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Cronies of Ultimate Adventure 2018 #UA2018

Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2018 on August 2, 2018
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Whether they are sending their XJ flying through the air or setting up a rooftop tent at a picturesque “campsite” in Alabama Hills, so many people going off-road these days are “doing it for the ’gram.” You know, simply posing for the moment in order to gain a few Instagram followers or obtain an “attaboy” from the masses. We think the world needs less social media and more cronies. While cronyism has a negative connotation, at its core a crony is just a good friend. And we have the best friends around. They use up all of their vacation time for the year and drive across the country on their own dime. And when someone needs help they don’t show up with excuses—they just handle business. They are simply the glue that holds the Ultimate Adventure together. No hashtags required.

This is the second year that Trent McGee has coordinated with Christian Hazel to plan, prerun, and guide the Ultimate Adventure. As one of only two people who have been on every trip, and as a former 4WOR staffer with unmatched attention to detail, McGee is perfectly suited to lead this trip. The only downside to planning a trip on the other side of the country from your home in Arizona is that it doesn’t leave much time to prepare your vehicle. Despite some clunks and squeaks, McGree’s TJ buggy held together for yet another UA.

1997 Jeep TJ Buggy

Driver: Trent McGee
Co-Driver: Michael Harrington
How Many UAs Have You Been On? All of them (18)
Favorite Part of the Trip: Seeing what I thought and hoped would be good stops and such through the eyes of people who didn't know what was coming next. Or to put it another way, not having a group of bored or angry 4x4ers burning me in effigy.
Engine: 4.0L I-6
Transmission: AX15 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: 4-speed Advance Adapters Atlas II
Front Axle: Dana 60 with 4.88 gears and Detroit Locker
Rear Axle: Dana 60 with 4.88 gears and Detroit Locker
Springs & Such: Rusty's Off-Road long-arm system with 14-inch-travel Fox coilovers (front and rear)
Tires & Wheels: 38x13.50R17 Falken Wildpeak M/T on 17x9 Spyderlock beadlock
Steering: PSC steering box, hydraulic-assist ram, and pump
Winch: Warn 9.0RC
Other: AFW Motorsports chassis kit, Rugged Radios waterproof radio, Magellan GPS, onboard air, MasterCraft Safety seats, Tuffy glovebox and console, JE Reel driveshafts
What Broke: Fan belt on day one. Discovered some bad bushings due to casual prep. Bent a rear suspension link (by now an annual ritual), which caused intermittent driveline problems throughout the trip.

PhotosView Slideshow

Keith Bailey always has a smile on his face, whether he’s elbow-deep in a differential or getting hit by a water balloon from his co-driver. Last year he drove his CJ-7 on UA, but this year ol’ Bailey Blue was back and dominated all of the trails we ran. Bailey was the only one who didn’t have to pull cable on his Warn winch all week. That’s saying a lot, given the crazy slick, steep, and snotty terrain we hit. Next to him is Tom Boyd, who along with Trent McGee is the only guy to have been on every UA and who has become synonymous with the spirit of this event.

2005 Poison Spyder Bruiser

Driver: Keith Bailey
Co-Driver: Tom Boyd
How Many UAs Have You Been On? 16 (Keith); all (Tom)
Favorite Part of the Trip: Less pavement and more wheeling this year makes me think I made the right choice brining the buggy instead of the CJ-7.
Engine: 5.7L Hemi
Transmission: 545RE 5-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Atlas II
Front Axle: Dana 60 with RCV axles, 4.56 gears, and Grizzly Locker.
Rear Axle: Shaved 14-bolt with 4.56 gears and Detroit Locker
Springs & Such: 14-inch Fox coilovers
Tires & Wheels: 42x14.0-17LT Super Swamper Irok on 17x9 Fuel Anza beadlock
Steering: Off Road Connection full hydraulic steering with double ended ram
Winch: Warn XP9500 winch
Other: Rugged Radio 60-watt radio and intercom, MasterCraft Safety seats, GForce harnesses
What Broke: 40-amp relay

This was the 10th year that Sam Gillis brought his tube car on Ultimate Adventure, and it had zero issues. Sometimes Sam contemplates selling the buggy and building something with more creature comforts, but it is hard to argue with such a proven formula. Sam has a Fridge Freezer behind the seats, stuffs his clothes and gear inside the spare tire on the roof, and has strapped, clipped, and zip tied parts and tools to just about every square inch of the green buggy.

2009 Tube Car

Driver: Sam Gillis
Co-Driver: Chandler Shewmaker or Andrew Menna
How Many UAs Have You Been On? 14. I missed 2011 due to a deployment.
Favorite Part of the Trip: I liked how the route was set up this year so we wheeled every day. And going to the Northeast was a welcome change after the extreme heat of the last two years.
Engine: 5.7L LS1 V-8
Transmission: 700R4 4-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Atlas II
Front Axle: Dynatrac Dana 60 with Yukon chromoly axleshafts, 4.56 gears, and Yukon Grizzly Locker
Rear Axle: 14-bolt with 4.56 gears and spool
Springs & Such: Triangulated 4-link with 14-inch-travel Fox coilovers (front and rear)
Tires & Wheels: 38x13.50R17 Falken Wildpeak M/T on 17x9 Fuel Anza beadlock
Steering: Off Road Connection full hydraulic with double-ended ram
Winch: Warn XP9500
Other: Rugged Radios intercom, Lifetime LED lighting, ARB freezer-fridge
What Broke: Nothing!

Ken Smith is the newest addition to the cronies. He was an invited reader back in 2013, lent Rick Péwé his CJ-10 to lead the trip in 2015, and last year drove the support van for the video crew. So with that many dues paid, this year Hazel made it official. As a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, Smith has the right temperament to deal with whatever comes up on the UA, such as when he repeatedly dented his awesome K20 swapped onto a 2001 Ram 2500 chassis. The truck averaged 20 mpg and had a range of over 600 miles, so Smith would often go days without needing to refuel.

1971 Chevy K20

Driver: Ken Smith
Co-Driver: Harry Wagner
How Many UAs Have You Been On? 4
Favorite Part of the Trip: Mount Washington at sunset and getting to wheel each day. It was beautiful countryside with perfect weather all week.
Engine: 24-valve Cummins
Transmission: NV4500
Transfer Case: NP241
Front Axle: Dana 60 with 3.54 gears and Detroit Locker
Rear Axle: Dana 80 with 3.54 gears and ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: Stock Dodge Ram 2500 suspension
Tires & Wheels: 315/75R16 Falken Wildpeak M/T on stock K20 rally wheels with hubcaps
Steering: Stock Dodge Ram 2500
Winch: Warn VR12-S
Other: Well-used Premier Power Welder
What Broke: Radiator and rear driveline. Lots of dents too.

If you watch Dirt Every Day you likely recognize Dirt Head Dave Chappelle. He builds some really unique vehicles, such as his solid-axle Isuzu Amigo and his bagged Toyota Hilux, but this year he was driving Offroad Power Products’ JK, Stretch. Chappelle has been working on a regular-cab F-250, but since it wasn’t done in time, OPP was gracious enough to lend him the Cummins-powered two-door Wrangler featuring a 10-inch suspension stretch. He is likely spoiled now by creature comforts like A/C and cruise control.

2011 Jeep Wrangler

Driver: Dave Chappelle
Co-Driver: Cameron Hotchkiss
How Many UAs Have You Been On? 8
Favorite Part of the Trip: I like going on the UA because it gives me a chance to hang out with old friends, meet new enthusiastic readers, and wheel the most difficult trails we can find in whichever part of the country we end up in. The Northeast is especially cool because of its huge rock outcroppings combined with dense forest.
Engine: Cummins R2.8 turbodiesel
Transmission: ZF 8-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Atlas II
Axles: Dynatrac ProRock 60 with 4.88 gears and ARB Air Locker (front and rear)
Springs & Such: JKS short arm with Fox coilover conversion
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler on KMC Machete beadlock
Steering: PSC hydraulic assist
Winch: Warn Zeon 12-S
Other: Jeepworks Unlimited 10-inch stretch; body and paint by Perfection Auto Body; Nemesis Industries front bumper, rockers, and fender flares; Evo Mfg. front rollcage kit
What Broke: Suspension joint, cracked hard top

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