Diamonds In The Rough: Meet The Junkyard Challenge Build Trucks!

Diamonds In The Rough: Meet The Junkyard Challenge Build Trucks!

The K&N Junkyard Challenge is almost upon us. If you’re like us, you’re chomping at the bit to see what the four teams – Damage Inc, Rock Solid Offroad, RaceAnything, and NEXGEN – will bring to the table. Well, we’re happy to report some more details involving the build vehicles, as well as what to expect during the competitions!

Each of the four teams was instructed to locate and purchase their own vehicle, with a value of up to $2,500. It could be anything from a rusty 4Runner to a clapped-out F-150. As long as the trucks had one tire in the grave and were using mostly stock components, we’re on board with ’em.

So let’s take a look at each of the teams’ vehicles, starting with Damage Inc.

Team Damage Inc – 1989 Ford F-250, $2,500

The truck for Damage Inc is the oldest truck submitted into the Junkyard Challenge. Coming in at a spry 30 years young, the team’s 1989 Ford F-250 has old-school attitude and high-displacement fury that may give it an upper hand in the competition.

We asked Damage Inc’s leader, Matt Moghaddam, to chime in on what drew the team to this Blue Oval. “The first reason was the platform,” he said. “Ford’s twin traction beam front suspension has proven itself as a strong design over the years. It has enormous potential for off-road use, even with minimal modifications. We’ve built them in the past, and they’ve performed very well.”

Damage Inc's F-250 has twin traction beam front suspension, which is a cheap but workable way to get more suspension travel. That'll be a must for the Jump Contest portion of Junkyard Challenge!

Matt and his team were also excited about the drivetrain. “The Ford 460 cubic-inch big-block V8 makes plenty of torque, especially in the bottom end,” he said. “It also has a lot of aftermarket support to increase performance. With it is a five-speed ZF5 transmission, so this is one drivetrain we don’t need to worry about.”

However, the truck will have some problem areas that need addressing during the build phase. “We’re going to focus our efforts on the suspension,” commented Matt. “We need to increase the front and rear travel numbers. Our aim is to make the truck incredibly smooth over even the most demanding environments.”

Matt’s favorite aspect of the truck? “I really like the value for the budget,” he said. His least favorite aspect? “The weight,” he lamented. “As a 3/4-ton truck, it’s made to tow and do heavy-duty work, not fly through the air or drag race. But we will address those issues during the build.”

Team Rock Solid Offroad – 1996 Dodge Ram 1500, $1,000

A true junkyard truck, Rock Solid Offroad brought some Mopar madness to the competition. Their chariot of choice is a 1996 Dodge Ram 1500, purchased for the meager sum of $1,000, making it the cheapest vehicle of Junkyard Challenge.

Tyler Francis gave us the rundown on what made the truck a good choice for Junkyard Challenge. “It was cheap, ran, and stopped,” he joked. “Honestly, though, it ran solid despite an exhaust leak. The truck is two-wheel-drive, has a 360 cubic-inch Magnum V8, a strong rearend, and is a great platform to work on.”

The 1500's undercarriage has some dangling wires, but that's fine...

Interestingly, as Tyler explained, one of the main reasons the team bought the Dodge Ram was because they wanted to do something different. “We assumed the other teams would bring in an LS Chevy 1500 or F-150 with a Mod V8,” said Tyler. “As a team and a business, we pride ourselves on doing things differently.”

During the build, Tyler expects his team to have its hands full. “A big focal point will be getting the cage done in time,” he said. “It’s a lot of tedious work to be done in a week, but we want to be safe while slinging the truck around the track and over the jumps. The suspension and engine shouldn’t be too bad. The same goes for the chassis, but we will add some structural reinforcements where necessary.”

RSO's truck is definitely worse for wear, but that's what makes it a prime candidate for the Junkyard Challenge!

Tyler weighed in on some of the pros and cons of the truck. “The engine and rearend will be strong, but the transmission might become a weak point,” he explained. “We’re also a bit unsure of bolt-on aftermarket parts, so we might wind up building a lot of things on our own. Lastly, ECM tuning is impossible, so we’re stuck with the tune it has and will have to hope it works.”

Team RaceAnything – 2004 GMC 2500HD, $2,500

Team RaceAnything is coming to this competition with the youngest truck of the bunch. At a perky 15 years old, their 2004 GMC 2500HD might seem advantageous, but something to keep in mind is its high mileage – over 300,000, to be more specific.

We reached out to Jeff Mello to get more information on the truck and what made it special. “A 3/4-ton truck like this comes with the venerable 6.0-liter LS V8, which we can modify to our heart’s content,” said Jeff. “The 2500 has a stronger frame, transmission, and transfer case, and we have solid options if we choose to keep the IFS or swap to a solid axle.”

The 2500's extra weight will be a concern, but its 4x4 capability may be a deciding factor in the Junkyard Challenge competitions.

In the case that RaceAnything decides to keep the IFS, Jeff knows what will need taking care of during the build. “We’ll need to address the upper ball joints and tie rods, and put skid plates on the undercarriage,” he said. “Our budget doesn’t allow for a full long-travel kit, but we have a few tricks to make it work.”

On the flipside, switching to a solid axle is also feasible. “We can source a 2005 or newer Super Duty ‘Super 60’ front axle,” he said. “The coil/linked Super 60 is nearly bolt-in. The front solid axle swap and stock GM 14-bolt rearend virtually eliminates attrition and will let us bring out 300-plus horsepower at full gallop. It won’t be a Trophy Truck, but this is budget racing and finishing is key.”

Mind the gap.

But there’s more to Jeff’s vision than simply finishing the Junkyard Challenge. “Since we’ll get to keep the truck after the Challenge, we want to use it to campaign and race in the Nor Cal Rock Racing series,” he said.

When it comes to advantages and disadvantages, Jeff said, “One of our strong points is four-wheel-drive. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least two other teams show up with two-wheel-drive trucks. Our truck may be long-wheelbase and heavy, but we hope to work around it and drive the hell out the thing for the win!”

Team NEXGEN – 1993 Ford F-150, $2,000

Finally, Team NEXGEN is running in the ’90s, just like Team Rock Solid Offroad. Their rig is a 1993 Ford F-150, looking more like a Frankenstein, hodgepodge monster thanks to its different-colored body panels.

Chris Nissley stepped in to talk about the details of the F-150. “We looked for the smallest truck with the best power possible,” he said. “It turned out to be rather difficult to find. We had no idea what the production numbers were, but a single cab, short box, 4×4, manual, 5.0-liter V8 F-150 is a rare bird. We found ours all the way out in Henderson, Nevada.”

The truck is an interesting hodgepodge of colors and design choices. In the bed, cutouts indicate that a bedcage once went here.

Looking ahead to the build phase, the F-150 will present similar issues and opportunities as the F-250 Team Damage Inc chose. “We are going to have to spend a lot of time on the rear of the truck,” explained Chris. “We plan on installing a Ford 9-inch rearend, a spring-under-axle conversion, and a JAZ Jeepspeed fuel cell. The front will be getting coilover shocks, as well as some I-beam tweaking to free up some wheel travel.”

Pros and cons of the truck? “We like that it’s a Ford, and Dez Knight, our team captain, has raced I-beam Fords off-road for years,” commented Chris. “We don’t like that it’s multi-colored, but that’s about it for the cons.”

This F-150 oozes Junkyard Challenge!

We’ve talked about the trucks at length, and we know what each team is thinking and what some of their game plans will be. Now, it’s time to share some details on what these trucks will be put through after the build phase.

We have two days of challenges planned for the teams involving four distinct challenges – barrel race, Tug O’ War, short course race, and jump contest. Let’s explore these challenges a bit more in-depth.

Competition Details

Barrel Race

The first competition will be the barrel race. In this event, one team will drive at a time, and each team gets two non-consecutive attempts. They will have to make their way through a course defined by cones and/or barrels, making sure not to knock over a barrel or cone, or else they’ll get disqualified for that run. The winning team of this event earns three points, while the runner-up earns two points.


Short Course Race

The second competition is the eight-lap short course race. This is modeled somewhat after the awesome Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and The Off Road Championship events. At the four-lap mark, a mandatory caution will go up. After a lap around the track with a pace vehicle leading the way, the green flag flies, and the action kicks back into high gear.

The race will stop once all four teams drive past the checkered flag. Their physical position in the race will determine the winner. Three points will be awarded to the first place finisher, two points to the runner-up, and one point to the driver in first place at the four-lap mark.

Tug O’ War

The third competition is a Tug O’War. With four rigs at play, there will be six showdowns, ensuring all vehicles face one another. One point will be awarded to the winner in each Tug O’War, so the maximum one team can earn is three points.

Each Tug O’ War pull will last a maximum of 15 seconds, preventing needless damage to the vehicles. If neither side manages to pull the opposing vehicle across the marked line, then an event official will measure which vehicle pulled the farthest and declare it the winner.

Jump Contest

As the saying goes, our final competition saves the best for last. That’s right, this is the jump contest!

For our finale, one vehicle will drive at a time. From a start line, they’ll go blazing down a straightaway to the ramp, sending them skyward. It’ll be a sight you don’t want to miss!

Upon landing, we’ll mark the spot where the first tire touched down. Three points will go to the truck with the longest jump distance, two points will go to the runner-up, and one point will go to third and fourth place each. In case there’s a tie, we’ll do one more jump between the two trucks to determine the winner.

What’s Next?

The four horsemen of Junkyard Challenge!

That about does it for this update on Junkyard Challenge. We’re just a few days away from the official kickoff of production, and we’re all chomping at the bit to get started.

Taking into account the filming and editing required, the show will start dropping in December. Stay tuned to the Horsepower Wars Facebook page for updates on the builds, competition and episode schedule. And also be sure to subscribe to the official Power Automedia channel on YouTube, which is where we’ll be posting the episodes. The shows will debut, however, on

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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