T-Rex, aka Tyrannosaurus, was a bipedal carnivore with a massive skull balanced by a long, heavy tail. Its forelimbs were small and unusually powerful for their size, and had two clawed digits. Measuring up to 43 feet in length, the T-Rex was one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs.

Like the actual T-Rex, the new Bremach T-Rex is strong and imposing. Bremach has been building trucks in northern Italy since 1950. In 1970, the company began devoting its engineering skills to four-wheel-drive vehicles, mostly sold in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. That explains why you haven't seen them on the road.

Bremach USA, the North American OEM, is about to change that. Currently, it imports the cab shell and chassis assemblies for a variety of applications. The finished vehicle is manufactured at its Southern California factory. As drivetrain specialists, Bremach offers the T-Rex with powerplants that include natural gas, diesel, gasoline, and 100-percent electric, with other fuels such as propane to follow.

The standard gas engine will be GM's 6.0-liter Vortec V-8. It has 323 horsepower at 4600 rpm and 373 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The initial diesel engine will be the Cummins 5.9-liter, 24-valve I-6, available with outputs ranging from 235 horsepower and 460 pound-feet to 325/610. Sold as a "Remanufactured Vehicle," the Cummins will carry a full warranty, and might not require ultra-low-sulfur diesel, urea injection, or need to meet some of the other CARB and EPA restrictions on 2011 diesel trucks.

The fully electric model will have some range limitations, but the VLV (Very Low Voltage) brushless, permanent magnet DC motor operates at only 114 volts. It develops about 300 horses, and can hum down the highway at 65 mph with a 100- to 200-mile range, depending on speed and load. The truck could be ideal for short delivery or dock work.

The series hybrid T-Rex model uses the VLV motor as a generator. When the 100-kWh Li-ion battery pack reaches a specified limit, a 2.2-liter GM Ecotec gasoline engine rated at 149 horsepower at 5600 rpm fires up to recharge the battery and power the drivetrain. The VLV motor uses a regenerative braking charge system being developed by Bremach USA for Bremach of Italy.

Transmissions will include the GM 4L85E Automatic, the Allison, and a manual if requested. The Bremach has full-time 4x4 with automatic locking hubs and locking center and rear differentials. Both the center and rear diff locks are hydraulic. A front diff lock with mechanical control is available.

A block of eight solenoids controls the locking center and rear differentials and as many as 3 PTO ports from the Bremach transfer case (standard), and from the Allison transmission and engine as options. Standard is a BK 20 four-ratio Bremach transfer box. An optional BK 20 four-ratio box is available.

This is an extreme duty Class 3 truck with a payload capacity of 3.75 tons (7500 pounds) and a GVWR of 14,000 pounds. To handle this load, straight axles are fitted with parabolic heavy-duty leaf springs, double-action gas-charged shocks, and front and rear stabilizer bars. Huge Brembo dual-circuit disc brakes are standard (similar to those used by Ferrari and Lamborghini), and incorporate a Bosch ABS system that allows the ABS to be disengaged. Under heavy loads, a weight sensor modulates the ABS brake bias accordingly. Both 16- and 17-inch wheels will be offered. The T-Rex we tested was running aggressive 37x13.50 R20 LT Nitto Mud Grappler tires, with a maximum load capacity of 3800 pounds at 65 psi.

Not unlike the Mercedes Unimog and the Swiss Bucher Duro, the Bremach T-Rex is a multifunction workhorse. The unique frame of the Bremach uses four-inch diameter steel tubes inspired by aerospace technology. These are welded to an additional subsection for maximum strength and rigidity. Available wheelbases include 102.0, 122.4, and 135.6 inches.

The truck's strong exoskeleton cab is virtually a rollcage. The all-steel cab is mounted on high-strength bushings to reduce vibration. Sound-absorbing thermo-acoustic panels in the steel doors, floor, and firewall further reduce noise. Two- and four-door models are equipped with Bremach fully adjustable suspension seats. Dial indicators adjust to the weight of the occupant.

The basic dash layout is easy to read. A multipurpose center console contains the necessary gauges relevant to the powertrain in use. One option will include a full information screen with backup camera, and multimedia including GPS navigation, music, video, photos, phone, DVD, XM, Internet, weather, WiFi, and full access to the OBD-II engine sensors.

Electric models will get a battery management system. If there's an Internet or satellite connection, a vehicle's location and mechanical condition could be monitored from almost anywhere in the world. An overhead console holds a Sony music system that sends tunes from CDs or an iPod to Sony speakers. A/C and power steering are standard. Sorry, there's no cruise control.

Despite its imposing stance, the center of gravity is low. The Bremach has 11 inches of ground clearance, a 31-inch fording capability, 44-degree departure angle, and a 48-degree approach angle. There aren't many backroads the Bremach can't traverse. Its maximum width of 69.7 inches makes it very maneuverable in tight places. For comparison, a Ford F-Series Super Duty pickup is 79.9 inches wide.

One glance at the T-Rex tells you this is a very compact, purpose-built machine without an ounce of fat. The tubular wraparound bumper up front leaves room for a winch. Hella high-intensity lights and long-range driving lights enhance its functionality. The rear bumper is equipped with a hinge and locking pin on each side so it can be folded up for better departure angle. Bremach offers remote controlled side panels on the cargo bed that rise up out of the way for easy access.

The T-Rex we tested in the hills outside of Chino, California, near Bremach USA's facilities was powered by a 6.2-liter V-8 out of a Corvette, similar in configuration to the 6.0-liter engine Bremach will make available. The transmission was a GM 4L85E four-speed.

With an empty bed, the truck had a stiff ride, but perhaps with a full load it would be smoother. Bremach can reduce the number of leaf springs for use as a daily driver. We did not take it four-wheeling or rock crawling, but it seems likely the T-Rex could make it over a trail like the Rubicon unscathed. On the highway, the ride was a little choppy, but even with the aggressive traction tires, the amount of road noise was acceptable.

Bremach USA is currently taking orders; delivery time is 90-120 days as these are built-to-order trucks. There is a three-year, 30,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. As you might guess, having a fully equipped Bremach T-Rex in your driveway will cost more than an F-550 or a Ram 5500, with MSRP starting around $96,000. And who knows? Maybe two clawed digits and a long tail will be an option in the future.

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