Ultimate Adventure 2019 Invited Readers #UA2019

Meet the UA 2019 Invited Readers

Verne SimonsAuthorHarry WagnerPhotography

Without readers to buy our magazine we wouldn't have a magazine or cool events like the UA. And even though every year the staff, cronies, and sponsors for the Ultimate Adventure go through a ton of work to set up and deliver all the action from the off-road industry's preeminent event, it wouldn't mean anything without a loyal following of readers eager to consume the editorial content that is the result of those efforts. So it's hugely satisfying for us to invite a group of readers each year to come along on the event with us. As with the lottery, you have to play to win (or apply for the UA to come.) To be clear, we don't recommend playing the lottery; the statistics just aren't reasonable. The UA, on the other hand, is a chance of a lifetime and applying is free.

This year we had one pair of readers in the form of Rick and Nicole Prater in their patina'd 1950 Willys, and five new invited readers. If you were paying attention, you may have noticed we only publically announced three of the new invited readers prior to the event because tipping the world off to a pair of "local invited readers from Wasilla, Alaska" would have given away the secret location of our event. But now we're happily able to announce Frank and Cole Wininger's invitation. One way or another we made the right decision (if you don't apply we won't invite you). And Ultimate Adventure 2019 was awesome! Here are some of the details on who came and why.

Returning Willys Wagon
Rick and Nicole Prater are our returning readers. After stiff competition during UA 2018 (all the readers were great, making the decision on who to pick as a returning reader difficult), the cronies (we'll blame them) decided that Rick and his Willys wagon should get the return nod (and we, the staff, agree). Rick made a few updates to the classic clearcoated SUV, including swapping the SM465 manual for a TH350 auto, and dropped the oft-broken GM 10-bolt for a GM kingpin Dana 60 front axle with 4.10 gears, 30-spline outers, Warn hubs, and a Lock Right locker. Rick also swapped his UA 2018 co-driver (his father in-law, Todd Daines) for Todd's daughter, who just happens to be Rick's wife, Nicole. And while we missed Todd's quiet yet constant positive attitude, Nicole was an absolute delight to have on the adventure.

1951 Willys Wagon
Driver: Rick Prater, Uintah, UT
Co-driver: Nicole Prater|
>Drivetrain
Engine: TBI 350ci V-8
Transmission: TH350
Transfer Case: NP205
Front Axle: GM Dana 60, 4.10 gears and a Lock Right locker
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, 4.10 gears, and spool
>Suspension
Springs & Such: Skyjacker 2 1/2-inch lift, '73-'97 Chevy springs (front); 4-inch '73-'87 Chevy spring under (rear); Skyjacker M95 monotube shocks
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50R17 Falken Wildpeak M/T on 17x8.5 Allied beadlock
Steering: Crossover steering with a TJ steering box
Winch: Warn Zeon 10-S
Other: Floorboards made from old license plates, clearcoat over the original patina, plaid flannel headliner
What Broke: Packed the tranny cooler with mud, and got the tranny hot
Favorite Part of the Trip: Stampede Trail. All in all, an epic trip.
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA?: Twice
Why Did You Want to Attend?: I always wanted to go on a weeklong trip in just my Jeep, and there just isn't a better group of guys out there to do that with than the Ultimate Adventure guys (and gals)
Modifications Between Getting Selected and Attending UA: Swapped the 10-bolt for a Dana 60, swapped manual transmission for an automatic, swapped front 3-inch Tuff Country springs for 2 1/2-inch Skyjacker leaves
Advice for Next Year's Readers: Bring spare parts for known weaknesses. You should know your rig's strengths and weaknesses and try not to push those boundaries. It's only a week, so don't stuff your rig with a bunch of stuff you don't actually need. Do a full and complete service before you go, change all of the oils, and repack bearings.
Did You Drive or Tow to UA 2019?: Towed (about 3,000 miles)

Invited Rock—er, Mud Crawler
The truth is David (we call him Dave) Tucker from Wikieup, Arizona, nearly got invited last year, but his awesome Toyota Land Cruiser wasn't quite finished. Fast-forward to this year's reader selection and the FJ40 was farther along, but still wasn't quite finished. Getting invited was what forced Dave's hand to finish the well-fabricated, albeit slow to final assembly, rig. We have met Dave a few times, and he always had a smile on his face and a drive to finish what was a long project in his FJ40. The end result is a Toyota that works well, looks great, and can go anywhere, even down the road (and through the mud and muskeg in Alaska!). Dave and his co-driver, Rob Bonney, were prepared for anything during the adventure, but they both decided that their tow rig to and from Alaska was the biggest liability and that maybe they should have just driven the FJ40 from Arizona to Alaska.

1965 Toyota FJ40
Driver: David Tucker, Wikieup, AZ
Co-driver: Rob Bonney
>Drivetrain
Engine: Chevy 350ci TBI
Transmission: GM TH350
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Orion HD
Front Axle: FJ62 Widened, ARB Air Locker, 4.10s, Bobby Long axleshafts
Rear Axle: FJZ80 ARB Air Locker, 4.10 gears
>Suspension
Springs & Such: Rob Bonney Fabrication three-link with track-bar, 14-inch ORI struts (front); Rob Bonney Fabrication four-link, 16-inch ORI struts (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50R17 Falken Wildpeak M/T on Allied beadlock
Steering: PSC steering box with ram assist
Winch: Warn 9.5cti
Other: Custom rollcage; hand-bent stainless steel lines for brakes, fuel, and trans cooler; custom aluminum interior panels; Art Carr shifter; Lowrance GPS; American Autowiring harness; GM tilt column; and more
What Broke During UA: One door latch broke, crushed the air filter using mud and the engine
Favorite Part of the Trip: Knik Glacier was unexpected and awesome
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA?: Twice
Why Did You Want to Attend?: Because it's the trip of a lifetime
Modifications Between Getting Selected and Attending UA: Finished the rig, wired it, swapped a Quadrajet carb for TBI, finished plumbing the vehicle
Advice for Next Year's Readers: Be prepared for anything. Anything!
Did You Drive or Tow to UA 2019?: Towed

Babe the Big Blue Ox
Steve Messer and his better half, Kathy Flatt, have been working on this blue Cherokee Chief for several years. The plan for the rig has always been to use it for their own personal ultimate adventures, not ours. The Jeep is big, rowdy, and relatively simple. Following one great formula for long road trips (big tires and a simple suspension) and hitting hard trails after reaching the trail head, the Jeep works. Still, the blue beast had a few computer-based teething problems that just about any "new build" might have. The Jeep's computers weren't too happy about the moisture in Alaska's air, nor its mud and water, but Steve and Kathy didn't let that slow them down (much). Usually if the computer freaked out, Steve would disconnect the main power for a few minutes and the Blue Ox would reset and regain all its strengths.

1979 Jeep Cherokee Chief
Driver: Steve Messer, St. Johns, AZ
Co-driver: Kathy Flatt
>Drivetrain
Engine: Chevrolet LS3 6.2L, 525 hp
Transmission: GM 6L80
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Atlas II 3.8:1
Front Axle: Ford high-pinion kingpin Dana 60, 4.56 gears, Detroit Locker, 35-spline axleshafts
Rear Axle: 14-bolt, 4.56 gears, Detroit Locker
>Suspension
Springs & Such: Stock springs, shackle reversal, moved forward 3 inches (front); stock springs flipped to push rear axle rearward 6 inches (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 42x14.50R17 Goodyear MT/R on 17x9 Hutchensen Rock Monster beadlock
Steering: PSC ram assist
Winch: Warn 8274-50
Other: A/C compressor converted to run OBA, custom rollcage, Painless Wiring harness, dual batteries, Mastercraft Baja RS seats with seat heaters, custom bumpers and rock sliders, Dakota Digital telemetry, GenRight 30-gallon tank for an XJ, Hydroboost, cruise control
What Broke During UA: Computers were angered by mud and water, causing the rig to go into limp mode a few times. The sidewall of one of those big tires died the first day.
Favorite Part of the Trip: Alaska, the trails, the animals. Maybe the Transportation Museum.
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA?: Twice
Why Did You Want to Attend?: It has been a bucket list item since I saw the yellow K10 (UA 2005) and realized maybe I could do this too
Modifications Between Getting Selected and Attending UA: Had Axles regeared from 4.56 to 5.38 because the first set was too tall with the overdrive in the transmission. Had an aluminum top, sides, and "windbreaker" made because we decided to drive to and from Alaska.
Advice for Next Year's Readers: Apply! Build the best rig you can afford. Apply! Ideally build something out of the ordinary. There were seven rigs with vintage/historic plates this year, so an older rig is not a problem. Apply! When you are chosen, relax, polish/tune your rig the best you can, and get some miles on it. I had a bunch of miles in high range, both 2-Hi and 4-Hi, but almost none in low range. Guess where I had problems? When you get to the starting place, relax. It's the Ultimate Adventure—go where ever the leader and the adventure takes you. I didn't relax the first couple days and had a much better time once I figured out that this is all just a big game of follow the leader. Breaking isn't fun, but it is part of the adventure and maybe the best part of the crony's day. This isn't Ultimate Four-Wheeling (although there is some awesome wheeling); it's the Ultimate Adventure. Did I mention apply?!
Did You Drive or Tow to UA 2019?: Drove (3,500 miles each way)

The AK TJ
Cole Wininger is a walking, talking off-road encyclopedia. Want to know who (or what) won a certain year of Four Wheeler Magazine's Top Truck Challenge? Want to know the stats on a given year's official UA vehicle? Cole probably knows, assuming that it was one of the years with a vehicle he liked. And on top of this savant level of off-road knowledge, Cole is a genuine enthusiast who also happens to be a truly nice guy. He is the older of the two Wininger brothers, sons of Joe and Carrie Wininger of Wasilla, Alaska, and our local "Alaska host" for UA 2019. We used their farm for trailer parking, general repairs before and after the event, and also as a staging area for trips to and from Alaska while Cole and Frank assisted with prerunning and helping out on the trails. The whole family is amazing, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude for making UA 2019 happen. Thanks again, Cole, Frank, Joe, and Carrie.

1997 Jeep Wrangler
Driver: Cole Wininger, Wasilla, AK
Co-driver: None
>Drivetrain
Engine: 2005 GM 5.3L L33
Transmission: 4L60E
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Atlas II 3:1
Front Axle: Currie F9 with a Currie high-pinion carrier, ARB Air Locker, 4.56 gears
Rear Axle: Dynatrac high-pinion Dana 60, 35-spline axles, ARB Air Locker, 4.56 gears
>Suspension
Springs & Such: 5 1/2 inches of lift via a mix of Full-Traction and Rubicon Express parts, FOX Racing shocks
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50R17 Falken Wildpeak M/T on 17x9 Mickey Thompson
Steering: Stock
Winch: Smittybilt 12,000-pound XRC Gen 3
Other: Novak reworked the 5.3Ls harness, CPU tuned by Chris Durham of CDM, Hansen Off-Road front bumper, onboard-air from Extreme Outback Compressor, Winters Gate shifter
What Broke During UA: Front axleshaft ears, U-joint. Blew a couple of beads.
Favorite Part of the Trip: I truly enjoyed meeting the people who had been on UAs past.
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA?: This was my first time
Why Did You Want to Attend?: Because the Ultimate Adventure is awesome! I'm a longtime reader and have always been attracted to the event since its beginning.
Modifications Between Getting Selected and Attending UA: Swapped from BFGs to the Falken Tires, rebuilt the front control arms, added a parking brake cable
Advice for Next Year's Readers: Bring spares for anything you can't get at a local parts store. Be prepared for nonstop action. It's a ton of fun but can also be taxing. Keep a good attitude, and make sure you leave your ego at home.
Did You Drive or Tow to UA 2019?: Drove—from Wasilla.

The AK Trayback
As we said, Frank and Cole were invaluable to this year's UA. While Cole had a few issues with his well-built TJ, Frank and his Brute-based Jeep Trayback (that's what the Australians call an aluminum flatbed) was always ready to help with any issues, figuring out which turns to make on the trail, and more. Frank's rig performed nearly flawlessly, only developing a rear pinion seal leak when some trash made its way past the seal. Both guys are lifelong enthusiasts who are a pleasure to be around. Frank and Cole play and work off-road as part of their drilling company, Wininger Drilling.

1998 Jeep Brute UTE
Driver: Frank Wininger, Palmer, AK
Co-driver: None
Engine: 4.0L, York OBA, header, ARB snorkel, Livewire ignition
Transmission: AX15
Transfer Case: Advance Adapters Atlas II 3.0 Highlander
Front Axle: Currie high-pinion 9-inch, 35-spline ARB Air Locker, Ford 1-ton outers, 35-spline stub shafts, Warn premium 35-spline hubs, Wilwood four-piston disc brakes, Currie 1-ton steering with Currie RockJock trac bar system.
Rear Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, 35-spline ARB Air Locker, full-float with trophy truck spindles, J8 military disc brakes
Suspension: Skyjacker progressive-rate coils, 4-inch in front and 6-inch in rear, with adjustable ACOS in the front. Skyjacker M95 Monotube shocks, Currie AntiRock front and rear. Three-link rear with Rusty's Offroad high-clearance lowers. Three-link front with Rusty's Offroad high-clearance lowers. Rear coil moved with AEV kit.
Tires and Wheels: 38x13.50x17 Falken Wildpeak M/T on 17x9 Trailready aluminum beadlock
Steering: Currie 1-ton steering, PSC hydraulic assist
Recovery Gear: VooDoo ropes, Warn front winch, Smittybilt 12,000-pound XRC Gen3 rear winch
Other Upgrades: GenRight Enduro gas tank, ARB front BullBar, Chevy Suburban third-row seat as the front seat, AEV rock sliders, UTE aluminum bed
What Broke During UA: Lost a pinion seal
Favorite Part of the Trip: Stampede Trail!
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA?: This was my first time
Why Did You Want to Attend?: I have been a fan since the early UAs. When the opportunity came up I couldn't resist.
Modifications Between Getting Selected and Attending UA: I upgraded the Jeep's suspension with Skyjacker progressive-rate coils and new shocks to help deal with the weight of camping gear and supplies over the rough Alaskan terrain
Advice for Next Year's Readers: Don't stop for cheeseburgers on road days—or trail days
Did You Drive or Tow to UA 2019?: Drove, from Palmer, Alaska

The Boys in the Buckin' Bronc
The Ultimate Adventure only officially starts once everyone has made it to the starting hotel and each vehicle has passed tech inspection. Before that, it's the responsibility of everyone—from sponsors to staff to cronies to readers—to get to the start. The magazine isn't responsible for any of that (except the magazine staff). Still, we like to keep tabs on the various participants and how their trips are going so we can offer advice or supply help if needed. It's kind of an extension of the nearly universal "leave no man (or woman) behind" mantra of off-roaders. Truth be told those of us at the magazine were pretty sure everyone was going to make it except maybe the two guys in the fullsize Bronco. Since we'd announced that they would be one of the invited reader vehicles, rumors began to float about troubles that they were having before anyone even left for Alaska. These guys had the farthest to go to get to the start and were driving (as rumor had it) a not very reliable rig. Those of us at the magazine were worried, but our fears were unfounded. A collective sigh of relief could be heard when the big blue Bronco rolled into the starting hotel's parking lot with plenty of time before check-in. The Bronco boys, Richard and Colin, were troopers and made everything happen before, during, and after the trip. The Bronco had a few issues, but performed admirably.

1978 Ford Bronco Ranger XLT
Driver: Richard Fredricks, Herndon, VA
Co-driver: Colin Wichers
>Drivetrain
Engine: Ford 400 ci
Transmission: C6
Transfer Case: NP205
Front Axle: Dana 44, 4.88. Eaton e-Locker, RCVs, GM 1-ton brakes, Warn hubs
Rear Axle: RuffStuff 609, 4.86, 35-spline Detroit Locker, Branik shafts, GM 1-ton brakes, Solid Axles hub and drive flanges
>Springs & Such
Suspension: Deaver springs front and rear, Cage off-road front radius arms, BroncoAir adjustable rear shackle, Bilstein shocks
Tires & Wheels: Falken 38x13.50R17 Wildpeak M/T on ATX Chamber Pro II beadlock
Steering: Red Head box and RuffStuff 1-ton steering
Winch: Smittybilt X20, 12,000-pound
Recovery Gear: VooDoo rope and soft shackle
Other Upgrades: Cage, Bonsai Dave front bumper, Protofab rear bumper, full resto interior (now absolutely filthy!)
What You Broke: Five weeks before the UA, the engine blew. During the adventure, the Bronc suffered from some sort of fuel pickup/heat issue. Coil failed on Day 6. After the UA, the alternator failed on the Alcan Highway (we had a new one in the box ready to go).
Favorite Part of the Trip: Just being around so many awesome people and their rigs. The UA, to me, was a "total package" type thing that's not really defined by any one instance
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA?: Twice
Why Did You Want to Attend?: It looked like a really cool thing to do if you like off-roading, being outdoors, and enjoy challenges. UA packages those things up and makes them the sole focus for seven unforgettable days that lead to a lifetime of memories. |
Modifications Between Getting Selected and Attending UA: Replaced an engine five weeks before the start of the UA after my relatively new engine blew a hole in the No. 5 piston. Front cage extension, Reid knuckles, new ball joints and U joints all around. Still have a pile of parts on the shelf that were supposed to be installed!
Advice for Next Year's Readers: Just apply. Your rig isn't perfect, but nobody else's rig is perfect either. Each reader had an issue or two with their rig, but we all completed the week on the trail and not a trailer.
Did You Drive or Tow to UA 2019?: Drove 4,300 miles one way!