It's been said that unstuck wheelers are all alike, and every stuck wheeler is stuck in his own way. And nothing proves the point better than the plights of the 20 unfortunate souls profiled here. And while we can't do anything about their hydrolocked engines, their busted axles, their bent sheetmetal and ugly wrecker's bills, we do feel their pain. So everyone featured in this month's issue gets a complimentary box of Four Wheeler swag for his efforts. And one lucky (sort of, we guess) winner takes our Grand Stuck Prize this month, a Warn 9.5ti winch.
If you didn't win this time, don't despair. A few months from now, we'll be doing it all over again, with another Worst Stuck contest later in the year. We'll be giving away a $2,000 gift certificate from 4Wheel Parts Wholesalers then, so if you want a chance to win, check out the contest rules on page 53, then send in your entries.
Whether rollin' in the States or abroad with Sam's wheelers, northern California resident Ryan Zimmerman knows his way around a Worst Stuck. Ryan's '86 Toyota, pictured here, got a little hoppy on a dozer-bermed mountain trail, took a dip on its side, and was pulled back up by a buddy, proving the merits of tie-down straps as well as a winch. Halfway around the world in South Korea, tank pilot Ryan found himself in a simulated battle, and learned firsthand why "tanks don't go where cattails grow." It eventually took an M88 Hercules to pull out the Abrams. For his great photos (high-rez: hint, hint), a winning attitude, and for his service to America, we're proud to send Ryan our Grand Prize: a Warn 9.5ti winch.
William Sanchez, hometown unknown, in his own words: "Well, the water level was only to the tires when I attempted to cross and forgot to lock the hubs. Got stuck, and then it started to rain just south of us really hard, and the little wash got a bit more water. It took four Jeeps with winches to pull me out once the water level came down. Needs new interior, bumpers, and gauges."
William Billman of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, was out on a winter trail ride in the West Virginia mountains, when he and his posse came across some iced-over mudholes. The first one was traversed without incident, but when attempting to cross the next one, Bill soon learned that a Cherokee XJ does a poor imitation of a Mackinaw ice-breaker. Recovery of the body-deep Jeep took some 30 minutes, with the CJ in the background providing winching duty.
We always like it when Friends of Stuck Wheelers submit photos of their buddies' misfortunes, and Rob Hottes sent this one our way. Rob's pal Glen Vellely, whose rig is shown here mired in forest muck, runs an '80 Chevy with a built 350, 44-inch Gumbos, and has "waded across streams and plowed through cornfields" with it. This time, however, nature won out, and Rob and Glen quickly realized the benefits of a winch when wheeling the forests of their native Connecticut.
Paul Teigrob of Bellingham, Washington, was out for a leisurely day of trail-riding with friends at Walker Valley ORV Park when his 4Runner got a little too sideways while attempting to power through some ruts. The Toyota went onto its side, required three guys to flip it back on its 38-inch Boggers, and had to be winched out to keep going. "Since that day I've come to realize the importance of tying down everything hard and heavy inside the vehicle," Paul says, and we couldn't agree more.
Hailing from deep in the Everglades, Kenneth "Hershey" Morgan really knows how to get stuck big-time, noting that he's needed to be yanked out of the Florida gumbo by a hovercraft, among other rigs. On the occasion pictured here, Hershey and buddies were out exploring the infamous Compound outside of Palm Bay when they came upon some sweet-looking mud. The '88 Toyota running a 3-inch body lift and 35 Maxxises dove in ... and while there's no "before" photo here, the "after" photo lets you know, as Hershey admits, "it was deeper than it looked."
Judging by the landscape, it's a long way from Gator country to wherever Joe Stubbs lives, but a true Worst Stuck favors no particular terrain. As Joe explains it, he was attempting to pass another vehicle on an icy highway when he lost control of his Ford, and "I ended up about 100 feet off the road and 10 feet below it. It took 100 feet of tow strap and two trucks working all day to get me out." We don't suppose there's any correlation between this stuck and Joe's admission that he was driving home from a New Year's Eve party. Nah, we didn't think so, either.
Currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Florida resident Jeremy Carlock relates a Chain-Reaction Worst Stuck that happened to him and his buddies. A friend's Toyota pickup got mired down in the clay pit seen here; Jeremy drove in his CJ to winch out the Toy, and "as soon as I saw water bubbling up [from the soil], I knew I was in trouble." Over the next six hours in a pouring rain, a Chevy 1500 and a Ford F-250 came to the aid with winches. The result? Four stuck rigs. After yet more digging and winching, Jeremy finally managed to free his Jeep, but not before busting both front axleshafts (35-spline Yukons, no less) and a transfer-case coupler shaft.
Robert Allen proves again the wisdom of having a winch when you're going four-wheeling. Robert went out one chilly day for "a short little drive" before coming to rest in this sludgehole. He first sought out the aid of a tractor, to no avail. Later, his wife's S-10 was enlisted, during which "the tow hook broke, sending the chain up over the top of my Blazer." (Hmm, sounds like someone needs a remedial course in Extraction 101.) Eventually, a winch-equipped Duramax Chevy yanked Robert out from the mushy mud near his home in Prineville, Oregon. "Needless to say, it was a day I'll never forget."
From the Great White North comes Jason Beaucaire's entry, shot after traversing the muddy depths at Larose Forest in eastern Ontario. According to Jason, he got his bumper hung up on some debris in a grille-deep mudhole, then backed up and drove out on his own. He readily admits it wasn't a genuine "worst stuck," but we think Jason deserves a little swag for his efforts anyway. Heck, how many Explorer owners will go to the trouble of (a) lifting their vehicle 7 inches to fit 35s, and (b) subjecting their nice-looking rigs to a mud bath?
Self-proclaimed "Kentucky boy" Ethan Baker was out with a couple of buddies for a day of wheeling around Borden, Indiana. The party came upon this mudhole that "wasn't too deep," in Ethan's words, but in a matter of minutes, the Grand Cherokee was "sucked up to the axles." After three hours, a Warn M8000, a Warn M12000, and a busted tow strap, Ethan's ride was extracted backwards from the swampy Hoosier goo, "6 inches at a time."
Yet another example of an "after" photo that tells you everything you need to know. In the case of Eric LaFaucia of Jacksonville, Florida, it happened at the end of a day of muddin', when Eric and friends decided to tackle "one more hole" before heading home. "I had no idea how deep this hole was or what was on the other side," Eric admits, and sure enough, four-wheel hilarity ensued. Luckily, there were other rigs in Eric's group around to yank him out, though whether any of his buddies offered to help him clean up afterwards, we couldn't say.
We can certainly vouch for that, and so can David Bettencourt of Merced, California. It all started when David's amigo stuck his F-150 in a pond located on David's 8-acre parcel. (Some guys have all the luck.) David came to the rescue and yanked out the Ford with his Baja-Clawed '79 Chevy, only to slide into the pond while attempting to maneuver around the F-150. Its engine soon died, and lacking a winch, the K1500 sat in the pond for three straight days before being hauled out by a neighbor's Toyota. "It took 32 quarts to flush the tranny, along with flushing the engine, axles, and transfer case," David notes, and nowadays he steers clear of the pond.
The photo doesn't do this Stuck justice, but suffice to say, experience can be a persuasive teacher, and courtesy of Jason Clow, owner of a '93 Grand Cherokee running 31s on a 3-inch lift, a few tips for would-be rockers:
1. Do not go rockcrawling alone, especially if you've never done it before.
2. Do not immediately go looking for "the biggest baddest rocks" you can find, especially if you've never ... uh, yeah.
3. When help arrives, it's a good idea to have tow hooks on your vehicle. Or know where they are if you have them.
4. If you don't, use something besides the sway bar to hook up the tow strap.
5. Have fresh batteries in your camera so it won't die while you're documenting the rescue at Lemmon Valley, near Reno, Nevada.
It doesn't look all that bad, but Chad Ellis' Worst Stuck was certainly a memorable (and costly) one. While wheeling the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, Chad came across a water hole that some "Jeep guys" had been playing in. Assured by locals that his near-stock Toyota would handle it easily, Chad hit the wet stuff at 20 mph, and ... an hour later, he was back on dry land, with the following casualty list to his credit: trashed front valance, grille, ECU, and air intake, and newly sprung leaks in the timing cover and exhaust manifold. "Now I know why I need a winch and snorkel," he rues. We'd add a lighter skinny-foot next time, too.
This shot reminded us of a Typical Day in the Office-at least when the office is at Top Truck Challenge in Hollister Hills-and we weren't too far off the mark, thanks to Brent Wade, who sent his stuck photo from the Jungle Trail, indeed located at Hollister. Napa resident Brent was wheeling the Jungle hollows, when he slid his Bogger-shod Samurai into this nasty deep rut, and it took two 4Runners running 39s and Warns to yank him out-sideways. As you might expect, the list of carnage included trashed passenger-side sheetmetal, two blown beads, and cracked leaf springs. Now, doesn't that really make you wanna compete at TTC?
Question: How do you get unstuck when your recovery rig gets bogged down? That's what a reader known only as "Budlight" answered for us after sticking this M88 Hercules (approximate weight: 110,000 pounds) in this swampy morass somewhere in Iraq. (And we thought they only had sand out there.) According to Bud, it took two more M88s and "several Humvees" to retrieve the Herc from its watery grave. Total extraction time? Thirty-two hours. "The worst 32 hours of my life," Bud confesses. We don't doubt that a bit, but we salute your service to America all the same.
Yep, this pic looks a lot like the last one, and as Thad Nunez also hails from Vidor, Texas, we'd wager the photos were taken by the same camera. Anyway, Thad was out wheeling his 460-powered Bronco in the Dixie Pipeline one day when he encountered a "bottomless sinkhole" of mud. The Bronco quickly bogged down, so much so that "you couldn't see my 44-inch Boggers." It took three trucks hooked together to retrieve Thad's ride, which turned out to be hung up on a petrified tree stump. Thad's day of fun wasn't over, however-later in the day, he was rear-ended by a Chevy. Some guys really have all the luck. FW
Oklahoma City resident Steve Thomas strolls down memory lane with this pic, a dual Worst Stuck from 1991. Steve and (unnamed) friend, both being "young and dumb," went wheeling at the Canadian River near Norman with no winches, no Hi-Lift, nada. His buddy's Pathfinder was the first to get stuck, then Steve's 4Runner got buried as he tried to yank out the Nissan with a chain. ("I thought lockers were something you put your books in at school," he notes.) An hour's walk-out later, a John Deere driver was enlisted for extraction, and even with water-fouled diffs and wheel bearings, a drowned ECU, and a $125 wrecker bill, Steve still calls it "a great way to spend an afternoon."
Donnie Moran of Vidor, Texas, was wheeling his '86 F-150 on a "normal trail that I normally do" when he spotted a deep mudhole. Averting certain disaster, he instead took a bypass ... and the 38-inch Swampers dug straight through to the axles. Donnie "had the gas pedal to the floor so far, it felt like I could feel the clutch fan trimming my toenails," but in the end, the Ford was rendered immobile, and Donnie had to wait "a long time" to meet someone who could pull him out. Moral to the story? Don't wheel solo, and don't skimp on nail clippers.