A Social Network for Navy Veterans of the United States of America
By David W. Asche
My dad had an old 1954 Willy's Jeep pick-up when I was a kid and we would go hunting and camping every year. I learned all about locking hubs, mud bogs, rough terrain, how to pack things in a vehicle, all kinds of stuff like that. I also learned my dad had always wanted a Warn winch on the front of his truck. He never did get one.
We had that old truck into 1967 when I was riding in the passenger seat and my dad and I were coming home from a one-day hunting trip in the Coast Range of Oregon. I was reading the January 1966 issue of Hot Rod Cartoons, a story called "Vernon Wimple and his Vicious war on Volkswagens". I would be fifteen years old in just a few days. My dad fell asleep while he was driving.
Next thing I knew, I was looking around wondering what the hell just happened. There was a hole in my side of the windshield, there was dust and everyone around was seeing if we were alright. One woman comes to my door window and knocks on it. I roll down the window and she hand me a Kotex out of her purse. She says, "Here, This will help with the bleeding a bit." I took it and it was then i noticed I WAS bleeding from my nose and then I looked in the trucker mirror on the outside of the door. My whole nose was smashed in and I looked like I had just been re-born as a Chinese person or something like it.
Dr. Jordan said it was the worst broken nose he had ever seen, and he was an ear, nose and throat specialist, so he knew what he was talking about.
This was my introduction to the world of four-wheel drives.
My dad and I rebuilt the old Jeep truck. We found a "new" body for it, it was a 1958 body, but it bolted right on. He had that truck up until I went into the Navy in 1971.
After I got out of the Navy, I had a few cars and a wife, and just living as I could. Got in a couple more wrecks, only one was charged to me, which I felt was wrong as the guy who rammed into me was speeding, running a red light and driving without insurance, but what can you do when they don't see it that way?
But it was the wreck my wife got into that changed a few things. We had a 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit, it was cherry and we went camping, fishing and traveling up in all kinds of wilderness with that little car.
She got rammed in the back end and the car became a totaled-out wreck in just a second. She wanted to get one of those rabbit "pick-ups" but I said, "NO. If we get a truck, it will be a four-wheel drive truck."
So, my first four-by four was a little 1981 Datsun model 720 King Cab truck. Blue with chrome wheels. I began setting up with stuff to make it better for exploring the nasty places. Extended range gas tank, tool box full of stuff like chains saws, axes, winching accessories, inside the cab roll bar, off road lights (She had SIX KC Daylighters!) Brush guard on the front along with a Warn M6000 winch, and custom "made by me" winch deck, and belly pans.
This was a truck to be proud of. I put it in a show up in Seattle, Washington at the SeaTac mall. Didn't win any prizes, but was fun anyway. I had announced I was starting a new Four Wheel Drive Club down in the Portland, Oregon area. I also said we would come back to this same show the next year and win.
I began building the club. It was for people who had a four wheel drive vehicle powered by four-cylinder engines only. We went around and put flyers on every Toyota, Nissan(Datsun) Isuzu and Mitsubishi we could find. Even found a couple old CJ jeeps and things like that.
Soon, we had about fifteen people who wanted to not only go out and "see the world" but we had a lot of folks who just plain wanted to learn how to use their vehicles better. We all had a
"design the club emblem" contest, had a vote on the winner, then had t shirts and jackets and door stickers made up.
We had classes, we went on runs into the mountains to let them "get dirty" and have some fun. Christmas tree runs to go get their own tree out of the forest (legally). Snow runs in the winter.
THEN, the pretty blue Datsun got wrecked. Strange thing about this one though...REAL STRANGE.
I had removed the front winch, winch mount, brush guard, belly pans and had put on Rancho Shocks but the ones for the front were back ordered. The truck had been stripped down BY ME to repaint the accessories. It was real strange this went as it did.
The wreck happened late one night as we were going fishing. East bound on the Santiam Highway, a car was ahead of us about a HALF MILE when he went through an intersection with a flashing yellow light. There was a car waiting to turn across my path when that car ahead of me went by.. ..It waited and waited. I say to the wife, "Watch this yard bird turn in front of me"..... HE DID!!!!!!!
Skids, crunching of metal. Wrecked truck. No one hurt too badly. This guy says he will go for help...I say "No, your gonna stay right HERE and if needed, I'll get my .44 Magnum off the floor of the truck and KEEP you here!"
My new truck was a new 1983 model Datsun 720 King Cab Four-By-Four. A white one and all my stuff for it bolted right on, even the new front shocks that finally came in. This one, I had also put in a Detroit Locker in the rear end.
Man, let me tell you. THAT was one wicked little rig! We went on runs with other clubs, it was on a run with the club known as the "Jolly Jeepers" of Gladstone, Oregon. On this run, a writer for "Four Wheeler" magazine was on the run as well. He got pictures of EVERY SINGLE VEHICLE on the run EXCEPT my little white Datsun. HOWEVER, there is a picture of MY winch cable pulling out an old International Scout that had stalled in a creek.
West of Bremerton, Washington, A new off road trail opened up. We were there to help "break it in". I was in a group that had Jeeps and Toyotas in it. I was the sole Nissan product. A Toyota got stalled in the swamp. Over the CB radio, his buddies were giving him a hard time. I just said, "That's why they're called TOW-YOTAS!" I never had a problem in deep water. Another Jeep had dropped into a hole and lost the linkage to his clutch on a tree root or something. He couldn't move and he blocked the way for everyone else. I went around him and my little white Datsun towed that Jeep ALL THE WAY through that mess to the parking area. I hear one guy say, "Hey LOOK! A DATSUN towing a JEEP!" Man, a LOT of people snapped pictures of my Datsun towing out a Jeep!
We also went on a run in Canada. This was sponsored by the" Sasquatch Four Wheelers" in Vancouver B.C. It was weeklong trip through muskeg bogs, forests and mosquito pits in July 1986. we had to pack everything with us as there were no stores or restaurants where we went. I even had two spare tires and had to use both of them by the end of the week! It was A BLAST on this run.
I began helping out on SCCA (Sports Car Clubs of America) Pro Rallies. These were races that take place all across the world, but not on any race tracks. These guys and gals run through logging roads and all kinds of places at NIGHT and in all kinds of weather. A lot of the sponsors are car manufacturers and they test out the very same cars you buy at a dealer this way.
My work at the Pro Rallies started out as simple things like road blocks and crowd control. As I got more into it, I was a genuine Marshall and could work the gates and timers. I volunteered my truck to be a "tow vehicle" and would go down and make sure the run was clear after each stage was done. I had to tow out those who didn't make it and had gone off the road. One car had become wedged between two trees, one tree at the center of the front bumper, the other right up hard against the center of the back bumper. I asked the driver how the hell he got that way...He said he had no idea...I had to dig out my chain saw to get him out. THAT'S how wild these things are.
I also became familiar with some WORLD CLASS drivers. I was at Raymond Ridge stage in South West Washington state in February 1987. I was at the incoming gate watching the proceedings and here comes one Rod Millen. He stops and has his window down getting his incoming time. I say " Hey, Rod!" He says "What?" I say, "You see that little white Datsun parked over there? THAT'S the OFFICIAL tow vehicle for this stage and I have a tow strap with YOUR name on it!"
He replies, "COOL!!" And away he goes.
A few cars back, here comes John Buffam. He checks in with his window down as well. I say, "Hey, John!" He says "Yeah?" I say, "You see that little white Datsun over there? THAT'S The OFFICIAL tow vehicle for this stage and I have a tow strap with your name on it!" He says nothing, but he had a bad attitude towards my words and away he went.
A minute later, here comes a guy walking back to the stage entrance with a large piece of white fiberglass in his hands. He says, "Anybody want a piece of Buffam's Audi Quattro?"
I got excited and said, "Did he crash?" The guys says, "No, He ricocheted off two trees and kept on going!"
Later, at the banquet, some guys were saying the Raymond Ridge stage was the best they had ever gone down.
My little Four Wheel Drive club, we were known as the "Mini-Mudders 4X4X4", went back to the Seattle, Washington SeaTac mall the following year. We entered four vehicles, two Toyotas, and two Nissan/Datsuns. We took First, Second, Third and Fifth place. This was 1983. I have the third place trophy.
It's been a blast.
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