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2013 Top Truck Competitors - Superheroes

2013 Top Truck Challenge Competitors
Ali Mansour
| Brand Manager, 4WD & Sport Utility
Posted September 17, 2013
Contributors: Ken Brubaker
Photographers: Ken Brubaker

A Detailed Look at the Competitors & Alternates

Ladies and gentleman, here are the 10 competitors and 2 alternates for Top Truck Challenge 2013! You selected them from the 42 Top Truck candidates that published in the April 2013 issue of Four Wheeler, and they competed in the 21st running of Top Truck Challenge (better known as TTC) in Hollister, California.

In next month’s issue of Four Wheeler you’ll get to see incredible photos and read all the fascinating details of how each competitor did in all seven of TTC’s gnarly off-road events, but this month we take an in-depth look at each rig. We’ll dig into how these vehicles are powered, how the drivelines are configured, how the interiors are set up, and much more. We’ll also give you an insight into how each driver thinks. What event are they most looking forward to? What event do they dread? They’ll answer these questions and more (some you may not even want to know).

This year, TTC underwent a major rule revision that excluded buggies and required each vehicle to resemble a mass-produced truck or SUV. You responded positively to this change with the strongest voting numbers in years, and you elected a group of rigs that included five GM vehicles, four Fords, one Toyota, one Volkswagen, and one International Harvester. Apparently you wanted a break from Jeep vehicles, because you didn’t vote in even one of the 15 Jeep candidates. This is the first time in TTC’s 21-year history that the Jeep brand has been absent from Top Truck. When you turn the page and begin perusing this year’s competitors and alternates, you’ll see them in their pre-competition condition. These photographs were taken just a few minutes before they went into TTC battle, and they didn’t look this way for long as they valiantly fought TTC’s grueling challenges. We’re talkin’ nastiness like the Tow Test tug-fest, freaky Frame Twister, malevolent Mud Pit, obstinate Obstacle Course, horrible Hill Climb, criminal Coal Chute, and the tempestuous Tank Trap. So read on and get the nitty-gritty on these off-road superheroes.

Josh Middleton Bronco
Middleton promised, “If I’m picked, I’ll do my best to make the Ford fans proud.” You took him seriously and made him the number one vote-getter for 2013. Now this lumber mill foreman (and brother to TTC 2013 competitor Justin Middleton) is ready to deliver on that promise. Since you last saw his rig in the April 2013 issue, he has done a few mods to his Bronco to make it TTC-ready. Among other things, it now sports a narrowed front clip and he has swapped out the 49-inch tires for a set of 54s

The most obvious exterior mod on the Bronco is the narrowed front clip, and Middleton estimates that he removed over 25 inches of width. The narrowed front end required lengthening the front fenders to compensate, so he combined two sets of fenders on each side to stretch the fenders approximately 11 inches. Perched on the slim front end is a homemade front bumper and it holds a pair of D-rings and a Smittybilt X20 12 winch. To give the big 54-inch Boggers (on 20x12 Stazworks double beadlock wheels) plenty of room to move without body contact, the fenders were radiused approximately 10 inches each. Other exterior mods include removal of the factory doors, a pair of KC lights in place of the factory headlights, and a “rattle can” yellow paint job.

The Details
Driver name/city: Josh Middleton/Shelton, Washington
Occupation: Lumber mill foreman
Vehicle model: 1978 Ford Bronco
Engine: 468ci Ford V-8
Transmission: C6
Transfer case(s): NP205
Ratio(s): 1.96:1
Suspension (f/r): Four-link, 16-in-travel F-O-A remote-reservoir coilovers, F-O-A hydraulic bumpstops/4-in-lift Tuff Country leaf springs, Tuff Country shocks
Axles (f/r): 2½-ton Rockwell, welded spider gears/2½-ton Rockwell, welded spider gears Axle ratio: 6.72:1
Wheels: 20x12 Stazworks double beadlock
Tires: 19.5/54-20LT Interco Super Swamper TSL Bogger
Comp weight (lb): 6,635

Josh Middleton Speaks
Most looking forward to: “The Tank Trap, because I’m looking forward to letting it all out and burying my Bronco in the Trap.”
Not looking forward to: “The Obstacle Course, because from the top of the hill looking down it looks steep as ****.”
Playing in his iPod/CD player: “Disturbed.”

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Retzloff K15
This wasn’t John Retzloff’s first invite to Hollister, as he was an alternate in 2011. This time Retzloff, along with his two brothers, came ready to throw down in the big show. While his rig may have appeared mild next to some of this year’s mega-sized rigs, this subtle fullsize would have the competition paying close attention by the end of the week.

Retzloff’s ’77 GMC pickup was deceivingly simple looking, but a closer inspection revealed a tremendous amount of well-planned fab work. From the custom-reinforced and heavily-trimmed fenders to the relocated body mounts and crossmembers, the subtle details and use of common parts (leaf springs, 1-ton axles, and so on) surprised many with how well it performed. A medley of 1.5-inch, 0.120-wall DOM tubing fishes around the truck for body protection and holds a place for the Warn 9.5ti winch.

The Details
Driver name/city: John Retzloff/Covelo, California
Occupation: Heavy equipment mechanic/fabricator
Vehicle model: 1977 GMC K15
Engine: 454ci GM V-8, Summit Racing headers, DynoMax muffler, propane injected
Transmission: TH400
Transfer case(s): NorthWest Fab Black Box, NP205
Ratio(s): 1.96:1, 2.72:1, 5.33:1
Suspension (f/r): 52-in GM rear springs w/add-a-leafs, Rancho shocks/stock ¾-ton 63-in GM leaf springs
Axles (f/r): Dana 60, Superior chromoly axleshafts, 300M U-joints, Warn hubs, OX Locker/GM 14-bolt, Detroit Locker
Axle ratio: 4.88:1
Wheels: 20x12 Stazworks steel beadlock
Tires: 19.5/46-20LT Mickey Thompson Baja Claw
Comp weight (lb): 6,705

Retzloff Speaks
Most looking forward to: “The new rock course hopefully. I like rockcrawling the best.”
Not looking forward to: “The Hill Climb. It just keeps getting tougher every year!”
Playing in his iPod/CD player: “On my stereo I usually have some sort of rock/heavy metal music playing.

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Skopliak Jimmy
As the owner of a yoga and fitness studio, we half expected Nolan Skopliak’s big green GMC to be littered with easy listening CDs and Power Bars, but we couldn’t find any. One of a few Canadians in the competition, Skopliak used his 8.1L-powered Jimmy to put on a show every time he had the chance.

In just three years’ time Skopliak was able to convert his ’87 Jimmy into the well-used wheeler you see here today. A 3-inch body lift provides additional room for the 46-inch Claws and boxed sections of the frame strengthen the chassis. Inside of the custom plate front bumper is a 16,000-pound Warn winch.

The Details
Driver name/city: Nolan Skopliak/Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation: Franchise owner of Oxygen Yoga & Fitness
Vehicle model: 1987 GMC Jimmy
Engine: 496ci GM 8.1L V-8, 3-in dual exhaust
Transmission: TH400 built by D.T.T., Winters shifter
Transfer case(s): NorthWest Fab NP205
Ratio(s): 1.96:1
Suspension (f/r): Custom 8-in-lift, Chilliwack leaf springs, traction bar, Bilstein 5120 shocks/custom 6-in-lift, Chilliwack leaf springs, traction bar, Bilstein 5120 shocks
Axles (f/r): 2½-ton Rockwell, Ouverson axleshafts, Detroit Locker/2½-ton Rockwell, welded spider gears
Axle ratio: 6.72:1
Wheels: 16x12 double beadlock
Tires: 19.5/46-16LT Mickey Thompson Baja Claw
Comp weight (lb): 6,890 “I do yoga.” —Nolan Skopliak

Skopliak Speaks
Most looking forward to: “Tank Trap! Ever since watching TTC from VHS tapes I’ve always wanted to run that nasty section.”
Not looking forward to: “I’m not scared to put my truck in any situation or through any type of obstacle or terrain! I drive GB like it’s my four-wheel-steer rock buggy (that I also have).”
Playing in his iPod/CD player: “Chief Keefe.”

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Fava K30
What were you thinking? You voted in this mega-sized Chevy Crew Cab that is massively tall and exceptionally long. Further, the engine is in the wrong location (it’s under the cab), and the truck weighs over four tons. The Tank Trap will eat this enormous Chevy like an hors d’oeuvre. Or will it? What if Fava’s Chevy was the only rig to complete the Tank Trap? Is that possible?

Fava’s K30 is still sporting the factory chrome wheelwell trim. Yep, there’s no wheelwell mods to this massive truck. Frankly, they don’t need mods because the truck has approximately 27 inches of total lift. Some of that lift comes from a 3-inch body lift and tall tires, but the majority is from the custom bracketry that resides between the factory chassis and the axles. Being the low-buck, hands-on guy that he is, Fava designed and constructed the bracketry, as well as all of the other custom chassis work, and he used metal that he had acquired for free. He says a lack of time was why the bracketry wasn’t sandblasted and painted. The truck is fitted with 54-inch Boggers and they’re mated to custom 20x15 beadlock steel wheels. Each wheel was constructed from two ’65 Deuce-and-a-Half wheels. Other exterior mods include a 12,000-pound Warn winch, and since you saw the truck in the April 2013 issue, Fava has completed some bodywork and sprayed on International Harvester red paint.

The Details
Driver name/city: Aaron Fava/Gold Beach, Oregon
Occupation: Hook tender at Never Give Up Logging
Vehicle model: 1989 Chevy K30
Engine: 454ci Chevy V-8
Transmission: TH400
Transfer case(s): NP208, remote-mount NP205
Ratio(s): 2.69:1, 1.96:1, 4.65:1
Suspension (f/r): 56-in dump truck leaf springs with military wrap, dual Rancho RS5000 shocks/63-in custom leaf springs, dual Rancho RS5000 shocks
Axles (f/r): 2½-ton Rockwell, Ouverson axleshafts and spool/2½-ton Rockwell, Ouverson axleshafts and spool
Axle ratio: 6.72:1
Wheels: Custom 20x15 steel beadlock
Tires: 19.5/54-20LT Interco Super Swamper Bogger
Comp weight (lb): 8,130

Fava Speaks
Most looking forward to: “Frame Twister, because that will be the test of how hard I can hammer down at the Tank Trap.”
Not looking forward to: “Definitely not looking forward to the Coal Chute. Looks like tire-eating leftovers from an earthquake salvage yard. A flat tire here would surely be a DNF.”
Playing in his iPod/CD player: “Out of 2,000 songs on my iPod, I think a Frampton tune was on when I shut the crummy thing off. Generally, basic stuff on there, AC/DC, ZZ Top, Airbourne, Motley Crue, Ozzy, Hagar, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Cars, and the classic rock and ’80s metal library from my old CD collection.”

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Smith Bronco
Proving that the off-road hobby is fun for the entire family was Jennifer Smith, with husband Christopher as her co-pilot. While Smith experienced her first rollover at TTC, it didn’t curb her spirit, or stop her SVT-powered ’68 Ford Bronco for long. The saying could be true- a family who wheels together, stays together!

Clever fab work preserves the classic lines of Smith’s early Bronco. For protection, a pair of modified ProtoFab bumpers were used and fazed into the 1 1/4-inch tube quarter panels. Custom 2x6-inch sliders connect to the modified framerails which were widened by two rail sizes up front. Extra clearance is provided by a 1-inch body lift and fuel range is extended with a 23-gallon BC Bronco tank.

The Details
Driver name/city: Jennifer Smith/San Martin, California
Occupation: Homemaker
Vehicle model: 1968 Ford Bronco
Engine: 281ci Ford V-8, supercharged
Transmission: C6, dual coolers
Transfer case(s): StaK 3-spd
Ratio(s): 1:1, 3.05:1, 5.44:1
Suspension (f/r): Custom three-link, 18-in Ballistic Fab hybrid coilover-air shocks/custom four-link, 14-in Ballistic Fab coilovers
Axles (f/r): High-pinion Dana 60, RCV Performance axleshafts, Eaton E-Locker/Sterling 10.5-in, Detroit Locker
Axle ratio: 5.13:1
Wheels: 20x12 Dick Cepek DC-2
Tires: 19.5/46-20LT Mickey Thompson Baja Claw
Comp weight (lb): 6,225

Smith Speaks
Most looking forward to: “I’m looking forward to the Mini Rubicon. I’ve had the most practice in the Mini, although I know it will be more difficult for TTC.”
Not looking forward to: “The Hill Climb is my least favorite. Honestly, I was OK with this event until my co-driver and another friend started telling me about how everyone rolls, and I have yet to roll. So, I’m a bit nervous.”
Playing in her iPod/CD player: “Christian rock, some Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Pistol Annies, a little Johnny Cash, and some Kid Rock.”

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Green F-350
As a professional crane operator, Glen Green is not afraid of heights or maneuvering heavy equipment. While Green admits that his ’79 Ford F-350 was built with mud in mind, that didn’t stop him from using his stroked 540ci Ford V-8 to battle the assortment of TTC courses all week. When it comes to enthusiasm and dedication, Green’s co-driver gets the award as he actually has a tattoo of Green’s Ford under his arm.

Green’s ’79 F-350’s body was about as clean and dent-free as they come. The custom hood, complete with original Ford Motor Co. stampings, was crafted from two ’89 Ford Ranger tailgates and two ’79 Ford truck hoods. The custom front and rear four-link suspension utilizes coils and Rancho shocks, along with air rams at each corner to offer more dampening and adjustment for when the truck gets off-camber. Coupled with a Trail Master 3-inch body lift, the classic Ford had no trouble clearing the 54-inch Boggers.

The Details
Driver name/city: Glen Green/Lake Country, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation: Crane operator
Vehicle model: 1979 Ford F-350
Engine: 540ci Ford V-8, bored .030 over, 950cfm Quick Fuel carburetor, Weiand intake, Hooker Headers, 3-in Flowmaster exhaust
Transmission: C6, TCS converter, Scat flexplate
Transfer case(s): Dual NP205
Ratio(s): 1.96:1, 3.76:1
Suspension (f/r): Custom four-link, adjustable air rams, Rancho shocks/custom four-link, adjustable air rams, Rancho shocks
Axles (f/r): High-pinion Dana 60, Yukon chromoly axleshafts, spool/GM 14-bolt, Yukon chromoly axleshafts, spool
Axle ratio: 5.13:1
Wheels: 20x14 MRW beadlock
Tires: 19.5/54-20LT Interco Super Swamper TSL Bogger
Comp weight (lb): 6,540

Green Speaks
Most looking forward to: “Definitely the Mud Pit. My roots are in the mud, and I’m sure that’s where my truck will shine.”
Not looking forward to: “I would say I’m looking forward to all of them, but least of all anything to do with the rocks because it is the rocks that I have the least experience with. The Tank Trap is obviously the pinnacle event of the competition, and I’m very curious to see where my truck stands with the competition.”
Playing in his iPod/CD player: “I’m a big country music fan, but right now I would say I’m probably listening to Jason Aldean and good old-fashioned Guns N’ Roses.”

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