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We're #4488 in the Ultra4 Class.
Thanks to Pirate4x4.com for the pic
 

Click
HERE for even more race info.

It's Official!  Our #4488 finished the 1000 mile race 2nd in class!!  The ultra-extreme 3-day head-to-head battle was more than an incredible adrenaline rush - it also qualified Brandon for the 2010 King of the Hammers!!  Yep, we're really liking this racing stuff.  Details and more pics coming soon, but check the links below for more NOW!

Click HERE for Robin Stover of Fourwheeler magazine's excellent blogs and pics.  He co-drove part of the race! 

 








 

Click HERE for our Race Prep forum on Pirate4x4. Scroll down to "8/22/09 7:09 PM" for a great post race TV interview with Brandon.

For an interview with Brandon by the amazing Charlene of the Pirate 4x4's live race coverage forum, click HERE, then click "Wednesday Contingency" and scroll down to 2:19.

 

 Click HERE for more Pirates 4x4 forums about the race.
 
Click the small pics to see larger views of our Ultra4 buggy under construction.

 

Click 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 Locking Fasteners. 

Click the picture for  larger view. 

 

 

 

KING OF THE HAMMERS '09

    
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 action pictures.
Click HERE for Brandon's race notes and even more great shots.
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.

STEPHEN WATSON:

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

LCQ and RACE DAY AT LAST!

 
Thanks again to Pirate4x4.com for the action pics!  Click small pics for larger views.

STEPHEN WATSON:
 
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 awesome shots!
 
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 out.

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!

BRANDON WATSON:

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 from Backdoor!

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 HUGE thanks.

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

AND FURTHERMORE,

STEPHEN WATSON:

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 "thank
yous" issued.

First, our families have dealt with some long work days and nights for about
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 spend
the time necessary and still have wives when we got back!

Our main sponsor is kind of in house but everybody here at Offroad Design
has endured a little extra to get this race completed.  Our shop guys put in
some daytime hours along with a few night and weekend hours and the office
staff put up with having people out here and there and everybody still did
great.  Since the buggy is kind of an in-house deal (Brandon is the brother
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 Backdoor!

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 full
hydro cylinder about a week before our pre-run trip and PSC was able to turn
out a custom machined cylinder to replace it just in time.  The also stepped
up on lakebed when one of our team busted a steering cylinder and had some
plumbing issues.  It's no mystery why we won't use or sell any other power
steering systems!

Pat and Jan Gremillion at Premier Power Welder have been long time friends
and we've used a sold a pretty good list of welders and pull pals so when
Pat heard we were going to race they fixed us up with a welder system that
we thankfully never had to use.  What was essential for the race was the 160
amp alternator and heavy duty regulator that are standard with the welding
system.  We're running a pair of big electric fans on the primary radiator
along with 2 fan cooled transmission coolers and an auxiliary fan cooled
water cooler, fresh air pumper and the standard electric draw of the engine
systems.  That Premier alternator kept our battery and fans happy all day
long which was a major comfort by halfway through the 6 rockcrawling trails
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 Wood's
Custom Driveshafts, the original shaft on this buggy (and everything else we
run) were from Tom and after 5 years of pounding, the rear was ready for a
new tube and slip.  Tom Wood's shop went a little out of their way and built
us a new rear shaft with a 1/4" thick tube so that we could pound through
the rocks without worrying about denting the tube.  Driveshafts are one of
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 seems
like he really worked miracles with the stickers for the car but in reality
I think it's all in a standard day's work.  Regardless, our number package,
roof flag, and the rest of our stickers really made the thing look good and
definitely gave it that Duke brothers flair.  Everybody wants to peel out
like Bo and Luke!

One last (for now anyway) really essential piece of equipment is a strong
wheel.  We have the TrailReady HD17 wheels on most if not all of our trail
rigs and have had excellent luck with them.  They're a super beefy 1 piece
design so there's no weld to leak or fail and they have a strong center and
heavily reinforced inner bead area to keep it from breaking from rock hits.
They always center the tire perfectly on the built in center ring so they
run as smooth as the tire will allow at high speed.  Some of the hits we put
on these wheels in the race and even in our "for fun" wheeling would put any
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

 


Click 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.