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December 2012 Firing Order Editorial

Posted in Features on November 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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You have seen your last tube buggy in Four Wheeler’s Top Truck Challenge. You don’t need to tell me, I get it that the buggies have been a big part of the progression of the industry for the past 10 to 12 years. I have followed the TTC competitions since day one. I just think the buggies have kind of peaked out and it’s time for a change. Besides, I don’t think the buggies that compete are all that different anymore anyway. I loved the diversity of Top Truck Challenge in the early years, it brought together different people from all over North America with interesting and often kooky ideas of what worked and what didn’t. The 4x4s were generally built for very specific wheeling spots where these guys and girls frequented. Today, most of the buggies are fundamentally the same. Oh sure, some are more home-built than others, a few may sit a little lower, they are painted different colors, and they often have different tires. But to the general spectator they all look like a pile of tubes with monster tires. To move the event forward I think they need to look more complete. They need to look like something that most people can relate to.

We were fortunate that we had a pretty good variety of 4x4s for the 2012 Top Truck Champions’ Challenge, which you can read about elsewhere in this issue. These vehicles included a paddle-tire-shod Suzuki Samurai, a $100,000-plus custom buggy, several budget-built rigs, and a professional desert race car, among other 4x4s. I want to bring diversity back to the event. So for Top Truck Challenge 2013 we have some vehicle rule additions planned. The most notable change will be no tube buggies. I’m sure that will irritate more than a few people, but the fact of the matter is that most buggy owners don’t read Four Wheeler throughout the year. You buggy guys can go ahead and fire up the hate-mail machine, but keep in mind that the operative word in the previous sentence is “most.” The idea is to bring the event back to the majority of the readers. Don’t worry; we’re not going all limp-wristed with a Real Truck Challenge rehash. Nooo, not by a long shot. The event will still be the same premier enthusiast competition it has been for the last 20 years. So here are the basic rules.

There won’t be any more full-tube buggies or incomplete-looking, back-halved 4x4s in Top Truck Challenge. The idea is that the 4x4s need look more finished and real world. That’s not to say they can’t have whiz-bang technology oozing from under the body panels. Heck, a full tube chassis is still legal if that’s what you choose to build. But it has to have production-style body parts, headlights, and so on. No sticker headlights or empty grille shells will be permitted. Tossing a grille and hood on your tube buggy ain’t good enough, either. The competing vehicles need to look like a production 4x4 that people can relate to in the front and rear. On pickup trucks, fiberglass production-like bedsides are fine and so is a custom or aftermarket flatbed. The vehicles can also be narrowed, dovetailed, and bobbed. A firewall between the engine and passengers (either factory or custom) is mandatory. You can mix and match frame and body brands as well. Anyone with a tube-chassis buggy who still wants to enter will have to step up their game by working harder to make the rig legal.

The tires have to be DOT-compliant. No agricultural tires allowed. Tire brand and size are still unlimited. They can be grooved or modified however you like, but just as with the old rules, bolts, screws, chains, tracks, and so on are not permitted.

The event difficulty will be adjusted accordingly to meet the new rules. But don’t misread that and think the competition will be easy. Some of the events will probably remain unchanged and just as difficult as they are now.

A mass of misinformation blew around online like a dust devil full of used toilet paper when rumors started swirling that we were making TTC rule changes. A few people had even complained about the changes before fully understanding what they entailed. Several of them missed the point entirely because they were so wrapped up in the change itself. There are many owners of very capable 4x4s on big tires who simply refuse to compete against a buggy. Those are the guys I want to bring back into Top Truck. You shouldn’t have to have 54-inch tires or a high-horse engine to win every TTC event. I think some of the Top Truck obstacles should be designed so a smaller, more nimble 4x4 has an advantage over a monster truck and vice versa.

I believe these changes will push Top Truck and even the 4x4 industry further. Think about it, if NASCAR race vehicles didn’t have somewhat recognizable body panels, do you think the series would be as popular as it is today? How about monster trucks? Would they be as fun to watch if they didn’t have truck bodies on them?

Ultimately, how much more extreme could the Top Truck vehicles get before the average Four Wheeler reader was no longer interested? In some aspects, I think we have already passed that point. I’m looking forward to the changes and seeing more full-bodied SUVs and trucks enter TTC. These are the people that make Four Wheeler and Top Truck Challenge possible. Oh, and if you want to enter, don’t forget to fill out and send in the 2013 TTC entry form you can find elsewhere in this issue! Heck, if I get my way, maybe you’ll even have an opportunity to compete against me next year.

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