Mud, Snow, Sand, Meet Technology
Trey Hermann’s creative impetus for starting Pronghorn Overland Gear came from his need for a bumper for a 1989 Toyota Land Cruiser. He found everything available came in steel, was ugly and very heavy. An experienced industrial designer, Hermann knew that when engineered and fabricated correctly, aluminum was a much better solution. He started designing the bumper using Cobalt™ CAD and 3D modeling software. Soon, one friend after another asked him to build one for their truck. After about the fourth, Hermann realized he had a viable business idea.
A traditional steel off-road bumper, weighing in at roughly 300 pounds (135 kilos), greatly affects the fuel economy, breaking, acceleration, handling and off-road performance of a relatively light vehicle like a 4200 pound (1900 kilo) Jeep. Reducing the weight was a major consideration for Pronghorn’s design team. He tells us:
Made of optimally-engineered aluminum, the Pronghorn bumpers are not to be confused with a flimsy soda can. When aluminum is properly designed, it is strong and light just like an aircraft.
Pronghorn’s first product to market is the Modular Front End System. This is a front bumper system available in 18 different configurations. Starting with either a standard full width or stub outer bumper (preferable with large diameter tires) the options include grill guards, headlight guards, skid plate, winch mounts, rotatable shackles and other goodies. Made of aluminum, a Pronghorn bumper with all the options weighs only about 88 pounds, less than half the weight of the comparable steel bumper.
The Pronghorn modular aluminum bumper system has a number of competitive advantages in addition to improved handling. The first is shipping costs. A similarly configured product in steel is six feet long and must be delivered on a pallet at around US $250. A Pronghorn Modular Front End can be sent in three boxes via Fed Ex ground for about $75 total. Another advantage is Pronghorn’s no-modification installation system that reduces or even eliminates labor costs. Hermann credits being able to use CAD files supplied by the auto-makers directly in Cobalt to design one of the few “no-cut no-drill” bumpers available on the market. Finally, aluminum doesn’t rust on salty winter roads.
Hermann says Cobalt’s precision sped Pronghorn’s development process tremendously, allowing them to go from specification to final prototype in seven to eight weeks. Its ease of use allows him to design with confidence without thinking about how to run the software. Hermann tells us: