It's a new trail out in Johnson Valley. And with a new trail comes new opportunities. If you're there at its inception, you may be the one to give it its first name. You can be the first to roll on it. You can leave the first swatch of paint on a sharp outcrop. Or you can simply be the first to relieve yourself on a rock. The point is, given the remoteness and vastness of Johnson Valley, there's a good chance that you can play Neil Armstrong and be the first human to ever set foot in any given place.
Johnson Valley is located about 60 miles east of Victorville just north of Highway 18. Basically, you just look for the dirt road to Means Dry Lakebed to the north of the highway between Apple Valley and Lucerne Valley. Why are we telling you this? Because Johnson Valley is the off-road playground of Southern California. It has sand dunes, sick rockcrawl trails, a big, honking dry lakebed, and miles and miles of whoops-filled dirt roads. Hell, if we didn't live right in its backyard we'd fly in, rent a Jeep, and have some fun.
So why a three-page article on all of this? We got a call from Jon Bundrant of All Pro Off Road who let us know that he and a bunch of friends were breaking a new trail during the 10th annual 4Runner Jamboree. This year there were more than 200 Land Cruisers, pickups, 4Runners, and buggies. What better excuse could we need to hit a few trails, check out some Toyotas in the rocks, and count the broken Birfields? We hope you enjoy.
Jon Bundrant organized this 10th Annual 4Runner Jamboree, so you know he wasn't staying home. He brought his competition rig sporting a stock 22RE engine, 5.29 gears, a spooled rear, a Detroit front, dual transfer cases, and 37-inch Goodyears.
The driver of this clean 4Runner played roadblock on the first waterfall of Sledgehammer after he wasted his steering. They winched it out of traffic's way, but then the next guy through busted. Further proof that the trails in Johnson Valley are just plain bad.
The second obstacle on the new trail is only about 75 yards past the first, but it's a mutha. There are two ways over-tough and double tough. John Edmunson took the tough line in his '67 Cruiser. The rig has a lengthened wheelbase via All Pro springs and custom hangers, 4.88 gears, Detroit Lockers, and a Chevy 350, TH350, and Atlas II drivetrain.
Mitch Guthrie took the double-tough line past the second obstacle. You're looking at a 15-foot, near-vertical ledge climb and a whole lotta flooring. Mitch gonzo'd the ascent because, frankly, he was rolling if he didn't make it. Rig highlights include 37-inch Goodyear MT/Rs, 4.88 gears, and ARBs in the Land Cruiser front and '86-and-up rear, a Chevy 350, a TH350, and a 3.8 Atlas II.
Randy Stockberger is a pretty big guy, so we're betting he didn't get too much garbage for bringing his '86 CJ-7 to a Toyota event. Actually, Randy is a member of the Inland Empire 4WDC. A bunch of guys from the club came out to cook about a thousand burgers for Saturday night's barbecue.
This is the rear suspension of Mitch Guthrie's Cruiser. Can you count all the angles? A Johnny Joint was used in the upper shackle eye mount, and the All Pro spring packs flex quite well. Guthrie can also pull the set pins from the shackle mounts and raise or lower the rear of his 'Cruiser with a bottle jack between the frame and leaf spring. It's the poor man's hydraulic suspension.
The first obstacle you come to on the new trail is a climb over and through a vicious rock squeeze. James Weichel's '81 Toyota sports 35-inch Swamper SSRs and 4.88 gears. We can't think of a better example of why some sort of rocker protection should be first on your to-do list.
John Buell used the winch in his '71 Land Cruiser to goose himself over the first obstacle. The rig runs a Chevy 350 with an SM420 tranny hooked to the stock three-speed 'Cruiser case. The axles hold 4.11 gears and EZ lockers, while the tires are 36-inch Swamper SXs.
One cool tech tidbit we saw out on the trail were these neat spring U-bolt plates. The slot in the middle allows the owner of this Toyota to move his axle forward or rearward with offset centering pin pads depending on what trail he's running.