It’s like buying a child a fancy birthday gift and watching them have more fun playing with the packaging. Even though we had the world’s toughest single-day off-road race roaring around us, we couldn’t help but spend a couple days patrolling the rows of campsites for some of the country’s most interesting off-road rigs.
The King of the Hammers race is a weeklong event that draws tens of thousands of 4x4 enthusiasts to Means Dry Lake in Johnson Valley, California. UTVs, dirt bikes, stock rigs, and ultimately Ultra4 cars race throughout the week across barren desert and punishing rocks. What we found as fascinating as the racecourse action was the community of race fans that sprung up out of nowhere on the lakebed. They call it Hammertown. Tents and RVs, grills and campfires, and most important to us—one of the more eclectic gatherings of off-road vehicles we find all year.
Want your letters and packages delivered while you’re wrenching on a rig at a remote pit location? This Jeep has you covered.
This “Crawler Hauler” was hiding some surprises beneath the dusty patina. The ’45 REO Speed Wagon was rebuilt with the chassis from an ’05 F-550 dumpster hauler, given a 5.7L Cummins engine and NV4500 transmission, and was converted to four-wheel drive.
The NP241 DLD transfer case not only sends power to the rear 28,000-pound heavy-duty axle, but also to the high-pinion Dana 60 in the front.
This ’64 Ford Galaxie was built by Triple Nickel Racing and definitely gets time off-road. With a 351 Dart Windsor bored and stroked to 427 ci, the car has made it through the Mexican 1000.
We counted roughly 47 linear miles of LED lightbars while roaming Hammertown and even found off-road lighting on one spectator’s canine stroller.
Though it was difficult to spot in the desert with the custom-camo paintjob, the ’66 International Travelette was a treat. The rocker damage, along with the bumper and hefty winch, led us to believe this rig has seen its share of rocks.
As this rock-gobbling Tacoma crawled by on 40-inch Super Swampers, we couldn’t help but offer a Four Wheeler sticker to add to the body décor.
We couldn’t confirm, but this ’71 Datsun mini-truck claims to rip around the desert with a 5.7L powerhouse under the hood.
The “Friends of Turkey Claw” loaded their ’98 LMTV M1098 with enough food to feed an army—of hungry race fans. The truck sported a storage box converted for refrigeration and pulled a trailer loaded with kitchen gear. The menu of the night was chicken enchilada casserole, antipasto salad, and cheesecake. Proceeds help keep off-road trails open and maintained.
Can your Ford Explorer Sport Trac do this? This truck is a diesel-powered, rear-steering, Rockwell-axle-toting, twin transfer case behemoth.
This rig was flying a pirate flag, pulling an Airstream camper, adorned with North Carolina’s motto, and looks like it could be at home in an apocalyptic nightmare world.
Thankfully the medical services available at Hammertown were more modern than this ’67 M-725 Kaiser Jeep ambulance, though the 40-inch tires and winch might make accessing an off-road emergency easier.
We love seeing Unimogs in the dirt. We love seeing Unimogs with campers even more. To make this one even better, it had a creepy clown and bovine-themed camouflage.
With upwards of 100 inches of LED lightbars, this Baja Bug had no issue lighting up the lakebed at night.
This F-350 Super Duty needs a complementary stepladder with the 43-inch rubbers underneath.
Sage advice was pasted across the cowl of this Land Rover Defender, and the folks who ride inside appear to adhere to the message—with plenty of off-road lighting, recovery tools, and camping gear.
From the front, this Tacoma might not look too far from stock, but in the back, it hides the high-clearance, high-preparedness, high-flexing goodness that’s required for a week at the Hammers.
The clean paint and bulging bedsides of this ’79 F-150 were a welcome distraction from the race rigs parading around Hammertown.
The solid axles and coilover springs under this Chevy Colorado allowed the 44-inch Pit Bull Rockers to make their way over the rocks above Hammertown. Other surprises include a 6.0L Vortec engine, 4L80 transmission, and an Advance Adapters Atlas transfer case.
We heard a diesel rumbling underneath this old solid-axle Hilux with floaty, wide tires.