Land Cruiser Afficionado, Kurt Williams, knows every little thing you can know about Land Cruisers. That’s what happens when you take them apart piece-by-piece and then put them back together. From business to cars, Kurt knows his stuff; since 2001 he’s been at the head of Cruiser Outfitters. Join us as we talk Toyotas and adventure – lots of worldwide adventure, with Kurt.
6:08 – the real school, the actual university, University of Utah
10:05 – that’s when I started recognizing the difference between a Land Cruiser and a Jeep
16:44 – we went full in, it spiraled out of control as we started taking things apart
22:57 – this is like paradise for me
28:13 – had no intentions of doing anything beyond helping Daryl sell off the business
41:44 – let’s talk about Expedition 7
51:23 – we had a Russian fixer with us
Special thanks to Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine for their support of this podcast.
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Welcome to Conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviewed are all involved in the offroad industry. Being involved, like all of my guests are, is a lifestyle, not just a job. I talk to past, present, and future legends, as well as business owners, employees, media, and land use warriors. Men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle we call offroad. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes, and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active in offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world that we live and love and call offroad.
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[00:01:39.180] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Kurt Williams. Kurt is one of three Williams that I know in the Utah area, but he's not one of the two brothers that most people think. I thought so at first, but I was corrected years ago. Kurt is the owner of Cruiser Outfitters. We're going to talk about that business. We're going to talk about the cruiser heritage museum. We're going to talk about Xpedition 7 and X Overland and everything else that evolves around Kurt. Kurt, thank you for coming on board and spending some time with us.
[00:02:19.580] - Kurt Williams
Well, thank you, Rich. Thanks for having me.
[00:02:22.010] - Big Rich Klein
Let's start off right away. Where were you born and raised?
[00:02:28.420] - Kurt Williams
I'm from right here in Utah. In fact, I'm at my shop here in Murray, and I was born in Murray as well, so not too far away. I've been fortunate to travel a lot around the world and different places, but I just can't really think of anywhere I'd want to live other than Utah, primarily because of all the amazing recreation opportunities we have here.
[00:02:47.910] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And that is big there. Of course, there's people out there that are trying to stomp on all that, especially motorized. Maybe we'll get into some of that.
[00:02:59.880] - Kurt Williams
We can talk all about that, too. You bet.
[00:03:03.200] - Big Rich Klein
So how did growing up in Murray, what was it like back... You're in your late 30s now?
[00:03:11.480] - Kurt Williams
Early 40s. I appreciate you saying that. That's kind of you to say, but early 40s.
[00:03:16.440] - Big Rich Klein
Early 40s. So what was it like growing up in Murray 40 years ago?
[00:03:23.360] - Kurt Williams
You know, awesome. I really loved this whole area. I actually grew up in Sandy, which is just a little further south of here, all one giant conglomerate of city. But I was fortunate. We grew up right on the south end of Sandy, like the sandy draper border. And all growing up, we had an area just five minutes away called Corner Canyon. And I grew up riding dirt bikes up there. You could shoot guns up there, and certainly all through high school, could four wheel up there. And it was a mix of private land and then forest service land on the upper sides of it. Unfortunately, nowadays, it's all homes and development and closed off trails to motorize, which is so unfortunate because that's really what got me so interested in offroading is the fact that we could ditch school or take a long lunch and go offroading for a few hours in the middle of the day. We did that a lot, too.
[00:04:13.200] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And what kind of student were you?
[00:04:18.320] - Kurt Williams
I'd say middle of the road. I enjoyed school and had a lot of fun, but I wouldn't call myself a pure academic. I did exactly what it took to get through and get decent enough grades that my parents didn't put the hammer down on me. But I had a lot of fun in high school and junior high, too. So many great adventures and still very fond memories of all the fun things that we did that probably still shouldn't talk about too many of them to this day.
[00:04:46.920] - Big Rich Klein
Especially if you ever have plans on running for political office.
[00:04:51.460] - Kurt Williams
Right. There's photos and video that will pop up one of these days, so I have to watch myself.
[00:04:56.760] - Big Rich Klein
Right, I get it. While in school, did you participate in sports or scouting or anything extra?
[00:05:08.260] - Kurt Williams
Yeah, I was really involved in scouting, which is a big thing here in Utah, or was, at least then. It's tapered off now for a variety of different reasons. But boy scouts are really big, so that had me in the outdoors a lot. And then I played Little League football, and I wrestled all through high school as well.
[00:05:25.360] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, a wrestler. When you wrestled, what weight division did you start off as a freshman, I would imagine?
[00:05:35.020] - Kurt Williams
I was a little guy. I wrestled 119 as a freshman and a sophomore. Maybe sophomore, I was up to 125. And by my senior year, I had to cut quite a bit away, but I was wrestling 152 and 160.
[00:05:49.960] - Big Rich Klein
Wow. Okay. Interesting. And did you go to... I'm going to guess here. You went to college, is that correct?
[00:06:01.210] - Kurt Williams
Yeah, I did. I was right here in Utah.
[00:06:03.260] - Big Rich Klein
And did you go to BYU or Utah?
[00:06:08.660] - Kurt Williams
University of Utah, yeah. The real school, the actual university. I went to Yeah, I went to the U of U. I graduated in... God, man, I'm feeling old now. 2006. I went through the engineering program, so did the mechanical engineering program at the University of Utah, and absolutely loved it. And really don't regret it at all.
[00:06:32.980] - Big Rich Klein
So did you take those classes, mechanical drawing, all that stuff in high school as well?
[00:06:40.640] - Kurt Williams
Not a whole lot. In fact, when I through high school, I did some AP and some college placement classes just to get a little bit of credit. But really, I had a mind of being a business management major, which is ironic given what I actually do now with my life, more so than true mechanical engineering. So I definitely dabble in that a lot with the parts we manufacture and parts we support and tech support. But I started the community college, Salt Lake Community College, SLIC, as it's often called, or Redwood High School, as I call it. It's like the place you go if you don't want to get super serious about school right off the bat, which I wasn't necessarily super serious. I was far more serious about LandCruisers. But to appease my parents and keep progressing my life, I started at the community college and did business management. I got a year, 18 months into that, just a lot of generals, but also started taking some business classes and quickly decided I don't see myself really pursuing this as a degree. I learned a lot. And right, wrong, or indifferent, I decided I started looking around and engineering had always been something I loved.
[00:07:48.010] - Kurt Williams
I worked at a small engine shop as a teenager and had a LandCruiser starting at 15 and was building that with my dad. So always loved mechanics and welding. So engineering just seemed like a more natural fit. And I jumped over to the engineering program and that was that. Kind of stuck with that right to the end.
[00:08:08.540] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. So the LandCruiser, you said you're 15 years old. Was Toyoda's the thing around the house or was it something that just intrigued you?
[00:08:20.300] - Kurt Williams
No, just intrigued me. My dad had some of my earliest memories, and I barely remember this was a late... Well, I guess an early model, but early model, full size bronco. So like '78, '79, just after the relaunch of the newer, bigger Broncos, post box bronco style. And I vaguely remember that. I can't claim to have any memories of that other than us owning one of those one. But really, my dad had an F 250, Ford F 250 that we did a lot of camping. And again, growing up on the south end of the valley there, before it was all developed, there were a lot of dirt roads. And on the way home from an event or something, we could talk my dad into doing some hill climbs and playing around on, but just did a lot of family camping and boating. So we would end up using the 4x4s to drag a boat down the beach and play around that way. It wasn't necessarily go out to do a 4x4 trail, but we would go camping and thus do a 4x4 trail to get to where the camp was. So I grew up around that. The LandCruiser happened...
[00:09:20.940] - Kurt Williams
I had a neighbor that had one and I didn't even know what it was. I'm 10, 11 years old and he was a hang glider actually. And I always remember him having this LandCruiser, which I would have easily mistaken as a Jeep at the time with the hang glider on it, but I came to really recognize what that was later. But I was on a mountain biking trip in Moab. I was 14 years old, 13 or 14, and I was on a mountain biking trip with our scout troop in Moab doing the porcupine... Sorry, we were doing Poison Spider Mesa at this time. We were mountain biking Poison Spider Mesa. And I remember, and I somewhere have some old photos of this, back when you could have those little portable... Not portable, but the disposable cameras, the action cameras that were the coolest thing at.
[00:10:02.550] - Big Rich Klein
The time. The little 110 type of things, yeah.
[00:10:05.200] - Kurt Williams
Exactly. With 20 shots on, then you drop the whole camera off at the local film developer. But I had one of those and a group of land cruisers came through and there was maybe eight or 10 of them. I remember thinking like, Hey, those things are so cool. That's when I first started recognizing the difference between a LandCruiser and a Jeep. And by the time I was 14, 15, I was really starting to look for a vehicle to buy and build. I'd always been into dirt bikes and go karts and had mini bikes and things like that always around the house that we were tinkering with. I would ride them all over town. Sandy was getting quite developed in the south end of Sandy by that time. So we were losing the big fields and places to ride. But I still just rode dirt bikes all over the city and got away with it at the time. One more of those things you can't do these days without getting in a lot of trouble.
[00:10:52.990] - Big Rich Klein
[00:10:53.680] - Kurt Williams
Yeah, so I started shopping for one. I was actually looking at Willys wagons. They really intrigued me as well to get a Willys wagon. I looked at a few and I remember I was 15 years old and this is when you're getting the newspaper to climb the classifieds. I remember calling, I'm like this 14, 15 year old kid that knows nothing about cars, thinks I know a lot, but I know nothing. I remember this guy telling me he has lockers, this Willys GP had lockers, Willys Wagon. And I remember going like, Oh, cool. It's got locking hubs. Awesome. I know what those are because my dad had those on his truck. And the guy's like, No, this has lockers in the differential. I'm like, Okay, yeah, those are great too. I had no clue what they even were. But here's this guy trying to sell me his Jeep. And anyway, I didn't end up buying it. I went and looked at a couple of LandCruisers. And a family member heard that I was looking for a land cruiser. I was 15 at this time. And she says, You know what? My brother has one of those in the back of my parents yard in a little town just South Jordan, just 5, 10 minutes from here, South of Salt Lake.
[00:11:59.620] - Kurt Williams
And she said, He's in the Navy now and he's going to be gone for another four years. Just reenlisted, signed back up again. I know my parents would love to get it out of their yard. Let's see if he'll be willing to sell it. So it took a few months of them writing him letters and negotiating and all of it. But I was able to buy a 1968 FJ 40 for $1500. And it was a pretty rough truck. He was hard on it, but it didn't take much to drag it home and get it running. So that's where it all started.
[00:12:29.030] - Big Rich Klein
Nice, very nice. What was the first thing you did to that LandCruiser, besides.
[00:12:38.240] - Kurt Williams
Clean it? Well, the first, yeah, cleaned it out. There was probably 300 cigarette butts in a rather small LandC ruiser ashtray on the dash. So that took a little while. Little drug parapheria. He was known as a partier in his earlier years before his Navy time. So it took a little while to clean everything out. The first thing I did, and this is a sad story, is my parents have a little bit of a slope driveway. I'm 15, living at mom and dad's house, and they indulge me on letting me rebuild this thing on the side of the house with the help of my dad. He was a contractor, but had always been into cars, so he was very supportive in helping me rebuild this cruiser. But I had it on the side of the house on a little bit of a slant, and the tires were just completely rotted out. And every day, I'd have to air up the tires, and I'd go out there and try and get it to fire up with a little bit of starter fluid. It wasn't a need to car rebuild. It needed a lot of stuff. But he would tell me, Hey, go air up the tires so it doesn't just look like this riffraff on the side of our house.
[00:13:34.000] - Kurt Williams
So the neighbors are all upset. So that day I went out and aired up the tires and I had obviously been playing around with it and left it in neutral, didn't even think about it. Since it was flat tires, it didn't move so I started airing up the tires and it rolls back into the back of that F 250, my dad, and put a nice big dent in the side of it. So that was a sad face day of learning the importance of securing a vehicle before you exit it or checking on those things before you air up tires or do a recovery, for example. So I've never forgotten that lesson because it was an expensive and sad one.
[00:14:06.920] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I was going to say, how expensive was that for you? Did he make you do the repair or fix.
[00:14:12.280] - Kurt Williams
The repair? No, he actually did nothing to the LandCruiser. Absolutely nothing. Just the way it hit on the corner, pretty strong still on the back of an old cruiser, and that hit the bedside of his truck. We were able to pop it out both the way. It was a pretty clean F 250, but it was a work truck for him, so he was very forgiving and didn't stick it to me too bad and make me pay for it because we just popped the dent out and called it good.
[00:14:38.640] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, good. And so then, besides airing up the tires and trying to get it started, what was the goal and process?
[00:14:50.040] - Kurt Williams
Well, the ideal goal was to have that running by the time I got my driver's license, so I had something to run and drive. So this is back in the early... This is mid '90s, '95, '96, I had a Spectra offroad catalog. They were one of the only ones with really good printed material back in the day and still do, still neat company. I would go through that catalog just making lists of all the little things I needed, plus going to our local Toyota dealership and bugging the parts guys for hours on end to go through the parts diagrams on their computer. They were super nice, giving me all these printouts of different aspects so I could make a list and just slowly started buying parts. I worked at a little small engine shop in Draper, the little adjoining city, and made decent money for a 15 year old making, I don't know what it was, nine dollars an hour, which I thought was the world at the time and was really good pay. I would use every penny I had to buy more LandCruiser parts. And every birthday gift, whether it was from my parents or my brothers or my grandparents, I'd say, Hey, I don't need anything special.
[00:15:59.050] - Kurt Williams
I just need this LandCruiser part. So I was beg borrowing and stealing anything I could to get that thing rebuilt by the time I was 16. And we ended up carrying it down a lot further than I hoped. So I didn't have it done by the 16th. So we ended up buying it somewhere along the way. A friend had a 1987 Suzuki Samurai for sale for $1500. No, sorry, $500 for the Lancers. I paid $500 for a 1987 Suzuki Samurai that needed an engine rebuild. It was like blowing smoke out the tell pipe, horrible. My dad and I hurry and rebuilt the motor on that ourselves. That was the vehicle I actually drove when I turned 16 while we were still finishing the Lancers because we ended up doing sheet metal and paint and everything on it.
[00:16:42.460] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, wow. You went full in.
[00:16:44.080] - Kurt Williams
We went full in. It spiraled out of control as we started taking things apart.
[00:16:49.930] - Big Rich Klein
Right. That's pretty typical. My first vehicle and what I did that with was a 54 Volkswagen Bug. Oh, very cool.
[00:16:57.190] - Kurt Williams
Those are neat. And those are also super valuable these days.
[00:17:00.960] - Big Rich Klein
I don't have it any longer. I sold it when I left Utah, Cedar City back in about 2000. But still wish I had it, but no, don't. So then... They gave it up. Yeah, I had to. Anyway, I got a pretty penny for it. No motor, transmission shot, front end shot, but it had all the body parts, all the original body parts, and got three grand for it back in 2000. So I didn't lose out too bad.
[00:17:35.880] - Kurt Williams
Very good. Well, yeah, you didn't do too bad. Let's not shabby. No.
[00:17:39.560] - Big Rich Klein
So then that cruiser, do you still have that cruiser?
[00:17:45.780] - Kurt Williams
No, I don't. Just like your VW. There's many days I wish I could say I did, and I wish I did, but I sold it for a reason. There's a reason at the time, whether it was financial or family. And so I don't necessarily super regret it. And it's been through a handful of owners, but I still know the guy that owns it. He's in Colorado with it now, and he's done a V8 swap and a lot of other things. So it's fun to still see it pop up every once in a while. I've had the chance to buy it back at least twice when it's been listed for sale. And it made no more sense then than it did to keep it. So it was what it was. And I sold that to finish building a 40 that I have now that I think I sold at 99 or 2000. I sold that 68 FJ 40 to finish building the 1972 FJ 40. It's a blue one that I still have to this day. So I've had it for about, man, coming up on 25 years now.
[00:18:39.850] - Big Rich Klein
Nice. You get through high school, you've got your Toyota, and did you keep your Suzuki around for a couple of years? Or once you got the Toyota done, you got rid of the Suzuki?
[00:18:51.800] - Kurt Williams
No, the Suzuki stayed around for a little while. That thing's like an early side by side, I call them. They're like the original side by side. When you think about the size and the capability of those little machines, I still have a really soft spot for those. So that stayed around for a few years. In fact, one of my brothers started driving it. He was using it as a pizza delivery vehicle in the wintertime, so it wasn't driving his car. I kept all the dynamics. And then I ended up selling it to a friend that used it for a while. And I haven't kept track of it since then. But yeah, having the 4x4 was important to me, whether it was the Samurai or the Land cruiser. And I guess I should back up a tiny bit there. The reason I needed, in my mind, had to have a 4x4 was when I was like, Man, that same age, 13, 14, my mom and dad gave me some books for a birthday or Christmas. I don't remember, like some Ghost Towns of Utah and some Lost Treasures of Utah, The Roads of Mind, all these cool old legend books.
[00:19:43.160] - Kurt Williams
And I was like 100 % convinced that I was going to be a gold prospector by the time I could drive, and that I would spend my entire summers in between school up in the mountains prospecting for gold and climbing through old mines and checking out ghost towns, which I still do a lot of to this day, but it didn't come to fruition as a 16 year old that I was living off the grid as a mountain man as I would have hoped. But I did my best. So that's why the 4x4 made sense for me. And that then it turned into becoming, I would call myself a cruiser enthusiast. And then that turned into a business in later years.
[00:20:21.390] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And so through high school, you said you had a job making $9 an hour. What was that again?
[00:20:28.500] - Kurt Williams
I worked at a small engine shop. It was called the Pipe Connection in Draper. It was a landscaping supply place. We didn't sell pipe pipes as you would think these days. We're not Colorado, this is Utah. But it was called the Pipe Connection. And I worked on small engines like sharpened and chainsaw blades or rebuilding lawn mower engines. So it was a fun job and got to start collecting some of my own tools, buying and collecting tools. And it paid pretty well, too, for being 15, 16 years old.
[00:20:57.780] - Big Rich Klein
And after that, what did you step into?
[00:21:01.990] - Kurt Williams
Well, so after that, I ended up getting a job at the local AutoZone. I had been in the AutoZone, grabbing parts. It was the closest part stored of my parents' house and closest to my high school there. One of the closest and just ended up meeting the manager because he recognizes a kid in there buying parts all the time because I've got these old projects that always needed something or needed oil changes. And he ended up offering me a job at some point. So I worked at an auto zone for a couple of years just in high end high, probably just like I'd been back in early college years. And I did some construction along the way, too, with some of the... The auto zone was a night job, but got me dabbling and buying parts and figuring out who sold what around the valley. Made it really good to know where to get all the different things I was always hunting down.
[00:21:46.380] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And then what was the transition from working for other people to having cruiser outfitters? When did that transition take place?
[00:21:58.260] - Kurt Williams
So cruiser outfitters actually existed. It started in '92, so well before I even had a driver's license. And it was in downtown Salt Lake as a land cruiser shop. And there were a couple of cruiser heads that ran it. And I started going down there. I probably went for the first time... I remember going in '95 before I had my driver's license, before I was 16, after we bought that first 68, because I remember having to get my mom to give me a ride there. I didn't even come drive there. And I was looking for a roll bar, just a factory Toyota roll bar. The 68 didn't have a roll bar in it from the factory. There was nothing when you took the top off. And my parents had made a rule that if I was going to take the top off for the LandCruiser, I at least had to have a factory roll bar bolted in the back. So I went down and bought one. And at the time, it was maybe $100. And I remember remember the first time I went there, I remember seeing so many LandCruisers, like 50 plus land cruisers in the parking lot in the parts area where they were parting out, taking things apart and just drooling over.
[00:22:57.020] - Kurt Williams
Oh, my goodness, this is like paradise for me to sit and look at all these different ones. And I'm sure to them, I was just this annoying kid with a bazillion questions. But they were super generous to keep indulging me in answering. And then over the years, the next three, four years, I bought a lot of parts as I rebuilt that 68. And then just after '98, '99, just after high school, I had been down there a lot and got to know Daryl, who was the previous owner of Cruiser Outfitters. And I was wanting to start building a new 40. I had some ideas of things I wanted to do to the next one to make it a little bigger, better yet. And then my first one, and he offered me a job parting out land cruisers. He had, maybe 10 or 12 cruisers outside on the street, on this little side street that were all wrecks or super crusty, rusty ones. And he said, if you part all of those out this summer, you can have all the parts you need off of those to build the cruiser you want to build. Just build them from scratch.
[00:23:56.460] - Kurt Williams
Put disk brake axles off a 60 on a 40 frame. Just get could make a mud of a cruiser, but with this vision of what the perfect setup to me was, I don't think he thought I was really going to do it and take him up on it. But I did. So in between my other jobs and summer, I spent all summer taking apart LandCruisers. So the process was a lot of fun. We'd use the forklift. I'm an 18 year old, right? This is the coolest job in the world to get to lift LandCruisers onto a trailer with a forklift. And they're beat up once. So you're just ramming the forks through the roof. They're usually crusty or rollovers. We'd put them on a trailer, and then I would put them on jackstands on the trailer in all sorts of sketchy ways using a high lift. And then pull the axles out, we'd pull the engines, tran these tickets, anything that was valuable parts, we would pull all that out and put it in the parts warehouse, and then just basically build it like this carcass on there, and then part out a couple more in the parking lot and jam all their bad or crusty or unusable parts into those and then take to the scrapyard.
[00:24:54.580] - Kurt Williams
I learned just a ton about LandCruisers by taking them apart. Didn't mean I knew how to put them back together, but I at least knew where everything went on one of them.
[00:25:04.800] - Big Rich Klein
That's half the battle.
[00:25:06.840] - Kurt Williams
That's half the battle, yeah. And in the process, he totally honored the deal and gave me all the cool parts I needed to build my, the 40 that I still have now. So I started building that 99 and finished it in 2001. So it took me a couple of years and he let me use the shop there after hours or keep it parked over in a corner and built it just out of all different parts from tons of different vehicles to make one FJ 40 that had the goods I wanted. So late model 2 F engine, 60 axles, but the five speed transmission, the best of things that I wanted to have on my dream cruiser.
[00:25:47.930] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. After that working for dismantling and warehousing parts and stuff like that and building your own, how long did it take until you became either a partner or the owner?
[00:26:06.820] - Kurt Williams
Two years. Two or three years. 2001. Along that process, got to know Daryl really well. He's an amazing, neat gentleman that had been building cruisers for a lot of years and had some really cool ones himself. He decided somewhere in the 2001 timeframe that he's going to go and get out of cruisers and go be an underwater dive welder, commercial diver. There was just a ton of money in it at that time. He didn't have any huge family or commitments other than the shop that he owned, but no commitment really kept him from being able to go do that. So he was basically looking to sell the company. And he listed it with some business listing services that came in and took photos of everything. And we're going to try and sell it for a pretty big amount as a runnable business. Nobody took it. Nobody snatched it up and had a lot of people come look at it and just say, Hey, man, this is neat, but I don't know anything about LandCruisers. So it'd be really hard for me to just take this over January first and you leave and here it is.
[00:27:10.440] - Kurt Williams
So it just never sold. So in the meantime, I'm still helping him part out cruisers and got to know really well what we had there through parking them out and the building of my own. And I had already known the folks at Spectra Off Road, including Marv and K. And I had gone down there and picked up parts before for cruiser outfitter and for my build, as well as just gone down there. If my family is on a vacation in California, I make them drive to Spectra to let me go wander around as a 15 year old because it's just paradise. Get to see land cruisers. I've done that to other shops around the US and the world is I've traveled. But I knew Marv and somewhere the conversation came up that, Hey, would you be interested in buying all the used parts we have? So that was going to be Daryl's exit strategy. And I helped broker that deal. Marv and K came up to Salt Lake, spent a day going through all the parts with me, showing them what we had. We had a big shop area, just pretty organized, but also just typical parts shopped, the stuff everywhere.
[00:28:13.280] - Kurt Williams
And he did. He ended up buying not only all the used parts from us, but he bought all the shop equipment, too. That was Daryl's personal stuff because the building was just leased. So I helped, then spent the next few months before Daryl's departure, palletizing all that stuff. So we ended up shipping two diesel loads, two full tractor trailer loads of parts and equipment down to Spectra. And they were pallets stacked, floor to ceiling as tight as we could, shrunk wrapped up, and then loaded into a diesel. So it was a lot of stuff we shipped down there of used parts, and really had no intentions of doing anything beyond that other than helping Daryl to sell off the business. And I got a lot of parts out of the deal as we were parting things out and saying, Hey, I need that for mine. And he was very generous that way as I worked there. And then in the end, he was like, What are we going to do with the business now? It's still cruiser out there. It's still got accounts at ARB back in the day, way before they were a mainstay in accounts with Toyota dealerships and other vendors.
[00:29:18.380] - Kurt Williams
And I said, Man, let me buy that from you. And so I wrote him a check for $10 just to have a monetary number to put on a check and bought it and officially took it over as of January first, 2002. Wow. It's been a while now. $10, huh? Meantime, I'm still $10. Because I got a truckload of stuff that the Toyota dealership wouldn't take back, or Marv didn't want, or we forgot to load up on a pallet or something. It wasn't much. It just didn't take over a whole lot.
[00:29:49.670] - Big Rich Klein
But you still had an established name and goodwill.
[00:29:53.480] - Kurt Williams
Yeah, exactly. And that's what I saw tons of value in it. And as did Daryl, but he wanted to go to a good home. He just didn't want to just walk away from it. So I took over the PO Box Bill. I t transitioned the bank account. So he got the money. He took all the money from it because it was his, rightfully so. And I opened a new bank account. And as of January 1, 2002, it was mine. Good, bad or different, it was mine.
[00:30:20.220] - Big Rich Klein
Interesting. And at that point, obviously, it's a business that you wanted to work. And you had no inventory, basically. Did you have a building or did you just have the name and a bank account and saying, Okay, I'm going to get started on this?
[00:30:43.140] - Kurt Williams
That's it. I had the name, a bank account with no money in it because I started, probably put it whatever they make to have $100 to open a bank account, a business account at the time, and just a tiny bit of random inventory, not even really anything sellable. And meanwhile, Daryl didn't do any internet or e-commerce business because, well, that wasn't really happening at that time anyway, not to any degree. And he was a full in person shop. So we were doing paint and body and reskins of sheet metal tubs and exhaust and engine rebuilds. It wasn't like shipping parts. He did very little of that because just didn't have the time. And he had no building because the building was leased and the lease expired that exact same time frame. And they came in and ended up being a Eurostart, like a BMW shop after that. So I took over what was there. But the most valuable thing to me, the name was valuable, yes. It had some cache, particularly in the local cruiser community. But the accounts were what was valuable because at the time, a lot of people didn't even know who ARB was.
[00:31:43.320] - Kurt Williams
Cruiser guys did, but it was still not a household name. Getting a Toyota dealer account wasn't a huge deal, but it was something. Having a wholesale account with some history there. And then West Coast Differentials and some of these other early brands that we were dealers with back in the late '90s, mid '90s, so there was just some cache there. And meanwhile, I'm still a full time student at that point and still working a construction job and part timing at AutoZone. I gave up on the AutoZone once and said, Hey, that's too much. I got too many irons in the fire and just went to working in construction, doing school, and selling LandC ruiser parts.
[00:32:25.380] - Big Rich Klein
And how did you acquire the parts? Was it just buying up old LandC ruisers or through your accounts, new stuff?
[00:32:38.000] - Kurt Williams
Both, but mostly focusing towards moving towards new stuff. I'd still buy 40s and part them out. I'm 21, 22 years old, living at mom and dad's house still as I went through college. I was actually working on moving them out of the house. That was my story. I was always going to tell them they needed to move. Since I'd lived there my whole life, it wasn't fair. They were very but they were very, very kind to let me... As long as I was going to school and working, I didn't have to pay rent. And I took advantage of that because I also ran a business out of the house for a while, too. And they didn't always love that. But pallets would show up of LandCruiser parts. And they had a little side shop building that I could use, a little shop place I could use to store parts. And I would part out cruisers on the side of their house, but outgrew that within a couple of years and had to get my own place. But yeah, I would just sell parts online and buy new stuff. And I was on Pirate early in those days.
[00:33:33.470] - Kurt Williams
I joined Pirate in '99 timeframe and Mud and roughly not too long after I hate Mud kicked on and would just peddle parts on those places. And I remember being on Pirate and browsing the classifieds for people's wanted ads like, Hey, need 456 gears for my LandCruiser. I'm going like, Hey, I can order and sell those. I've got an account for those. So I would order them and drop ship them or order two of them and sell one, and just started building an inventory from there. And we just kept on rolling that same principle from that time, other than now we stock over 7,500 different parts in our building here in Murray.
[00:34:13.840] - Big Rich Klein
Wow. I was going to ask you, how many skews you how many skus you had. That's pretty good. It's pretty good.
[00:34:19.570] - Kurt Williams
It's grown a lot. We stock a lot of inventory, so now we drop ship about nothing. Our goal is we ship everything same day as orders is our best goal. Even right up to a full suspension kit, if they order it before three o'clock or so, we can still have it palletized and shipped the same day like a full leaf spring kit. We build transmissions in T cases and we usually ship those within 24 hours. You can buy a brand new five speed transmission and split T case for any 40, 50, 60, 70, etc. And we'll ship it within a day or two. So we've really aimed to have enough inventory here to support that.
[00:34:57.480] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. And how many guys do you have working? There's 12.
[00:35:01.050] - Kurt Williams
Of us. We have 12 of us here in the shop. So about half of those are supporting either phone or e-commerce customer service and sales. And the other half would be shipping and then one full time doing installs and tech stuff and a couple that help with that as well. Okay.
[00:35:20.390] - Big Rich Klein
So you're not just selling and rebuilding parts, but you're building or repairing vehicles as well?
[00:35:28.980] - Kurt Williams
We do, yeah. Mostly just builds and installs. We don't get into any restoration services anymore. I haven't played in that game for a long time, but we'll install suspensions, bumpers, winches, snorkels, as well as a lot of turnkey builds. So for example, right now, we're building a bunch of identical, brand new 200 Series LandCruiser, which are the latest generation here in the US. So they're full build. They actually get shipped over to Germany and they cut the back half of them off and turned into campers and then come back to us. And we do the bumpers, the skids, lockers and gears, front and rear fuel tanks, suspension, the whole work. So do a lot of full turnkey builds like that, as well as we've been really fortunate in the last few years to work with Toyota and Lexus corporate in doing some builds. So we've had builds at Sema in their booths the last couple of years.
[00:36:17.860] - Big Rich Klein
Very good. So how did the LandCruiser or the cruiser Heritage Museum spin off of all that?
[00:36:29.890] - Kurt Williams
So yeah. Meanwhile, I'm just all things land cruiser. My life doesn't ever get too far away from land cruisers through my mid 20s and into my 30s. My wife's an amazing human being and an absolute saint because she puts up with all this all the time. This is land cruisers all over the house. Land cruisers, we don't go really anywhere that doesn't somehow end up involving land cruisers. And so she's a rock star about it. And I met a gentleman named Greg Miller, a local to Salt Lake here, well known in the land cruiser community because of his affinity to land cruisers. But his family is like the Larry H. Miller group, a lot of Toyota dealerships and other vehicle Marquis. I met Greg through an event that he was planning and invited me to be involved in the early planning called cruiser fest. And that's just an all thing celebration of land cruisers. And that event still goes on to this day and has become part of the Land Cruiser Museum. In the early days, though, it took place out at the Miller Motorsports Park, which I know you're familiar with because there were rock crawling there back in the days.
[00:37:35.610] - Kurt Williams
In another hat I wore, I did a competitive rock crawling in the early U Rock and old school rock crawl days. I did that for quite a few years and had a lot of fun there. But so I knew some of the people there and knew that organization. We ended up doing the cruiser fest event at the same spot where the Rock Crawls all took place and got to know John Williams, who you mentioned in the intro. John is my uncle, by the way, not a officially, there's no paper trail of that. But if anybody asked, John is my uncle. Okay. That's what we refer to him as. He's the older one. Fantastic. John's shop is like three minutes from my shop here in Murray. We're practically neighbors, but both busy guys, so we don't get to catch up enough. But yeah, so we did cruiser Fest, met Greg through that. And that was an awesome celebration of LandC ruiser. Still happens every year. It's a really cool event. And through that, an event called expedition 7 spooled up. And that was with Greg Miller and Scott braided. And Scott braided is the publisher of Overland Journal, the founder of Overland International and the expedition portal forum, etc.
[00:38:43.320] - Kurt Williams
So really early ground breaker in that realm of overlanding and expedition travel. And Greg and Scott actually introduced him. Scott was in town for the outdoor retailer show, and we just got together at a mutual friend's house. Paul May was doing the little industry party at his house. And those two ended up going to breakfast and talking about their shared love of land cruisers. And Greg said, Man, I want to be able to drive land cruisers on all seven continents. And Scott braided said, Actually, I'd love to do that. And I've even planned a similar trip but with motorcycles. So anyway, things spooled up, and they ended up pitching this idea to drive land cruisers on all seven continents. That's called expedition 7. I was invited to be part of that on the first leg, the North American leg, and then subsequently ended up doing five continents total with expedition 7. Those land cruisers are on display at the Landcruiser Heritage Museum. Expedition 7 is a really neat story to talk all about that because that was a lot of amazing adventures. But during expedition 7, as we travel, Greg and I often talked about there needs to be one place that is like the Landc ruiser Museum.
[00:40:04.360] - Kurt Williams
And the Landc ruisers used Xpedition 7. The first two were called VDJ 78s. They're troop carrier, tropical diesel land cruisers, not available in the US, unfortunately. They came out of Australia. And Greg and Scott were able to go to Japan and ceremonyously watch those vehicles come off the assembly line. It wasn't the exact vehicles just because of the timing of automobile production, but they got to watch the same vehicles come off assembly line. While in Japan, they went and visited a bunch of automotive museums, including Toyota museums. And Greg really noted like, Hey, there's not a Landcruiser Museum. There's a LandCruiser in a museum of Toyotas, but not like one is to celebrate this amazing vehicle, which is undeniable an uncontested Toyota's flagship vehicle. So he set out to change that. So through the Exposition 7 journey, as we're traveling and spending enormous amounts of time together on these road trips through many countries around the world and looking at things, so many cool cruisers around the world, we spooled up this idea of what the Museum would need to have to be properly called a museum, like do it justice to call the Museum. And then that's how the Museum formed.
[00:41:22.960] - Kurt Williams
And that's where the idea came from. And Greg had both the vision but also the financial means to make that possible and spool that up from there. We're now in the third location, which is in downtown Salt Lake in a building retrofitted specifically for the Museum. And it is just absolutely amazing. It's a must visit.
[00:41:44.530] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. and let's talk about the expedition 7, the seven continents. You did five of them. Which ones did you do besides North America?
[00:41:58.460] - Kurt Williams
I did North America. And then following North America, the vehicle shipped over to Europe. I didn't do the Europe section. Greg actually did that with his family. Had a bunch of family members come over and they toured through Europe, which is the easier areas to travel because it's just easy it is to go country to country in Europe, particularly. Then I came back in and did the Asia section, which was through Russia and Siberia. We drove all the way through Russia to Magdalene, which is a really neat adventure. Right now, not even remotely possible. So glad we were able to do it when we did. After that, the vehicle shipped to Australia and I did the Australia section. We crisscrossed all over Australia, including doing the canning stock route, did a self supported trip on that, which is amazing adventure, 1899 kilometers of self supported travel, so I think 1200 miles, which was a really neat off road trip. Then we did, from there, the vehicle shipped to Africa. We did a really amazing journey through South Africa, Namibian, Batswana, including a lot of cool game drives and driving something special about being able to drive next to elephants and rhinoceruses.
[00:43:13.960] - Kurt Williams
Pretty cool. And we did the skeleton color there too, which was also a very unique dunes, about a 1,000 mile route through sand dunes on the skeleton Coast. Very, very remote area. From there, the vehicle shipped to South America. And sorry, from there, the vehicle shipped to Antarctica. One land cruiser went from Africa to Antarctica, so I did not get to do that one. That would have been an amazing adventure, but they had a great trip and did it justice. But they only sent one vehicle, not the full fleet of trucks, which had grown to three at this point, three E7 trucks that we were traveling with. Then they all regrouped again in South America, and we drove them all the way back to Salt Lake for the ship of South America's. They shipped into Buenasares and we drove them all the way down to Ushuaia, which is Patagonia, the Southern drivable portion of the Pan American Highway, and then drove them all the way back to Salt Lake and got back just for cruiser fest, which was happening that weekend. It was quickly planned timing and those vehicles are now on display in the Museum.
[00:44:21.100] - Big Rich Klein
That's pretty dang cool. And how many people would be each vehicle?
[00:44:26.980] - Kurt Williams
Two to three per vehicle, and sometimes more. There were segments where we had... Greg had family members or just other friends from the community. He really wanted to be about sharing those experiences with as many as possible. I think he's often said one of his biggest regrets is ever having empty seats in the vehicle, even one or two empty seats in the back, because that would have just been a great spot and experience to get to know somebody and enrich them, too, by traveling. So he did his best to fill the seats whenever possible.
[00:44:58.380] - Big Rich Klein
And how much time did you spend in Australia?
[00:45:02.880] - Kurt Williams
It was there, that trip, I think for about 10 weeks. Ten weeks? Okay. We did to crisscross Australia.
[00:45:09.340] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. Because I know that, S helly and I went and visited, we were there for 18 days. And I decided the next time I go back, it's got to be for six months.
[00:45:20.920] - Kurt Williams
Yeah, it's easy to cover a lot of ground and spend a lot of time in Australia. Likewise, my wife and I, we went in 2006 with a couple of friends, or another couple, some friends that were also LandC ruiser, the LandC ruiser buddy of mine and his wife, and we were there. Same, we did a three week trip and it was just like go, go, go, which was great. We covered a lot of ground, but we said the same thing, like next time, 60 sounds about right.
[00:45:47.620] - Big Rich Klein
Right. Did you ever have any run ins with the Kangaroos?
[00:45:52.210] - Kurt Williams
We had a lot of run ins with Kangaroos, literal run ins with Kangaroos. Yes, unfortunately, there were some Kangaroos that make it.
[00:46:01.720] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, well, that's all right. That's what happened. The Kangaroo Lover story.
[00:46:05.940] - Kurt Williams
Kind of like a deer.
[00:46:06.980] - Big Rich Klein
In the US. Yes, exactly. I tell the story when we first got to Australia, the first four or five days, all I saw was dead Kangaroos. I swore that the tourism board was just throwing dead Kangaroos out on the road so that tourists could say they saw one. We pulled into this national park, which Australian national parks are state parks here in the United States, I would say, quite a bit different than the national park here. But we pulled into our campsite and there's three big gray Kangaroos standing there. They weren't there when I first pulled in, but as I'm unloading the Land Rover that we had rented, I turn around and just within feet are three big mean mugging Kangaroos. You always see the pictures of the body builder Kangaroos, like they're on steroids or something. And that's exactly what these three looked like. And they probably came to my nose height. And all I thought about was, Oh, my God. I'm going to get jumped by this by three Kangaroos. Did you ever have any close calls?
[00:47:24.500] - Kurt Williams
Yeah. We had some that would get quite close. Even in camp, they'd roll through. But nothing like real close calls. More so with camels. There's a lot of feral or calm wild camels throughout California out back as well. And I'm far more afraid of one of those. As far as an animal strike in a vehicle, it's quite different than hitting a low slung, low center of gravity Kangaroo. You don't want to hit any of them. That's not the goal. Certainly not the goal. But it happens when you spend that much time on the ground and that much driving. But camels are far scarier as far as what would happen to hit one of those with the vehicle.
[00:48:01.420] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, be like Elk. They'd just take the roof off.
[00:48:06.710] - Kurt Williams
Precisely, yeah. So we definitely were on guard for that situation.
[00:48:12.000] - Big Rich Klein
So then when you were in Australia, how many vehicles did you have there? Two or three at that point?
[00:48:18.310] - Kurt Williams
That was three vehicles. We had the original two VD J 78 troopsies. Those were really set up. They could haul four people, but they had all the living apparatus inside, like full bed systems, fridge systems, everything. So they were best set up for two people because then you didn't have to take the beds apart to go back to passenger mode, which we still did a little bit just to accommodate as many people as possible per Greg's want and desire. But really, it was becoming evident we needed a people hauler. And that actually happened on the North America trip. And that's what got me involved is we ended up taking a little 70 series two door pickup truck to be the equipment hauler and really to haul around camera gear and help carry other supplies around. So this other truck became involved. But that truck had a different diesel motor than the V8 turbo diesel. And it was just incongruent in its travel. So we ended up, Greg wanted to get a truck that had the same platform engine and a four door because then it could haul more people. But also it was still a truck, so it could haul a bunch of gear.
[00:49:27.540] - Kurt Williams
So I went over to Australia early before the expedition 7 trip got there and we prebuilt a VD J 79 four door truck, had all the goods. It was built very similar with the bull bar, the winch, everything off road gear, but had a tray back, a can on the back, so think of big enclosed box that have become quite popular here in the US in the last few years. But this was a decade ago. They were very popular in Australia even then, and that became the supply hauler. So for example, when we did the canning stock route, we had nine drums in the back of that truck to carry all the diesel fuel.
[00:50:06.340] - Big Rich Klein
What about this X Overland?
[00:50:10.280] - Kurt Williams
Xpedition Overland is a YouTube adventure series, and it's now on the Overlander Network, which is like a paid network where you can watch episodes, but they'll eventually end up on YouTube later on. So it's a great group of folks. I met Clay Croft, who's the founder of Xpedition Overland, through Xpedition 7. So he was the... Clay and I both traveled to Russia together to do that Russia, Siberia, Asia segment of expedition 7. Clay was going to serve as the cinematographer for that. So the whole adventure was filmed and photographed for different media outlets, also just for Greg's archives of the adventure. And I'd met Clay previously, the other year before. This would be maybe 2011, I guess. He was there pitching his up and coming adventure series that he was planning to film, they were going to drive to Prudhoe Bay, drive up to Alaska and film it and do a YouTube series. And he was there looking for sponsors. So I met him there. And there was the previous cinematographer for expedition 7. His name is Bruce Dorn. He's done a lot of really amazing stuff. The videographer, I guess Bruce had an eye injury and couldn't come to Siberia for E 7.
[00:51:23.270] - Kurt Williams
So Clay was a fill in. And Scott braided gave him maybe 48 hours to decide if he could go. I was already planning on going, but Clay said, Yep, I'm going to shift some things around. I'm going to do this. This is a great opportunity. And so he and I really got to know each other by traveling on that trip. We just had two trucks at that point, the two troopsies. So there were four of us, and then we had a Russian fixer with us, Andrey, awesome human being, helped us navigate all the nuances of traveling in Russia. We'll call him a fixer.
[00:51:59.520] - Big Rich Klein
Sounds like a higher mafia protector.
[00:52:03.090] - Kurt Williams
It feels that way. Yeah. He wasn't private security by any means, but he had traveled that area. He's a 4x4 enthusiast from Russia, but he also just knew how to get through weird situations like border checkpoints. And we got pulled over a handful of times for paperwork checks. And he'd get out there and just puff cigarette smoke in an officer's face. And they'd puff smoke back at him. And they'd yell and argue a bit. Then we'd get back in the cars and drive. Nothing ever happened. He was the guy to have. He just made things happen. And really, he just knew the route through Siberia because that is like the road of bones and pretty fairly established road. We could have certainly navigated, but it was good to have him there to really add some local flair and flavor and help us embrace the culture, too, by being an interpreter. So he was just absolutely a great resource. But there was five of us. So you travel with five people for a month, you really get to know them and chat a lot about their plans and goals and what they've done in life and what they want to do and really learned all about what Clay was planning with expedition overland, which was at that time to drive up to Prudhoe Bay and take some friends and film an adventure series and try and spool something up in that world.
[00:53:13.650] - Kurt Williams
And overlanding, I'm using my air quotations right now, and expeditioning, and all these now common industry buzzwords were really new 10, 11 years ago. And Clay and Scott were breaking ground and really getting that whole industry moving. And they weren't doing it because they wanted an industry around it. They were doing it because they loved that travel and they knew that other people did too. But it was fun to learn what they wanted to do. And Clay was planning his big trip, so I was excited for him. Well, fast forward another year, I had just finished driving back from South America with expedition seventh. We drove, as I mentioned, from Patagonia all the way back through South America, shipped the vehicles from Columbia, from Catechina up to Cologne in Panama and then finished driving through Central America back to Utah. Well, Clay was getting ready to go the opposite direction because he had just finished there the year before they had done their Pan America trip up to Prudhoe Bay. And now they wanted to drive from Montana, where they're located, down to Panama and do the Central American portion of the Pan American Highway. So he had just been calling me asking questions like, Hey, what was travel like here?
[00:54:23.590] - Kurt Williams
What's this border like? Or, How did this work? Or how do you do this? And I was answering the best I could and helping them with any intel and information. And I'd traveled down there a few other times in between Guatemala and Panama and Costa Rica, so had a pretty good vibe on those areas. And he finally was like, Can you come on this trip with us? So I said, Absolutely. It sounds fun. And we drove from... They picked me up in Salt Lake, and we spent maybe six, eight weeks, could have been even a little more, like eight or 10 weeks, driving from Salt Lake down to... We did Baha on that excursion, ferried over to the mainland and drove all the way down to Panama and made it into the Darien Gap into Yaviza, which is like the last little outpost town before you would have to cross the Darien Jungle to get to Columbia, which you can't really drive. So we accomplished that trip. And since I've been on a whole lot of trips with them, we did all of South America and finished the Pan American. We've done Australia, a couple of different trips up into Canada, doing the McKinsey Trail.
[00:55:30.440] - Kurt Williams
We've done... Trying to think of the place. We've done a lot of cool places. And we just, just last year, did a Nordic series where we did Europe, primarily Scandinavia, so Finland, Sweden, up in that area, Norway. And then they shipped to Faroe Islands and Iceland before coming home. So that stuff is all just going to be starting on YouTube in a couple of weeks here.
[00:55:50.980] - Big Rich Klein
Nice. Very nice. What are your plans for the future? Do you have any grand plans on any more travel?
[00:55:59.590] - Kurt Williams
Nothing super set in stone, but just always looking at opportunities. We like to go visit the Dakar. I haven't ever raced the Dakar. That's on my hit list one year. One of these days, I don't know if it'll ever happen because it's financially a lot of money, but just logistics, it's a lot too. But a group of us, we desert race. So we've raced the Baha 1,000 eight or 10 times now, and we run a LandC ruiser on that. Of course, don't get too far away from LandC ruisers. So we've got some desert racing again coming up this year. We'll do the full bore series here in Utah and probably race the 1,000 in Mexico again. And that same group of guys, there's a few of us that really want to do Dakar, as I was alluding to. So we've traveled down to South America a few times, and we've been over to Saudi Arabia twice to watch the Dakar as well. Just to learn more about it, see what the big wax are like, see what the cars are like, see it first person. So that's on a bucket list. I don't know if I'll ever get there.
[00:56:58.920] - Big Rich Klein
Right. Is that the same team that Woody helps out at the 1,000 or comes down to?
[00:57:04.700] - Kurt Williams
Absolutely, yeah. Woody and Heather have come down a handful of times with us over the years and helped do run pits and pit support. Absolutely, yes. We've been doing that for about a decade now as well. It's called Kangaroo Racing. Great group of folks and we have a big group. And this year, we actually supported two cars. The 1,000 last November, we raced our car as well as an LX 600 Lexus, which is like the new Lexus SUV, we did a race support for a team from Japan, and we'll probably help them again this year, too.
[00:57:37.060] - Big Rich Klein
Very good. That's quite a plateful of travel plus business owning. Do you see the business continuing to... As long as they keep producing new series, you'll always have something to work on. Because I would imagine that the old FJ 40s, they're such a classic anymore. It's like the old Broncos trying to find them. Old ones is more difficult. Is that true?
[00:58:06.900] - Kurt Williams
Yeah. No, it's 100 % true. I wonder and worry about the shelf life on the land cruiser business, as I have for a decade. But it's actually just continued to grow for a couple of reasons. One is we still sell a lot of repair parts, the boring stuff like bearings, sills, gaskets, tie rod and kits. So it's not all just about the fun accessories that customers only buy once. A lot of what we sell is the boring stuff they need every 5 to 10 years, the knuckle rebuild kit, the clutch kit. So we've imported and assembled kits for a lot of different just service items. And because of that, half of our business is actually wholesale, which means we're selling to a lot of other cruiser shops and even Toyota dealerships or just Tom's Tire in Kentucky or something. They get a LandC ruiser in and they need a knuckle rebuild kit or a tie rod end kit or rear actual seal. Yeah, they can probably find it other places because certainly they're out there. When I say other places, not traditional cruiser shops, but they would rather call us because we know it's going to fit and we put it together as a kit that comes with the seal, the gasket, the disk gasket, all the items they need to do the job.
[00:59:16.460] - Kurt Williams
So there's more growth for that to happen. But the cruiser market in general, now that land cruisers... They're so prevalent around the world. They're not as prevalent in the US, though, it's a good size market. But once the land cruiser is 25 years old or older, it is legal for import to the United States. That's our federal laws. Canada is 15 years. Different countries have different rules. But we are seeing just a flood of import land cruisers coming to the United States. Once they hit 25 years old, everyone wants these cool turbo diesel and diesel 70s and 80s and the 100 Series will be coming up next. So there's just some really cool models coming over. And I got in on that personally early bought an import LandC ruiser right when they first became legal, a 70 series. It was in 1986. It was a year after they were legal to have in the US. I bought one and we've really done a lot to stock parts for those models, too. So ironically, some of our... They're not our biggest part of the business, but a decent part of our business is selling parts to LandC ruisers that never even came to the US.
[01:00:21.410] - Kurt Williams
Now, we do ship a lot internationally, but a lot of those are just going towards owners of those import vehicle state side and Toyota dealerships that get one in their shop and can't get a clutch kit for it through their normal channels. But we have a clutch kit for a HD J 70 series in stock, for example. Nice. That will continue to grow. There's some excitement there. Toyota made the LandC ruiser into the US up until 2021, the 200 Series. And there's lots of hints and rumors that something new is coming. I think there's still some runaway for us.
[01:00:58.110] - Big Rich Klein
Good. I know that you're on my to call for shopping list. I just posted up a little while ago about the... Shelly wanting to rebuild her, I should say, Series 60 1984 Land cruiser. And it is like bone stock 412,000 miles, and it's got a rod knocker. And I know that the tie rod ends are held together with hose clips, things like that. And I got a broken leaf spring and, of course, some frame rot and all that stuff. But she wants to build the motor herself.
[01:01:35.960] - Kurt Williams
Well, those are all things we can help with. That's our world is parts for engines, parts for steering linkages. And I think that's part of why we do continue to grow is we're actually finding more solutions than ever. I'll tell you one that I'm personally excited about. It's full nerdy, but we now have stock leaf springs for 40 series and 60 series. And when I say stock, they're made in Japan to stock spec look exactly like a stock spring. And that may sound so counterintuitive at most, going like, Man, I'm going to buy a lift kit if I buy new springs. But there's a big contingent of landcruiser owners that don't actually take them off road. And that's great. They build these because they want them to be preserved as originals and they drive them on Sundays. Or maybe they do a little offroading, but they don't necessarily need a lift kit. So we're really excited to have those springs. And here we are, a vehicle that hasn't been made. The newest one was made 35 years ago, or 30 some odd years ago, and we're still now tracking down new parts, new offerings for those vehicles.
[01:02:37.040] - Kurt Williams
Well, that's awesome. The new 60 Series could be a great example of one that would need stuff like that. Maybe you don't need a lift kit or even want one you want to be stock.
[01:02:44.940] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, because I was thinking the only thing I could think of was going to some two and a half inch old man eMuse. With that then becomes you start looking at bigger tires and then you look at gearing, and it was just like, oh, now it's going to just go blown out of proportion here. So I think going the stock route is ideal. That's what she likes anyway.
[01:03:12.570] - Kurt Williams
Yeah. And if you want to build it for off road use, the old me, a couple inch lift. I mean, it's fantastic, right? Bigger tires. I mean, there's so many pros to that. But if she just wants to keep it stock, well, it's fun that there's more options like that popping up, not just from us, the community in general is reproducing a lot of really cool parts. And on the note of the 40 series, you mentioned they're not making them anymore. And you're right, of course, they're not. But now, just in the last three months, a new company popped up. And they were at CMO last year. There's actually a couple companies, but one has a California warehouse now doing full replacement LandC ruiser sheet metal. There's been industry companies doing door skins, door parts, tubs. Aquilue up in Canada has been doing aluminum parts. But these guys are now doing full turnkey, complete sheet metal kits for a 40 series. So you could buy everything, like a full body from them. Not just the tub, but a tub, a top doors. And there's already been companies making reproduction frames. So there's companies like Jonathan Ward at Icon that have been building turnkey, brand new land cruisers using all new and late model parts.
[01:04:24.020] - Kurt Williams
And he uses aquilue tubs and builds beautiful vehicles. But that's going to open up even more now that there's more options for those other parts. I don't think it will slow the economy of those vehicles at all. In fact, it's just going to grow and that people can build something from scratch or maybe restore something that people previously looked at and said, Hey, that thing is unrestorable. It's too far gone. It needs to get parted out now. You may say, Hey, there's a frame. That's all we need to really start with.
[01:04:53.200] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, that's what I'm thinking. That's a great idea. Cool. So personally, kids, you're married?
[01:05:04.720] - Kurt Williams
Yes, happily married. I've got an amazing wife, Candice, that she puts up with all this and actually even embraces and supports it, which is still amazing that she's willing to dive in on this and put up with me. She's a rock star. No kids. We have two dogs, two German shepherds that travel and do a lot of camping with us or provide security and companionship when I am traveling, when she's not able to make it. But she's really busy. She's in food cells and does a lot of travel. She's got a great job and does really good things there. I travel a fair bit. Kids never came into our picture. I've got a bunch of nieces and nephews that we love to spend time with and hang out with, but we love to send them home at the end of.
[01:05:50.200] - Big Rich Klein
The day, too. Yeah, I was going to say that's always easier. That's the great thing about being a grandparent. We got eight grandkids and we can visit them, and that's perfect.
[01:06:02.760] - Kurt Williams
Perfect. And then send them home. Yeah. Exactly. It just wasn't our life planned the way things worked out. But we're both happy. We live in Sandy, the same little ways away from where I grew up. A couple of a couple of miles away. But she also grew up in that same area. And the two of us have traveled a lot. And we just never thought about, never really had an inkling to move anywhere far away because we both love Utah's recreation. So she mountain bikes and hikes, and we do a lot of camping. And of course, I do a lot of offroading and I ride dirt bikes and play around some other things and just love Utah. You know Utah well, we're 70 % public lands, 70 % federal lands, plus get into a sit la land and other state owned properties, we've got pretty fortunate recreation opportunities. And despite the many efforts from a lot of angles to reduce those opportunities, we're still pretty fortunate.
[01:06:54.920] - Big Rich Klein
Right. Before I left Cedar City, one of the things that we were battling with the Feds over was the Escalante Grand Staircase and them wanting to close everything down down there. And that was being pushed by Siouxa and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance or whatever. And it ended up going that direction. But that's a shame. You can still drive the major roads through there, but you can't drive the canyons or the washes or anything like we used to. So hopefully the RS 2477 keeps more of those old roads and accesses to the backcountry open.
[01:07:44.320] - Kurt Williams
Agreed. Yes, definitely. I'm involved. I'm actually doing a class in about two weeks now teaching a class about land use. Rs2477 will be a major topic of that, as well as state tenure right away. So in one of the other hats and irons I have in the fire is still very active in a lot of different land use fronts. I was president of the Utah 4 All Drive Association for quite a while, and I'm a tread lightly master trainer, too. So definitely have a passion for that both because I love to visit those places personally, but also as a business, I see that there's not going to be much need for offroad parts and equipment if there isn't places to use them in the future. So I selfishly, both selfishly and for my business, I guess that's selfish too, perhaps, but I want to see those opportunities preserved for the future. And Grand Stake case National, Escalating National Monument, G, S, E, N, M. That's a tongue twister, isn't it? Yes. That was a great example that they came in and made that a national monument. Bill Clinton did that from not even in Utah, did that from Arizona, as I recall.
[01:08:44.660] - Kurt Williams
And it took quite a few years for all of those route closures to fully be implemented on the ground. But when the dust settled, it was bad. So many neat recreation and motorized opportunities were limited to major corridor roads. And everybody from all sides will agree that the motorized recreation is a growing population, right? With the advent of side by sides and their popularity, but not just to mention van life and all these other outlets for people to drive motorized vehicles on public land, the number is bigger than it ever has been. So putting a growing amount of users onto a dwindling amount of recreation opportunities is not a management strategy to me at all. That's a horrible management strategy. Now you're just corraling more users to less opportunity. That makes no sense. So I am 100 % against historic route closures of any routes that were legal and open. I think they all need to be opened. And you may or may not know this, with the new borders of the Grand Staircase, F. C. O. L. E. National Monument, those routes were going to be preserved and restored, which they were going to come back.
[01:09:53.680] - Kurt Williams
But then we had another election yet again. So we had the new one. President Trump's administration rolled back the size of Grand Staircase National Monument. Grand Staircase, F. C. O. L. E. L. E. N ational Monument, and they rolled back the size of Bears Ears. But then it just got reversed yet again. So we never saw the fruit of all that. We never saw those routes restored. So there was actually one route, Horse Canyon in Grand Staircase that we went and drove because it got reopened during Trump administration. And now, technically, it's closed again because they roll back the previous monument status. So it's a mess down there. It is a mess. And then you enter the state's RS2 2477 claims, the state and county class D road and 2477 claims, it's ugly. And it's going to be in litigation for years.
[01:10:38.870] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And you're talking about the dwindling opportunity for a growing segment. Where we noticed it in California a lot was the Imperial Sand Dunes. It includes glam us and all that area. What used to be just hundreds of square miles, thousands of square miles, like the size of Johnson Valley here, more. They've cut it down to where now everybody is recreating in such a small area of Gordon Wells and the glamorous that they say, Oh, now it's overpopulated. There's too many people. What they've done is they've brought inner city problems out to the recreational areas because they forced everybody elbow to elbow.
[01:11:35.410] - Kurt Williams
It's mismanagement from the top down. It's bad. It's easy to get doom and gloom, and certainly, areas have it far worse than others. Fortunately, Utah, as a whole, we've still got some amazing recreation opportunities for motorized recreation. But every year, every month, there's something new. There's some new resource management plan revision, some new travel management plan, there's always efforts to reduce that. Not to mention, Suwa still has grand visions for the Red Rock Wilderness Act and their wilderness bill. And somehow, despite that same growing number of users and same growing number of issues on the trail, they keep finding more wilderness. So is there even a problem if they keep finding more of it? Maybe we just don't need to do anything. But somehow it's gone from 3 million to 11 million acres of wilderness they found. And if that ever were to happen, that would be a major hit to Motorize Recreation and access opportunities. It's not just about recreation, it's about access to some of these places. And that would be a major hit if that ever happens.
[01:12:39.740] - Big Rich Klein
Right. Because they don't need a big block. All they need to do is block the avenues of access. Right. People need to be aware of that and help support those land use groups that are trying to keep things open or reopen things and vote wisely. Vote wisely. That's it.
[01:13:01.390] - Kurt Williams
Yeah. And support the companies that support those efforts and don't support those companies that don't want to see motorized recreation. It's always heartbreaking for me to see... Rei? Right, exactly. We can name names here. Patagonia? It's always heartbreaking to see somebody's... 100 % of Patagonia. It breaks my heart to see... It's Patagucchi in my mind. But when somebody's got their Patagonia jacket on, telling you how they love this trail, and you're going like, You know those guys put money into closing this trail, the trail we're standing on, they want closed and motorized use. It's no joke. It's that real. That's how it's that black and white. It's that cut and dry.
[01:13:39.660] - Big Rich Klein
That's how it is. Absolutely. Well, Kurt, I want to say thank you very much for spending the time with us and talking about your life and your adventures and especially the land use at the end here, because that to me is... I fought the battle pretty hard in the early 2000s with the Rubicon and some other... I got burned out on it. But now that I've got a little bit more free time, I'm looking at throwing some energy into that. The other thing I'm going to throw energy into and I'm going to ask everybody else to do as well is the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. It's not just about competitions and racers, it's about businesses and land use and everything off road. People need to look at helping with land use and spending $25 a year helping the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, too, because how else can we recognize those that have fought the fight?
[01:14:43.500] - Kurt Williams
That's a great point. I need to learn more about that myself. I followed it more in the recent years, just as there's been inducties that I've personally known and been people recognized and familiar with the organization, but I need a deep dive and learn more about that and support it myself. So that's a great reminder.
[01:14:59.550] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. Well, Kurt, thank you very much and look forward to talking to you some more when we go to get parts for the 84.
[01:15:06.880] - Kurt Williams
Sounds good. We'd love to help. Thanks for the opportunity to chat today, Rich.
[01:15:10.660] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. You take care.
[01:15:11.860] - Kurt Williams
[01:15:12.060] - Big Rich Klein
Right. We'll see you. Okay. Bye. Well, that's another episode of Conversations with Big Rich. I'd like to thank you all for listening. If you could do us a favor and leave us a review on any podcast service that you happen to be listening on, or send us an email or text message or Facebook message, and let me know any ideas that you have, or if there's anybody that you have that you would think would be a great guest, please forward the contact information to me so that we can try to get them on. And always remember, live life to the fullest. Enjoy life as a must. Follow your dreams and live life with all the Gusto you can. Thank you.