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2012 Top Truck Challenge Competitors: We Are The Champions Part 1

Posted in Top Truck Challenge: 2012 on October 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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2012 Top Truck Challenge Competitors: We Are The Champions Part 1
Contributors: Ken Brubaker
Photographers: Four Wheeler Staff

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the legendary Top Truck Challenge, we’ve invited all of the past champions of Top Truck to Hollister Hills, California, to compete in an unprecedented, history-making, weeklong mega-throwdown on seven of the gnarliest challenges known in the wheeling world. We’re calling it Top Truck Champions’ Challenge (TTCC), and it’s going to be incredible.

Since its inception in 1993, Top Truck has morphed considerably to adapt to the changing world of off-road competition. For example, we don’t waste time with the Show-n-Shine and the Ride-n-Drive any longer. Nowadays, Top Truck is lean and focused. Competitors at this year’s Top Truck Champions’ Challenge will compete in our seven famous events consisting of the Tow Test, Frame Twister, Mud Pit, Obstacle Course, Hill Climb, Mini Rubicon, and Tank Trap.

We didn’t put any stipulations on what the past champions can drive in TTCC. They can drive the rig they originally competed with or something completely different. What’s interesting is that the majority of TTCC competitors have chosen to drive their TTC-winning rigs. Others have created new rigs and some have even borrowed rigs.

Over the next several pages you can read a detailed overview of half of this year’s TTCC rigs (in no particular order) along with some comments from the drivers. The second half will publish next month in part two of “We Are The Champions,” so look for them in the November issue. Full coverage of all the TTCC action will follow in the December issue.

Name: Jeremy Naeger
Champion in: 2008
Driving: 2008 Avalanche buggy

The most obvious change to Naeger’s rig since the last time we saw it in 2008 is the addition of 16.9-24 (52.8 inches actual height) BKT tractor tires. The meats are mounted on TrailReady 24-inch beadlock wheels with inner reinforcement rings. These tires are traction monsters, but slightly smaller in diameter than the 54-inch cut Boggers that Naeger ran in 2008. A Warn 9.5xp winch is at the ready in case the BKT’s get stopped cold in any of the events.

In 2008, Jeremy Naeger, Bloomsdale, Missouri resident and president of Custom Differentials, tied with Clayton Kraatz for First Place. Naeger will be returning to Hollister, California, behind the wheel of the same ’08 Avalanche buggy, albeit with a few mods. This year, there will only be one Champion.

Sounding Off
Most memorable moment from 2008: “Tying for First. On the last day I was hoping for Second and had my doubts on that. We had no idea we still had a chance.”
Wants First Place in: “Tank Trap. It was my favorite event.”

A 350ci GM Ram Jet V-8 sits nestled in the chassis and Naeger estimates its output at 350 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. However, a flick of a switch activates a NOS fogger kit from Redline Performance that offers another 150 horsepower. The engine is fitted with 24-pound injectors (replacing the stock 22-pound injectors) and Hedman headers and it’s cooled by a mid-mounted C&R Racing radiator with a 16-inch-diameter electric fan. Other mods include a Painless Performance wiring harness and a pair of Optima YellowTop batteries. Power is routed through a Transmissions To Go-prepped TH400 transmission with a manual valve body, Stef’s pan, and a Hurst Pistol-Grip shifter. A Sumner Machine Works NP203/205 doubler sends the power to the axles. On the rear of the transfer case is a custom brake rotor with two Wilwood four-piston calipers.

“I know I’ll be up against a lot more expensive, lighter, and bigger horsepower rigs, but will try to finish every event as high in the points as we can and maybe the big guys will mess up.”
—Jeremy Naeger

The Details
Driver name/city: Jeremy Naeger/Bloomsdale, Missouri
Occupation: President of Custom Differentials
Vehicle model: 2008 Avalanche buggy
Estimated value: $66,000
Engine: GM Ram Jet 350ci V-8, 150hp NOS nitrous kit, Hedman headers, Flowmaster mufflers
Transmission: Transmissions To Go TH400 3-spd auto, manual valvebody, Hurst Pistol-Grip shifter, Stef’s pan
Transfer case: NP203/205 doubler
Suspension (f/r): Four-link, 16-in-travel King triple-rate remote-reservoir coilovers/four-link, 16-in-travel King triple-rate remote-reservoir coilovers
Axles (f/r): 2½-ton Rockwell, Ouverson Violator axleshafts, Ouverson Violator locker, Ouverson Violator U-joints/2½-ton Rockwell, Ouverson Violator axleshafts, Ouverson Violator Full Spool, Ouverson Violator U-joints
Axle ratio: 6.72:1
Wheels: 24x11 TrailReady beadlock w/inner reinforcement rings
Tires: 16.9-24 BKT tractor

Inside the rig, Naeger monitors underhood activity including engine rpm, voltage, oil pressure, transmission temperature, and fuel pressure, via Auto Meter gauges. Other interior features include a Grant steering wheel and a hydro-steering toggle switch that’s conveniently located on the right side of the steering column.
View Slideshow

Name: Mike Karwath
Champion in: 2010 (Buggy Class)
Driving: 2006 Coleworx Fat Girl buggy

Completely custom from end-to-end and an example of a compact, state-of-the-art buggy, the Fat Girl actually has no fat. It’s more of a “Phat Girl.” The buggy has negative approach and departure angles and removable body panels for easy access to all components. Up front is a Warn 9.0Rc for if the unlikely happens. The Fat Girl rolls on cut 46-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires mounted on custom MRW 20-inch wheels with Young Manufacturing billet lock rings.

Mike Karwath, owner of Shotgun Fabworks in Verona, Kentucky, was the top-finishing buggy in 2010 and he did it behind the wheel of his 468ci V-8-powered Jeep YJ buggy. But that’s not what he’ll be driving in TTCC. Karwath will be behind the wheel of Leo Kuether’s incredible Fat Girl buggy, which also competed in 2010 and carried Kuether to a First Place finish in the Frame Twister, Obstacle Course, and Hill Climb.

Sounding Off
Most memorable moment from 2010: “A huge highlight of the trip was the time spent with my team and the other competitors around the campfire every night. Knocking back a few cold ones and trading stories from the day’s festivities helped us all relax and prepare for the next day. Hearing your name called as the winner is pretty damn cool as well. Standing on that stage with Brad accepting our award was something I’ll never forget. It’s the high point of my wheeling career.”
Wants First Place in: “Tank Trap, most definitely. It’s worth the most points and often decides the outcome of the entire event. It’s the rockstar event and even if you don’t do well, you’re still in the spotlight. With everyone lining the hillsides watching it’s like you’re in some insane arena battling this ridiculous trail. It throws everything at you in a five minute period: insane water holes, mud, rocks, canyon climbs, etc. You have to be on your “A” game. One simple mistake and you’re on your top.”
Karwath says: “I’ve already used the toenail thing, not thinking that I would ever be asked this again, so this is a tough one. I’m a pretty transparent person. If you’ve met me, you know me. I’ve seen every Broadway musical to hit my area in the last 10 years. Season tickets, bitches! When you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day.”

“I made a ton of friends the year I was there and still talk to quite a few of them every week. That was the real prize of the trip.”
—Mike Karwath

The Details
Driver name/city: Mike Karwath/Union, Kentucky
Occupation: Owner of Shotgun Fabworks
Vehicle model: 2006 Coleworx Fat Girl buggy
Estimated value: $90,000
Engine: GM Ram Jet 502ci V-8, fuel injection, Sanderson headers, 3-in-diameter dual exhaust, Dynomax mufflers
Transmission: PTC TH400 3-spd auto, custom valvebody
Transfer case: Advance Adapters Atlas 4.3 2-spd
Suspension (f/r): Triangulated four-link, Fox 18-in-travel remote-reservoir coilovers, modified Currie sway bar/triangulated four-link, Fox 18-in-travel remote-reservoir coilovers
Axles (f/r): 2½-ton Rockwell, Ouverson Violator locker, Violator axleshafts, Wicked 6 hubs, driveline brake/2½-ton Rockwell, Ouverson Violator locker, Violator axleshafts, Wicked 6 hubs, driveline brake
Axle ratio: 6.72:1
Wheels: Custom 20x14 MRW w/Young Mfg. lock rings
Tires: 19.5/46-20 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw

Outstanding visibility, functionality, and safety are the name of the game for the Fat Girl’s interior. There’s a pair of Kirkey Racing seats, 3-inch-wide racing harnesses, a Grant steering wheel, Auto Meter gauges in a custom center bezel, various easy-to-access toggle switches, rear steer control, and a center-mounted Power Tank.
View Slideshow

Name: Clayton Kraatz
Champion in: 2008
Driving: 2008 homemade buggy

The rig’s bodywork-free chassis is constructed from a combination of 2-, 1.75-, and 1.5-inch-diameter, 0.120-inch-wall tubing. It’s designed to be compact, safe, and agile. It features a Warn 8274 winch and six lights including a pair of Yamaha YZF headlights, Light Force HID lights, and 54-diode LED flood lights. As in 2009 the rig is still running the 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires mounted on 20x12 Stazworks double beadlock wheels.

Clayton Kraatz was an alternate in TTC ’07 but he was voted in as a competitor for TTC ’08 and promptly drove his awesome 467ci V-8-powered ’06 Evolution Warthog to a First Place tie with Jeremy Naeger. Kraatz will compete in TTCC, but here’s a twist, he’ll be driving ’09 TTC competitor Leroy Latham’s awesome rear-engine buggy. Latham took Third Place in 2009 with the rig including a First Place finish in the Obstacle Course.

Sounding Off
Most memorable moment from 2008: “Either the Frame Twister or the rock course. I finished both events with the crowd screaming. Both events I couldn’t believe I made it. So it’s a toss-up.”
Wants First Place in: “Tank Trap. It was my worst event last time.”

“People should know my name.”
—Clayton Kraatz

The Details
Driver name/city: Clayton Kraatz/Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Occupation: Owner of Evolution Machine
Vehicle model: 2008 homemade buggy
Estimated value: “Priceless”
Engine: Ford 460ci V-8, fuel injected, homemade long-tube headers
Transmission: C6 3-spd auto, heavily modified
Transfer case: NP205 2-spd
Suspension (f/r): Triangulated four-link, King 16-in-travel remote-reservoir coilover shocks/triangulated four-link, King 16-in-travel remote-reservoir coilover shocks
Axles (f/r): 3-ton Rockwell, Detroit NoSPIN/3-ton Rockwell, welded spider gears, Ouverson axleshafts
Axle ratio: 6.80:1
Wheels: 20x12 Stazworks double beadlocks
Tires: 54x19.50-20 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC
Name: Tony Fox
Champion in: 1994
Driving: 1997 Jeep Wrangler

The interior of the rig is a lesson in simple functionality. It may almost seem sparse, but in fact it has everything Kraatz will need. There’s a pair of RCI seats; a Grant steering wheel; Auto Meter engine temperature, oil pressure, voltage, and tachometer gauges; a “modified crusty old B&M” transmission shifter; and a custom switch panel located on the transmission tunnel. The carpet “matches the drapes.”
View Slideshow

Name: Tony Fox
Champion in: 1994
Driving: 1997 Jeep Wrangler

Does this TJ look long to you? Well it is, because the wheelbase has been stretched to 101 inches. The rear frame has been notched, plated, boxed, and tied into the rollcage. Fox modified an off-the-shelf front bumper and made the rear bumper as well as the rocker protection. The front bumper holds a Warn M12000 winch with Master Pull 3⁄8-inch Superline. The rear flares are modified Poison Spyder DeFender units and the front fenders are stock Poison Spyder DeFender units. The body sits on a 1-inch lift and the louvered hood is mainly for aesthetics though it does help to provide lower underhood temperatures. TrailReady HD Series beadlock wheels are surrounded by 40-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar tires. The rig’s Emerald Green paint was applied by Long’s Auto Body in Bremerton, Washington, and any visible striping was done by “Washington’s finest pine and fir trees.”

Tony Fox was up against some tough competition at TTC ’94 (which incidentally was the first year for the Tow Test), including an M38 and a Scrambler 6x6, but he came out on top in his relatively simple ’79 CJ-5. It was powered by an AMC 304ci V-8 and it rode on Dana 44 axles with a leaf-spring suspension. Oh, and 33-inch tires that are tiny by today’s standards. Fox is returning to Hollister in a Jeep, but this time he’ll be driving his wife’s street-legal TJ. Seriously.

Sounding Off
Most memorable moment from 1994: “Being announced the winner. I thought Kevin with the 6x6 was winning the whole time, so we really didn’t know we were contenders and the judges kept everything hush-hush. Close second was blasting through the Mini-Rubi, because the first eight rigs all got towed out and we just cruised through in a really fast pace.”
Wants First Place in: “Tank Trap, because I think it’s got the most amount of points. But really, I’d be happy to do well in any of the events, considering I’m going to be a runt amongst giants.”
Fox says: “I built this TJ for my wife to drive (I normally drive my YJ), and it will be returned to her for wheeling and snow trips after TTCC. Just add some mud flaps and it’s still street legal. Might be the only street legal rig here. I chose this rig because it was easier to adapt for 40s or 42s than a leaf-sprung rig would have been and still be able to return the rig to our normal wheeling activities when it was over.”

“I built this TJ for my wife to drive (I normally drive my YJ), and it will be returned to her for wheeling and snow trips after TTCC.”
—Tony Fox

The Details
Driver name/city: Tony Fox/Port Orchard, Washington.
Occupation: Sales
Vehicle model: 1997 Jeep Wrangler
Estimated value: $20,000
Engine: GM 350ci V-8, TBI, custom exhaust w/Flowmaster Super 44 muffler
Transmission: TH400 3-spd auto
Transfer case: Advance Adapters Atlas 4-spd, 10.3:1
strong> Three-link, coil springs, Bilstein 7100 remote-reservoir shocks, Currie Antirock sway bar/reverse triangulated four-link, coil springs, Bilstein 7100 remote-reservoir shocks
Axles (f/r): High-pinion Dana 60, Foote Axle 35-spline chromoly axleshafts, Detroit Locker/Dana 60, Foote Axle 40-spline chromoly axleshafts, Detroit Locker
Axle ratio: 4.56:1
Wheels: 17x8.5 TrailReady HD beadlock
Tires: 40x13.50-17 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar

Occupants of the TJ are kept safe by a Bent Metal Customs six-point rollcage and MasterCraft Safety five-point harnesses on the MasterCraft Safety Baja RS seats. If it gets cool in Hollister, Fox can switch on the seat heaters. The gauge cluster looks stock, but it isn’t. It’s a custom setup with recessed Auto Meter gauges displaying engine coolant temperature, oil pressure, fuel level, alternator output, speed, and engine rpm. The dash pod has a gauge showing transmission temperature and it also houses the winch controls, seat heater switches, and miscellaneous lights. Other interior features include a Subaru radio, Cobra CB, a race radio, and a modified Art Carr transmission shifter.
View Slideshow

Name: Geby Wager
Champion in: 1997
Driving: 1992 Jeep CJ-7

Wager’s rig is unique, to put it mildly. The rig’s core is a custom chromoly tube chassis made from 4-inch-diameter tubing. On this chassis rests an off-the-shelf fiberglass CJ body tub with a Wager-designed-and-built fiberglass windshield frame, hood, and fenders. The hood and fenders are a one-piece unit that can either be tilted in normal fashion or completely removed in minutes. The rig rolls on 46X19.5-16 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires mounted on 16x14 custom aluminum beadlock wheels.

Top Truck shook in 1997, but it wasn’t an earthquake that caused it. It was the shock of Geby Wager’s amazing big-block-powered, M561 Gama Goat-axled, independent suspension-equipped CJ winning TTC. The street-legal rig was built to drive on top of snow 4 to 20 feet deep as well as cross country where there are no roads or trails. It apparently handles Top Truck terrain well, too. Wager will be returning to Hollister in the CJ and even after 15 years the rig is very similar to the way it was in 1997.

Sounding Off
Most memorable moment from 1997: “How supportive the other competitors were.”
Wants First Place in: “The Tank Trap. It is the most diverse and so is our vehicle. It also looks like all the events are geared to 54-inch tires with not much opportunity for smaller vehicles, or team skill, without winching. The Tank Trap allows a bit more time for the winching.”

“We strongly believe that you can’t get somewhere that no one has ever been by following tracks. But that can be scary.”
—Geby Wager

The Details
Driver name/city: Geby Wager/Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation: Real estate
Vehicle model: 1992 Jeep CJ-7
Estimated value: N/A
Engine: Cadillac 540ci V-8, 800cfm Holley carburetor, custom headers
Transmission: T-19 4-spd manual
Transfer case: Advance Adapters Atlas II 2-spd and NorthWest Fabworks BlackBox
Suspension (f/r): Independent, air springs, Fox remote-reservoir shocks/independent, air springs, Fox remote-reservoir shocks
Axles (f/r): M561 Gama Goat centersection, custom axleshafts, modified knuckles, custom stub shafts, Speedway Engineering Wide 5 hubs/M561 Gama Goat centersection, custom axleshafts, modified knuckles, custom stub shafts, Speedway Engineering Wide 5 hubs, hydraulic steering
Axle ratio: 5.57:1
Wheels: 16x14 custom aluminum beadlock
Tires: 46x19.5-16 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw

Inside, occupants sit in Beard seats and Wager grips a steering wheel lifted from a Pontiac Fiero. A full complement of Auto Meter gauges reside in the rig including oil pressure, coolant temperature, voltage, and speedometer. A custom heads-up display by Creative Motor Sports allows Wager to control the air suspension. There are preprogrammed settings, or he can control it with a joystick. This system gives him complete control of the air springs either individually or as a complete unit.
View Slideshow

Name: Alex Sanders
Champion in: 2011 (Buggy Class)
Driving: 2008 Homebuilt Buggy

Does this TJ look long to you? Well it is, because the wheelbase has been stretched to 101 inches. The rear frame has been notched, plated, boxed, and tied into the rollcage. Fox modified an off-the-shelf front bumper and made the rear bumper as well as the rocker protection. The front bumper holds a Warn M12000 winch with Master Pull 3⁄8-inch Superline. The rear flares are modified Poison Spyder DeFender units and the front fenders are stock Poison Spyder DeFender units. The body sits on a 1-inch lift and the louvered hood is mainly for aesthetics though it does help to provide lower underhood temperatures. TrailReady HD Series beadlock wheels are surrounded by 40-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar tires. The rig’s Emerald Green paint was applied by Long’s Auto Body in Bremerton, Washington, and any visible striping was done by “Washington’s finest pine and fir trees.”

After pulling off an upset win in the 2011 Top Truck Challenge Buggy Class, Alex Sanders has the unheard of opportunity to take the trophy home in consecutive years. Returning with his ’08 home-built buggy, Sanders has a few changes up his sleeve, but overall the buggy will be familiar to those who monitored Top Truck in 2011, following the philosophy of “If it ain’t broke, go win Top Truck again.”

Sounding Off
Most memorable moment from 2011: “All of it! Mainly when I didn’t wheelhop or break in the Tow Test. And partyin’ with and meetin’ so many cool people.”
Wants First Place in: “Mini Rubicon. Because even though I love the Tank Trap the Mini Rubicon seems the most technical.”
Sanders says: I just plan on driving smart and having fun this year.”

“I don’t plan on winning this year with all of the great competitors, but then again I didn’t plan on winning last year either.”
—Alex Sanders

The Details
Driver name/city: Alex Sanders/Salem, Arkansas
Occupation: Mechanic
Vehicle model: 2008 homebuilt buggy
Estimated value: Priceless
Engine: 406ci Chevy “long rod” V-8, TRW flat-top pistons, 5.7 rods, custom-ground Comp cam, Flowmaster exhaust
Transmission: GM Muncie SM465
Transfer case: NP205
Suspension (f/r): Custom “grader-ball,” coil springs, custom shocks/Tuff Country GM front leaf springs, Tuff Country shocks
Axles (f/r): 2½-ton Rockwell, welded gears/2½-ton Rockwell, welded
Axle ratio: 6.72:1
Wheels: 20-in steel 5-ton military
Tires: 54x19.5-20 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC
Name: Brent Burton
Champion in: 2006
Driving: 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ

Believe it or not, we’d never had a rule requiring a firewall before and in 2011 Sanders showed up without one. After reexamining our rulebook, we modified the rules requiring all rigs to have a firewall and Sanders complied. Even with the new addition, the cab is as sparse as possible with only two gauges that monitor oil temperature and oil pressure. A www.12voltguy.com winch switch is positioned between the seats and the VW brake and clutch pedals are a nice touch.
View Slideshow

Name: Brent Burton
Champion in: 2006
Driving: 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ

Since winning Top Truck in 2006, Burton’s Jeep has undergone a few changes worth noting, such as a Magnuson blower on top of the LS1 small-block, a new roll cage, half-doors, MasterCraft Safety seating, and the addition of 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC’s mounted on Stazworks wheels.

We last saw Burton in 2006 when he took top honors at TTC in his stretched Jeep Wrangler TJ. Burton’s TJ is notable for its four-door configuration, which Burton began building in 2005, over a year before the four-door Wrangler was offered from the factory. The ’97 TJ body was grafted to the rear tub of a Wrangler YJ, and even includes a trick, narrowed CJ-7 tailgate. Burton mowed down the obstacles once at TTC, will he be able to do it again?

Sounding Off
Most memorable moment from 2006: “In the Tank Trap canyon something on the Jeep started smoking real bad and we were not sure what it was. It was so bad I had to shut the engine off to let it clear so we could see. Really was not sure it was going to restart. Luckily once we winched a bit and leveled out the smoke got better and we were able to finish.”
Wants First Place in: “Tank Trap. Double points and what we all came to conquer.”

“I enjoy tinkering with Jeeps, trucks, snowmobiles, ATVs, sand rails, or anything with a throttle. I have to thank my parents for that, as my first trail ride happened when I was just five months old and have been hooked ever since.”
—Brent Burton

The Details
Driver name/city: Brent Burton/Colstrip, Montana
Occupation: Electrical Contractor
Vehicle model: 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ
Estimated value: N/A
Engine: 347ci Chevy LS1 V-8, Magnuson supercharger
Transmission: Turbo 400 w/manual valvebody and reverse pattern, Art Carr shifter
Transfer case: NP205, Klune-V 2.7
Suspension (f/r): Four-link, 16-in Sway-A-Way coilovers/four-link, 16-in Sway-A-Way coilovers
Axles (f/r): Rockwell 2½-ton, Ouverson Locker/Rockwell 2½-ton, Ouverson Locker
Axle ratio: 6.72:1
Wheels: 20x13 steel Stazworks
Tires: 54x19.5-20 Mickey Thomson Baja Claw TTC

With stretched bodywork and seating for five, Burton doesn’t have to choose between his family and his gear on the trail. Overall, the interior retains a stock feel, but factory buckets have given way to MasterCraft Safety racing seats while a www.12voltguy.com winch controller falls at Burton’s fingertips. Auto Meter gauges supplement the stockers for relaying vitals to the driver.
View Slideshow

Name: Randy Ellis
Champion in: 1995
Driving: 1986 Suzuki Samurai

Ellis’ Samurai, with its 37-inch paddles, looks a lot like the little toy 4x4 we all grew up dreaming about driving when we were young. With an 84-inch wheelbase and exceptional approach, breakover, and departure angles, this mini-rig might just be might nimble enough to go around obstacles in a competition, although the rock rash might suggest otherwise. Ellis says he has removed some weight, added a snorkel, and equipped the four-banger with a 175hp shot of nitrous and methanol injection in preparation of Top Truck. A Warn 9.5 winch should have no problem pulling the Sammy out of a jam.

Randy Ellis is no stranger to the world of wheeling. The well-traveled Ellis won Top Truck back in 1995, and continues to contribute to our sport today through his company, Randy Ellis Design. When Ellis took home his orginal TTC trophy, it was with an ’80 Jeep CJ-5 powered by a Chevy 377ci V-8 and rolling on 35-inch tires. The Jeep featured a three-link suspension, the first time a multilink setup appeared at Top Truck. For 2012, Ellis is out to prove himself again, this time with a self-built ’86 Suzuki Samurai powered by a Geo Tracker 1.6L four-cylinder riding on huge 16.00-17 (37x16) Revolution paddle tires. We can only imagine that the Tank Trap gods are drooling at this news.

Sounding Off
Most memorable moment from 1995: “Being the only one to the top of the Hill Climb.”
Wants First Place in: “The Tank Trap. It’s the most difficult!”

“I like beer.”
—Randy Ellis

The Details
Driver name/city: Randy Ellis/Phoenix, Arizona
Occupation: Owner of Randy Ellis Design
Vehicle model: 1986 Suzuki Samurai
Estimated value: N/A
Engine: 1.6L DOHC I-4, nitrous
Transmission: Suzuki 5-spd manual
Transfer case: Suzuki, 4.16:1 Calmini gearing
Suspension (f/r): Leaf springs, 2.5-inch King remote-reservoir shocks/three-link, Walker Evans 2.0 air shocks
Axles (f/r): Dana 30, ARB Air Locker/Dana 44, ARB Air Locker
Axle ratio: 5.38:1
Wheels: 17x8 KMC aluminum beadlocks
Tires: Revolution 16.00-17 paddle tires

Open the hood and you’ll find a 1.6L four-cylinder engine from a Geo Tracker. The little mill should be good for about 95hp and 98 lb-ft of torque, although that should nearly double for brief periods of time when the plumbed-in nitrous and methanol injection systems are activated. A stock five-speed manual trans transfers power to the ground via a Samurai T-case with 4.16:1 Calmini gearing.
View Slideshow

Name: Jason Gray
Champion in: 2010 (Truck Class)
Driving: 1975 GMC pickup

Gray’s GMC was built with off-road abuse in mind. Featuring a stout foundation, durable components, and a narrowed body designed for extreme clearance and enhanced visibility; trail obstacles don’t easily slow the rattle-canned Pumpkin Orange pickup. Gone are the 46-inch Mickey Thompson tires, in favor of 54-inch Mickey Thomson Baja Claw tires.

In 2010, we split the classes up between trucks and buggies and Jason Gray walked away with the inagural TTC truck class trophy. Having to grind through mechanical issues with his ’75 GMC pickup in 2010, Gray is coming better prepared and ready for an all-out assault on the Champion’s Challenge. However, the Tank Trap isn’t going to be as easy as it was in 2010 and neither is the competition. Thankfully he has had the helping hands of his 4x4 club, Poorboy Offroad.

Sounding Off
Most memorable moment from 2010: “Crossing the finish line in the Tank Trap.”
Wants First Place in: “I would like it to be the Tank Trap. Not only are the points worth more, but it is the grand finale event of the week.”

“I heart ta tas.”
—Jason Gray

The Details
Driver name/city: Jason Gray/Amity, Oregon
Occupation: Diesel Mechanic
Vehicle model: 1975 GMC pickup
Estimated value: $25,000
Engine: 454ci GMC OHV propane V-8
Transmission: TH400, stage II shift kit
Transfer case: NP203/205 Doubler
Suspension (f/r): Four-link, F-O-A coilovers, F-O-A air bumps/four-link, F-O-A coilovers, F-O-A air bumps
Axles (f/r): Rockwell 2½-ton, 47-spline Ouverson axleshafts, Ouverson locker/Rockwell 2½-ton, 47-spline Ouverson axleshafts, Ouverson spool
Axle ratio: 6.72:1
Wheels: 20x12 double-beadlocked steel Stazworks
Tires: 54x19.5-20 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw

From behind the driver’s seat, the view out is pretty good for a fullsize. Drivetrain vitals are monitored by Auto Meter gauges and the driver is supported by comfortable Ford Escort GT seats. A www.12voltguy.com switch panel is located within easy reach on the tubular center console.
View Slideshow

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