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Five years ago, the Tacomas and Company group started “a Moab adventure created by wheelers for wheelers” later to be called Rock Therapy. The gathering is based on their love for Moab and wanting to pull together other likeminded Toyota enthusiasts to help strengthen the off-road community. With the help of hard working volunteers, loyal attendees and generous sponsors who have shown a common goal to help build relations around the off-road community, Rock Therapy 2016 was again a huge success and will continue to be a must-attend gathering for the ever growing Rock Therapy Family.
In an effort to provide a memorable experience for the attendees, Rock Therapy’s platinum sponsors stepped up to host two nights of dinners for those who could make it back to camp at Area BFE. Toytec Lifts, Bay Area Metal Fabrication, Pelfreybilt Off-Road, All-Pro Off Road, Low Range Off Road, CBI Off Road Fab, InSain Fabrication, and Cascadia Vehicle Tents each pitched in to make sure the hungry wheelers did not go to bed with an empty stomach with backyard style BBQs both Friday and Saturday night.
Unlike years past, the carnage during Rock Therapy 2016 was on a much lower scale. Less carnage meant more time spent on the trails for all attendees, sponsors and volunteers. Many of the sponsors and volunteer trail leaders took out attendees on the trails to show off the variety of trails that Moab has to offer. Rock Therapy has encouraged attendees over the years to mingle with other attendees to form their own groups to roll with each day which has helped to strengthen the Rock Therapy Family and build relationships that last for years to come.
A concept that Rock Therapy has pushed over the years is to get the sponsors out and enjoy themselves alongside their many loyal customers. Gold sponsors, SDHQ Off Road, and Trail Toys were both in attendance this year showing off their incredible Tacoma builds. Cliff brought his 2008 Tacoma that is built to handle high speed desert passes as well as crawling through the rocks with the best of them. Cliff was able to show off the truck’s true potential during the annual Dunes run on Friday night.
Nathan had his 2011 flatbed Tacoma out to his the trails in fashion with his newly installed crawlbox and always impressive travel gained from a Chevy 63 swap in the rear. Trail Toys also brought another game changer to this year’s Rock Therapy with the addition of a limited run of Rock Therapy 2016 glow in the dark patches.
Also in attendance this year as sponsors was Trails Offroad spreading the word on their new web-based nation-wide trail knowledgebase, Hefty Fabworks showing off their new line of aluminum bumpers on their Toyota fleet, Brute Force Fab dominating the trails in Billy’s solid axle beast of a Tacoma on 42s, Adventure Offroad Fabrications displaying his solid axled 2nd gen overlanding Tacoma and Front Range Off-Road Fab with their 1996 4Runner with an 8” 30 spline IFS swap rolling on 37s.
Saturday night came too soon this year as attendees did not want memorable times to come to an end. However, the sponsors were able to pull together some amazing items again this year to giveaway and help raise some money to support two amazing organizations that have done so much to promote the off-road community over the years. Stay the Trail Colorado over the many years has encouraged the responsible use of the roads and trails that are open to motorized recreation in Colorado. Although their focus is primarily in Colorado, their message is one that should be spread all over to help us keep trail access open. Area BFE helped to rethink what an off-road park should be with their 320 acre recreational park. Open to a variety of outdoor activities including many iconic off-road trails and camping with unmatched views of the La Sal Mountains, Area BFE is open to the public 365 days at no cost to the public.
On behalf of all those in attendance, thank you to all those who helped to put this amazing gathering together and to the generous sponsors mentioned above as well as Addicted Offroad, RCI Offroad, Rokmen Offroad, Anti-Dark, Toywerx, Rorck Apparel and IH8MUD. Without your efforts, Rock Therapy would not be what it is today. See everyone next year!
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Summer 2016 Issue:
If you are like me, you don’t have $50-$80k to spend on a new vehicle to take into the backcountry. I don’t have that kind of money for a vehicle—period. For many of us, we have a certain aging truck or SUV (preferably Toyota) that we use to explore the wilds for a day, weekend, or an extended period of time. We buy this or that modification to improve the vehicle and the overlanding experience. However, the key is to not go broke doing so. There are SO many things you can purchase for your vehicle in today’s market that if you’re not careful, you’ll spend excess money and possibly have unnecessary modifications. So, what to buy? What to avoid?
I love to explore the deserts of Utah and Arizona. During the summer months, I travel to mountainous states like Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho; usually with my wife and daughter. Our trips consist of many weekend jaunts and a few multi-week trips each year. We roughly spend 50-60 nights camping and exploring. The roads we take are generally dirt/gravel with limited slow, rock crawling type of driving. My vehicle of choice is a 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser. I purchased it with 130k miles, and it recently just passed 180k miles. So, what does my vehicle need? What would help us enjoy overlanding even more and want to continue to do it?
I placed a call to my friend and owner of Cruiser Outfitters, Kurt Williams. Kurt is very knowledgeable on overlanding and was willing to share his thoughts and advice on what my truck might need and how to get it installed. I asked Kurt, What are two things every overlander should buy? Without much of a pause, Kurt replied, First, suspension upgrade...the vehicle will be carrying more weight. Second, a refrigerator... to keep food fresh and ready. He has traveled on five continents through different environments and has first-hand knowledge of what works on vehicles and what doesn’t. His exploits have been seen as part of the Expeditions 7 (expeditions7.com), and he is the reality star in the Youtube series, Expedition Overland (xoverland.com). Kurt states: The biggest mistake I have seen is owners not taking trips or adventures because their vehicle doesn’t have all of the latest modifications. The other mistake is that people modify their vehicles with substandard parts. The whole goal of an overland vehicle is to take people to remote places and adventures and to bring them back! Make the vehicle the most reliable it can be."
What makes the overlanding community so unique and fun is that everyone’s ride has a rhyme or a reason. Why did I choose Toyota? What made me install rock sliders? What made me choose a ground tent versus a RTT? All of us have our reasons; and below I share mine. Agree? Disagree? No worries. My hope is to make you think and ponder future decisions before dropping some coin. Here is my rationale on purchases and some examples of those.
Functional:Add something to the vehicle that will help it function better. Three prime examples of this are the ARB Outback Drawers, the multifunctional electrical outlet, and the Slee rock sliders. My drawers serve to organize food, gear, and tools. I also added two USB ports and a 12v socket. Sure, this modification isn’t flashy or glamorous; but with today’s technology, I am always recharging something. I needed some rock sliders but wanted something that I could stand on as well to access my roof rack. Slee Offroad from Golden, CO, is a Land Cruiser outfitter; and the step rock sliders they make are perfect. The sliders do the job, in terms of protecting the body with solid functionality as a step to access my items on my roof rack.
Atheistic: Yep, I said it. It’s my vehicle. Does it look good and cool to me? I am the one driving it. It would be crazy for me not to be happy with my ride. I remembered that when I was shopping for a rear bumper and shopped the usual suspects such as Slee, ARB, etc. However, I really didn’t like the looks of them. Just a personal thing. I did like the looks of the rear bumper by Bump It Off Road. I called Mike Smith, the owner, to discuss some custom options I wanted. Within a month, it was shipped to Cruiser Outfitters. Kurt and I installed it, and I couldn’t be happier. It just looked better in my opinion. Personalize your vehicle, whatever your definition, and you will be happy with the end product.
Reliable: Things will get damaged and break, which might jeopardize an entire trip. When I get stuck in a tough spot and all I need is a simple winch extraction, it would be a bummer if my winch didn’t work. The money I would have saved buying the Chinese winch becomes meaningless. If something does break from one of the big companies, they are usually more than willing to warranty an item or make the situation right. Kurt mentioned, One advantage to the big companies is that they do a great deal of product testing before hitting the market. Granted, we all want to save some money, but do yourself a favor and buy products from reliable companies.
One product that comes to mind is an ARB air front locker. There are many lockers out there, but I needed one that I could count on without worry. It’s not something I use every day or even every trip. But, when I need it...it’s ready to go.
Practical: This refers to my vehicle’s needs for what I’m asking it to do. For example, I followed Kurt’s advice and had Cruiser Outfitters install an ARB Old Man Emu suspension to my Land Cruiser. ARB makes different spring weight rates, and I went with the heavy springs. I always think about what modifications I foresee in the future. The ARB suspension improved my vehicle’s ride greatly and handled the weight without issue. My vehicle needs certain things depending on what I’m asking it to do.
The other modification that falls into this category is the 12-volt refrigerator. Simple, practical modifications are just that—simple. But, they make such a difference overlanding. I had heard all the hype on these for a year or two before I took the plunge. Wow, how did I travel without one before? I purchased an ARB 50 Quart fridge from Cruiser Outfitters, and they installed it within an hour. The fridge is a game changer for me. I’m not concerned about buying ice at the next stop; and more importantly, I can carry tasty, healthy, fresh food. I think it should be your first or second purchase!
I recently got back from four weeks of traveling. Throughout my time, I got stopped many times by people asking questions about my vehicle and the modifications. There might be no right or wrong answers. However, here are a few cautions from Kurt. Don’t let waiting to modify your vehicle stop you from going on your next adventure. Also, always consider the weight you are adding to your vehicle because handling and braking will be affected.
My decisions and purchases span a four-year period. This gave me time to process decisions on expenses, listen to and read about other people’s experiences, and save the necessary money. Give the guys at Cruiser Outfitters a call. They would be happy to answer your questions and overhaul your ride for your next overland adventure. See you out there...
Contacts and Information
A Salt Lake City, Utah company since 1992. One of the largest ARB dealers in the US. Direct importer of parts from Japan and Australia. Specializing in the Toyota Land Cruiser platform. Over 3,000 parts in stock and shipped daily.
Bump It Off Road
Located in Colorado. Mike specializes in custom steel fabrication. Bumpers, sliders, etc. Got an idea, give him a shout!
888 4X4-Slee (US Only)
888 494-7533 303 278-8287
Located in Golden, Colorado. Slee Offroad specializes in all things Land Cruiser. They make some of their own custom parts for the 80, 100, and 200 series.
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Summer 2016 Issue:
If you spend any amount of time on YouTube watching Australian off-road videos, like I do, you have heard them mention “Touring.”
Touring is how the Aussies refer to what’s known here in the US as “overlanding”. This type of off-road travel has exploded in recent years. Fading away are the buildup of rock crawlers in favor of vehicles that have every piece of kit possible to survive the zombie apocalypse, or the weekend car camping trip.
A natural result of prepping a vehicle for touring is that a lot of weight is added by way of steel bumpers, a winch, drawers, dual batteries, skid plates, a roof rack, roof top tent, water tank, a fridge, and many other things. That’s in addition to the personal gear that gets packed each trip.
With the increased weight, especially on an already heavy 80 Series Land Cruiser, the need for appropriate suspension is critical. A suspension with adequate load capacity and ride quality that is comfortable enough to not wear you out after a long day of driving long dirt tracks. The Aussies have been “touring” for a long time and developing suspension for Cruisers for just as long. Darren McRae of the Autocraft workshop fame, is a long time 80 Series guru who has been pushing the limits of these cruisers and building custom suspensions for them for more than 2 two decades. He has recently been perfecting a complete suspension system, called Slinky Long Travel, for the 80 Series. He is now bringing it to the U.S. through Redline Land Cruisers of Colorado.
I’ve been driving an 80 Series on and off-road since 2000. I’ve had a fair amount of time in 80s other than my own and have experienced just about all of the most common different bolt-on suspension options available in North America. When I heard about the Slinky Long Travel system coming to the US I was very interested. It had an innovative design that set it apart from everything else I’d seen. I now have had two months with the Slinky Long Travel system on my 80 and this is without question the best bolt-on suspension setup I’ve ever experienced on an 80.
Instead of getting technical, I’ll briefly describe the components and then give my review and thoughts on its performance in a variety of terrain. For technical information check out the Redline Land Cruisers website for specs and options. There is also information on this suspension on the IH8MUD forum.
First I want to break down what makes this system different from other coil and shock offerings that use the factory coil buckets and shock mounts. The “Slinky” Long Travel coils have a unique dual-rate coil design. What does that mean? Basically you get a coil with two different spring rates, a part of the coil with a lighter spring rate for a smooth ride and for absorbing the small bumps, and a part of the coil with a stiffer spring rate for better load capacity and for absorbing the big bumps. The top few winds of the coils also compress almost completely at normal ride height and then open up with the suspension is flexed. The result is increased down travel, and also keeps the coil from dropping out with the longer shocks. More importantly, there is still force pushing the tires to the ground even when it’s at the limit of droop. That means better traction. The coils are available in a 50mm, 70mm and 75mm increase in height and with Intermediate and Heavy spring rates. The 75mm (3”) kit is adequate to fit 35” tires and yet keeps a low center of gravity, gives a great ride with excellent travel from the extra droop and 14” long travel shocks. 37” tires can be fitted with an extra 1” added to the bump stops. In conjunction with the innovative coil design, Autocraft has partnered with Icon Vehicle Dynamics to create the custom built high quality Icon suspension tuned to Autocraft specs.
A Stage One kit includes four Slinky coils and Autocraft 2.0 smooth body emulsion shocks. The Stage Two and Three kits use a different combination of coils and shocks with an upgrade to Autocraft 2.5 bypass shocks. The Stage Four kit upgrades the shocks again to an Autocraft 2.5 bypass shock with CDC adjustability so the user can independently tune compression and rebound with the twist of a knob. All kits also include bump stops, sway bar extensions, brake lines and caster correction bushings.
I installed the Stage One kit on my 80 in Moab at the start of Cruise Moab. Then I spent time on the trails with Darren, Justin from Redline, and with Woody from IH8MUD, who all have the Stage 4 kits. I pushed the suspension through moderate higher speed trails with ruts and whoops, and crawled in the rocks. The Slinky I replaced another popular Australian suspension system sold in the U.S., and S. I could tell a big improvement immediately after getting behind the wheel following installation. with the Slinky suspension installed.
After 16 years of owning an 80, I am once again looking for reasons to drive my 80 as often as possible – because it’s just so much fun to drive with the new suspension. So here’s my review of the Stage One Kit. I plan to have a follow-up article sometime soon after upgrading to the Stage Four CDC shocks so that I can give a comparison between the more basic kit and the top-of-the-line setup.
The Slinky Kits use the tagline “#ultimatetourer” referring to them as the ultimate suspension for touring or overlanding, so let’s talk about that type of travel first: primarily moderate to higher speed rocky dirt tracks with ruts and whoops, along with corrugated fire roads. Without question, this is where I saw the biggest improvements. The Autocraft tuning on the Icon 2.0 shocks with the valving used smooths out small bumps and corrugations, and increased valving deeper in the stroke absorbs the big rocks and whoops at higher speeds. Trail irregularities were smoothed dramatically. The body of my 80 remained much more composed and settled without any of the jerks or feeling of being “launched” off a bump that I was accustomed to. As a result I was immediately more confident at higher speeds because the truck felt much more controlled. I didn’t feel like I was wrestling the suspension to keep the truck going where I wanted it to go. The rebound on the 2.0 shocks is just about perfect.
Personally, I wanted a little higher compression because since I was now carrying more speed. At higher speeds, the big bumps were transferring more force to the suspension than they would at lower speeds and the big whoops would occasionally overwhelm the shocks hitting the bump stops, so I would have to slow down a little. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing, but if I had any complaint about the Slinky Long Travel Stage One kit, that was it. But that’s the beauty of the Stage 4 kit – you can make real-time adjustments to the shocks to for your driving style. When I got a bit of time behind the wheel of Darren’s 80 with the suspension with all the bells and whistles, I could tell right away his shocks were set with a slightly stiffer valving and it felt great. Overland trips vary. Sometimes you carry a lot of gear and sometimes you carry less. The differences in weight changes how the suspension behaves and the adjustability would be a welcome feature.
So how were they in the rocks? It was not as easy to get a sense of the differences when crawling in the rocks at low speeds. My 80 felt more stable. The body remained flatter in off camber, cross axle ditches and rocks. I saw an increase in suspension travel, most of it in down travel. I was coming from a 3.5” suspension lift with 2” coil spacers and extended bump stops. With the Slinky coils I lost roughly 2” of ride height, which improved center of gravity, and yet with the change in bump stop, the removal of the coil spacers, and the increased down travel of the new coils, I gained roughly 6” of suspension travel. So while the suspension is targeting overlanders, it’s equally at home in the rocks. More travel, better center of gravity, a more controlled and smoother ride was giving my 80 improvements in all the important aspects of a quality suspension. I had a smile on my face the entire time during Cruise Moab as I got used to this new suspension. I took several 80 owners for rides and within the first minute of being in my truck they all said the same thing, “I gotta get this stuff!”
On the road, the suspension feels firm, but comfortable. It’s not so soft that you feel like it floats. Just as it does in the dirt, it handles bumps and potholes without jarring feedback and keeps the body relatively flat through corners. It feels planted and firm giving feedback from the road surface. It’s difficult to accurately describe what the ride feels like but consistently, when anyone got a chance to experience it first-hand, they understood what the excitement was all about. Is the Slinky Long Travel suspension the Ultimate Overland Suspension? Maybe. It is clearly the best bolt-on suspension I’ve experienced in an 80, albeit though with a few minor shortcomings with the Stage One kit, but that could be attributed to my personal driving style. Overall, I’ve been extremely pleased and have enjoyed my 80 on a whole new level. If you’re an 80 owner looking for a new suspension for your build, or an upgrade from your current setup, I think it’s worth a look at the Slinky Long Travel Kits.
To get your copy of the
Summer 2016 Issue: