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Lots to see at the 2016 King of the Hammers race event

Fury Off-Road

John CappaPhotographer, Writer

If you unknowingly happened upon the 2016 King of the Hammers (KOH) race held in Johnson Valley, California, you might think you stumbled through a wormhole time port and landed in a post-apocalyptic desert world. Every February, a circus-like tent village is erected in Means Dry Lake and is surrounded by RVs, trailers, 4x4s, and diehard off-road enthusiasts. It’s affectionately known as Hammertown. In the early years, the KOH race was dominated by competitors who run what they brung. Today, the race is filled with purpose-built race vehicles, some costing as much as $400,000. Even the Everyman Challenge and Legends classes have become too competitive for the average off-road enthusiast to do anything more than dream of standing on the podium. With this year’s attrition rate of about 70 percent during the main race, you certainly couldn’t have much hope of even finishing without a fully prepped car and team.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the action. Spectators can easily navigate the cheesiest of rental cars to the lakebed during the weeklong KOH event. The races and Hammertown are set up fairly well for dust-tolerant spectators. Means Dry Lake has the potential to be cold and windy to the tune of 20 degrees at night with 60 mph gusts in winter months, so come prepared. The tent town houses vendor booths so you can get a look at the latest off-road gadgets. Food truck grills fire up early in the morning and run till late in the night. A huge jumbo television and sound system at the center provides spectators with a live video feed of the race action, along with commentary from well-informed hosts. If you’re an off-road enthusiast, it’s certainly an event you should experience at least once. For more information about the KOH event, go to ultra4racing.com.

You’ll see all kinds of off-road vehicles on the lakebed around Hammertown. Several of these BC Customs (bccdod.com) tactical vehicles were roaming. They appear to be mid-engine and feature coilover and bypass shocks at each corner. Offset Spidertrax 9-inch solid axles are at the front and back.

Pro Comp (procompusa.com) unveiled these Vapor Pro 2 beadlock wheels. They will be available in 17x9-inch in common lug patterns. They feature really trick Nord-Lock locking washers to keep the beadlock bolts tight. Silver is the only color planned, but we think the company should offer the painted wheels too. What do you think?

The MetalCloak (metalcloak.com) booth featured this CTI trailer loaded with a Jeep. The trailer is used to flex the vehicle suspension to find binding areas, contact points, and other related issues that surface when the suspension flexes.

Do you want to win a flatfender Jeep? Of course you do. Who wouldn’t? Jeepers Jamboree (jeepersjamboree.com) will be giving away this ’52 Willys CJ-3A later this year at the 65th Jeepers Jamboree, so don’t forget to sign up.

Spectators are encouraged to watch the race from jumbotron in Hammertown, but there are spectator areas on sections of the qualifying and race courses. You’ll usually see and hear more in town from in front of the big screen. If you can’t make it to the lakebed for the event, you can always watch the live feed online.

Poison Spyder (poisonspyder.com) announced that select JK Wrangler products will now be available with Spider Shell powdercoating. The new coating will include a five-year warranty.

We were kind of liking this Toyota FJ-65 Land Cruiser that set up camp right in the middle of town. It would make for a really capable adventure 4x4.

The racer pits are off-limits to spectators. However, some vehicles are pulled into vendor booths for repairs. This gives you the opportunity to get a closer look at the fab work and see what race technology you can apply to your 4x4.

We were thinking it would have been fun to take the steampunk-looking Motoped (motoped.com) Cruzer for a spin around the lakebed. It features a 49cc 2hp engine with a max speed of 24 mph. A single gallon of fuel will get you 100-150 miles.

It seems like some of the rockbouncer buggies are getting a little ridiculous. The tube work in this chassis would really limit visibility. We suppose it’s understandable, as it’s becoming difficult to differentiate the buggies because a lot of them look the same.

RuffStuff Specialties (ruffstuffspecialties.com) was on the lakebed all week helping people weld, cut, and repair their vehicles. The company had several welding machines, plasma cutters, grinders, torches and even staff on hand to get everyone up and running the trails again.

The High Lifter (highlifter.com) bolt-on portal boxes for UTVs provide the lift and gear reduction needed for bigger tires. The company specializes in outfitting UTVs for deep water and mud and has products for nearly every UTV.

This Studebaker M29 Weasel was tracking around Hammertown and stopped here for a quick tune of the burping Champion six-cylinder 170ci engine. Weasels were used to supply frontline troops over difficult ground when wheeled vehicles were immobilized during WW2.

During most of the week, the race vehicles are hidden behind fences in the pit tents. Spectators had a chance to get a closer look at them and the racers during safety inspection and the lineup for the start. This is what the interior of a Campbell Ent. Racing & Fabrication (campbellent.com) Ultra 4 single seater race car looks like.

The Lasernut Racing (lasernut.com) car of Cody Wagner was one of the more interesting and talked-about entries. It was built by Armada Engineering (armada-engineering.com) and features four-wheel independent suspension with portal hubs cycling 24 inches of wheeltravel at each corner. It is rumored to have cost $400,000 to build.

Currie Enterprises (currieenterprises.com) introduced the VXR 60 high-pinion axlehousing. It features massive 3 1/2-inch axletubes and a load bolt to control gear deflection under load. The VXR 60 is available in bolt-in applications for the Jeep JK Wrangler and other vehicles.

We were really wanting to get behind the wheel of this BDS Suspension (bds-suspension.com) Chevy Colorado. It features a solid front axle swap with trimmed fenders and rolls on 40x13.50R17 Goodyear MT/R tires on TrailReady beadlock wheels.

KOH volunteer Steve Klein was the winner of a Dana Crate Axle (crateaxle.com) Ultimate Dana 44 for the front of his Jeep JK Wrangler. The new bolt-in front axle was installed at the event.