Land Rovers Compete In Colorado For A New Title
Let me say for the record that I have always been a Toyota man. However, after the demise of my Land Cruiser daily driver, I found myself behind the wheel of a Land Rover.
My buddy said it was all over. He said that they, meaning the Land Cruiser hoard, would soon find me out, as if I had crossed over to the land of the soccer mom. But as I began to break in my Rover, I was continuously impressed.
In an attempt to see what I had gotten myself into, I blasted off to the annual Land Rover Twist-Off in beautiful Fruita, Colorado. Fruita is located just east of Grand Junction and sits under Independence Rock and the gate of the Colorado National Monument.
This year's Twist-Off was organized by Bill and Rachel Burke of 4 Wheeling America. Bill Burke of Camel Trophy fame is an internationally recognized trainer who teaches backcountry driving techniques in his rather spacious backyard playground, which stretches across western Colorado and Utah.
The idea for the Twist-Off grew out of the camaraderie of a group of Defender 90 owners who had met over the years at different events. To keep in touch, they began an Internet chat group called the D90 List. Heated debate concerning suspension modifications gave rise to a venue in which the question could be settled: just who had the most capable truck. Thus, the Twist-Off was born.
Potential entrants applied this year over the Internet and were chosen by popular vote. Originally, there were to be five Defender 90s and one Series II Discovery. The trucks and drivers came from across the country. The drivers consisted of Justin Dermody from Colorado in his Discovery II, Carey Steiner from California, Ed Magoffin from Colorado, Doug Marbourg from New Mexico, Bill Ritchie from Texas, and Mike Smith from Maine, all in D90s.
Unfortunately, Justin Dermody could not make it in time for the event due to a personal emergency. We were all disappointed at Justin's absence because he had been touting the abilities of his truck, and deep down we were all hoping for some Disco II carnage
With one slot open, K.C. Carpenter stepped up to the challenge with his green D90, despite the fact that it was running stock open diffs and 33-inch tires. As word spread, no one thought he had a chance. Even Bill Burke told him not to push too hard and risk his truck.
Everybody is used to seeing CJs, Broncos, FJs, and even pickups with lifts and huge tires. When one thinks of Land Rovers and their legacy across the globe, one thinks of ragged, bone-stock trucks taking constant abuse, performing day in and day out without complaint. Here at the Twist-Off, the general attire was 35-plus sneakers, winches, Hi-Lifts, ARBs, and the like.
Early Saturday morning, the event began. At 8:30 a.m., Bill gathered the contestants and laid down the rules; no hitting below the bumper and all that.
Each driver was first required to explain his or her vehicle in the engineering competition. Contestants walked around their trucks and explained the various modifications and how they worked. In this category, Mike Smith of East Coast Rovers and his yellow and blue D90 came out on top.
From the heavily modified Safari Guard suspension to the 30-spline rear axle, to the engine driven compressor, there was no question who had built the gnarliest rig.
Next was the ramp. The D90s lined up and prepared to roll on up. The D90s performed remarkably. Entrants were judged on approach and departure angles, and forward as well as reverse ramping. Watching a ramp being tackled, one can see the importance of axle articulation. After five Defenders had climbed the ramp, Doug Marbourg in his red D90 was the one to take the prize.
The off-road portion of the event was held about 20 minutes outside of town. Although I have been to this part of the country before, I am always unprepared for the grand scale of the landscape.
We drove up into a canyon, snaking past motorbike tracks and Jeep trails. This was four-wheel heaven. Further up the canyon, we parked off the trail next to a long wash. Behind us was a long caravan of Rovers trying to nudge their way off the single track to find a place to watch the Defenders run the wash.