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Top Truck Challenge 2008 - Shake, Battle & Roll

2003 Avalance Buggy
Ken Brubaker
| Senior Editor, Four Wheeler
Posted December 1, 2007
Photographers: The Four Wheeler Staff

9 Trucks, 7 Events, 1 Winner?

For those of you unfamiliar with Top Truck Challenge, we'll bring you up to speed. The easiest way to explain the event is by describing what it is not. It is not a truck show. It does not care if your rig is a proven chick magnet. It's not impressed by how many spherical rod ends your rig has. It's indifferent to whatever "unconquerable" obstacles you've conquered in the past. It doesn't care if you're a shop owner or a shop sweeper.

Now here's what Top Truck is. Its seven vastly different mega-events that represent almost every discipline of four-wheeling. It culminates with an event that is spoken of in hushed, reverent tones; the Mother of All Events, the almighty, nightmare-inducing Tank Trap. Quite simply, Top Truck is extreme calisthenics for your rig as well as your body and mind, and there is nothing else like it.

Since we introduced Top Truck Challenge 16 years ago, wheelers have lined up for the 10 coveted spots each year. We choose the candidates from entries sent to us by the readers and you select the actual 10 competitors by ballot. The competitors you choose travel to the Hollister Hills SVRA near Hollister, California, in early June to compete in the weeklong event.

This year, you selected a radically diverse group of vehicles, which we profiled in depth in last month's issue. Nice work, by the way. When it came time to compete, one of your choices was AWOL, so we ran with nine teams in competition. It became obvious early on, more than ever, that the teams entered the competition with a clear-cut strategy for each event. It's clear that many had studied past Top Truck DVDs. Some were able to adhere to their strategy for a little while, but ultimately the brutal courses forced most everyone to abandon whatever plan they had in an effort to survive. This year there were some major surprises, shocking outcomes, incredible examples of teamwork, and of course, off-the-hook action. We've summarized each event for you in detail and the action begins on the next page.

Morris' Buggy

Day 1 Event 1
The Tow Test
What it is and how it works: Ever been to a truck pull? You know how it works. Truck is tethered to sled. Truck pulls sled on flat groomed track. Weight on sled moves forward, creating resistance. Truck stops. Well, we think that's boring. Our Top Truck Tow Test forces competitors to tow a 38,000-pound cement mixer from a dead stop. Uphill. On dirt. Yep, we've taken the classic truck pull and made it better. This year, no one got a full pull on our 170-foot track, so each team was ranked by the distance they pulled.

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Finish Line Quotes
"We're just trying to be smart about every event."
-Randy Swartz

"That's a heavy truck."
-Clayton Kraatz

"I wish we would've kinda picked a different gear-we didn't even have our tires spinning."
-Cheston Beck

"I didn't take off as fast I was hoping to. That's pretty hard to pull."
-Byron Hair

"I started in too high of a gear, that's for sure. It's all livin' and learnin'."
-Scott Morris

"We didn't throw a piston out the bottom, and it's still running, so we're alright."
-Hoby Hulbert

The Nitty-Gritty
Beck's International: Slow, controlled run with very little wheelspin. A high gear selection bogged the propane-fed 460ci V-8.

Hair's Wagoneer: Ran the custom-cut Mickey Thompson Claws at 5 psi front and 6 psi rear. The Quadrajet-topped 455ci engine sounded like it was misfiring but still carried the rig to a Second Place finish.

Hulbert's Willys: Ran the SM420 trans in First gear and aired the tires down to 8 pounds. Slow run with a little suspension hop and blue exhaust smoke along the way.

Kraatz' Warthog: Unwound the 467ci Chevy engine and threw down a great run with only a slight pull to the left of the track. Spun to a stop when the Boggers broke loose. Posted a pull only 61/2 inches shy of Team McGilton's winning pull last year.

Naeger's Buggy: The 350ci Ramjet V-8 and soft four-link suspension translated to a fair amount of body lean and some suspension hop.

Lammers' Bronco: Ran with 10 psi in the Mickey Thompson Baja Claws. With the Atlas 2 4:1 transfer case in low-range and the C6 transmission in First gear, it was a slow run with little wheelspin.

Morris' Buggy: Toggled between gears several times in an effort to keep momentum, which seemed to work. Eventually the IROKs lost traction.

Swartz' Chevy: First competitor. Ran the NP205 in low and the SM465 in First gear. Very docile and restrained run that didn't really gather enough momentum.

Wood's CJ-5: Cummins diesel pulled strong. Even with the rear axle bouncing a bit, the driver stayed on the throttle to finish slightly behind Morris.

RESULTS (distance traveled)
1 Kraatz' Warthog 104 ft. 4 in.
2 Hair's Wagoneer 88 ft. 2 in.
3 Morris' Buggy 84 ft. 8 in.
4 Wood's CJ-5 82 ft. 9 in.
5 Naeger's Buggy 82 ft. 3 in.
6 Lammers' Bronco 76 ft. 7 in.
7 Beck's International 75 ft. 4 in.
8 Hulbert's Willys 74 ft. 1 in.
9 Swartz' Chevy 71 ft. 7 in.
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