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Show Stopper

Editor’s note: It was supposed to be an easy two-hour drive from Travis Hartwell’s home in Greenwood, Indiana, to the 2010 Trans Am Nationals in Dayton, Ohio. But as Travis tells it, things didn’t quite go as planned.




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Most of my adventures start with race tracks, but this particular one takes place when I was to be featured in the Pro-TouringF-Body.com vendor booth at the 2010 Trans Am Nationals in Dayton, Ohio. I decided to drive the T/A to the show because I have to keep convincing myself that it’s a street car. It was a two-hour drive, and my wife was with me and our two kids were in the back seat.

It had been a smooth trip until the engine died at a stop light just two blocks from the show. I spent the next thirty minutes waiting on a wrecker to haul the car the rest of the way. When it arrived, we couldn’t all fit in, so my wife and kids got their first ride in a police car. I spent all weekend at the show trying to troubleshoot the problem without any luck. When the show was over I ended up having to call a buddy to come haul me home.

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When I got back, my dad suggested I check a coil that I had recently replaced. He was convinced I had replaced one bad coil with another bad one. It turned out he was right. I’d been trouble shooting the wrong spot that whole weekend. But one thing I learned is that car show people flock around anyone doing maintenance to their car. I met more people that weekend while working on my car than any time I've ever just sat in a lawn chair. People just want to feel involved.

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Build

Bird of Prey

Editor’s note: Michael Richardson, for better or worse, is kind of what you expect of a young Angeleno: monochromatic wardrobe, hip haircut, carefully managed facial hair, and a graphic design job. He’s West Coast cool with dose of rock ‘n’ roll attitude for good measure. And it shows in more than his appearance.

Richardson is the owner of a 1963 Ford Falcon, but it looks nothing like grandma’s car. Despite the classic lines and curves, there’s an undeniable aggression. The car has been lowered, and there are bolt-on fender flairs that seem barely able to contain the big, beefy tires punching out from the corners. White racing stripes run down the sides, which only seem to make the body’s deep blue paint even bluer.

A stripped down interior and exposed attachment points for molding make clear this Falcon is a work in progress, but that’s exactly how Richardson likes it.


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My dad has owned quite a few cars, but the one I remember is a ’63-and-a-half Ford Falcon Sprint that he bought from his buddy. It came with fender flares on it already, and it was all set up for road racing. It was a 260 V-8 with Webers on it and a four-speed. I fell in love with that car.

Back then, no one was cutting up Falcons and putting giant fender flares on them and road racing them. Everyone wanted the '65 or '66 Mustangs. Those were the cars you took out road racing.

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I remember sitting in the back of my dad’s car just holding on. There was no backseat because it had a full cage in it. We would go to car shows, and go up to Willow Springs. I remember people's reactions. It was always like, “I’ve never seen anything like that. It looks so aggressive, the stance, everything.” My dad’s car just burned in me and left such an impression that I was like one day I'm going to own a car like that.




My car, this 1963 Falcon, I got from a guy who put maybe 1000 miles on it over the 10 years he owned it. It was painted and had the full molding. The car came with a six cylinder and a column shift, but the previous owner put in a V-8 and a floor-mounted automatic.

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When I got it, I went through and tore out all the suspension, brakes, and steering. Now, it has the beefed up steering from the ’65 Falcon. I went through Mike Eisenberg with MAECO Motorsports, who has a super hot rod Falcon Sprint race car. He kind of helped me out with the right components for the brakes and everything. I even have an 8.8 inch Ford Explorer rear end that just got built, so that's going in this thing real soon.

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I also took off all the molding and put on the fender flares. I was like, “I need the biggest, beefiest tire.” Part of being a muscle car is not being able to see even a portion of the rim from behind the tire, so I really looked for a good wheel and tire combination. My dad came back and told me to get the BFGoodrich Radial T/A. That's what he had on his car, and that was the biggest, beefiest tire you could get.

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I’ve still got to put the rear end in, and the automatic drives me nuts, so I’ll put a five-speed in. Once that happens, I know I’ll be much happier for a couple of years until I decide I need more horsepower. Between 450 and 500 horsepower, that’s the next step.




For me, this is my daily driver. I don't have anything else. I'll do a big project at a time so it's not off the road that long. I'm definitely not one to take two years to build a car and let it sit in a garage. I don't have that patience. This car here is part of the process.

I'm a designer so I'm in love with process. You see where that molding was and I love that work-in-progress feel. It's interesting when you see something like this evolving over time. It's cool to see evolution on the road.

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You can get people’s reactions, and you have great conversations. Around town, I have people stopping me, or they’ll get in front of a green light and take pictures of the car. I get, minimum, ten compliments a day. I’m not exaggerating at all.

In a weird way, the car itself is building a community of interest. Someone could see it today and I'll never see that person again for six months, a year, or two years. But if I come across that person again, they are going to approach me and say, “I remember when I first saw that car and now I see where it is today...”

The car is just the whole package. I love the round body with the sprint top. They didn't make very many of them, and it's such a unique look. Some of these lines just get me every time. This is a beautifully designed car. Then, putting the flares on it, the big wheels and tires, bringing it down lower…This thing just looks so damn aggressive and wide now. Every time I look at it, I just want to take pictures of it.

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Adventure

Trail Off

Editor’s note: Moose Halstead describes an interesting — and very frustrating — trip on the Rubicon Trail.




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It was July 2015 and my Jeep club went to the Rubicon Trail in South Lake Tahoe, California. We had two JKU’s, a TJ, a YJ, and a J10. That J10 became the most worked on ride ever. At one point the engine separated from the transmission, and both the engine mounts broke off, causing the motor to fall forward. This broke the oil filter and oil filter mount and cracked the radiator. We had to leave that Jeep in the middle of the Rubicon Trail for a day until we could return with parts, which ended up being the next day.

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We finally got that Jeep fixed but when we went to drive back out, the heavily modified YJ that was with us broke the rear yoke on the transfer case. And not just any transfer case either, but a beefed-up Atlas. This all led to a very frustrating trip.

I trailer my Jeep but the J10 was so damaged that I let its owner borrow my trailer. This meant I had to drive my JK with 37 inch tires and four point harness back to Knoxville. Let me tell you, that was a very long, two-day drive.

 

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Adventure

Business and Pleasure

Editor’s note: Like so many of our stories, Darryl Krapf’s begins with his father and a love of cars that now spans three generations.




 

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When I was growing up, I went everywhere with my dad. From helping him put up the town’s Christmas lights, to watching him work on the family car, I was always by his side. That’s where my love of cars came from. And now I’ve been in the car business for over thirty years.

“I explore my beautiful state of Arizona in my JKU, equipped with 37-inch KO2s. Some of my favorite memories are building Jeeps and off-roading with my boys.”

It started in 1982 when I took a job with a company converting cargo vans into surveillance vans for US Customs and Border Patrol. After that, I worked at dealers, and also had my own shop for a few years. I’ve worked as a flat-rate tech, shop foreman, team leader, and service manager. But last year (2016) I was finally able to put down the wrenches. I’m now self-employed as an independent mechanical inspector.

As far as off roading goes, I used to have a Jeep XJ that I turned into a buggy. But now, I explore my beautiful state of Arizona in my JKU, equipped with 37-inch KO2s. I also use it for some not-so-extreme rock crawling. Some of my favorite memories are building Jeeps and off-roading with my boys. And even though I love crawling, I now spend more time exploring. 

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Adventure

Build It, Break It, Fix It

Editor’s note: What’s the point of having a high performance car if you don’t use it like it’s intended? After Chad Tomlinson found his dream car — a red 2000 Pontiac Firebird Formula — he went to work in the garage, and the 2015 edition of LS Fest proved to be a great opportunity to put the Firebird into action.


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I had just done some substantial brake upgrades and a transmission swap to the car. I had also picked up a set of BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S tires and made some minor changes to the suspension. I was excited to try everything out, and 2015 was supposed to be the biggest and best LS Fest yet.

The first day in Bowling Green, KY, was great. The time we scheduled for the road course at the NCM Motorsports Park was partially rained out, but I ran as long as they’d let me. Rain racing can be really useful when you’re feeling out a car, and it’s an absolute blast when you’re already familiar with what you’re driving. The day ended and I took the car home more satisfied than ever before. It was truly a joy to push on the track, and I could drive it home on the highway at 1800 RPM with the air conditioning on. It’s the little things.

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The following day was one I’ll never forget. I arrived early and was the first in line to run on the track. I got one untimed run and the car felt scary fast in the dry. It was time to start pushing. After a short wait in line I found myself once again slamming through gears, the starting line rapidly disappearing behind me. The first braking zone was perfect, and the car sailed around the chicane as if propelled by something out of science fiction.

“The repeated high-RPM abuse in turn two, combined with the added grip of the new Rivals, was just too much to put on a stock oiling system. The Rivals were so good they killed my car!”

As I entered the braking zone for turn 2, I set the car up for corner exit while downshifting. It pitched and once again sailed through the corner, raising squeals of protest from the tires. The engine was banging off the rev limiter and struggling to put power down. As I entered the back straight, something started to go wrong. The gas was flat to the floor, and I could hear what I thought for a moment was an exhaust leak. As my foot continued to pour air and fuel into the engine, the sound got worse—more like a metallic clap, and less like a leak.

I had a sudden realization. I could feel the staccato rhythm of clapping through my feet, and I was losing power. This was very bad. My eyes shot to oil pressure gauge, and though it read fine, I knew it was all over. At this point the car sounded like a mix between a tractor and a person beating on a steel drum at 600 RPM. I got off the loud pedal and cut the ignition, coasting to the side of the track. My car was dead.

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It was easy to determine that several of my bearings were completely toasted. The way we figure it, the repeated high-RPM abuse in turn two, combined with the added grip of the new Rivals, was just too much to put on a stock oiling system. The Rivals were so good they killed my car! After locating a new engine and doing some upgrades to the oiling, she’ll be back running in no time. The better oiling also allows us to move to a bigger tire!


Photography by Ty Cobb // @tycobbphotography

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Adventure

Recap: King of the Hammers 2017

Last week, the BFGoodrich Garage went on the road to Johnson Valley, CA, to take in Ultra4 Racing’s season opener: the King of the Hammers. For those who weren’t able to join us in the desert, we bring you a recap of the highlights.






The King of the Hammers is regarded as the toughest one-day off-road race, and what we saw out there certainly validates that assertion. The unique mixture of remote terrain, high speeds, and technical obstacles make finishing the race an achievement unto itself.

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Though the race itself is inhospitable, the atmosphere is the complete opposite. Hammertown, the tent and RV city that springs up for King of the Hammers week, is chock full of hardcore off-road enthusiasts as interested in the race as in exploring the trails that crisscross the Johnson Valley OHV Area.

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The BFGoodrich Garage was there to support our enthusiasts pushing their equipment to—and beyond—their limits. Take, for instance, Dusty Steinson, who managed to split his Jeep’s transmission in half when he landed a jump. A few hours of hard wrenching, some welding, and new fluids got the Canadian visitor back on the trail.

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BFGoodrich Racing saw success as well, with Brad and Roger Lovell dominating the Every Man Challenge on Thursday. The brothers are EMC winners for the second consecutive year, and champions three out of the last four years.

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On Friday, BFGoodrich driver Cody Waggoner finished 8th out of the King of the Hammers field, with Jessi Combs coming in with a 12th place finish. Tom Wayes held a 10-minute lead on the King of the Hammers field until his car suffered a series of breakdowns including two broken drive shafts and one busted fuel cell. He still managed to bring his 321 car in for a 22nd place finish.

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Build

Pacific Coast Cruiser

The air smells like salt and espresso at Primo’s Coffee. The café sits on the corner of 6th Street and California State Route 1 in Huntington Beach, and the only thing standing between an Americano and the Pacific Ocean is sand, palm trees, and the Pacific Coast Highway. That’s what State Route 1 is designated as here, anyways.

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Jeff Glucker sits at the picnic tables outside of Primo’s. He absentmindedly pushes his breeze-blown hair back into place with his hand, and Ray-ban aviators shade his eyes from the late morning sun. It’s Thursday, but there’s no sense of rush with Glucker. He looks at ease in a way that would seem contrived, were it not for the fact that the Huntington Beach-based auto journalist lives around the corner, and therefore could qualify as an actual beach bum.

“One of the things that inspires me is this era of social media. I make automotive videos and I do podcasts, but at the core of it, it’s just talking about cars. Even if I wasn’t an auto journalist, I’d still drive the truck and stand in parking lots talking with other people with a similar passion.”

His long-bed 1965 Ford F-100 occupies a corner in the Primo’s parking lot. “Old cars are the best,” he says, nodding towards the red and cream truck. Glucker should know. He was an associate editor for Autoblog.com, the road test review editor at NADAGuides.com, and his freelance work can be found at Motor Authority and Jalopnik. He’s also the co-founder and executive editor of Hooniverse, a site dedicated to the endearing diversity and weirdness of cars and the people who dig that weirdness.

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“I love new cars. I drive one every week as part of my job. There’s plenty to like about them. But old cars are just more interesting. The old stuff, there’s so much more going on in terms of style.” There’s no better example than his own F-100.

It’s not Concours-quality: the body’s not quite straight everywhere, and there’s a bit of rust peeking through a dent above the right wheel well. Then again, what’s a truck without a few dings? Besides, style is about more than just having the right polished pieces in the right places.

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The F-100 looks like an honest machine. It’s windshield is about as upright as you can get, and the curves and lines are simple and wholesome. There isn’t any visual nipping and tucking—the kind trickery you might see from a modern vehicle trying to disguise its bulk. This isn’t the pickup you want if you’re looking for a chunky, life-sized Tonka truck.

Glucker found his Ford on Craigslist in Oceanside, just outside San Diego, and bought it sight unseen. “I had one of my editors who was down in San Diego take a look. He gave a thumbs up, so I took the train down and drove it home that night.” It was a leap of faith, and not just because he didn’t inspect the car himself. “I’ve never been a good wrench,” Glucker admits. “I’ve always loved cars, but I’d never really been under the hood.”

The truck was Glucker’s investment in improving his mechanical prowess. “The real reason I got this was I wanted something that was drivable, but still a project so I could learn along the way to do most of the work myself. The good thing is it uses parts all the way up to ’78. I can go to any auto parts store and get pieces to fix things.”

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Since buying the truck, Glucker has steadily worked his way through a list of housekeeping items. “It’s much better than when I first got it. I swapped the radiator, put a new thermostat in it, put new plug wires on it. We also did the timing. The first time I tried to do it, I was about 180 degrees out. When I started the truck, flames were shooting out of the carburetor. I thought I’d killed my truck...that was fun. I readjusted the steering column, did a new throttle cable…tons of things I had never done before.”

Now that the truck is mechanically sound, Glucker’s already eyeing a few more upgrades. “The engine is good, but compression is low on cylinder number 8, so at some point, the engine is going to need a rebuild. When that happens, it’s time to bore/stroke a little bit. That block is a 352, and apparently you can fit the 428 crankshaft in there. Now we’re talking about really beefing that thing out. The whole idea is to do a muscle truck.”

“Car culture is not going anywhere. Tastes may change. A future generation might geek over the latest Mercedes electric sports car, and the future generation of hot rodders is going to be people changing algorithms and adjusting throttle-by-wire settings, which I find fascinating. I don’t think car culture is going to die, it’s just going to evolve.”

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But working on a vintage truck doesn’t mean Glucker spends all his time pining for an age gone by. As an automotive journalist and enthusiast, technology’s influence can’t be ignored. In fact, Glucker chooses to see a new world of opportunity afforded by progress. “One of the things that inspires me is this era of social media we live in. I make automotive videos and I do podcasts, but at the core of it, it’s just talking about cars,” he says. “It’s a conversation. You should do stuff for yourself, which I do, but I want to keep people interested and happy with the stuff I’m doing. Even if I wasn’t [an automotive journalist], I’d still drive the truck and stand in parking lots talking with other people with a similar passion. The fact you can talk to people across the globe is fun.”

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Furthermore, Glucker doesn’t believe in the doom and gloom forecast where technology and convenience diminishes the importance of cars. “They always say car culture is dying, that millennials don’t care. I disagree. I see kids of all ages wave at these great old cars, from 3 years old to 200 years old. Everyone gets a kick out of it,” he says. “Car culture is not going anywhere. Tastes may change. A future generation might geek over the latest Mercedes electric sports car, and the future generation of hot rodders is going to be people changing algorithms and adjusting throttle-by-wire settings, which I find fascinating. I don’t think car culture is going to die, it’s just going to evolve.”

But for now, Glucker is content with tinkering and cruising. With the California sun, the easy rumble of a Ford V-8, and the promise of Pacific breezes, it’s hard to want anything more.

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Adventure

Walk, Run, Crawl

Larry McRae lounges in a cabana overlooking the pool at his St. George, UT, house. In the distance, Sand Hollow State Park’s red-orange cliffs jut into blue skies, vivid shocks of color and geology unique to the Southwest. Clad in a baseball cap, t-shirt, and wraparound shades, McRae looks every bit the part of a retiree looking for some R&R. “I’m a professional man of leisure now,” he says with a chuckle. McRae’s voice is a quiet mix of soft consonants and gravelly vowels. He's just recently bought this house and is planning to move full-time to Utah. 

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Knowing McRae’s past, it’s not clear if he actually means when he says he's a man of leisure. After all, he is one of the founding fathers of rock crawling, the retired president of Poison Spyder Customs, an inveterate off-roader, and an innovator with a faultless work ethic. In any other world, he would qualify as a workaholic. But for McRae, "work" might be the wrong term. After all, he has made both a life and a living out of his passion for off-roading.




As with many, McRae’s attraction to dirt began in his youth. “The town I grew up in, that was what we did for entertainment,” he says. “We just went out and played in the dirt. My very first truck was a little Datsun pickup that, of course, I couldn't  leave alone. I think I put a body lift on it, and then I put 31s on it. That was a pretty big tire for a Datsun pickup.” McRae’s second truck, another Datsun, also got the lift kit treatment: “It was like a monster truck. I made it to where it was dangerous trying to get some lift out of it.”

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Ultimately, however, it was a Ford that got McRae hooked. “It was my first four-wheel drive. It just went anywhere. I think the BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires had just come out, so I got them. My BFGoodrich history goes all the way back to late ‘70s, early ‘80s maybe.”

To this point, McRae’s story isn’t much different from others who have dallied in off-roading. What ultimately set him off on the path to becoming an off-road legend and rock crawling pioneer was his family. “As I got older, my priorities changed. Off-roading wasn't as big a part of my life as raising a daughter,” he says. “My wife, Cheri, and I were trying to figure out a year-round hobby we could do with our young daughter. Cheri had lived in the mountains and did a lot of off-roading when she was in school, so we decided to get an off-road vehicle.”

The young family started out with a Chevrolet S-10 Blazer. Then, on a trip near Bodie, CA, they met a man who’d just spent the weekend camping out of his Jeep. “I thought, ‘Man, that's what I want to do. I want to go exploring in a Jeep,’” says McRae. “So I bought a Jeep and I was hooked.”

Despite years of off-road experience, McRae’s first time out in his Jeep was still a challenge. “I just had a Rick Russell map and said, ‘I want to get from here to here.’ I had no idea that to get there, you had to drive through these rocks. I drove up to it and thought, ‘Man, this must be the end of the road. There's no way you can get through here.’ And then, a group of Land Cruisers came up—they were on 35s—and drove around me and drove right through. I said, ‘One day, I want to be able to do that. That's incredible.’”

The McRaes joined the Inland Empire 4 Wheel Drive Club, which got him connected with a group of likeminded people interested in exploring the mountains of Southern California desert where he lived. “Our four-wheel drive club is a really active club. The Hammers are where rock crawling was born, and it was our backyard. We were there a lot,” McRae says. “A couple of our club members actually built the first couple trails like Back Door. We were probably the first ones up in there. My Jeep was probably the first vehicle up on several of the canyons they use in the King of the Hammers race.”

“I got so hooked on rock crawling, I knew this is what I wanted to do professionally.”

As he spent more time on trails, McRae began to see a need for specialized parts. “This was before there was professional rock crawling. It was kind of in its infancy,” he says. “There wasn't a big aftermarket for it yet. If you had junkyard Dana 44s out of a pickup, you were doing alright. But it did teach you how to actually work on your Jeep.” Rather than wait for manufacturers to catch up to the rock crawling scene, McRae began building his own parts. “The parts you needed to get to the rocks and protect your body weren't even available then so I started making my own: rocker protection out of angle iron, bumpers out of 2-by-4 square tubing…”

Around the same time, McRae noticed a small outfit run by Clifton Slay building parts under the Poison Spyder brand. “He was part of the rock crawling scene and decided that what was available wasn't going to work and started developing parts. I thought, ‘This guy's got it going on.’ A lot of stuff I had on my Jeep was very similar to what he was developing.”

With new trails and new gear, rock crawling as a sport began gaining momentum in earnest. Within his own club, McRae saw the competitive possibilities. “There were probably 8 or 10 of us who were really close, but really competitive. We'd go up a canyon through a trail, and we'd see a potential obstacle off to the side. Because it was open OHV, we were not only making offshoots on these trails, we were building trails. We were doing whatever we could to one-up each other.” Eventually, someone figured out how to score this one-upmanship, and professional rock crawling began taking hold.

With the growth of rock crawling and the proximity to notable trails, McRae’s club began attending events as well as judging competitions, meeting other likeminded people through the process, including Clifton Slay. This growing network of people eventually brought McRae to the next phase of his passion.

“In 2002, the sport was really starting to take off. I got the opportunity to be a part of Team All Pro. That was a huge, huge opportunity,” he says. McRae had met Jon Bundrant, the owner of Toyota off-road specialist All Pro Off-Road, at a previous event. The first event McRae spotted for Bundrant, Team All Pro won. Eventually, McRae would get his own opportunities behind the wheel.

“I got so hooked on the sport, I knew this is what I wanted to do professionally. I had an aluminum patio cover business I sold in 2005. The idea was to take that money and invest it in an off-road business,” he says. McRae considered partnering with Bundrant, but ultimately decided his loyalty lay with Jeeps.

Then, in 2008, McRae noticed a thread on the Pirate4x4 off-road forums where Clifton Slay announced he was shutting down Poison Spyder. McRae, who saw a bright future in the company, got in touch with Slay. By February 2009, McRae was the new owner of Poison Spyder.




From driving lifted Datsun pickups, to becoming the owner of a premier performance off-road manufacturer and a world-class competitive rock crawler, it’s safe to say the path McRae has taken to get to this scenic Utah cabana has been anything but straightforward. If there’s one consistent element, it’s that McRae hasn’t done things the easy way or the hard way. He’s just always done things the right way.

He recalls his approach to competition and winning: “We did a lot of practicing. Back then, practicing was something nobody did. If we were on a course and we struggled on it, after the event was over, we'd stay and we'd go work through that course until we figured out what we did wrong. If we struggled on a climb or a back-up, that next week we'd go work on back-ups.”

“My favorite thing on the trail was getting people to go just beyond their comfort zone, but not beyond their ability. When they do something they never could do before, that sticks in their minds.”

“We were so focused on winning. I couldn't drink after Wednesday the week before a rock crawl. I had to start hydrating. We took the physical part and the mental part very seriously. We were doing everything we could do to make ourselves our better.”

The practice and dedication paid off. “There were events where we would win by 80 points,” says McRae. “Sometimes, we would be so far ahead after eight courses, we didn't even have to do the last two because we were so far ahead.”

Naturally, McRae’s attention to detail and dedication to improvement carried over to Poison Spyder. Given the state of the company at the time of purchase, McRae’s approach was necessary for survival: “Through no fault of Clifton’s, he had to file for bankruptcy before the sale. Instead of buying a thriving business, I bought a bankrupt business. I didn't get inventory. I didn't get parts. I didn't get machinery. I didn't get anything but intellectual property.”

It took nearly another year for McRae to get Poison Spyder off the ground. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, what did I just do? I think I just ruined our lives, Cheri.’ We were at the point where we contemplated pulling the plug. It was just a disaster.”

However, McRae ultimately decided to push forward. “The fortunate thing for us is the economy was bottomed out when we bought Poison Spyder. That was a lot of great talent that wasn't working. We got a lot of great talent and they were as passionate about this brand as I was,” he says. “We had great fabricators, great engineers — all these people were available because of the economy. We all had the same focus and it just snowballed.” By the third year under McRae’s guidance, Poison Spyder was doing better than it ever had.

McRae attributes a lot of that success to his continued connection to the community he supported. “ Our customer is the guy that has his hands on the steering wheel. We were creating parts that people that actually go out and use. We had our finger on the pulse because we were at all the events. We were wheeling and helping people through trails. My favorite thing on the trail was getting people to go just beyond their comfort zone, but not beyond their ability. When they do something they never could do before, that sticks in their minds.”

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Those events also proved to be effective opportunities for demonstrating Poison Spyder’s products. “If one of our Jeeps made it while someone else’s didn’t, we could explain. For example: ‘Every time you're trying to get the line you need to be on, you’re your bumper is keeping you from getting there. Our bumpers are trimmed back right there so your tires are the first things that hit.’” Because McRae and his team were avid wheelers, they were able to incorporate smart design decisions with practical benefits.

That smart design was married to high level execution. McRae and his team consistently went the extra mile. “The gusseting—the stuff that you don't see behind the bumper or in the rockers—are all things that cost money and add strength. Somebody can duplicate the bumper, but the function might not be there.” The attention to detail went all the way down from McRae to his technicians.

“Our welders and technicians were all paid well because they took pride in their work and we used the best material we could source,” he says. “I would tell the guys that were grinding welds, ‘You know, it's not a very fun job. It may seem very tedious but you guys are the last guys that touch this bumper before the public gets it.’ Our welds were beautiful, and our guys took a little bit more pride in it.”




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Since building Poison Spyder into a staple of hardcore off-roaders, a lot has changed for McRae. He was diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014, and in 2015, Transamerican Manufacturing Group added Poison Spyder to its portfolio of off-road brands. Though McRae is now cancer free and remains an indelible part of Poison Spyder, it’s hard to fault him for wanting to take a step back from his career, especially when it involves a view of southwest Utah’s painted geology and the off-roading opportunities it provides.

“For me, when you have three or four guys [who can wheel] and you can do three or four trails in a day, it’s just a blast. For me, it’s still the funnest form of recreation. I just love the technical aspect of rock crawling. There’s physics, there’s so much going on,” McRae says as he details tire loading, framing, approach angles, and entry and exits to obstacles.

With less time eaten up by the demands of owning a business, it’s clear McRae is ready to get back to the purity of his off-road roots.



Editor’s note: Larry McRae will be behind the wheel of Crispy, Poison Spyder Customs’ Jeep, at the 2017 edition of King of the Hammers. Fellow BFGoodrich Pit Crew member Lance Clifford is his co-driver.

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