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19 Years of Top Truck Challenge Winners

1984 Jeep Cj 7
Ken Brubaker
| Senior Editor, Four Wheeler
Posted February 1, 2012
Photographers: Four Wheeler Archives

We Are The Champions

The Four Wheeler Top Truck Champions’ Challenge (TTCC) is only a few months away and this means that past Top Truck Challenge Grand Champions will soon be converging en masse for this unprecedented event.

Let’s back up a minute. In case you’re not familiar with Top Truck, it’s an off-highway competition that we’ve been hosting since 1993. It’s held at the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area near Hollister, California, and it pits regular folks and their rigs against some of the most challenging off-highway events ever devised. Every discipline of wheeling is integrated into the competition and through the years we’ve tweaked the event to reflect the latest trends in wheeling.

In honor of Top Truck’s 20th Anniversary in 2012 we’re inviting all of the past Grand Champions to return to Hollister Hills for a battle royale. They can bring the rig they originally competed in or they can bring something else to TTCC, it’s up to them. As a special bonus, one lucky reader will be invited to go head-to-head with the past champions and you can read about that in the accompanying sidebar.

So who are these past champions? What year did they win? What did they drive? How were their rigs configured? Read on for the answers to these questions as well as other fascinating tidbits from the past 19 years of Top Truck Challenge.

1993: It begins
Grand Champion: Jim Piatt, Manchester, Washington
Vehicle: 1984 Jeep CJ-7

Piatt owned our inaugural event with six First Place finishes. Back then, the Tank Trap was called the Stream Bed, competitors slogged through the weird Tire Pit, and some events had no time limit. Competitors also included the legendary Soni Honegger as well as Rick Pewe, who is now the editor of 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine.

The Details
Engine: Chevy 350ci V-8, Holley Pro-Jection
Transmission: TH400
Transfer case: Dana 300
Axles (f/r): Dana 44, ARB Air Locker/AMC Model 20, ARB Air Locker
Suspension (f/r): Skyjacker 3½-in-lift leaf springs, Skyjacker shocks/Skyjacker 3½-in-lift leaf springs, Skyjacker shocks
Tires: 33-inch BFG Mud-Terrains

1994: Say hello to the Tow Test
Grand Champion: Anthony Fox, Bremerton, Washington
Vehicle: 1979 Jeep CJ-5

Fox and his CJ went up against a variety of rigs including an early Bronco, a 4Runner, a Scout, an M38, and a Scrambler 6x6. This was also the first year for the Tow Test, which consisted of pulling Soni Honegger’s “War Wagon” Ramcharger. Fox won the on-road and engineering segments of the competition, which contributed to his win.

The Details
Engine: AMC 304ci V-8, Ford 2-bbl carburetor
Transmission: BorgWarner T-18
Transfer case: Dana 20
Axles (f/r): Dana 44, Detroit Locker/Dana 44, Detroit Locker
Suspension (f/r): Rancho 2½-in-lift leaf springs, Rancho shocks/Rancho 2½-in-lift leaf springs, Rancho shocks
Tires: 33-inch Super Swamper TSLs

1995: Readers choose the competitors
Grand Champion: Randy Ellis, Gilbert, Arizona
Vehicle: 1980 Jeep CJ-5

Ellis’ CJ was the first-ever TTC rig to sport a multilink (three-link) suspension and he maxed out the RTI ramp and won the engineering portion of competition. This was the first year that readers chose the competitors for TTC and the first year for the on-road Ride ’n Drive segment of competition. It was also the year Tim Hardy competed while pulling a trailer with his Samurai and took Second Place.

The Details
Engine: Chevy 377ci V-8, Holley Pro-Jection
Transmission: TH350
Transfer case: Dana 300
Axles (f/r): Dana 44, ARB Air Locker/Dana 60, ARB Air Locker
Suspension (f/r): Spring-over-axle, Rancho shocks/spring-over-axle, custom three-link, Rancho shocks
Tires: 35-inch Super Swamper TSL Boggers

1996: Obstacle Course makes its debut
Grand Champion: Shannon Campbell, Gilbert, Arizona
Vehicle: 1947 Willys CJ-2A replica

This was the first year for the Obstacle Course, which replaced the easier Slalom Course. Campbell won the Tank Trap and snared three Second Place finishes earning him Grand Champion. Since then, Campbell has gone on to dominate off-highway racing including winning the King of the Hammers event twice.

The Details
Engine: Chevy 400ci V-8, Holley Pro-Jection
Transmission: TH350
Transfer case: Dana 300
Axles (f/r): GM 10-bolt, ARB Air Locker/Dana 60, spool
Suspension (f/r): Wrangler leaf springs, Doetsch Tech shocks/custom four-link
Tires: 35-inch Super Swamper TSL Boggers

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