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Fun, Fun, Fun

Front Driver Side View
Verne Simons
| Senior Editor, Jp
Posted March 1, 2001
Photographers: John Cappa

In the Desert

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  • There were a few XJs on hand at this year’s event. We saw this one on Sledgehammer doing its thing in style. These little Jeeps are proving their versatility all over the country, as well as showing the creativity of their owners. Can you imagine running the Hammer trails and then running errands?

  • The sweet whine of a built and supercharged 302 were heard coming from Dan Trudo’s YJ when the go pedal was pushed to the floor.

  • Jeep 401 is unfortunately not a fun college class, but it is the license plate tucked under the spare on Larry Long’s bright red ’79 CJ-7. A 401ci V-8 turns Bronco gears in a Dana 20 en route to the 44 front and 60 rear. The rollbar has been converted for duty as an air tank in case the BFGs on Champion bead locks look a bit low. The best part is Larry did almost all of the work himself, right down to that nice red paint.

  • Ouch! That nasty sound of cast iron on the rocks was heard more than once. We came across this clean looking YJ on Wrecking Ball. The full-floating axles and BFG All-Terrains lifted it off of these rocks and on down the trail. Lockers and big axles are the norm on such extreme rock trails.

  • Randy Stockberger showed up from Riverside, California, to show what a 4.0L ’85 CJ-7 was capable of. His Dana 300 kept things rolling, while the hot sun made us wish we had an onboard shower system like his does. Again we see strong iron in the form of a reversed shackle Dana 44 up front and a Dana 60 stuffed between the rear tires.

  • We came across this YJ equipped with more interesting ideas than we’ve seen in a while. You can’t see it, but there is what looks like a former security camera mounted to the passenger side of this Jeep, as well as knuckle-mounted mini driving lights. That’s right—they point where you steer. The chrome grille and bumper were so bright that we stood there a few extra minutes to even out our suntan.

  • Warn coilover conversions seem to be a hot setup for the YJ crowd. Don McDonald’s ’90 Wrangler used its Black Diamond kit to the full extent of its possibilities when creeping over these rocks. A homemade air system and an Atlas II transfer case with a 4.3:1 low range help this YJ out on the trail.

  • Jeeps on rock trails are like peanut butter on jelly. We saw damn near everything that can be called a Jeep creeping up these trails, doing their heritage proud.

  • A spring-over combined with 1-inch lift springs allows Brian Cerjak to flex his ’84 CJ-7 over the big boulders on Wrecking Ball. An auto tranny, which is attached to a slightly built 258 straight-six, keep the locked Dana 30 front and Dana 44 rear moving over the rocks and dirt found in Johnson Valley.

  • Jim Castro from Huntington Beach, California, brought out his ’92 YJ play toy. This Jeep also sports a Warn coilover kit with a few other subtle yet effective changes, which make the rocks seem a bit smaller under his Wrangler.

  • We spotted this flexy flattie complete with olive drab paint and some comfy seats (out of what we guess to be a Ford Ranger) on Sledgehammer.

The phrase “Fun in the Desert” brings to mind many images. If you’re not good with English grammar, or you haven’t eaten in a while, you are probably thinking of fun in the dessert bar at your local all-you-can-eat restaurant. Mmm...soft-serve ice cream and canned banana pudding. But if you’ve been to Johnson Valley, California, in October for the Victor Valley Four Wheelers’ annual bash then you have a good idea of what fun there is to be had in dry barren wastelands.

Sledgehammer, Jackhammer, Clawhammer, Wrecking Ball, and The Outer Limits are just a few of the superstar rock trails where you’ll test your rig, your nerves, and your sanity. If that isn’t enough there are always the dunes, old bomb craters to creep around in—and for those with their hearts in Las Vegas— there is always the raffle where you may get lucky enough to pick up some parts to replace the ones you broke on the trails. Still bored? Check out the Masters Course, where if you can’t break your stuff and have a good time doing it, then you’re doing something wrong. To inspire you for this year’s run, take a look at what happened last year as we followed some trails around Means Dry Lake to see what our fellow Jeepers were up to. If you want in on the action, check out the Victor Valley Four Wheelers Web site at, or call Maria Castellano at 760/949-2724, or Bob Gilpatrick at 760/951-8787.