KOH 2021: Top 5 Rigs From King Of The Hammers

The rigs that come to King Of The Hammers every year are worth celebrating. Some are wild, most are practical, but there are those rigs that show what an owner’s all about. These are the 4x4s that stand out from the pack, and this is all about showcasing what makes these rigs awesome.

Whether these machines crawl over rocks, blast over sand, rip through mud and snow, they all embrace the off-road lifestyle. We found them just by driving around Hammertown and the surrounding areas. If you’ve got a radical ride, then make sure to mark your calendar and fill up on gas, because KOH is the best place to be for one week every year.

Without further ado, let’s get right into this. The first rig that caught our eye at KOH was Jamie Urias’ 2006 Ford Ranger, sporting a fairly unusual drivetrain setup.

Jamie Urias’ 2006 Ford Ranger

You can see right away what drew us to Jamie Urias’ 2006 Ranger. In a platform better known for prerunner conversions, Jamie went the complete opposite. He made his a 4×4 rock crawler with solid axles front and rear.

Jamie’s formative years in off-road took him to Glamis to experience dirt bikes in the desert. Once he entered high school, he went ahead and bought a Ranger, and took the off-road rite of passage by rolling it. “Recently, I decided I wanted to get back in a Ranger,” he said. “This time, I was going to do it a little differently.”

The Ranger can really climb thanks to its custom-made four-link suspension setup. It was pretty unique to see at King of the Hammers!

Starting his build in early 2020, Jamie took his time plotting out the build. “I knew I wanted to do one-ton axles underneath it,” he said. “So I worked with a friend of mine in New York, Trevor. He gave me all the dimensions I needed. That’s how I was able to put it all together in 6-8 months.”

The build runs on 40-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Boss tires, held in place with KMC Machete beadlocks. The axles are Dana 60s from a Super Duty, using 35-spline axles, 5.38:1 gearing, and equipped with Eaton Detroit Lockers for better traction. The engine, transmission, and transfer case are all stock.

The drivetrain is all stock, but it's kept fueled with a fuel cell in the truck bed.

Suspension affords the Ranger four-linked arms front and rear, which gives the truck insane amounts of flex. Jamie demonstrated this firsthand when he drove up on top of a buddy’s truck at camp, climbing all the way up the driver’s side A-pillar! “It’s two-inch DOM with quarter-inch wall thickness, so they’re pretty stout,” he said. “We also powder-coated them in hammered bronze so they look great.” The suspension is rounded out with

To maximize the suspension travel, Jamie removed the stock tank and placed a fuel cell in the bed. “It uses the same pump as before, and it also increased the fuel capacity,” Jamie explained. On the front end, he beefed things up with an Affordable Offroad bumper and an X-Bull 14,000-pound winch.

Holly Fowler’s 2017 Jeep Wrangler JK (aka Mischief Maker)

Bigger is always better when it comes to off-road, and Holly Fowler’s JK, “Mischief  Maker,” proves it. Holly’s passion for off-roading came when she moved from Scotland to the U.S. Her husband showed her some videos of Jeeps, which was how she learned about the hobby. “I was a very girly girl before, and I used to be an opera singer,” she explained. After buying the JK stock, she and her husband set about ramping up its protection and ground clearance.

Visually, the JK sets itself apart thanks to its Grabber Blue paint and enormous tires. “These are the 40-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Pro Xs,” she said. “They’re sticky and a lot of fun. I absolutely adore them.”

Holly moved from Scotland to the U.S., where her husband introduced her to Jeeps and off-roading. It was all downhill after that! She even started a YouTube channel featuring her and the Jeep. She's even documented her experiences at the 2021 King of the Hammers.

The suspension is, as Holly put it, “kind of Frankenstein.” The front uses a TeraFlex four-link up front, while the rear uses a Rock Krawler three-link. Shocks are King 2.5-inch front and 3.0-inch rear. The body rides 5.5 inches above stock, offering plenty of room for the tires, but the rear Dana 80 still manages to “catch on some stuff.” The front is a Dana 60.

Putting power to the axles are Tom Wood’s driveshafts. Each of the axles also sports ARB air locking differentials, which Holly powers up with a Power Tank hanging off of the GenRight cage. “I like it better than having a compressor,” she said. “I’ve never been a fan of the compressor noise, and the tank can last me an entire year on a single charge.”

With ample suspension and safety upgrades installed, Holly and her Mischief Maker JK are well-equipped for any adventure, especially out at King of the Hammers.

Holly keeps her adventures documented on her YouTube channel, Mischief Maker TV. She started it in 2019 and has kept it going ever since. “We’re pretty excited about what’s coming soon,” she hinted. “We’ll be building a race vehicle in time for 2022, hopefully. I think it’ll be a 4400 car, so you’ll see us racing the main event!”

Joe George’s 2020 Jeep Gladiator JT

The Gladiator is quickly making its presence known in the off-road world, and with it have come some jaw-dropping builds. Case in point – Joe George’s 2020 JT, a veritable off-road beast that we spotted roaming King of the Hammers.

This eye-catching machine started life as a Rubicon. “We went to work on it at my shop, Off Road Customz,” said Joe. “We took everything, from the suspension to the drivetrain to the fenders, and upgraded it.”

Suspension is comprised of EVO shock towers, Rock Jock control arms, and King coilovers and bypass shocks. At King of the Hammers, this type of suspension setup makes quick work of rocks, dirt, and sand.

As it stands now, the JT uses Dynatrac Elite axles, with a 60 front and 80 rear. The driveshafts were swapped out for J.E. Reel 1350 units. The tires shot up to 43-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Pro XSs. “These things are amazing on-road and off-road,” commented Joe. The tires are wrapped around Black Rhino beadlock wheels, ensuring Joe can run the tires at a lower pressure without fear of them de-beading. The larger tires required upgraded steering, and Joe ensured that with an RPM Steering 2.5-ton kit and a PSC big bore kit.

Joe equipped the JT with GenRight fender flares and bumpers for added protection and clearance. Lighting came with Baja Designs LP60s on the front bumper, XL80s on the pillars, and S2 Pros for the back. Out back, Joe gave the Jeep more capability through an EVO bed rack. RotopaX canisters and a Hi-Lift jack found a home here, so Joe can enjoy more of nature and still make his way home. The Warn winch on the front helps out a lot, too.

The JT got an LS3 installed courtesy of Bruiser Conversions. Complete with a Whipple supercharger, the Jeep can rip through any terrain. It generates more than 800 horsepower, according to Joe.

Power comes from an LS3 V8, but that’s not all. “We installed a Whipple supercharger on the engine,” said Joe. “It’s now making 807 horsepower. We got it from Bruiser Conversions, and it definitely woke this thing up!”

From a humble JT Rubicon to a massive overlanding 4×4, Joe is definitely proud of the work he put into his Jeep. “This rig was something I wanted,” he commented. “I never thought I would go this extreme with it, but I’ve had rock-crawling in my DNA for the last 20 years. And it does get used! It’s not a trailer queen, as you can see.”

Joe's taken the JT all over California in search of impossible trails to conquer. "I've done the Rubicon Trail in it, as well as Dusy-Ershim up there near Fresno," he said. "It's got some great looks, but the Jeep does get dirty." It looked right at home driving around Johnson Valley during King of the Hammers.

Mike Mills’ 1977 Ford Bronco

As the new Ford Bronco made waves at King of the Hammers, we kept our eyes peeled for the classics that were sure to be around. Sure enough, we found this highly modified dark green Bronco near Hammertown, and stopped in to find out more from its owner, Mike Mills.

“The Bronco was a barn find,” explained Mike. “The owner had owned it for 25 years and done some modifications to it, like pinching the front and rear frame rails. It came with the Sno-Fighter front end, which was a rare snow plow package from the late 1970s.”

Mike bought the Bronco in 2018. His goal was to make a "wild" build to complement his "mild" 1971 Bronco build.

Mike swapped out the rear end for a GM 14-bolt, and supported it with a four-link suspension setup and coilover shocks. The engine is the standard 351 cubic-inch V8, but reinforced with Edelbrock heads and Pro Flo 4 fuel injection. “I basically just put in better parts to help it run smoother,” commented Mike.

On the suspension side, Mike installed 2.5-inch-diameter Fox coilovers on all four corners. These offer 14 inches of travel on the front, and 16 inches in the rear. A TK1 sway bar was installed in the rear for better handling. For wheels and tires, Mike runs on 17-inch beadlock wheels and 41.5-inch Pit Bull Rockers, giving the SUV an aggressive stance.

The engine is a factory 351 cubic-inch V8. It sports upgrades to the heads and fuel injection thanks to Edelbrock and Pro Flo 4.

Mike added that his Bronco has never given him problems since its rebuild. “So far, I haven’t had any issues with anything,” he said. “It’ll go up anything, and it’s taken a lot of hard work to get it finished.”

His favorite aspect about the Bronco was its form and function. “I love the lines on these older Broncos,” he said. “Plus, these Broncos, even stock, will go just about anywhere.” This was especially true of the terrain seen at King of the Hammers.

Mike loved taking his Bronco out to drive around during King of the Hammers.

Brandon Johnson’s BC Customs SRTV

Something we weren’t expecting to see but were thrilled to find was this vehicle, a BC Customs SRTV. Founder and owner Brandon Johnson was driving it around the valley between Hammertown and Chocolate Thunder when we happened upon him. It was a great opportunity to learn more about these military vehicles and how they were designed.

From talking with Brandon, we learned about BC Customs and what set it apart from other custom builders. “We started in 1996 as an off-road company,” he said. “In 2007, we started working primarily for the U.S. government. Our goals shifted to making tactical vehicles for special forces.”

The dimensions of the SRTV – 6.5 feet wide, 16 feet long, 6 feet tall, 5500 pounds dry weight – make it feasible to store in military transport helicopters. It can air-drop into hot zones and assist with para-rescue missions.

This SRTV was one of those vehicles, and it looked every bit the part of a 4×4 destined for warzones. Its narrow profile, wedge-shaped chassis, and sand-painted exterior were just some of the cues that this rig was meant for more than just off-road joyrides. “We designed this SRTV specifically for Air Force para-rescue forces,” explained Brandon. “It’s made to be air-droppable in remote, austere locations and recover isolated personnel.”

When designing the SRTV, Brandon and his team had to factor in the “first cube.” “Basically, we had to consider the smallest aircraft it could fit in,” he said. “This vehicle is rated to fit inside a CH-47 Chinook, which is an Army transport helicopter. It also fits in the CH-53, which the Marines still use.”

Mounted midway in the SRTV is its LS3 V8.

On top of its form factor, BC Customs also took into account the vehicle’s weight and mission profile. “The weight was important, as it had to be air-droppable and survive the landing,” he said. “It also can adapt to a mission profile, so it can run lighter or heavier with extra gear, weapons, supplies, as the mission demands.”

Powering the SRTV is an LS3. It uses an Atlas II transfer case, which routes power to Spidertrax axles front and rear. The tires are 40 inches in diameter. The SRTV’s configuration allowed for a three-man crew, plus space in the rear to secure up to four patients for rescue. On top of this, pintle mounts on either side of the vehicle (plus a mount up top) could hold machine guns and offer firepower if need be.

A military 4x4 like the SRTV was awesome to see at King of the Hammers!

The vehicles that race in King of the Hammers are some of the most incredible out there. But spectators bring out terrific vehicles, too, as you can see. Which of these rigs is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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