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The South Dakota Challenge

Front Passenger Side View
Verne Simons
| Senior Editor, Jp
Posted January 1, 2002

’Wheel With a View

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  • Rock rash is common on these trails. Many of them require two lockers to help participants scramble up and over obstacles. The rocks in South Dakota are big, and they tend to stay in packs, so if you are afraid of scratches you’d better stay on the easy trails.

  • If you feel like you’ve seen this Jeep somewhere before, check the cover of the January ’01 issue. Mike Knorr won best-engineered Jeep at the Challenge with his huge orange CJ-7.

  • On one 5+ trail known as Hal John’s we ran into this ’53 CJ-3B which was sporting a Buick V-6, and two Dana 44s. The front Dana 44 is originally from a Dodge 1/2-ton. This axle was narrowed about 5 inches on the long side, which allows the use of a stock Wagoneer inner-long axleshaft. Good idea.

  • This is one of the cleanest CJs we have seen on the trail in a while. Of course the owner, Pat Helgeson, is a welder by trade, and that doesn’t hurt when building a Jeep. Some of Pat’s tricks include tubbing the rear wheelwells and docking the front fenders. This allows those huge tires to tuck when the big Jeep is at full flex.

  • TJs were out in abundance on the Upper Buzzworm trail. Add some lockers and a set of 33s, and you too can play on the rocks.

  • Raspberry Ridge is one of the 3+ trails that allow you to focus on the amazing scenery instead of the trail, but don’t worry, there are a few obstacles you can try if you are feeling adventurous.

  • This white YJ traveled all the way from California to play in the Dakota Challenge. We bet it was one hell of a sleeper with those 9-inch axles underneath.

  • We would bet that the two trails, T-Back and Bikini were created by someone who rolled a big rock down the mountainside, and then decided to drive the same route back up to the top of the mountain. They are steep, rocky, and involve lots of winching and staring into the sky. The meek and those not wearing underwear need not bother with these two trails.

With the beautiful backdrops of Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills of South Dakota offer many pleasures to the outdoor enthusiast, and we the Jeep owners of the world are no exception. Every year over Labor Day weekend the Black Hills 4-Wheelers put on an event called the Dakota Challenge. The Challenge is an invitation for off-roaders from around the country to check out some of the trails that wind throughout the Black Hills. There are Jeeps in just about every imaginable configuration from bone stock Tuxedo Parks to full-on rock buggies that regularly compete in rockcrawling championships. There are trails to test every driver’s ability ranging from 5+ rocky riverbeds to calming rides through the scenic woods. To get info about this year’s event Check out the Black Hills 4-Wheelers Web site at, fire an e-mail to, send snail mail to P.O. Box 1354 Rapid City, SD 57709, or call Scott Wrigglesworth, the ’02 Challenge Director, at 605/393-8787.