You could hear engines screaming through closed car windows as you got close to the Purcell Trench Ranch on Friday afternoon. Mountain Havoc 2017 had started, just above Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, and quadruple-digit horsepower buggies were already in competition that would already claim two victims before the real fun started over the weekend. Mountain Mafia Entertainment had set up another punishing course for its third annual Mountain Havoc competition—one of the roughest and most extreme 4x4 competitions in the U.S. It combines a number of smaller events—the Hill N Hole, the Tire Pull, the Rock Course, the Hillclimb, and the ending Mountain Man—to give competitors a fair chance in a variety of extreme off-road situations. For mega trucks and buggies, this is the premier event.
Mega buggies are fabricated from scratch or are based on a manufactured platform (like an F-150 or Chevy truck). All of them run enormous tires (showing up with 44s means you’re an underdog), Axle Tech or Rockwell axles, and high-horsepower engines. Nowhere else in the world do such a large number of mega trucks and buggies gather.
Jay Cooper pulls up for a wheelie on the Hillclimb course in his Zero Drama Racing buggy.
So how does a team of basically volunteers, headed by Mac Miltz, Ben Spinney, and Grey Whittier, do all the footwork, paperwork, and funding to put on such a big event? Simple: They bought their own park. The Mountain Mafia-owned Purcell Trench Ranch is a 90-acre private off-road park that is open for certain days and events, and provides epic off-roading in a beautiful northwest mountain setting about fifteen miles below the Canadian border. Mountain Havoc is just one of a number of off-road events they put on at the ranch, and if you’re interested in vehicle carnage, good camping, and a grass roots competition run by enthusiasts, then you may want to reserve some vacation time for next year’s competition, because spectators are welcome!
Corey Johnson wasted no time getting himself acquainted with airtime on the Hill N’ Hole course.
“King Leroy,” as they call him. Leroy Latham has come in first place for all three years of this event. If there’s one guy that every competitor is gunning for, it’s this guy.
Greg Tory’s Barely Legal buggy heading through the obstacles. Most of these vehicles use either Axle Tech axles or 2.5-ton Rockwell axles.
This classic F-150 Ranger was the most full-bodied vehicle in the competition, but that didn’t stop him from mashing the pedal through every horrendous obstacle.
Justin Haft ranked high on the scoreboard last year, but came back to actually podium with a third place finish this year. He usually has a co-driver in his buggy, but he left him back on the course after a winch extraction (competitors are not required to finish with both team members).
Lucky for Steven Montpas, he has a great co-driver! Jeremy Moore hustled to run winch line whenever there was an issue. More often than not, a vehicle would have to self-extract to finish the Mountain Man—the hardest and final event.
Cheston Beck continues to call his buggy a Scout, due to a badge he threw on the front and a few inches of frame rail stuck underneath.
Abe Hill was the only true local to compete in the competition. He only had to tow his comp buggy, The Prospector, a few miles from his home in Bonner’s Ferry.
The Foss Hog continues to be entertaining, in its umpteenth iteration. This was one of the first mega buggies built, over 10 years ago.
This squarebody Chevy owned by Jason Gray retained most of its body, but underneath it closely resembles the straight buggies it competed against.
Jimmy Smith came out all the way from Missouri to compete, He’s a professional SRRC (Southern Rock Racing Series) driver and he came with his foot matted on the throttle.
Tuff Country Suspensions came in as a sponsor this year, and had a great time in Idaho for the weekend.
Upside down and calling it. The Barely Legal buggy decided that this was a good stopping point. Luckily, the recovery crew worked to get these guys out of their harnesses and away from the buggy as quickly as possible.
Jake Brazier has seen better days of competition. A big hop ended up snapping the driveline, which you can see laying at the feet of Jeremy Brown and Dale Shull.
Finish with a bang, right? Steven Montpas surely did. You could hear drivetrain parts failing as his buggy gave it its all in the treacherous tire pit.
Being extremely abusive to their engines, transmissions, and axles, a lot of these guys will not bother with conventional fluids and will go straight to high-end synthetics. Knowing that, Amsoil realized it was a perfect place to show their products protecting these powertrain parts and came in as a sponsor this year.
Terhaar’s all-wheel-steer F-150 got so close to finishing the Mountain Man event, but had some steering troubles right at the end that kept him from making the final short distance needed to cross the finish line.
Ben Spinney’s Owl buggy was setup for recovery—which there was a lot of—on the sidelines.
The sponsor AL Compressed Gases showed up with a booth and a bunch of Miller welding equipment to help out in case someone broke (which always happens).
With Corey Johnson’s buggy on its side, Stan Pruitt figured it’d be a good time for a 30-second interview.
Jerry Stevens was working recovery for the weekend and not competing. After snapping the transfer case off the transmission, Jimmy Smith got a pull back to camp from Jerry Stevens, who was working recovery for the weekend. Smith actually got his buggy bandaged back together using a Mac’s Tie Downs strap to ratchet the case combo back together so he could finish the rest of the weekend! We know Jimmy has to be thankful that Mac’s sponsors Havoc every year!
Keeping tires on the ground is for those who are not looking to win.
Jay Cooper cooking around the course.
The Tire Pull is the least entertaining event to watch and takes a long time, but it’s a necessity to determine who the true overall king of Mountain Havoc is. This year, the crew got the tire pull out of the way on Friday in an effort to not run so late over over the weekend (10pm stopping time was normal last year). Unfortunately for Ken Martin, his Comanche broke in this event and never got to see the rest of the events. Fred Zanco’s buggy also suffered the same fate.
Matt Christian calls his Colorado “The Money Pit 2.0,” and you can probably guess why. Rumor has it that it’s for sale, in case someone has too much money….
Full hydraulic steering is standard on these vehicles.
Char & Cheston Beck make a great team that absolutely hustle in competition. Cheston will drive until the wheels fall off, and giving up is not an option. The pair worked quickly to get out of this situation, but it was a rough spot.
Not only is Brett Harrell a fierce competitor; He’s also a big supporter of the Mountain Havoc series. This year he sent his dozer 600 miles across the country to the Purcell Trench Ranch ahead of time so the Mountain Mafia crew could use it to cut courses.
Steven Montpas’ Willys truck wheelstanding through the finish line of the Hillclimb.
The brand new Infidel buggy is owned by Rob Neale. He drove well this weekend but is still getting a feel for his new ride. We’re sure he’ll be coming south back over the border for next year’s Havoc.
Brett Harrell in his Change Order buggy, making a mad dash through the tire pit and sending one flying out. This is why spectators are kept at a distance. The fierceness payed off, and Harrell took home second place.
Pictured here is your 2017 Havoc recovery crew. It’s made of a variety of volunteers from all over, including a number of the Coalition Crawlers who head up from California to help with the Havoc weekend.
A pressure washer was provided for anyone who didn’t want to take a few hundred pounds of mud home with them.
Tires of Havoc
There are two basic tire choices (well, three really) for Mountain Havoc. And this year, competitors were not allowed to change tires to suit the course they were going to be on. You either used tractor tires, or a set of Mickey Thompson Baja Claws or Interco Swamper Boggers. While the tractor tires seemed to dominate the deep mud, the DOT-approved Claws and Boggers looked like they worked better on rocks and obstacles.
2017 Mountain Havoc Results
1st Leroy Latham
2nd Brett Harrell
3rd Justin Haft
4th Bryan Foss
5th Cheston Beck
6th Greg Tory
7th Robert Terhaar
8th Matt Christian
9th Richie Tremblay
10th Jay Cooper
11th Jason Gray
12th Steven Montpas
13th Jimmy Smith
14th Rob Neale
15th Adam Furlong
16th Corey Johnson
17th Abe Hill
18th Jake Brazier
19th Fred Zanco
20th Ken Martin