On the last section, Al flopped his Suzuki onto its
side just after climbing this greasy hill.
Shortly after that prior roll, Al rolled the Suzi onto
its roof after trying to extricate himself out of a
bad position. Clearly, this wasn't an improvement.
Wyatt adds some penalty points to Al's score sheet
while Al contemplates the damage.
Murray's driveshaft snapped as he was trying to crest
Once that happened, the Suzuki rolled backwards and
then began its sideways roll. Here you can see a bit
of Murray sticking out of the side window.
Fortunately, he pulled himself tight into the steering
Here you can see that the rear driveshaft is missing.
Look at that roof. He was extremely lucky that he didn't sustain any head
A little shaken but he was fine.
Ben Olson's adjustable air suspension came in handy to
un-highcentre himself from this rock.
October 16, 1999
Written by Larry Soo, photos by Larry Soo & Rob Mullen
Without a doubt, the Morningside Tough Truck Challenge is
the scariest 4x4 event I've attended. People who have been
to the Dakota Territory Challenge, Rubicon, and other trails
have said the same thing. What makes it tough is that the
trails are either wet or they're covered with moss. You
can't slowly crawl through any of the sections. What makes
Morningside so scary is that there are lots of off-camber
sections and hill climbs where you have ample opportunity to
put your truck on its side.
MTTC is the twisted creation of Paul Cooper, a resident of
the Sooke Point reserve on Vancouver Island. The event
takes place on reserve land so Paul has a free hand when he
designs the course. With each passing year, the event draws
more and more spectators and drivers. At this year's
challenge, there were close to 30 drivers and around 200
spectators. That's pretty impressive when you realize that
Paul was trying to keep the number of spectators down this
year and did absolutely no advertising of the event on the
Mr Morningside himself, Paul Cooper
From the beginning, it was apparent that Al was going to do very
well in the competition.
This long wheelbase Suzuki came amazingly close to flopping over
on its side but the driver saved it by getting off his brakes
just in time.
This is a scored event where the driver with the fewest
points wins. Penalty points are awarded for stalling,
backing up (or engaging reverse gear), going out of bounds,
not completing a section, and not attempting a section.
The competitors' vehicles fell into two distinct categories:
The first category was well represented by severely abused
Suzuki LJs and SJs that had been trailered to the event.
They were usually equipped with a welded rear diff, open
front diff (so they could still steer), modest mud tires,
considerable fender trimming and that was about it.
- Not fully locked-up so I'm going to use lots of
throttle and beat the hell out of my truck.
- Fully locked up so I don't have to beat the hell out of
my truck...as much.
The second category had a mix of vehicles, all of which cost
considerably more than the first group. Front and rear
lockers, minimal dents, large mud tires and tall suspension
lifts typified these vehicles. Most of these vehicles drove
to the event.
I had heard all sorts of horror stories about the MTTC
trails so I thought the beater trucks would have the
advantage. If you're driving a beater, you don't worry
about rubbing up against trees and can use the throttle to
get you over difficult parts without worrying about
expensive damage to your daily driver. That was my mindset
when the competition began.
Paul's finding it to be a tight squeeze on his own
Here's another famous island 'wheeler, Jason Dumont
and his monster Ford. Jason also hosts a 4wheeling
event called the Dumont Poker Run. This year's run
is rumoured to have some rather insane
This Samurai driver was doing well up until he lost
his bead on this hill.
Here's section #5 which caused difficulties for a lot of
contestants. Al scrambled up here without missing a
Dean Bradley did a great job of driving his
immaculate TJ. It takes a lot of confidence to
enter a shiny 4x4 in this event.
The downhill part of section #4 gave Rick Gammie a
The first section made me re-consider my thinking. As I
mentioned before, the terrain was not traction friendly.
Wet rocks, moist earth and moss require momentum and
wheelspin. Or front and rear lockers and premium mud tires.
Even with momentum and spectacular amounts of wheelspin, the
low budget guys immediately ran into difficulty. Speed and
minimal traction resulted in hopping, sideways sliding and
smashing into rocks. That explained why the low budget
vehicles were severely dented. In comparison, the built
trucks were able to get through with much less speed and had
much more control. It goes to prove the adage about
spending the money on upgrades or repairs: you're going to
spend it one way or the other so better to do the upgrades.
All the top-placing drivers had extremely capable vehicles
with front and rear lockers. They did not require a lot of
wheelspin to climb the obstacles.
Ok, now that I've finished my technical analysis of the
competition, let me give you my gut response: the guys with
the beater vehicles were more fun to watch.
I'm sure I speak for the majority of the spectators when I
say that we were a bloodthirsty lot, hungrily waiting for
vehicular carnage. I was reminded of a computer show I
attended where an attractive woman in a tight, EXTREMELY
short mini-skirt was sitting on a stool, legs crossed,
giving a product demo. During her presentation, she dropped
one of her props and there was an collective, audible gasp
from the males in the audience as they realized she
would have to uncross her legs to get off the stool.
That kind of edge-of-the-seat lust and expectation
hung in the air whenever a beater vehicle appeared.
We were seldom disappointed. The number one bit of
carnage for me was watching Murray's green
polymorphouse (because I saw it change shape before my
eyes) Samurai scream and thrash its way up section #5
only to snap its rear driveshaft and come rolling down
the rock face towards me. Running a close second was
Al Berikoff's THREE rolls: twice on his side, once on
his roof. What can I say? Al's a spirited driver. His
Suzuki/Toyota creation was unstoppable and even with
his rolls, he managed to take first place and the
"AWESOME" award. A distant third was Ben Olson laying
his Suzuki on its side yet again. I didn't see it
happen so it didn't place high on my list of favourite
Al's Team 4Offroad
Suzuki also got a lot of attention, especially after
people saw it in action and wondered how it could
perform so well (personally, I think it was due to its
Jeep YJ grill...but then again, I'm a YJ owner
so maybe I'm biased). I think next year, there will
be other Morningside entrants with vehicles based on
Al's recipe of simple but elegant engineering and use
of off-the-shelf parts.
What would you do if someone gave you a FREE Bronco?
Why, destroy it at Morningside, of course! Tim drove
this poor Ford with a mad vengeance and did pretty
Laughing in the face of physical laws, Rob Brooks
manages to avoid sliding off this mossy slope and
was able to finish the section.
Here's something you don't see every day (you
generally only see it every four months): Ben
Olson's Suzuki on its side.
The funniest thrashing was produced by a guy in a grey
Chevy. Aside from his built motor, the truck was virtually
stock. You know that saying, "when all you have is a
hammer, the whole world is a nail?" Well, it describes this
situation quite well. Without the benefit of a locked rear
end or aired down mud tires, the driver leveraged his only
resource, HORSEPOWER. There is a certain hysterical beauty
in watching someone burning out on a rock face with his
tires spinning 60mph in the forward direction while the
truck is actually bouncing and sliding backwards. I noticed
that many of the spectators couldn't help flinching when
watching this die hard continue his attempts to conquer
section #5. Shortly after blowing off his engine breather
filter, he fragged his hub or axle shaft u-joint and called
it quits. His 15 minutes of fame ended in a choking cloud
of tire smoke.
Once the tire melts, his traction should improve
dramatically. Watching him drive, I got the
sneaking suspicious that he was actually borrowing
someone else's truck.
The top finishers were as follows:
Team 4Offroad and the
spoils of victory (ie: a broken foot and trophies)
- Al Berikoff (Suzuki/Toyota)
- Rob Brooks (Toyota)
- Dean Bradley (Jeep)
- Vern O'Connor (Jeep)
Having finally seen the event for myself, I no longer
believe it would be mechanical suicide for me to enter my
daily driver Jeep. Yes, the risks are there but body damage
and drivetrain destruction is not guaranteed if your vehicle
is properly built with at least 33" mud tires, a flexible
suspension and front and rear lockers.