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2014 Ultimate Adventure Attendees: Part 1

Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2014 on October 1, 2014
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Every year Ultimate Adventure brings together a random assortment of personalities from all different walks of life, but all of them share a common interest. It was no different this year. Our ragtag bunch of readers, sponsors, and cronies had melded into one friendly group by the end of the very first trail day. This year’s bunch included 23 trail rigs plus a couple of support vehicles for hauling the camera crew around, making the headcount somewhere north of 60 people. Getting 60 people and 25-plus vehicles moving in the same direction is like herding cats, but everyone got the hang of things fairly quickly. Without further ado, meet the sponsors and readers of UA 2014.

Jim Mueller’s Scrambler
1981 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler
Drivers: Jim Mueller & Logan Mueller
We first felt that Jim Mueller’s Scrambler was almost too nice to take on the UA. The rig was immaculate, practically show-quality, right down to the hydro-dipped carbon fiber half-cab top. Would he be afraid to scratch it? Would he come unglued when he rubbed it up against a tree? All of our fears were almost immediately put to rest, as not only did Mueller wheel his Jeep like it was a beater, but he let his 18-year-old son Logan drive it much of the time. It turns out Logan is the wrench in the family, having helped build much of his dad’s Scrambler when he wasn’t wrenching on his own ’72 CJ-6. And when he wasn’t behind the wheel of his dad’s Scrambler, Logan was busy running winch cables up and down hills or doing anything else he could to help the group on the trail. By the end of the trip the Scrambler looked just like it did at the start, only dirtier, because it is built as well as it looks. Well, and also because the Muellers don’t drive by braille like the rest of us. The elder Mueller is a partner in a company that works with car dealerships in Tacoma, Washington, while the younger one hopes to make a career in the off-road industry.

Engine: Chevy 6.0L V-8
Transmission: 4L80E
Transfer Case: Atlas 4-speed
Front Axle: SpiderTrax 9-inch with Currie centersection, ARB Air Locker, 4.56
Rear Axle: Currie 9-inch, ARB Air Locker, 4.56

Springs & Such: Custom 3-link with Fox coilovers and Eibach springs by Dan Simonson (front); Custom 4-link with Fox coilovers and Eibach springs by Dan Simonson (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on Trail Ready 17” Beadlock wheels
Winch: Warn 8274

2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Drivers: Peter Treydte & Jerrod Jones
Another new sponsor this year, Banks sent 20-year Test Group Manager Peter Treydte and consultant/former 4WOR staffer Jerrod Jones to represent Banks in the company’s TJ Unlimited. Treydte has spent most of his time in the dirt going fast in various desert race trucks, more so than trail riding, but no one would ever know it from how he handled the LJ on the trail. Equipped with a Banks Sidewinder turbo, the Jeep has spent several years as a test bed for the company’s turbo products. True to form, the LJ proved to be well sorted out and had few issues other than some fragged control arm bushings early in the trip.

Engine: 4.0L I-6 with Banks Sidewinder turbo
Transmission: Factory automatic
Transfer Case: Factory Rubicon
Front Axle: Dana 44 with G2 axleshafts and Yukon hub conversion, factory Rubicon differential, 4.88
Rear Axle: Dana 44 with G2 axleshafts, factory Rubicon differential, 4.88

Springs & Such: RockKrawler long-arm with Bilstein 5160 shocks front and rear
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on Trail Ready beadlock wheels
Winch: Warn PowerPlant 9.5

VJ Perrin’s CUCV
1985 Chevy CUCV
Drivers: VJ Perrin & Travis Bennett
Returning reader VJ Perrin’s rig was voted Most Improved over last year. He had ditched the anemic 6.2L diesel in his CUCV for a 5.9L Cummins that was further woken up with some parts and advice from the crew at Power Products Unlimited. A welder and fabricator by trade, Perrin also ditched the stock bed for one from an M105 military trailer and then cut it down to match the lines of the truck. The result was a lot more power with less sheetmetal to bend, which meant that he and co-driver Travis Bennett could attack the muddy hills on this trip without much fear of damage. The men are both from Southern Louisiana, which means they have funny accents—and if their accents don’t make you laugh, then the jokes they frequently tell will have you in stitches.

Engine: 5.9L Cummins 12V
Transmission: NV4500
Transfer Case: NP205
Front Axle: Dana 60, Detroit Locker, 4.56
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, Detroit Locker, 4.56

Springs & Such: 8-inch BDS leaf springs and shocks front and rear
Tires: 40x14.50-17 Nitto Mud Grapplers
Winch: Warn Zeon 10-s

Pacific Fabrication
1983 Chevy Blazer
Drivers: Kevin Stearns & Jason Howerton
Who brings a race car on Ultimate Adventure? Kevin Stearns and Jason Howerton, that’s who! Stearns is the proprietor of Pacific Fabrication in Gilroy, California, which is the shop that built the Ultimate Tug-Truck. Howerton serves as shop foreman and general right-hand man. That means in addition to building the UA rig from the ground up, somehow the duo made the time to prep Stearns’ Ultra 4 racecar and make it legal enough to avoid attracting the attention of local law enforcement. Though there’s not much Blazer left, the racer packs all kinds of go-fast goodies, including bypass shocks, GPS, Parker pumpers, and a wicked PacFab-built 550hp LS2 that sounds incredible from idle to redline. Stearns wasn’t afraid to use all of those ponies when needed, which was often on all of the slick, muddy trails this year. Sharp-eyed readers might remember that he attended the 2009 Ultimate Adventure as a reader in the same vehicle, albeit it was very different back then. Thanks to his past experience, Stearns knew what to expect and made a few key changes to convert the racecar into a capable trail vehicle. His mostly trouble-free trip is a testament to the versatility of the truck and the quality of the work Pacific Fabrication cranks out on a daily basis.

Engine: 367ci PacFab LS2 V-8
Transmission: TH400
Transfer Case: NP205/Klune V
Front Axle: Currie RockJock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.13
Rear Axle: Custom with Torq Super 14 3rd member, spool, 5.13

Springs & Such: Custom PacFab 3-Link with Bilstein 21⁄2-inch coilovers (front); custom PacFab 4-link with Bilstein 21⁄2-inch coilovers (rear)
Tires: 40x13.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers
Winch: TJM 10,000

Brennan Metcalf’s Willys
1942 Willys MB
Drivers: Brennan Metcalf & Jonathan Albrecht
A lot of people forget that keeping a rig light and low can be just as effective as big engines and flexy suspensions, and Brennan Metcalf’s MB is proof of concept. What Metcalf’s rig lacked in storage space it more than made up for in agility on the trail. Sporting a host of unique items and ideas, the little MB showed that good off-road vehicles can come in small packages. A Durango, Colorado, resident, Metcalf is no stranger to the rocks, while co-driver Jonathan Albrecht is based in Pennsylvania and owns a restomod ’47 CJ-2A. Other than watching the flattie scurry up and down muddy hills all week, a highlight was watching the MB start to float during a particularly deep water crossing and then get towed back across the same crossing by the Tug-Truck.

Engine: 225ci Buick V-6
Transmission: T-18
Transfer Case: Dana 20 with Dana 18 internals
Front Axle: Dana 30 with Nitro chromoly shafts, Spartan Locker, 5.38
Rear Axle: Dana 44 with full-floater conversion, Ox Locker, 5.38

Springs & Such: 1-inch Superlift springs front and rear
Tires: 35x13.50-15 BFGoodrich Krawlers
Winch: Belleview 6,000-pound

Nitto Tire
1951 Dodge M37
Drivers: Mel Wade & Chris Corbett
Neither Mel Wade nor Chris Corbett are strangers to the UA. This year the duo was back in Wade’s ultracool M37 representing Nitto, the Official Tire sponsor. Never afraid to stuff 10 pounds of truck in a 5-pound hole, Wade could always be counted on to put on a show. The vintage sheetmetal may have kissed a few trees during the trip, but with Wade behind the wheel, the truck proved to be just as capable of negotiating the twisty trails as rigs half its size. There were times when it seemed as though Wade himself was trying to break Nitto’s unbelievable streak of four Ultimate Adventures without a single tire failure, but in the end only a seized wheel bearing and some broken fan belts briefly slowed them down.

Engine: 400ci Chevy V-8
Transmission: TH400
Transfer Case: ORD 203/205 Doubler
Front Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, Detroit Locker, 5.13
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, Detroit Locker, 5.13

Springs & Such: Off Road Evolution custom long-arm with King coilovers front and rear
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on ATX beadlocks
Winch: Warn 16.5ti

J.W. Speaker
2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Drivers: Jason Speaker & JT Molder
J.W. Speaker, a new sponsor of the UA, sent Jason Speaker along with JT Molder to represent the company. Piloting the only JK to attend the trip this year (a first since 2007), the team also did a great job representing JK owners in their Hemi-powered Unlimited. In addition to being a constant and welcome source of light after nightfall (we never set up camp in the daylight this year), they proved to be the perfect combination. Speaker is a relative newcomer to four-wheeling, yet the JK completed the trip more or less unscathed thanks to following the careful spotting of the more experienced Molder. As one might guess, Speaker works for the family business. Molder is a sales and marketing guy for Nemesis.

Engine: 5.7L Hemi V-8
Transmission: Factory Hemi
Transfer Case: Factory Rubicon
Front Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 44 with Reid knuckles and RCV shafts, ARB Air Locker, 5.38
Rear Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.38

Springs & Such: 3-inch TeraFlex long-arm with King shocks front and rear
Tires: Falken Wildpeak
Winch: Warn Zeon 10-s

2005 Jeep Wrangler LJ
Drivers: Fred Perry & Adel Adams
Fred Perry’s shop has been a red-letter dealer for Warn longer than many of our readers have been alive, and as a result he has had the opportunity to help the company support their sponsorship efforts for Ultimate Adventure for many years. This year he teamed up with longtime Warn marketing guru Adel Adams, who happened to be the sole woman on the trip this year. Perry’s well-prepped LJ was flawless for the entire trip, although the passenger door suffered an unfortunate rearranging. No stranger to four-wheeling in her own right, Adams has more than 20 years of off-road experience behind the wheel. The duo was a great help all week, pulling many winch cables and supervising winch rigging throughout the course of the trip.

Engine: Stock 4.0L I-6
Transmission: Stock
Transfer Case: Atlas II
Front & Rear Axles: Currie RockJock 60s, Detroit Lockers, 5.38 gears

Springs & Such: TeraFlex LCG with Fox 2½-inch air shocks front and rear
Tires & Wheels: 39x12.50-17 BFGoodrich Krawler M/Ts on Walker Evans 17-inch beadlocks
Winch: Warn Zeon 10-s

Shaughn Reid’s Blazer
1975 Chevy Blazer
Drivers: Shaughn Reid & Mario “Beandog” Albor
Shaughn Reid ran into Senior Editor Verne Simons and UA crony Trent McGee at Tierra del Sol, when both of them encouraged Shaughn to apply for the UA after seeing his built K5. He is probably regretting his application now, but he swears otherwise. He and co-driver Mario “Beandog” Albor piloted Reid’s ultracool big-block–powered Blazer on the trip like a couple of veterans, and they even drove it all the way from California to the start of the trip. An incident halfway through the trip left the Blazer’s rollcage severely tested, but the duo never gave up and never let the smiles leave their faces. In a nutshell, the two embodied the true spirit of the UA.

Engine: 402ci Chevy V-8
Transmission: TH400
Transfer Case: NP205
Front Axle: Dana 60 with ORD crossover steering and PSC, ARB Air Locker, 4.88
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, ARB Air Locker, 4.88

Springs & Such: National springs with Fox 2-inch shocks, ORD shackles (front); National springs with Fox 2-inch shock, ORD flip kit (rear)
Tires: 40x15.50-20 Nitto Trail Grapplers
Winch: Warn M12/Warn PowerPlant 9.5

Off Road Design
1999 GMC 2500
Drivers: Stephen Watson & James Watson
Stephen Watson and his dad, James, have become a staple on the UA. Normally they bring one of the few fullsize rigs on the trip. This year the group was dominated by fullsize trucks, but even amongst all of the others, their white GMC managed to stand out and make big look good. As the proprietors of Offroad Design, they make their living building and selling drool-worthy hardcore fullsize truck stuff, including the Doubler and the Magnum. Their white GMC is no stranger to the UA either. The relatively simple build has proven to be the perfect formula for a successful, trouble-free trip. These guys can and should write a book on how to go four-wheeling in a fullsize truck.

Engine: 454ci Vortec V-8
Transmission: NV4500
Transfer Case: ORD Magnum
Front Axle: Ford Dana 60, ARB Air Locker, 5.13
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, ARB Air Locker, 5.13

Springs & Such: 3-inch ORD custom springs with King shocks (front); 6-inch ORD springs with King shocks and ORD 2-link traction bar (rear)
Tires: 40x13.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers
Winch: Warn 9.5XP

Scott Bruder’s Power Wagon
2011 Dodge Power Wagon
Drivers: Scott Bruder & Luke Shuman
Scott Bruder won the Most Likely to Void a Warranty award at the victory dinner, and with good reason. He bought a nearly new Power Wagon and dropped it off at Hazzard FabWorx, which proceeded to cut off the frame behind the cab, throw away the bed, slide the rear axle 20 inches forward, and then build a custom ultrashort bed. Bruder wisely left much of the Power Wagon drivetrain alone and focused on protecting the remaining sheetmetal with an exo-cage, rock sliders, and other custom tube work. Bruder even brought along Hazzard FabWorx owner Luke Shuman as co-driver, himself a UA veteran. The armor and shortened wheelbase helped on the tight trails this year, but the truck still picked up several bruises during the trip. Despite the damage, Bruder always kept a smile on his face and was always ready for more.

Engine: 5.7L V-8
Transmission: stock
Transfer Case: stock
Front Axle: Stock with free-spin kit and 35-spline axles with Warn hubs, Nitro cover, stock E-Locker, 5.13
Rear Axle: 111⁄2-inch AAM, ARB Air Locker, 5.13 Nitro gears

Springs & Such: Hazzard FabWorx 3-link with BDS long-arms, 6-inch Carli springs with Bilstein 7100s (front); Bilstein shocks with Eibach springs (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on Hutchinson 17-inch beadlocks
Winch: Warn 16.5ti

Bryan Schlagel’s Bronco
1978 Ford Bronco
Drivers: Bryan Schlagel & Bryce Schlagel
When we first saw Bryan Schlagel’s Bronco at check-in, we thought to ourselves that it was going to be a shame watching him and his brother Bryce bend up all of that straight, shiny sheetmetal. They may have been the quiet ones in the group, but they wheeled the heck out of Bryan’s Bronco and never hesitated to put it in harm’s way. The mild-mannered exterior hides a formidable package and a guy that has spent a lot of time behind the wheel. The fact is that while these guys don’t do a whole lot of talking, they sure walked the walk. The Schlagels own a company in Wyoming that manufacturers agricultural equipment.

Engine: 400ci V-8 with Holley EFI
Transmission: C-6
Transfer Case: NP205
Front Axle: Dana 44 with RCV shafts, Eaton E-Locker, 4.86
Rear Axle: Ford 9-inch with True Hi-9 Center and chromoly shafts, Eaton E-Locker, 4.88

Springs & Such: 5-inch Deavers with Bronco Graveyard shocks (front); Deavers with Bronco Graveyard shocks (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on 17x9 Trail Ready beadlocks
Winch: Milemarker REP8000

Nitro Gear & Axle
2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee WK
Drivers: Jeremy Ayers & Chad Vesey
You don’t see very many late-model Grand Cherokees on hard trails, let alone on an Ultimate Adventure, but that’s exactly what Jeremy Ayers brought to the party this year. His co-driver Chad Vesey handled the formidable task of swapping a Dana 44 in the place of the stock IFS and also bolted on a host of other equipment to keep the late-model sheetmetal out of harm’s way. Ayers is co-owner of Nitro Gear & Axle, a returning sponsor for UA 2014, so naturally the Jeep is filled with heavy-duty Nitro parts. As a result the Jeep didn’t experience a single drivetrain failure. The 3.0L diesel did a great job turning the 37-inch Nittos, and Ayers proved that with some work, WKs are capable of more than just taking the kids to soccer practice after school.

Engine: 3.0L diesel
Transmission: Stock
Transfer Case: Stock
Front Axle: Teraflex JK Dana 44 with Reid knuckles and RCV shafts, TJM Pro Locker, 4.88 Nitro gears
Rear Axle: Chrysler 81⁄4 with Nitro shafts, ARB Air Locker, 4.88 Nitro gears

Springs & Such: Jeepin by Al Custom 6-inch lift with King coilovers front and rear
Tires 7 Wheels: 37x12.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on Hutchinson Rockmonster beadlocks
Winch: TJM 9000

BDS Suspension
2005 Jeep Liberty CRD
Drivers: Dave DeVormer & Carter Reed
Carter Reed and Dave DeVormer will be the first to tell you that the debut of the BDS Liberty on last year’s Ultimate Adventure could have gone better. The little diesel-powered Jeep suffered gremlins in 2013, but they were back this year with the Liberty thoroughly sorted out. As a result, the Michigan residents were able to have an Ultimate Adventure this year rather than an Alternate Adventure. In fact, the Liberty was practically flawless and proved to be one of the most capable rigs on the trip. It is quite possibly the coolest Liberty on the planet, with all kinds of unique details and good parts, not the least of which were a BDS long-arm system and Fox coilover shocks at all four corners.

Engine: 2.8L diesel
Transmission: 45RFE
Transfer Case: NP241OR
Front Axle: JK Dana 44, Ox Locker, 5.13 Nitro gears
Rear Axle: JK Dana 44, ARB Air Locker, 5.13 Nitro gears

Springs & Such: 4-inch BDS 4-Link with Fox 21⁄2-inch coilovers front and rear
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on 17x10 BAD beadlocks
Winch: Warn 9.5RC

Matt Bokan’s Scout
1976 International Scout II
Drivers: Matt Bokan & Chris Klapp
Driving the lone corn binder on the trip this year, Colorado native Matt Bokan and Missouri-based co-driver Chris Klapp had to endure plenty of lighthearted jokes as the group drove by endless miles of corn fields, but they proved their little tractor could hang with the rest of the group and really shine on the trail. The Scout suffered a few mechanical ailments, but the guys made every trail day and never lost their positive attitude. The Scout is a textbook example of keeping it simple and under budget (you can’t swap a carb on an LS engine when the EFI acts up) while focusing on a few key upgrades instead of going over the top with the latest technology. Bokan is a mechanical engineer while Klapp is active duty Army and has a Scout problem of his own.

Engine: 345ci IH V-8, Holley Pro-Jection 2DI, MSD Ignition
Transmission: TF727
Transfer Case: Dana 20 Twin Stick with 3.15:1 Tera-Low
Front Axle: Dana 44, Spartan Locker, 4.56
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, Detroit Locker, 4.56

Springs & Such: Stock Scout II with Fox 2.0 shocks (front); Stock Scout II with add-a-leaf (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 35x12.50-R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on 17x8.5 Raceline beadlocks
Winch: Warn HS9500i

Power Products
2013 Ram 2500
Drivers: Cooper Rasmussen & Mike Kim
Back once again this year representing Power Products Unlimited, Cooper Rasmussen brought Mike Kim along for the ride in a nearly brand-new Ram 2500. The big Ram proved to be no slouch on the trail, thanks to a souped-up 6.7L Cummins under the hood, some innovative custom bumpers, and stout factory axles stuffed with Nitro goodies. The trees did manage to leave a few marks on the shiny sheetmetal, but Rasmussen somehow avoided giving the truck his full smash treatment this year. When they’re not goofing off on the UA, Rasmussen serves as the manager of Power Products Unlimited in Washington, while Kim is the manager of the company’s off-road division.

Engine: 6.7L Cummins
Transmission: G56 manual
Transfer Case: Factory BW 44-47
Front Axle: AAM 91⁄4, ARB Air Locker, 5.13 Nitro gears
Rear Axle: AAM 111⁄2, ARB Air Locker, 5.13 Nitro gears

Springs & Such: Eibach leveling kit with Fox 3.0 shocks (front); custom Deaver springs with Fox 3.0 shocks (rear)
Tires & Wheels: Maxxis Trepadors on Method 17x9 beadlocks
Winch: Warn 16.5ti

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