Readers: Dale and Zane Znamenacek
Dale Znamenacek grew up listening to her grandfather tell stories of wheeling his old GPW flatfender jeep, so it just made sense that her future husband, Zane, would be a guy with that off-road interest. After they got married, Zane talked her into getting a '99 Wrangler fresh off the showroom floor as a daily driver and wheeling rig. His real plan was to get Dale's consent to build a cool Jeep that would eventually be his, but it backfired when she got the four-wheeling bug even worse than he.
Before long the Znamenaceks' Jeep grew from 31-inch tires up to 33s, 35s, 37s, 38.5s, and eventually Goodyear 42s. With these bigger tires came stronger drivetrain parts and a longer wheelbase. Meanwhile the family doubled from two members to four with the birth of two little four-wheelers. Dale and Zane decided a second Jeep was needed since a four-door Wrangler would mean one of them wouldn't get to drive.
As Dale and Zane explored their local Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah trails in her blue Wrangler and his red one (hers with all the latest greatest parts, his built on a budget with used axles and such) with kids strapped in beside them, they quickly honed their skills and became excellent at reading terrain and being prepared.
The blue Znamenacek TJ is a clean machine, and we quietly joked that Dale was winning Ultimate Adventure this year as she surmounted every obstacle with hardly any wheelspin or trouble and not a single broken part (though the gas cap was lost during a hasty refueling stop). Dale told us that she never imagined she'd be wheeling her brand-new Jeep with us on UA 11 years later, but we're glad she applied to come along. It's great to see a truly evolved off-road machine.
Driver: Dale Znamenacek
Co-driver: Zane Znamenacek
Vehicle: 1999 Jeep Wrangler Sport, Gunmetal Blue
Stomping Grounds: Billings Canyon and 21 Road in Grand Junction, CO; Die Trying, Cactus I & II, and Calamity Canyon in Montrose, CO; Farmington, NM; Coyote Canyon and Rusty Nail in Moab, UT; Rangely, CO
Engine: 4.0L I-6 (stock)
Transmission: AX-15 (stock)
Transfer Case: Atlas 4.3:1
Front Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60 housing, chromoly shafts, CTM U-joints, Dedenbear inner knuckles, solid outer knuckles, 5.38 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, 5.38 gears, ARB Air Locker
Suspension: 12-inch Fox 2.0 coilovers with airbumps in the front, 5.5-inch Rubicon Express springs in the rear, modified Rubicon Express front radius arms, custom four-link rear
Tires & Wheels: 42x14.50x17 Goodyear Kevlar MT-R on Spyderlock 17x9.5
Winch & Bumpers: Warn HS9500 winch, winch custom bumpers
Other Stuff: Modified frame with wheelbase stretched to 111 inches, full hydraulic steering, modified stock cage
Dimensions (in): wheelbase 111, height 821/2, width 87
Title Sponsor: Goodyear
Chris Durham has long been a competitor and trail junkie running on Goodyear tires, so when title sponsor Goodyear needed someone to represent the company on this weeklong wheeling and wrenching road trip, Chris got the nod. He has been building and wheeling Jeeps all across this nation from his home base in South Carolina to the rocky obstacles of Moab. His current recipe of low-slung Jeeps on big tires is taking many trails by storm. Chris was the go-to guy for tricky trail spotting, emergency repairs, and lessons in Southern rock surfing.
Driver: Chris Durham
Vehicle: 2002 Jeep TJ
Stomping Grounds: South Carolina
Engine: 4.0L I-6
Transmission: 904 automatic
Transfer Case: NP 231
Front Axle: Dana 44, 4.56, Detroit Locker, 10 factory shafts
Rear Axle: Semifloat Dana 60 4.56 Detroit Locker
Suspension: Daystar budget lift, three-link Panhard front, Johnny Joints, rear four-link
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50x17 Goodyear Kevlar MT/R on Walker Evans Racing beadlocks
Winch & Bumpers: Warn 9,000-pound Powerplant winch, Chris Durham Motorsports bumpers
Other Stuff: slip yoke and 2WD low transfer case kit, custom gas tank, oil pan skidplate, Currie motor mount lift, 2 1/2-inch exhaust, K&N filter
Readers: Mike DeMarco and Dave Caley
Mike DeMarco used to have a sports car, but it did nothing but land him in a bunch of trouble with the law and his parents. So with some prodding from his buddy Dave, he traded in the speeding-ticket-magnet for something more dirtable. As can be expected, Mike didn't lose his desire to screw off with his ride and the next thing you know the wheeling bug had bitten hard.
Based out of Orem, Utah, these wheeling buddies have a plethora of moderate to extreme wheeling choices. Mike and his rig quickly progressed from the bunny trails to the triple-black-diamond obstacles.
Although the Utah highway patrol may see it differently, we think Mike's '98 Grand is just about the perfect Ultimate Adventure rig built for highway and trailway: big tires, strong V-8, 1-ton axles, and a comfortable interior with room for camping, wrenching, and recovery gear galore. We even dig the Burnt Copper Metallic color (note to you readers thinking of applying next year: Bright colors look good in the magazine).
Driver: Mike DeMarco
Co-driver: Dave Caley
Vehicle: 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Stomping Grounds: Utah
Engine: 5.2L V8
Transmission: Trans: 42RE custom valvebody, high stall converter, Redline bands
Transfer Case: 203/205 ORD doubler kit, 1350 flanges
Front Axle: '89 Ford Dana 60, 5.13 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: GM Cab and Chassis 14-bolt, 5.13 gears, Detroit Locker
Suspension: Homebrew, three-link front, three-link rear with track bar, BDS 41/2-inch coils, BDS shocks, Ballistic Fab 11/4-inch joints
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.5R17 Goodyear Kevlar MT/R on 17-inch Trailready HD beadlocks
Winch & Bumpers: Warn 9.5ti, synthetic rope, homebrew bumpers
Other Stuff: Alloy shafts, Longfields, Warn hubs/flanges, PSC steering, Lightforce lights, boatsides, quarter doors, Unibody reinforcement, Homebrew subframeDimensions: wheelbase 111 inches, weight 6,350 pounds
Hobart returned as official welder to support our Ultimate Adventure. Mel Wade volunteered his '07 Jeep Wrangler as Hobart's official trail rig. Mel and Hobart reps Caleb Krisher, Don Foster, and Darrell Sickles took turns riding in the JK with the new Hobart Trek 180 portable/rechargeable MIG welder at the ready for any on-trail carnage (get yours today at Northern Tool & Equipment, northerntool.com). Mel's Jeep has been the guinea pig for various suspensions and body armor from his Off Road Evolution shop, and he was more than willing to smash up any obstacle they encountered and repair any busted bits with Hobart's help.
Driver: Mel Wade
Co-driver: Caleb Krisher
Vehicle: 2007 Jeep Wrangler
Stomping Grounds: Johnson Valley, CA
Engine: 3.8 V-6 (stock)
Transmission: Automatic (stock)
Transfer Case: STaK three-speed
Front Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, Superior axleshafts, 5.38, ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Dynatrac ProRock 60, Superior axleshafts, 5.38, ARB Air Locker
Suspension: Off Road Evolution EVO long arm front, cantilever rear
Tires & Wheels: 42x14.50x17 Goodyear Kevlar MT/R on Walker Evans Racing beadlocks
Winch & Bumpers: Warn Endurance 12 on EVO bumper
Other Stuff: EVO rear bumper/tire carrier, body armor, Rock Hard cage, Wild Boar hard top, Lightforce lights, Mastercraft seats, PSC ram-assist steering, K&N filter, Quick Air onboard air compressor, JE Reel driveshafts, Viking winch line, Powertank valve stems