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2007 Top Truck Challenge Memories - Limited Articulation

Posted in Features on December 1, 2007
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As December dawns, it's time once again for our coverage of Top Truck Challenge, our fabled reader bash-a-thon we hold each summer at Hollister Hills in central California. Every year at TTC leaves behind its fair share of lasting impressions and lessons learned. Here are a few from TTC XV:

Most Prevalent Trend: Our competitors are building them bigger, and bigger, and bigger yet. Dana 60s used to be pretty much standard issue for TTC, but only two rigs out of 10 this year ran anything lighter-duty than 2 1/2-ton military axles at both ends. The smallest tire on any competitor this year was a 46-inch Claw. And this year we had three rigs running heavy tractor and implement tires, which we think is a record too. And if you'd have asked us if Phil's 10,000-pound Chevy truck on 54s would ever get through the Tank Trap, we'd have said you were crazy. But guess what? It happened.

Best Religious Experience: Every year, someone shows up at Hollister with a vehicle that simply defies description, and (alternate) Clayton's Warthog was the exemplar this year. Now, in all my years attending TTC, I've seen some masterpieces of engineering, but this thing is simply not of this earth. I mean, I couldn't even conceive of a rig like his, let alone sketch it out. Think "Scorpion on Steroids," and you'll get the idea. Real nice fella, too. With any luck (and enough of your votes), we'll welcome him back next year-as a competitor.

Most Pleasant Surprise: For a coil/link suspension, Ron's tubed-up Bronco was about as low-tech as you can go, with a low-buck chain-and-slider arrangement in lieu of multiple Heim-jointed pivot points. While we'd guess it certainly works great on ordinary trail rides, there's no way such a setup could possibly survive events such as the Twister, the Trap, and the Mini-'Con. At least that's what we told ourselves, experts that we are ... and yet this year, as so often happens at TTC, the experts were proven wrong. Again.

Scariest Non-Scary Moment: When we took a close look at Wesley's Kaiser with the articulating chassis. What scared us wasn't the chassis, but the weight of his tractor-tired, military-axled 1 1/2-ton truck with its oh-so-skinny roof pillars and paper-thin hardtop. Wesley and his codriver brought helmets along, and wore them throughout the week, but we were understandably fearful of a rollover with this rig. Fortunately, our fears were never realized, but it forced us to rethink our requirements for the future, and starting next year, everyone's gotta have a full rollcage to compete at TTC from now on.

Funniest Non-Funny Moment: The hour I spent with one of the directors of the State OHV Parks Division in Sacramento, who was lecturing me at length about (among other things) the importance of noise abatement in the park. Just the perfect time for the guy with the 900hp Merlin race engine to come motoring right past us. Ah well-like they say, it's good to be the boss ... and some days, yep, are better than others.

Saddest Postscript: A year ago, we had the pleasure to meet a wheeler from Fresno named Dozer Chadbourne, who attended TTC '06 as an alternate. He didn't get a chance to compete, but he was happy to volunteer his time and energy again this year, helping our judges to yank stuck vehicles out of the Trap with his big red dino-buggy, lending out tools to competitors, and helping them out with late-night camp fixes. He had a generous nature, a wry sense of humor, and he was a big-hearted fella all around. Sadly, that big heart stopped beating for him last August 11, and Dozer passed away at the age of 45. We will all miss him terribly.
-Douglas McColloch

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