You rockcrawlers don't know the meaning of the word "stuck." We're sorry, but high-centering your axle on an obstacle and waiting for a spotter to stack a few rocks just doesn't count. To get a 4x4 really stuck requires mud! Haven't you ever noticed that almost all of the photos in our Whoops! section involve the gooey black stuff? Shouldn't that tell you something? We're not saying that rockcrawling is easy, but you have to admit that people can still physically walk over a rock trail. When you're dealing with mud, it's up to the vehicle to take you through stuff that nobody can walk across. So while the rest of Southern California was out at this year's RCCA finals in Johnson Valley, we headed up to Angeles National Forest to spend a day with the Azusa Canyon Off-Road Association (ACORA) and learn what the Southern California mud scene was all about. If you're in Southern California and want to see Swampers, Boggers, and Ground Hawgs used as they were intended, check out ACORA's Web site at www.acorausa.com. And don't be surprised if you end up trading your 4:1 transfer case for a healthy big-block.
We're not sure why a mud truck needs a camo paint job. We bet you could paint your rig Day-Glo orange and it would still disappear after a few passes through the Azusa bog.
Randy Swartz's "Thing-Mobile" must horrify the California Highway Patrol when he drives it on the street. The body and engine have been moved 12 inches back for better weight distribution, the bed has been completely removed, and the license plates read "RN U OVR." Randy figures the 468/SM465/NP205/Dana 60/14-bolt-equipped truck tips the scales at around 4,800 pounds, which means that even with 44-inch Boggers, this truck is lighter than a stock K-5 Blazer.
Mud trucks can be full of surprises. We were floored when we heard that Tony Lopez also uses this '78 F-250 to pull his 22-foot house trailer! A built 400 replaced the 351M ("big improvement," says Tony) and sends power out through the NP435/NP205 combo to a Dana 60 front and 14-bolt rear axle. In the past Tony ran 4.88 gears to leverage his 40-inch Ground Hawgs, but he has recently switched to 4.56s so he doesn't have to spin the motor so fast.
When the locals get stuck, "PTO Dave" Hazel lumbers in with his '72 Ford F-250 to save the day. Even at just over 7,200 pounds, Dave's F-250 often needs to chain up to a couple of trucks to allow his 10,000-pound PTO winch to pull to its capacity. At any given time there can be a half dozen trucks stuck in the mud, so you get to see some interesting extractions.
These Toyota's looked like R/C cars in the field of fullsize mud monsters. What they lacked in brute force they sort of made up for with low weight, and they did all right as long as they stayed out of the deep end of the mud. We were psyched because for the first time ever we didn't see one Toyota Birfield or a broken CV joint!
Jeff Harris' mud-shark Cherokee dominated the Azusa mud thanks to 39-inch bead-locked Boggers and an AMC 360 that's hosed with nitrous. A sheetmetal diet meant the doors, tailgate, interior, grille, and most of the fenders hit the scrap pile to offset the additional weight of 1-ton GM axles. Jeff wasn't talking, but we think the reason his Jeep works so well is because there is so little weight over the front end. Heck, he's even ditched the front bumper and switched to an aluminum radiator.
You can always tell which rigs are from the ACORA club. Alvaro Neri's front and rear pintle hooks, 44-inch Boggers, and window-down driving style separate this Azusa local from the mud posers.
The longer you're stuck, the deeper you sink. Here's Robert Espinoza waiting helplessly while his buddies drove around his truck to taunt him for what must have felt like hours. Getting stuck at Azusa is just part of the deal, and half the fun of being an ACORA member is being able to rub it in when your friends get stuck and you don't.