Conversations with Big Rich

OG Rockcrawler turned desert racer, Mike Shaffer, on Episode 32

November 12, 2020 Guest Mike Shaffer Season 1 Episode 32
Conversations with Big Rich
OG Rockcrawler turned desert racer, Mike Shaffer, on Episode 32
Show Notes Transcript

OG rockcrawler turned desert racer, Mike Shaffer, joins us for Episode 32.  There’s some great stories in here!  From stuffing the back of a trophy truck at 70+ miles an hour to driving through Ensenada with only three wheels.  Catch up with one of the originals.

4:18 – “If it doesn’t have a motor, it’s not a sport.”

6:26 –  New kid on the Rubicon breaking Birfields 

11:11 – the little black Zuki is born, along with the comp scene

16:32– that’s not a bad payday

20:54 – the building of the Diablo chassis

27:19 – sponsors matter, how Toyo stopped Mike’s rockcrawling career

34:14 – stuffing the class 10 into the back of a Trophy Truck, you gotta hear this one!

41;11 – “I miss the rains down in Ba.Ja” says no one ever

51:40 – some good dudes have worked at Shaffer Off-Road

1:10:54 –  Racing a 4 wheel drive, and the dream team crew was in Baja in 2010 – good times!  


We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine. 

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.


Support the show

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's the time to sit back, grab a cold one and enjoy our conversation. 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 delivers. Maxxis tread victoriously.

Why should you read 4Low Magazine, because 4Low magazine is about your lifestyle, the Four-Wheel Drive adventure lifestyle that we all enjoy, rock crawling, trail riding, event coverage, vehicle builds, and do it yourself tech, all in a beautifully presented package. You won't find 4Low on a newsstand rack. So subscribe today and have it delivered to you.

[00:01:20.070] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Mike Shaffer. Mike Shaffer is one of the original OG ARCA rock crawling competitors.


In fact, national championship at ARCA in the old Zukie. And then Mike competed at the first Cal Rocks event that I put on, which was put up or shut up in 2001. And I believe he actually won that event. So we'll talk to Mike about the early days of rock crawling, being a fabricator, a racecar builder racing in Baja and a national competitor in rockcrawling. So let's get started and talk to Mike. Mike, thank you for coming on board.

So how have you been? How's the family? Good, good.

[00:02:00.790] - Mike Shaffer

Everybody's doing good, even though we're in the what seems like the middle of this pandemic. But yeah, but everybody's been really good and business has been good, so. Yeah. No complaints.


[00:02:13.650] - Big Rich Klein

Great. Well, so when where did you get started. Where did life start for Mike Shaffer. What state. What city and what were some of the influences as you were growing up.


[00:02:24.810] - Mike Shaffer

So I was born and raised in Livermore, California, in the Bay Area.



My mom actually worked for a company doing composite work, fiberglass carbon fiber honeycomb work. So on that company did a lot of road race cars and they built fiberglass bodies and parts and whatnot. And then for a while she worked for a company doing boats. And then she ended up getting a job with Al Unser, Senior on their Indy team. Wow.



And actually did composite work for a little over a year, I think it was on the Indy program. And then she moved back to California and then went back to work for the original company, CDP Products. And they made a lot of this is where the Off-Road influence came from. They made a lot of fiberglass parts for John Dietz's old race Jeep. And then John Dietz got sponsored by Nissan and they made parts for the his Nissan program. And growing up, being around, that was super, super intrigued by it.



And I don't know why, but I never really I never fell in love with the road race scene going to Sear's Point, Laguna Seca a lot as a kid, but I just wasn't super in love with it. But the first time I got around.



Anything to do with dirt? I was I was I was hooked on it,


[00:03:56.970] - Big Rich Klein

I think that a lot of us that are in this industry have come from that same kind of influence. You grew up in Livermore, California. For people who don't know, that's the East Bay across from San Francisco, south of Oakland, in high school, participate in any sports or what was your thing there?


[00:04:18.840] - Mike Shaffer

So I was I was kind of raised that if I didn't have a motor, it wasn't a sport.



So I actually I I was in the dirt bikes when I was in high school.



I rode dirt bikes a fair amount and then right out of high school, I built a little Baja bug, ran that for a while, and then I went the opposite direction and started building a sixty six El Camino as a drag car. And after I had the El Camino and then I had a seventy one Chevelle and then a Chevy Nova and that unfortunately well fortunately it was a lot of street racing involved and after getting arrested a lot for street racing.



Finally I had a judge tell me that if you see me again, I was going to go to jail for a long time. So I literally had just built a 70 Camaro and I sold the Camaro and bought a seventy seven Toyota Land Cruiser.



And within, I think a couple of weeks we were going to Rubicon. Nice that kind of started that whole going down that other path about what year was probably two thousand ninety four ninety four.


[00:05:46.460] - Big Rich Klein

OK, well I won't ask you what, what year you were born or how old you are. I know you're younger than I am, but just about everybody is younger than I am. But let's let's talk about those early days of rock crawling and being with the Toyota. That surprised me when you said Toyota. I knew that you you built the Zuki buggy. But we'll get to that in a minute. Let's talk about those early days on the Rubicon.


[00:06:12.440] - Mike Shaffer

So, yeah, I have a seventy seven Land Cruiser that we did a a Nessim 420 swap granny box four speed swap and then some cheap Lincoln are not Lincoln lockers, but they what were they?



They were Lockrights Locker's. And it's actually kind of funny because there's a lot of guys in the off Off-Road industry that I met with that rig. I was over Rubicon in the snow one year and I broke a Birfield and there was a family that I ran into that had a Birfield and they literally teased me with it and told me they had it, showed it to me and told me, no, you we're not we're not selling it. We're not giving it to you.



We're not loan it to you. And they had a pinkish F.J. 40, and that was the Faber brothers. And it was my first time dealing with with them.


[00:07:11.480] - Big Rich Klein

But but yeah, when we got back at them later on because you just whooped their butts at all the competitions.


[00:07:20.120] - Mike Shaffer

Yeah. The it was all good though. I mean there were they you know, they weren't they weren't  assholes about it or anything or whatnot. But they just they yeah. They kind of just gave me a hard time about it, you know. New Kid at Rubicon don't have any spares and so on. And then I ended up selling that rig and building an eighty five four runner that had a V six in it and was fully caged in a bunch of other stuff.



And and then that rig actually another snow trip. We were up at Rubicon. It was super late in the. He had to be April or. Yeah, I think it was in April and we went in to Ellis Creek and it was a there was lots of snow up at Rubicon late in the year and the snow was super, super deep. And we get to Ellis Creek and we met Lance Clifford and then Lance's ex-wife, Kelly. And I think there was a couple other guys from Pirates of the Rubicon there.



I think the technician was there and a few other guys. But we hung out there for the weekend and then on the way out, right at the spillway, my rig, big, heavy forerunner broke through the the the ice right at the spillway where water was running under the snow and basically fell through. And it was sitting on the rear bumper and the front tires were on the hard pack ahead of it. But the rear tires were like they had to be like six or seven feet above the water running below.



Wow. And Lance was in front of me and I talked him into coming back and he was driving Kelly's old jeep, the C.J., and he probably winched on me for two hours to get me unstuck.



And he was he was not happy, but, yeah, he wasn't happy at all. But but he helped me out, got me unstuck. And yeah, I wheeled that rig for a few more years and ended up selling it.



And it's kind of a funny story with that rig. I sold it to a guy and then he rolled it and then I bought it back, got it back off of him for next to nothing. And then I wheeled it a little bit and then sold it to someone else. And then I think I ended up with it back one other time. And but then I moved on and built the the first little black Suzuki that I that I did my first rock crawling.



Comps in, which was based off a Suzuki frame, but it had a coil suspension front and rear that we built at the shop. And the thing worked pretty well and it was small and super lightweight.


[00:10:06.960] - Big Rich Klein

So when did you start Shaffer's off road?


[00:10:09.870] - Mike Shaffer

August 1st of nineteen ninety eight.


[00:10:12.370] - Big Rich Klein

OK. And that you were located in the Livermore area at that time,


[00:10:17.060] - Mike Shaffer

no, so in 96, I moved ninety five, ninety six. I moved to Carson City, Nevada, kind of on a dare. I had a friend that wanted to move up there. And so we went up there and kind of checked it out and we were looking at Lake Tahoe, Carson, so on.



I was poking around, looking in a newspaper and seeing that a shop was hiring and he dared me to call. And two weeks later, I was moving, got the job and was moving up there. So I moved up there and then I worked at that shop for a little bit. And then I got a job working for the for Carson City, Dodge Chrysler, and worked there as a tech for a while. And then and then in 98, I opened the shop in Carson.


[00:11:06.440] - Big Rich Klein

OK, how did you decide to get into the comp scene? How did that all come about?


[00:11:11.330] - Mike Shaffer

So I built this little black Suzuki the first go round. I built it with Suzuki axles and it was very it looked very, very basic. But it was still we we'd done a three link on the rear, the front was just sprung over, but it had gears and transfer case, all the other good stuff. And then at Rubicon we did I think we were the second person to ever do crackline back in the day in little sluice.



And Lance actually spotted me through it and he was sitting there antagonizing people to do it. Nobody would try it. So it's like, screw it, I'll try. And I did it one direction and then turned around and did it the other direction. And another buddy that was there with me tried it and broke his truck and whatnot. But so the next year we had modified the Suzuki and changed the front clip to kind of a all tube front clip and stretched the wheel base a bunch and put the Wagoneer Dana forty fours in it.



And we went to Moab for Easter Jeep Safari and I ran into we're playing and some obstacle up on Hells Revenge. And I ran into this guy, Randy Ellis, and I knew Randy from the magazines, but that was as far as I knew him. And I always liked the stuff he built. He always built kind of some wild, crazy stuff. And I thought it was pretty cool to be wheeling with those guys and after wheeling with him for a little bit.



Randy's like, you know, he had mentioned, have asked if I had thought about doing a rock crawling comps and I never really had I mean I'd watch back then.



It was at that time it was just the Warn rock crawling championships and I talked to him a little bit about it, didn't really put much thought into it. And then there was an event in Johnson Valley. They used to do, I think, like in October. So the the Victor Valley Four Wheelers.



They did a little Little Rock crawling event. And and so we did a little event.



We got second place. And we weren't too far off though. And I was like I kind of thought about it a little bit more. And so the next Warn event that they have at Johnson Valley, we tried to we tried to actually enter. We couldn't get into it because the event was full. So we went down and watched it. And after that, I was kind of hooked. And the following year, the beginning of the following season, we signed up for the first ARCA event of the year.



And at that event, I mean, there was probably 80 competitors, maybe one hundred competitors. And it was our first event. And I remember there was one obstacle right off the start. It was like our first obstacle and every single competitor in front of us, just like all day watching them go into this obstacle, rolled over on this one set of cones. And I'm like, why is everybody trying to get around this one cone that's only worth ten points and they're getting 40 points because they're all friggin rolling over.



So I was like, we're just going to take the cone. And next thing you know, the end of the first day, we were like in second place. And then ending the event in sixth place and it was our first event ever. The next event we went to, I think the next event was like Las Cruces or something like that. That was a super fun event. It was the first time I seen Mike. Palmer's old rig with that big sprint car motor.



Right. And that thing was crazy for the time. And but I just I honestly super intimidated competing against guys like Shannon and Palmer and all those guys back then. But it was the early days was so much fun. It was just so different than it's gone. You know, it's just because it was new. You know, there's lots of guys that were driving very basic rigs and everybody was learning and building new cool stuff. But but it was a lot of fun.



We finish off that year and I think we ended up like fifth or sixth for the season that year in that little Suzuki rig. And then at the end of the season, we took the rig apart. Let me back up right. The final that year was Farmington and I built, had the new rig done for Farmington. And basically I just took all the running gear out of the Suzuki, built a tube chassis and put coil overs on it. So super, super basic, just Wagoneer axles, Suzuki well, a Suzuki, a steam one point eight with a sidekick transmission to a samurai transfer case in with Wagoneer axles front and rear and Bilstein coil overs and the rig the chassis with superheavy.



I never built a tube chassis so I overbuilt the crap out of it and the chassis was like six hundred and seventy five pounds and but the whole car was like twenty seven hundred pounds. Everybody always thought it was like two thousand pounds, but the chassis was just so heavy.



So we went to that event and we did OK at that event I rolled on one of the major obstacles and when I rolled it broke the motor mounts on the motor. So that kind of set us back a little bit. But we finished the event and we did OK. But I think for the year we were like fifth or sixth. I think we're sixth place for the year. So then the next season, the first event of the next year was your Lake Amador event, which we won that event.



After that event, my spotter quit and he wanted to go circle track racing and he said we would never make any money in rock crawling. He was going to go circle track racing. So then Lance had been doing a so we had done a build for the El Dorado police department, El Dorado County Sheriff's Department. We built a forerunner form to use that Rubicon, which they never ended up actually being able to use. And they ended up it was kind of a rare deal.



But Pirate had gotten all the parts donated for it. And then we did the labor of the build. Lance covered it on Pirate and why he was there, he asked me about doing asked me if I was interested in having him make a website for me or something like that now. So why he was at the shop when we were talking about the website stuff. He asked if I had a spotter and I wasn't really sure yet at that point. So I called them a week or so later and had him spot for me at the first rock ARCA Rock crawling event of the year with the new rig.



We won that event and then that event was in Farmington and then we went to Vernal, Utah, and we won Vernal, Utah, and then Cedar City. We we had right before Cedar City. We had switched to a Teraflex terra fifty rear axle, which was kind of an oddball rear axle that they built for a little while in Cedar City. I got it really bound up and it broke a rear axle shaft. So that kind of set us back.



But I still we still place pretty well there. It was, I don't know, top three in Cedar City. And then when we went to the final in Johnson Valley, it was really all about making sure we finished. As long as we finished in the top five, we had the championship tied up. And so we just I think we ended up finishing fourth or fifth at that event. And we just kind of took it easy the whole day, made sure not to break anything or tear anything up.



And we ended up winning the ARCA championship that year, which is kind of crazy looking back now, because I think we were paid out more that year than anybody ever in rock crawling history. In total for the year four events with sixty four thousand dollars is what we collected for the year.



And then and I think I may I may cut the the actual amount out so that you don't get revisited by the IRS. Well, I claimed it. Everything was paid in check, so I claimed it all.



But yeah, I mean, it's kind of funny because I think that was Lance is pretty much Lance's job that year. Pretty much all he had going was the winning at the event. So because it wasn't till after that pirate 4x4 started really marketing a bunch of advertising and whatnot. But yeah, that was that year was fun. And then for the following year, at the end of that season was Super Crawl, which was the first time they did Super Crawl.



We competed once against Tiny at another event. I think it was the ARCA finals. I think Tiny was there but wasn't doing real well yet. They hadn't had their first time out. Yeah, yeah. And then he showed up at Super Crawl. And I don't remember if you want Super Crawl or not, but I know that at that point I was like, OK, this car that we we have right now is not going to compete with stuff like that.



And so I wanted to build something new, so we I had somebody make me an offer at Farmington, and I sold the car right there on the spot and it was kind of wild because I sold the car and the trailer, the guy went down and bought a brand new dodge at the dealership to tow it all home.



But he didn't have the money to give me in cash. Right then and there. So Lance went with him. Collected the money and the guy paid for Lance to fly home afterwards. Wow. So I drove home from the event, no trailer, no car. And Lance rode with that guy to, I think, Tennessee and hung out there for a couple of days and then flew home. It was kind of fun, a little bit different.



So then I started building the Diablo ones.



I really wasn't sure what I was going to build. And then Jason Scherer came to me and it was the first car I ever built for a customer as a buggy. I mean, we've been doing four wheel drive stuff at the shop, but never built anybody a car from the ground up yet. And Jason came to me and he had a bunch of ideas. He already kind of had a bunch of parts. And I was like, OK, well, we're just going to basically build two of these cars, you know?



I mean, he he ran Dynatrac axles we ran Teraflex axles. And like, I think he ran a different transmission than I ran. I think he ran a three speed Chrysler Auto and I ran a seven hundred r four. But we both ran the little three point seven short star v six. That was super rare.



The three fives were the normal one. But Turnkey Engine Supply had a bunch of the three point seven, so we bought two of those at the same time.



And that was kind of it was kind of a learning curve because I think the total cost Jason was in that car was, I think, less than what he was able to sell it for because I didn't know what to charge to build a car. So it was somewhat cheap. But back then, it's like I was just thankful to be able to build somebody a car. And Jason was so awesome to work with. Like, Jason's neat because he's always got I mean, lots of customers always have good ideas, but Jason was so detail oriented that, like, he wouldn't just have an idea what he wanted the car to do, but he would have a really good idea what it was going to take to make that happen.



And which you don't see a lot in customers, you know, and Jason's just super good to work with. You know, he's just always he's always positive, you know. So but it made building the car a first car for us fun know it was different and fun. And him and I think Jeff drove the car and competed in one series and Jason drove it and competed in the other. And we started the following season, which was the beginning of when ARCA basically got bought out by UROC.



And so we competed in your series CalRocs then in that car, and then we competed in UROC. And to be honest, the car I mean, the car did well. But again, it was a learning curve. And, you know, we back then, it was triangulated four links were still kind of a normal thing. And the car had a super low roll center, so it didn't sidehill really well. Even, you know, the car was super light.



I mean, my car was lighter than Jason's because Jason's car was mostly 120 wall chromaly inch and a half. But my car, most of it, the upper cage was one twenty wall. But everything else was 083 wall. So the chassis was my chassis was two hundred and seventy five pounds. So going from that six hundred and something pound Suzuki chassis then to this was night and day difference. I mean the car actually weighed less than the Suzuki and it was almost I was right about three hundred horsepower so it went totally different car to drive.



It was a lot of fun to drive. I remember we did an event in Moab, Utah, and there was some little sandhills and I was racing Mitch Guthrie in his LS powered, twisted customs car and we'd race up and down the hill and the little V six would friggin' hang with the ls pretty well, you know. But so it was, it was a fun car to drive that car also. We did back when Pirate and the Tin Benders did their their trelles challenge stuff, they did that race up  back door and we friggin I think we beat the fastest time by cutting it in half in that car and but the car wasn't built for that stuff and it had four inches of uptravel in the front, maybe five and a half in the rear.



It just yeah. It just beat the crap up. Yeah.


[00:25:07.260] - Big Rich Klein

So where did you go after after that car.


[00:25:10.500] - Mike Shaffer

So after that car. After I built that car, I had I had hired a new fab guy in the shop. And so the next set of cars that we built, we built four cars all. Exactly. Or three cars, all exactly the same. And we built these little single seat cars and we call them the Diablo two, but they were a little single seat car and. It actually kind of the sad thing was with my diablo,one was I just pulled everything out of it and built a new chassis and we built Panhard bar front and rear three link car with superhigh Panhard mounts, so the roll centers just super high and made the thing sidehill.



The thing would sidehill until it would fall over on the side wall, the tire and then it still wouldn't roll over.



It was it was pretty wild, but front engine. But those cars, I mean, they had a super low belly and they they hung up on the belly really bad. I was never really happy with that car that we built. It just never really seemed to I don't know, it did good.



But I rolled that car probably more than anything I've ever rolled. I think we did that event that you had that was down by right on the US Mexico border in Boulevard.



And that that event I remember the first day I think I rolled eight times that day and I mean several times on the same obstacle. Get the thing back on its wheels and I'd roll it again. You know, it's just me and that car didn't get along really well, but we built.



Didn't Pete Manzoni have one of those chassis? Yep. So we built mine, Pete's and we built one for for Lance and Kelly as well.



And a couple of them are still running around. I've seen them pop up here and there and yeah, they're still out there kind of running around cool.


[00:27:08.840] - Mike Shaffer

Then you decided at some point to get into the stop the rock crawling. It was right about that time, wasn't it?


[00:27:15.950] - Mike Shaffer

So basically, let me roll back a little bit. So in the in the first Suzuki in two thousand one, it would have been at the end of the season, we picked up Summit Racing as a main sponsor. We went to the next season and it was our first time on BFG for 2002 and a first full season with Summit, and we won the largest championship at the time. From that point on, we had a major sponsor all the way until two thousand five basically.



But in two thousand five we were on we had switched from BFG, unfortunately, switch to Toyo the end of two thousand five. I was kind of locked in a deal with Toyo and if we competed in two thousand six, we had to stay on Toyo and Toyo in two thousand five had came out of the sticky compound tire. Half the drivers got them, half the drivers didn't. And so we were on a dot tire and we could not compete.



We went from never not finishing in the top 10 to not finishing any event in the top 20. And just by going from BFGs to Toyo.



So after that, I kind of changed my rules on sponsorship and you can't win on it. What good is it? And at the end of the season, we were locked in with Toyo if we competed.



So I, I built a new moonbuggy, built the car.



The car was already on BFGs. I had already planned on running the car and Toyo came and said, no, we want you on Toyos for two thousand six. At that point I said, no, we're not going to compete. I sold the car and built a Jeep speed and we were at the first Best in the Desert race of the year for two thousand six in a Jeep speed. We built it over 30 days and kind of completely changed direction.


[00:29:13.520] - Big Rich Klein

I was wondering why I didn't remember the Toyo portion and I was wondering why all of a sudden it was just you were gone. I didn't. I didn't. Yeah. Reasonable 


[00:29:26.120] - Mike Shaffer

I mean, our contract they had done some kind of crappy stuff. I mean, they Travis from Toyo had came to us at SEMA, made us huge, ridiculously huge offer. And Lance, you know, Lance was like, you're crazy if you don't take it. So we took it and then they come to us and say, hey, look, we want to get a bunch of product and funding off the books before the end of the season.



So we're going to send it over to you. And they send us a temporary contract which turned into a permanent contract. That was nothing like what we originally talked about. So and then out of what was that? I said shenanigans. Yeah. So out of that, I mean, originally we were supposed to get a bunch of tires. We ended up getting two sets of tires for almost two years.



And yeah, it was not a good deal. But I mean, kind of is what it is, Live and learn, you know. So yeah.



Then we went to Jeep speed the first year and Jeep speed. I don't remember where we place for the year but the the end of the year. Lance actually had purchased the Jeep speed, but the car was nowhere in shape to race something like the Baja one thousand, but him and him and Camo came to me and they said, hey, you want to race the Baja one thousand? And it was about 30 days before the one thousand. And I'm like, yeah.



So he said, OK, you get the car ready, we'll cover everything else. So we got everything ready and we went down race. We didn't pre-run anything and we showed up and there was Eric Filar. It was one or two other teams there. And then we ended up we ended up winning the thousand the first year we did it.



And it was a peninsula run after that. I mean, kind of the next year we won a score championship. And then we won the thousand three years in a row in the Jeep speed. We ended up for a total winning three score championships and one Best in the Desert championship in Jeep Speed.


[00:31:35.450] - Big Rich Klein

Nice, I can remember I was down there with you on on some of those. Those were some good trips. Yeah.


[00:31:41.960] - Mike Shaffer

Yeah. The peninsula runs are fun. They I mean, sometimes they're not fun while you're doing it. Sometimes you're asking yourself why am I doing it. But peninsula runs are good.



They you've got to have a lot of grit to pull off a peninsula run


[00:31:58.340] - Big Rich Klein

True. Very true. Whether you're on the pit crew or in the car or the owner or whatever. I mean, it's Bajas. No joke. You know, it's not it's not the same as a Vegas to Reno race, even though sometimes the mileages might be close. Baja is a completely different animal.


[00:32:16.730] - Mike Shaffer

I don't know. Like right now we're actually with our car. We're looking at next season and we're like, do we run a season of score or do we run a season best in the desert and scores just such a bigger accomplishment?



You know, there's so much more involved in it, but sometimes it's nice to do a series that's a lot easier, you know, and and just everything's a little bit more black and white with doing a best in the desert race, you know, it's it's easier to expect what you're going to get.


[00:32:46.550] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. There's no border crossings to get different across the border. It really. They really do. Yeah, definitely. Those that that have done it and a lot of our listeners have been down. To Mexico to race, they they understand what we're talking about, and then there's those those people that have that that dream of going down there and racing, and I always tell them, find a team to go with, you know, get on a crew whether you're just driving somebody around or you're wrenching or your a tire guy or whatever.



But just get on a crew before you decide that that's what you want to do and see what it's like. Yep. And it because it makes a big difference. It really does.


[00:33:27.440] - Mike Shaffer

So we we raced the speed from twenty six through two thousand ten the end of 2010. We sold the Jeep speed and we ended up of a good friend of mine, bought a class 10 car and we ended up starting to race Class 10 in 2011 and then 2011, 2012 and 2013 we did well. 2011, we ran Best in the Desert and a little bit of score. And then 2012 and 2013 we ran score.



Twenty thirteen I think was a year that we ran score and HDRA and in 2013 we got the Toyota milestone award for completing every race mile of every race. And then we also got third in the world championship that was split between the two classes or between the two series. So for score and HDRA. But yeah, that was that was a tough year. But a lot of races, a lot of races, because I think we actually did a couple best in the Desert races that year as well.



I think we did like eleven races that year up. And then we I think it was two thousand fourteen I, I 17 miles from the end of the Baja.



One thousand. I parked the car in the rear of a trophy truck at eighty five miles an hour. Trophy Truck was stopped. I was chasing, it was like one o'clock in the morning. I was chasing them on our way to the finish of the race. We were currently in like fifth place. I knew sixth place was behind us. And so I was trying to get around the slower truck that obviously he had had a bad day because we were catching him.



We're on this long straightaway road and me and my co-driver, Orlando, was actually co driving and. I told him, I said, OK, let's get this guy on the straight away and we started reeling him in, we get it to where we're driving through the dust and you get to that point where the dust will get so thick, you'll lose the guy's amber lights in the dust and you lose the lights in the dust and you just kind of staring at the GPS and we're doing eighty five miles an hour and we come out of the dust and I'm like, my first thought is cool.



We've caught them. And then I realized he's dead, stopped and he stopped kind of on the side of the road to let us go by. But when you're chasing a tail light, you can't tell with that because you can't see where the road is. And we hit him probably still doing about seventy, seventy four miles an hour. And his rear differential was up against my steering wheel. At one point in the crash, I got on the brakes and basically at bottom the suspension front suspension of the car.



When I got on the brakes and we went under the rear bumper of the trophy truck, his rear bumper clean, it bent the A Pillars on the race car, a clean. The light was off the roof, ripped the shocks off the car. One of the shocks off the car, ripped the steering rack out of the car, broke the tie rods. Throttle was stuck wide open on the car afterwards. And like when it all came to a stop, the dash was all smashed down and the steering wheel was all bent.



But the two cars kind of blew apart and they hit compressed and then blew apart. We're facing the wrong direction. The throttle is wide open. I'm covered in shock oil. I'm like stunned. I'm alive and I look over and the trophy truck drives away, just drives away and leaves us there.



Wow. And yeah. So I was pretty disappointed. I was mad, to say the least. Bondo had to yell at me and tell me to stop because I obviously wasn't going to catch them and I was trying to even though the car wasn't driving the direction I was trying to go. But we called our chase  crew and I thought I thought we were done at that point. They brought us some parts and we worked on the car for about two hours and we got it to where we can drive about ten miles an hour all the way to the finish line.



And then I remember we got to the finish line and Roger Norman was standing there and he looked at me and he's like, what in the hell happened?



And cars just wadded up.



But, you know, we finished and looking back, you know, it's like not too many people will have that kind of a story, you know, that they hit a parked trophy truck at 70 plus miles an hour and one lived to tell about it, too.



They finish the race in a class 10 car of all things. I mean, the lightweight car to run into something that big and heavy. Right.


[00:38:16.090] - Big Rich Klein

Was that the car that started off? Is that when we were is like a three that against those predators or whatever they were,


[00:38:24.490] - Mike Shaffer

it was never a three car was built by the company that built those because the three cars were shorter wheelbase. The three thousand. All right.



But our car was originally built by full potential motor sports, which our car was the very first class 10 car that score or best in the desert allowed. Well, it's the first car, that best in the desert allowed to run an Ecotech. And they did it for a season before we bought it to see how it would compete against the other ten cars. And then it became the thing. So and score. We raced a car in Class four because the first in 2011 or 2011 and score, they hadn't quite separated the classes yet or they hadn't quite let it Ecotecs in class 10 yet.



So we race class four and then the next year we went to Class Ten because everybody was going to Ecotecs


[00:39:22.030] - Big Rich Klein

I didn't mean class three. I know class three is the four wheel drive, Broncos and Blazers and stuff, correct? Yeah.


[00:39:28.900] - Mike Shaffer

Yeah, but they have class three thousand, which is basically a short wheel based class 10 car.


[00:39:33.640] - Big Rich Klein

OK. All right. What are you doing now race wise.


[00:39:37.350] - Mike Shaffer

So we after we wrecked the car at that time, our main sponsor was a company called Transfer Case Express, which they sell transfer cases, and we were kind of trying to appeal to them a little bit more. So I said, you know what, when we rebuild the car, let's put a truck body on it or put a V six and it will race and class seven unlimited.



So we did that. And the following year, Transfer Case Express dropped us and sponsored a King of the Hammers team. So that year we decided, screw it, we're not going to race. We waited. We raced the fiftieth Baja, one thousand for the first time with the in Class Seven Unlimited. We ended up getting we ended up getting third, but we got bumped to fourth because we ran over a cone at a checkpoint at a half a mile an hour.



Yeah, and super, super discouraging because the checkpoint worker said it was totally unsafe, but it was less I mean, slower than walking speed. We ran the cone over and it was at Coco's corner and there was a semi truck blocking the entrance to the checkpoint. And it's super frustrating. But but anyway, so we got fourth place at that race and then we didn't race the following year, which was two thousand eighteen. And then last year we raced again and in the big mud fest.



Last year was the year that they got all the rain and they had to delay.



The race is not the year that. Yeah, they delayed it. Twenty four hours and then but I mean, we're racing against, you know, I mean most the cars in the class are basically their spec trophy trucks, spec trophy truck allows you to run the Ford eco boost, you know, the V-6 Ecoboost. But the spec trophies aren't allowed to run forty inch tires while there's one of the trucks in the class is a spec trophy chassis with an eco boost.



Forty inch tires and four inch Kings. I mean it's a legit truck. And then the other one is the Honda Ridgeline, which is another really legit truck. I mean they there's is a Tesco spec trophy truck chassis with twin twin turbo Honda V six that makes a bunch of horsepower.



I'd like to know how much horsepower because I figure their trucks got to be about six thousand pounds. And we started before them last year at the thousand and we were on a straight away and I knew he was going to catch us. Just our our plan wasn't to be super aggressive in the hills of Ensenada. It's just super dangerous. So I usually like to wait until we get out of the Ensenada hills, before we start pushing hard. And he caught me and we were turning onto a straightaway a good slow down 90 degree turn.



And he was right on my rear bumper. And I'm like, OK, well, let's see, you know, how fast his truck is because our cars are super light. I won't talk about how our car is literally like right at the legal limit of light. And it's three hundred and fifty horsepower. His car's double the weight. You know, I don't know how much horsepower they have, but I figured we would see, you know, if he if he keeps up, then it's making a bunch of power and I could not believe it.



I at about one hundred miles an hour, I looked in my mirror and he was up against my quarter panel and he was not not giving up at all. So finally I was like, screw it. I let him go. About forty miles later, I came around a corner upside down in the ditch.



So that kind of sucked for those guys. I figured they would get it back together and catch us. I mean, they they flipped it back over and I think they had some other issues and whatnot. But it's kind of fun racing against those guys in our little little class 10 car with a v six and you know. But yeah.



So we ended up we we had a pretty good race. We we battled with Dan Chanley Up Up by Mike Sky Ranch was probably the most fun racing I've had. He was super cool, like we caught him and he would move over and let us go when he went and he wasn't jackrabbit for me or whatnot. And we we had passed him once. We we we spun out in a huge puddle and de-beaded a tire and got a flat and he passes and we get to the next BFG pit.



He's in the pit, we're in the pit, we get out ahead of him. Then we get up by Mike Sky Ranch. And it had just gotten dark and I friggin I turn right down a road that was a left and I'm stopped and I'm trying to back out this road. And he goes by behind me and he it's funny because he actually stopped.



Behind me and and looked to see, because I'm sure he for a second was confused on which way to go as well. And so I'm back up, he takes off. And after that, it was pretty much single track for a long time. So I was on him and he wasn't really pushing hard. And then as it opened up, he started pushing harder and harder and harder.



And next thing you know, we're coming into corners. I mean, there's no dust because it's all it's been so wet and and it's dark and whatnot. So the shadows work really well for being able to see. I like shadows because the bigger the shadow, the bigger the hole. And so we start chasing him really hard. And pretty soon he's coming out of corners and he's getting up on two wheels a little bit. And, you know, and I mean, in that section, it was kind of like a slot car versus a UPS truck.



You know, it's just, you know, it was really easy for us. And he was having to push really hard in the turns and whatnot. And he finally he he finally, like, kind of edged over to the right a little bit and let us go by him in some bushes and whatnot. And that was pretty hairy, is about one hundred mile an hour pass out through the bushes up by Mikes on Cliff Roads and everything else. But then I drove it off a cliff.



I came around a corner and it was a blind turn. I couldn't see where the turn straightened up. And I straightened up too soon and drove down off a big embankment. I stopped there and my co driver gets out, Gordon Brown, he gets out and he he's trying to get trucks to pull us out and nobody will pull us back onto the road. And we're we're nosed off the road. We have one tire that's still like above the bank, but I can't get out of the car.



The car car's literally teetering, tottering back and forth. And if I get out of the car with take my foot off the brake, the car's just going to roll down the hill. So Gordon comes back over and he's like, what do you want to do? And I'm like, walk down in front of me a little ways and tell me what it looks like. And I can see cars driving by ahead of us. So they're going down the road making a 180 left.



And it's so it's a switchback road. They're making a 180 left and driving down below us. And Gordon comes back and he's like, well, it's just cactuses and trees. I said, OK, well, I'm going to go these. What do you mean? And I was like, I'm just going to roll to the bottom. And he's like, are you crazy? I'm like kind of back in the competition, rock crawling days, like many times when you plan to roll over.



And I was like, and I'm planning on rolling over right now. So he's like, no, no, no, we got to do something else. So we sent a message to one of our chase guys with our satellite tracker, and he was at Mike's. So he starts coming to get us. And then we finally got out before he got there, we finally got a sped trophy truck that we had passed to pull us out.



And I don't remember their number, but I mean, he it took like five full throttle Yanks to get us all the way back up on the road. And at that point, once we got moving, we got notice that we were we were about thirty five miles behind Chanley So we were in second place, about thirty five miles down.



And when I got out at the the, the road going up to Mike's at the highway there, the BFG Pit, which was about. It was about 50. It was probably seventy five miles, actually, from where we were, we had actually made up everything but about 15 minutes. Well, then we got so Adam Adam got in the car and he did the San Felipe loop. But the problem was there, our car tops out at like 105



And I'm watching Chanley on the tracker and he's doing quite a bit faster than that. I mean, it was at one point, I think I looked and it was like one 12. And I know Adam didn't Adam didn't push our car right to the 105 because he didn't want to sit on the sit on the rev limiter on the lakebed and then in the San Felipe whoops also, we had nothing for Chanley, you know, his his truck having.



Probably close to 30 inches of rear wheel travel and our car being 19. It just doesn't do well in the San Felipe Whoops. So he he completely ran away from us until the end of the San Felipe section. And then we finally were able to get back by him. And then from that point, John pretty much just cruised to the finish. I think we've finished with like a 30 or 40 minute lead.


[00:49:25.290] - Big Rich Klein

That's pretty good. That's a good race. Yeah, awesome. And so you won that one. Yep. Well, two thousand and that's thousand. Twenty four. OK, that was two thousand twenty. Go ahead, say it again, two thousand nineteen twenty nineteen, so what about what's happened in twenty twenty?



Did you have you raced at all?


[00:49:50.840] - Mike Shaffer

So we prepped the car and we were we paid for our San Felipe entry and and then covid hit and they canceled San Felipe.



And then we were going to do the five hundred. But it kept getting pushed back and kept getting pushed back, so I was like, you know. Let's just wait and we'll do a thousand, so then we actually went out, we did shock tuning a bunch of other stuff to get ready for the thousand. And then Adam on our team, him and his crew is such a huge part of the team. And he is he isn't able to go.



He can't leave the country because of covid right now. So they're on a a no travel restriction, you know, being in the military.



And that's Adam Arsenault. Yes. Yeah.



So. I kind of thought about it a little bit and, you know, we were already short one driver, so then to have Adam not be able to go would put us two drivers down. And I'm like, you know what I mean? I have a couple of people that would love to drive, but they were you know, I talked to them. They were nervous about it, you know, not ever really getting a lot of seat time in the car.



And I'm like, you know, we don't have the pressure of a sponsor right now. And I would rather go feeling like I have a chance at winning than go worrying about something bad happening with the car or, you know, just, you know, the team or so on and so forth. So I'm like, you know what? We'll just we'll we'll just wait until twenty, twenty one. And hopefully we can run a whole season in twenty, twenty one.


[00:51:28.820] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. We're all hoping that. So what's, what else is going on. Anything. Anything.


[00:51:35.180] - Mike Shaffer

I mean you want some history on the shop. Yeah, absolutely.



So I mean that's kind of enough about me. But the shop. So we open the shop in ninety eight. It's kind of ironic. My first job I still remember today, Dodge Neon Oil Pan Gasket. But anyway, so we opened the shop in ninety eight and you know I thought moving the Carson City, opening a shop up there would be awesome, you know, closer to Rubicon, lots of BLM land so on. But the reality was, was there was very few local people that were into off roading.



There was a small group of local guys and there was some shops and stuff in Reno and people out there that but they weren't going to travel to Carson to have work done. So in the beginning, it was pretty difficult. We started out doing a lot of service work and just regular automotive work. And then at one point I bought a bunch of exhaust machine equipment and we rented the unit next to ours and opened an exhaust shop and we were doing exhaust stuff.



And then, you know, about the time that we got into the competition, rock crawling stuff, things started kind of getting a little bit better. After we won the championship. I remember I was at an event and I, I was like, OK, at this point we need to hire somebody to do online sales and just kind of focus on that. And we used to sell a fair amount on doing online sales and we had a decent crew that that's basically what they worked on.



And then as things grew, you know, 2001, 2002, I had been doing basically all the fab work prior to that. Well, I shouldn't say all of it. A good friend of mine, Dave Stark, kind of helped me start the shop, and he was pretty decent with fab work. So he had done a lot of it, but he had moved back to the Bay Area and I needed to find somebody. So actually, your son recommended somebody.



I was at I was at Lance Clifford's house up in Georgetown and.



No, no. Well, no, no, no, no, you're right. So your son had recommended Jesse, it was it was Camo that recommended Bender.



So first it was Bender that was kind of interesting. I didn't know anything about Rob. I didn't spend a whole lot of time on pirate four by four at that point, you know, I mean, I spent time on there, but not really not really caring who the other characters were. You know, I didn't really get caught up in.



And, I mean, I would go on there and lurk and look at cool pictures of cool builds, but I didn't really spend much time, you know, on there for say so anyways.



Yeah, I hired Rob. He was at the time lived in Ridgecrest. He ended up moving and moving up there and actually moved in with me, lived with me for I think most of the time that he worked for me.



He was he was interesting. It was always I was always amazed at, like, just how much he knew and how, you know, how good he was at pulling something out of nothing, you know, I mean, you could come up with an idea and he would have a part made, you know, in a very short amount of time afterwards. And at one point, the crew we had was I kind of feel like we've always been kind of lucky on the crew we've we've had.



But at one point with Rob there, I mean, we had Rob, Nick Socha, cat Jeremy, which we called GERB. We had quite a few really good guys that were good guys in the industry that really knew what they were doing. And I mean, it was fun. It was fun building rigs with them because most of the guys were doing it because they had a love for the sport and which worked really good with, you know, at the sport at that point in time.



Didn't support, you know, the hundred thousand dollar builds that you would see today to build a full rig. You know, so most of rigs we were building were cheap built rigs, you know, not saying the parts were cheap, but we just didn't charge a lot to build them for compared to the hours that we had into them. And but most guys I mean, they just they love the sport. You know, most of them, if they weren't at the shop working, they were out wheelin or at a rockcrawling comp.



And, you know, Rob worked there for I don't know, I think it was there for it had to be close to a couple of years. You know, Rob worked there through he was after Jason's car was done. And then we did the three diablo 2s while Rob worked there.



He built all the chassises at the same time. And that was kind of an interesting time, too, because we built three Diablo 2s from tubing on a rack to a running driving car and we built Bob Standage, a stock mod car, and we built Josh Buro a stock mod car and we did five cars in five weeks. Wow. Lance documented the whole thing on Pirate. And at the end, I think everybody in the shop hated each other.



And it was a lot of long hours. But yeah, it was. Yeah, a lot of work. I don't really miss those long hours that we used to do back then. And it kind of back that kind of screwed me up because after that, you know, going down the road, it was like I always looked at we could get so much done and such a little amount of time that it made made scheduling stuff from there on forward.



I was terrible at it. Maybe I was always terrible at it, but I always think that we can get stuff done faster than we actually can. But yeah, I mean, those times were fun building all those rigs at the same time. And then we built Bob Standage's Moonbuggy and we built myself one at the same time and they were both Subaru powered rather than Volkswagen powered or Ecotech like most guys were doing. Bob's actually got out and competed in a bunch.



Mine was sold and went to Mexico. Brand new, it never ended up actually getting, you know, wasn't we never competed in it here.



Bob's car was a little bit goofy, though.



It like it didn't didn't climb as well as most cars we built. I think once I think Blue torch had put an LS in it, took the Subaru out and there's there's a few videos of it doing back flips with the LS. Oh yes.


[00:58:26.340] - Big Rich Klein

Isn't that the one that Doc Mercer ended up with?


[00:58:29.400] - Mike Shaffer

Yeah I didn't it. I think it burnt to the ground didn't it  at King of the hammers or something.


[00:58:33.630] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. And that was after he rolled it at some of the eastern events that we had after Bob owned it. Yeah it was, it was almost a Christine car. You didn't know what it was going to do to.


[00:58:46.600] - Mike Shaffer

Yeah, I mean, there was that video online that Standage hated, Bob Standage hated, but it was that he did a back flip 180 and landed on its wheels and then he was knocked out and ran over a couple other rigs or something.



But, yeah. Out in Portland, Indiana. Yep.



Yeah. So then I don't know, once all that stuff kind of came slowed down, we pretty much once I sold my car, we weren't really getting requests to build cars too often. And then I got a really strange. So Rob had left and I was looking for somebody again and that's actually when your kid recommended Jesse Haines and Jesse kind of went back and forth.



He was going to go to work for Blue Torch. And then I talked to him some and then he talked to Rob Park about going to work for Blow Torch to see what his thoughts on it were. And Jesse finally was like, I think he was I think Jesse wanted to move out west to be where, you know, the the West rock crawling scene was Jesse's. He's another one of those guys. It's always just kind of done it for the love of the sport.



And so it was for him. It was never about money. It was always he wanted to to wheel the hammers and in the Sierras and be able to compete and do, you know, basically do his sport and so on. And so right about the time that Jesse came to work for me, I got a phone call from Bill Koontz from TorchMate and totally unexpected, he calls me and he says, hey, you know, I want to build a car to compete for next year.



What would you build? What would you suggest? And we kind of laid it laid out what I thought. I thought the unlimited class for me, I was like, you know, it I don't think it's going to be the more popular class right now. So I would build ProMod car and and he's like, OK, that's that's good. And he was talking to one other shop and wanted to know what I thought about them building it.



And it's like, well, you know, I mean, yeah, I, I can't badmouth another shop, but at the same time it's like the proof is in the wins and you know, and so he ended up having us build a car and that was the most expensive car we built. And it wasn't expensive on the labor side of it. It was just he wanted the best of everything as far as component wise. And it was cool because we got to do one of the 60 degree steering Spidertrax axles and the thing would just do crazy stuff on because of how sharp it would turn.



And then we did an LS three in it and power glide with a big converter and the diffs were offset, the motor and everything was in the car sideways. But yet it was still a two seater car and that was a fun build. That car when we got all done was actually so halfway through the build I got suckered into spotting for Bill. He knew I wasn't competing anymore, but I was doing the desert racing stuff, so he asked if I wanted to spot for him and I was like, sure.



And we went down to to paradise to the event down there. I don't know if it was your event or whose event it was not paradise. Was it paradise?



It's no, it's Oroville. No, the first event we went to. Oh, Browns that Browns Valley. No, it was in Southern California. Oh, Ricky Johnsen's park. We just talked about that place. With Randall Davis, because he was one of our judges with Loci or with Axial, Jason Sherer Drag Race. Yeah, yeah. So yeah, that's where Jason Scherer drag race the car in the parking lot.



And I was so yeah, we went there and then Bill told me basically that the day before the comp that he had no rock crawling experience, he'd done a little bit of trail wheeling, but not even like Rubicon level. And I'm like, I'm going to die. This guy is going to run me over for sure. So that event was interesting. I don't we didn't do really good. But we you know, we finished the event. The car was somewhat still in one piece, but I think it was on it's lid at least once or twice at that event.



And that whole first season was pretty rough. And then Bill talked me to doing it the second another season and the second season we ended up getting we ended up getting second place in the car was we I don't know if it was second place or first place.



I have to look at my I don't remember. But yeah, that was that was fun.



And then Bill came to me and wanting to to do a a desert race program. So we found an old Gary Turner Class 7 unlimited truck that Curt Leduc had originally built as a fab tech Class Seven truck. And it was in a bunch of videos and so on and won a bunch of championships. And it had the SB SVO, the four point five V six five hundred and fifty horse super cool truck, but it was a frame rail truck, so it struggled in Best in the Desert against the tube Chassis trucks, mainly because the front didn't have enough wheel travel.



They just couldn't get the front to cycle enough around the frame. But we helped Bill with that program I didn't drive or co-drive. I co-drove once for Bill in my Jeep speed and that ended up with a barrel roll of sort, nose to tail.



Actually, I should say after that I didn't want to I didn't want to co-drive driving somewhere 550 horsepower. I was scared.



No, it was it was it was fun. That's Bill ended up getting Brad Lovell to co drive, which was good because Brad Super LEVEL-HEADED. Yeah, he stays pretty mellow, not too much gets him riled up. So we started prepping that truck and they raced that truck for a couple seasons in Best in the Desert and they raced a couple score races as well with it. And we at one point half of our shop was just prepping their cars, their rock crawler and their race truck.



And we had two guys that that's all they did was work on their stuff. And then Bill's sister started competing in the rock crawler and and kept that going like Bill and his buddy Craig race the Class seven truck and then late two thousand eight, I get a phone call from Lance.



And Lance is like, hey, I went on the scariest ride of my life with Jason Scherer. He's like he put bypass airshocks on his rock crawler. And we went out playing at the Hammers to see if he can race it in King and hammers. And Lance is like, it does not work well. So Jason called me and asked me if I wanted to redo the back half of the car or redo the car and make it work better. And I mean, there's it's a Campbell car that they built on kind of on pirate.



They built the car. The majority of the car was done like a week. But it was a it was very similar to the other cars Shannon and his brother and those guys were building at that time. And it was it was it was a Rockcrawler, it wasn't really built to be a go fast king of the Hammers car. So we basically just brought it to the shop and we we cut the roof off, but we only cut the roof off because Jason Berger didn't fit in the car.



So we cut the roof off to raise the roof. And then we redid the whole back half of the car, converted it to trailing arms with coilovers and bypasses still use the same axle housings and so on. The only thing we ever really did to the front was to put hydraulic bump stops on the front. And that car was was kind of that car was evil. I think it was like six hundred and fifty horsepower was like twenty six hundred pounds.



It was definitely a friggin very evil car. And we did the rear of it. We had to do the car three link because a rear diff was offset with a high pinion. So to do a four link, the upper link would have to go right through the drive shaft. So doing a three link we were a wishbone three, not a trackbar, we were able to put a crazy bend in the wishbone to make it. Clear the drive shaft and occasionally would break.



I think he broke two wishbones in the car over the two or three seasons at three seasons, I think he raced that car. And then but right after we got it done, like in the middle building it, we were racing the Baja one thousand in two thousand eight. And so Jesse, which at this time had left Shaffer's off road and was working for for torch mate, Jesse came in and he built a lot of the rear suspension stuff while I was gone during the race.



And then another guy, Cat, had done a new upper Link mount in the front. We had to move the upper limit mount because full stuff it would hit the the harmonic balancer and we get the car all together. Jason goes out to run it and it rips the upper link mount off the diff and like race, like serious speed in the desert, folds up the coil over, just makes a mess out of everything in the front. And Jason calls me super calm, not I mean, I'm sure he was not happy, but super.



Just just Jason, you know, he's just and he's like, hey, you know, this is a problem. This what we did. What what do you think? Can you help me get it fixed? And I'm like, sure. So I sent my guy that at that time, my main guy that worked for me. I'm like, look, go down, stay Jason's house for the week and help him get this car fixed so he can make the hammers and they got it fixed and and got it all back together and then.



Literally, the car was done like a week or two before King of the Hammers in 2009 and and then Jason went on to win the Hammers two thousand nine with the car. After that, I had a really hard time with King of the hammer. Dave Cole originally invited me to to do it the first year and I said no. And mainly I said no because.



I've always been kind of just one sport, one focus, and with doing the Desert Race stuff, I didn't have a car that I could go down there and plan. So I said no, because I didn't have anything to go out and have fun and compete and or they weren't even really competing. The first year was more just for fun thing. And then after we built Jason's car or rebuilt the Campbell car into what it was, I really wanted to race.



Raise the hammer was really bad. But I looked at it and I'm like I just I seen the progression of the sport. One, I didn't know if if the sport could get there because to grow to be where the cars are today really takes a lot, you know, and and it was all new.



I was like, I just don't know if the sport seeing rock crawling in and how much it fell off for a long time, I was like, I don't know that King the Hammers will be able to make that. And in two I looked at the cars and I knew that the cars were going to be like, they're like computers or phones. You know, they're outdated by the time you get it done and you know and you know. And so in two thousand 2010, I was super lucky.



And Lance hooked up a deal with Dave Cole to race Dave Cole's IFS King of the Hamner's car in class one at the Baja one thousand.



And I remember I mean, talk about there was so many things that were against that car ever making it to the race. And so many people put in so much work.



But the car and I think it was in October at the at the the women's race, the MDR race or whatever, the car was rolled and the car had caught on fire and almost burnt to the ground. And then they sent it up to Pacific Fab Pacific Fab went in and rewired the car. I went up and helped work on it for one night. Jeff Mello went and helped work on it. All these guys were super hard trying to get this thing together.



And Lance had kind of put together this whole crew and of guys that were going to drive the car and chase and everything. And in the car they got the car done. I think it was new motor, Pacific fab had supplied. They get the car to the thousand. And I remember they're they're driving it on the beach a day or so before the race and the car keeps stumbling and so on. So Jeff has me go drive in. Jeff's in the passenger seat and he's like, we're trying to figure out they're trying to figure out what this running issue is.



And I go and make a pass down the beach and as soon as you throw it in the corner it stumbles and dives. And Jeff just looks at me and I'm like, yeah, it's out of gas. And they've been chasing this running issue all day. So we go back and.



They fill the thing up, we take the thing to tech and. The car was overweight and they knew the car was overweight prior to going down south, so they lighten the car up as much as they could. It was overweight for the cage tech. They did everything they could to get this car, to get this car under weight. And they ended up still being I don't know, it's probably 50 pounds overweight when they when they scaled it.



And Jesse Combs was in the car at tech and she she just smiled at Bill Savage. And he's like, OK, screw it, you guys can go.



And, you know, so it worked out good having her in the car through tech. And so then we we line the car up 18th off the line in class one and back then score. You have a different number for every race unless you were like the champion. So the car was 118. So we were 18 off the line or 18 off the line and not too many people co-drove with me.



But one thing I at the thousand, I like to catch the guys that strart ahead of me, but I like to take it easy. In the beginning, the Hills in Ensenada are super dangerous, just the locals, and it's gets so silty and dusty. So, I mean, I felt like I was running a pretty conservative pace. I just like the car, didn't like the whoops at all, so any time you get it. So I had asked Dave right before the race, I said, have you ever race car in four wheel drive?



And he said, no. Well, we had race the speed in four wheel drive. We kind of drove the car like it was a rally car. You back it into the corner and you use the throttle like you're driving a jet boat, basically. And wherever the front tires are pointed is where it goes and just stand on the gas. So I left the starting line at the thousand. And I've never driven this car before other than driving it down the beach for less than a minute.



I leave the starting line and I'm instantly on the starting line. I was like, wow, that's different. It just lit all four tires right off the starting line and throw it to the first turn. And, you know, and we start going. And next thing you know, I mean, we're coming out of the wash and I'm catching the class one car that started ahead of me. And I get around him and then we catch that Yokohama all wheel drive class one car.



The guys, I think are from Japan or something like that. I caught him in the Ensendada hills and he would not he wouldn't. He refused to let me by. And we're in a super narrow little single track spot. And it was really rough up and down. And I moved in to give him a bump. And next thing you know, I think I was all the way up on the I know my front tires were on top of his rear tires.



I was really up on top of the back of him.



And I wasn't trying to it was just it wasn't a speed difference as much as it was an elevation difference as we were going through the rough and he moved over. And next thing you know, we got to. You know, we get to Ojos and I think we had moved up to like sixth place and and then going through the Ojos Roller's, I was racing Cody Parkhouse and like side by side through the Ojos rollers. And I couldn't come in to the Ojos rollers, they have those S turns coming out of one of the S turns.



We came into it nose to tail and I just slingshot it around them and and was gone. And but then, you know, there's there's a few really whooped out spots that the car didn't like. So I really quickly learned I had to click it in two wheel drive in the whoops because otherwise the car just was violent. And once you did that, it was a little bit better. But we kind of settled. Then we got around a bunch of cars and we kind of settled in and we just started cruising and then at race mile ninety seven, the the right front.



We're coming around the corner and I hit the, the brakes just I tapped the brakes a little bit in the brake pedal pulsed and like pushed back on my foot and I'm like, well that's weird. And I'm kind of like looking around to see what's going on. And right at that moment, the right front wheel came off the car with the caliper and everything else still attached to it. And it it sheared the the front, the wheel, the spindle, basically the uni bearing in the uni-bearing.



It looked kind of like the old dodge power wagon kind of used them the all wheel drive dodge uni bearings from like the 70s, but it basically broke the unibearing flange where the wheel bolts to right off the unibearing and the wheel. Everything took off, came sliding to a stop. And it is just about not quite dark yet. So we kind of crazy. We could not get a hold of anyone on our team via radio or phone. And I pulled my phone out and I had cell phone service, but I couldn't get a hold of anybody.



So I actually posted pictures on Pirate and that's how everybody on the team found out it was because I had posted pictures on Pirate. And so Scott Watkins came in with his chase truck and welded the spindle back on. And we were hoping just to get it to the road. And we knew we had a spare, but we didn't know what chase truck it was in.



Well, we went not very far at all, and the spindle came off again, so I ratcheted the it was the right front wheel. It came off a ratchet strap the right front corner all the way compressed with a ratchet strap that Scott Watkin's had. And then I put a block under the right rear in between the bump stop and the housing. And then I ratchet strapped the left rear all the way down and it basically lifted the right front up. And one thing I'll hand I'll definitely give I think it was Kirby.



Ron Kirby that built that car is with that all done. The car was set up. It basically was sitting level. And if you got out of the gas too quick, it would dive over and stuff that A-arm into the ground. But if you stayed on the gas, like we got to the highway and we had a couple other chase trucks meet us at the highway, and where we get to the highway, we're going down to the next BFG pit and which is actually BFG pit one.



And I'm going down the highway in the chase truck behind me, calls me on the radio. And back then it was a 60 mile an hour speed limit on the highway. And he calls me on the radio and he's all, Hey, Mike, I'm a little bit worried you're doing 70. And I was like, I'm not really worried about getting a speed penalty because we're so far down right now. And he said, no, I'm more worried because you got three wheels and you're doing 70.



But the car drove, I mean, you couldn't tell that unless you got on the brakes. You couldn't tell that it was missing a wheel. They drove so straight and had zero bump steer that it just the thing worked friggin awesome. And then we get to The BFG Pit. We sit there and wait for a couple hours trying to figure out who's got the spare spindle. And then we finally figure out that it was actually we didn't figure out until after the race that it was in the back of Jeff Mello's truck, which was on the opposite coast.


[01:20:07.340] - Big Rich Klein

We were sitting at Coco's, the entrance to Coco's Up onhighway one. When we when we discovered that, that's where it was at.


[01:20:15.620] - Mike Shaffer

So then I we're don't one hundred and fifty miles outside of  Ensenada. And it was that night, it was like one of the coldest nights I've ever felt in Baja. So I'm like, OK, well I got to drive this thing back to town. I'm not going to sit and wait for trailer. So I started driving it back to town and there was a couple sketchy spots where some of that road going coming from coming from basically Mike Sky Ranch towards Ensenada, that that road's got some some cliff turns that are left hand turns.



And I remember coming into one and realizing, OK, I'm way too hot. And I come in this corner and I as I start to turn left, it dives the front A-arm into the ground. And I don't want to drag the A-arm on the car and just tear the A-arms off the car. So I remember downshifting and just pitch in the car sideways all the way around the turn. So keep that arm up in the air. We will get three wheels and then we get a get all the way to Ensenada.



We're in the middle of town and I pass two cops. And as I look over, they're looking at me just shaking their head. They drive by.



But, yeah, that was that was a fun. I wish that I would have gotten the opportunity to race that car again. I think that car had huge potential. I mean, they raced it a bunch, but it just I was shocked at how well that car did. And, you know, and this is 2010. So the year before Jason Scherer hadwon King of the hammers in his car. And this is 2010. And I'm like, OK, I know that I can not, Bill.



I mean, I. I feel like I could build a car to compete in king the hammers even today. It takes a lot, one, it takes a lot to compete in the hammers, a lot more than just a good car. But the financial part of it, I just can't I couldn't justify, like racing and so much that I couldn't justify building a car. I know there's a whole series behind King the Hammers, but for me, King of the Hammers is really the only race that I would care about doing.



So I'm like, I can't justify spending that kind of that kind of money to do one race. I just wasn't interested enough in doing the other races.



But still, it's like, you know, I didn't go to King the Hammer's in 2011. And then I went in 12 and. I hate going because when I go, I want to build a car. I just figured I go and I want to compete, but I just know I can't, you know, I mean, even if I had the best car out there, I mean, these guys are so good, you know, and you watch all of them, you know, but Tom Wayes and Jason and Loren and Nick Nelson, all those guys are just so friggin so good, you know, that to beat these guys, it's like you really have to have a perfect a perfect car, a perfect day.



And the perfect crew is everything. Everything has to work out perfect. It's a lot of the same as racing in Baja, and there's so much more. You know, you go to a best in the  desert race and I don't know, I can't really put down one series versus another. But it's just some races are very black and white. You show up, you race, everybody goes to their designated pit. And it is what it is. But there's so many unexpected things that happen in a race like King of the Hammers or Racing Baja, you know, I mean, King of the Hammers has designated pits, but they're still you could pre-run something ten times ta king of the hammers and then you get there and there was a bottleneck there in the whole course has changed and now you're winch in a spot that you thought you were just going to rip right through.



It just it takes somebody that can really adapt to the situation to do well at a race like that.


[01:24:14.170] - Big Rich Klein

Absolutely, and this did you did you watch the live coverage or pay attention to the race in two thousand this year? Twenty twenty, it was a phenomenal race. I think it was the best race that there ever was. Most of the time I'm at the races or, you know, paying attention to what's going on. But that race had so many lead changes and whoever was out in front, you know, they something always happened, some something minor even or rollover or whatever.



And all of a sudden they were out, you know, and the amount of lead changes that the live coverage was phenomenal, that this next year is going to be is going to be really intriguing to see what happens. I really do.


[01:25:01.540] - Mike Shaffer

And it blows me away at. Dave Cole and his crew have done an amazing job with putting together the live coverage and I mean, it's insane.



It's like it doesn't it's amazing that Dave is reshaped motorsports and in some degree with having live coverage and an event that is this remote. And while there are still other events that are a lot easier to do coverage that they don't have as good a cover. It's it's crazy how well the live coverage is done.


[01:25:42.830] - Big Rich Klein

He's he's he's got he has brought in the right people to do the right things. And, you know, he has these hair harebrained ideas and they'll call somebody up and says, this is what I want to do.



Can we make this happen? You know, not knowing if if the technology is there, what do we need technology wise? And he's he's willing to risk it all to make things happen


[01:26:05.230] - Mike Shaffer

to some degree that's kind of what it takes, though. Yeah, it does. Dave. Dave Deafly. Dave is one of those guys I think he doesn't care if you like him or you hate him, he's going to do him and you know, and there's something to be said for that. Yeah. So finish up the shop real quick. So 2010, we we move the shop from. So my wife and I have a daughter in two thousand nine. And then we wanted to be closer to family.



So in 2010, we moved the shop from Carson City back to the Bay Area. And originally I, I had no plans on moving the shop. Originally my plans were I was going to go get a job working in a dealership and basically closed the shop and then a few phone calls later. A good friend of actually, Jason Scherer reached out to me, Ben Ratto, and said, hey, we got this shop. It's pretty much turnkey with equipment.



You know, they it was their personal hobby shop, their personal family hot rod shop. So I literally moved from Nevada on a Friday and I was working at that shop on Monday and rearranging it. And before I even moved, I already had a couple of months worth of work lined up. So we moved the shop down. I use their shop for a couple of years and then we moved. That shop was actually just on the outskirts of Oakland and then we moved our shop into Alameda.



And then we moved in with a guy that had a water jet shop and basically we leased half of his shop.



And then we moved a couple of times since then.



Now we're at a shipyard, which is has its pluses and minuses. The nice thing is, is it's super secure. They have twenty four hour security locked complex because they work on military boats and stuff. So you can pretty much have to worry about anything. And but at the same time, it's a shipyard, so it looks like a shipyard. A lot of customers are like Am I in the right place. But but and then we when we moved from Carson City to the Bay Area, kind of backwards from what most people want to do, we stop pretty much doing like online sales.



And we just there was only so much I could take on when I moved the shop. So it was one of the things that I didn't really decide that I wanted to deal with. And and and we basically just focused on on just doing work.



And we built a few a few rigs since we moved. But it's kind of funny, Dave, from Poly Performance one day gave me kind of a lecture about building rigs and making money, building rigs and and whatnot. And it actually kind of sank in and it changed kind of what we do. I mean, we have half the shop right now is dedicated to fab work, but we're not taking fab appointments. I mean, I probably still have a year's backlog of fab work sitting here.



And and then the other half, the shop is dedicated basically to Gear's suspension installs, stuff that's in and out. And that's kind of you know, we're looking at probably moving into a different spot next year. It'll be probably about three times bigger than where we're at. And I'm hoping at that point we won't have any major fab. I'd like to if we're going to do fab work, I'd like to just have one fab project. And when that fab project's done, bring in another one.



It's it's kind of funny because years ago, Bob Roggy actually worked for me for a while and that was one of his big things. He says, why don't we wait to bring in another project until the one before it leaves. And it's hard when you're scheduling stuff, but when you get to the point where that's not where you're making your money, it's it's easy to put together a waiting list and you kind of build what you want. And that's kind of where I'm at.



I'm like, if I'm going to do fab work either, I want to do it on my own stuff or I want to build just what we want and that's it. You know, not not do everything that comes in the door. Right. So that's kind of the direction we've gone.



I mean, we have I have an old school Jeepster build that's going to be super high and build that we're doing right now. And then I got a CJ five that's going to race NORRA that we're building. And it's kind of like a very similar to kind of the same setup that we did on Jason Scherer's old King of the Hammers car. Some of the same, like the trailing arms are very similar and so on and nine inch housing's front and rear. But that one's kind of cool because he's running a big four hundred and twenty six inch stroker AMC motor like seven hundred horsepower and it's a ninety nine, ninety nine inch wheel base.



Ninety five inch wheel base. It's going to be a handful.



two inch chromaly cage, so it'll be it'll be all good when shit goes bad. That's that's a lot of horse power for a short. Wheelbase.



Oh yeah. Yeah it'll it'll it should get with the program though. It'll be the cattle guards.



Yeah. Yeah. Sideways. Yeah, yeah.



Yeah. So then you know I got, I got a pretty decent crew here, you know.



I mean I've been lucky to have Rob and, and Jesse work for me over the years and a bunch of other really good fab guys.



And then here I got I got a well I call them kids because they all call me old man. It's funny because most of the guys that work for me are younger than my shop is old. And I remember being, you know, twenty five years old and people telling me that they weren't going to let me work on their their toy because I was younger than they were back when I opened the shop. And now I'm forty seven and like it's crazy that I'm still doing the same stuff but.



But I got one fab guy that's, he's a, he's like all of them you know. They're all, there are all the best if you ask them, you know, but in their own right mind they are because they all have their own style and they all bring something different. But so I got one good fab guy right now and then a couple I got one kid that works for me that he just. Yeah, he he it's amazing how much work he can crank out the door when he when he is motivated and wants to.



But he's like I was when he, when I was his age. He's frigging playing with everything with wheels. So it's keeping him motivated is the hard part. Yeah. And then I got another guy that I hired, this guy Julio that does all our gear installs and motor work and stuff. And and he's another one's pretty good at what he does. So the crew right now works works pretty well together.


[01:33:12.570] - Big Rich Klein

Awesome. Glad to hear that.



So I've kept you now almost two hours and I'd like to to say thank you so much for coming on and sharing your history and what you're doing. And this this episode is actually going to air this Thursday. And we're I'm going to go right into editing when we get off the phone. It's I want to say, over the years, you've always you've always been really honest with me. You you know, through our friendship and everything. And I've helped you on the on the race team at times, you know, being part of the crew, mainly the guy on the radio.



And I remember one time you told me I like you and only you to talk to me on the radio because you're calming. You know, you're not you don't sound panicked when you're on the radio, and that always cracked me up because I always felt panicked. Where are you at? But, you know, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to go to Mexico with you and always being honest. I remember back in the early days of Cal Rocks, you know, you were like, you got to do things differently.



And then, you know, when all the dust settled and I'm the only promoter out there and you come back and you go, you know what? I look back on it. I think you were doing it your way, which worked out better because you're still doing it. So kudos to you. And I really appreciated that, Mike. So thank you for your friendship. Thank you for competing with us and being a big part of our life, my life and my family's life.



And and I hope to be able to get down to Mexico someday with you guys again and and have some fun.


[01:34:59.220] - Mike Shaffer

Yeah, definitely. And I glad I miss hanging out with you guys. I kind of it's funny because I don't know, I, I can't bring myself to build a rig to compete in rock crawling again. But I've looked at it a few times. I've been like that. Those cars are so much simpler than some of the stuff we've built now, you know.



But yeah, I, I miss I miss the technical part of the sport, you know, that's really what I liked. It's even in the desert racing. You know, I usually like the tight technical sections and, you know, the rocky sections because it's kind of I don't I feel like it's more of a challenge than just to get on a lake bed and lay it down, you know, granted getting on the lakebed and laying it down.



You know, it takes a lot of nerve, but at the same time, you know, running twice as fast as your nearest competitor through a rock garden, you know, it was fun.



You got to be able to keep the car together, you know, but but yeah. I miss you guys. Yeah. You definitely need to get you out there and back back out there with us and work on the radio again and and so on. Yeah.


[01:36:14.830] - Big Rich Klein

Now I'm actually set up for it. I you know, I don't take the Cherokee, those kind of places. We got a Raptor and got a hundred and ten watt radios and everything and you know, much better prepared than I used to be. We'll get together and we'll do it someday. We'll we'll make it happen. Definitely. Yeah.


[01:36:31.970] - Mike Shaffer

We got we got a peninsula run coming up in about a year from now, so that would be a good one.


[01:36:37.430] - Big Rich Klein

That's that's something to shoot for. Sounds good to me. OK, all right. Mike, I want to say thank you very much and I'll let you know exactly when this thing loads and airs. It'll be well, it'll be Thursday morning, so maybe you can help share it and everything and say hello to the family and we'll we'll see you next time around. OK, awesome. Thank you. Thank you. Have a good night. You too.



If you enjoy these podcasts, please give us a rating, share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be like minded. Well, that brings this episode to an end. OK, you enjoyed it. We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big Rich. Thank you very much.