Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) is one of the most widely known Jeep events in the world, with people from all over the globe congregating in Moab to celebrate everything Jeep. A few years ago some people noticed that with all the hype over new JK Wrangler parts and putting tires the size of Texas on every Jeep headed for the hills or the mall parking lot. A bit of Jeep nostalgia was missing.
At EJS 2013, Brennan Metcalf (alumni for 4Wheel & Off-Road’s Ultimate Adventure in 2014 and 2015) decided it was time to make things interesting again. He reverted back to simpler times and smaller tires. With a Buick V-6 under the hood and 35-inch tires, he navigated his Willys flatfender all over Moab and turned some heads. This provocative act caught the attention of some veteran Jeepers and a few media friends. In fact, everyone decided that the awesome sight of an old Willys romping on the trails was a pretty good idea and they were missing out on some serious fun!
The Easter Jeep Safari Flat Fender Fun Run 2015 was about midway through the Pickle trail when it stopped for some engine and wiring diagnostics that inevitably turned into lunch. From stock to stomper, there was a Jeep to fit everyone's fancy.
That was the potato in the pot, and it inspired a few more guys to leave their Jeep YJs, TJs, and JKs at home and bring out the old iron for EJS 2014. At the end of the week on Friday everyone gathered together for the first unofficial Flat Fender Fun Run. It was just a group of people in Flatfenders that ran Flat Iron Mesa backwards with eight Jeeps that were all pre-1953. The passion that runs deep for these beautiful pieces of old iron pulled together a fun run with their Willys Jeeps by word-of-mouth.
The Flattie revolution was started and it was clear that getting back to grass roots wheeling had to become and annual gathering. Metcalf started getting the pot stirred early for the Fun Run to get people stoked early and draw a bigger crowd of Flatties back to Moab for EJS 2015. A little advertising helped, and the second annual (still unofficial) Flat Fender Fun Run 2015 drew 14 Willys Jeeps for the trail ride. There was a broad spectrum of talent that day when rigs with powerplants ranging from L-head four-bangers, a couple of Buick V-6's, a Chevy 4.3L V-6, and of course a couple of V-8s as well hit the trail at dawn. There were also a few more old rigs that turned up just for the morning gathering to show off their very nicely restored Flatfenders.
There were a couple of nicely restored Willys that came to chat for the morning but parted ways with us once it was time to head out on the trail. This sweet CJ-2A was proudly sporting its shovel and ax strapped to the side.
In the Pickle
The trail of choice for 2015 was The Pickle, just north of town. There were a few Jeeps that were relatively stock, but that didn't seem to hold anyone back. The theme of the day seemed to be, “If at first you don't succeed, then back up and use more throttle until you do!” That kind of attitude always makes for a pretty entertaining trail ride, and no one walked away disappointed. The best part was that there was no real carnage, which made for a smooth day. The CJ-2A with the Toyota drivetrain had a few hiccups throughout the day, but that was more because the owner finished building it the night before. There was a deep appreciation among the group for the long nights in the garage finishing up his project the week leading up to the EJS Flat Fender Fun Run.
Keep an eye on Jp for details about the Flat Fender Fun Run 2016. Dust off the seats and clean out the carbs—It's time to go old school. Bring your Flatfender to Easter Jeep Safari!
Rules for the Run
Who: All Flatfender Jeeps (no curves on this trail ride; it’s politely enforced).
What: Flat Fender Fun Run.
Where: Somewhere in the Moab area and alongside the main road where you see a bunch of cool, old Willys Jeeps.
When: Friday of Easter Jeep Safari Week (March 25, 2016) at 9:00 a.m.
Why: Because rust is cool!
This Kabota-diesel powered CJ-2A made the first obstacle look like child’s play. The low-end torque of the turbocharged diesel and traction from the locker in the rear axle made this Jeep one of the few that didn't have to winch to the top.
A line-up of Flatfenders along the side of the main road in Moab sure turned some heads and drew some onlookers to drool over the different classics. Everyone took some time to show off their Jeeps and check out someone else's while we waited for a few stragglers to arrive.
The trail winds through a sandy slot canyon with high walls for a portion of the trip. It’s amazing the way that nature carves out the landscape features. Lucky for us, this particular canyon was carved wide enough to drive Jeeps around this sandstone tower in the middle of the canyon floor.
This CJ-2A had undergone quite the transformation in the weeks leading up Easter Jeep Safari week. Aside from the Toyota drivetrain and running gear, the four-linked Jeep had only been installed four days before the Flat Fender Fun Run. This was its first shakedown run after the entire build. It was burning a little bit of oil, but that was the least of the owner’s worries that day. There were still a lot of bugs to work out, but all in all, this was a really cool flatfender build.
There were Willys big and small that showed up for the unofficial fun run, but they all came with drivers that weren’t afraid to use the skinny pedal. These guys were ruthless in their attempts to get their old Jeeps to the top. We even had to talk some Jeepers down from the window ledge and to use the winch as they backed up farther and farther to attempt their sixth, seventh, and even eighth run at an obstacle. The motto of the day was definitely “grab second gear!”
The Killer Bee is a CJ-2A–based buggy that has seen a few different transformations over the years. The latest was to remove the stake bed off of the back and make some new body panels to bring back the old tub style. With links, coilovers, and 39-inch tires, this flatfender went just about anywhere the driver wanted it to go.
The diesel-powered CJ kept the tires churning when the stock F-head Go Devil motors were leaving the other flatfenders stalled out and rolling back down the hill. This Jeep was the proving its worth all day long on the trail.
The canyon walls all around Moab are spectacular, but a lineup of flatfenders heading down the dirt road to the trailhead sure does brighten the picture.
This tight crevasse is what gives the trail its name. This is the Pickle. It is an awkward rock formation that twists your rig up and pushes your driver side just inches from the canyon wall. Take the wrong line and you will find yourself between a rock and a hard place—in other words, in quite a pickle. Four Wheeler Network Content Director Rick Péwé demonstrated how to navigate the proper line in his 3B Ambulance Jeep with perfect three-wheel form.
Eric from LockRite lockers had his CJ-2A flatfender out on the trail beating the living snot out of it but having a great time and successfully navigating the trail. His Jeep was bone stock except for the addition of a LockRite locker in the rear axle.
Hooking up the winch is never a sign of defeat. It is better to get a little help to the top and keep your rig in one piece so you can continue down the trail. Too much pride and skinny pedal often results in broken parts and an early end to the day, not to mention the hassle of limping out of the woods. Besides, what is the point in having a winch if you don't use it once and a while?
The Turkish Ambulance 3B was the odd ball in the crowd. The long wheelbase gave it a climbing advantage over the other standard wheelbase flatties that day. The whole crowd was cheering when it made it to the top of the first obstacle of the day under its own power the very first try. The victory was celebrated too soon as it stalled just at the crest and rolled back down to the bottom. After a few more attempts, we broke out the strap to finish the job. This was the first of many Jeeps that would need a little assistance to the top.
Once Péwé made it to the top, he set up his Jeep to help winch a few others who were struggling to get to the top. He made sure he properly documented the event with a little sharpie art on his hood—two flatfenders, one CJ.