Top Truckin’ For 22 Years And Counting - Trail's End
Top Truck Challenge
Way back in 1993, the very first year of Top Truck Challenge (TTC), the staff of Four Wheeler chose the 10 competitors from entry forms sent in by readers. Since there was no previous event, there was no event coverage to show folks, so they had little information about what the heck to expect when it came time for competition. In the months leading up to the event, held in September at the Hollister Hills SVRA, we published pleas like what you see here from the August 1993 issue. This ad contained little basic information about the yet-to-happen event, along with an entry form and the promise that the winner would be able to claim the “Best Truck in America…Until next year.” Being the adventuresome type, Four Wheeler readers were all over the first year of TTC even though much of the plan was speculative.
The first year’s events included the Stream Bed (the precursor to the Tank Trap) and the snake-infested Tire Pit. Competitors included Rick Pewe (who went on to become the editor of 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine), the renowned Soni Honegger, and Jim Piatt. Piatt won the event in his 1984 Jeep CJ-7 shod with 33-inch tires.
Readers loved the event, and it evolved rapidly. In 1994 we added the Tow Test (competitors pulled Soni Honegger’s “War Wagon” Ramcharger), in 1995 we invited readers to choose the competitors (one of the rigs they chose was Tim Hardy’s Suzuki Samurai -- with trailer), in 1996 we replaced the Slalom Course with the Obstacle Course, and in 1997 we videotaped the event for the first time for Four Wheeler TV.
A turning point came in 1998. Jeep vehicles had won each year to that point, but for the first time a non-Jeep vehicle took home the crown. That vehicle was the tube-chassis Scorpion MK1 belonging to Heath Biggs. However, Jeep vehicles came back with a vengeance, and the brand took home the crown for the next two years. Then the seemingly unthinkable happened -- a massive Suburban won in 2001. This was followed by a Bronco in 2002 and a Blazer in 2003. Up until this point, all TTC-competing rigs had to be street legal, but in 2004, we kicked that rule to the curb. We don’t know whether it was coincidence or not, but Jeep vehicles won the next four consecutive years.
Another turning point came in 2008 when Clayton Kraatz (2006 Evolution Warthog) and Jeremy Naeger (2003 Avalanche buggy) tied for Grand Champion. We cut the Grand Champion trophy down the middle, gave each of them a half, and then we immediately reconfigured the scoring system so there would be no more tie scores in the future.
David Green’s diesel-powered homemade tube buggy took the podium in 2009 and marked the first time a diesel-powered rig took the crown. In 2010 and 2011, we had separate truck and buggy classes to reflect the growing differences between the two.
In 2012, we did something never done in the history of TTC when we invited all of the past Grand Champions back to Hollister for the incredible 20th anniversary of Top Truck Challenge. We called it the Top Truck Champions’ Challenge, and we were honored to have 17 Grand Champions return to Hollister for the special event.
For 2013, we made some folks happy and annoyed others by changing the TTC rules to require factory-type sheetmetal on all competitors’ rigs. This change meant tube buggies need not apply. We also eliminated the Mini Rubicon and replaced it with the gnarly Coal Chute.
In this issue, you read about TTC 2014, and plans are already well underway for TTC 2015. Will you be there? There’s only one way to be a part of Top Truck Challenge, and that’s to be voted in by your peers. The first step is to fill out the entry form in this issue and send it in. We hope to see you at the 23rd Top Truck Challenge.