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Chuckwalla Jeep Club - 50 Years

Posted in Events on February 17, 2007
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Photographers: Chuckawalla Jeep Club

A little over a decade after World War II, the Chuckwalla Jeep Club was officially incorporated by the state of California for the whopping fee of $13.25. The year was 1958, and today we find ourselves looking back with envy and nostalgic admiration at a simpler time of Willys Jeeps, classic hot rods, and the birth of rock 'n' roll.

The Chuckwalla Jeep Club was started by Basil Smith (founder of Smittybilt) at the suggestion of Brian Chuchua (Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee) and Linn Rickerd in 1956. By the end of the year, the Chuckwalla Jeep Club officially had 29 registered members. Smith placed a cap of 50 total members so the group would have a better chance of getting to know one another.

Their stories and lore of days gone by are not only intriguing and entertaining but educational as well. Some would consider the adventures of the Chuckwalla Jeep Club grand achievements and great moments in time. The fact that these are some of the first people to roam the deserts and mountains in Willys Jeeps marks an important point in history. They bring true meaning to the term "Jeep enthusiast."

The club's exploits took them from the beaches of Northern California at Pismo, down to Mexico, and across the western deserts and mountain ranges. If there were trails to be found, you can bet that these people explored them at one time or another and had a great time doing it.

In these early years of Jeep adventure, differential lockers and aggressive mud-terrain tires weren't around. At best, a person could pick up a good set of military tires, while most Jeep owners ran whitewall street tires. If you think about where they had taken their vehicles, you might be asking yourself how they were able to make any forward progress, especially since they seemed to enjoy some of the harshest terrain the desert had to offer. We noticed that there was a lot of tugging and pulling of vehicles with chains and ropes as well as resorting to the old manual "heave-ho" to get where they needed to go. Who needs modern recovery equipment?

In the fall of 2006, the Chuckwallas held their 50th anniversary reunion in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California. Amazingly, quite a few of the original club members were in attendance. We have to say that this was one of the most memorable and enjoyable gatherings of Jeep enthusiasts we've attended in quite some time.

As you look through these photos, it's not hard to lose yourself in time and in the world that existed decades ago. We could have added captions to each photo, but it wouldn't do them any justice. We found ourselves in a far-off place and a time of genuine smiles and friendship. We're sure that any day on the trail with these folks was a beautiful day.

If you would like to read the official history of the Chuckwalla Jeep Club and learn more about the wonderful people behind these steering wheels, visit the club's website at

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