In the world of off-road racing, there are some crazy cool rides, but nothing is quite as unique as a dedicated ice-racing machine. We had a chance to see some of these spectacular rides at the Our Gang 4 Wheelers ice racing event in Georgetown, Colorado in early March this year. There, we met Jimmy Olson, ice racer and owner of Denver-based Edgewater Jeep.
With family members that helped start the Colorado-based Our Gang 4 Wheelers club, Olson has been around performance machines and ice racing all of his life. “My dad was into it, so I followed along,” Olson told us.
“I am a third-generation ice racer,” Olson said. “I have always liked being around racing, helping build, watching racing and now being able to do it all myself. I learned a lot from just watching my dad and grandpa, both work and drive. I used to like to watch their feet while I was riding to see what they did and when they were steering. Lots of good memories growing up ice racing and off-road racing.”
Passing that passion along, Olson now races with his wife Andrea (racing on the ice since 2005) and son Bryce (since 2011), both who were top competitors at the ice racing championships this year.
Rig Built For Ice
Nicknamed Black Ice, Olson’s race rig is a fiberglass-bodied Willys CJ-3A, constructed to be nimble, powerful and robust. This is achieved with a plated and strengthened frame, which can be seen protruding out from under the Willys’ body, equipped with wishbone four-link front and rear suspension systems, custom anti-sway bars and control arms, and Koni dual adjustable shocks.
Steering for the unique beast comes compliments of a customized Saginaw system with heim joints, while stopping power comes from disc brakes on all four corners.
Under the fiberglass body you’ll find a small block Chevy V8 bored over 4.030 inches with custom port work. Giving the powerplant plenty of oomph is a Holley 750 cfm carburetor, Crower roller camshaft, an Eagle forged crank with six-inch rods, Wiseco 13.7:1 pistons, custom ported Brodix cylinder heads and T&D shaft rockers.
The engine is also equipped with a match-ported Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, MSD ignition and custom headers dumping into a custom exhaust. What that means for power numbers is Olson’s secret.
Pushing the undeniable power of the Willys’ engine to its rear wheels is a TH350 automatic transmission controlled with an Art Carr shifter. Falling in line is a Dana 44 rearend and a couple of wheel and tire choices.
Because Olson and his wife compete in the Competition Studs and Cheaters (bolts) ice-racing categories, with their son Bryce racing Cheaters and the Bare Rubber series, the Willys has a variety of wheel and tire combinations to choose from.
For Studs competitions, the Olsons run 12-inch Centerline wheels wrapped in studded 29 x 12.5-inch Goodyear rubber. For Cheaters, the Willys gets equipped with custom 15-inch wheels wrapped in 205/60R15 rubber featuring custom pointed bolts with two-inch backspacing. And yes, these tires are custom, being hand drilled and studded with sharpened bolts for extra ice gripping traction.
“I am usually very tired and my hands hurt after building tires,” Olson told us with a laugh. But to him, it’s always worth it. “I get excited to create and build race cars,” he explained. “The thrill of driving them when you are done is great payment for all the countless hours spent on the build.”
Speaking of countless hours spent on a build, Olson does most of the building of his race rigs himself, with help from friends, family and staff at his shop. There is also help from Olson’s sponsors, including F&M Performance & Machine, Arnold’s Transmission and Gear, and Progressive Signs, to acquire parts or lend a helping hand.
Olson told us of his gratitude to all of the people involved in his racing hobby, because without them, it wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding.
Down to Good Looks
Because Olson’s Willys is specifically built for ice racing, it features a fairly simple lightweight fiberglass body. But what’s not simple is the custom wrap the Jeep recently received from Progressive Signs.
Featuring true-fire flames, the Willy’s nickname chiseled in ice across the back and a gnarly skull gracing the front grill area, this wrap shows fellow competitors that Olson means business. After all, he’s out to have fun first, but also to win while doing it.
Complimented with red suspension components, a red frame and full roll cage, the Jeep is certainly a site to be seen.
For simplicity sake, the hand-crafted transmission tunnel remains uncovered in the cockpit, bordered by basic carpeting. With the obligatory steering wheel, pedals, shifter and levers in place, there’s not much else this bona fide race buggy really needs, except for an exemplary driver–something the CJ-3A gets when ever an Olson takes the seat.
Shorter than most, the Colorado ice racing season is just six weeks long, with races taking place every weekend. But even though it goes by quick, Olson makes the most of every season.
This year, we got to watch as Olson competed for the 2014 championship title in both Studs and Cheaters. Showing his skills, he took to the track with ease, proving that not only his driving skills were up to par, but also that his Willys was in amazing shape for the challenge ahead.
Though the competition was tough, with several seasoned racers standing out, there was only one competitor that could take the win. In the end, Olson walked away with both the Studs “Go for the Gold” race title and the Cheaters Invitational title.
Congratulations goes out to Olson and his family for the amazing end to the ice racing season and a huge “Thank You” goes to them for sharing their amazing vehicle with us.
We can’t wait to see what comes out of Olson’s shop in the future, and of course, we’ll be watching next year as the Our Gang 4 Wheelers take to the ice in Georgetown, Colorado again for another awesome season!
Check out more photos of Olson’s ice racing Willys in the Off Road Xtreme photo gallery below >>>