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2014 Ultimate Adventure Staff & Cronies

Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2014 on October 30, 2014
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Photographers: 4WOR Staff

Last month we gave you all the details on the group that is the reason the Ultimate Adventure exists: the readers and sponsors. Without them, this crazy weeklong thousand-plus mile trip through multiple states simply would not take place each year. And while it is a week full of chaos, believe it or not there are some guys behind the scenes who try and keep all the participants moving in one general direction. General Péwé is the ring leader of the bunch, but a few key staff members and a select group of volunteers (that’s right, they don’t get paid and take vacation time from their regular jobs) help herd the cats and can be called upon to make just about anything happen.

The cronies are on hand to do whatever is needed, whether it’s tracking down parts, helping wrench on a broken rig, chase down a lost member of the group, or anything else that Péwé or a member of the group needs. This year the Cronies were also badged the Voodoo Crew because they were the go to guys for recovery and all equipped with Voodoo recovery ropes. In some cases they are even called upon to help their own, as it was this year when Sam Gillis towed Tim Hardy over 120 miles after Tim lost an engine, then spent two days helping him get the new one installed. So it goes.

In short, these staffers and cronies are the reason no one gets left behind. Their purpose is to make sure everyone has a chance to shine on video or in print, or both. Here’s a closer look at the motley crew of staff and cronies and what they were driving this year.

Staff
Rick Péwé’s CJ-17
The CJ-17
Driver: Rick Péwé

A recent reshuffling of the entire company that owns 4-Wheel & Off-Road has put Rick Péwé in charge of more magazines than just this one, but that didn’t stop him from once again tackling the logistical challenge that is the Ultimate Adventure. It also meant that Editor Fred Williams needed to pilot the Ultimate Adventure Tug-Truck, so Péwé needed a ride. He turned to his own stable and brought back the UA rig from 2010, otherwise known as the CJ-17, which had been almost untouched since it was built. Péwé put some new wheels and tires on it and a new winch, and then pointed it east.

True to the quality of the original build, the CJ handled the entire trip without too many problems, but one of them was some mysteriously reduced fuel mileage that gave the CJ a range slightly below Péwé’s own mandated 150 miles. But it’s good to be king, so it meant a reprieve for those rigs that were nervous about making it 150 miles because the group stopped a little more often for fuel. Other than an occasionally cranky computer controlling the E-rod LS-3, which had a tendency to go into limp mode, Péwé and his CJ were more than capable of leading the rest of the UA participants to the next surprise around the bend.

Drivetrain
Engine: 6.2L E-Rod LS3
Transmission: 4L80E
Transfer Case: Atlas II 3.8
Front Axle: Dana 44 hybrid with Dana 60 outers, 5.13, ARB Air Lockers
Rear Axle: Dana 60, 5.13, ARB Air Locker

Suspension
Springs & Such: Coilovers with Fox shocks (front); spring-under with Fox 2.0 shocks (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on 17x9 KMC Beadlock wheels
Winch: Warn Zeon 10-s

Old Crony
Trent McGee’s Blazer
Trent’s Bile Beige Blazer
Drivers: Trent McGee & Clifton Slay

Another longtime crony, Trent McGee, and co-driver Clifton Slay were the alternate tail-gunners, mid-gunners, and whatever was needed this year. Their ride, McGree’s tired ’89 Blazer, was thrown together in two weeks and is detailed elsewhere in this issue. Contrary to McGee’s assumption and those of many others, the Blazer somehow held it together for most of the week, despite the 220,000-plus miles on the odometer. Jacks of all trades but a masters of none, these guys know a little bit about a lot of stuff, and when they get stumped they can call in the cavalry. It was great having Slay back after he missed the trip last year. While the Blazer has many body panels in non-factory shapes, its behavior is proof that sticking with the KISS principle isn’t the worst recipe for surviving the UA in one piece.

Drivetrain
Engine: 5.7L TBI
Transmission: TH700-R4
Transfer Case: NP208
Front Axle: Dana 60, 5.13 Nitro gears, Detroit Locker
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, 5.13 Nitro gears, Detroit Locker

Suspension
Springs & Such: 6-inch Superlift springs with BDS shocks
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on Method Beadlocks
Winch: Warn Zeon 10-s

Old Crony
Keith Bailey’s Blue Buggy
Bailey Blue Tube Car
Drivers: Keith Bailey & Tom Boyd

Keith Bailey and Tom Boyd are a dynamic duo in Bailey’s blue buggy, which is a Posion Spyder chassis. Bailey brings the mechanical expertise to the party, while Boyd brings the antics. Boyd arrived a full week in advance of the event at Bailey’s shop, the Off Road Connection, to transform Bailey’s buggy into a mobile water-wielding platform. There were water guns, cannons, and a remote water balloon launcher, and all had their own pressurized water source. These guys are an indispensible part of the trip: Bailey can fix anything on the fly while being an invaluable spotter, and Boyd keeps it light; he is the reason everyone scans the sky for water balloons for weeks after UA. Bailey also gets the patience award for putting up with Boyd for almost a full two weeks in total, with an honorable mention to Sam Gillis.

Drivetrain
Engine: 5.7L Hemi
Transmission: 545RFE
Transfer Case: Atlas II 4.3:1
Front Axle: ORC high-pinion Dana 60, 4.56, Detroit Locker
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, ORC shave kit, 4.56, Detroit Locker

Suspension
Springs & Such: Triangulated 4-link front and rear with Fox 14-inch coilovers
Tires & Wheels: 40x12.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on PSC 17x9 Beadlocks
Winch: Warn XP9500 with Warn Spydura rope

Old Crony
Sam Gillis’ Green Tube Car
Gillis Green Tube Car/Liberty
Drivers: Sam Gillis & David Chappelle

Sam Gillis brought up the rear of the trip this year as tailgunner with David Chappelle riding shotgun in Gillis’ green “Jeep Liberty,” which is really just a tube chassis. It has proven to be an extraordinarily capable and reliable rig, which is an important part of being an old crony. These guys run sweep at the end of every trail and on road days, and unfortunately for them, that means a lot of time away from the group—or at best, the last rig to climb an obstacle when the camera crew and everyone else is headed back to their rigs. While there’s not a lot of glory in what they do, make no mistake: These guys are rig-fixing machines, even when it means towing another crony 120 miles to do an engine swap. Gillis and Chappelle are the anchors of the UA, and by that we mean the rock-solid reliable kind of anchor, not the type that holds the group back.

Drivetrain
Engine: 5.7L LS1
Transmission: TH350
Transfer Case: Atlas II 4.3:1
Front Axle: Hi-pinion Dana 60, 4.56, Grizzly Locker
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, ORC shave kit, 4.56, Detroit Locker

Suspension
Springs & Such: 4-link front and rear with Walker Evans 2-inch Air Shocks
Tires & Wheels: 40x12.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on PSC 17x9 Beadlocks
Winch: Warn XP9500 with Warn Spydura rope

Staff
Raptor Camera Truck
Camera Crew Ride
Driver: Rocky Dorame

While no trailers are allowed on the UA, a couple of support rigs are necessary, and one of the key support vehicles is the one that hauls the camera crew around. Even so, driving the camera support rig is a pretty thankless job. Not only does this person have to haul around several other overworked and underpaid guys all day, but he was often a stand-in gopher running batteries, food, and water to the crew while they tried to get all the great moments on video. On top of all that, the camera crew driver doesn’t even get to do much four-wheeling. Such was the lot of Rocky Dorame, but if there’s ever a guy who handled a thankless, grueling job with a more positive attitude, we haven’t met him yet.

Rocky is a UA alumni from 2012, and he was driving a fully decked out ride on loan from Power Products Unlimited. The Raptor Super Duty is what Ford would build if it were to build a Raptor version of a Super Duty, but on steroids. It sports a healthy 6.7L under the hood, a 41⁄2-inch lift, and many other extras, but most importantly it had the space and capability to get the entire crew and their gear to wherever they are needed, on or off the road.

Drivetrain
Engine: 6.7L Scorpion
Transmission: Stock built by ATI
Transfer Case: Stock
Front Axle: Stock with 4.30 Nitro gears
Rear Axle: Stock with electric locker and 4.30 Nitro gears

Suspension
Springs & Such: Carli 41⁄2-inch coilover kit, rear long-travel Deaver springs with bypass shocks
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50-17 Maxxis Trepadors on 17x9 ATX Slab wheels
Winch: Warn 16.5ti

Old Crony
Chris Durham’s TJ
Durham’s TJ Wrangler
Driver: Chris Durham

Chris Durham isn’t going to be the first one to introduce himself and strike up a conversation, but he’s one of the most personable and knowledgeable people on the UA. Tech tip: If you ever find yourself climbing an obstacle on the UA and everyone is telling you to go right but Durham is telling you to go left, just go left and it will be fine. Over the years he has brought several unique vehicles on Ultimate Adventure, but all of them have shared a common build theme: low, light, and powerful. It’s his signature, and he builds them right in his Pickens, South Carolina, shop. This year Durham borrowed a rig from his friend Travis in exchange for letting Durham finish off some stuff on the rig. The result was the Ultimate sleeper: a TJ on 37s that was absolutely unstoppable with Durham behind the wheel. In addition to supporting the group, he served as chauffer for the camera crew and made sure they got where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there, on time or before.

Drivetrain
Engine: 4.0L
Transmission: Automatic
Transfer Case: NP231 with 2WD Low
Front Axle: Wagoneer Dana 44, 4.88, Lock-Right
Rear Axle: Dana 44 33-spline, 4.88, Detroit Locker

Suspension
Springs & Such: Custom Chris Durham Motorsports with BDS joints
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50-17 Falken WildPeaks on B.A.D. beadlock wheels
Winch: Warn 9500XP

Old Crony
Tim Hardy’s Suzuki
Wrinkled Samurai
Drivers: Tim Hardy & Phillip Vizgaudis

Tim Hardy shocked the rest of the cronies on two fronts this year. Not only did he show up with a co-driver, but he showed up with beadlocks! For those that don’t know, Hardy’s ability to break beads due to no tire pressure and conventional wheels is the stuff of legend. The record is somewhere north of three beads in 100 feet. Also, he has had only one other person ride with him on an the Ultimate Adventure before, and that was his teenage niece a few years ago. They got lost in Death Valley and almost ran out of gas on the way to the start of the trip in the middle of the summer, and legend has it Tim told her not to cry because she needed to conserve water.

This year his co-driver, Phillip Vizgaudis, was a welcome addition to Team Hardy because not only was he a nice guy, but he also owned a phone made after 2002 that could actually communicate via text and email when needed! Hardy brought his famous red raisin back this year with the aforementioned beadlocks and some fancy new Nittos around them, but they didn’t keep him from having other issues. On the second road day, a bracket on the engine broke and punched a hole in the oil filter, which led to the engine bleeding out before Hardy even knew what had happened. The result: a 120-mile tow on the end of a Voodoo rope to the shop of another Suzuki fanatic and what turned out to be a two-day repair. Other than the engine drama, the old Suzuki was great. BTW, we all love the beadlocks!

Drivetrain
Engine: 1.3L carbureted
Transmission: 5-speed
Transfer Case: stock with custom 4:1
Front Axle: Custom housing with Tracker 3rd member, 5.12
Rear Axle: Custom housing with Tracker 3rd member, 5.12, custom Ford 9-inch shafts

Suspension
Springs & Such: Custom Tim Hardy stuff with quarter elliptics
Tires & Wheels: 35x12.50-17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on TrailReady beadlock wheels
Winch: Warn

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