April 2005 Limited Articulation Top Truck Challenge DetailsPosted in Features on April 1, 2005
It all began with a simple question: "Where can we go four wheeling with some of our readers?" So we asked ourselves 12 years ago, and the result, after much fine-tuning and gnashing of teeth, became known as Top Truck Challenge. It didn't take us long to figure out that readers would probably prefer to see other readers (rather than us) in the magazine, so we quickly decided to get out of the way and turn over the spotlight to those folks-namely, folks like you-who make this magazine possible each month. We weren't sure what kind of feedback our invitation would elicit, but we hoped there might be at least a few intrepid 'wheelers who'd be willing to show off their trucks (and maybe break a few parts) for the entertainment and enlightenment of our readers.
We were overwhelmed by the response we received. That first year, we received more than 1,000 applications, which took us weeks to sift down to some 70 rigs for readers to select from. And this year, as then, we were flooded with dozens of worthy applicants, which we've whittled down to 60 elite rigs from which to choose, starting on page 34.
The first TTC was fairly tame by current standards. The Tank Trap, for instance, was successfully traversed by every single competitor; nowadays, by contrast, maybe three or four rigs at most even manage to make it halfway through. We also had an event called the Stair Step, which was little more than a 10-degree concrete slab that competitors drove up and down, and a Tire Pit, which, while entertaining to watch, proved little challenge to skilled drivers. When the votes were tallied, the first-ever winner was a Chevy-powered CJ-7 with a 3-inch lift, Model 20 rearend (!) and 33x12.50 tires. Nowadays, a rig like that would have trouble just getting voted in, let alone competing.
Thanks to you also, the pantheon of TTC competitors has included some truly memorable characters. Some, like Tim Hardy (TTC '95), have become bonafide Trail Legends. Others, like Randy Ellis ('95) and Shannon Campbell ('96), went on to become successful 4x4 entrepreneurs and rock racers. Rick Pewe, the editor of our sister pub 4-Wheel & Off-Road, competed (and nearly won) at the inaugural event. And then there was Soni Honegger, who also competed at the first Top Truck in an 8,500-pound Dodge called the "War Wagon." While Soni struggled at TTC 1, he returned triumphantly in 1998 as a builder. His winning creation was a multilinked, tube-framed flex monster he called the "Scorpion"-a rig, it turned out, that revolutionized the sport of four wheeling.
While we always welcome colorful characters at TTC, a word of warning is in order: Hidden among this year's aspirants is a "ringer," who probably has no business being included since he's already promised to bite, pull hair, and cheat every which way if he's voted in. But wishing to start off the year in a spirit of bipartisanship, we decided to let you, dear readers, decide for yourselves whether you'd like to keep Top Truck Challenge the safe province of good sports everywhere-or play an April Fool's joke on us. It's your call. No matter how the vote comes out, we'll reveal your 10 finalists in the October issue.