Full-Size Pickups Run the Jeep Safari Trails in Utah

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By Jerrod Jones

For the last 52 years, the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, has brought 4x4 enthusiasts of all kinds together for a weeklong gathering. Though it's been deemed the "Jeep Safari" since its start in 1967, the term "Jeep" or "Jeeper" was universalized to encompass any off-roader who liked to hit the trails. "Jeepers" drove Toyotas, International Harvester Scouts, Ford Broncos, Chevrolet Blazers or any number of single-cab pickup trucks alongside Jeeps. Moab was a place where any 4x4 enthusiast could find a fun trail, no matter how stock or how customized their rig was. Not only that, the event brought together a bunch of like-minded individuals in a small town where they could have fun, talk shop, sell and purchase products, and admire the work of others.

The uniqueness and diversity of the 4WD vehicles that passed through Moab became more amazing every year, but then something happened around 2007. A certain manufacturer released a 4x4 that was so capable, so easy to build and so usable as a daily driver that it swept across the 4x4 world. It didn't take long for droves of enthusiasts to trade in their custom creations for the latest Jeep (first the CJ, then Wranglers) they could drive to work Monday through Friday and wheel on the weekends. It seemed like over the course of a year, the safari went from being an ultra-diverse crowd to one filled with cookie-cutter Jeeps. And for good reason — those Jeeps worked great. Unfortunately, uniqueness and diversity suffered greatly.

Where had the four-banger Toyotas, the old Ford Ranger F-100s and the crazy home-built creations gone? Two magazine editors saw the change and quickly grew tired of seeing six of the same 4x4s in a row on a trail, so they came up with an idea: Create some trail rides, write some articles and put the call out to bring full-size 4x4s to Moab during the safari.

The first "official" Fullsize Invasion run was in 2012; from the get-go it was obvious it was going to be a hit. But it wasn't just full-size owners coming to run. The open call attracted all types of 4x4s. Toyotas, classic Broncos and even old Jeep CJs and many unibody Jeeps started running with the fuel-injection pack. And that was the whole point — to bring some 4WD diversity back to the trails of Moab. It didn't matter if you had a $100,000 or $1,000 truck, anyone was welcome to run with the full-size crew.

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What started as one day of full-size fun six years ago quickly turned into two separate and dedicated trail days during the annual Jeep Safari. And then more came. The Fullsize Invasion got so big that county permits had to be pulled to cover the event. The group did its best to stay out of the way of other permitted trail rides, but the sheer size of the event required a check-in with the Bureau of Land Management. To cover permit and insurance costs, the group found sponsors who wanted to support their customers for a week of fun in the rocks.

This year BulletProofDiesel, Daystar Products, G2 Axle & Gear, Lost River Off-Road, MSD Performance, Offroad Design, Pure Performance, Smittybilt and Voodoo Offroad all helped make sure that their patrons had a great week of running together in the rocks. And with a free week of trail rides, T-shirts, stickers and raffle prizes that benefited a Moab school, who wouldn't want to hang out with the Fullsize Invasion crew? A total of five trail days, including one Diesel Invasion day went down in Moab this year, not to mention a late-night party that was one to tell friends about. We're looking forward to next year's Fullsize Invasion plans, as we're told it's only going to get better.

Cars.com photos by Jerrod Jones

 

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Matt Johnson and Patricia Sorrentino brought out their big silver Chevrolet Suburban to hit the rocks of the Steel Bender 4x4 Trail with the Fullsize Invasion crew.

 

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How could you not love Fab Fours' new Ford Super Duty build? It has some parts on it that may be a bit too radical for some, but no one can deny the coolness of 44-inch Super Swamper Boggers on a new single-cab diesel truck.

 

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The Fullsize Invasion crew started off its week of trail rides on the Moab Rim Trail. It is short, but it can be daunting and there are a few great obstacles. And the view at the top is worth conquering the fear factor.

 

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James Watson of Offroad Design came down to run Steel Bender for a day from Carbondale, Colo.

 

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Daystar Products wasn't just one of the sponsors of this year's run. CEO Mark Turner brought out the copper-clad Bootlegger project to show off what it could do on Moab Rim Trail. Go ahead and tell us you've seen a cooler Power Wagon somewhere (you'll be wrong, but you can tell us that if you like).

 

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Quite a few K5s lifted a tire right here. There were no less than four Chevrolet Blazers running with the Fullsize Invasion pack and it was obvious where wheelbase played a role. On some obstacles the Blazers would skirt up better than anything else. And on certain obstacles, a front tire couldn't wait to reach for the sky.

 

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If you thought "trars" — half truck/half car — were a thing of the past, think again. Josh Gordon may have reignited an old flame in lots of enthusiasts with his Plymouth build. And since the Fullsize Invasion is all about promoting 4x4 diversity, we can't imagine a better pack for Gordon to run with.

 

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BulletProofDiesel has been part of the Fullsize Invasion for a couple years now, but this year it led an extra fifth trail day that was tailored for its customers — big diesel trucks. This diesel invasion brought more tow rigs through Fins & Things 4x4 Trail than you've ever seen.

 

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10. In case you thought this was a locals-only or southwestern event, think again. Ben Russell came all the way from Rhode Island again this year and plans to return next year in his square-body Chevy trail rig.

 

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Mike Delfraisse lifts a tire in his prerunner Ford Bronco. He made it the whole way thanks to some good driving, but his TTB Bronco is set up primarily for desert use and the differences between twin-traction beam versus solid axle when climbing became apparent.

 

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Blake Anderson shows up every year to show the FI guys how a local from the Utah 4x4 Club does things.

 

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In some way, diversity is more important than size with this group. Even the most shunned of Jeeps — the unibodies — find friends among these guys.

 

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In any other 4x4 this is a harrowing ledge on the Steel Bender Trail. Not so much in a crew-cab long-bed Ford F-350.

 

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Off-road journalist and all-around good guy John Cappa joined diesel day with his little Jeep Flattie — which was awesome.

 

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The event's first-ever raffle took place at the home of Dave Hellman and Steph Berg. The raffle raised $1,327 to help build a new playground at the local preschool in Moab.

 

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Offroad Design's Stephen Watson makes it to Moab every year and runs with the Fullsize Invasion crew. His super-cool Chevy K30 is always a favorite to watch on the trails, and his ability to traverse the terrain makes the guys following him feel more comfortable.

 

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John Mears of Lost River Off-Road brought his new, almost-stock Ford Super Duty to play on Steel Bender. Just in case you didn't think the sponsors were willing to thrash their stuff, here's proof.

 

 

Comments

Great photos. Enjoy!

looks like fun.

Awesome!

-CT

Awesome photos. Did a good job capturing the steep angles which is quite difficult. Can't think of a more perfect article for "Pickuptrucks" dot com

i am going to this event someday. Utah is such a beautiful place.

Utah is such a beautiful place. Posted by: HEMI V8 | Apr 16, 2018

@hemi

Truer words were never spoken. You need about 2 weeks to see it all. It's such a great destination because it is not crazy expensive to visit there. The west-facing slopes of the Rockies in Utah are world class, and nowhere near the crowds you encounter in places like Montana, California or Colorado.

Be sure to do it while you're still young enough to wear out some sneakers.

Good Rock Hopping but not much useful actually going Off Road carrying anything

Love those old Suburbans!! And yes, Utah is absolutely gorgeous!

A friend of mine has gone to Moab a few times for the Jeep safari. He was blown away by how steep some of the inclines were and amazed at how much traction you actually have.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjmnn1AG55g



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