Top Truck 2000
In June of 2000, three days of brutal mental and mechanical competition finally came to a happy end for Sam Patton. Sam, owner of Sam's Offroad, and his Ramsey Platinum 9500-equipped '84 CJ7 the HeePee, took first place in the 8th Annual Four Wheeler Top Truck Challenge.
It's quite a battle just to make it to this coveted four-wheeling decathlon. Each year, thousands of hopeful competitors apply for admittance to the Top Truck Challenge. Four Wheeler editors choose the top sixty-five 4x4's which are then featured in the magazine. From here, readers have the opportunity to pick those they think will fare the best. Based on the circulation audience's votes, ten vehicles are chosen to participate in the challenge. Everything from an F-100 pickup to flat fender jeeps to a home-made vehicle was chosen for Top Truck Challenge 2000.
Again this year, contestants gathered at Hollister Hills recreational park in the central coast region of California. With naturally rugged terrain as well as man-made obstacles, Hollister Hills is a paradise for mountain and dirt bike riders, four-wheelers and other off-road enthusiasts. Sixteen diverse categories are used to test the various strengths and weaknesses of each driver and their vehicle. No partiality is given to one particular category-they are scored equally.
As day one kicked off, challengers were judged on such criteria as average ground clearance, average departure angle, turning radius, and the distance they were able to travel up a 30 degree ramp. An inspection of Sam's CJ7 the HeePee, and its equipment won him first place in the engineering category, and judges bounced from vehicle to vehicle for Ride and Drive, a test of the capability to smoothly travel 2 miles of twisting and bumpy paved road.
Day two started at the airport with tests of acceleration and braking. Next was the Frame Twister, a narrow greasy pit obstructed by rocks and telephone poles. Sam's Platinum 9500 Ramsey Winch pulled him out and brought him the fastest time in this event. Following with yet another first place, the CJ7 charged 96 feet across the Mud Pit. The day came to an end with a rock course known as the Mini Rubicon, followed by the Hillclimb and the Tow Test.
As the third and final day approached, equipment was beginning to show wear and tear. The Obstacle Course and the Tank Trap were the only two events of the day and the last two events of the entire competition. Four competitors were unable to maneuver their way through the Obstacle Course in the allotted time, but the Tank Trap caused the most trouble for the Top Truck challengers. A steep quarter-mile trail of thick woods, mud bogs and deep ravines, this treacherous event just couldn't be finished in thirty minutes by seven of the ten drivers.
Sam was almost to clear the course in fifteen minutes when a broken axle left him stranded in the last mud hole. Knowing his only chance to win the Top Truck Challenge depended on this event, Sam and his spotter Mike Cox had to work fast. With two minutes left in regulation time, they hooked the Platinum 9500 to a tree and winched their way toward the finish line. Arriving at the end with just 58 seconds to spare, Sam took third place in this category, enough to secure a victory in the final standings of the Top Truck Challenge 2000.