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Harold Charles Off - We've Lost A Legend

Memorial Trail Trailhead
Ned Bacon | Writer
Posted April 1, 2012
Photographers: Nancy Baily

Harold Charles Off, 1946 to 2011

Harold is Off Again. But this time he went 'wheeling on his own. On June 1, 2011, the four-wheel-drive community lost one of its own when Harold Charles Off lost his battle to pancreatic cancer. Harold was a pioneer in the sport of four-wheeling. A true, soft-spoken gentleman, Harold was always there to lend a wrenching hand, give a spot, encourage a fellow competitor, or share his beloved Farmington trails - and then serve ice cream from the back of one of his well known pink Scramblers at the end of a long day.

Originally from Alamosa, Colorado, the Off family moved to Farmington, New Mexico, in the early 1960s and started Truck & Auto Dismantlers. Young Harold cut his early 'wheeling teeth with the family hunting Jeep on trails in Colorado and Chokecherry Canyon near Farmington. A born modifier and innovator, Harold, by the mid '60s, had improved the Jeep with a flathead Ford V-8 procured from the family business. Throughout his life, Harold would find economical ways to improve a Jeep's performance, using parts the everyday guy could find in a wrecking yard without breaking the bank. His popular Navajo Brake System was developed along these lines.

In 1966 Harold married his high school sweetheart, Phyllis Downs, and, while serving in the National Guard, pursued his automotive interests by taking over the family dismantling business. He further honed his skills at making “something out of nothing” by building successful drag racers from bits found in his wrecking yard. The off-road bug was there, too, with a succession of Jeep CJs that allowed Harold and Phyllis to introduce their growing family to the fun of four-wheeling. The Chokecherry Canyon area just outside of the Farmington city limits was their play area of choice, and children Brett, Cody, and Amy remember family picnics and learning to drive among the deep canyons and huge rocks that define this area.

Off Again Grows
As the 1980s went by, Harold found more and more of his business gravitating toward the 4x4 world. By 1990 it was time for a change and the business name became Off Again 4x4. The business continued to grow with son Cody and son-in-law Shane Spellbring coming on board to lend their talents. Many well known, brand name aftermarket products joined the salvage engines, trannys, T-cases, and axles available to the Off Again customer. Technicians were (and still are) waiting in the service bays to install the parts or were/are available on the phone to help the do-it-yourselfer. Throughout it all, Harold never lost sight of the enthusiast who was trying to build his rig on a budget. He was always eager to share his knowledge of what fits and what works when mixing and matching used parts.

With his easy-going way and helpful personality, Harold Off made a lot of friends worldwide in the 4x4 hobby. By the end of the 1990s he was one of a small gang of 'wheelers who were pushing the envelope in the budding sport of rock crawling. The early competitions in Farmington and Las Cruces, New Mexico, found him competing against his buddies in his familiar white and pink Jeep Scrambler.

Throughout the '90s, this growing band had been comparing articulation and traction ideas and 'wheeling together throughout the southwest. When organized competitions first appeared, these guys were the first to sign up. Early events were just a continuation of the 'wheeling we had already been doing, they just added cones and stopwatches. Harold was one hell of a driver and a formidable competitor but he never lost his core. He was first and always a helpful friend and fellow inventor, just along for the ride as the sport grew. While some guys sunk their soul into competing, others remained recreational enthusiasts, in it for the fun of it. Harold was one of these guys.

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