Our Playgrounds - Where The Editors Have Fun - Ocotillo WellsPosted in Features on August 12, 2013
Some people say we have the best job in the world, just wheeling and wrenching while getting paid for it. While it sure beats digging ditches, it is still work; we have to keep copious notes, usually do all our own photography, write about the stuff we do, and schedule ourselves out of any free time. Wheeling just for fun instead of for a purpose is rare, so we jump at any chance we have for that. When BFGoodrich Tire came along with an idea of showing what editors do off the clock for BFG’s promotional video, we jumped at the chance. The concept was explaining what editors do for fun—but what they didn’t know was wheeling for work and fun is one and the same!
One of my favorite places to wheel over the last 30 years is in SoCal by the Salton Sea. In the Ocotillo Wells State Recreational Vehicle Area are hundreds of acres of trails, dunes, rocks, dirt, and what we call notchos (deep, dry, dissected ravines) just waiting to be wheeled. While some parts of the park are wide open, others require you to stay on trails to protect the area, which we have been doing forever. We have featured the Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari for many years (most recently in “Desert Sun & Fun,” July ’13), which is held at this incredible location. While I love trails like the Rubicon and muddy trails in the east as well as wheeling all over the world, the dirt down south just makes me smile, and I can truly call it my playground.
For video of us driving in the dirt, as well as the whole Playgrounds scenario, check out www.offroadplaygrounds.com for the rest of the story.
Prepping for Wheeling and Filming
While I have a few 4x4s I to choose from for wheeling, for sideways driving in the dirt I like to take my M38-A1, which I built for the 2001 Ultimate Adventure. The body is well worn everywhere it is not protected by armor. With Poison Spyder front fenders and rockers it is easy to dump it on its side and keep driving. The Ramjet 350 fuel injection keeps running, and the SM420 tranny doesn’t aerate the fluid like an auto will. It also is equipped with Currie Dana 60 axles and ARBs, and of course a Warn 8274 winch. For this excursion I needed new tires and wheels, so I selected one of my favorite combos: 39x13.50R17 BFGoodrich Krawlers on Mickey Thompson Classic III wheels with OMF beadlocks.
The BFGoodrich Krawler
I started testing the BFGoodrich Krawler back in the early days of the Ultimate Adventure, in 2002. I had prototype tires since BFGoodrich sponsored the UA that year and used my trip as a test bed of sorts for further tire development. My original set on the Jeep was from that era, and while they were perfectly good and usable, I wanted to step up a size from 37s to 39s for more capability. My early version Krawlers even had a bit different tread pattern than the new offerings, although only a well-trained eye could spot the change.
We mounted the new tires inmy front driveway on the OMF converted Mickey Thompson rims and didn’t even bother to balance them. A 500-mile road trip to break them in at speeds past legal proved the roundness and quality of the combo, without any hop or vibration. Considering that the last set lasted a decade, I may be wheeling on these into the 2020s!
Mickey Thompson Classic Wheels
One of my all-time favorite wheels was the popular Classic II by Mickey Thompson. Recently MT upgraded its wheel line to the Classic III, which features the same durable construction but styled with larger hand holes in either black or polished finish. I chose the black style to go with my military-themed Jeep and so that the bright aluminum OMF beadlock rings would stand out against the satin wheel finish.
The Classic III is available in 15-, 16-, and 17-inch sizes (even for trailers!), and I went with the 17x9 to fit my BFGoodrich Krawlers. The 2,500-pound load rating is fine for this rig with the 5-on-51⁄2 bolt pattern, while the eight-lug version features a 3,500-pound rating.
These wheels are strong, durable, and good-looking, so I sent them to OMF for beadlock conversions. My biggest concern was the 41⁄2 backspacing, which limited the turning radius a bit when coupled with the taller tires, since the Jeep was designed for 37-inch Krawlers with wheels backspaced 31⁄2 inches. The lost steering angle wasn’t as critical as the fender rubbage, both minor issues that I’ll take care of eventually!
Beadlocked OMF Wheels
I first learned of OMF wheels over 15 years ago when a beadlock conversion was fairly uncommon. OMF had been doing it long before the current crop of rockcrawlers and low-pressure fanatics, and I had used them successfully in the past. When this chance came up for testing some big Krawlers I knew I wanted the quality of OMF under my rig and inside the tires.
OMF offers just about any wheel available as a conversion and even has its own in-house styles. Each one is precision made in a state-of-the-art shop in Riverside, California, where every step of the build is meticulously checked and performed. The special attention to the tire variation in bead bundle thickness is evident, as the wheels mounted up to the tires without any shims or jacking around. The special gription knurls around the bead seat area also help to keep the tire firmly in place and not leaking, and they come with all needed hardware and of course clear instructions.