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The DKA Motorsports Ultra4 Comanche


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My intention with this thread is to look back at the original build, our racing experiences in 2020-21, and then our changes going forward now (August 2021) as we transition into the UItra4 4500 Class.  So grab a cold one, get some snacks, and settle in for some reading and be sure to follow along going forward as we start getting ready for the 2022 Ultra4 4500 season. 

 

 

Hey fellas, just wanted to introduce my build that originally started almost exactly 2 years ago when we decided to switch from racing UTV's in Ultra4 to the 4600 EveryManChallenge class.   At the time I had a 1991 2dr XJ affectionately known as Ol Blue, and my codriver and I were debating whether we wanted to use it or look for a different chassis (I'd already broken the unibody several times, and while it was currently holding up I didn't know if it would for Ultra4).  While on my daily fb marketplace search for random stuff, a comanche with a really rad vintage paintjob popped up about 2 hours away from my house in northwest Houston.  I immediately messaged the guy, and told him I was on my way and to hold it for me, and called my codriver Lance to tell him I was buying our future 4600 truck.  When I got there, the truck ran, but BARELY.  Didn't care, all I wanted was the body which had clearly never been wheeled.  

 

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Almost immediately, we dove into the teardown and started prepping, ordering parts, and working 15+ hours a day to try and get this truck ready for King of the Hammers 2020.  We had just 4 months to build an ENTIRE truck.  I quickly found a great deal on a BJ Dana 60 and Sterling 10.25 already set up with 5.38 gears and grizzly lockers, and ordered the Yukon Gear Chromoly axleshaft kit with superjoints.  We got a Clayton Offroad 3 link kit, 8" lift coils, 12" King Smooth Body shocks with finned reservoirs, Rusty's offroad 4" leaf springs that we ran SOA with a traction bar built at KOH.  The cage was built by my buddy Brandon with LoneStar Fab who did a killer job (i'm a decent fabricator but I wanted an experienced race car cage builder doing our cage).  We pulled the drivetrain out of Ol' Blue which had run perfectly and was rebuilt right before I bought it a couple years prior.  

 

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https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_Hz63x03Zx76nz7ZmNDhJwAbebXKE8LP

 

Watching Episodes 1-6 pretty much gets most of the build process, but basically we KILLED ourselves to finish the truck in time for KOH20, and had to take a lot of shortcuts which came back to bite us when we only made 6 miles before DNF'ing due to a ton of electrical failures.  We were disappointed for sure, but even finishing the truck in that short of a period of time in my 2 car garage was something that we were pretty proud of. 

 

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So after KOH20, a little thing called the Rona came out, and we were in serious doubt of whether or not we'd be able to race in 2020.  Luckily, Renegades Racing was down to host some races, so off we went to Adventure Offroad Park in southeastern Tennessee, with the intention of using the race to pre-run for the Ultra4 Teardown in TN later in the year (if it was going to happen).  Unfortunately for us, it decided to rain like hell for 3 days before the race.  We went out for prerunning, and it was terrifying.  There's some big drop offs and climbs and we had zero traction in the slick TN mud.  The race didn't go much better, with us having to winch for literally 1 hour straight to get up the first hill, and my codriver Lance was less than pleased.  We did finish the race and got a 1st place in 4600, so we were happy. 

 

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We hosed off all the mud and did a race prep on the truck finding a few bolts either broken or loose, but nothing crazy.   Teardown in TN approached, and we crossed our fingers hoping for NO RAIN!  We got out there and hung out with our Ultra4 buddies, and did some prerunning.  WOW, so much easier when it's dry.  We felt good about our chances, but knew we had some stiff competition for a podium.  

 

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We were cruising along in great shape, and made a few passes on our 4600 competitors in the first lap, when I noticed the Tcase shifter was moving quite a bit more than usual.  After a while, the shifter was moving so much that it'd pop out of 4wd.  We knew at that point we'd broken a transmission mount (we were running stock style engine/transmission mounts that were new).  We continued on, and the vibrations and noises got worse.  Eventually, we also broke a driver side motor mount, which allowed some sensors to get pulled out of the motor and leave us BARELY running.  We limped the rest of the 2nd lap and stopped in the pits to see if our buddies with Rufus Racing could work any magic.  They told us that indeed the motor/trans mounts were broken, but they were able to reroute the sensor wiring to give some more slack and get everything plugged back in.  Knowing that we had to go out on our 3rd lap to qualify for a finish, we headed out for the 3rd lap as it started raining hard.  We got stuck on the first hill again and after winching up we called it a race.  We ended up finishing 2nd Place and getting an amazing trophy that we were both insanely stoked to get.  

 

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After Teardown, we had some repairing to do.  I'd already reached out to Filthy Addictions Offroad, who had sent us some trans/motor mounts that we didn't have time to install, but now it was time.  The mounts were solid, and I knew we weren't going to have issues going forward with them.  We also bent our bumpstop/coil towers for the first time from slamming down on rocks with our front axle, and it took some work to get it tweaked back straight.

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We started figuring out our engine cage, but we didn't have time to complete it before our next race, which was the Renegades on the Ridge at Good Evening Ranch in West Virginia.  Of course, as was the trend with both Renegades races we did in 2020, it poured.  We decided for this race to let my wife Alex drive, as she'd gotten quite a bit of codriving experience in the previous 2 years and wanted to see what racing was about.  

 

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We ended up breaking off the hydro ram mount/coil bucket, which required some interesting ratchet strapping by yours truly to get us back to the finish line, where Alex got her first ever 1st place trophy for offroad racing. 

 

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Due to the breakage that we incurred, we also managed to bend the bumpstop towers AGAIN.  Okay, time to fix this (or so we thought)

 

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While we didn't actually pull the motor until later, this picture shows pretty clearly how the engine cage works.  We had supports for both the shock mounts as well as the bumpstop towers and the cross bar was removable in case we ever needed to work on or pull the motor.  NOW we can send it.  We knew going into Ultra4 Nationals that the motor out of Ol Blue was getting VERY tired, and we were way down on power.  No matter, we'll do our best and order a stroker for King of the Hammers 2021.  We were sitting in 5th place nationally in points thanks to our 2nd place finish in TN, and had a real chance at finishing on the podium for a National Championship.  

 

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Unfortunately, it wasn't our weekend, with our race starting by catching on fire as a transmission cooler line broke loose, fixing that (thanks to Tyler Haggard who had a gallon of ATF and had broken down near us).  We went through the pits, and out on the 2nd lap where we passed a couple more people, and knew we were in the running for a podium finish when boom, the truck dies.  DEAD.  Won't crank, won't do anything.  We check everything we can, going through the whole fuse box, starter, etc but it was dead.  We tuck our tail for a DNF to finish the season and immediately call ATK to order our stroker motor. 

 

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Going into King of the Hammers 2021, we knew we wanted to give ourselves the best possible chance of finishing.  I talked to a few shops who were either too busy, or could care less about 4600 (Tribe *cough cough*) so we knew it'd be on Lance and I again to make it happen.  We got the stroker installed pretty quickly, and it sounded PEPPY compared to the old wore out 4.0.  We did have a scare at first when our dipstick/dipstick tube in the block was hitting the crank, making a clicking sound which we thought was something terrible internally.  Once we took out the dipstick, no noise.  We cut down the dipstick tube and a spare dipstick to basically just fill the hole, and made a carrying case for the real dipstick in case we needed to check fluids.  

 

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We also installed our freshly rebuilt AW4 with all upgraded internals and torque converter from a shop in Conroe that I won't mention.  All in all, we were feeling REALLY good about Hammers 2021.  We had plenty of time, unlike the previous year, and worked on the wiring to improve it even more and added another reverse camera and a forward view camera for navigating through rocks we couldn't see.  

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Hammers 2021 (We're almost to present time!!!)  Boy was the trip out there.....eventful. 

 

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our borrowed gooseneck trailer with Lance and my buggies on it decided to melt a hub and eject the duals at 70 mph in the middle of the night in El Paso.  The next day I was lucky enough to get in touch with a guy named Angel who lived in El Paso and had met me the year before at Hammers.  He set me up with a trailer repair shop, and knew a friend who had a triple axle gooseneck we could borrow.  SWEET!  The guy said that the tires were questionable, so we picked up a few spares just in case.  We used ALL of them getting the rest of the way to Johnson Valley.  

 

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Finally though, we were out there.  YES.  We got checked in, got situated in our Jammers mega-tent consisting of 4 Ultra4 teams all working together.  Went to King, got the shocks dialed in and revalved, so much better.  The transfer case was not wanting to shift out of 4wd, though, it had 4 high, neutral and low. 2wd was just 4 high.  We rebuilt the transfer case THREE times using parts from 3 different transfer cases, and it would shift normally on the bench but not in the truck.  

 

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Screw it, lets go prerunning.  Wow, the truck felt AWESOME in the desert.  We were cruising behind our buddies NOE Racing in a 4800 car and not getting completely beat to death.  Went to Cougar Buttes, and climbed everything, but on the last climb, donk.  The traction bar welds on the axle broke and came down.  

 

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Got that taken off, went back to camp and welded it back on better.  We did a TON of prerunning, and really were feeling great about our chances of finishing.  Let's keep it smart, don't get too crazy in the desert, and get to the rocks where the Manche shines.   Race day comes, we get in the truck, grab the green flag next to our buddies with Kracker Fab, and off we go.  We quickly pass 5 people or more in the first couple miles, man, this stroker likes to go.  maybe not as much as Erik Miller's borrowed 392 JLU who went blowing by us like we were standing still. 

 

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Dropped into Cougar Buttes in a little bit of a traffic jam, with a couple cars broken/rolled over.  We took our time getting through, and one-shotted every obstacle with no issues.  We started talking in the truck about pit strategies, and thinking ahead to the rocks on lap 2.  

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about 2 miles out of Cougar, the truck started nosing over at 55-60 mph on a dry lakebed.  I checked the gauges, nothing going crazy, lets pull over and check it out.  We check all the sensors, check fluids, everything seems good.  Hop back in the truck, no forward drive at all.  WTF?!?  We check trans fluid again, it's not hot, burnt, etc.  It just won't go forward at all.  I decide to back off the course in reverse to get a little further from the hot race track, and realize reverse is solid.  I talk to Lance, basically tell him hey it's gotta be tranmission related, we're finishing this lap in reverse if we can.  He agrees, and off we go in reverse (going forward on track).  We pass a couple broken cars who probably got quite the kick watching us go in reverse up some of those hills and descents all the way back to Pit 1B, roughly 38 miles.  If we had a big downhill section, I'd whip the truck around, pop it in neutral and coast down the hills going forward as fast as it would go (we got up to 40-45 mph a couple times which was pretty crazy lol) In Pit1B the Jammers pit crew hopped into action, checking everything but it was clear the trans was hurt internally and there was nothing we could do. 

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We still had roughly 18 miles to go through some crazy loose sandy climbs with about 10 miles of it being the merge with lap 2.  Yikes.  We got pulled over about 5 miles from the finish, with a course marshal telling us that we can't go backwards on course.  I argued with him for a little while, insisting that I was going the right direction, just in reverse.  I convinced him to call Ultra4 Ops who agreed to let us continue as long as we didn't interfere with racers on their second lap finishing KOH.  Unbeknownst to me, they also let the drone operators know and they followed us from basically there all the way back into Hammertown.  I was so fried from concentrating on going in reverse for so many miles that I didn't even realize that we were back in hammertown until i almost ran over the Ford Bronco arch. 

 

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We decided to turn around and try and finish the lap going forward (we didn't realize everybody had been watching us for 40+ minutes already) and went through the checkered flag completing lap 1 where we called our race.  I was pretty dejected and upset that our brand new trans had failed us, and yet again for the 3rd year in a row denied a KOH finish.  After cooling off a little while, and realizing that we'd still managed to do something pretty crazy, we were happy with our trip.  

 

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It was a great trip, and we got a TON of memories that we can look back on for the rest of our lives.  

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Hope y'all are still around after all of this talking!  So that brings us to current day, which is August 23rd, 2021.  After Hammers, we pulled the fried AW4 out, sent it back to the trans shop (who still has it and has not told us what actually failed - we suspect the sprag let go)  We put in my spare aw4 that I thought was good, but after some testing we realized it was slipping pretty badly at higher RPMs.  My wife, 13 yr old daughter, and 2 boys (9 and 7) had also jumped in with both feet on UTV short course racing, so I spent basically all year building, repairing, repeating as they raced in the Texplex UTV series and Mid America Outdoors Series.

 

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About a month ago I started thinking about King of the Hammers 2021 plans and looking for a new AW4 to purchase.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wanted to go FAST.  Not 4600 fast, 4500 fast.  If you don't know, the 4500 Class is basically an "Unlimited" class like the big boy 4400 cars, except with mechanical steering, a small amount of box frame, and 37" DOT tires.  So, starting tomorrow we are pulling the ATK Stroker out which is getting traded for a set of 2.5" 14" King Coilovers, and I'm working on selling my recreational buggy to fund the rest of the build.  A buddy of mine has a 5.3 and 6.0 and two built TH400's that he will sell for a good price, and I have a Ford NP205 that just needs a different input shaft for the TH400.  I've gone back and forth on what to do with the Unibody frame in the front, currently I am thinking that I will box the unibody and past the motor mounts I will run box tube to hang the steering box/panhard bar off of.   We'll build off of the existing engine cage to accomodate the coilovers and bypasses, and push the front axle forward as far as possible. I'll run a rearmount radiator, and the rear is getting backhalved/4 linked, and I'll essentially end up with fender skins on the front and rear.  It'll be a mountain of work, and our goal is to just get the truck running and driving by KOH 2022 with the intention of going out to help the Jammers teams and do some shakedown/tuning/testing.  If somehow we are able to finish the truck way in advance, I might think about entering it in the race, but I'm not doing the crazy frantic build that we did in 2020.  

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Thanks guys, I’m glad y’all are enjoying reading about our Offroad racing journey with the Comanche. 
 

Today we pulled the ATK stroker and drivetrain out to prepare for getting the LS in and all the frame modifications that we need to do.
 

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One major hurdle that we have is that we need to figure out how to make the track bar frame mount not hit the Dana 60. If I can figure out how to repackage that, we’ll gain easily another 4” and be able to lower the truck slightly and keep the same travel 

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Thanks!! Look forward to seeing you again at an event down the road 🤘

 

I have a question for y’all: 

 

novak LS conversion mounts? Yes or no? My thought is if we end up playing the unibody all around I might use the Novak mounts to save some time. I’ll be running a th400/Ford np205 behind it with custom trans mount/skid plate 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sold my rock buggy the other day to fund a lot of this Comanche 4500 build, and have been slowly but surely working on dissembling the Manche (mostly the harness and all that stuff.  I got my 12" Kings off to get those ready to sell, and traded my Stroker 4.7 for a set of 14" 2.5" King Coilovers.  I've got a deal working to acquire a nice 5.3 with heads/cam, an LQ4 that needs cam bearings, standalone computer/harness, a built TH400 and 7 37" Maxxis Trepadors (and a couple more that need vulcanizing).  I'm hoping to pick all that stuff up here in the next week or so.  I'm still working on getting the King Bypasses, i may end up just getting 2 for the rear for now as i basically have 20 weeks to get this thing ready for KOH prerunning/testing/tuning.  i'm seriously considering just plating the front/middle unibody (the cage is all already tied into it in multiple points) and running that for a season or two until we start having issues.  At that point we can just cut out all the unibody and do 2x4 box tube frame.  The rear will be all tube anyway.  If you guys have gone this route and have any feedback/pictures/advice, i'd greatly appreciate it! 

 

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So, not really anything to add, been deleting the factory jeep POS wiring harness as we won't use any of it, and waiting for my buddy to recover from COVID so i can go pick up the 37" Treps and drivetrain stuff i'm purchasing from him. I'm working on ordering bits and pieces this week so hopefully in the next two weeks there'll be a lot of action happening. In the meantime, i got to thinking about how our cage is currently set up, and one of the things i've never liked is that our A pillar is unsupported (its heavily gusseted with taco gussets tho). i've attached some pictures of the general idea that i have to remedy this, but the issue is that the door opening is VERY tight. If i put the a pillar support straight up and down like you'd normally do, the width of the door opening would be like 10" wide. I also would be cutting the doors down roughly 4 inches to improve side visibility (and make it easier to get out through the window if the doors get crushed) What do you guys think? i'm also thinking that the vertical support would be 1.5" .120 wall (cage is 2" .120) and the more horizontal bar would be 1.75 1.20. Another thing to mention is that i'll also be lowering the driver seat roughly 2 inches to improve my head room so the existing door bar would be more at the top of my waist.

 

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I've also been considering how much to bob the bed for departure clearance - i actually have a parts Comanche that I would use for cut down doors, bed, etc and have the panels wrapped in the existing paint scheme.

 

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pretty comical quick paint chop but thats the general idea.  I'll also likely just run 1 spare either flat or tilted at an angle instead of the 2 rear spares (which we've very rarely ever needed even one) 

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Went and picked up all the LS/stand-alone harness/computers/TH400 goodies. Also got 7 37” treps which we’ve already swapped over to my Method wheels. The LS mounts/headers arrived from Overkill yesterday, and this weekend I’m trading some UTV race tires plus cash for a bunch of CBR cooling goodies plus some more LS stuff I need. Next weekend I’m picking up a Ford NP205 with the adapter to TH400 so that’ll complete the drivetrain. My plan is next week to stab in the bare block lq4 and start getting an idea of how everything fits. If there’s no immediate issues I’ll put in the 5.3 that will be the race motor for the first year. Brian Tooley is coming out with a new cam called the Truck Norris that I’m watching pretty closely, makes great power all over the power band and I think it’ll probably be what goes in the 5.3. Here’s some pics. 3A7F8C58-F141-42E1-B024-6BB0286BC9D4.jpeg.84b5adca887045b61b121e35aa4c05b1.jpeg

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oh and pro tip: with Maxxis Razr MTs, (the tires we raced on for 2 years) you HAVE to run Methods spacers on the beadlock rings. We found that the Treps were roughly a quarter inch thinner at the bead and did not require spacers. We also initially mounted all 7 tires the same direction (they’re directional) and didn’t realize it until we were done. Then we had to dismount 3 and remount them the other direction. That was fun. Thanks to lance my codriver and Brian for helping, definitely was able to knock out the tire swap hours faster with their help. Also thanks to Patriot Performance who’s always let me use their tire machine to swap probably 50 race tires at this point 😂😂

 

 

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picked up a lot of CBR cooling goodies - needless to say cooling issues should not be a factor for us.  some of the stuff i got is a little redundant but i can either resell or just keep for spares.  As I was updating my spreadsheets on the race truck, i realized it'd make a good tech post -  I very highly recommend to anyone building a racecar or even a recreational wheeler - HAVE A SPREADSHEET. Seriously. Even if you don't have Excel (like me), you can go into your Gmail account, and there's free google excel sheets and as a plus, you can share the document with your buddy, your builder, etc and have a section for comments like we do where we can leave links, potential purchases, etc. That's what we've done with the 4659 Comanche for the past 2 years and it's been an excellent way to track costs, what we've bought, what we paid, what we still need to buy, etc. It can be VERY sobering but also keeps a build realistic and keep you from diving in way too deep and running out of money mid-build (which I've also done in the past).

 

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