Over the past few years Off Road Nights (ORN) has been claiming its place as a staple in the Southern California off-road scene. With all-new venues in 2019, it continues to attract great crowds and great vehicles. This year those that braved the triple-digit heat were rewarded with a variety of off-road machines to look over ranging from true race builds to SEMA quality demo vehicles. Here are my Top 5 picks that stand out from the show, in no particular order.
1. Up first, is a Baja veteran Jeep racer turned chaser, “Juggy” built and owned by Gnarly Racing.
This handcrafted monster is a whole new level of built tough. Looking at the tube chassis and cage it’s easy to see they are built with durability in mind and rightfully so considering this team has a long history of competing in some of the most grueling events on the SCORE schedule. To help get all that steel moving a Chevy LST powerplant drives the 35x 12.5-inch Toyo’s. King coilovers serve to keep the rubber planted while absorbing the rough desert terrain.
Moving inside the cab, “Juggy” keeps the same function over form style. A simple center console houses the connection to the three-speed transmission as well as an array of switches to operate the electronics. The dash features a selection of Autometer gauges and a Lowrance display for keeping on course. Overall in the high tech world of racing, it is refreshing to see a home engineered highly capable racer that proudly displays its true purpose, go fast and don’t break.
2. Moving through the show, the second vehicle that caught my attention was a super clean Polaris RZR Turbo. This white four seater is the creation of a local fabricator, The Baja Shop. It features a great combination of off the shelf pieces and full custom mods that result in a hard to miss vehicle.
Starting on the inside it would be impossible to miss the white PRP seats accented with tan ostrich skin. Those Tan accents tie wonderfully to the bronze custom cage which is topped with a fabricated roof panel and rack both finished in that same white as the body.
SDR Motorsports provided the doors which tie in great to the natural lines of this RZR. Around back more custom body panels continue the clean aesthetics and help show off the Trinity Racing exhaust and Custom Finished Walker Evans coilovers. Assault Industries also makes an appearance back here with a set of their Heavy Duty Radius Rods. Assault industries also provided the mirrors and front grill for some of the finishing touches. Finally, down low are a set of bronze Method Wheels wrapped in Yokohama Super Digger rubber.
3. Third, on our tour is a package deal. This Jeep Wrangler could easily stand on its own as a top vehicle in any show, but when coupled with this custom built overlander trailer this combo shoots up the list of attention grabbers.
This rig was hand-built to provide a week worth of camping fun with the go-anywhere capability of its Wrangler tow vehicle. Independent airbag suspension tied together with a Jeep front sway bar gets the trailer over rough terrain. An internal air system controls those bags as well as providing auxiliary air for the Jeep.
Featuring all the amenities one may want when on the trail, the trailer houses a propane-powered kitchen complete with camp stove and refrigerator. For water needs, an onboard 21-gallon tank acts as storage and is also connected to a heated shower system. Campsite entertainment is provided by a stereo system powered by the internal generator. Roll-out drawers and additional panels provide storage for all the gear one may need. “Upstairs” is the sleeping accommodations to ensure you get the best morning views possible.
The driving force behind this combo is the LS-powered TJ. Featuring a 5.5-inch lift, King shocks dampen the ride while Currie enterprises antirock bars keep it stable. To help navigate any terrain it comes across a PSC steering ram gets those BFG 37’s pointed in the right direction. A Poison Spyder front bumper serves double duty, providing protection and acting as a mounting spot for the Warn winch. Overall this Jeep and trailer combo can not only cover some serious terrain but also keep you out there long enough to enjoy the destination.
4. With Jeeps and UTV’s garnering the attention so far it was time to take a look at some trucks to round out our Top 5. Catching my eye, in particular, was a 3500 Dodge Ram built by MaxTrac.
While this Cummins powered Ram doesn’t have the same level of custom one-off pieces as our other top vehicles, it shows how a well-planned build can be done with bolt-on parts to deliver a well balanced finished truck. Starting down low the truck is riding on a set of Nitto 38s wrapped around Axe wheels. Making room for all that rubber is a MaxTrac six-inch lift kit. The attention-grabbing orange accent of all the MaxTrac Suspensions components is a great way to bring some color into this build.
aFe provided diff covers and exhaust for this build, which round out the underside of this truck. Hammerhead Front and rear bumpers serve as protection duty for this ram and house an assortment of Rigid LED auxiliary lights. Custom Grill, headlights and tail lights round out the build.
5. Finally to finish off the Top 5 vehicles of Off Road Nights we move to a tried and tested race vehicle. The Mark Stahl Racing/Ivan Stewart Fillmore Ford.
The Legacy behind this truck is about as long as it gets, when names like Ivan Stewart and COCO Corral are painted on vehicles it’s hard not to take notice. Serving its early years as a prerunner for the Fillmore Ford racing team this truck has seen some of the hardest miles there are in offroad racing. But it wasn’t until 2011 that this truck took center stage as the racer it is today. Mark Stahl was looking to build a vehicle specifically to run the NORRA Mexican 1000 after competing in 2011 in his Chenowth 1000. With a long history with Ford and the desire to increase passenger space to share the experience, this Class 8 F-100 was a perfect choice.
Over the next 8 months, Mark went about restoring the truck and getting her into race-ready form. That was no small task with 30+ years of prerunner use the truck showed it’s age and the toll of all of those desert miles. Repairing and replacing just about every part on the truck in time for the 2012 race date was a massive undertaking but Mark did complete the truck in time to complete in the race. Since then the Truck has 5 class and 4 era wins attributed to her and can be seen making the So-Cal show circuit between trips to Ensenada.
When it comes to hardware this truck has stayed true to its roots. National leaf springs dampened by Bilstein monotubes boast 13 inches of travel with the help of Energy Suspension bushing in the rear. Upfront stock radius arms and reinforced I-beams offer 14 inches of travel. EBC provides the stopping power to get the 33 inch BFG‘s slowed down in a more modern standard of safety.
Power for the F-100 comes from 350hp Ford 400M pushing the power through a C6 transmission. Outback, a 9-inch rear end stocked with 4.11 gears distributing power to the rear wheels. Interior wise the truck boasts a trio of race seats and a collection of neatly labeled switches. A modern GPS race system has been installed to ensure the safest race day routes.
Overall Off Road Nights offered a wide variety of vehicles. With something for the crawlers to the desert racers and everyone in between, it’s a great example why heading out to your local show can yield a glimpse at some amazing vehicles.