The Polaris ACE is an interesting machine. When it was first debuted, with the original 333cc engine, it was a fun platform perfect for inexperienced drivers. Based on the Sportsman ATV platform, the ACE created an all-new segment of the market that we have to admit, we got a kick out of. Of course, we wanted more, as did the consumer. This led us to the ACE 570, which had a significant increase in power, and was, in our opinion, perfect for the chassis of the original ACE. Still, the consumers wanted more and Polaris answered.
Not long ago, we got invited to Brimstone Off-Road Park in Tennessee to ride new Polaris machines, including the new ACE 900. It didn’t take long for all of the UTV media in attendance to realize there was a problem. While we loved the ACE with the 570 engine, the 900 was too much of a good thing. It didn’t take long at all for the power of the ProStar 900 engine to surpass the abilities of the suspension and handling of the ACE chassis. Polaris figured this out too and made some changes that completely reversed the course for the machine. They pulled another card out of the deck and borrowed technology from the RZR lineup, bringing in the suspension system and a few other key parts from the RZR S line. This gave the ACE 900 a whole new life and the ACE 900 XC was born.
The ACE 900 XC is a completely different animal compared to the machine it replaced. Where the original felt under suspended and had poor handling, the new wider, better suspended XC eats up terrain like a RZR, but with a great center of gravity feel. When we got a test unit, we really enjoyed the machine. Of course, being the fun-loving guys we are, we couldn’t help but think it’d make a really fun project to build one of these machines into a truly amazing machine. Challenge accepted, it’s time to get to work.
With any build project, once you have all the parts lined up that you’re going to use, you need to prep the machine for the build. I can speak from experience here when I tell you that something you need to do with any build, be it a complete custom project like we did with the ACE, or if you’re just installing a few parts on your own machine – start with a clean machine. Do a very thorough washing and be sure you have all the dirt, mud and gunk off before you get started. It just makes everything go smoother.
ROPS it up
With any UTV, the ROPS roll cage is very important. To be approved for use, the ROPS has to meet certain criteria for roll-over protection. The stock ROPS design from Polaris is based on the RZR lineup as opposed to what they use on the Ranger and General lines. It is round-tubing steel and does a decent job of protection. However, for serious off-road use, there is room for improvement.
Concept Distributing is a British Columbia-based business that designs and creates custom UTV parts. Known mostly for their work with RZRs, they were the place to go to for a very trick custom cage for our ACE project. Made from heavy-wall steel tubing, the cage is gusseted for additional strength and completely power coated in a slick neon color that matched the graphics on the ACE. The cage fit right into the stock mounting points so it was truly a bolt-on addition. We opted for an aluminum roof as part of the cage. Concept Distributing offers several roof options as well as a wide range of other colors.
Polaris supplied the front bumper. Part of their own Pure Polaris accessory line, the bumper added an extra level of protection up front and being designed alongside the ACE, it was as simple of a bolt-on product as it gets. While it is nice to see what the aftermarket is doing, there is definitely something to be said about using some of the factory-designed accessory parts. For the sheer simplicity of the installation. As a plus, if you add them on at time of purchase of the machine, they can be included with the loan if you’re financing the unit.
The stock exhaust on the ACE 900 XC is very similar in design to the Ranger lineup. It is a large muffler that does a great job of quieting the machine. Let’s face it, Polaris units have a great reputation for being quiet-running machines. But sometimes you want to change the tune, and a machine like our ACE 900 XC screams for a little more sportier exhaust note. But how do you do that without making it too loud?
The answer is the Titan QS exhaust system from HMF Racing. The Titan QS drops a whopping five pounds from the weight of the stock exhaust and with ECU tuning that HMF suggests, adds three to four additional horsepower to the power output. The best part? The HMF Titan QS only adds one additional decibel level to the sound output, making it still very quiet. The installation is very easy being a simple bolt-on product. We were very impressed with this product for sure.
Adding a winch to your UTV has almost become a vital part to any unit, as they have a ton of uses as well as being a bit of insurance that you’ll make it back home at the end of the day. There are several brands available for this type of machine, but again, sometimes it’s easier to just go with the factory option. Luckily for us, the Pure Polaris accessory winch is a really good, high-quality unit comparable to anything else out there.
Our 2,500-pound winch came with everything needed for installation, including a wired remote control, a nice feature for when you’re trying to get your ride out of the mud. Being a factory option, the winch itself was pretty much plug and play to get it wired into the power source. The trickiest part was actually running the wires, as there’s not a lot of extra room for working in those smaller areas. Still the payoff for the winch was well worth it.
Let’s face it, there are definitely times when you want to just kick back and enjoy some music while on the trail. We decided for this project that we wanted to add a sound system to our ACE 900 XC, so we went looking for something that fit the overall built theme, meaning we wanted it to be rugged and compact.
SSV Works is a company that specializes in building sound systems and other accessories for side-by-side vehicles. Their sound systems work exceptionally well and are extremely rugged. Our system consisted of two speaker pods that mounted on the backside of the roll cage, and a dash-mounted control panel. The system has an input jack, a USB input and is fully Bluetooth compatible, so it will work with just about any form of device you want to hook up to it. Installation requires a few hours of work. All of the directions are pretty clear, but this is one of those accessories that if you don’t feel comfortable, you should really take it to a dealership.
CBin’ ya later
Communication is important. If you’re on the trail, it is a good thing to be able to communicate with your buddies, especially if you’re riding in strange terrain, or you can’t see everyone. In an emergency situation, being able to communicate is vital, and as we all know, you can’t always rely on having a cell phone signal on the trail. A CB radio seemed like a good idea for a true cross-country build.
Rugged Radios supplied most of the communications equipment for the off-road racing world. Their products are built to take on the harshest environments and still work, so we were confident that they could help. Boy, did they. Their CB radio system installed very easily with a simple connection to the power source and running a wire for an antenna. Rugged Radios has amazing customer support too, so if you ever need help, or have a question, they are available with advice and technical support.
Lighting it up
What build project would be complete without additional lighting? The stock headlights do an adequate job of providing illumination, but there’s always room for more, especially when you’re getting into technical sections. For our lighting solutions, we went to Rigid Industries for a couple of reasons. For one, they have some of the brightest, most compact lights available. And they offer something that not many other companies do – a lifetime warranty.
We mounted their Dually Sideshooter light pods on the front of the cage. These compact pods offer a ton of bang for the buck in terms of cost and space for the amount of light you get. We also mounted a set of the Rigid Reflect light, side-mounted mirror combos. These amazing products have a rearview mirror on one side and a LED light mounted on the front, adding light to the side of your vision range. We also added Rigid’s Rocklight kit, which mounts up under the wheel wells to shed light on trail around the tires. This is a big help when you’re riding at night in tricky areas or picking your way up a rocky section. Installation of the Rocklights can be tricky and time consuming, but for the most part, it’s pretty easy. We also added the Chase light on the rear of the cage. This is a rear-facing, multi-function light that adds illumination, brake lighting and other options for use when trail riding to keep you highly visible. You can even select which functions you want to connect by following the easy-to-use directions.
We finished off the interior of the ACE 900 XC with several products from PRP Seats. We added their Door Bags. These cool products bolt on in minutes and add extra storage in the doors along with adding a knee protector pad to cure the dreaded RZR Knee that can happen when you bang your knees into the metal door frame while hammering on the trail.
To keep our butts firmly planted, we added a PRP four-point Safety Harness. This also installed quickly, as Polaris has made adding safety harnesses easy, knowing that it is a popular option with their machines. For a seat, we chose the PRP GT S.E Suspension seat. Not only are these extremely comfortable seats, but you get to custom designed your own seat right through their website. We color matched ours to our project and even had the option to include our own Raven Media logo to make it look extra sweet. Installation was easy and the seat simply bolted in.
Wheels and tires
You didn’t think we’d do a build project and just reinstall the stock tires and wheels, did you? We went to the folks at Wheel Pros for some options and they talked us into mounted EFX Tires MotoMTC rubber. These 6-ply tires have 1.25-inch deep lugs and are an outstanding all-around performance tire with a smooth ride over intense terrain. We mounted them to KMC XD-Series wheels. The KMC wheels not only look great with some really aggressive styling, but they are super strong, making them a great choice for where we plan to hammer this machine in the future.
The payoff to this entire project is now we have a single-seat machine capable of traversing extreme terrain with ease. The roll cage and seating system work together to give us an extremely confident feel when we get into some truly challenging terrain. The tire and wheel combo hook up great and the lights from Rigid illuminate the trail completely. If we get in over our heads, there is a winch to pull us out and a radio to call for help if we need it. Overall, this is a highly rewarding build project and we can’t wait to start on the next one.
A special thank-you to all the partners involved in making this project possible!