Junkyard Challenge Episode 4: The Finished Product

So here we are in Episode 4. Teams are nearly exhausted by the week-long builds. Sleep is a luxury, sunburns are inevitable, and emotions run high as the clock ticks down to the final minute of build time. All but one of the teams are sprinting to get the trucks done on time.

For RSO, the suspension is causing headaches. For RaceAnything, it’s buttoning things up. For NexGen, it’s finishing the cage and making sure everything works. And for Damage Inc, it’s, well, nothing! They finished their build a day early and went the extra mile by stepping up to help the other teams make the deadline.

It all comes down to this: The final days of the build week are a mix of worry, confidence, and stress to get the builds done on time.

Let’s get into the final stages of these builds and examine where everyone was at. These were the final, stressful, anxious hours of Junkyard Challenge.

Damage Inc: A Day Early And $$$ Ahead

While everyone else was sweating the clock, Damage Inc was taking it easy. The team finished their build a day early, on Day 6. With so much time on their hands, the team was considering getting a head start on testing.

“We’re looking forward to firing this truck up,” said Tyler Mitchell. “But first, we need to button up a fuel line and get the exhaust done. Right now, we’re on little stuff – the suspension is dialed, the shocks are in, we’ve got Loctite on all of the threads, the cage is done. We’re on the downhill slope of finishing everything.”

Damage Inc took care of the finishing touches on their F-250, including a Momo steering wheel, Moroso kill switch, and CORSA muffler.

The guys trimmed up the front bumper to prevent the tires from rubbing. Oil from Lucas Oil went into the transmission, transfer case, engine, and both axles. Thankfully, the team found no evidence of metal shavings in any of the old fluids, so the truck seemed in tip-top shape.

On the engine, the team installed a set of headers. “We’re excited about how these headers are going to sound once we fire it up,” said Tyler. The headers would eventually route to a side pipe exhaust coming out of the bed. A CORSA muffler capped it off. The rear was lifted up and the shifter left in Drive to let oil work its way around the axle. Put simply, the team was on the home stretch, and before long, they raised a question – could they get their test session in?

As a reward for finishing early, Rylee and Tyler took the F-250 out for a pre-run test session before the competitions.

As part of the competition, all four teams would get a one-hour test session on the trucks. They were allowed to pre-run the short course track and assess weak and strong points of the truck. Damage Inc was the first to get theirs in, with Tyler as the driver. He yelled a “WOOHOO!” as he stepped out of the F-250; clearly, the truck was running perfectly.

Elaborating on the test session, Tyler said, “We wanted to see how the truck felt in the air, what was going to bump or bind. We felt the truck was too soft on landing. So we tightened the coil nuts to put some more pre-load on the spring, bring up the front end a little bit, and help keep the front end up. We’re also going to add some more valving on the front shocks to make them a little stiffer for the jump contest.”

The last day of the competition, Damage Inc had nothing to do. But they opted to step up and help out other teams, which leads us to RSO and its final hours.

RSO: Every Second Counts

No team was feeling the pressure of the clock more than RSO. Setbacks, inexperience with Ram trucks, and other obstacles made their journey to the finish line as tense as it was intriguing. Still, the team was putting on an air of confidence.

“We’re doing alright,” said Billy Sykes. “We’ve got the rearend all fit up and ready yesterday, we’re pretty far along with the cage, and the transmission’s back together.” Up front, James was taking care of the engine, fitting in a new COMP camshaft, along with some valvetrain upgrades to complement the cam. “The camshaft is mild, so it won’t need any tuning, but it’ll put some more fuel in the chamber and hopefully ramp up the power enough to give us an edge.”

James was in charge of upgrading the engine. It received several COMP products, including a camshaft, lifters, and pushrods. All of this was to help eke out some more power and strengthen the motor.

“We’ve got some nice new roller rockers that’ll be better for longevity,” he continued. “We’re also putting in higher grade studs for the rockers, and I’ve got these awesome COMP pushrods. We’ve got new lifters, too.”

Down a man and under the gun, RSO was in a mad dash to get the truck finished as the hours ticked down. Fortunately, Damage Inc swooped into the rescue. They guys took care of any remaining fab work and odds and ends.

It was all going well until James Doughy felt a pain in his abdomen. The team figured it was a little dehydration at first, and handed him water and sports drinks to get back in the groove. However, his condition worsened until he was weak and unable to function. Horsepower Wars officials made the call to check him out in the trailer, where air conditioning would cool him down. After some time, it was clear that James was in rough shape; finally, he was taken to the hospital, where it was discovered that he had a kidney stone.

The cage was nearing the final stages. Up front, the guys topped up the fluids and poured in additives courtesy of Lucas Oil.

The team carried on in James’ absence, fighting tooth and nail to get the truck finished. Enter Damage Inc, effectively doubling the team’s abilities and bringing Rylee’s welding mastery to bear on the black Dodge Ram. The hours ticked by and eventually, the report came in that James passed his kidney stone and was heading back to TCB Ranch to pick up his wrench again. Talk about willpower!

It took until the final hours of Day 7 for both RSO and Damage Inc to put the finishing touches on the black truck. Even then, things were iffy. No sooner had Billy taken the pickup out for its maiden voyage than it sprang a radiator hose leak, nearly bent its control arms in half, and broke a shock tower. Jack from RaceAnything commented, “The driver’s side shock hoop bent in and the steering is messed up. We’re going to bend it back and put a brace from hoop to hoop, and that’ll most likely prevent this from happening again.”

This can’t be good…

The team would be given an extra hour on the first day of competition to fix the issues and be ready to race!

RaceAnything: Smooth Sailing

In contrast to RSO, RaceAnything cruised through the final days of build week. Jeff, Trevor, Orie, and Jack took the time to make sure the truck had everything taken care of.

“The truck’s coming along really nicely,” said Jack. “We fired it up yesterday to make sure everything was still working. She purred like a kitten. Having a race-able vehicle at this point is a huge sigh of relief.”

Team RaceAnything was on the home stretch, but they couldn't rest just yet. Jeff went around the truck strengthening whatever seemed loose or prone to wreckage. Elsewhere, a special bonus was the nitrous oxide system. It was fully hooked up and ready to deploy at a moment's notice. Also, Jeff installed a secret weapon – a Howe steering quickener, perfect for boosting the steering input on a large truck. Meanwhile, Orie pours Lucas gear oil into the rearend.

Part and parcel of this end phase were a solid cage, drivetrain reinforcement, and last but not least, a nitrous oxide system. Nitrous oxide is typically found on drag racing cars, but in the lawless realm of Junkyard Challenge, it was a madcap addition that was sure to excite. By enriching the charge in the combustion chamber for a few seconds, the truck would make enormous power – perfect for getting an edge in the short-course race.

But in the here and now, it was all about refining the build. To that end, the guys installed a torque arm that would prevent the rear axle from hopping around on the dirt. They also went around the cage, checking the welds and adding gussets where necessary. “We’d like to be done by noon, but it’s probably going to take the whole day,” commented Trevor.

Jeff and Trevor worked on the front axle. Jeff made the holes using a drill press, and then Trevor made sure the holes were lined up perfectly before installing the hubs back onto the axle.

Trevor and Jeff shared the job of getting the front end ready, and that included modifying the Ford axle hubs to accept a GM bolt pattern. To make it happen, the guys lined up the GM wheel with the hubs and made the marks on where the drill holes needed to go. Jeff then took the hubs to a drill press, where he gradually drilled out the holes until they were the right size. Once that was done, the hubs went back on the axle. Studs were installed to mount the wheels and that was that.

Givin' it the ole razzle-dazzle – the team had some spare time on the last day, so everyone pitched in to paint the GMC in official livery.

By the final day, the truck was ready. The team had so much time, in fact, that they opted to dive into the exterior. Using stencils, rattle cans, and masking tape, Jeff and the boys gave the GMC the WFO treatment (WFO is Trevor’s business). Lime green paint went all over the truck, including off-center stripes running down the hood, and logos stenciled onto the doors.

The team then took the truck out for the one-hour prerunning session. The truck ran better than expected, and no issues cropped up. It was ready to roll come race day.

During RaceAnything's prerunning session, the truck gave it everything it had. It was big and heavy, but it had guts.

NexGen: Wrapping Up

Team NexGen’s F-150 was looking ripe for racing. Fully decked out in its Fabtech shocks, Toyo tires, JAZ fuel cell, and other upgrades, the tricolor pickup would be ready to rumble once the bedsides went back on. The team was in good spirits, wrapping up on fabrication and moving onto maintenance items.

On the back of the truck, a Dyna-Batt battery was installed inside a Moroso battery box. This combination offered solid starting power to the vehicle while keeping it safe from the elements. A TCI starter went into the underside, rounding out the starting mechanism. Lucas Oil products kept the diffs, transfer case, and other drivetrain components lubed up for competition.

All the small things – a TCI starter, Dyna-Batt battery and Moroso battery box, and Lucas Oil lubrication – make a big difference.

Up front, Kris and Chris put the finishing touches to the engine. Chris placed in fresh Victor Reinz gaskets on the heads, and later Kris installed E3 spark plugs and wires. These add-ons would breathe new life into the 5.0-liter V8.

On the last day, some final welding and metalwork made sure the truck was up to the challenge. The front suspension and tires were a concern. “We want to add some bump stop pads to make sure the radius arms stay alive,” said Dez. “We’re also beating in the firewall so the tires have maximum up-travel.” The morning would see the team dialing in the front end of the F-150, while the afternoon was simply tying up the loose ends – reinstalling the bed sides and so forth.

The fully assembled NexGen F-150.

The guys squeezed in a quick test run for a lap around the course before the day ended. “We found out our junkyard Deaver springs aren’t doing too hot on the left side,” said Dez. “We’re gonna add another 50 pounds of pressure to the left side shock to compensate for the sag.” Still, the truck had heart, as did the team. They planned on leaving everything on the field come race day.

So ended the longest seven days of everyone’s life. Blood, sweat, tears, kidney stones and all – the teams had put their best efforts into restoring these junkyard jalopies, and now it was all down to the competitions. Barrel race, short-course race, tug o’ war, and jump contest – only one of the teams would walk away with the trophy and $10,000. Stay tuned to find out how it all went down!

The 2019 Junkyard Challenge is presented by K&N Filters but also made possible by some of the leading companies in our industry, including Summit RacingCOMP CamsTCIToyo Tires, MAHLE MotorsportsDyna-BattWeld RacingCorsa PerformanceFragolaHolleyDiabloSport, NOSE3 Spark PlugsTotal SealMoser EngineeringBMR SuspensionMiller ElectricAerospace ComponentsVictor ReinzMorosoUS GearHawk PerformanceLucas OilPRW IndustriesWeld RacingVP RacingNOSProCharger, and ARP.

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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