is a well-rounded platform right off the bat that just needed a bit of ground clearance. He was now getting 45 mpg and could even sleep in the back if he needed to.
Slowly, people started leaving notes on his car or stopping him at gas stations asking him to make them their own Prius lift kits. At first, he thought they were joking but as he later found out, there's quite the market for Prius lift kits. When COVID started and sales for Eric's other company, Stickywhips, came to a stand-still he decided it was time to finally hit the ground running and answer all the requests for lifts he had received over the past months. Thus, Prius Offroad was born.
Apart from Priuses, Eric sells offroad lift kits for several of Toyota's other models like the Matrix, Corolla, and the Lexus CT200h. He even offers video tutorials on the website for those of us who are more into the DIY aspect of the automotive world. When asked about making parts for other brands, he didn't knock the idea but for now, he is all about doing one thing well.
"I've been a jack of all trades for the majority of my life and for once in my life I'd like to be known for being the best at one thing."
Hopefully, this can help change the stigma of owning a Prius. In Eric's own words, they're incredibly well-rounded, practical, and dependable cars that are made that much more complete by getting them up off the ground a little. If you want to make your Prius that much more fun, it seems like this is a pretty good way to do it. Thanks again to Eric for taking the time to tell me about his unique business and I wish him the best of luck going forward!