HERE for more Pirates 4x4 forums about the race.
Click the small pics to see larger views of
our Ultra4 buggy under construction.
HERE for more about how we transformed our King of the Hammers "General Lee"
to take on 1000 miles of BAAAAD desert.
We'd like to thank
some of the parts suppliers that we've been working with for years and
whose parts have been race and trail proven to be the toughest and best
on the planet. That's why we're using 'em on this race buggy and
offer 'em in our online catalog!
King Shocks, Tom Woods
Custom Driveshafts, Bighorn Graphics, Premier Power Welder, Trail Ready
Wheels, PSC Steering, Light Force Lights, Amsoil, Crane steering
knuckles, and Stage 8
picture for larger view.
KING OF THE
Thanks to Pirate4x4.com for the pics! Click small pics for larger
view; use your browser's back
button to return to this page.
We take our first experience in the King of the Hammers as a pretty good
sign that we're doing something right with our tube-chassis experiments.
We've been toying with Brandon's
"MiniWally" for five years or so.
From the get-go we stuck with proven, normal, readily available major
components - stock Ford Dana 60 front, 14-Bolt rear, NP205/203 Doubler,
stock Chevy 350 TBI engine and TH350 tranny. Real-world stuff most
anyone can find.
And we're happy that
this combination didn't experience a single suspension, chassis or
drivetrain failure at King of the Hammers! Just that daggone water
pump gasket! While we were running 4th no less. But still we
finished the race and had a great time! And next year...
Meanwhile, for MiniWally's
buildup details and pre-running, scroll down a bit.
Click HERE for Stephen's race notes and great
Click HERE for Brandon's race notes and even more
Click HERE for thanks to our awesome Sponsors.
Above: Here's MiniWally a few years ago. Not bad, but not
yet a Hammers contender...
Click small pics for larger
view; use your browser's back
button to return to this page.
Last summer we decided that KOH would be a really cool race to run, it's
not really clear at this point why but it's kind of the pinnacle of the
rock crawling world so I guess we thought it would be cool to see all
the cars and be part of the race. And every guy likes to measure
himself. We can all say "he should have..." and "I would have..." or "I
bet we could..." but till you actually try, you never really know. I've
personally been in with several race efforts and a couple times as a
driver and never really had much success. Believe me, the "what we
should have done..." eats at you for a while.
Initially we planned to enter my K5 based truggy "Wally" but it didn't
take long to decide that my brother (Brandon aka Miniwally) had the
better vehicle for the job. It's a full tube play buggy we built
about 5 years ago just to be durable and comfortable. It's lower,
lighter and way underpowered compared to my K5 truggy but it has a hard
time hurting itself so it got the nod.
Here's MiniWally right after King of the
Hammers: Click small pics
for larger views
Brandon's "MiniWally" is really pretty simple. It runs a stock TBI 350
that was literally just pulled from a running sub and dropped in.
Trans is a full manual reverse VB TH350. T case is our ORD Doubler with
the 203 flat and 205 flat, then to a '85 F350 D60 with an ARB and Yukon
4340 and a 14 bolt rear with Detroit. Gears are 5.13. We put
my sticky IROKS on with a set of TrailReady HD17 beadlocks. Shocks
are King 2.5 remote res, 14" front and 16" rear with a 2.5 air bump on
each corner. Steering is a PSC double ended full hydro, pretty
standard stuff except that we started with a different system and PSC
built a cylinder for us when the original shaft was bent. We deal with
PSC on a daily basis and they never let us down.
When we got the news that we'd be running in the LCQ and that it was to
be on the backdoor trail, feelings were mixed. We knew that the
low ride height and long wheelbase (115") would be good for that trail
but there was a LOT of prep work to do and still just have a chance of
making the race so we decided a good pre-run was in order and planned a
trip down to JV to test, tune and learn the course about a month before
the race. It would be a good time for me to get some seat time in
his ride also, mine is about the same wheelbase and track width but the
rest is a good bit different, so some driving time would be good.
Then we learned that I had to drive the LCQ and it became even more
important to get a good pre-run time.
We wanted to get the vehicle as close to how we'd be driving it before
the pre-run so we ordered the radio, intercom, extra helmet, window nets
and shock parts in time to install before we left. Luckily I had a
suit and wired helmet along with a couple of chase radios from other
desert race projects. We knew the shocks were going to be a big
deal since we have been valving ours very light for the sharper terrain
we run up here in Colorado and much heavier valving was in order for
eating whoops all day. Luckily King had a great starting point for
us that ended up really close to the ending point also. So all
four shocks and airbumps were re-built and re-valved along with
installing all the rest of the race goodies.
The pre-run was 4 weeks before the race and was really only a day and
half long but we did some long desert sections to test the shocks and
ran Backdoor 15 times so we had a pretty good feel for how to get
through the trail. We nailed our shift points down, got a good
mental picture for where there were rocks hiding in corners and found
the lines on the 2 big ledges.
And I started getting nervous.
We came home, tore the car almost completely apart to check everything
over one more time and finish installing the rest of the required safety
equipment along with an auxiliary PWR trans cooler (so we have a total
of 2 big fan coolers) an extra water cooler running off the heater
hoses. This turned out to be a LOT of electrical draw when we added in
the 50 amps or so for the primary engine fans and the helmet air pumper
but we have a Premier Power Welder on board with a 160 amp alternator
and HD external regulator so we dialed the voltage up on the regulator a
bit and ran with no worries about the electrical system. Turns out we
didn't need the welder either which made us pretty happy.
Our last job was installing the stickers since we wanted the car done as
much as possible before we got there and Scott at Big Horn Graphics did
us the nice General Lee style numbers and rebel flag for the roof.
Anybody who watched the Dukes growing up gets it.
Despite a start from home about 8 hours behind our plan, we still got to
the lakebed mid day on Monday to set up camp, check in and check out the
trails. Over the next 2 days we ran Backdoor a couple of times
being really happy we'd come early since there was so much traffic it
was hard to put together much of a run. We pre-ran the 1st 23
miles of the course since we knew I'd have my hands full with cars and
dust, then ran Jack north, Jack and Sledge to be familiar with most of
the hard rock trails. Not long after we showed up, our friends
Nate and Toby showed up from Denver with the most important members of
the team: their better halves who COOK! Dawn and Tana get a huge thanks
for feeding us for the week, it made for a great time on the lakebed and
really helped us stay on our game when we needed to. Nate and Toby
were handy to have too, since they handled most of our pit duties quite
handily. BACK TO TOP
and RACE DAY AT LAST!
Thanks again to Pirate4x4.com for
the action pics! Click small pics for larger views.
Did I mention I had been nervous for nearly a month?
LCQ day came up and I conveniently calmed the 747's in my belly more and
more the closer our race time came. When it was our turn off the line,
everything clicked like it should. The only problem we had was
shifting the t-case the 1st time since something was bound up but we
pushed on and it wasn't a big deal. Turns out our 6:23 was good
enough for a 4th place which put us in the 29th starting position for
the big race. We really just wanted to make the race so being at
the top of the field was kind of a surprise.
Several spectators posted their pics to our
thread on Pirates. Thanks to Triaged for these from LCQ.
At this point we started looking at the amazing number of cool vehicles
and good drivers on the lakebed and honestly we felt pretty small.
We were really pretty glad to be in front on the start so we could watch
all the fast guys go by.
We really just wanted to make the race so getting through the LCQ was a
huge weight off our shoulders and I was really pretty relaxed going into
the race. I was still glad to have Steve Hansen come by the
starting grid for a moment of prayer before we left. I wasn't
afraid to ask for help one bit! We lined up next to Tracy Jordan
and somehow beat him to the corner at the start and settled into the all
day beating. We just planned to run our own race, set our pace
that we could handle and no matter what, don't screw up. Don't try
to chase down faster guys, don't let anyone push us faster than we can
go, don't charge dust, just keep it together and smart. And I
really wanted to make sure to hand my brother a good car at mile 42.
So anyway, we end up chasing down Richard Gauthier (started 30 seconds
in front of us) within about 2 miles of the start and pass him and the
car that started next to him in some braided whoops. Then we're
kind of back and forth with Jordan till we got to the lake bed and it
turns out he has a better power to weight ratio than us. Not very weird.
At one point as we're bouncing along toward mile 8 we had a discussion
about slowing down since we were catching cars but decided that we
weren't beating the car so we'd just keep running our own pace.
We were in relatively heavy traffic all
along the ridgetop heading back toward Boone Road but it was really just
a game of follow the leader since we were all going about the same speed
and there was a lot of that area where you couldn't pass. I
actually like having some cars in front to use as guinea pigs for
reading the course. Somewhere in there John Reynolds came up on us
super fast so we pulled over and got to watch a really fast guy go by.
We were disappointed for sure to see him on the side of the trail an
hour or so later. When we got out of the sand wash and past Boone
Road, Gauthier came out of nowhere and passed us like we quit, so we
again had the conversation that we needed to just run our pace and that
would have to be good enough but we were not going to mess up. Not
much farther on we passed Richard on the side of the course with what
turned out to be a blown shock. Shortly after that we passed Tracy
Jordan rolled over in the course with no tools since it seems the lid
came off his tool box and we had been dodging his tools for a few miles.
A while later Dean Bulloch passed us but
after beating through some more desert, they were on the side of the
course too. Each time we passed someone the trail riding urge to
stop and help would pop up but being in a race, we made sure they were
safe and moved on. Our idea on how to drive was heavily
re-enforced. We really never drove fast but we did pass a couple
of cars in Aftershock and thought we were going to be passed by a couple
but they seemed to get hung up trying to get around us in the rocks.
When we got the BFG pit at mile 42 for fuel and a driver change, the car
was in great shape so we just got in a kept going.
We just kept beating it through the desert, getting passed here and
there and passing a few cars here and there till I was really surprised
to see us coming up on Resolution.
A special thanks to David Karey of Tracktabs
for letting us post these great, professional shots. Hundreds of
terrific hi-rez images from King of the Hammers are available for
purchase at tracktabs.com. Check 'em out!
Somewhere in Resolution Nick Campbell went
past us in a big hurry but we kept to our pace, dropped off the big
ledges of Backdoor and headed on to the real rock crawling. We got
a little nervous in Wrecking Ball when we came up on the big waterfall
and had basically gone over it before we knew to line up on it.
Luckily a 115" wheelbase is quite forgiving of screwups like that.
We were a little distracted by Jeff Mello's rig laying there on it's
side too. Once again, instinct says stop to pull him over but
we're in a race so we kept moving.
Our plan was to stop in the Calrock pit for
fuel but after our 1st fuel stop we found out that we only put in about
8 gallons to get us through the first 42 miles and given that we have a
22+ gal. cell we decided to skip the pit stop and keep moving.
Somewhere in Jack North we decided that these trails would be really fun
if we weren't really hot and ready for a cold drink. We took a few
pretty heavy hits in all the rocks but we knew it was all pretty tough
since we'd been trailriding it pretty hard for 5 years and we did a few
extra things like weld a patch plate over the bottom of the 14 bolt
(actually about a 13 1/2 bolt by the time we were done) and we also
added a 1/4" wall rear driveshaft from Tom Wood's so we didn't have to
worry about thrashing on that at all.
Thanks to Kaiser5 for these
We got a visual check from my Dad and the rest of the crew at the
checkpoints in the trail bottoms and everything looked fine but as we
headed up sledge we started smelling coolant, then the engine temps
started creeping up. It wasn't looking good for the rest of our
run. We pulled up to the plaque behind one of the Lovells and some
other black 4 wheel steer rig that both had a hard time getting up since
it looked like every rock at the bottom of that ledged had been pulled
out. It didn't even look like the same place as when we pre-ran 2
days before. I kept trying to find the coolant leak all the time
hoping that they would get out of our way so we could move up into the
open and not create a bottleneck in the canyon when the coolant all ran
Luckily they moved on, we tried driving the ledge with no success and
finally winched a few seconds and popped right up. Then we got to the
side, pulled the hood and found the gasket at the back of the water pump
blowing a steady green stream. I never ever thought that could be a
potential problem but it was sure blowing all our coolant out. I tried
tightening the bolts and initially it seemed to work but the motor kept
getting hotter so we stopped about 1/4 mile farther on to figure it out.
After a bit of head scratching we decided to pull the valve stem in our
fill cap in the back so the system couldn't pressurize any more, dump in
our drinking water and go. Turns out I had a pretty good whiz built up
by now too so we added that to the mix.
We were pretty nervous
taking off since we didn't even have 1/2 the radiator full but we got on
the radio to get water ready at the BFG pit area and drove it there with
no problems. We filled it the rest of the way and from there we
took it the last few miles into the finish with no issues. Turns
out that was good enough for a 13th place finish which we're pretty
proud of. Now we can "what if" all we want but no matter what we
beat the desert, our own tendencies to screw up and 78 other vehicles so
we're pretty happy with what we've got.
BACK TO TOP
Thanks to Crwln93 for these shots from LCQ!
I got in the drivers seat at the BFG pit at Race mile 42 or so. I really
couldn't believe that we covered the first half of the course in 2 hrs
or so. I wasn't fully mentally prepared for things to go that fast
in the first half. Then we go into the rocks and I must say that
by the time we were going down Jack I was getting very tired and my
attention span was starting to get short. The best part about the
whole thing was that I have spent so much time in the car that I didn't
have to think about every little thing that was going on.
I was completely demoralized at the top of Sledge when we were working
through how to deal with the water leak. Somehow a moment of
clarity came across us and we thought to relive the pressure out of the
system and get the alumiseal that we were carrying in. Once we did
that and we got all of the tools loaded and started putting the water in
and the leak wasn't continuing to get worse I felt way better.
Thanks to FuzzyZ for these shots
The drive across fissure to the BFG pit was slow but somehow very
peaceful. It was like I was realizing that we were going to finish
when a few minutes earlier I thought we were going to be sitting at the
top of Sledge until the race was over. Once we got more water in
the motor and headed to the Finish line I was seeing dust clouds ahead
and started to go faster, I wanted to pass them all desert racer style,
Stephen backed me out of it and we just cruised into the finish as we
didn't have any traffic coming up from behind us.
Thanks everyone for rootin for us. We had a nightly conversation
right before falling asleep about keeping our heads clear and thinking
through everything. It seemed to work out well for us.
The whole week is still a blur to me. We had so many offers for help if
we needed it, and for our chase and pit and most of all food crews a
Nate and Toby ended up being on the ball all day. We pitted at the BFG
pit, then saw them watching us go by at the top of Claw (that was a nice
site to see) then our Dad and the Cramers were at the bottom of Wrecking
ball and Sledge for a visual on the car.
Some how Dad managed to make it from Sledge to camp, grab supplies and
be at the BFG pit with water and sealants when we made it across fissure
mountain and into the BFG pit for the water refill and assessment of the
water pump leakage.
All in all it was incredible.
Stephen handed me a car that was in such good condition that I was able
to drive the rocks as hard as I felt we could push and still make sure
that we went across the finish line. I really think that the car was
better after the desert section that it is most of the time that I go
out to recreational wheel. I know that I could have pushed harder but I
really don't know that we would have had as few issues as we did.
I am still so in awe of what we did and how quick it went. Just having
the chance to be in the big race was awesome and we get to do it all
again next year the easy way.
Once again Thanks to all that helped out.
We really couldn't have done it without you.
BACK TO TOP
As with any race effort (and a lot of non
race efforts too!) we had some
help from other people and companies that should be acknowledged and
First, our families have dealt with some long work days and nights for
2 months before the race and then managed everything for a week while we
were at the race. None of this could happen without knowing we could
the time necessary and still have wives when we got back!
Our main sponsor is kind of in house but everybody here at Offroad
has endured a little extra to get this race completed. Our shop guys
some daytime hours along with a few night and weekend hours and the
staff put up with having people out here and there and everybody still
great. Since the buggy is kind of an in-house deal (Brandon is the
and son of the ORD owners) we did the full prep work and all the fab to
mount the extra safety gear and other race stuff.
Thanks to Hyena for these shots from
We deal with PSC every day and they really came through for us, which is
really the usual deal. We found we had bent the steering shaft in the
hydro cylinder about a week before our pre-run trip and PSC was able to
out a custom machined cylinder to replace it just in time. The also
up on lakebed when one of our team busted a steering cylinder and had
plumbing issues. It's no mystery why we won't use or sell any other
Pat and Jan Gremillion at Premier Power Welder have been long time
and we've used a sold a pretty good list of welders and pull pals so
Pat heard we were going to race they fixed us up with a welder system
we thankfully never had to use. What was essential for the race was the
amp alternator and heavy duty regulator that are standard with the
system. We're running a pair of big electric fans on the primary
along with 2 fan cooled transmission coolers and an auxiliary fan cooled
water cooler, fresh air pumper and the standard electric draw of the
systems. That Premier alternator kept our battery and fans happy all
long which was a major comfort by halfway through the 6 rockcrawling
we ran in the heat of the day at the end of the race.
Another company we've dealt with for years with great success is Tom
Custom Driveshafts, the original shaft on this buggy (and everything
run) were from Tom and after 5 years of pounding, the rear was ready for
new tube and slip. Tom Wood's shop went a little out of their way and
us a new rear shaft with a 1/4" thick tube so that we could pound
the rocks without worrying about denting the tube. Driveshafts are one
those details that you tend to forget about when they work right and we
never have to think about Tom's work. Just as it should be.
Our most visible help came from Scott at Bighorn Graphics. To us it
like he really worked miracles with the stickers for the car but in
I think it's all in a standard day's work. Regardless, our number
roof flag, and the rest of our stickers really made the thing look good
definitely gave it that Duke brothers flair. Everybody wants to peel
like Bo and Luke!
One last (for now anyway) really essential piece of equipment is a
wheel. We have the TrailReady HD17 wheels on most if not all of our
rigs and have had excellent luck with them. They're a super beefy 1
design so there's no weld to leak or fail and they have a strong center
heavily reinforced inner bead area to keep it from breaking from rock
They always center the tire perfectly on the built in center ring so
run as smooth as the tire will allow at high speed. Some of the hits we
on these wheels in the race and even in our "for fun" wheeling would put
other wheel out of action but the TRs put up with it, no problem.
Thanks again to all of you, and we look
forward to next year! BACK TO TOP
HERE for lots of pictures of our shop
K5's evolution. It's in reverse order from its new coilover
suspension right on back to its fully leaf-sprung days.