The Sponsors That Make UA Happen
Until one of the editors is adopted by a Russian millionaire or marries the widow of an oil barron we are going to need sponsors for our Ultimate Adventure trip. Sponsors fulfill many rolls: They are great friends on the trip, they usually have tons of experience off-roading, and they bring awesome 4x4s for the invited readers to ogle. Of course there is the financial and marketing side of the equation as well, but even more important is the opportunity to showcase sponsor components on a great and yet abusive adventure. Weak links will be exposed, and this is real-world information that all parties enjoy learning. (Plus, who can deny that a week of four-wheeling disguised as R&D is genius!) We always want to throw a salute and a thank-you to our UA sponsors new and returning, so here they are in no particular order.
Ford: Presenting Sponsor and Official Truck.
The title sponsor of UA 2013 is the Blue Oval itself, Ford. Ford has been burning up the marketplace with its great-selling EcoBoost F-150, its dirt hot rod Raptor F-150, and its workhorses, the Super Duty F-250 and F-350. We love the pure grunt our F-250 Super Duty diesel has. By trimming it down to a regular-cab shortbed and then giving it mega ground clearance with the modified factory axles with portal gearboxes, we ended up with a truck that is big and capable. Make no mistake. This is a big tough truck that laughed at what we threw at it and came back asking for more. When you start with 400 hp and 800 lb/ft of torque and then you multiply it with the ORD Magnum case, build a custom flexy suspension with BDS components, and finish it off with portal axles filled with ARB parts and Nitro axles between Nitto tires, it really makes it hard to find a reason to use the front and rear Warn winches in our TrailReady bumpers. Don’t worry, we found a spot or two to pull cable, but this truck worked awesome and was a great platform to build the ultimate trail machine.
ARB: Official Locking Differential and Lighting.
ARB is well known around the world in expedition camping and backcountry exploring, so ARB was the perfect fit for our type of trip. Our Ultimate Super Dirty had three ARB components we couldn’t live without: a pair of Air Lockers, two Intensity LED lights, and the ever-chillin’ ARB Fridge Freezer. Lockers are required on the UA, and having ones that can be activated on/off allows greater control for navigating obstacles or street driving. Plus, since the lockers require a compressor it means we’ll always have onboard air for inflating tires before road days. The Intensity LED lights made setting up camp after dark a breeze. If you’ve ever been on the UA, you know we always set up camp after dark. The Fridge Freezer is the most extravagant upgrade that we will swear by. You may say there is no need, but when your sandwiches aren’t floating in melt water, your soft drinks are perfectly chilled while you’re wheeling, and your adult beverages are crisp as a mountain stream in early spring after you've been wheeling in humid heat and setting up your tent in the dark, you will also swear these 12-volt coolers are the coolest ever.
BDS: Official Suspension.
BDS and sister company Zone Suspension have been alternating in sponsoring the UA every few years. This year BDS was back to showcase a variety of suspension builder components. BDS has flex joints and weld-in bungs for whatever linked suspension you may want to build, along with offering Fox shocks for many of BDS’s popular suspension systems. Whether you are looking for a small leaf-sprung lift for an old Jeep, enough lift on your IFS vehicle to clear big rubber, or components to build whatever custom wacky 4x4 you desire (say, a bobbed and chopped diesel Jeep Liberty on Rubicon Wrangler axles), BDS can supply the parts to make your taller truck come true. There were many custom suspensions on the trip, but BDS has sent vehicles in the past with off-the-shelf suspension kits, and they did great. Consider BDS first when planning your dream UA buildup.
Bubba Rope: Official Recovery Gear.
The joke amongst the group was whose turn it was to push someone out with their Bubba Rope. Yes, while you may think one truck is getting extracted, in fact every “stuck” driver will swear that they were just pushing the other vehicle with their amazing Bubba Rope. The stories may be as deep an exaggeration as the Florida mud holes we were playing in, but the truth is that an elastic recovery rope like the Bubba is perfect for the job of pulling your friends out no matter what mess they’re in. The concept is simple: One truck starts pulling, the rope stretches, and then as the rope contracts it sucks the stuck vehicle out of the slop and back onto solid ground. The Bubba Rope was born in the Florida mud holes and showed its value there as UA attendees yanked each other out of sticky predicaments. Now if only they could design one that would hook itself up and not require tromping through the slop to get to your tow hook.
Nitro Gear & Axle: Official Gear and Axle.
Another new company to the UA family is Nitro Gear & Axle. We stuffed Nitro’s axleshafts, joints, and other components in our Ultimate Super Dirty, and we know Nitro helped prep many UA attendees this year. Nitro’s trail rig of choice was a very unique Toyota Land Cruiser, and its spunky little diesel and unusual styling had other Toyota enthusiasts on the trip drooling. Nitro offers a variety of hard-to-find Toyota axle components and parts for many new and old American-made 4x4s. If you’re dreaming of attending the Ultimate Adventure you’ll be required to have locking diffs front and rear as well as 35-inch or larger tires, so you’ll probably be considering dropping those axle cogs to turn the bigger rubber. You should consider calling Nitro and get exactly what you need in your 4x4 housings.
Nitro Gear & Axle
Discount Tire: Official Tire Retailer.
This year was a first for Discount Tire as a sponsor, and the company sent a serious trail truck to attend. Known for its stores and online sales, Discount Tire sent the massive RESQ-1 Jeep truck with a built-in tire machine and a gas-powered air compressor/welder. Driver and Jp Feature Editor Verne Simons did a great job wrangling this big rig down the trail and were ready and willing to lend a hand with any tire airing up or repair issues that arose. We recently ordered wheels and tires from Discount Tire for another project and were delighted when they showed up mounted and balanced ready to bolt on (see “Alabama Army Truck” this issue). That is great service for those of you who don’t live close to a local tire shop and need new treads on your truck because DT offers an enormous array of tire and wheels sizes and styles.
Nitto Tire: Official Tire.
For the past three years Nitto has been the official tire of the Ultimate Adventure. We have run big Nittos, small Nittos, Mud Grappler Nittos, and Trail Grappler Nittos, but we have never run into a problem with our Nittos. We have never had a puncture in any of the Nittos on our trip. How is this possible? We’re not sure, as we’ve been working them hard in every type of terrain and still no issues. The Nitto Mud Grapplers have a growing reputation, but the new Trail Grapplers are really some of our favorite tires to date. They work great in the dirt and rocks and still run down the highway straight and true. In fact, we’ve driven across the country on 40-inch Trail Grapplers in the past year and they rode well and had little noticeable wear after thousands miles of highway use. Performance and longevity like this is awesome for an off-road tire.
Nitto Tire USA Inc.
TrailReady Bumpers: Official Bumper.
When we first started talking to TrailReady about a set of bumpers for our Ultimate Super Dirty we had very precise goals. Whereas most fullsize truck bumpers are big and bulky, we wanted something that was slim and tight. We knew it would have to be large to protect the multiple coolers and radiators packed in the front of the Ford, but it didn’t have to be gigantic, and we didn’t want a big lower lip sticking out waiting to grab obstacles and slow progress when leading the group down the trail. TrailReady took our concerns and replied with a bumper that was nothing less than perfect. The bumper improves the approach angle, hides a massive Warn winch, and doesn’t stick out much farther than the stock bumper. The TrailReady bumper exceeded our desires for a front bumper and included recovery hooks and recovery shackle points, a bonus unheard of on most fullsize armor. TrailReady matched the front with a rugged rear bumper and proved that when other bumpers are only good for a front bumper and included recovery hooks and recovery shackle points. TrailReady matched the front with a rugged rear bumper and proved that when other bumpers are only good for slaying road-bound deer, these bumpers are truly trail-ready.
Synergy Manufacturing: Official Trail Shower.
Synergy Manufacturing makes a huge variety of off-road components from rollcages and brackets to complete suspensions, but Synergy came on the UA as the official trail shower. The Synergy Sit, Shower, Shave kit is 5-gallon bucket packed with camping supplies and a vehicle-mounted heat exchanger designed to bring a hot shower anywhere you can park your 4x4 and have access to running water, be it from a stream, a pond, or a garden hose. The kit uses a small 12-volt pump to pull water from the source, send it through the heat exchanger that uses engine coolant to heat the water (never mixing the two, mind you), and then includes a small spray handle to help get you clean after a day in the mud or dust. Luxuries like this almost make the Ultimate Adventure as comfortable as home. Especially if being home involves gnarly four-wheeling, camping in the dirt, and long epic road days.
Offroad Power Products: Official Retailer.
Offroad Power Products (OPP) is an online retailer that offers a variety of 4x4 components. OPP has a corresponding diesel performance company known as Diesel Power Products. Representatives Bryan Howell and Erik Cooper Rasmussen returned to the event in a Cummins four-cylinder Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. They had a pretty rough week with some broken axle parts, but that doesn’t mean OPP missed the event. In addition to the Jeep, OPP also sent a Raptor Super Duty, which we featured back in our June ’13 issue (“Raptor Super Duty”). It was driven by Scott Mclean as the official vehicle of the UA video crew. This big powerhouse Ford is rolling on 40-inch rubber and made for a great mobile movie studio where video cameras could be cleaned, charged, and prepped for the next day’s fun. Since it was decked out with a full array of big off-road lights it was great for helping light up late-night camp assembly.
Offroad Power Products
Offroad Design: Official Transfer Case.
If you’re going to wheel a fullsize 4x4 you need to know Offroad Design. ORD specializes in Chevys but is not exclusive to Chevys by any means. We fitted ORD’s Magnum 205 transfer case system in the Ultimate Super Duty (see the story in this very issue) and had gobs of gearing for every obstacle on the trip with its multiple low-range options. ORD also has steering, suspension, axle, and drivetrain parts as well as bumpers for many years of Chevrolet 4x4s or whatever you are stuffing Chevy parts into. Have a buggy with GM 1-ton axles, or an IFS Chevy that needs a solid front axle? ORD can help you out. Plus, with experience in trail riding, racing, and off-road modification, ORD can not only supply parts but also suggest solutions before you ever lift a wrench on your 4x4.
Off Road Design
Shaffer’s Off Road: Official Builder/Fab Shop.
The crew from Shaffer’s Off Road was not able to attend the Ultimate Adventure, but they lived the adventure before the trip ever started by building a big bad Ford in record time. We approached Mike Shaffer and his shop with the prospect of building this year’s official truck because of his years of experience racing off-road, building trick suspensions, and fabricating custom 4x4s. Shaffer’s Off Road is hidden away in a big industrial building in Alameda, California, where they are turning out some very cool 4x4s in the form of trucks, Jeeps, and buggies. Shaffer saw the challenge in taking a fullsize truck and making it capable and strong as well as reliable off-road, and he met that challenge head-on. His team of fabricators and friends worked day and late nights to build us a rig that could lead our posse of adventurers, and they did a great job. If you’re looking for something unusual, something capable, and something reliable, consider Shaffer’s Off Road
Shaffer’s Off Road
1924 Willow St.
Alameda, CA 94501
Warn Industries: Official Winch.
Warn, the longest-running sponsor of the UA, is still our go-to crew for serious vehicle extraction. In fact, having a quality winch sponsor is the reason we don’t feel bad about requiring attendees to try every obstacle. There is no shame in taking the hook, especially when you have a winch up front that you can depend on to pull you through the rough stuff, deep stuff, steep stuff, and stuff you have no business being in. Warn isn’t only a winch company. Warn offers hubs, bumpers, and lights too, but winches are the company’s specialty. Having one up on your front bumper makes it much easier to sleep at night, in you tent, in the rain, in the mud, and in the swamps of Florida surrounded by mosquitoes the size of pterodactyls.
Warn Industries Inc.