Mudford On A Mission At The 2019 Tennessee Gambler 500

Sometimes we get attached to things. Objects can take on personalities. We make up our own stories as to what it’s like to be in their world. As you can imagine that line of thinking can come into direct conflict with how some of the vehicles at a Gambler 500 get treated.

If you never attended a Gambler 500 let me tell you that there at times when the cars get beat up on pretty good. To be completely fair, even though owners are never afraid to go full send, most love their cars. A gambler isn’t just an event to beat up on cheap cars. Owners customize their rides to complete specific tasks. For some, it’s about the off-road waypoints. They build their gamblers with mud tires, clearance, and snorkels. For others, it’s about picking up trash on the trail. They build theirs with large racks for stacking up piles of trash from the trails. No matter how you build it there is time, resources, and love that goes into each build.

The Categories

All gambler rigs have their own style and personality, MudFord isn't short on either.

While at the 2019 Tennessee Gambler 500 there were many gambler projects that fit into both of the previously mentioned categories. There is also a third category of gambler we like to call stock mobbers. These are first time Gambler 500 event participants that have never been to a gambler before and just aren’t sure what to expect.

They typically find something fairly competent off road for relatively cheap. Then they run it until it can’t run any more. All the way whooping with delight as they discover more and more what a good time it can be to drive a vehicle that you are okay with damaging.

Mudford is a great example of a stock mobber. Brandon and Sally Chapman are the proud owners of Mudford and it has quite the storied gambler past. This year’s Tennessee Gambler 500 was not Mudford’s first event. Mudford first got the gambler nod at the Tennessee Redemption Gambler earlier this year.

Brandon and Sally are happy MudFord made it through two gamblers and are looking forward to her final farewell at the next one.

Brandon explained, “As soon as we knew that there was a gambler in Tennessee we were on the hunt to find a worthy vehicle. Our only stipulation was that we wanted all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive for our first time because we did not know what to expect from the event. We started scouring auctions looking for something inexpensive. We were at an auction and only one other fella was bidding on Mudford. After a short bidding war, we were able to bring her home.”

So how do you come up with a name like Mudford? Brandon shared, “she’s a Ford and we were going to get her muddy. And to be correct it’s actually Mudford and Sons Mastiff Hauling. We brought our Neapolitan mastiff GiGi with us for the redemption run. We just looked at it, as our responsibility, to drive GiGi around all weekend. Hence the Mastiff hauling designation.”  Unfortunately, GiGi passed away just three short weeks before the September 2019 event. Not having her there really changed the weekend for Brandon and Sally.

The Build

For the redemption gambler, the Chapmans found the most aggressive set of inexpensive used mud tires they could get their hands on. Then they got a cheap set of stencils from Wal-Mart. Next they grabbed some green spray paint that they had lying around the house and gave the rig its name. Those were the only modifications they originally made.

Things got a little topsy turvy and Mudford was rolled at the redemption gambler. As a result five of eight pieces of glass were removed. After the rollover, a band of merry gamblers stepped in to assist. They removed the rest of the windshield, airbags, and provided spare tires so they could limp her home. Also, a very creative fellow that found a can of red spray paint gave her one wicked flame job.

Once Mudford got home the heavy modifications started. Brandon explained, “Most of the mods were made with a three-ton floor jack and a two by four. The slow process of forcing the roof, the A pillar, and the doors back into shape began. We also had to use a five-foot cheater bar extensively on the front quarter panels. That was to get the front doors to open properly. By the time we got done, you would’ve thought she was factory again.” Umm okay.

Brandon continued, “In all honesty the rollover made Mudford run better. I don’t know if rolling the vehicle sloshed the transmission fluid around some but it sure seemed to shift better afterward. By some miracle, it also cured the ABS light that had been on since we bought her!” Maybe she just felt like she had bigger fish to fry at that point.

The Aftermath

After the rollover, Sally and Brandon’s original intention was to find something new for the next gambler. Their game plan was to bring Mudford as well as a new vehicle to the September 2019 event. Then find somebody who broke down that either could not gamble or could not get home and give Mudford away. Brandon explained, “We thought it would be a nice way to pay it forward and hopefully help out somebody that really needed it.”

As it turned out they did not find anything they liked better than Mudford so a new plan was hatched. They decided they would run Mudford all day Saturday and if someone needed a vehicle to drive home Sunday they were still willing to give her away. The pair had bought a short bus to camp in during the event so they had a ride home regardless.

Brandon shared that on the Saturday of the event, “We were driving through the trails passing out beers to thirsty gamblers. We stumbled across Sheriff Woody and crew.  Sheriff Woody is a Lincoln Continental and they were having some issues. The calamity of errors that ensued trying to rescue him has to be the highlight of our gambler. It will live on as Mudford’s last good deed.

After about a three hour adventure of towing Sheriff Woody through the woods, Mudford blew her thermostat housing. We think the extra strain on the drive train is what led to the cracked thermostat housing. The thermostat housing is ultimately what caused the demise of Mudford. It really is okay. She did a good deed and it will live on as a great memory for the rest of our lives.”

After returning to camp on Saturday the guys from Ranger Road were nice enough to help out on Sunday morning. They tried to get Mudford back up and running so that she could still be given away.  Unfortunately, the repairs only half worked. So instead of giving her away the whole crew took her out into a field and jumped her about a dozen times until she was completely destroyed and non-responsive.

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye

Brandon said, “The fellows from Ranger Road came up with the idea of raffling off a chance to blow her up at the March 2020 redemption gambler. We left Mudford in the loving hands of the property owner and Mason Dixon, the event organizer. They are working on a plan of how to safely blow her up come March.”

Always eager to lend a hand Joe Yantz from team Ranger Road does his best to get MudFord running again on Sunday morning.

Brandon and Sally have made their peace with the loss of Mudford. Brandon explained, “We have already managed to find a 2005 Jaguar X all wheel drive. We have named her the Mudcat. Our plans are to lift her, cut out the wheel wells, add a skid plate, install wheel spacers and put on a nice used set of mud tires. Gambling is a lifestyle. Taking a crappy old beater out in the woods that you are willing to dent, ding, roll and damage. All while giving her one last Viking send off, surrounded by awesome people, is an experience you cannot duplicate doing anything else.”

As we pulled out of camp on I took one last look at Mudford. Out in a field by herself, I couldn’t help but feel sad that she was left all alone. Hopefully, she knows how much fun and joy she brought to us, and feels all of that love right up to the moment she explodes. I hope that all of the dog slobber, rollovers, jumps, and good deeds ring around in her mechanical brain for all time. She will forever live on in our memories. Rest in peace Mudford. Always be gambling.

About the author

Christie Materni

As a photographer, and self-proclaimed "magic maker" for over 12 years, Christie loves to create anything from amazing images to great chocolate chip cookies. Traveling the country with her camera, husband, and sometimes a dog, in search of fast cars and tough trucks is her favorite way to spend the day.
Read My Articles

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