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Four wheelers and the 2000 Kentucky Challenge - Be Afraid

Front Side View
Ken Brubaker
| Senior Editor, Four Wheeler
Posted May 1, 2000

The Sharp Sound of a Breaking Axleshaft Sounds Remarkably Like the Noise a Large Tree Limb Makes When It Cracks in Two.

Step By Step

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  • Traction is made especially difficult on the uneven terrain by the fact the dirt resembles talcum powder, offering little traction.

  • This beautiful, thickly forested lunch spot is typical of the terrain in and around the Daniel Boone Forest.

  • The weather had been quite dry prior to the Challenge, so most of the trails were dry and dusty. This didn’t make them any easier, however, and good articulation was as important as ever.

  • Troy Slaughter from Tampa made the trek to the Challenge with his ’91 YJ equipped with a 4:1 transfer case, a rear Detroit-equipped Ford 9-inch, 4.10:1 gears, Borla headers, Flowmaster 3-inch exhaust, and 35x16.5-inch Boggers. He wasn’t a bit put off by the hilly Kentucky terrain.

  • Eric Bright jockeys his ’87 YJ into position before turning the Wrangler’s 350ci engine loose to power up this hill. Bright’s YJ also benefits from dual 44s with ARBs and 3.54:1 gears. A Trailmaster 4-inch lift makes enough room for the 36-inch TSLs.

  • Dan Moore from Lawrenceville, Alabama, leads the way through a creek crossing. In the past, these creeks were used to transport oil from the numerous drilling rigs located all over the Kentucky hills.

  • Sonja Garrett successfully attacks the Attention Getter obstacle with her and husband Dale’s ’98 TJ Sahara. The TJ’s been beefed with functional goodies like the Turbo City TBI kit, Magnaflow exhaust, a K&N air filter, dual ARBs, a Currie tailshaft conversion, 4.56:1 gears, 35-inch Boggers, and a Warn 9,000-pound winch.

  • You can see the talcum-like dust hanging in the air as Troy Slaughter powers his ’91 YJ up an obstacle. There was a lot of wheels-up action throughout the weekend due to the naturally brutal terrain.

  • Steve Stimson from Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, used all the traction his 40-inch Boggers could muster while climbing the White Lightnin’ trail. Stimson beefed his 4.0L engine with a Borla header and Flowmaster exhaust, then went crazy on the drivetrain, adding Ford 9-inch diffs with a Detroit Locker in the rear and an ARB in the front, 5.43:1 gears, and rear disc brakes.

This wasn’t a limb, however, it was the third left-rear axleshaft to get toasted in succession on the exact same obstacle. Welcome to the Cliffs trail of the Kentucky Challenge. Bring extra axles.

The Fifth Annual Kentucky Challenge was headquartered at the Natural Bridge State Resort Park, about an hour east of Lexington, Kentucky, in the heart of the Daniel Boone Forest. The resort itself is spectacular, set in the thick woods, offering everything one would expect from a well-equipped resort, including topnotch rooms (discounted to Challenge participants) and fullservice camping nearby. Although the Challenge is headquartered on state property, 95 percent of all trails used are on private property that is generously offered by the landowners. These thousands of acres offer trails of all ratings, including six that are rated a 5 or under. Of course, if challenge is your middle name, three hard-core trails test your skills, offering off-camber, steep, slippery, and just plain ol’ gonzo obstacles to test your resolve.


The property that the Challenge is held on boasts some interesting historical tidbits, like the aptly named Lovers Leap, where, the story goes, a young couple whose love was denied jumped off a huge cliff to their deaths. We heard that story while we were at the cliff eating lunch. Yummy. Another area boasts a huge archeological find from the 1920s, when the remains of a number of Indians were found in a cave, buried in a sitting position. The father of one of the landowners helped excavate the site, and the remains are now in a Lexington museum. You can actually hike to the cave from the nearby trail. The area is thriving with wildlife and plants, quickly healing the wounds caused by extensive oil drilling in the area.


This was the fifth year of the Kentucky Challenge, and as usual, all meals on Friday and Saturday as well as Sunday breakfast were included in the registration. The food, which was super, was served buffet-style at the resort. At registration, in-depth info on the trail rides was available, including the opportunity to peruse photos of the trails and chat with the trail leaders (the Bluegrass Jeepers were guides). This ensured that everyone had a great time on the run of their choice by making sure they made an informed decision as to trail difficulty. Each trail ride includes three guides, and trails were rated from 4 to 9. Loads of prizes were given away at Saturday’s cookout, including a winch, a Hi-Lift jack, tires, consoles, CB radios, T-shirts, hats, and much more.

For more info, contact the Challenge Trail Ride Series, Dept. FW05, P.O. Box 4588, Winchester, KY 40392, 606/842-3606, e-mail


There were numerous C-clip axle failures at the Kentucky Challenge, and we saw some innovative ways to get these vehicles off the trail. Of course, in our travels we see this a lot, and we’re always amazed at the ingenuity of how folks deal with this problem when it rears its ugly head.

For those of you who may not be up on your axle tech, differentials such as the Dana 35C, Ford 8.8-inch, and GM Corporate 10- and 12-bolt rely on a small C-clip to retain the axle in the differential. The result is when an axle breaks, the axle and tire naturally want to back out of the housing.

Dan Moore from Lawrenceville, Georgia, showed us a simple low-buck way to rescue a broken Dana 35C by using a five-lug CJ wheel to freewheel on the broken side of the diff, thereby allowing the vehicle to be driven in two- or three-wheel drive off the trail.

Moore procured a CJ-5 spindle assembly, removed the rotor, and basically created a full-floater without the axle. He removed the 35C axle and backing plate, then measured and drilled out four mounting holes to match the factory 35C holes. The unit bolts over the flange instead of inside like a full-floater. It took Moore about two hours to complete the unit, most of which he spent getting the proper measurements and drilling the holes.

Obviously, this setup requires that someone in your group has a CJ and a spare, and that you’re on good terms with him or her.