There were some fantastic times to be had at Tierra del Sol this year. The wind was strong and the rain almost descended from the heavens, and but for some good fortune, everyone managed to stay dry and happy. Speaking of happy, we’re pleased to bring you all some of the choice rigs that came out to Ocotillo Wells SVRA as part of Tierra del Sol.
Even for an event that pales in comparison with the earlier King of the Hammers of this year, we still witnessed how creativity and capability came together. TDS is the kind of event where you can come alone, or come with friends and family, and have a kick-ass time.
With trails stretching for miles and obstacles centered in Truckhaven, TDS was a smorgasbord of 4x4s raging, and drivers eager to prove their mettle. Here are the top five rigs that made our list. Kicking us off is Casey Self and his 1996 Toyota 4Runner.
5. Casey Self’s 1996 Toyota 4Runner
Happening upon this 4Runner was like happening upon a tie-dye shirt in the middle of space. With its groovy, graffiti-esque appearance contrasting with so many other monotone vehicles and a tan backdrop, it was a real sight to see. We approached the camp and spoke with its owner, Casey Self.
A resident of Santee, California, Casey has been into mechanical things since a young age. “I work out of a shop in Santee called Cool Master Automotive, and occasionally we get into building rigs like this one,” he said, gesturing toward his 4Runner. “We’ve all built our rigs out of our shop.”
Having purchased the 4Runner from “a guy that was piecing it together,” Casey took apart the drivetrain and installed Chevy axles underneath. Toyota leaf springs went up front, while Chevy leaf springs went out back. As for the paint job, Casey said, “It was a friend of mine. I just posted online that I wanted someone to come over and spray some paint on it, and do whatever they wanted to do. So this is how it turned out.”
4. Miguel Ribera’s 1986 Toyota 4Runner
Miguel Ribera and his friends were living it up at Truckhaven, the obstacle course and locus of Tierra del Sol festivities every year. We found the vehicle being put through its paces on a course called “Little Sluice” and, after its successful completion, we stopped Miguel to find out more.
The 4Runner was a 1986 model year, but not for long after Miguel got his hands on it. “I had it for two years as a normal 4Runner, and then I decided to go big,” he said. “I put one-ton axles on it, dual transfer cases, and ARB air lockers on, and now she’s doing just fine off-road.”
For Miguel, the hardest part about getting his dream rig built was financial constraints. “Buying all of the stuff I needed was hard,” he said. “I had a picture of what I wanted, and it took some time to get all of the parts, but that’s it.”
Naturally, Miguel did all of the work on his crawler, from the cages to the drivetrain to the suspension. But his favorite aspect has to be what it came with – the 22R-E four-banger engine. “A lot of people look down on these little motors, but not me,” he said. “I don’t need more power, I just need reliability. So I’m going to stick with it.”
3. Ivan Fraira’s 1977 Chevrolet K10
Square-body Chevys are some of the most iconic vehicles around. There’s something to be said for sharp-edged trucks that follow one line all the way around, and that something is “awesome.” Case in point is Ivan Fraira’s 1977 Chevrolet K10, which we spotted blasting its way through the outer reaches of TDS.
Ivan purchased the K10 in 2015 from the original owner, who had kept it bone-stock. “It was pretty rusty and in poor condition in general,” said Ivan. “It was just left sitting in someone’s backyard, neglected. I bought it, yanked out the old 350 SBC, put in a big-block 454, a stick-shift transmission, NP205 transfer case, and some other add-ons, and she works perfectly now.”
But what probably makes Ivan happiest about his Chevy is its dependability. “It’s just a reliable truck,” he commented. “My boss helped me out with the motor, there at Blair’s Speed Shop. I’ve been there 10 years now.”
Ivan isn’t sure how much his 454 V8 makes in terms of torque or horsepower, but he swears by the torque and its ability to get him out of trouble. As for other highlights, the Chevy runs on 37-inch Interco TSL Swampers with 15-inch Raceline beadlock wheels. It also has a six-inch lift courtesy of Atlas springs and gets its up-and-down stability from Skyjacker shock absorbers. “I’ve tried to stick mainly with what I could afford,” said Ivan. “But it gets me here, having fun at TDS.”
2. Jeff Lance’s 1971 Ford Bronco
There will always be a soft spot for a well-crafted Bronco here at Off Road Xtreme. These short-wheelbase Fords were instrumental in bringing in the age of the SUV, and we fall in love with them more and more, especially the first-gens like Jeff Lance’s. His is a 1971 model year, and sported some interesting motifs while out at Tierra del Sol.
Jeff has been an off-roader since his high school days, and first purchased the Bronco about 15 years ago. “I hoped to turn it into a restoration project for my daughter, but she wasn’t interested,” he said. “So I just did it for myself. I went through it piece by piece over the years, and just finished it up about a year ago.”
The Bronco slowly transformed into the funmobile that Jeff had always envisioned, with capability on different terrain types. Modifications came in the form of a five-inch lift, first off. Then came a souped-up 363 cubic-inch Dart SHP V8. It was given World Products heads and a Crower camshaft, and makes about 500 horsepower.
The transmission is a 4R70W. “It runs like a six-speed, even though it’s a four-speed,” commented Jeff. “I also gave the Bronco longer radius arms from James Duff for better articulation. There are disc brakes all around, Eaton Posi differentials, chromoly axles, custom wiring; I did it all to give the Bronco a second life.”
1. Tommy Purvis’ 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Back in Truckhaven, Tommy Purvis was having a blast in his 1998 Grand Cherokee, and we were cheering him on. After making his way over the obstacle called Leftovers (aptly named, we might add), we flagged him down to get the details on his unusual build.
Tommy purchased the GC due to it already having coilovers all the way around. “My buddies all had Cherokees, and they were on leaf springs, and I thought, ‘Well I’ve already got V8 power and coilovers,’ so I four-linked the rear,” he said. “This thing does amazing in the dirt.”
With eight years of off-roading under his belt, Tommy has taken his hobby to the hilt with his Grand Cherokee. “It’s got an Iron Rock seven-inch lift, a Dana 44 locked front differential, a Dana 60 limited-slip rear differential, and the tires are 37-inch Toyo Open Country M/Ts,” he explained.
Tommy’s favorite part about his Grand Cherokee isn’t the mods he’s done, however – it’s the power. “It gets me out of trouble when I need it,” he said. “It gets me into trouble too, of course!”
These were just a handful of the thousands of trucks, Jeeps, and SUVs rolling around Tierra del Sol. Did you see any badass rigs out there? Let us know which was your favorite in the comments below.