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The Crosstrek Desert Racer

Editor’s note: Subaru has a rich history in rally and rallycross, but it’s not necessarily a name you’d associate with desert racing. However, when Dustin and Parker Grabowski of Grabowski Brothers Racing decided to build a Class 5 Unlimited car, they wanted to push the envelope. They partnered with Crawford Performance and built a Subaru-powered beast. Cody Woodruff, the marketing manager for bot Graboski Brothers and Crawford Performance, took a moment to tell us about this unique racecar.

 


 

The Crosstrek Desert Racer story began when our team was in search of a motor that had the durability and power to push our Class 5 Unlimited car faster than the competition. Being the heaviest car in the class — just shy of 3800 pounds when race ready — we knew we had our work cut out for us. We looked into several motors before deciding to run a Subaru engine. We searched all around Southern California until we found Quirt Crawford of Crawford Performance.

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He is best known for his work on the famous Ken Block Gymkhana 1 and Gymkhana 2 cars. Quirt has decades of experience in the racing industry and has pushed the limits of the boxer engine. He undoubtedly knows how to build powerful and durable engines. The Crosstrek name was chosen because it was the vehicle in the Subaru lineup that hit all the marks of an off-road build. 

Our Crosstrek doesn’t look like your typical Class 5 Unlimited car. It’s heavily built with all of the best parts available. Our car features parts off of Class 1 and Class 10 cars, such as our rear trailing arms and heim joints. It outweighs our competitors by over 1000 pounds, which you can tell just by looking at our car. 

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We also run up to 37” BFGoodrich® Tires depending on the race, which has never been done before on a Class 5 Unlimited. Our race team has always run BFGoodrich® Tires. They are the best in the business. They grip the best and last the longest. No Flats = Races Won. Neal and Mike Grabowski — Dustin and Parker’s dads, respectively — won the 1996 SCORE International Class 5 Unlimited Championship on BFGs. 

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But the number one thing that sets us apart from others in our class is the Subaru boxer engine. We are the first Class 5 Unlimited to be powered by a Subaru. All of this makes us stand out, and people don’t understand how the Subaru motor can perform this well on such a heavy platform.

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This build is nothing but special to us. Everything that sets our car apart from others is the reason why we love it. This build is unique, fast, and revolutionary. We have had to work out a few kinks once we put the boxer engine in it. It just has so much power and torque. “There’s just so much torque,” says Quirt Crawford. “It has a transmission from a Class 1 car and those cars make 700HP, but this one was hurting parts of the transmission, the CV joints — parts that are usually never a problem.”

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We’ve also never seen a Class 5 Unlimited car go through the rough as fast as we are going, which has caused issues in and around itself. With it being a beam front end, we are limited in our front suspension, so we’ve had to work closely with KING Shocks in order to dial in our shock tuning. This will forever be an ongoing process as we get faster and faster.

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With the Crosstrek, we have several goals in mind:

  • We want to bring life back to Class 5 Unlimited as a whole by using our unique car as a marketing tool to increase engagement in the community.
  • We want to be consistent and beat our class competitors.
  • We want to finish the Baja 1000.
  • And we would love to win a race overall and prove Class 5 Unlimited can be as fast as Class 10 with the right setup, team, and drivers.

 




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Technical Specifications:

  • Chassis: Desert Dynamics
  • Body: Subaru Crosstrek; Victory Race Cars
  • Graphic Design: Matthew Law
  • Vinyl: Hyper Blue by Sign Pro
  • Engine: Naturally Aspirated FB 2.5L Subaru Boxer Engine
  • Engine Tuning: Crawford Performance
  • Cooling: CBR
  • Exhaust: Crawford Custom
  • Plumbing: Crawford Custom
  • Transmission: Albins
  • Driveline: 935 Pro Am Axels & CV’s
  • Brakes: Pro AM; Front – Four Piston / Rear – Six Piston
  • Wheels: Pro Am Forged Wheels
  • Tires: 35” BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KDR2+
  • Wheel Base: 105”
  • Front Suspension: Trailing Arms w/ 14” Travel KING Shock Bypass & Coil Over
  • Rear Suspension: Trailing Arms w/ 18” Travel KING Shocks, Bypass & Coil Over
  • Lights: GG Lighting
  • Steering: Howe 2 ½” RAM
  • Wiring: Jax Motorsports / James Lyn (MoTeC)
  • Navigation: LeadNav / Lowrance
  • Communication: PCI Radios
  • Seats: Cobra Motorsport
  • Safety: PRP Belts / Safe Craft Flame Out System
  • Fuel Cell: Harmon 34 Gallon
  • Weight: 3800lbs Race Ready

  


 

Catch the Crosstrek Desert Racer as it campaigns in the SCORE International, BITD, MORE, and SNORE series this year. It’ll run in the Baja 500 next week (May 30-June 3); Vegas to Reno (August 15-18); PCI Race Radios 300 (September 29); Baja 1000; and McKenzie’s Rage at the River.

Follow @grabowskibrothersracing for more boxer-powered goodness.

 

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Build

Frank’s 2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Editor’s note: Wranglers aren’t necessarily unique around the Garage, but you might recognize this one in particular, especially if you’ve been paying attention to BFGoodrich® Mud-Terrain T/A® KM3 announcements. Frank Lopez, an adventure and astrophotographer and owner of this Jeep, talks to us about overlanding, his favorite trips, and the KM3.

 


 

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What got you interested in overlanding?

It was my love for traveling that got me interested in overlanding, as well as my passion for photography.

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What made you choose your Jeep?

It might sound corny, but the Jeep Wrangler has been my dream car for quite some time. The Wrangler is synonymous with adventure, the outdoors, and everything that has to do with exploring via 4x4. I’ve owned two Jeeps, and I’m sure I’ll own many more.

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What do you love about it? What modifications have you made to it?

I love that I can go anywhere I want with my Jeep, and I love the places I’ve seen only because I was able to get there with my Jeep. I’ve done a fair amount of work, but my favorite is my Ursa Minor Camper known as a J30. With less than 300 made, it’s quite the head turner. The J30 is made to look similar to an OEM hardtop, but it is actually a pop-top camper able to sleep two adults.

 

You don’t need all the fancy gear that is associated with overlanding. You just a sense of adventure, a plan, and of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a great set of tires.”

 

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What tires are you running? Why did you decide on them?

I am currently running the newest BFGoodrich® Mud-Terrain T/A® KM3 (37x12.50 R17). I need something that can handle the tough terrain I travel on, as well as something reliable.

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I started running BFGs when I bought my first Jeep. It was almost second nature for my Jeep to always run BFG. I had KM2s for several years, and after plenty of roadtrips, I decided to make the switch to KO2s. Since I was driving long distances to get to my destinations,  I wanted a better all-terrain tire, and to help with the long drives and road noise.

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The first thing I noticed when I hit the road with my KM3s was how quiet they were compared to my old KM2s — almost as quiet as the KO2s. The other noticeable difference was the tougher sidewall. When in aired-down situations, it’s nice to know I can use the sidewalls to do some crawling on rocks without fear of causing damage. 

 

“The first thing I noticed when I hit the road with my KM3s was how quiet they were compared to my old KM2s — almost as quiet as the KO2s.”

 

Any notable journeys/adventures you've been on? Favorite spots you've hit?

Last year, I drove up to Idaho to witness the solar eclipse.  I crossed through five states and drove a total of 2,987 miles in nine days, all to be within the line of totality. It was quite the experience. I’d like to say it was a once in a lifetime experience, but I’m hoping I can make another trip like that when the next solar eclipse happens. 

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My favorite spots are usually those I’ve sworn not to share the locations of, but they are always enjoyed with a great group of like-minded friends.

What would be your top tip for someone interested in overlanding?

You don’t need all the fancy gear that is associated with overlanding. You just a sense of adventure, a plan, and of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a great set of tires. Having a plan is optional, though.  






Follow Frank's Jeep on Instagram at @mr.franklopez or visit his website.

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Adventure

Robin's 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD

Editor’s note: While we were in Moab for Easter Jeep Safari, we ran into Robin Brooks. You might recognize her from last year, when we met her at Texas Unlimited Off-Road Expo. Driving the obstacle course at Texas Motor Speedway was her first off-road experience behind the wheel, and since then, her passion for leaving pavement has only grown.

 


 

My husband Christopher and I love the outdoors, off-roading, camping, hiking, and such. We purchased a Turtleback off-road trailer to make our camping experience a little more comfortable. The trailer was ready for pick up in Arizona around the same time that Overland Expo West 2016 was going on, so we planned our trip so we could attend and camp with the Herd of Turtles.

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This was a great experience because we could watch other Turtleback trailer owners set up and learn tricks from them. While there, I got an invite to a ladies night out event where I first got to hear @Charlene Bower speak. I also befriended a fellow Okie in Alisha Driggers. By friending Alisha on Facebook, I got a pop-up of people you may know and voila! There was Charlene Bower!

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After driving the obstacle course at the Texas Unlimited Off-Road Expo in 2017, I wanted to get off-road as the driver instead of just the passenger, which was exactly what my husband was hoping for. Shortly after we got back from the expo, Charlene posted about the Ladies Offroad Network (LON) Convention. I signed up, and it was UNFORGETTABLE!

It was a huge eye-opener as to what women are capable of! I learned so much, including how to use different recovery gear, how to do a 360 check, change a tire, how to use a Hi-lift, how a Pull Pal works, mapping skills, and so much more! Not to mention amazing friendships with ladies that have the same passion as me.

After I got back from the convention, I went on a mission to find the perfect off-road vehicle and daily driver. I test drove both Jeeps and Toyotas, and the Tacoma won! I bought my 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD pickup in August, and I haven’t looked back! I had the dealership install a 3” level kit, Fuel Wheels, BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KO2s, an ADD HoneyBadger bumper, and install the WARN winch that I won from the Ladies Offroad Network September giveaway.

I personally installed BudBuilt rock sliders, Lazer Star ditch lights that I won from the LON 12 day of Christmas giveaway using SDHQ off-road ditch light mounts, and then my CB radio. I must give a shoutout to my wonderful husband for assisting me in these installs and teaching me what tools I needed and how to use them. And I will continue to do all modification installs myself. The proud feeling of achievement is so worth doing the work, no matter how difficult.

My latest trip was to Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, thanks to Charlene Bowers. When I called her to discuss upcoming events, she suggested EJS be my first one of the year, despite the fact I don’t have a Jeep. I am so happy she convinced me to go! This was my first ladies road trip with my friend Jessy Greenland, and we had an absolute blast! Moab was AMAZING! I was very impressed with how my Tacoma maneuvered and my KO2 tires worked great! My reasons for requesting KO2s when I bought my Tacoma were, 1) great reviews, and 2) BFGoodrich supports LON, and I am very loyal to those who support me and my LON family. Being part of the Ladies Offroad Network has truly changed my life for the better! The women involved are so supportive and non-judgmental! It doesn’t matter if you’re an old pro, a newbie, or what you drive — we are in this together!

During Easter Jeep Safari, I learned to two-foot drive, not take my hands off the steering wheel, and to take things slow and easy. I started out a little rough, but by the end of the week I was much more comfortable with what I could do.

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This year is going to be a year of learning! I have applied for the Ladies Offroad Challenge, and I hope to make it to the top 10. I am also signed up for the 2018 LON Convention in August, and I’m going to do as much off-road learning as possible. My future goal is the 2019 Rebelle Rally, and who knows what else!

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Adventure

Dirt Every Day

Editor’s note: We caught up with Fred Williams, an auto journalist and TV show host with Dirt Every Day and The Motor Trend Network, at the Garage in Moab, Utah, during Easter Jeep Safari. He’s got a long history with BFGoodrich, a unique perspective on off-roading, and some fightin’ words for the guys driving on tarmac.

 


 

On Becoming An Auto Journalist

I got my first Jeep in high school. It was a $600 CJ5, and from there, it just kind of snowballed. When I got out of school, I was traveling out West and I met a guy that wrote for the off-road magazines I read as a kid. I asked how he got to be a journalist, and at the time, I wasn’t asking for a job, I was just curious. But he said, Oh, you wanna write for a magazine? I know a guy. And he called this guy and he said, send a writing sample, so that’s how I got started.

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I like Jeeps and I like trucks, but even today, I never claim to be an expert in this off-road stuff. I just know enough of the right people in the industry, for example: if I don’t know how a tire is made, or how a diesel engine works, I can find out.

I quickly learned my job as an automotive journalist was translating because if you talk to engineer nerds, they’ll tell you all this stuff that doesn’t make sense to the normal man. So I’d take that information and turn it around and make it so my mom could understand it.

On Why Off-Roading Is the Best

Off-road is better than drag racing, or anything on asphalt. That stuff is boring ‘cause it’s flat! It’s only two dimensions: left and right, forward and back, where off-roading has up and down. We have hill climbs and crazy descents and rock crawling, and when you throw in dirt, it just makes it more exciting.

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Tire smoke is interesting, but dust and dirt and rocks flying everywhere is MORE exciting. You can go fast, you can go slow, you can have super technical stuff, you can have mud, sand, snow, rocks whatever the terrain. There’s just more to it than boring old asphalt.

On Making Videos About Off-Roading

My buddy Dave is my co-host, and we work on projects together, we get angry at each other, we work it all out, we finish the thing, we go four-wheeling and have fun. It’s like real life. We don’t have 30 mechanics that come in to finish the thing. And we’ll go out on the trail and break and the engine will catch on fire, and it’s reality. It’s not staged reality. But we try to make the show appeal to kids. We don’t swear, we’re not about attitude or competition — we just want to get kids excited to play with trucks. 

At the end of the day, we’re just trying to have a good time, play with trucks, and show people that it’s fun to do.

On Getting Kids Excited

For a while, the future of the automotive scene seemed bleak because kids just wanted to play on their phones, and I’m sure there’s still a lot of that, but I’m just like, Look, go buy a cheap Jeep or Toyota, and go play in the dirt. Don’t worry about buying 40” BFGs today, you’ll be able to do that later. Just go have fun, get stuck, fix things. I mean, it’s great there’s a new $40,000 Wrangler, but not everybody can afford that.

At the end of the day, we’re just trying to have a good time, play with trucks, and show people that it’s fun to do.

On Why Off-Roading Sometimes Sucks

You spend a lot of money, you bust up your knuckles, and it’s a greasy, stinky hobby, but what’s the alternative? Frisbee? Sure Frisbee sounds like a good option some days when I have a truck broken and axles torn out, but I can’t get it out of me. There are times when I think I won’t do the off-road thing anymore, but I’ll see something and I’ll say, Ooh, I want one of those.

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My worst addiction is I’ll get on Craigslist and look at cheap 4x4s and think, Oh I need that. I can put one-tons underneath it, an LS, a roll cage, a winch, and then it’ll be awesome. I don’t’ remember how much work goes into projects, I just see the end goal and then I end up dragging more old junk home.

On His First Tires

The first time I ever bought tires, I went to a Land Rover dealership that had 4 BFGoodrich tires that had been on a Camel Trophy Land Rover or something, and I bought those used tires for $50 a piece. They weren’t much bigger than stock, but it didn’t matter. I had an aggressive mud tire, and it made that thing so cool.  The Jeep would barely run, and I spent all my time working on it, but those BFGs made the whole thing rad.

I mean, knobby tires make anything look cooler. Little kids will point at any lifted truck and go, MONSTER TRUCK! And I’m like, Yeah! I’m driving a monster truck. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on 31” or 42” tires.

In my job, I have to drive and test lots of different tires so it wouldn’t be right for me to pick one favorite tire, but that being said, when I started with at the magazine, BFGoodrich came out with the Krawler tire, and I thought that tire just looked and worked so well. I remember meeting Gary Enterline (@Dr. Dirt), the Father of the Krawler, and so I have always had an affinity for the BFG brand. It’s known worldwide for desert racing, competition rock crawling, Ultra4, or some having All-Terrains for driving in the snow to go skiing. I’m fond of the BFGoodrich brand because I have history with it, and I’ve always met really exciting people who work there or race for them. They’re just a good company, and they’re into the same sort of thing as me: getting people into the dirt.






For more, follow Fred on Instagram at @4xfredwilliams and watch the show at Motor Trend.

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Build

Adam’s 2016 Dodge Ram Rebel

Editor’s note: Adam Ruby is a wildlife photographer who lives in the Canadian Rockies. He recently swapped his Jeep for a black Dodge Ram Rebel. The first thing he did when he bought the Ram? He swapped on new BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KO2s.

 


 

I need my truck to be able to take me anywhere that I want.  Of course, there are some areas that I can’t expect my truck to take me, but I need it to be tough and reliable. More importantly, I need my tires to be reliable.  You can have the biggest and toughest truck on earth, but if you don’t have good rubber you may as well park it. I used to use other tires on my 2011 Jeep Wrangler Sahara. I loved the Jeep, but I needed more.  

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I wanted a smaller pickup that was good on gas and great off-road, and this truck just seemed to make the cut all around. I had done some research on the Ram Rebel, and I loved the adjustable air suspension. The interior is also amazing: heated seats, heated steering wheel, loads of room, touch screen, navigation, etc. Even the trim is awesome.  It literally has everything I need, including the power. A 5.7L Hemi is plenty for me.  

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I used to have BFGs on my old 2000 Ford F-150, and I loved them. I always wanted them again, so when I bought the truck, I immediately bought new BFGs. From the construction, to the price, to the durability, these tires have it all.  I have been through some nasty weather with these tires during the winter in the Rocky Mountains in Canada, and I am still alive to talk about it.  I am a very safe driver, but without these tires, I can’t honestly say I would be here to talk about them. 

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In addition to the tires, I have done some mods to the truck.  I bought a Bulldog canopy from Cap It in Kelowna, BC, Canada, and had that installed back in March 2018.  I knew that I would be building a camper/bunk setup in the bed, so I got on that right away.  I just finished all the hardwood flooring, the framing and the bunk build.  I have a 7-inch mattress, real hardwood flooring, and a 3-by-1.5-foot drawer under my bunk.  I can remove the platform for the rest of the area that is stored under the main bunk.  This allows me to sleep anywhere park the truck.  I have the windows tinted, but it’s not enough.  I plan to make them as dark as possible so it’s not visible to anyone while I’m camping in there — just in case I have to crash in a Walmart parking lot.  

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I will be installing a Thule Roof Rack and Roof Pod in the next few weeks. As for other mods, I bought the Rebel because I didn’t want to have to do a lift or anything else.  Aside from installing a light bar and the stuff I already mentioned, I honestly don’t think I need anything more.

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Follow Adam’s work on Instagram at @adamrubyphotography.

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Adventure

Long Trails on Hell’s Revenge

Editor’s note: Spencer Daines is the son of Travis Daines and the jack-of-all-trades behind Jeepfreeks content. He spent most of his time shooting video during Easter Jeep Safari, but he managed to get away for a day on the trails — even though his rig isn’t exactly set up for hardcore off-roading. Afterwards, we found him working on his Cherokee in the Garage.

 


 

My daily is a stock ‘99 XJ Cherokee with 200,000 miles and suspension wear to show it. The only mod is a custom front bumper I made two days before EJS 2018.

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During this trip I decided I would start upgrading my XJ, so doing the Hell’s Revenge trail was like a last hurrah for the stock setup. Hell’s Revenge is a very scenic trail, and many people take it for granted as being an easy trail. But in a stock vehicle, it’s very technical, and in my opinion, that’s the best way to enjoy the trail.

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There were obstacles on the trail where I only had one line I could make it through because I don’t have a gas tank skid plate. I would have to put both rear tires on skinny rocks, right over a sharp rock in the center just waiting to put a hole in my tank if I slipped. And my exhaust from the cat back was ripped off by a rock ledge.

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But the best part was that I did the trail on BFGoodrich® Long Trail T/A Tour tires (235x70x15). They gripped the rock really well, and I had zero instances where the tires slipped or chirped, which is quite impressive for street tires.

 


 

Follow Spencer’s work at @jeepfreeks.

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Adventure

Baja: Glory, Heartache, and Adventure

Rich Minga sits on the back patio of his home in Fallbrook, California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. The winter sun glances off his face, which wears years spent in the desert, in the sun, in the dirt. The light is weaker than might be expected — it’s diffused by a layer of smoke from wildfires that will race across northern San Diego County until they’re fought to a standstill within sight of Minga’s patio tomorrow.

Sunlight drifts into his blue eyes, flashing brilliant and intense. Minga is contemplative, meditating on his life. In this moment, he looks across his property. His house sits atop a scrubby hill overlooking California State Route 76, a freshly paved four-lane with almost no traffic. A long driveway winds up the hill from the highway, curving past storage containers, landscaping in progress, a pool that Minga is digging himself, all the way to the top.

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Old enduro bikes and stunt vehicles are neatly parked inside and around storage containers. It would be uncharitable to call these old machines “junk” — it’s a collection, the type you would expect from someone whose life is entwined with off-roading. And there’s no truer statement about Rich Minga. 

Minga can trace his off-road heritage to his childhood, when he went camping in Baja with his family.  And it was in the mid-1970s that he began building a Baja Bug, before he was even able to legally drive. And in 1980, as a fresh high school graduate, Minga raced in his first Baja 1000. In the decades since, Minga has seen, heard, tasted, felt, smelled, and experienced everything that off-roading can offer. But if there’s one thread that runs through his myriad experiences, it’s this: 

Off-roading is a cruel mistress. It gives, but more often than not, it takes in greater measure.

 


 

Minga grew up in San Diego in a family that valued building and tinkering. “My grandpa and dad taught me how to weld, fabricate, and work on stuff…It was just a hobby for them both, but they had a love for mechanical aptitude and mechanical things, and they taught me those skills,” he says. 

Those skills came in handy when it came time for Minga to get a car. “My parents got me this Volkswagen [Beetle], and then I had to build it because I didn’t really have a car,” he says. He was only 14, so he had until he was 16 to turn it into a functioning machine. “My dad gave me this book, How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive (The Idiot Book). It was a real bitchin’ book: it was funny and it was an easy tutorial. I learned how to build engines and do everything with my Volkswagen. It was a turning point, probably the first book I ever read because my attention span wasn’t ever enough [to finish a book].”

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While that book helped Minga develop his mechanical skills and build his Beetle (along with help from his dad and brother), it was another publication that really captured his imagination: Hot VWs magazine. “There were a couple of pages about the Baja 500, the San Felipe 250, the Baja 1000, and the Mexicali 250. There were these fancy Baja Bugs with these big tires, shocks, big lights…” Minga’s excitement is evident even as he recounts this childhood story. “I’m going, Wow, now that’s a Baja Bug. What if I drove that on the street? So I built my car to be a lookalike of an off-road race car.”

As Minga chased his dreams of building a Baja Bug, it made sense to go to the source: off-road race shops. “I would take the bus down to El Cajon and go to different shops to sweep floors and do anything I could just to snoop around and get ideas on what to do to my car,” he says. Minga, still a green teenager, would get kicked out more often than not, but his persistence paid off. He went from sweeping floors to organizing nuts and bolts to cleaning parts.

“I don’t want to learn from my mistakes. I want to learn from other peoples’ mistakes."

Then Minga landed at Mark Stahl Race Prep in Chula Vista. “Mark was a champion of the sport, so I learned from the very best. You go to the top. There was no reason to learn from people that weren’t finishing races and winning races,” he says. “I don’t want to learn from my mistakes. I have no desire to do that. But I can learn from other peoples’ mistakes…”

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Working with Stahl also opened up a world of off-road connections for Minga. After about a year of working at the shop, one of Stahl’s friends, Tom Ferguson, came into the shop and gave Minga the deal of a lifetime: help him finish his single-seat 1600 car in time for the Baja 1000, and he’d let Minga race with him. So Minga did just that. “That just sunk the hook and the barb was really deep and I couldn’t pull it out,” he says.

About six months after the Thousand, Minga got another offer through Stahl’s network of connections: help build copies of the Chenowth 1000 for the Tapia brothers in Mexico. For the next couple of years, Minga went back and forth between San Diego and Mexico City, acting as translator, consultant, mechanic, and parts buyer. All the while, he honed his skills building and driving.

The result of the Chenowth project was essentially a spec class for the 1982 Baja 1000. “We had Mickey Thompson race one of our cars, and he was leading overall at Camalú, but it couldn’t hold up to his speed and aggression,” Minga recalls. Through that experience, Minga got to be friends with Thompson, who encouraged Minga to take his racing to the next level.

By 1987, Minga had won his first official points championship in the SCORE/HDRA Challenger class, and the opportunities began piling up. He began traveling to race in New Zealand, Africa, Indonesia, and Mexico. In 1988, he also partnered with Porsche to build and campaign a 911, in which he took home three top-10 finishes. Although he didn’t win a championship with the car, it stood out in a field of Baja Bugs, and that notoriety put Minga on the map with BFGoodrich® Tires. “They already had top level guys, but then I beat those guys. So they said, Hey, come aboard.” 

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Of course, Minga already wanted to be a part of the BFGoodrich family. “That was the team to be on. They had the best product, they had the best pit support, and they had some of the best mechanics,” he says. “Their relationships and loyalty…some companies aren’t loyal, and they come and go. BFGoodrich has been in for the long haul.”

Minga’s rise in the off-road world led him to new opportunities. Team management and driver coaching became part of his repertoire, and with a reputation for success, his network of friends and acquaintances from around the world began looking to him when they wanted to buy racecars. Minga soon found himself in the car brokerage, car building, and race prepping businesses, on top of his own racing. That would lead to a different facet of Minga’s career: show business.

 




In 1994, Minga got a call: Baywatch was filming an episode, and they needed off-road vehicles. “I ended up providing some vehicles, some phone numbers, and helping these guys get a bunch of vehicles. Then they brought me in as a stuntman to drive them and jump them,” he says. “That first day on the set ended up being really spectacular for me.” 

That on-camera experience led to more stunt driving and stuntman opportunities. Minga’s IMDb profile now lists 37 TV shows and movies, including The Lost World: Jurassic Park, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and most recently, Logan.

"BFGoodrich was the team to be on. They had the best product, the best pit support, and the best mechanics. And they're loyal. Some companies come and go, but BFGoodrich has been in for the long haul."

As Minga’s work in show business ramped up, he began racing less. “I did not race much from ’94 to 2000. I was raising a family, and my wife at the time was not fond of racing at all. I wasn’t even building cars or going to races." 

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But up to this point, the world of off-road racing had been mostly good to Minga. He would tally five Baja 1000 victories as a driver, three as a crew chief, and three as a team manager. The people he’d met and the experiences he’d had formed the basis of his careers, and more than that, he was good and successful.

But off-roading is a fickle mistress, and though it had given plenty to Minga, it was about to take from him.

 


 

In 1998, Minga became fast friends with a new neighbor, Rich Foder. “Rich bought a couple of cars and built them for his son, and I would go help on the cars. We hung out every day, and he became my best friend. He pulled me back in, and I started going to races with him and racing with him and his nephew.”

In 2000, they ran a two-car team in Class 12, and after several races, they were in the lead for the overall points championship. “I was just one of the spokes of the wheel. I was just driving a small portion of the race, doing logistics and team management, and helping prep the car. But it felt good,” Minga recalls. As the end of the season neared, it seemed more and more likely that a championship was in reach. 

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And then disaster struck. “We ended up going to Barstow to test the car on the way to a race in Vegas, and we had an accident. [Foder and his nephew] were pre-running a marked race course, and a trophy truck got turned around and confused." Minga's voice cracks. "It came backwards on the course, and it came around a corner right at dusk and hit our car. My partner and best friend were killed instantly.” Minga was devastated,  and on top of that, he lost three other family members the same year. He quit racing, and he even quit going to races. “I couldn’t do it,” he says.

It’s not that Minga didn’t know the risks and demands of off-road racing. Throughout his racing career, he was already familiar with what racing required of him, personally. “Every race I ever did was the last race I was ever gonna do,” he says. “You work so hard, you give it your all, and you’re so all-in, that you don’t have anything left. You’re so burnt out. You talk all your friends into helping you in some fashion. You just feel so dirty getting everything you can out of everybody you know. And you come home from a race with the car you built with your money, and it’s completely trashed. It’s done. And you can barely pay your bills. And then you have to be ready for the next race. You just had 12 rounds with Mike Tyson, and you gotta do it again. It’s painful in every part of it.” 

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But at the end of the day, knowing the risks and knowing the demands of racing didn’t do anything to lessen the shock or the hurt when Minga lost his best friend.

 


 

As painful as that loss was, the off-road world could never be off-limits to Minga. Sure, he’d become a successful stuntman and the movie business paid his bills, but that career could never hope to satisfy this fundamental aspect of Minga’s identity. 

In 2004, Todd Clement, a friend of Minga’s and the founder of Horsepower Ranch, invited Minga to guide tours in Baja. “It was really neat to take people to Mexico and introduce them to the culture,” Minga says. It also gave him time to see the desert from outside of a racing mentality. “I get to enjoy Baja more than I ever enjoyed it before, and I enjoyed it before. You get to stop, take pictures, and give people a little taste of it. It’s like getting on a bike and going for a beach cruise after you’ve done a triathlon. Racing Baja is a triathlon. Now, I can bike, swim, jog at my leisure.”

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Before long, Minga dipped his toes back into competition as Clement introduced Wide Open Baja as a way for amateurs and celebrities to experience desert racing for themselves. “I’ve raced with Patrick Dempsey and Paul Newman, and we’ve introduced so many people to the sport through Wide Open Baja,” Minga says. And despite the time off from racing, Minga still has it — he was a class winner for the 40th anniversary of the Baja 1000 in 2007.

“Now I just race the Baja 1000, but I’ll probably start doing the series again,” he says. But for now, he’s content guiding tours, working in show business, and exploring a new passion for enduro bikes. “I never could ride bikes. I had a family and I didn’t want to get hurt. So I didn’t really start riding motorcycles until I was 40. Now, I get to be the sweep rider on bike tours in Baja and do 250 miles in the saddle each day.”

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Off-roading gives, but it also takes, and takes, and takes — as much of yourself as you will give it. Minga has lived that sacrifice and pain. He’s been beaten up and bloodied. But at the end of the day, it’s not a choice for him. Baja is in his blood, and he’s finding his way back to the joy of the desert, on his own terms.

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Danny's 2018 Toyota C-HR

Editor’s note: Daily drivers exist to be the convenient, reliable transportation that gets us through our day-to-day activities. But that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Just take Danny Durkan’s C-HR for example.

 


 

I selected this Toyota C-HR XLE Premium as my new daily driver. I’ve had a few enthusiast cars in the past, most notably a VW GTI and an E46 M3. I even daily drove a Smart Fortwo for quite a few years, but I needed something with more room. I’m a full-time media producer for XPEL, which manufactures protective films for cars. I shoot a lot of video and photos for commercial shorts, automotive event coverage highlights, and other marketing projects we have going on. 

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I also love hatches and funky crossovers, so the C-HR seemed like a perfect fit. The styling and overall design of the car caught my attention immediately. I was really impressed with the ride quality and various features like the adaptive cruise. My dad’s daily is a Porsche Macan, so after driving that a bit, the C-HR felt like a solid entry-level alternative without the high-end performance. 

It’s not even remotely “fast,” but who cares? It looks funky, turns heads, and drives great.

One of the things I love the most about it is the way it looks. To me, it doesn’t look like most other Toyotas on the road, especially when debadged. It’s not as youthful as cars from the Scion brand, but it has a lot of video game styling. It's like a starter car you’d find in San Francisco Rush 2049 or the Burnout series, but with a little more modern flare. The lane assist and adaptive cruise is also a major plus. I’m ready for full autonomous driving, but the little Toyota obviously isn’t there yet. 

The plan is to have a really awesome daily driver that’s OEM+ with a touch of rally influence, so modifications have been very minimal. At this point, it’s mostly just film, wheels, and tires. I used slate smoke headlight protection film from XPEL to tint the lights a bit, added yellow overlays to the fog lights, and blacked out the grill, roof, and spoiler with AVERY gloss black. It’s also tinted with our premium XPEL PRIME XR window film. The car is in the process of receiving a full body XPEL STEALTH (satin clear paint protection) wrap as well. Eventually I’d like to drop it a bit on Tanabe NF210 springs, or even go as far as to put it on air ride. I saw a C-HR on SpeedHunters last year, and it really struck a chord.

The Lancia-inspired Rotiform LAS-R wheels were a must, and I might try to hide a light bar somewhere, along with some small aero touches like a bigger front lip or rear hatch ducktail spoiler. Exhaust is also a possibility, but I like keeping a low profile.

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As for the tires, the C-HR is on BFGoodrich® Advantage T/A Sports. They’re a bit knobbier than stock, but with a similar ride quality and hardness. I thought they’d add a bit more “meat” to the Rotiforms, and sure enough the fit was perfect. The car feels lighter cutting into turns and firmly planted on the exit. The wheels are significantly wider than the stock setup, so combined with the taller tire sidewall, they fill out the wheel wells nicely. They’re almost perfectly flush with no spacers and no rubbing whatsoever.

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Overall, the reception and reactions have been very positive. The C-HR gets a bad rap online for being a “worthless crossover” or some sort of millennial monstrosity, but I think once people see one in person, they dig it. It’s not all wheel drive, it doesn’t have a turbo or a 6-speed manual transmission, and it’s not even remotely “fast,” but who cares? It looks funky, turns heads, and drives great.

 


 

See how Danny’s daily driver evolves at @discoverymode.

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