Fred Perry retired his white TJ from the last two UAs in favor of this new handcrafted, stretched TJ powered by a Grand Cherokee 4.7L V-8. This Jeep sits really low, even on 39-inch BFGoodrich DOT-legal Krawlers, but it seemed to get a little hairy on the Rocker Knocker when the air-shocked suspension would droop all the way out.
The Rocker Knocker claimed a hub on Fred Williams' Clampy, and busted half the studs holding reader Paul Chowanec's high-steer arm on his Toyota. Knowing that this could be a weak link on his trail machine, Paul brought a spare knuckle. He and his buddies Lee Jenkins and Scott Kittinger changed it out in the hot sun while the rest of us wolfed down some lunch under any shade we could find.
Lurking in the back of the pack this year was California-based reader John Hughbanks. With the highest crawl ratio (24:1), the tallest tires, and the only carburetor on the trip, Hughbanks had to rely on his throttle-based driving style everywhere we went. We'd snap photos and then run for our lives!
To test the wet braking traction of BFGoodrich's Krawler we dropped down the backside of Rocker Knocker into a muddy creek bed. The long-wheelbase trucks made it look doable, but for the smaller Jeeps like Pat Meiwe's Warn YJ - it just looked scary. To keep from swapping ends, Pat was forced to take this even steeper slip-and-slide line that Clifton Slay pioneered in his Unlimited Wrangler.
Trail position on the Ultimate Adventure is critical. For rock obstacles you want to be in the back of the pack till someone finds the line. With dirt and mud, you want to be up front 'cause the trail only gets tougher with each vehicle that attempts it. To prove that point Trent McGee flopped his Wrangler on its side on Double Whammy--and he was only the third guy in line! It was going to be a long afternoon.
AJ Griffin and Clifton Slay
True love is taking your girlfriend on Ultimate Adventure and letting her drive the whole thing. So instead of slipping behind the wheel of one of his Poison Spyder Custom buggies and iron-manning the trip (like he did two years ago), Clifton Slay built this bolt-on Unlimited and brought his special lady friend, AJ Griffin, with him to make us all jealous.
The sun was fading behind the Ozarks at the end of day one when John Hughbanks pulled up to Double Whammy and tried a low-speed crawl with his Ford. Nope, that wasn't going to work for him. So he backed up for a second try. When we heard the secondaries open up on the 460, we'll admit it, we just started running. Hughbanks hit the first ledge with so much wheel speed that his 44s literally flung him into the air. From that point on, what happens gets a little fuzzy. From below it looked like the whole Bronco got off the ground, and then while it was in mid air - it seemed to jump up again. There was some evidence he bounced off a tree, but all we know for sure is that when the dust cleared, we found him on his side.