What’s one event where you can take your rig, beat it up around a time trial short course, and then attempt a personal record jump? The answer to that is, of course, none other than Jump Champs, held at the Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California.
2018 marked the third year the event has been put on, and it’s one we’ve always made it to. The scene is still as vibrant and awesome as ever, and it seems like with each successive year, more and more people are hearing about it and coming out to get a piece of the action.
Racers and average Joes alike can find something to enjoy at the all-day show. For our part, it’s one more way to catch a glimpse of what folks have been working on and get a feel for the ever-changing scene of SoCal off-roading. We saw some great rigs at Jump Champs, and assembled here are our top five picks, starting with Justin Herman’s chase truck.
5. Justin Herrmann’s 1995 Ford F-350
Old Body Style Fords are simply some of the coolest-looking trucks ever made. You need only talk to the average truck guy to hear about how game-changing they were, introducing sleeker, rounder lines to the Blue Oval lineup back in the day. Seeing one of these trucks at Jump Champs, and in full chase truck regalia, as well as being a diesel, made for an attention-demanding combination.
“I got this truck, SRD Chase 1 as we call it, when I was 15, and I’m 34 now, and I’m still driving it,” said owner Justin Herman. “I wasn’t even old enough to drive it when my parents bought it back then. They started taking me to motocross races here in Glen Helen as well, and when I went professional, this truck took me all across the country.”
And this wasn’t just the USA, either. Justin’s also been down to Mexico, where the truck has proved its mettle chasing after its owner for Baja races. “It’s got some stories to tell, that’s for sure,” said Justin.
Starting life bone-stock after Justin’s dad ordered it, the turn to chase truck began in 2007. “It got the utility bed, and we bored and stroked the motor after about 500,000 miles, to where it’s now 7.8 liters of displacement,” said Justin. “It makes 850 horsepower.”
Other features of the truck are its 40-inch BF Goodrich KR3 tires, air lockers, Summers Brothers 300M axles, and those big ole stack exhausts coming out of the bed. “After the new injectors and fuel pump, it smokes quite a bit, so we tried to get that smoke to come up as much as possible,” offered Justin.
4. Justin Mayall’s 1983 Chevy K5
Chevy Blazers were some of the first rigs to come around and change people from truck lovers to SUV lovers. For his part, Justin Mayall’s 1983 K5 Blazer was one more reason to love these boxy machines, and we were stoked to see such a fine example at this year’s Jump Champs, complete with some radical upgrades.
“It’s linked front and rear,” said Justin. “It’s got a Dana 60 front and a GM Corporate 14-bolt in the back, Turn Key LS1, 4L80 transmission from Well-Built Transmissions, and an Atlas transfer case.”
The story on this K5 is that Justin was that almost a decade ago, Justin found the Blazer on Craigslist. “It had the original 6.2-liter Detroit Diesel in it, it was pretty unique,” he said. “But being that it was diesel and I wanted to have a smog-legal vehicle with a lot of horsepower, it had to go.”
After taking care of the engine, Justin directed his work toward the undercarriage. “I ripped out everything underneath it, and put in one-ton axles and did the linked suspension,” he said.
Finally, Justin had to ensure that his family transporter and fun-mobile was safe for everyone inside. That meant a cage had to go in, and it had to be done right. “I took the Blazer to Richer Racing, and they helped me go through it,” said Justin. “I wanted to make sure we had four seats and that everyone was definitely safe. The cage has enough room for a bench in the rear, and there are PRP seats in the front.”
3. Jason McNeil’s Luxury Chevy Prerunner
Based on a 2015 Chevy 1500, this exquisite luxury prerunner was one of the stars of the show at Jump Champs. Its owner, Jason McNeil of FiberwerX, was proud to have it out and about, and even let it get dirty on the short-course track before the day was through.
“At its core, it’s a Weitzal Motorsports platform that we’ve done a lot of work with in-house,” explained Jason. “It’s a full-tube chassis, with 24 inches of travel in the front and about 34 in the rear. It’s a prerunner, so we use it for desert racing prerunning, but we’re grassroots guys, too, so we decided to bring it out here to have some fun in.”
The flipside of having it be a top-tier, full tube chassis build is that, as Jason stated, taking it somewhere with lots of mud (rain had made Glen Helen Raceway essentially a mud bog by the time Jump Champs had kicked off) made it less appealing to drive around. “This isn’t something that we can just hose off when we get back to the shop, like a UTV could,” he said. “Ordinarily, you could eat off of it with a spoon, but after today, we’ll have to see how it goes!”
You can build a house faster than you can build one of these [luxury prerunners.] – Jason McNeil
2. Justin Rivera’s 2005 Nissan Frontier
By first glance, Justin Rivera’s 2005 Frontier is apparently a Titan, but that’s just Justin’s trickery having its intended effect. The real core of his rig is indeed a Frontier, just with the front clip cribbed from the Frontier’s bigger brother.
Well, that, and also the drivetrain is a Titan as well. “It’s from a 2003 Titan, the engine and transmission,” said Justin. This makes it the 5.6-liter V8 and the five-speed RE5R05A gearbox.
The truck was purchased by Justin in 2012, but he didn’t start building on it until 2015. “We swapped in the Titan drivetrain, and put long-tube headers and Black Widow exhaust on it,” said Justin. “Suspension-wise, it’s mid-travel and basically what you’d find in a Titan, just with tube uppers, boxed lowers, and King coil-overs. The rear has a bed cage with race-ready 16-inch-travel King shocks, a custom Deaver pack, and a Titan Dana 44 rearend.”
Looked at it from this information, it almost seems like Justin’s truck is more Titan than Frontier. “Yeah, it’s definitely what I like to say is a ‘baby Titan,'” he said.
1. Jeffro Agnew’s 2005 Ram 2500
Few trucks commanded the level of awe and glory that Jeffro Agnew’s short-bed-single-cab 2500 did at Jump Champs. We first caught sight of this rig back in 2017, in all of its high-lifted, long-travel glory, but failed to speak with the owner in time before we had to head home.
This year, we caught Jeffro in time before he was about to start his time trial runs, and got the download on his incredible truck. “I call her BADRAMBAJAMBA,” he said.
For the better part of almost thirty years, Jeffro has been involved in off-roading. He put his experience and know-how into turning this 2500 into a beast, from rather humble beginnings. “It started life as a long-bed work truck,” said Jeffro. “It had a DT Profab front end on it. We cut all of the stock stuff off, and put Fox 3.5-inch-diameter, five-tube bypass shocks on it and 2.5-inch-diameter coilovers.”
Nowadays, the truck has about 15 inches of travel up front and still retains its four-wheel-drive capability. The back half was cut up and fitted with a four-link, race-style setup, providing 27 inches of travel. The massive 39-inch BF Goodrich tires might be a lot to handle, but they can still cycle up and down just fine with the truck’s suspension design.
The cage, meanwhile, is race-ready to race in the JeepSpeed class. “Trying to weld up the cage in here was a bit of pain, just because it sits so high, I had to stand on something to work on it,” commented Jeffro. “Still, it’s DOM tubing, with about 90-percent of TIG-welded. It will keep everyone safe inside.”
These were the top five picks of the 2018 Jump Champs, but there were so many more we wish we could talked about. Which one is your favorite?