Step By Step
Coming from the urban death maze of Los Angeles we are more used to being surrounded by cars and concrete than so many big, beautiful trees and green vegetation. This part of the trail hadnt been used for a while and was so lush that we thought we had stumbled upon the set for the planet Endor in Return of the Jedi and were waiting to get mugged by Ewoks.
Yes, America, its the Olson twins, and, no, they arent a couple of preteen girls starring in some cheesy sitcom opposite Bob Saget, but rather a couple of Canadians who have a penchant for building wacky and unique trail rigs. Pictured here is Ben and his 80 Suzuki LJ. Its powered by a Toyota diesel mated to a SM 420 that then runs through a Marlin Crawler transfer case mated to a Dana 300. A Dana 44 lives up front while a Ford 9-inch resides out back. Airbags are used for suspension.
The other half of the Olson twins is brother Chris and his CJ2A, which has been collecting plenty of other parts off other vehicles over its life. Under the hood is a Toyota 22RE backed by a four-speed Toyota tranny mated to a T-90. A Dana 18 then splits the power and sends it to a Toyota pickup front axle equipped with a Detroit Locker and a rear axle out of an FJ-45 equipped with a Lock-Right and a disc brake conversion. With two transmissions and a twin-sticked 18, Chris has enough shifters to make a tractor driver jealous.
We wouldnt be caught wheeling the wee out of something as nice as Jim McMillans 77 CJ-5. It featured a growly Chevy 350 with a Ford 9-inch rear and a Dana 44 front stuffed with ARB Air Lockers. Goodyear MTRs in the 35-inch flavor did their best to translate all the horsepower into traction. The CJs shiny new paint job survived the event without major trauma.
Holy fender trimming, Batman! Jay Standish wanted to keep his 4Runner low so he ran a conservative 3-inch lift. However, still wanting plenty of clearance, he managed somehow to stuff 42-inch Swampers underneath the Runner through very liberal use of a Sawzall. Powering the Runner is a 22RE that only sees four cylinders fire on rare occasions. A Marlin Crawler sends power to stock axles equipped with Birfields, 4.10 gears, and Lock-Rights.
Some of the hillclimbs were plenty nasty as a good amount of rain had made them slippery. Plenty of throttle and raw nerve were needed to make it up some of the hills, and it was a long tumble down.
This Scrambler was spotted getting jiggy with it several times throughout the day. The driver came close to flopping it on its side through this obstacle but eventually throttled his way through.
Here a Suzuki, there a Suzuki. Everywhere we looked there seemed to be Suzukis of all different shapes and sizes coming out of the woodwork. While to the uninformed these little guys might seem like they have as much chance running the trails as a mob informant has testifying, their small dimensions make them ideal for squeezing in between the many trees that Vancouver Island offers. The fact that this one features a very stretchy airbag suspension also made it plenty capable.
Yes, there is an easy way around, but where is the fun in that? The Suzukis owner was smart enough to have a tow strap in position before mounting an attack that kept him from going wheels-up on this obstacle.
Part of the fun after a good rain is some of the steep descents found on the trail. Slick and slippery, most rigs stayed off the brakes as much as possible to avoid sliding down the hill. The short wheelbase of this Jeep made it necessary to slap a couple of suckers on the back of it for some extra weight.
Paul Cooper owns Morningside Four-Wheel Drive in Victoria, British Colombia, and was nice enough to open up some trails for us to use on his private land. His big Ford features a Dana 60 front, and a Dana 70 rear, and rides on 44s. While a fullsize seemed large for the trails, it had no problem going anywhere.
The southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia is home to the Island Rock Crawlers Four-Wheel Drive Society. This group of avid four-wheelers takes great pride and joy in staging a three-day event called the Rock Crawl, which is held on Canadas long weekend in May near Victoria, in a town called Sooke.
Participation in Rock Crawl is usually capped at 100 guest vehicles, although with extra trails available this year, the club pushed that to 130. Including the local and international sponsors such as ARB USA, Randys Ring & Pinion, North Shore Off-Road, and all the club members, the event regularly has 200 trucks out for the weekend. A patchwork of abandoned logging roads twisting through first-, second-, and third-growth forests makes for a challenging and scenic trail system. A mix of hard granite ledges, loose rocky trails, and mud keeps the participants coming back for more. The trails offer challenges for all levels of four-wheelers, but the hard rock and 4+ trails are what the bulk of the participants are seeking.
The Rock Crawlers set up base-camp at the Sooke Community campground, which is only minutes away from most of the trailheads. To serve dinner and breakfast to over 400 people, the Sooke Lions Club came out in force, providing all four meals included in the registration.
The Island Rock Crawlers thanks all the supporters that helped make Rock Crawl 2000 a success. Thanks to the Sooke Lions, the Community of Sooke, all the sponsors, and the Search and Rescue B.C. volunteers who provided an extra measure of safety during the event by being ready with their rescue skills and equipment. For more information on the Island Rock Crawlers and this years upcoming event visit www.can4x4.com/irc.
Ed. note: Albert Vandervelde publishes Canadian Four Wheel Drive magazine, devoted to Canadian and International events. Back issues and subscriptions are available at 877/479-4823, or on the Web at www.can4x4.com