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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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Adventure

Cross-Country Rebelle

Editor’s note: When it came time for Marty Lawrence to take her daughter Julia to college, she made sure they took the scenic route. From Athens, Georgia, to Maine, across Canada, and then to Portland, Oregon, the Lawrence family made a summer-long adventure out of this milestone. But it wasn’t over once Julia made it to school. Marty decided at the last minute to sign up and compete in the Rebelle Rally.

 


 

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I bought my Subaru Outback in Maine in 2010 to be a comfortable vehicle around town and the many long distance drives that we anticipated in the next year or two. We moved to Georgia, and I commuted to Gainesville, Florida, from Athens, Georgia, every two weeks for a year. There were no plans to take it off-road at that point. 

Several years ago, for my 60th birthday, I gave myself the present of a three-day private Overland Experts (OEX) course. The reasons I gave myself off-road driving lessons were twofold. First, I value the experience of getting outside my comfort zone and doing things that are challenging. Second, I'm a firm believer in learning from experts before venturing out alone doing potentially dangerous stuff.

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I have always loved the outdoors — hiking, cycling, sailing, climbing, whitewater kayaking — and saw driving off road as a way to get further off the grid and into the wilder areas of the U.S. and Canada.  

What a blast! I got bitten by the off-road bug. My OEX instructor commented several times on the off-road capabilities of Subarus, and that was all it took. Rather than buy an off-road specific 4x4, I made a list of modifications I wanted and started the project of upgrading Ivy, my Outback, to be off-road worthy.

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Now, she's lifted, has full skid plates, a differential breather, upgraded electrical system, BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KO2s on customized rims, a transmission cooler, rally lights on a light bar mounted in front of the bumper, and a robust roof rack. We also have a full set of recovery gear, and for a while, we also had an ARB awning and add-on tent. 

“Dang, these are good tires. Inflated fully or aired down severely, they are champions.”

My last cross-country adventure could be known as “The Time We Took Julia to College.” We left Georgia in May with my daughter Julia and drove to Maine via several national parks and New York, where we visited family. We stayed in Maine for six weeks, then took the long way to Bennington, Vermont, where our ancestors are buried. (This is “The Part Where Julia Sees a Lot of Very Old Graves.”) From there, we drove into Canada via the beautiful Adirondacks.

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Our major goals in driving across Canada were to avoid major city traffic, spend as much time on the north shore of Lake Superior as possible, visit a friend in Winnipeg, and head to the Canadian Rockies for the rest of the available time. We camped in both provincial parks and national parks all the way. We had to be in Portland, Oregon, on August 18 for Julia to get ready for school. It was a great trip. We had massive excitement: the tornado in Alberta, the unexplained shattering of our tailgate window in the middle of nowhere, bison, moose, elk, bear, small towns, wonderful Canadians, wildfire obscuring the Rockies, wild flowers, waterfalls, scary roads…

Then, I signed up for the 2017 Rebelle Rally. After OEX, I was looking for off-road rally events and the Rebelle popped up. It seemed like the perfect fit: off-road, women-only competition, precision, endurance, and skill.

The first Rebelle was being held at the time I was taking my OEX course, so I kept my eyes on the 2017 event. Scheduling and health issues prevented me from committing until the last minute, which put us at a significant disadvantage. But I had prepared Ivy and myself as much as possible, just in case. Once I knew that I could do it, I was all-in.

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The Rebelle Rally is a ten-day event. Women may drive 4x4 or crossover vehicles, must have off-road experience, and be fully able to self-recover. It starts in Lake Tahoe and ends at the Imperial Sand Dunes in Southern California. The Rebelle Rally is a rally raid, which means that it is a navigation rally emphasizing precise route finding with a map and compass. No electronic or outside assistance is permitted. Competitors are given maps and lists of checkpoints of varying difficulty interspersed with TSD sections along the route. A day can consist of as few as eight checkpoints with transit sections, or as many as twenty checkpoints, a third of which may be unmarked. The course takes place on marked roads, off-road trails, dry lakes, mountains and sand dunes. We took third place in the crossover class — not bad for the smallest vehicle in the Rally, and the coolest dang thing in the desert, if you ask me.

The KO2s did almost 10,000 miles across the continent, and 1200 miles in the Rebelle — many of them on lousy roads, trails, or in roadless areas — all without a single, itsy-bitsy problem. Dang, these are good tires.

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I got some criticism for putting such an aggressive tire on my vehicle from people who did not understand my future plans, but in the off-road world, KO2s are legendary. BFGoodrich is king at OEX, and they urged me to use them. The shop where most of Ivy's off-road prep occurred also thought KO2s were the right choice. I am so happy with these tires. Inflated fully or aired down severely, they are champions.

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Adventure

Into the Wild

Editor’s note: Michael Murguia is a firm believer in the necessity of adventure. That’s why he created Overland Bound, a vehicle dependent travel organization that provides resources, software, and outdoor gear. He recently spent 17 days in Baja — completely unplugged from the world — in order to reconnect with nature. Here are his thoughts on his trip, how we all need a reality check to avoid turning into dinosaur food, and some impressions on the recently announced BFGoodrich® Mud-Terrain T/A KM3 tires.

 


 

How did you get into overlanding?

My father was a forest ranger, and my family had a logging company in Willits, CA. My hometown was 360 people, and by the age of 7, I was spending the night alone with friends in the wilderness around my house. We grew up in the redwood forests. My professional career in software development caused me to turn away from nature. Fast forward 20 years and a series of events created a life-changing catalyst. My father died young, and I got a divorce. My best friend died.

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We all have our troubles. As a result of mine, I involuntarily turned back to nature. I bought a Land Cruiser and basically ran back to the woods for a few days. For me, it was a turning point. I realized nature and the freedom of the great outdoors was necessary, and something I wanted to share. I know it’s not easy for many. People need to be shown the basics to feel comfortable exploring. As a result, I became very focused on doing that with the life I have left, and I created Overland Bound.

Think of your favorite hero movie where the shit really goes down. Some people become heroes, while others get eaten by dinosaurs. The difference? The hero is connected to reality. Nature. That’s why adventure and a connection to nature is necessary. Don’t be dinosaur food.

Why is a connection to nature so important for you?

I truly believe nothing else is real. Think of your favorite hero movie where the shit really goes down. In the midst of catastrophe, some people are reasonably calm, exercise good judgement, and become heroes. Others get eaten by dinosaurs. The difference? The hero is connected to reality. Nature. The fundamentals of what make us human. We need food, shelter, and sex. We can also accomplish more together, than alone. That’s it. That’s reality. Everything else is artificially imposed by civilization. 

The “dinosaur food” is too wrapped up in the artificial layers: Instagram, TV, what the Kardashians did last week. When those artificial layers are obliterated by a cataclysmic event, their reality disappears. They have nothing to hold on to, and they go insane. They get eaten by a dinosaur.

To be a well-grounded human, we must be connected to nature. The more you turn away from it, the less human you become. People that get caught in the rinse and repeat cycle of “the daily grind” are headed for disaster, one way or another. I’ve learned this the hard way. Adventure and a connection to nature is necessary. Don’t be dinosaur food.

Tell us a little about Baja.

I’ve trekked through Baja five times now, and there are areas that are completely wild. That is the point. There is no support. To feel truly self-reliant, you must seek destinations like this. The landscape is beautiful. The teal-blue of the sea inlets, and the vast rolling sand with sprawling cactus provides a completely alien landscape.

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We spent 17 days in Baja and intentionally traveled without refrigeration. You can really discover what you require to sustain yourself, and you learn to appreciate it. Without this appreciation for what is real and necessary, you are missing a major piece of life.

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Without this, your viewpoint, in our opinion, is skewed. You are not connected with reality. Have you ever had the sight of an ice cold Coke or cerveza bring you to the verge of tears because it is so beautiful? If not, you could probably use a little “real life” in your life.

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Baja also calls to me. It’s the environment, and the completely wild existence it can provide. I do believe certain environments align with your specific DNA, and Baja feels right, like home.

What vehicle did you take to Baja?

We drove the venerable 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80, solid-axle, triple-locked go-anywhere machine. When I first bought the rig, I did a ton of research and based my decision primarily on the reliability and Edmond’s true cost of ownership, which was a repair bill of only $500 a year. By contrast, a rig with similar features, the Land Rover Discovery II, had an annual repair cost of $5,000. That’s repairs, not maintenance. I knew what features I wanted, and sought the best platform. In my research, that was the 1996 FZJ80. By some standards, our vehicle is a modest build. Other than the external basic modifications, the rig is bone stock on the interior. We’ve removed the third row seats.

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The exterior has:

  • BFGoodrich® Mud-Terrain T/A KM3 tires
  • Old Man Emu 2.5” lift with 1” spacers in the rear
  • Air Lift 1000 air bags in the rear
  • ARB front bumper
  • Warn M8000 winch
  • KC HiLites Gravity Pro 6 light bar
  • A pair of KC Gravity Pro floodlights
  • Gobi Ranger roof rack
  • Quality Automotive dual swing out rear bumper

These accessories round out the “go anywhere” capability of our rig, and with it, we can be gone indefinitely.

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Why BFGoodrich?

I went through Baja on another brand, and replaced two tires on a shorter trip. I changed to BFGoodrich in 2005 based on a recommendation from my dad. I’ve beaten the hell out of them since, and they have been bulletproof. When you find a good, reliable brand, you stick with it.

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How about those KM3s?

To me, the KM3s seem to have a shorter stopping distance in wet weather compared to the KM2s I ran before. They also seem to be a touch louder, and if so, is a fair compromise with the improved performance. We absolutely beat the hell out of them in Baja, and they were fantastic in sand that stopped two other rigs. The sidewalls provide better armor, and I am very pleased with the improvements to the tire.

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Check out Overland Bound’s free resources, community know-how, and overlanding software at their website.

 

 

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Kevin’s 2011 Volvo C30

Editor’s note: Kevin Li and his mother had different ideas for a car to share. He wanted something sporty; his mom wanted something safe and reliable. They decided on a Volvo C30, and now, Kevin is putting the car’s sporty potential to the test by autocrossing with his university’s sports car club.

 


 

My childhood memories are filled with countless hours playing NFS Underground 2, watching Initial D, and trying to figure out why cars in the Fast and Furious series became flame throwers every time they used NOS. I thought that Takumi’s panda AE86 was the coolest car ever, and watching F1 races and seeing Michael Schumacher in a red Ferrari also had a huge impact and sparked my interest in motorsports.

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The C30 was originally supposed to be a family car for me and my mom to share. I wanted something sporty, but my mom wanted something safe and reliable. My shop teacher at the time had a black Polestar C30, and after riding along with him, I realized how unique and nice the Volvo was. I convinced my mom that the T5 model was way better than the 2.4-liter non-turbo C30, and after a few weeks, we found the perfect match on Craigslist.

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When we got the C30, it still had the factory tires on. They were worn down, and they weren’t a good combination to have with the rainy Vancouver weather. I went to the TireRack rankings and looked for the highest ranked performance all-season tire, and got the BFGoodrich® g-Force COMP-2 A/S.

Because I’ve been playing racing sims for a few years, I wanted to see how well I’d do when driving a real car to its limits. Going into university, I realized that a club at my school, the UBC Sports Car Club, hosted monthly autocross events. I convinced my friends to come to “Auto-X 101” with me and learn the basics of autocross.

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I was super overwhelmed when the instructor took me for a ride along around the course. Who knew a Volvo could drive like that?! I got bit by the autocross bug right away, and after the event I decided that I would try to compete in their “Slush Series.” Unlike other clubs, the UBCSCC hosts their racing series throughout the winter months so that enthusiasts in the Vancouver area don’t have to suffer through the rainy winter here without any racing.

This series ran from October to March, and consisted of seven events. Points are given out to the drivers at each event, and in the end, the five highest scoring events count towards a driver’s championship score. Drivers are separated into different groups based on their driving experience and car classification, and since I had zero autocross experience, I belonged in the novice group.

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The miserable rainy and slushy weather actually gave me an advantage because the COMP-2 A/S tires are fantastic in the rain and snow. I love the amount of grip they provide, and they’ve definitely helped me secure a few autocross wins during the wet events.

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I won 4 out of the 6 events that I went to, although this came at the cost of the valve body on my car. Practicing left-foot braking and overlapping the inputs for the whole series in an automatic Volvo was not one of my best decisions!

It’s funny — at first, when we purchased the car, I was hesitant about the car since it had a LOT of scratches and curb rash. Now that I’ve hit about 4 million cones while autocrossing, I realize that the scratches really aren’t that bad!

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Follow Kevin’s C30 on Instagram at @autox_c30.

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Zack's 2018 Subaru Crosstrek

Editor’s note: Zack Cartee is a Northern California firefighter with a love for Subarus. He is a founding member of the Mtn Roo State of Jefferson chapter, an off-road Subaru community. His car is a 2018 Crosstrek, but he’s wasted no time in setting it up to be a truly off-road capable vehicle.

 


 

I’ve been interested in cars for as long as I can remember. I grew up riding motocross, so naturally, driving off road has always been a major interest of mine.  I remember when I was younger waking up an hour early for school to get some laps in on the Gran Turismo or Need for Speed video games.

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Currently, I drive a 2018 Subaru Crosstrek, premium trim with the 6-speed. I have always loved Subarus, but after being in an accident and having a Subaru keep me safe, I can say I’ll be a Subaru customer for life.

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Prior to my Crosstrek, I had a 2016 WRX and a 2015 STI. I made the switch to the Crosstrek as I wanted a car that is more off-road capable to get into overlanding with my fiancé, who drives a 4Runner also wrapped in BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KO2s. I’d say the thing I love most about my Crosstrek is its handling. It’s set up for off-roading, but is still plenty of fun in the corners on a mountain road. 

I get more people asking about the Crosstrek than the STI.

The off-road ability is also surprising. I expected it to be way more limited than it is. So far, the only issues I have run into are approach and departure angles, both of which will be solved with bumpers soon enough. The reaction to my Crosstrek has been a good one as well. People seem to really like it. I was expecting it to get much less attention than my STI, but I get more people asking about it than the STI.

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I’ve had the car six months and it already has 15,000 miles on it. I have been all over Northern California and Oregon in that time. Of all the spots I’ve been so far, the headwaters of the Smith River is my favorite. It is far enough out that you won’t see anyone, and it is beyond beautiful! But pretty much anywhere along the Northern California and Southern Oregon coast is my happy place! 

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So far, I have an Anderson Design & Fabrication lift, Method wheels, BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KO2s, a Yakima rack set up, various lights, and a front skid plate. Bumpers, sliders, full underbody skid plates, and springs are all in the works. I chose KO2s for the car because we already had them on the 4Runner and we love them. We chose them for the 4Runner as all the research I did told me they were the best, most reliable tire. After we were able to pull my buddy’s rental car sideways through a parking lot in 2 feet of fresh snow, I was sold. Now, having them on both vehicles, I can say that reputation rings true!

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Follow Zack and his Crosstrek’s adventures on Instagram at @norcal_crosstrek

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