We’re kicking it old school this week with one of the OG competitive rock crawlers, Charlie Melchner. Charlie comes with a unique knowledge of cars and what they can do, but a limited sense of how to build “I can measure with a yardstick, mark it with a crayon and cut it with a torch.” He left the finesse to the builders. Join us for a great conversation while Charlie fills us in on wheeling with all the greats of the sport.
3:16 Lessons learned: Never compliment a salesman on his truck, you might end up changing careers.
4:43 The moment Charlie’s life changed forever and what Bigfoot had to do with it
10:49 What do you mean you’re out of gas money? You only made it to Indiana…
16:29 Lost in Johnson Valley, this is starting to be a common theme in our podcasts
30:53 BFG introduces a new unobtanium tire to rock crawling
47:34 Why you shouldn’t test the buggy the night before a competition
54:04 Introducing the Poop Chute
1:06:39 How Charlie came to race KOH by accidentSupport the show
Big Rich Klein: 0:01
Welcome to the Big Rich show. This podcast will focus on conversations with friends and acquaintances within the four-wheel drive industry. Many of the people that I will be interviewing, you may know the name, you may know some of the history, but let's get in depth with these people and find out what truly makes them a four-wheel drive enthusiast. So now is the time to sit back, grab a cold one and enjoy our conversation.
Big Rich Klein: 0:29
Whether you're crawling the red rocks of Moab or hauling your toys to the trail. Maxxis has the tires you can trust for performance and durability. Four wheels or two Maxxis tires are the choice of champions because they know that whether for work, or play, for fun, or competition. Maxxis tires deliver. Choose Maxxis. Tread victoriously.
Big Rich Klein: 0:56
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank 4Low magazine for contributing to the success of this podcast 4Low Magazine, an enthusiast magazine for the 4x4 off-road community.
Big Rich Klein: 1:11
All right, well, thank you for joining us with another episode of Conversations with Big Rich, and we have none other than Charlie Melchner with us today. He's one of the OG Competitive rock crawlers from the East Coast. Charlie, thank you for coming on board today and, uh, talking with us and letting everybody know who you are. So let's get started. Who are you?
Charlie Melchner: 1:35
first, Rich. Thanks. I appreciate the call and being asked to be on, and I told you, it's an honor for me. I love rock crawling and all the rock sports and stuff, and I really lived it, and I still do. And, uh, to be asked to be a part of this in any way was a really big deal to me. So thank you for doing this and kind of shedding some light on the history of everything. It's out there. Certainly. You'll make some of the old guys like me feel good about it. So thank you. I appreciate that.
Big Rich Klein: 1:57
Well, we need to share the history with everybody. That's now enthusiasts that doesn't know the history.
Charlie Melchner: 2:04
Yeah, it's Ah, it's funny how far it's changed. But I'm sure that will be something will get into in a minute or two. About about the first time we really met in rock crawling. But I'm a small town guy. I live in New York Right now, I used to live in Mahopac, New York, which is about two minutes away from Carmel. I only moved a couple of minutes down the road and it changed my zip code. But I've only been in my new house that I'm in now, which is not a new house, but a new old house for maybe 10 years. Grew up in my town, the local area here. Carmel/Mahopac. Uh, I was born into the marine industry. My mom and dad bought a marina when I was one. They were originally from Down County down in the Bronx. They moved up here. My dad always had Corvettes and used to race dragsters and stuff. And when we moved, they brought me up here in a 63 split window, 327 Corvette. So I was I would lay down in the back of it with all my dare I say it. No seat belts and I would lay in the back with it next to the luggage in the bags, maybe a blanket. My mom would pop in there, and that's how they would come up to the country. And ah, that's That's how they we started driving around and stuff up there was that my parents lived there. They both work for the phone company. My dad bought the marina on a whim. One day he had ah, Dodge pickup truck. He was delivering furniture. He pulled up in front of the marina, ask for directions. The guy that he asked for directions was the owner of the marina, and he said to my dad, Nice truck, My dad, being the forever Salesman said, Want to buy it? The guy said buy my marina and I'll buy your truck. A couple of months later, my parents sold their brand new house they had saved and built and moved into a crappy old marina on the water. My dad knew nothing about the marine industry. He only knew he grew up in the Bronx and City Island. He knew how to scrap bottoms, and he was a wrench. He knew how to work on stuff with all of his friends he was in to those hot rods and stuff. And my life started from that. One year old, I lived above the marina. Um, and I worked there my whole life, finished high school stayed at the marina. Knew I just always wanted to do that. Um, I don't know if I was right about wanting to do it forever, because it's got its ups and downs, but I'm happy it worked out the way it did, because it afforded me the ability to do some incredible things when I was able to to be allowed to do, even though it was restricted on timelines because of you guys rock crawling, make it during the summer, which is during the boating season. It's just ridiculous. You're really, we should have more winter stuff, but that's a whole nother whole another podcast. But honestly, I had I had a great time, you know? I learned mechanics and stuff from my grandfather and my father. I went to all the schools for the boating stuff, learned all about it, and then I would say, when I was in my young teens maybe, about 13 or 14 I saw a Bigfoot Madison Square Garden and that was it. I realized that that I had to have big tires and I didn't know what I was gonna do with him, but I had to have big tires, came home. I bought, Ah, 15 years old going on 16 and I bought a 77 half ton. Chevy proceeded to take a year to, get the body somewhat decent at a local body shop. I swept the floors at night and worked, And I cut the fenders and made it fit 35's and installed a plow on it. So I could make money plowing and stuff and that first Chevy kind of worked my way into. Then another one and another one and another one, and I got into the show truck thing and I was into that crazy chrome everything and 17 shocks on each wheel, 15 stabilizers and you know, nothing that was going, you know, I mean, my trucks always had four wheel drive and I would cut and turn the front end's myself, so that would actually work, because I did use them. But I've got really, really into the show truck thing, and I traveled around and went to a lot of local shows. Won a lot of trophies I was in may be in Boston a little bit down the city a couple times. I did a lot of that and I got so tired of polishing and cleaning and then not really using them and the last truck that I had built was an 85 Chevy and I had done. I made four Link and I put airbags underneath it from an 18 wheeler and had 2.5 tons in it, and I had 48 inch terra tires on it, built it all in the garage myself. When I took that truck, I ended up really liking crushing cars, and then we had an old pit by us where everybody would go with the dirt bikes and stuff. So I started going there and I ended up one day going from driving up the wall, the pit to jumping out of the pit. And I realized real quick, that beautiful paint job and all that stuff and the tilt nose and the blower motor with two big carburetors didn't like landing from 15 feet in the air and didn't like all the shaking. And so it got a little little abused and start to get a little beat up. So I cleaned that up and I sold it and I got a lot of money for it at the time I had gotten like $50,000 for it, and it was a huge, huge thing for me. When I got the money and I went ahead and I was gonna buy this, I was gonna buy that. And instead of doing anything else like that, I started buying trucks to flip and I would buy old Toyotas and Chevy Blazers. And I was starting to make money flipping them while I'm doing that at night. And I started working on an old Jeep that I had built for my brother that I bought. That was a pro mud truck, was a friend of mine and Kenny Blume. We all knew this guy from over in Connecticut, and it was, Ah, 65 or so CJ6 and I bought that and the frame was broken and had no motor and had half ton axles, and I kind of redid that on. That was something was my brothers and we put four wheel steering in it and stuff, but it was kind of almost a show truck, but not that nice. And I kind of bought that and I made that for off roading, and I started going to these Jeep events to go four wheeling. So instead of just being in the pit and driving through streams and rivers, I started going to not Jeep Jamborees, but, uh, these trail fest they had where 35's were a big, tough thing and they would be would pull in and they would check you to make sure you have lockers and your winch worked. And did you have seat belts? You have to have safety checks in order to hit their hard trails. And I went first to those trails I got. You know, people laughed like my truck wasn't gonna work. It wasn't gonna go anywhere, do anything. But it was really well set up. I had ended up putting five thirteen's, innit? Detroit lockers. It had four wheel steering. But you know, I'm using the tractor piston back then. And if three a piece of 5/16 or excuse me? 3 /16 Steel broke. I went to 1/2 inch. You know, it was like I just kept making it heavier, bigger, heavier, bigger, heavier, bigger. And we kept 4 wheeling in it, and we ended up in the snow, and we ended up in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania all over four-wheeling and I just had the best time, and I took an old trailer and fixed that up and started using that, tow it behind my one ton. I had a single wheel, one ton pickup that I had fixed up, and I was towing all around and we were really having fun. And back in the day, the only real big competition before rock crawling was Top Truck Challenge. And I said, You know what? Let's enter Top Truck Challenge. So a buddy of mine who owns an off road shop who back in the day didn't own one, yet, he used to own what was called JD's off road. My good friend Jim Daley, his new company. It's just stay basically the same company. It's just a new name called EZB out of Connecticut extreme vehicle builder. Um, we entered Top Truck Challenge and we took a picture of the truck outside my house in a rock pile that I had a bunch of rocks dropped off years ago so I could just drive up and down him and I lived in this little piece of property, and, uh, we had a big old toy Spiderman zip tied to the hood of it on the grill. And it was a big tall Spider man. It was on there, and everybody was like the Spider Man truck. You know, and I had double shackles and airbags and all sorts of crazy stuff and, um, we'd done all this work to it and I took the picture and we sent it in with the description and lo and behold, we got picked to go Top Truck Challenge. And this was, I giess late 98 going into 99 when the applications were going in 1999. And I said, All right, now what do we do? You know, I mean, we were in New York. The damn thing was in California we had no clue on how, You know what are you gonna do? Nothing to expect with rock crawling for us was nothing like what we do now. You know, you some rocks, we were more. I won't say mud, but big hill climbs and, you know, climbing through ditches and out of things. And I mean, I had a 12,000 lb winch on the front, a 10,000 lb winch on the back I carry, you know, oil ,tap, rotor, spark plugs, grease,, gasoline, water. I mean, I had almost a spare truck in the back of the Jeep and a 44 inch tire in their I ran 44 inch boggers. So we put together a plan to take his leased pickup truck. He had a lease on a brand new Dodge pickup with a V 10 in it. And I had a good friend who was helping me set up today for the podcast Chris Graham and another fella that were gonna drive it to California that first competition. So I laughed. I said all right. That's a great plan. I'll fly out will meet you there. You'll pick us up at the airport we'll compete, cause once again, it was summertime. So this young Chris Graham, still a good friend of mine, him and this other friend. They get in the truck with the V 10 in and we had figured out my friend Jim fuel economy and how long it was gonna take and how many days and all that. We got em set up with all the stuff and 52 straps on the truck holding it down and all the things they left and they called us from maybe Indiana. And said we're out of money we Need more money. We have no more money for gasoline and we're out and we said, Well, that was supposed to be enough to go to California and back and they said, the V10's only getting about 2.5 miles to the gallon right now. So it was towing my truck must have been seven or 8000 pounds.. My trailer that I had fixed up to use the time was heavy. So we figured out how to get em more money and hustled around and got some money into it into an account for them. And they left Indiana and kept going. And thank God they did a great job, safely traveled across the country, towed the truck, Um, and then the funny stories are when they went to come get us from the airport, they couldn't bring the truck in the airport. So they stopped out in the front of the hotel and they took the truck and the trailer, and they put it on the side of the road by a lamp pole and Chris said. Well, I don't anybody to steal it? It's California, right? So they they took the winch, the 12,000 pound winch. They went around a light pole couple times, went back to the trailer and then tightened it up and they did the same thing in the back. So here's my truck, where they go to get me from the airport, me and Jim and they bring us back. And here we are. It's on the side of a road on a hill, blocked shock. But the winches are holding it to light poles strapped in place. Why? Nobody came and tried to cut the cables and tow it or whatever is beyond me. A long story short. We went to Top Truck Challenge. We had an incredible time. We traveled real far. I was there with, matter of fact, a couple of the guys I keep in touch with now and then I talked to him from them, but that was 1999. I think we finished fourth place, which I was happy with. I would have liked to have won it, but for being new and everything we had going on, it was pretty interesting. So I was, uh, it was It was a cool thing to do came home from there and I had the bug real, real bad to ah, to do more and be more competitive. And when we were out there, we saw the Scorpion. He's big. Sonny Honager, so Sonny, The first one he built for Heath, Heath Biggs that there is a judge because he had won the year before. All right, maybe it might have been a year or two before, but he was there, and I was I was amazed by looking at the Scorpion, and I spent a lot of time just looking at the idea of there is no, there's nothing there now, My, my jeep that we came with. I had built the two by four box frame and a roll cage and and I did the whole thing, but I realized it was big. It was heavy and I wanted something else. So we came home and we were working on a truck for Chris Graham, as well, building him a big truck with 44's and coil overs, and I started to build a new truck and we took the Jeep apart on I realized I had to have coil overs. That's where all the cool kids had out in California. I was gonna get coil overs even though I didn't know what I was doing with him. I was getting him. Um, I reached out to Steve Rumore from Avalanche Engineering, talked to him a little bit about coil overs. I bought some coil overs from him and he helped me out a bunch, and I started to build what was really the first. I believe that I don't I don't know anybody else that I will say this. The first full tube chassis buggy on the East Coast was my four seat crusher. We called it the crusher. It was huge was four seats real wide. I sat next to the transmission down low. I had big coil overs on it, Dana sixties four wheel steering and that truck really got me going. We did ah, bunch of rock crawling competitions with it. We left when we left California from Top Truck in 99 came home and I built that new truck. We started going to Paragon Adventure Park, while the time Kyle became one of my best friends and I had ended up going to Paragon Adventure Park all the time, constantly conquering and doing more with it. And then I got into that rams you off road challenge. And I had a lot of fun doing that, running that with Sam from Sam's Off- Road and, uh, it was just a bunch of great. It was friends that I'll have God willing for the rest of my life. And there's will be friends forever, like like with us. My my four seater was a lot of fun, and I did a lot of cool things and then, uh, the Internet Pirate, you know, the best. And the scariest thing that was out there was Pirate 4x4 I remember being on Pirate a couple times with looking, and I was not good. We had Web TV in my house. They might my house back there and we got on Pirate and they were talking about these rock crawling events, and the first one, I believe, was 99. It was in Las Cruces, New Mexico, I think, and I remember watching, and I bought the videos that went with it, and then I found out that there was gonna be a rock crawling event in Johnson Valley in February of 2001. I said, I'm there and we finished Chris Graham's truck. We finished my truck. They capped the tire size for Unlimited at 39.5 So I had 44 so I had to buy five Brand new tires. We loaded everything up onto a big, big goose neck trailer, and Chris and I left New York with my I had a 2001. It was a brand new, maybe had a 1000 miles on it. I bought a Duramax Diesel. I had got the inside scoop that they were coming out with it from Ben Stewart used to work for Four Wheeler back in the day. He was a nice guy. I talked to him a bunch. I ordered the Duramax Diesel four door, short bed that came in. I put about 1000 miles on. I put a a gooseneck hitch in the back of it. brought a big probably a 40 foot long open deck trailer headed to California. No idea. What I was doing showed up at a UROC event in 2001 petrified. I looked at the mountain and I said, Where is the trail? I had no clue. Unloaded my truck and started driving to the mountain to try to see where to go four wheeling I was there a day or two before to try to get a lay of the land and I pull up And I'm now I'm in Cougar Buttes where we went in right by Johnson Valley and I pulled in We unload the trucks and I look up on the mountain and I can see in the distance a bright red truck and I can see Ah, blue and silver truck and maybe a gray truck or something So I drive towards them thinking I'm gonna follow those guys into the trail. I'm from New York, I have no idea where I'm going. I'm just I'm Charlie Melcher. I'm gonna go where I want and I drive in and I can't figure out how they got on the trail and I look up and I see on the trail this guy and I said to me, He goes off You coming down there yells down to me. I look. These were massive boulders. You wanted me to drive in this thing. I said, that's not a trail. I was That was one of the hammers trails, right? So I have no idea. So I drove in, I caught up to him and it ends up. It was Chris Durham and John Currie those were those where the guys in front of me. They held my hand for about 20 minutes or so. We got up a little further and Chris was following me, we got up. They branched off and said we're gonna turn around and go back. But of course, I was from New York smarter than everybody else. I said, we're gonna keep gone. They said, Oh, you know, it's getting dark. Probably should head back down. Got lights and dark. I'll be fine. Right? So wait. It got Good Rich. We drove up to the top of the mountain. We took some amazing sunset pictures. The temperature dropped about 50 degrees. Got really cold. Got down the bottom of the mountain. We pull out, I have no idea where I am. I'm lost. Chris's truck is alternator starts going bad. So now I'm towing them through the desert. Finally, that you must have taken two hours, three hours. It's one in the morning, somehow or another. We leave Chris's truck in the desert with the hazards on, hoping we could come back and find it later. And I just start driving around haphazardly circles and everything that everything tells you not to do. That's what I did out there. I was a typical New Yorker riding around in the desert. Big tires, you know, I knew how to weld and fix stuff. So what could go wrong, Right? Finally, 12 1 o'clock in the morning, we find the pickup truck. Somehow we load my truck up. I proceed to try to go out to find Chris's truck and driving down the pea gravel of the road, and I pull off to the left and I bury my truck, that tow rig in the sand, sink it all the way down. Now what I left out the story was when I was towing Chris my transmission was getting hot, it melted my shift cable, so I only had forward gears. So when I loaded the big truck on the trailer, I loaded it up and put it on, and I was stuck up there and my pick up is stuck and now off in the distance we can see Chris's truck when you realize I know where it is now to get it. So I have to drive off of a 40 something foot deck over trailer triple axle. I drove my four seater off of it sideways. I don't how we didn't roll it over right there and have everything wrecked. Managed to go tow Chris back towed everything on the trailer, went back to the hotel. That was my 1st 1st time in the Hammers. It was a wonderful experience. Freezing cold. Now you know, Didn't have any food, no water, no, None of that almost ran out of gas, melted my shifter, cable, the alternator. But that experience brought me to Ace Alternators. So I met the great guys over there where they did. Chris's alternater some work for us, and I got to meet Chris Durham, which was a big deal, that I met Chris and John Currie. He was very nice to me, and we went through, got the rigs back, set up, went on to the ARCA event and scared to death and another lucky thing for me in my lineup, My course in that. Back then I think we had 100. And I think I look at this sheet. These 140 people were competing over two days. I pulled up to the get in the line up, and the guy in front of me was Johnny G. That man said, Calm down. Don't worry, because I had no idea. And back then he had his white, Avalanche engineering, CJ looking buggy, the red chassis on it and everything else that was half the size of my big, huge four seater. But he held my hand and said, Do this and do that, you know, and he talked me through it, which he was a gentleman, and I'll never forget that to this day. He was just a great person to help me through my first event. I think I finished 35 or 34th out of there. I don't remember exactly, but I finished. I finished. The event ended. In my opinion, it was great for driving from New York to their smaller tires. All the different things was on the Internet, you know. It was a big deal at pictures all over the place. And that was my Really? You know, the first big event I went to was out there, and that was Ah, was It was a great experience for me. I learned a lot and I realized at that point I came home and I went on that. He said I did the Ramsey off road challenge, and I did a few other things, but I knew in order to be more competitive, I had to build another truck so that that's how I that part that I cover enough there
Big Rich Klein: 21:22
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Now, Crusher, was that the one that you competed at in the first NEUROC event in Paragon?
Charlie Melchner: 21:29
So the first event where I met you when you came up and set everything up, I now I had my two seater I had built because I came home from California and my four seater was big and I had sold it. Somebody had bought that from me and I went on. I built Ah, full tube chassis two-seater. I took a boat motor. A turbo400. I got an atlas at this point. I had met Tom Woods a few months earlier. I met him in Johnson Valley, and Tom and I got really, really got along well, and Tom was at the first event with us. I'm sure you remember he was there fixing drive shafts and doing stuff in the first East Coast event that you had there. Paragon. So when I when I had that new truck, I built this. I gotta set it. Tom had a friend from Utah from Germany who was using Unimog axles and putting them in trucks. So this fellow said, let me set you up with my brakes and my parts that I'm using and put him on some, Unimog axles So So I bought some, Unimog axles. What could go wrong, Right? I know how to weld and, you know, and I can measure with a yardstick marked with a crayon cut it with a torch. How bad could it be? Right. I got Unimog axles and I got the parts and pieces and I built a two seater with the V8 and an Atlas and a turbo 400 and Unimog axles and 44 inch tires with Hummer wheels and four wheel steering. And I loved. It was that was called the rock crusher We call because it was my rock series one. So that's the truck I had when I met you. I had went to, heck, I'm trying to think No, I had. 44 is on it. When I met you with, that's what I had had 44 inch tires on it. And I had boggers on the back and TSL's on the front because, you know, the TSL steer better than the boggers. So you got to do and you got cut em a certain way. I'm still a super swamper guy through all the different tires and stuff. Crazy. They'll never work in the rocks, Which just so you know, they'll never work. I had a nickel for every time I heard that, but anyway, that first event, I had the two seater there, and that was where I met you. And I think we had, uh, Kyle LeDuc. Was there Curt? One of them? The father, right? He was there driving Matt from AGR'ss truck.
Big Rich Klein: 23:38
Yep. Bob Roggy came out with me. Yep.
Charlie Melchner: 23:41
That's right. And then we had, uh, somebody had a scorpion buggy there. Don't remember who the guy was. Remember? He had that tan scorpion? Yeah, there was a scorpion there.
Big Rich Klein: 23:53
I don't remember that guy's name, Bob probably would remember. And then that was That was a NEUROC event, that Bob and I came out to help. Big Kyle and Little Kyle. Yeah, you know, put on their first event.
Charlie Melchner: 24:03
Yeah, that's right. It was, uh, you and Bob Hazel right?
Big Rich Klein: 24:07
No. Me and Bob Roggy
Charlie Melchner: 24:09
Oh, that's right. It was Yeah. Bob. Hazel didn't come until we did sports in the rough down there. I remember that.
Big Rich Klein: 24:14
And then, uh, also Vic Carroll from here in Advance Adapters was out there
Charlie Melchner: 24:20
once again a guy that that I see him anywhere I see him. He was another one. What? A gentleman and an ambassador to our sport. Just a great guy.
Big Rich Klein: 24:29
Yeah, And I can remember that that event we went, Bob and I went out wheeling with Kyle and Kyle had I don't know, CJ7 or something like that with only a B pillar cage. Bob is like, Why can't drop off these rocks, you know, and Kyle goes, goes well, I'll drive it. You know, you just spot me. And so we're spotting him off ledges. And there's one of the things that little Kyle looked at. Bob and said So, what do you think of our rocks? And Bob goes their great rocks. Too bad you guys drive around him because all the trails were around the rocks instead of over the top.
Charlie Melchner: 25:05
You got remember 35's were big back then And you couldn't have Detroit's front and rear because you couldn't steer, you know?
Big Rich Klein: 25:10
Yep. No. And it was just It was just a different thing because, you know, we were there was a difference in timing on the West Coast than on the East Coast. No, or even in the middle of the country. If we found that later when we came here to Mason, Texas, where I'm at right now at Katemcy Rocks. We have the same issue where guys were, you know, that was great set of rocks. But when they looked at our courses, they were like, you know, holy shit. What you guys trying to do kill us? You know, and you can remember that first event at the driver's meeting? Everybody, Especially Sunday morning after they've done one day of competition. They were like, you know, you guys were trying to kill us. You're trying to make us look bad. I remember Vic was in the was in the restaurant at the hotel on Saturday night. Or maybe it was Friday night after people who walk the courses and they said, uh, they were saying, You know, the guys were talking like that and Vic looked at him and said, Well, you know, I've been to West Coast events and this is the first East Coast event I've been to and no, they set up the same kind of courses on the West. Yeah, you know, they're not doing anything different to you guys and what they do for others. And then at the driver's meeting, you know, you said the same thing because everybody was still grumbling.
Charlie Melchner: 26:24
Then I remember Rich, when you you pointed me out out there and you said, Charlie something else and I said, Rich, if you put cones on it, I'll try it I said, That's what I said right there in front of it. I said, You put cones on it and I'll try and then you said something about? You had a couple of cones, even back then there were different colors for bonuses. And you're like, what about then? I said, I can't promise all those, but I'll do my best but I remember that.
Big Rich Klein: 26:46
Yeah, And it was, you know, it was it wasn't a shock to me, but it was It was eye opening to the fact that, you know, there was different things going on in different parts of the country. You know what people were used to doing? You know, with Kyle running the park and not even having a full cage. You know, I'm going out there and opening up trails and, you know, doing recoveries or whatever he needed to do and didn't even have a full cage. And we were on. I mean, it was just a bolt into the floorboards. Yeah, I remember is, you know, I was like, Dude, you know, you gotta have a cage on this thing and tie it in. Yeah, it was It was really cool. We helped get that started. You know, I want to say I probably said this to you anyway, but I want to say thank you for stepping up in that driver's meeting and reassuring everybody that we weren't there just to to screw with the East coasters. You know, that's because they were all I mean, there was a first competition for almost everybody.
Charlie Melchner: 27:44
Yeah, there was quite a few people that were upset that they were They could get scratched or they might tip over or something like that.
Big Rich Klein: 27:52
And then there was the guy in the Quiggly van. Oh, my gosh. Yeah, yeah, They just bring it , and I'm looking at this van going, Dude. At least you have a cage wrapped around that drivers seat way we're gonna, that thing was gonna get the piss beat out of it. That's all there was.
Charlie Melchner: 28:07
At the end of that year that didn't have a straight panel left on it that Van, it got dragged through more stuff. I think they cut the back off it at the end of it or something. It got so bad. Talk about a commitment, though. I mean, that thing was like everything was brand new, right?
Big Rich Klein: 28:21
Yeah, it was it was pretty crazy. Yeah, they had just finished it. You know that within a week or two of the event
Charlie Melchner: 28:28
they're a big conversion company out of P A. They do stuff all across the country Quiggly Motor sports, Quiggly 4x4 . Yeah.
Big Rich Klein: 28:34
Yeah, I've seen them in dealerships, even, you know, it's awesome. So OK, from that first event that you did NEUROC where we met and you'd already been doing some of the ARCA events. What went on? What went on from there? Well, how much longer did you continue competing
Charlie Melchner: 28:50
like I competed? Uh, I don't even know what year I stopped. I mean, it's I don't even know. I had to have been 2006 or seven. Somewhere on there. I did. I ran King and hammers in 2010 by accident. Let's put it that way. I'll tell you how that happened, but it was It wasn't meant. It just kind of happened. You know, I of course, I was addicted to it. I had to do it. I was just I wanted to At that same time when NEUROC was going on, I think it was right before that where Jellico was happening. Darryl and ah, Rusty Bray and Ken Shupe. Chris Durham. Everybody was doing that event down there, and it was it was, uh, EROC was what it was, I think was the name of it. And I remember there was some talk about that event because it had happened right before and there was a series that first year, maybe three events or something happened down there. And then there was a lot of talk about it because we had this stuff happening in Pennsylvania. So of course I had to Go to had to go to Tennessee. I had to go to Jellico, I mean happened. I mean You're gonna go. rock crawl, you got to go down there and already knew one of the guys. He was in California with me so he could go to California and come back. I could, and I heard there was guys down there that were really great. So I didn't want to just go against Anybody, I wanted to go against the guys that were really good. So we figured out again, had a get to Tennessee, and you know, Jellico, is like three hotels, two restaurants and one they all share a bathroom. You know, it's like a tiny way went down there, and I think the first event Oh, I asked Kyle to be my spotter then. I said, Why don't we do it together? We'll put Paragon stickers on the truck and NEUROC stickers and go down there. So we went down with my two seater. We went down to the first event, and right before that event I had done an event at Badlands. I think I went to with my two seater with the 44s on it, and this was before sticky tires. There were no stickies and there were no crawlers. Tom Woods and Vic had said to me somewhere after we had talked, and in between that B. F. Goodrich was coming out with a special tire for rock crawling and I need to have it. I call B. F. Goodrich, Jackson Dawson Motor Sports, and what do you think they say to some guy from New York that wants a set of tires like, Yeah, you, we'll let you know, click, right. Uh, I I can't get him right. I'll run my super swampers, but they're supposed to be some unubtainium, magic tire that they're gonna be tested out. Right? So I go to, I go to Badlands. I miss Troy. He was one of my fiercest competitors and one of the nicest men I ever met in some of my best memories in my life of learning about being a man and learning about everything that goes on, he was one of those gentlemen that could I just had a great time in when I miss him. I wish everybody got a chance to meet Troy because he was just a different. He was a different breed. And if you knew him and you've got to spend some time with him, you learned a lot about life from him. He was just an incredible, incredible guy. It's a shame that he got taken away from us But, when I went out there to that first event, I was, uh I climbed a big hill for back in the day that in the first obstacle and when I finished the obstacle I came through and that first day I was in the top three, which was normal. I was never winning all the time. I did good. You know, I was competitive, but I was always changing and trying something. Well, after I finished the first couple obstacles, guy came over to me and, uh, he walked over and he said, Hey, uh, I think you need some better tires on your truck And I said, Yeah, but I heard about these new B F. Goodrich tires or so, but I can't even get on my side. I know I heard that everybody's, you know, it's gonna be the new thing. So he set out Well, he said, Today's your lucky day said, I'm Frank D. Angelo from Jackson Dawson Motor Sports. He said you did a great job. He said, Not only do you have a big mouth and you have a lot to say and everybody loved you and you had fun. He said But You did a great job driving. He said, I'll get you a set of tires out the test. You can't give them to anybody else. We're gonna share him with Tracy Jordan. Jason Paule, Ken Shupe, Chris. Durham was on Goodyears back then, for the longest tine, myself and maybe Kenny Blume. I don't remember those, but there was only about five or six sets. They were going to send them to us. We were gonna share him. We were going to use him a little bit and then send him on to somebody else. That's how it works. So I called him up and said, I have an event going on. There was another NEUROC event going on, and it was like two weeks later. So he said, I'll get your tires out right away. So I was like, Awesome. So he said, Here's the specs on the tires. You know what to do. And they were 17 inch, No. 17 inch. That's like a race car, right? Right. I mean, you gotta what? We're going on a road track 17 inch rim every your 16.5. Come on, buddy. That's what That's what we use. 16.5 or 15 inch not a 17 inch. Nobody's gonna buy a 17 inch rim. Nobody even makes a 17 inch rim, right?, let alone a beadlock right, Rich, who would do that. It's insane, but you're gonna put a 17 inch rim out there. That's just never gonna work. I laughed. I said, Okay, they said they're going to send me five tires and, uh, I started calling around trying to get rims. Nobody had 17 inch bead lock rims. I called back, and I said, Guys, I want to run the tires. I want to run 'em I said, But I don't have 17 inch wheels. So Frank said, Give me five minutes. He calls me back and he says, Call this number ask for Greg, telling me. I already talked to him, give him your address. I called back up. I spoke to this guy once before. He said, OK, what's the address? What's the back spacing? What's the bolt pattern yet? We're gonna build 'em, we'll have 'em out to you this week. I went Well, that's that's That's called knowing people right there. That was Greg Mulkey from Raceline No, that was my first set of beadlock wheels. I didn't get them for free. I bought him, but I didn't mind that at all. I was nobody, and I still kind of nobody. I just like rock crawling. But the tires and wheels came in and they were only 37. So I went from 44's to 37. So the next event, Paragon, everybody kind of laughed. You know, you've got these little tiny pizza cutters on there. What you gonna do with those tires? You know, blah, blah, blah. And they were sticky. I think you know, My God and I had already had a V8, I had portals, I had four wheel steering. So I was already already stacking the deck in my favor because I knew I wanted all that cool shit and I could weld and build. So I was putting it together. I put those 37 's on, I won that event did Great tires were incredible. They were small, but with the portal axles with 37 I was still so far above everybody else. They ended up giving me those tires and saying, Keep, um, just stay with them and I ran. Uh, I went down to EROC then that was the week after that to that very first EROC event. And when I went down to that event, I had the 37's on. And that's where I met Ken Shupe. And I knew Chris again. And and Rusty Bray. I can't remember all the great I mean, I met so many great people down there, and that was something that if I tell people all the time, I have never been to a rock crawling event that was anything like Jellico was in its heyday. I mean, car loads. And I mean, you couldn't. You walked through the crowd after an obstacle and signed autographs. I mean, the people were just It was just the timing, the place, the people we were We were rock stars at that time. I mean, it was, and meanwhile, you know, had a T shirt with an iron on BF Goodrich thing on the side of it, you know, so that that was how you and you have to have the BF Goodrich thing on the thinking on it. I ran that event. I finished third. So I aggravated some of the guys down there, but also made him go right. The kid from New York is learning, so he's doing all right. Left there, kept working on the truck doing stuff, kept rock crawling. Then the rumors were going that there was gonna be a 40 inch tire. I got one of the very first sets of the Well, excuse me. A 39 inch tire Don't wanna want to talk at it. 39 5 You know, I don't want to get in trouble with the period. Correct historians about it. Say we're gonna have this tire, 39 a half inches tall. They sent me some of them. When I said they sent me some, they gave me a sponsorship and it was paying for this. I had to wear a hat in the shirt, but when I read the sponsorship thing, it said 50 when I said 50 - 50 Tires. Rich, I went, what? 50. My 44" boggers lasted me five years. Don't like they were on my yellow Jeep before that, I'm like 50. What am I going to have? 50 tires? Well, they call Frank DeAngelo said What you said you have plenty and we want to do. We don't want you to worry about having any problems at all. And we want to know that if you gotta heat him up where you have a problem, you cut one. Do you do this? I don't think he said. Cut one. I probably just made that up. He didn't say that. He said, If you have an issue with the tire, he said, we want you to have new ones on hand for whenever you need it. You know, you learn as you go along, what they're doing and how it works. And when that happened, Ramsey Winch back in the day, they gave me a whole bunch of winches, You know, 15- 20 winches and said, Put him on your truck. I can't put 20 winches on your truck. That was my sponsorship, you know, And I went out and I ran the first set of East Coast 40 inch crawlers, and I I used those and I did well, Had a great time with them. Ran a bunch of events, went all over the place. But again, knowing what I knew, I knew that I needed to step up again. Jon Bondurant had come out Tiny. I had seen Tiny out there in different places, and it was mind blowing. I mean, we all know the first time you saw it was one of those. How could tiny, tiny little steel pieces you know, it's made out of the right material. The thickness, the breaking strength, the heim joint, the bolt, hollow bolts, you know, aluminum parts, things that we would never do. Lead pieces mounted to the front axle for weight, water in the tires, water in the tires. It still amazes me that people say you put water in your tires. Why did you do that? How do you four wheel without water in your tires? I tried it for a couple years. It's no fun. You need water in your tires We built. I sold that two-seater then. Then I went and built a single seater and I did the same thing. I built a two by four frame on. I put a 4.3 V 6, and this time I had nine inch center sections with Unimog portals on the ends of it. With disc brakes, I had, you know, Rich, one of the things I should say is I've been lucky enough that as I built stuff, my talent has always stayed right about the same level. Maybe got up a little bit, but never to What? What these guys are that a building now? I mean, they are talent, like I remember the first time I met Jesse Haines and his Willy's at Paragon. I mean, Kyle and I talked about him afterwards. We knew he was going to do something just by We watched him stuck in a spot and I could see he understood what the truck he wasn't just driving the tire under the rock and breaking, and he was learning what to do to get the tire you know, to come back. He understood which, you know, you watch people. They either understand what the truck is doing when the front digs or the front poles and settles went to be ready for reverse or not. I I was never I was able to drive, and my building was always, you know, measured with a yardstick, mark it with a crayon, cut it with a torch. That was it. If you needed a hole bigger than what was in my drill bits. We cut the hole with the torch, and I used the die grinder to clean it out the rest of the way. That need to be. There was. No finesse need needed to be stronger. You make it bigger, all right, that's that's just what I did. But I was lucky enough to meet some very, very talented people through the years that got relationships where they built stuff for me. So I built this single seater and I went out west with it and I ran a bunch of events out west and I ran a bunch of stuff back here and it was good. It worked well. It wasn't the best, but it was a single seater and I enjoyed it. Could have done a lot of things different. I didn't understand Link geometry right and spring set up, but I didn't want to know it. I just kind of threw it together and won it. It worked for me in the past, didn't work that great on that one. But I got through the season and did a bunch of stuff, and I still prided myself. I'm going to all the events, and I was still getting exposure for all the right people in all the right things. While that was going on, Tiny had come out. John Bondurant had come out with Nelson and Nelson built Tiny, and I looked at that and went, well, I Yeah, I mean, that's That's it, right? Mean that's that. There we go. That's That's it. That's yeah, that's it. That's it. Shannon had built the LS single seat rear seaterThat was It was a lot of horsepower and he jumped up on things and did stuff but it didn't have a lot of finess to it. There was. There was a few different cars out there. And then he built I wheeled with Mitch Guthrie and with Cody Waggoner. And when they had their Campbell cars with the Ecotechs in the back, and I was wheeling with my car with the V6 in the front of it, and I said, I need the ECO Tech. That's what I need. I couldn't afford that. Volkswagen Motor was I mean, that was insane. Now I would say you you gotta have it if you're going to do that But I guess it would beg to differ when you look at what Jesse's building and some of these other guys are doing and they don't need it. Uh, but I came back, and while I was a Paragon, I had met a bunch of great people. But I have met this one guy that everybody kept saying he could make anything, and his name was David Kemner, and he owned a little off road shop behind his house, and he was one of the most low spoken, very calm, just a brilliant, brilliant man. I haven't talked to him, and I don't even know how long I left years and years ago. I got out of the sport when the economy crashed and everything was happening and I that kind of changed gears. And I was four wheeling very little, but still a little bit. I kind of lost track of him, but Dave Kemner was looking to get more into off road stuff. So when I met him, I said we had talked and he had said to me, What would you build now? I said I would build a rear engine car now and I would do this And he said, Well, let's build it together And I said, Okay, and I have been really lucky at this point. Now B. F. Goodrich's sponsored me, Ramsey Winch had sponsored me. Bilstien Shocks had sponsored me Advance Adapters had sponsored me Raceline had sponsored me. Tom Woods was my biggest. Him, like my friend like Tom, would come up and stay two weeks in New York and stay at my house. I would stay at Tom's House all the time in Utah. I mean, we just had just got along really great, and I met Tom through Jack Betito from New Jersey, who I'm still very close with. We spent all this time and Tom was always telling, you know, telling me to go with this person, that person, do this, do that. And when I went to go build this car with Dave, we had talked about what we needed and of course, needed an ECOTec with a turbo on it. And the only place where the only place to the guy from New York knew where to get one of those motors was Turnkey Engine Supply and, you know, call out the Turnkey Engine Supply and you go from New York. What can you do for me on an engine? And they look in there, I'm gonna say their book. I don't even think it was on the Internet then and they just say, this is the list price and that's it. So it took a little bit of work. I got them to sponsor me, and I got an engine from them. And then I got a Hughes transmission and another Atlas and we had at it, and Dave and I sat down and did what we thought would be the best. We're trying to move the seating in the engine to try to get it a little further forward and one of the things that I was left with, I wanted rear steer it. I've had rear steer in a truck since 1986 or 87. I've either had it in one of my big pickup trucks or my off Roaders, I've have always had rear steer. We started building with all these parts coming in, and I had quite the I always used to say to people, just a parts pile alone was enough for an off road shop to look impressive, even if they got it in where it looked good. That was a bonus, but just a pile of parts that he had in the corner that big engine with the turbo and that shiny transmission, the brand new Atlas and aluminum center sections And, you know, it looks impressive. Those wheels tires. I mean, you had all the stuff while I was doing that stuff I had met. Walker Evans actually forgot. I went to the Chili Challenge on the way home from the ARCA event because I drove across the country for we had to try to find something to Do. So when I went to the Chili Challenge, I met Walker Evans and I met Chip Munk back then on. He had just gotten his scorpion with a Diesel in it, and I went wheeling with those guys for a couple of days and that was they wheel good stuff. It wasn't incredibly hard, but Walker used me as the dig on the other guys all time. So if they couldn't climb something on, then I did. Walker would go. So the kid from New York and the home built 30 day buggy just climbed that hill and you're in $150,000 thing all special, and you can climb it. This was he was making fun. Everybody back then, that's Walker he was he broke balls in the most classy way there was to everybody out there and didn't say. He never said, I'm Walker Evans and I can climb that And I could do this, or I could do that he always used someone else. He said, Look what they're doing. Look what that one's do. Why don't you do that? You get all that money spent, then you can't do that. He was so he kind of was end up sitting on a rock and I think about it now. And I'm on the side of a ledge sitting with him. He's got his arm around me, you know, Let me tell you something, kid, you know? And look, you know, and when you do this, look a little bit more at this, like just things that why he did it, he was just just just still is a great guy. You know what I mean? That relationship with him and everybody else I knew when I was there was talk of me building this car he had with building those Walker Evans air shocks that were so lightweight and everything else and I already had. Bilstein was sponsoring me, but Walker said to me, I'm building something new. You want to set of them for your car? And does anybody say no to Walker Evans? Correct. Yeah. So I said, yes, please. I will take them. So he sent me these ones, and this was back,Rich that we didn't have the regular the regular, so it had a Shrader valve on it. But when you want, have the bladder in it, we had to put the oil in with a needle and take the oil out of it with an actual syringe. It was a little crazy, but that's how they did stuff very precise. So anyway. I got all these great parts, and then I built this moon buggy with Dave and we broke it a few times. And Dave was one of those guys that knew so much that he was building lighter pieces and parts pushing the envelope. No, he worked on airplanes and he knew he could Tig Weld anything. And he was just He understood everything really, really well. He had a great mind, and when he zoned in on something he could, whatever that was, he could figure it out. I don't think it's anything that that man couldn't do. He was really that talented, and I'm sure to this day he's even more talented than ever. He was just a sponge for knowledge and to figure things out. So we built this cool rear steer. The first rear steer moon, a moon buggy, which was really cool, brought it out to the super crawl. We finished it 4 or 5 days before we had to be in like Salt Lake City and I have my single seater. Still, that I was putting up, decide to sell, and then we went to Paragon to test the moon buggy. The night before we were leaving, we had just gotten it running and it was steering and the brakes for work and all back together. And remember the big wall of Paragon? Yep, so famous. So there was one side of it to the right that nobody even Randy Torbett who was the hill climber back there? And another great guy that I met his whole group? I mean, we just had so much fun together. Taught everybody a lot, taught us all how important it was to steer 50 degrees. Nobody knew before Randy until he flipped over and he turned the wheel to the left and drove back on his wheels. We went, but that's magic. Magic. How dowe do that? You know, we went out in the dark when we parked my tow rig and a couple of jeeps and Kyle, and I, we all parked the bottom of that hill and I started trying to climb the hill and we realized I needed water in the front tires, so we filled the front tires. Now it's probably 12:30 - 1 o'clock in the morning, and I went to the far right where nobody had ever climbed, and I was starting to get almost all the way up it. I said, You know what? I'm gonna go for it and I did. I went for it part and I shifted. I held that brake on and put it in second gear and I let go of the handbrake and it jumped up on the wall and it wheelied And it wheelied until the back tires drove past the front tires and it kicked me right off the wall. I landed flat on the roof and then went to the wheels and then went to the roof and then went to the wheels and back to Earth to the wheels. So I went two times to the roof and I landed on the coal road, in the bottom, on the wheels sitting down there, and everybody comes running over, and it was everybody who was helping me get ready, and it's 1-2 in the morning trucks. Not not, buggy's not running. We look like hope. Nothing's wrong and as we start to look, we realize the motor plate that Dave built that held the ECO Tec in place was all there. But the bost part on the motor, all the pieces of the screws done, the engine actually cracked in. The motor fell down when it fell down and broke the power steering pump off, and I fucked it up. You know, the night before we were leaving to go to Super Crawl because I had to try to climb that spot, which was a lot of times was either checkers or wreckers for me. I did that a few times. I've smartened up a little bit since then, but I try. So I left him way, pushed the truck in the trailer. I was exhausted. We have spent a week of nonstop battling to get ready to go to Super Crawl With this new truck, I said, Forget it. We'll leave it at Dave's garage we'll take the single seater. Let's get on the road. We only have. You know, we have two days now to get there. We went back to the garage, and it was my brother in law that my good friend Ricky that worked for me for years and years and a couple other guys. I went into the back of a pickup truck, said I'm gonna go to sleep cause I'm gonna drive the first leg tomorrow. I said if you guys could just dragged it the broken shit out put the little buggy in. And when I wake up in the morning, we'll go on. You guys can sleep. I'll drive the first shift. While I was sleeping, they dragged the moon buggyinside and Dave. And through the middle of the night, welded the engine block back together and made a piece to fit on it to hold it, put the engine back together, and then the power steering pump had actually cracked and broken off the fitting end of it. He took the pump apart, grounded them, cleaned it and welded it back together and welded in the A end fitting that used to thread in and actually welded the power steering pump back together. So needless to say, When I woke up in the morning, the car was all fixed. Why was they did it? They must have stayed up mean till six in the morning. Matter of fact, I'm sure that because I woke up and they were inside, showering and stuff like they were getting ready, you know, they were just finishing up for the night. So we loaded up and had a like, a 53 foot enclosed trailer. And I had my pick up truck and we headed out across country, not not knowing any more than it started. It had fluids in it again. And it will take a real good shot to the roof a couple of times because I did it and we got out to Super Crawl and, you know, in the first moon buggy, you're sitting sideways in the seat. We did that. We copied what everybody else did. You know that worked Obviously, there's a reason why you do. So we, I'm not ashamed to say we tried to better it a little bit, but we copied that idea and we pulled in and all the fanfare and the pictures, and it was great, and I went out to the first obstacles, and I was a drove through a nice little sneak part which is perfect for my truck. And then there was a break over. It was maybe three foot tall, so normally I just drive over the break over the winch would go out the front, the tires would now drag you over. I went over the front, tires dropped out. I turned to get lined up for the next cone. I gave it some gas and I heard plink and all the sudden transmission fluid started pouring out in the front. The front drive shaft bound up because with a full the droop. It made it a full droop. But the traction when it pulled the tires down on the body was up in the air. It was enough that it hit, and when it hit, it actually cracked the transmission. Well, I So it was the first obstacle. So we get out there. We go back to the gravel parking lot and what we do we do. We start pulling the transmission and everybody stand. Charlie's transmission is broke, so somebody has another powerglide. So, Rich, we way think broken transmission out and put the whole thing back in, covered in oil. Back in my last obstacle, the day we go ahead and we go to pull out, there's no second gear in transmission only has first gear now the guy I had no idea he was just doing me a favor. We I went back out, Couldn't even couldn't even do the first obstacle. Second was gone, first was losing. Is it? As we were moving even with fluid in It was just whatever it was that night. Chris Durham. Rusty Bray. Brian that used to own Anarchy off road. Yep. He was in a bad accident and stuff. He was another guy. That was really good to me. We went to his shop in the middle of the night and we tore the transmission out, took the other one, and Rusty Bray stayed, and Chris stayed. And out of those two broken transmissions, they made one transmission. And then we put it back in Stayed up like I said, all night. Went the next day. I had a great day finished. No, I look the numbers, but I'm sure top 20-30 whatever. It was for a brand new car and was really excited on what we did. But I I went to that, and I had been to the I've been in a couple of super crawls, so it was a good time when I have done it. But that was the moon buggy. And then from Then on I kept four wheeling and I did a whole I don't think I can't event count how many events. I did of yours. I mean, I couldn't even I couldn't even think I remember the one. And we're I think we were in Jellico. When I was when it rains so bad the mud was so terrible and we were down by battleship and I I swear that you were there with your hat on standing in the pouring rain and I I came off battleship my turn And then they had that big long hill next door with the flat rate rock Next and you had to go get me There was no I'm in what is a 50 atlas with 5 40 gears, some in second gear and low range And the motors at 7000 popping off the, you know, having blown off the ball If I was going off and we're climbing up that hill, I came up when you had to go around a rock. You know, you guys did a great job of making us wreck our shit all the time. Thank you. around the cone. So I went up and I'm rear steering around this cone of trying to swing it around cause everybody was hitting the cone. And of course, the smart thing to do that you wanted us to do was to get the front tires through, take the cone with your back left. Nobody was gonna make the cone, except Charlie was going to try to make the cone like an idiot. Like all the rest of us idiots, you know, hit it so hard to steer turn that I flung around when the top When the truck loaded back up on the other side The tires were now turned uphill underneath that it flipped me over to the roof of all the way over again. And the mud was like a big slug came in the truck, and I went all the way back on for the wheels again. And you're like, I remember you stand there, and you're like, You got the progress you got. Like, I didn't get through a feeling like I'm screaming enough. The little kitchen timer is going off up there. The one minute left. And you know, I think that this time it might have been still 1 1002 back in the day, when you guys used to count, That was all know the story when I got the loophole with that, I got trouble for doing that that thing. But I finally got out of finished and it flipped over and there was mud. And I hate the mud, and it was just a mess and everything else. But that was a great event down there, too. We had I mean, just we just went for it. I mean, we had no business doing the stuff we were doing. It was insane, right? And even that you gotta look at now what you put us through what you understood. I mean, that was insane. Yes, that drop off thing we did mean.
Big Rich Klein: 56:08
Oh, that's off of that battleship one where we had that wedgie. Yeah, we call it the Poop chute
Charlie Melchner: 56:14
Yeah, that's a You drive off with your left, you're leaning on the back tire would catch and you drive out. So you were actually over the axis point. You had to drive out in your front wheels. Thank you. Really appreciate that
Big Rich Klein: 56:27
We cut a tree out in that area just so that we could get to that crackline.
Charlie Melchner: 56:31
I remember I remember. That was That was. But like I said, memories
Big Rich Klein: 56:36
Remember it was a bonus.
Charlie Melchner: 56:38
Yeah, but come on, that's that's really that's the regular line for anybody who's in the game, right? I mean, you put cones on it, you painted a different color. If you don't try it, either gotta go get a new skirt when you're done or you got a deal with everybody else. That's it. Right now, this back in the day, it was we were going for, right? I mean, it was just a It was a different time. And that moon buggy treated me really, really well. And I wheeled all over with that. I was Ah, I did a lot of events with that. I traveled all over. I broke a bunch of stuff on it and had to go from lightweight stuff too heavier duty stuff because I wasn't as light, and I had a little more power than some of those other cars did that were first built. But we learned and got our way through it, and I was competitive with it. I had a lot of fun doing that. That was a I was a great time and I said, Dave Kemner was incredible, you know? And that's when Troy was building all those WASP chassis, the Badlands chassis, and Jesse went to work with him. Jesse moved the mud trucks stuff and everything else he built Top Truck Challenge. And then he went there. He was building stuff when he was, you know, still is incredibly talented. But just what, you know, between going to Tennessee and then in Pennsylvania and Indiana, and I mean we were We were all over the place and it seemed insane. Get in the truck and drive 15 - 16 -17 hours straight and sleep in the back seat or get a hotel room, wake up the next day, go compete for two days, then you know, wait just enough so that we could maybe get a check. You know, the sponsor would give you a BFGoodrich would give you $1,000 -$2,000 -$3000 for second or third, a hat. You know, we get $500 for being there, and it cost us 10 grand to get their to. Beat the crap out of our stuff and we wheeled for 15 minutes and I'm like I just drove 36 hours to wheel for 40 minutes. And that's if your stuff didn't break. Yeah, after, But it broke. And then you were really And this is before I mean 35 spline, Axles. Some of us had them. But this was before there was really, you know, like I had my moon buggy when I saw the special yokes that, like the Spidertrax yokes now that Currie actually, that Currie started those. I asked John Currie about buying instead of those, and he said, You can't buy those, kid. That's what he told me. I took pictures of him and sent them the Dave Kemner. And actually, that's how talented Dave Kemner was, he built them right in his shop, and, uh, he sent them out to get broached and everything else. But I had those back in the day and Jack from CTM, you know? I mean, what another just a great guy. But I have to tell you, that was some of the best times of my life. My my wife and I were dating at the time then we got engaged. While that was going on, she was traveling around with me going four wheeling and doing stuff. And in between this, I was always rec wheeling somewhere. I was always picking up a truck and a Toyota and putting forties on it of 43s and lockers or I build the tube chassis. I've had a I've been lucky enough to have some cool rigs through the years. I had Mike Shaffers first, ARCA Suzuki. I had that for a year or two , and I had Chris Durhams aluminum body CJ6 with 3 60 in it. I had that for a few years. You know, I did a lot of horse trading, you know, I'm shuffled stuff around and bought, sold, Traded, you know, I like doing that. Eso I ended up with a lot of different vehicles through the years, and it's funny. My, my two-seater, my four seater Well, the rock crushers, the ones that I built are both still out there. The two-seaters in Indiana and the four seater is in like Alabama or something like that. I still see pictures of them stuff. They're out there out there. So my moon buggy I took apart, I took that apart, and I sold the frame and the chassis and some other stuff from I sold the motor. Alan Woodson bought the motor from me and forget about whatever. I sold a bunch of this stuff and started building something else from now. But yeah, I did a lot of that stuff. A lot of four wheeling, a lot of travelling, wasted a lot of money, tried a lot of things, but I would never I would never, ever change it. I slept on the side of the road next to canyon walls and made more wrong turns. I drove 200 miles the wrong way. One night I got off the exit to get fuel. And like New Mexico, Kyle was asleep. I got back on the highway going the wrong way. I drove 200 miles back from where I just came. He woke up. He said, We're just here. When I went to sleep, I said, I don't know what the wrong way And I mean, I've been through all that. I was lucky Tom Woods used to let me leave my my big my truck and my trailer and my all my stuff out there with him. I put it in his place so I could fly out for some of the West Coast events. But it was It was a good stuff. And then, you know, life economy crashed. I was building a new shop. My dad was sick for a little bit, and I was busy. You know, I was always running and doing stuff, Marina, but he was behind the counter and doing all that, you know, kept the business running. It was his business at the time, and I was just running as much as I could. And then he was sick and I had to step up a little bit more there. He's all good. My dad's perfect still, he and my mom and great. But I have to step up a little bit more there and do a little bit more, which rightfully so. I got my time to play, and then I said, with the economy, I just borrowed a bunch of money to build a new repair shop. I got hit three months after I borrowed all the money. Everything went wrong, so I was trying to get out of that, so I kind of slowed down. But I had in that whole time I have been building a truck with Dave Kemner, but just to go rec wheeling and I had swore off competition, I had kind of said, and I was tired of human error off. Did he or did he not hit the cone? And, you know, I was kind of getting tired of always being the bride's maid. You know, I was just good enough to be within a few points of the winner and one bad call. It seemed like in my mind, you know, you get, you know, it's they were always against me and I got tired of being and they weren't, You know, the judges were great people. I never held anything against him. I just At one point I went to an event and it was Matt Deas and Jesse and whole bunch of us were there. And one of the other competitors, I think it was Matt. He said, Uh, I have video my wife took of Charlie clearing the gate. Can we use that? And they said, No, we can't use video evidence of it. I just said at that point I packed all my stuff up and I went home. I said I'll go play in my own sandbox now. I just couldn't. I was tired of not winning, spending all that time and effort. And I you know, I was not the best. I knew I wasn't. But I was good enough to be in that group. And, uh, you know, that type of thing from that? When I got rid of all that stuff, I went back home and, uh, I decided I wanted to go trail four wheeling again. I wanted to conquer all those trails, but I didn't really care so much about the cones. I just want to go four wheeling. So I started building this my big silver truck, and I did that with Dave Kemner, and I think I covered up until then. Heck, that's a lot of shit, you know? I mean, I did a lot of stuff up until then, and I met some great people, and Dave Kemner said to me, Let's build something cool if you're gonna build a trail truck. And I knew what I wanted. I wanted four wheel steering and I wanted a lot of horse power, and, uh, I had the general idea, and he was willing to build it. And I had another truck and I said to him, If you build it for me, I'm also file the parts. Just build the whole truck. I'll buy all the parts and I'll give you this other truck I have which happened to be Chris Durhams old Aluminum C. J. That I was wheeling that. So Dave agreed, and we started on that building I bought Ah, 4 34 old school small block. Chevy was like about 600 some odd horsepower. 450 foot pounds of torque perfect trail truck like a 4500 stall to get moving. I went ahead and at that motor, and I got a Turbo 400. And then I bought a stack. I left Atlas because I wanted a three speed. I wanted to be able to rip in the middle gear and have the low, low gear way back when Thom and Eddie from Spidertrax in New Jersey, I had wheeled with them quite a few times, so I had a relationship with those guys and I got one of the very first sets of the Spidertrax axles from them, and I took those axles and I used those in in this truck and as we were building it, I didn't want sponsors. I had had enough of being beholden to someone else. To have to be here will be there. I said. I will just write the check. It's cheaper in the long run for me. I don't wanna and then I could buy whatever I want. I don't have to say I think this is better. That's better. Not that I did that with my my sponsored stuff because if someone offered me something, I thought it was junk. I wouldn't take it. But certainly I ran comparable pieces. Whoever gave me the free thing if they were both good. But now I don't do everything we have. We buy because I I believe in. And I think it's the right stuff to use for our type of wheeling. So we decided we were gonna build an aluminum tub, was gonna be a Willy's tube chassis four wheel steering, coil overs and bumps. We started on that process and that was probably 2006 and then it took a couple of years because, you know, Dave was in no rush. I had a lot going on. Then King of the Hammers happened and everybody. And how do you How do you go from being a rock crawler you know to do in that, oh and in between? Then that damn XRRA. They came to Paragon and JT Taylor. Jeez, I don't even who else? It was a whole bunch of the guys came up and they had a rock race event and they begged me to come down there. So I came down, I let the water out of the tires of the moon buggy. And it was me, J T. Erik Miller. John Boring. There was maybe only six of us there. This is even Erik Miller. You know, he was a baby back then. He had, to have his dad sign his release? Yeah, he was like, you know, he was a kid, you know, a great kid and talented His TJ is Rubicon. Looked like it was a crushed up can. It was so beat up every panels hammered on it. But I ended up in that XRRA event on a cold, windy morning at the end of the season, and I won it with four cylinder with barely any speed. But just because I could hold my foot to the floor and it wouldn't it wasn't gonna roll. It wasn't gonna break and it just bounced around and went through Everything I won this little event was nothing was not. It was this nothing event, but it was fun. They started doing the King of the Hammers and things started evolving. And while I was building this my I wanted the ultimate trail rig, Four seats ,heat, top, so all the different. I want to be able to everything with it. Well, I was building that one of my old sponsors called me up and said, I'd like you to race King of the Hammers and I said, I don't have that kind of money. That kind of resource is just going to California. I know what it takes. I'm not looking to do that makes it Well, it's in February. So you what else you gonna do? And I said, Well, save money. And I said, I I've been broke for so long now from rock crawling. I was just coming back from it than the economy crashed, and I was really hanging on by a thread, and I was slowly piecing together my truck, and I had had the wheels and tires from the moon buggy, the axles from it. And I had a whole bunch of stuff saved that I kept saving. And then those tires that BF Goodrich had sent me. I never use all. What ended up being a couple of 100 of them at the end, you know? I mean, I just kept moving them along to fund the project. Yep, I guess. I don't know who ever called me about doing King of the Hammers. I don't really remember who it what was, but they said, I'll even help you. We got a whole bunch of people to give you some stuff and we'll get you some money and this that the other. So I said, You want me out there that bad? You guys just get me all the stuff I said and figure out how to get it done. I said, And I'll, I'll work on getting somebody and I'll work on getting it built on done and lo and behold, they call me back when I got shocks and bumps, stops and springs and uh, center sections, and, uh I mean, wheels, tires like and I had a lot of stuff already, but I was getting new stuff so I could sell the old stuff and liquidate And I got all these things were getting given to me now all of a sudden I realized again I had committed to now going across the country had only been to the hammers a couple of times, not nearly knowing what it was. Now they want me to go fast in the desert. All right, What do I know about that? Right. And I said, All right, we'll do it. And I have been spent a lot of time four wheeling a lot of time. I have had a good couple of trips for the last few years with Bill Avista from Canada who was, Ah, a really good guy and a good friend of mine. And he had so much technology and stuff in a lot of things. But he was in the Canadian military and he was a navigator, and I could barely I'm lucky I can find my way to work. I'm terrible when it comes to being in here. I don't know what people go ahead north. Your I don't know which way is north. Like, you know, it doesn't not on the truck in front of me get no clues. So I called him up and said, You want to race King of the Hammers? And he said, Are you serious? I said, Yeah, let's do it, Let's do it. I'm building a truck and it's not done yet And I got parts. So he got involved and got some more people to throw us some more stuff, and I had some great people who gave me some money and a lot of parts and pieces and again, like everything when everybody's getting ready for King and hammers or something, it came down, but the last two weeks before we were ready to leave for King and hammers, this truck was not nearly excuse me Before we were supposed to race, we had to qualify. Now that's what we had to qualify Rausch Creek had a qualifier and it was whatever the date was and we were down to the wire now to get done. So about 5-6-7 of the guys from Canada all came down. My group of guys, we all went to Dave's shop in Pennsylvania and work a marathon for 4-5 days. And I mean everything on mounting wheels, tires, bleeding brakess, getting, you know, everything done on it. When we get all this work to get the thing ready. And as we're doing everything, we finally get it to run. And it's smoking so bad, cause it was a motor out of a race car with a tune in for like a ten second car it's just craziness. We finish it late the day before. We have to be in the race the next day, so we finish it like five oclock. I take it out on Dave's backyard behind his house and I blow a bunch of doughnuts with it, and I hit a big dirt mound. I jump over the dirt mound and I said, All right, we're good. I'm I'll be all right. It won't overheat. It's got a big radiator, a big transmission cooler. It's got four wheels steering good seats and seatbelts. I'm good to go. So he said spent a couple more minutes with it. That's all right. So I started doing doughnuts in the wet grass, and I just and I mean I must have been at 6000 rpm blown donuts. And when I let off the gas, the pressure from the steering pump a bunch of the hydraulic steering came out of the reservoir and dumped on the Exhausted made a big flash fire. You know, like I mean, it was just done, you know, like just just finished. Like it's it's been out for half hour. We just had a kind of look at it, you know, stickers And the body was perfect. There wasn't a dent in it, and it looked mint. I got a flash fire. We got that out real quick and figured out how to fix that. And we took it the next morning and went to that Rausch Creek qualifier. And we showed up. No test time. No nothing buckled in,put on our suits. And, of course, it was a muddy mess at Rausch First lap did Okay, second lap. Everybody was broken on that trail. Five climb. I went hit trial five and started going up, and we were slide. So I hit the rear steer to go sideways across it. The rear caught. I flipped over and I went, That's it, It's over. We're done. We're upside down or off the trail and I mean, you know, oil in the cylinders. And Bill actually said, Come on, Come on, come on, let's let's go, let's go. We got the winch out and we went out to the tree, back over and, you know, flipped it all way back over. And to my surprise, it started right up No smoke I didn't pull the plugs. And we got back in and buckled up. You know, you're a window can't can't reach out the window net that, you know, like that was a big all races Gotta have your seatbelts got out of your Parker pump you got You know, all that crap that makes you a terrible rock crawler When you when you don't know how to rock crawl with it, you gotta practice with it. And we got all buckled in and shot that one shot right up the hill. Then and we started going, I started just passing everybody just passing and passing and passing. And I got in a groove where I knew the two spots on the hill to climb and the other spot on the other side and we ended up finishing the race and I think top five, maybe I don't know if we were fourth or fifth of third. I really don't remember. But top five, which got us into King of the Hammers, which was too bad, which would never have got way qualified for King of the Hammers went home. And we're trying to fix all the things that were wrong and everything that we have to do to qualify Everything get ready. And that led me toe going out west again and spending more money and more time and RVs and trailers and transporting and you know, everything. And it was it was Don't get me wrong. I would never change any of it because the stuff we did and the things we learned I mean, it made me who I am. I mean, I my kids, you know, my son's behind beyond the camera over here right now, you know, watching. And he would say to me all the time, How do you know how to do that? And I have no choice. If I wanted that, you know, that grill to be that with, I had to cut the grill and make it work. And I mean, if I wanted that to be. I'm not. By far, I don't have the skills of some of the other guys. But I made it work and I learned by doing those things. And I met some incredible people. But that qualifying us for King of Hammers in 2010 I damn near went broke trying to figure out how to get out there. No qualifying. Back then. It was just luck of the draw way you drew. Now, I remember being out there in the morning. We're all lined up on your two at a time, getting ready to start. And I had a big I still do have a lot of horsepower. Every we joke around about it all the time. You know, Doug Bigelow, who's one of my best friends, is Well, I mean, I've known Doug for I don't even know how long we rock crawl. We raced together, but he's my friend and, you know, he always teases me. I got nine million horsepower. You know, I remember lining up for the start of King of the Hammers and there was next to me there was, ah, a rear engine V8 two seater lined up next to me and you know, you every parker pumper I never raced with a pumper and a helmet and comms and all that, you know, it was the first time was gonna be out there and I lined up at the line, and I, you know, I got my shifter and Will from Heavy Metal has always been a great guy to me, taking pictures and videos. Will's got cameras on my truck, cameras pointed at, you know, and I don't remember. I love it. I'm a ham. But it was a lot all at once. You know, we pull up to the line and I'm I'm in high gear and we load up on the guy, drops the flag, we take off, and I don't put my foot to the floor. So the little buggy next to me starts passing me. So Bill's like, what's the matter? And I'm like nothing I'm watching you know for the things, he said, This guy passing you I went voom..the first 50 feet. The whole plan was conserve the rig drive your own race were 50 feet into it and he said, This guy passing it right to the floor, I went out, you know, fucking you know, two inch coil overs on it. Not not not knowing. Any idea what I was doing? We got I'm going to say, 50 or 60 miles into the race, there was a big traffic jam. We were going around someone I backed up. We bent the rear steering arm a little bit and made the tire catch under the frame. And when I went to move again, the tire was locking. It broke the Detroit locker. We're We knew we were gonna go into the next trail and screw everybody, and we couldn't get to a pit. And we could, you know, you couldn't go backwards on the course. We were in that spot where I had to call it, which was frustrating. And I didn't have a Detroit locker back at the pit and we could have finished. Maybe in the middle of the night. If we would have got to the pit, we would have finished the middle of the night. I say that, who knows? I mean, you want to think you would have something else could have broke, but that ended our day there. But once again, the hammers took a piece out of me, you know? And it took its toll, which was was awesome. I had a great time doing it in a great experience again. You know, it was that typical, That joke. Great time heading out there. All the world's your oyster. You're excited about going home. Everybody's like no money. Tired dirt every part of your body. You know, your beat up here like this sucks. I left. I've been gone for two weeks. Why? I drove 40 miles?
Big Rich Klein: 1:16:24
Yeah, but you know what? That 40- 50- 60 miles. It's still better than those guys that go two miles. It's amazing how many people go out there for the first time. They have, you know, refinanced their house so they can build this buggy and get out there to the hammers. And then they go two miles.
Charlie Melchner: 1:16:44
We passed more guys after I made that first initial thing, and I went off a big bump in the back, bucked in the air. I slowed down and I was ahead of the other guy were racing, but we went in the next two miles. I think Jesse Haines was broken. He was probably don't know He was the only person, real, well known person that I knew his car that was broken. There was a me just in the whoops. It was like littered cars every just mean we were five miles into it and they were broken all over. But I never forget. I was coming across, and I have no idea where I was. I was in the desert in California, I was racing King of the Hammers and I was going across and I was doing probably 35 miles an hour through the whoopss, 40 miles an hour at best. Jason Scherer came by me in the old Schaffer car that he had that he re-did right. I think it was the first He didn't win that year, but it was the first year he drove past me like I was. I said, Wow, that's like Oh, my gosh, like I couldn't believe it. I kept plugging along, plugging along. I got out to the dry lake bed and I made the left onto it and my car had a lot of top end. We got it up over 100 miles an hour, and I have the helmets on us. And it was It was awesome. And I'm welling along and on my right Shannon came by me and it was he went by me. I was doing 100- 101- 102 and I was, you know, like I had no business going on that fast is gonna He went by me, Rich. The noise it was It was like, What was that? You know, like, e eight in the one on And you know where he went by and he could have been 50 feet away. But he said, you know who I am? He drove by five feet away from me, you know, like and I love Shannon, we're friends, you know? I mean, he's just a great guy. His family is wonderful, but he must have been going by five feet away from He had 100 feet on either side of me, but he made sure he came by close enough that it was so loud and so dusty and everything else. And I remember I got up late when you make a left and go up between some rocks and a sandy little hill. And when I came off that thing. He he wasn't I couldn't see him. He was so far gone. He must have hit that at 100 too, you know, it was just gone. What a trip and why? When I forgot to tell you when I first got out there, you think I would have learned from my first trip to the Hammers when I was stuck in Chris broke nails. I went out to pre run with Bill and we're out and we're driving along. And now I'm trying to practice with the seatbelts tight in the Parker pumper on the helmet and the GPS on and all that stuff and I'm on. I think it was aftershock I don't really remember. It was a trail of big rocks. That's the best you could say. And I'm practicing and I'm going up. I'm trying to get through this one spot on my truck was wide compared to most things. I had it, wider it was taller. So I wanted the width, and I kept trying to get through this spot through the spot through this spot while I was trying to get through it. At one point I cut the rear steer, and I backed up a little bit and I got you got a better line at it to try to get up and crawl over the top of the rock and go around it. And I knew what I wanted to do. So I backed up again. And this time when I backed up because we didn't have there was no, you know, you don't have a mirror on the side of the car back. This was before everybody had those cool clamp on mirrors and stuff. And I put the car in reverse and backed up in the back. Left tire dropped off and it flip me over on my roof. Middle of the canyon upside down wasn't running with anybody else. Now my antenna is buried in the ground. Think I don't even know if it was, you know, got ripped off or not? Can't reach anybody on Com's getting dark again. We pull out the winch running to a big rock up on the side. You put it on this massive rock and you're sweating. Get there and you pull the winch and rock falls down . You get the hi- lift out, you know things upside down. You got all the valves all shot off and you start Hi. Lifting on the roof bar. Right? To get it a little bit further ahead than you stack rocks and you put the truck back down on. And then he put rocks under the hi-jack. You get up. You got about halfway and he tried to winch again and the rocks fall down or the winch line breaks. Right? So I'm about given up here, and all of a sudden here comes Nazir. I think it was Nazir with the I've on Dave Cole with that. Very first IFS car that they had built maybe it was Kirby or someone in their car. That was unbelievable. They come pulling in, thinking, What the fuck are you doing? I said, why was Jesus to get out of the way? They put the winch out of the front of drag me back over again under my wheels that, you know, just thank God it started it up and everything else. They left and they were like, Don't come out here by yourself. You idiot. You know, I'm like, All right, I'm sorry, you know. Do you think I would have known that already. I'd already made this mistake. You know, we got out of there and got a really fixed up and I said, That was my my other bad experience out there. But I knew when I was out there I wasn't cut out for racing with this truck. And I knew I didn't have 100 or $150,000 to build what I wanted. I wanted a you know, I knew. I watched enough cars. I knew what I wanted. I said, That's it for me. I'm either gonna play a little bit rock crawling and I'll keep four wheeling because I love to do it. And that was it. And I said, I love to do King of the Hammers.. You know, I love to race it. I don't know that I have the budget or when I will. I got two kids that I love and I want them to have. That's why we have this. We have this truck, the little one, because my kids drive that and even Little Charlie starting to drive this one now, but I'm rather I go on vacation every year, I go to King of the Hammers, a vacation for two weeks to go four wheeling, and we spend a every event we can go to around here that fits my schedule. We go four wheeling whenever we can. Maybe this year we'll do a competition somewhere. I keep saying that just never seems to fit in the right thing. I said, You guys pick it always around boating season It's terrible for me, but I do love four wheeling. Still, I never stop, Never got out of it. It's just I did less and less of it. And you know, when you don't have money and you say You want to climb that hill And you know that if you break an axle shaft than its $1200 for a shaft, you don't have a spare, when you like. I'll try it a couple times, but not like I did 10 years ago when well maybe 20 years ago now. But it was. It was a lot of good times, and I love going to King of the Hammers and I love going to rock crawling events and I look, I thank God for the Internet and, you know, watching and learning all my friends that I've met through the years I keep in touch with them. You know, it's like we live right next door in the same development with all the pictures. And I think if you look at this, what we're doing right now, you know what? In that parking lot in the middle of Pennsylvania, there was one truck stop that was off that exit. And then that crappy old hotel the next exit up in that little area that we met there. And all these years later, you know, it's you know, and I see you every year at something, and I'm introducing you to my son. I remember when Little Rich was Little Rich. Yeah, I mean, that's like, you know, now you're my son, wasn't even born or my daughter. So now I have I have my two Children who I'm trying to get them into it. I always say that was the best thing that happened to me Was big trucks and four wheeling because it kept me out of trouble. And it taught me so much stuff you taught me. I have an old corvette on the blower motor. I've had forever. I just don't get rid of it because it's not worth enough to sell, but it's nostalgic enough that it's a 72 and my son's point, not me, that it's gonna be his, you know. But I like hanging onto my stuff and I like learning. And if, like, something like the Corvette, I don't know that I want to build a a four link and a rear end and a shock set up to put in it. Not that I wouldn't try to go drag racing. That's not my thing. But I'll certainly work on one of my trucks and do something and do it. I mean, granted, I did a lot of that, but I realized my talent. I guess that had been that the yardstick, the crayon and the torch were my main tools. That was it for me. But then I started. I said, people you know Tim from Liquid Iron Industries in New Jersey. I had him do some work for me and talk about a talented guy that just did he get a lot of great work for me. I had a I had a Campbell Moon buggy with an LS in the back that I course traded for. I had that for a while I ran around with that. I think I even might have rock crawled that at a local of that once he worked on this truck in that truck. And then I went back out to King of the hammers with Dean Benner. Cuz Dean and I are good friends, and Dean and I hustled together and got another guy. We got three of us and I got a tow us out there a few years back, maybe 2014 or 2015 on I went four wheeling and I realized no pressure and no racing and just hitting all the trails and seeing all my friends and talking Everybody was better for me because I couldn't afford to do anything else Anyway. It was just a great time. So I went out and enjoyed it. And then I took one year off, and then every year we go back again. I started going. I mean, you know Alan Woodson. He's been rock crawling
Big Rich Klein: 1:25:18
for a long time.
Charlie Melchner: 1:25:20
So when I started rock crawling, Alan had a Toyota either a FourRunner a pickup that he was four wheeling with, And then he bought his first chassis from Grady McLeod who won Top Truck Challenge in 99. He was selling those chassis. There's a name for you, Grady Macleod. Yep, most people. And there's another guy talk about. ahead of his time in the quarter elliptical suspension and the air bags He had not little that little willies. He built me and it was very, very tricky. Little car. Then he built a new chassis. Don't remember what they were called. But anyway, Alan bought one of those, and then Alan realized that he had magic in his fingertips, you know, then Alan and I started talking again and went to King of the Hammers together on my truck. Needed some work and he said, What do you want to do? And we started talking about it, and then that was it. Every year after King of the Hammers, Alan would keep my truck and he would just redo it. And thats now Big Silver is Alan. He did all new sub underneath the whole new sub frame. New transmission.. We went and put at a hero transfer case in it. Brand new Spidertrax axles in, and we went to 40 spline axles gear works 10 inch ring and pinion and new trail ready bead locks and new superswampers I mean, we did over the course of two years, he really he rewired it and built some consoles, and he really took it from being my work, which was added to Daves. So Dave Kemner built, did some beautiful work. Charlie did some shitty work that that work. But, you know, I guess that half inch thick steel and cut it with a torch and just get it welded the best you can. But it works. And then we got Alan on there who started looking at it in a new light, and Alan would say, This is nice, but why changed this in this? We could change everything, which was a great business move, because he knew he could get me a little bit of time to do more and more. And I wanted it to be real nice. And every time I said, well, I want I only had 42 degrees of steering wheel. I want 50 degrees of steering wheel, you need wider axles and you need this. And I knew what I wanted to make changes on, and he was very accommodating to me. He sold a lot of my parts. He took someone trade and it was convenient. We've got a king of the hammers. You keep my truck, and then he would work on it. That's how he ended up in my truck were up. I feel I'm at the right spot now. Where he really You know, he has He should get a lot of props for my truck. I mean, he doesn't He doesn't sponsor me else. I pay him to do everything. And he does an amazing job with work he did on my truck. Now, not only is it strong and done, in my opinion, properly, but the beauty of it, the way he finished it off in the finesse in it he really did justice to the truck that I've had for so long. Now that I've got a rock crawled with I've raced with my four wheeled with my kids have grown up in a minute, went from a from a four seater, to a two-seater And you know, I had so many changes through its life. But Alan really took it to the next level. Where now, when I go to King of the Hammers. I'm not afraid to go in any trail or try anything, because I think it's just It's up to par now, which is a nice feeling. You have that.
Big Rich Klein: 1:28:17
So, what's on the horizon? What's, uh what do you What are you looking to do? Hope to do. I know. Like you said little Charlie's driving the rigs now. No. You know, there's you guys, You're still gonna have the marina business. Yeah,
Charlie Melchner: 1:28:31
well, no changes. I'm still busier than ever at the marina. Um, you know, I have my Corona stash right now. This is my Corona mustache, and I'm growing. We just got lifted from, uh, being non essential on Saturday. So we're really gonna be full on starting next week. Really, really Be hitting it hard up here in New York, getting boats in the water and get ready. But as far as the future with me, I don't see that I'll ever stop rock crawling and four wheelin. I'll just keep getting stuff built and tinkering and playing. But it's all about my kids now and that next thing you know, little Charlie comes with me each year to King of the hammers now with my group of friends, and he's kind of really fit in my daughter, who's really into horses. She also is, Ah, she's more natural at driving than me or Charlie Right now. She just kind of gets in and not much bothers her, and she can kind of feel and do it. But she goes four wheeling, and I've done a couple of the ultimate adventures a few days with them, and I've taken around some three day rides where we camp and do stuff so he can play. But I would say that we've got a couple of projects that I want to do. I want a new big silver is that's our little Charlie calls our truck. He started an instagram, page for it. Big Silver over and a Facebook page. Have some fun and share everything about the truck. I think we're at the I want to say the Limited, but we've got it to where it's big. It's fun. It does a lot of great things. It's super strong. It's got heating it. It's got windshield and doors and, you know, big enough fuel tank, you know, coolers in it like you can actually we leave in the morning at nine or 10 in the morning. You could stay out till matter 10 at night and really enjoyed a whole day whether it rains, snows, I'm prepared for anything like that, which is carries just enough spare parts. We just put a new We changed after all these years. We went back to warn Winch is just because Warn came out with that 10,000.pound 8274 the upright, right? I wanted more power. I ran a 9000 pound winch but these bigger trails were getting into. I started to notice. We're getting to the point where we wanted better stuff. So I just had Tom Woods, make me new drive shafts and upgraded. Um, not even to anything bigger. Just knew because they were my drive shafts were 10 years old. The winch. We got that new winch that's got 150 feet of line, and it's got more power on it. This gives you the ability to get in more places and not be so concerned about getting out. But I'd like to build a new car for Charlie and myself, but I'd like a car that I could I already know what I want? I want a two-seat front engine, 112 inch wheelbase, 55 degrees of steering front and rear. Same axles. Is this basically Spidertrax and Gearworks? But I want something that I can easily move the seat up because we do get Charlie in these two to drive. He's got some PRP pieces that fit in the seat like a booster, and we've got things that we make that screw onto the pedal so he could reach the pedals. But I'd like one that we actually could move the seat all the way forward and he'd be in the right position to drive. And then when I want to drive, we move it back. But I looked at a few of the cars that are out there, and I'm just working and trying to figure out who the next person is gonna build me the new car will be. So that put that rich honestly is probably going to take a couple of years to come to fruition. But I want to be able to put him in that. In the meantime, I think we're gonna take We'll try that because little silver are other truck I think we're gonna do. It's got high pinion rock crusher, Dana sixties in it, Rich. Then you go way back when, um and it's a neat truck. Branik did the shafts in this one on it. It's a really great trucks. Got an atlas in a 43 and Charlie really wheels it a lot. But I think what I'm gonna do is I'm proud gonna build a set of axle's we want to use in a future car. I'm gonna build them and put them in this stretch the wheelbase for four wheel, steering it and bring him to the next level. Because this is, uh, for it's an old school pro mod car that we put big tires on a full, full hydro on. Used to be Jack Betitos car that I drove a couple times on, and I upgraded a bunch of stuff on it. But I think we're gonna stretch this out and make this one a little more capable next because we're just at the verge where we want to take two trucks. Charlie's gonna drive one, and I'm gonna drive the other when we start to go through the trails, but I would like to get to that point on this. And then while that's going on, figure out who's gonna build me the chassis. I want what I want. Exactly. I know little Rich's got a new car being built by Jesse right now, right? That's correct. Yeah, I saw. It looks pretty awesome. I don't know what I'm gonna do. You know, I've talked to everybody so many times about cars through the years. I'm just I'm finally I'm just trying to really get down to brass tackss. I love Twisted Customs. You know you love Jason. You can't deny it. Still, to this day, those cars work. Incredible. Obviously, Jesse does some great stuff, Alan. You know, he's building things that are just incredible. I mean, you saw Trail Hero Rich's event. How good his old car get out there with no portals in it, building two new cars right now And I I saw Yeah, I saw. I know that with everything is going on, that's that. That seems like the next thing for me is that we're gonna build another. I have my vision down in the future is for my son to be in a car that can do anything we want to go out and conquer, and I want to follow him. And if he gets in trouble, he rolls over or not. If when he rolls over, he gets stuck or break something. I have my truck there there to pull him out or get it. But I want, oh, you know, coach him through and teaching. You know, it's, uh, that's my big thing on my daughter to. I want Hannah to be able to do all that. So I figured the next step is probably a little silver getting some new axles and some upgrades. We just put rugged radios in it, so now we got comms between that and big Silver. We can talk because it's funny, you know, he's 12 of my daughter's 15 so they're at that age now where it's it's different, you know they're not babies and they're learning what to do, and I'm proud of them and more four wheeling. It's That's what I want to do. I want to go four wheeling more. I would love to do one competition this year I don't know where or what, but just just one the last time I competed was with you at Rausch Creek. That was I don't know how long. Yeah, it was a long time ago that I had a Campbell Moon buggy with an L s in the back of it, I got second or third at that event. I think it was It was Sean Haluch, Dean Benner and myself. Of the top three. It was within a couple of points. But that was the last time I competed. And it's been a while a while since I've done anything else. I'd like to get in the cones, Justo, just to do it again for fun. And I don't Awesome. Yeah, I'm hoping maybe one this year. Maybe one. That's right. And I could take my big old dumb mud tires and run with all the special tires. You have to have to win. You know you can't win unless you have. Let's see, it's crawlers. You gotta have crawlers. You gotta have Treps. I think Nitto now, right? Or you can only go fast. But he
Big Rich Klein: 1:34:57
does. Yeah, Nittos are only fast they don't
Charlie Melchner: 1:34:59
have. You cannot go fast in the desert unless you have Nitto's, Pro Comp. It's still out there, right? I guess you have that. And so if you don't have one of them, you can't win. So I just would like to go on. Maybe not win, but just please hang with the guys with the good parts. That would be cool for me.
Big Rich Klein: 1:35:13
There you go. So as long as you're going to stay in the off road rock sport, lifestyle and whatever you decide to do is awesome way love to see People stay in it and bring up the next generation and in that lifestyle, because it's a great lifestyle, it really is.
Charlie Melchner: 1:35:30
I wouldn't change it for the world, and it only came to me. I said My dad was never in to off-roading. He was a kid from the Bronx who, you know, he raced, hit some build dragsters and race cars and stuff, and he did that and then bought a marina. Bigfoot is what did it to me and then got me into the big trucks and then off roading and so on and so on. And I I love it and I tell you, I hope my kids are trying to push it on him. I say that I was having a conversation at King of the Hammers with Erik Miller. And he's saying I'm not pushing racing on my son and I Meanwhile, he's got here, hold the race car. You pushed a little race car, go vroom voom. Enough. You're not pushed. Just like I'm not pushing my kids to do that, you know? But I do hope that my kids want to do it with me. You know, when I when I bought my trailer in my truck just getting a little older. Now, I had always said I one day I'm gonna load both the trucks in the trailer, and I'm gonna put my son in the passenger seat of my dually. You know, my dually still wanna have, it's an 04, you know, I've had it for a long time. I Duramax. I want to be able to put that in the trailer that put that hooked up to the trailer, put it and then go somewhere in my son or my daughter. My son and my wife go four wheeling for a couple days and, you know, have that going on and let him. That's great, cause my my buddy Chris and day that Komen all and they're all They're all part of it. And Charlie's meeting them. Let me bring him around, come here Charlie, rather. Come around, Say hi real quick what you got. One more second. I gotta have Charlie. No worries. No worries. Hannah's Too busy doing something else. So this is little Charlie Hi. Like you remember Big Rich. Okay. All right. Really giving feeling. I got in trouble when I was e got yelled at for driving through. I saw you way. Yes, he he does the instagram for big Silver of the big underscores Silver four by four. There you go. Awesome. Okay, He's great. That's his thing. I let him do that for fun, and and he's coming with me King of the Hammers and rock crawling and doing everything else. And his sister, I said, doesn't bunch of it too. So I'm hoping, uh, I'm hoping that we keep doing this stuff together cause I to me, you know you've lived it. What could be better than this?
Big Rich Klein: 1:37:36
There is nothing better than that.
Charlie Melchner: 1:37:38
Amazing. Anyway, I think I don't even know
Big Rich Klein: 1:37:44
how you are the son of your dad, aren't you?
Charlie Melchner: 1:37:46
We got there we go. No, No doubt about it. I get. I get a lot of those calls from the teacher that the teachers at school, and they tell me, Do you know what he did and see what you something did something wrong. It's just Do you know what he did? And I went He's my son, I understand
Big Rich Klein: 1:38:01
acorns enough. Far from the tree. Yep. Thank God. Thank you. Thank you, Charlie. Thank you very much for coming on board with us and, uh, letting everybody out there in the social media land know something about you in the beginning of the sport. We appreciate it. I hope to see you out at the hammers again next year and hopefully, you know, come by Paragon. We're gonna be there sometime this year. Thinking
Charlie Melchner: 1:38:28
Rausch Creek, not Paragon Yeah. Yeah, I know, I know. We're talking about your having an event there this year.
Big Rich Klein: 1:38:40
Yes. Uh, please come by saying hello. Yeah, You know, it's again it in the middle of summer time, you know, and it's your busy time. So we're gonna
Charlie Melchner: 1:38:50
We're talking about going where Charlie and it's just are going to drive. Maybe some of the obstacles. And maybe I'll drive some of it. And you know what? We'll mix it up a little bit. I know we talked about it, and we're you know, I'm hoping to make that happen. I left. I want them to get that experience and everything else. Very
Big Rich Klein: 1:39:06
well. Yeah. Thank you, Charlie.
Charlie Melchner: 1:39:10
All right, thank you for everything. Rich, just real quick. There's been a 1,000,000 people out there and, uh, that have been so great. And I know that you doing this will bring light to the guys that really did, you know, made the rules and made the parts and did the things where people just have no clue what we started with and what we worked into and and then what the manufacturers developed to make us be able to do what we're doing. And I want, you know, there are some companies out there and you know them as well, like Tom Woods and, you know, and Vic from advance adapters. And they're just They're so good to the sport. I hope people know what they've done to keep us all going through the years and not just in sponsorship, but constantly. R and D. I mean, look, Spidertrax and all that I said, they're not. My sponsors or anything and I don't I'm not getting anything for this. They're just They really are incredible company people that follow their heart and really made it possible for us to do some awesome stuff. I just want to say thank you, to really to all of them. Because for somebody like me to be able to go out in four wheel like I do and be able to not break stuff on a regular basis because of the equipment that's been developed over all these years, it really is made my life. I wouldn't want a four wheel the way we used to with 31 spline and, you know, and those parts that would fall apart when you look that I'm wrong. So thank you to all them and thank you to you for keeping the sport going and for rock crawling and your family. And I know it's not an easy life, and you had a lot of crap to deal with the thank you for all that. I really appreciate
Big Rich Klein: 1:40:39
it. It's It's for the love of the sport and the love of the people.
Charlie Melchner: 1:40:42
Yeah, I'm with you, all right. We'll let you go. And we look forward to seeing you soon. Right?
Big Rich Klein: 1:40:46
It sounds good. Thank you,. Well, that brings this episode to an end hope You enjoyed it. We'll catch you next week with conversations of Big Rich. Thank you very much.