Scaling the Rubicon… in a Radio controlled Jeep!
The rubicon trail is a legendary off-road route in the usa But imagine if all the rocks and obstacles on the trail were 10 times bigger than normal…
Many manufacturers undertake expeditions to demonstrate the capabilities of their vehicles, but a trip along the famous Rubicon Trail would be considered quite a tough challenge for anyone, especially getting through unscathed with standard equipment. That’s exactly how it was for the Axial team as they attempted to be the first to drive an R/C car along the length of the Rubicon. If they managed to succeed it would be a world first!
The support truck was a full-sized Jeep SCX10 and getting that safely along the trail was certainly no walk in the park either so the experienced form of Brian Parker took the important job of spotter, guiding driver Scott over rocks and through the tight and technical sections. But the focus was on Brad and the miniature version following up the trail behind. A totally standard Axial SCX10 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon RTR as anyone can buy straight off the shelf.
Gatekeeper is the first obstacle on the trail but apparently it barely resembles the spectacular rock climb it once was. Parker told us about guys driving days across the country just to get here, only to be turned away just a few miles in due to breaking parts or not being able to physically get through.
Once we get through Gatekeeper and on through a wooded area the trail opens up into a massive view overlooking rock in every direction! When they named this area Granite Bowl, they were not kidding as it is granite in every direction. Its solid rock from top to bottom. Even with massive 37” Maxxis tyres the rocks seem to find their way to cramp the space below the SCX10JK. It’s a good thing it was equipped with the ICON Vehicle Dynamics suspension and Currie Rock Jock 60 axles. Not that we have to have them to cross the Rubicon, but they do make obstacles less challenging; especially when we have the rig loaded down and self supported, these items help us remain focused on the task at hand: filming the tenth scale Axial SCX10 making its way over the same rocks and obstacles.
Mid-afternoon we got to a section called Little Sluice and I looked up at the cascade of bowling ball sized rocks it was full of… and I didn’t think the 1/10 scale Jeep would make it. A little creative editing of the video later, perhaps. But no. bit by bit it inched up. It wasn’t easy and a lot of it wasn’t pretty, but rock by rock, pebbles and dirt kicked out realistically by the miniature Maxxis it scrambled up, all the way to the top. What a Jeep!
It’s always interesting to see how machinery reacts to nature as the full-size SCX10JK traverses through a small v-notch. You push the rig up the wall to clear the rock, trying not to inflict body damage on one side and gently slide down the wall to cut around the drop off that is just in the foreground. These are the same types of scenarios we try to put our R/C rigs into for the same visual effect. This was one of those fun moments to watch as this giant full size R/C rig (at least in Parker’s mind) slithers through as he spots the driver through the obstacle. The Walker Evans Racing wheels make a horrible crunching noise as they grind over the rock faces but the combination of the awesome Maxxis tyres and Parker’s confident spotting skills kept us going and the paint work intact.
And that was just day 1! The SCX10 did an awesome job. Unhanded and unhelped means that the little rig has already earned its stripes… although there are plenty more full size miles and full size obstacles to cover. Evening time is for Parker to cook up some bags of Mountain House Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Teriyaki, Scrambled Eggs with Bacon and Beef Stew… and then it’s a night camping in the forest.
The Rubicon, just like the whole of nature, is a special place and needs looking after so the Jeep was equipped with a Trasharoo trash bags. Not only was it practical but it was also very stylish!
The next morning, full of fresh air, coffee and granola bars I hiked ahead with the camera equipment to set up for the next shot and it was always impressive to see the full-size Jeep SCX10JK come into frame and pass over the natural but brutal terrain. It would be the same as the Axial 1/10th SCX10 Jeep JK came into my viewfinder, looking just like any other rig coming though. Quite often I’d look up and giggle as the true perspective of what I just witnessed sank in.
Another thing I noticed was that Brad would not always take the easy line. I later asked him about that and he said that he too, wanted the real challenge of the Rubicon Trail and to put the Axial SCX10 through its paces. So, at times he would look for those lines that would give him and the SCX10 a good challenge.
My favourite section of the whole trail was a scenic place, a long skinny bed-rocked road surrounded by trees so tall that anything on site was just miniscule in comparison and the way they gave off an emotionally shaded tint, a feeling that the camera couldn’t quite capture.
And just a little further on was what I think was the gnarliest section of the whole trip. With loose boulders strewn all over the place and ledges dropping into holes the size of Volkswagens it looked like a mini Colorado rapids without the water.. And then we came out of the dense woods onto a large slab of rock called Observation Point that overlooks the valley. And it was a perfect opportunity to take a shot with both vehicles in the picture!