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2009 Ultimate Adventure Alumni & Enthusiasts - Jeepers, Jokers & Jerks

Posted in Project Vehicles on December 1, 2009
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In addition to the five selected readers and our much-appreciated sponsors of the Ultimate Adventure, a handful of knuckleheads accompanies the group each year. Some of these guys are alumni from the inaugural trip 10 years ago, while others are barnacles who have latched on and kept coming (sneaking) back into the group every year. These guys are the grease in the ball bearings of the UA. They keep the group together acting as mid and tail gunner of the troupe on road days. They have enough experience to help fix just about any carnage or catastrophe while on the road or trail. And they bring plenty of humor to the week like only dirt-encrusted whackjobs with an amazing ability to get a week off work each summer can do. Trying to scrape these leaches from the trip, we do require different rigs each year; but they figure out ways around that rule-and we're glad they do, as we couldn't make it 1,200-some miles across viper-infested swamps and highway-patrolled highways without them, nor would we want to.

Alumni: Wrecking Ball
Clifton Slay has been on a fair number of Ultimate Adventures as guide, sponsor, and invited crony, so this year he got the nod to return as the unofficial tail gunner of the trip since he's good at rounding up stragglers in busted junk trying to find the rest of the group. Unfortunately this wasn't the bestest year ever for Slay. His own Jeep had suffered some breakage, but luckily good friend and fellow UA crony Keith Bailey offered his '84 CJ-7 as a backup ride. Slay was much appreciative and claims he was just barely into the throttle on the first day on the trail when the rear ring-and-pinion gave up the ghost. Greater repairs had been done other years, so we quickly got the Jeep to the street and headed to a shop for some new axle parts; that's when it got messy. Along the backroads of Pennsylvania, in front-wheel drive only, something in the transmission, transfer case, or front axle locked up and made for a big bang. The TH-350 housing was broken, and the transfer case wasn't much better. With more than 50 percent of the powertrain in bits and bleeding oil or ATF, it was decided that Slay would hop in as co-driver for Fred Williams in the Fun Buggy.

Rig Recipe
Driver: Clifton "Wrecking Ball" Slay
Co-Driver: Not brave enough
Vehicle: '84 CJ-7
Stomping Grounds: Colorado
Engine: GM Vortec 5.7
Transmission: Turbo 350
Transfer Case: Dana 300, twin stick, JB conversions Lo-max kit
Front Axle:
High-pinion 60, Detroit Locker, 5:13 gears
Front Axle: High-pinion 60, Spool, 5:13 gears
Suspension: Spring-over
Tires & Wheels: 38-in Pitbull Rockers on 18-in Spyderlock beadlocks
Winch & Bumper: Rear 8,000-lb Warn winch, 8274 custom Off Road Connection bumper
Other Stuff: Voice-operated windshield wipers; Off Road Connection tube fenders, side armor, traction bar, and high-clearance skid plate; on- board shower; on-board welder
Dimensions: Wheelbase 100 in, weight 5,800 lbs

4W Staff: Wonderman Gonderman
In an effort to get the best coverage of all time, we tried something else different this year. We brought along one of our stock trucks as a mobile camera studio and office for Feature Editor Ali Mansour, and Web Producer Jason Gonderman. (In case you missed it, there were exclusive early-bird photos from the trip in the blogs at These guys were zipping around getting highway shots and hauling camera gear galore, and were the general workhorses of the trip along with our video crew. They were lucky enough to have the keys to our yearlong test vehicle and winner of the 2009 4x4 of the Year: the Suzuki Equator. This little truck is the perfect road trip truck. It has plenty of gear space and was still able to get to all the camping spots and some of the wheeling spots on the trip.

Rig Recipe
Driver: Jason Gonderman
Co-Driver: Ali Mansour
Vehicle: '09 Suzuki Equator 4x4 Crew Cab RMZ-4
Stomping Grounds: Everywhere
Engine: 4.0L V-6
Transmission: Stock five-speed auto
Transfer Case: Stock 2.625:1 low range
Front Axle: Stock IFS
Rear Axle: Stock Dana 44 axle
Suspension: IFS, leaf-spring rear
Tires: P265/75 R16
Winch: Nope
Other Stuff: Oatmeal raisin cookies made by Ali's girlfriend
Dimensions: Wheelbase 125 in, weight 4,500 lbs

Alumni: The Clown
Tom Boyd is the clown. He's been coming on our trip every year, and he gets a little crazier every year. Recently he has been spending way too much time in China for work, so getting back to the U.S. where we all expect him to be a maniac was like letting a wild animal out of a bag. Since Boyd has been overseas working, he also signed up for the Keith Bailey rental program and brought Bailey and Bailey's Bruiser Buggy along on the UA. The buggy had a new paint scheme, so Boyd and Baily packed all their gear in the rig and cruised the highways in style. They volunteered to be the mid gunner many times since their hot rod CB could reach to either end of the group and keep everyone in the loop about the next turn or whoever may have pulled over with some breakage. Plus Boyd was the first of our group to surmount an impossible waterfall climb at the Painted Rock Adventure Park; he christened it Turtle Head Hill. Rumor has it that he will be prepping his classic Bronco for a return next summer.

Rig Recipe
Driver: Tom Boyd
Co-Driver: Keith Bailey
Vehicle: Bruiser Chassis
Stomping Grounds: China, Gray Rock OHV Park, anywhere else in the southeast
Engine: '03 5.7 Hemi
Transmission: Dodge 545RFE
Transfer Case: Dana 300, Twin Stick, LowMax kit with STaK replacement case
Front Axle: Rockcrusher high-pinion Dana 60, Detroit Locker, 5.13s, 14-in rotors with four-piston Wilwood rotors
Rear Axle: Rockcrusher high-pinion Dana 60, spool, 5.13s, 14-in rotors with four-piston Wilwood rotors
Suspension: Four-link with 14-in Fox emulsion coilover shocks, Sway-A-Way air bumpstops
Tires & Wheels: 42-inch Irok on 17-in Spyderlocks
Winch: Warn XP9.5
Other Stuff: Full hydraulic ORC steering, custom toolbox fuel cell, 1350 driveshafts, CB radio that reaches 12 miles
Dimensions: Wheelbase 113.5 in, height 79.54 in, full width axles, weight 4,000 lbs

Alumni: Yosemite Samurai
Tim Hardy is known for his escapades. He is the guy who drives cross-country in an underpowered little rig, shows up late, creepy-crawls every obstacle, can fix anything with two sticks, a rock, and some twine, and then loads up and idles back home every year. As we mentioned before, we asked the cronies to bring something different this year, so Hardy dusted off one of his other Suzuki Samurais and met us along the road during the second day of the trip. Now, Hardy is the type to always accept a challenge, so rather than just bringing a Sammy, he also brought along his trail trailer for good measure. We weren't really sure what he needed to haul in it, as his camping gear and week's supplies had easily fit in a single Samurai before, but since he wasn't towing his own rig and his trailer made our group just that much more oddball, we made an exception to our "no trailers" rule and tucked him in the line to let him draft the bigger rigs on the highway days.

Rig Recipe
Driver: Tim Hardy
Co-Driver: none (co-driver weight would sap horsepower)
Vehicle: '87 Suzuki Samurai
Stomping Grounds: Backroads from sea to shining sea
Engine: Stock
Transmission: Stock
Transfer Case: Stock with custom low gearset
Front Axle: Stock housing, Tim Hardy armor and custom axleshafts, EZ locker, 5.12 gears
Rear Axle: Identical to front
Suspension: Spring-over with Rancho shocks
Tires & Wheels: 35-in BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains with custom cuts on 15-in aluminum rims
Winch & Bumper: Warn 8000 on ARB bumper
Other Stuff: Trailer to haul giant mustache comb
Dimensions: Short and long

Alumni: TV Trent
Trent McGee has been on every side of the 4x4 market from sales and marketing to TV show host and magazine editor, but we're pretty sure his favorite position is behind the wheel off road. To help ease the strain of coming out from the west coast for the UA, Trent recruited fellow UA alumnus Sam Gillis to bring his rock buggy as their official ride. Sam agreed in no time flat. Right before heading off to Europe for some official government work, he dropped the buggy at Keith Bailey's shop, Off-Road Connection, and asked him to get her ready for UA. Can you see the reoccurring theme here? If you need a ride or need your ride made ready, then just call up ol' Keith Bailey (though we're not so sure he'll be renting again next year!). McGee and Gillis also coordinated the first annual UA Alumni Breakfast, which served the finest in five-star Spam-and-egg breakfast burritos to everyone on the trip. Plus, when Slay's rental, the Big Broke Beige, left him hitchhiking, these two jumped in as official tail gunners for UA09.

Rig Recipe
Driver: Trent McGee
Co-Driver: Sam Gillis
Vehicle: '08 Overkill Custom four-seater chassis
Stomping Grounds: Phoenix go-kart tracks, Gray Rock OHV Park, anywhere else in the southeast
Engine: '99 Chevrolet 5.7L LS1 V-8
Transmission: TH350
Transfer Case: Atlas II, 4:1
Front Axle: Dynatrac high-pinion 60, 35-spline axles, Warn hubs, Detroit Locker, 4.56 gears
Rear Axle: GM 14-bolt Detroit Locker, 4.56 gears
Suspension: Walker Evans air shocks
Tires & Wheels: 14/42-17 Super Swapper Iroks on 17x9 Spyderlock eight-lugs
Winch: Warn XP 9.5
Other Stuff: Jeep Liberty hood and grill, Corbeau seats, custom fuel cell, ORC custom hydraulic steering system, Lightforce headlights and rock lights, Warn synthetic rope, Be Cool aluminum radiator
Dimensions: Wheelbase 112 in, inside width 48 in, length 140 in, weight (before this trip) 3,800 lbs

4W Staff: Fred Buggy
Tech Editor Fred Williams finally made the trip in his Fun buggy after nearly five years of turmoil to build a street-legal rock buggy and take it on the UA. It still wasn't easy. Upon arrival it was determined that the windshield blocked too much airflow to the rear-mounted radiator so the engine would run hot. This was quickly fixed by trading the windshield for some goggles, a leather bomber helmet, and some headsets hooked up to the CB. Plus, when everyone else would stop for gas during highway days, Fred and his extremely tall co-pilot Clifton Slay were the only ones wearing all their jackets to keep warm in the 60-mph wind. However, any problems they had during road days were balanced out by the Fun Buggy's performance in the dirt. To summarize, you don't need portal axles, 400 hp, an Atlas transfer case, long-travel suspension, and rear steer, but they sure are fun to have.

Rig Recipe
Driver: Fred Williams
Co-Driver: Clifton Slay
Vehicle: '05-'09 Fun Buggy
Stomping Grounds: JV, Moab, Hollywood
Engine: ZZ383 GM crate engine with ACCELL DFI fuel Injection
Transmission: TCI 700R4
Transfer Case: Atlas
Front Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, Dedenbear Kingpin C, Axletech bolt-on portal axles, Superior axleshafts, West Coast Differential 4.10 gears, CTM joints, Wilwood brakes, ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Identical to front, but with CTM axleshafts
Suspension: Poly Peformance link suspension with Fox coilover shocks and air bumps
Tires & Wheels: 42x14.50x17 Goodyear Kevlar MT/Rs on Stazworks double beadlocks
Winch: Warn 8274
Other Stuff: Mastercraft seats, Lightforce off-road lights, Viking off-road winch line, PSC steering, Hamsar snowplow lights, 4-Wheelers Supply custom hood, K&N air filter, Driveline Tech drive-shafts, FourTrek Hi Lift Mount, Expedition One Geri cans
Dimensions: Wheelbase 109 in, height 84 in, weight 5,960 lbs fully loaded

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