High Lifter Racer Comes Out On Top!

Chasing the Ultra4 UTV Championship

Team Ducky Racing Celebrates Successful Year of UTV RacingTeamDucky-2015-5

By: John Duckworth

After winning the sportsman class King of the Hammers race in 2014 in our Polaris RZR XP 900, I set my sights on the 2015 season. It was time to step up to the new and more capable Polaris RZR XP 1000. The car I purchased already had some quality components on it and I knew it would be a great base to start. Got the RZR home and went about prepping it for a shake down run. The XP1000 was definitely a different machine than my XP900. The extra wheel base and travel of the XP1000 really shined in the rocks and desert.

I added a long list of upgrades to the XP1000 so it would hold up to the brutal journey I was about to put it through. Scott Smith, owner of High Lifter offered to sponsor us with their Max Clearance line A-Arms, Trailing Arms, DHT Axles, and Radius Rods. Next came a new Super ATV Steering Rack and Tie Rods, Beadlocks, Tireblocks, 30″ tires, sway bar links, Gusset Kit etc. Of course as with any race car communications and safety are a must, so we went with Rugged Radios, Beard Seats and Pro Armor Harness along with a TMW Offroad cage and doors.

I called Mark MacDonald of Desertcraft to see about the R2C air filter. He offered to sponsor us with the filter and some other goodies for the RZR. He also mentioned that he had been working with Bilstein Shocks. I didn’t know much about the Bilsteins, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the set up I had. Mark met us in Johnson Valley for some pre-running in December 2014. Knowing some of the sections I struggled with in the past I set out to see how the Bilsteins would perform. Man were they smooth taking on the biggest whoops with ease. In the rocks they articulated really well and overall were a huge improvement over what I had been running.Ducky Sdie View

King of the Hammers

The first race of the season was The 2015 King of The Hammers. RGB signed up to Co-Dog again this year. He is an integral part of our team and I say “Thank You Rob.” We lined up a great pit crew and were ready to go. This was not our best race, we blew a tire and cracked a rim going into the first rock section. Lost a tie rod bolt and another tire before making it to pit 2. Our crew was on it and getting out of pit 2 we were somehow in 3rd only about 12 minutes behind the leaders. Unfortunately our race would end with a catastrophic transmission failure in the Jack Hammer section of the course.

Ultra4 Stampede


Metal Cloak Stampede

The Metal Cloak Stampede held at Prairie City OHV in Sacramento would be the second race of the season and the first race in the Ultra 4 West series. After rebuilding and upgrading the transmission we had the car ready for the Metal Cloak Stampede. The track consisted of 2 miles of fast paced short track with three rock (car breaking) obstacles. We brought the car from 15” of ride height down 13.5” for this race. This made the rock portion a little bit harder to get through, but the car was able to stay flat through the corners. The prelim was a tough battle and after swapping places a few times we came out on the pole. The start of the main event did not go as planned. We lost an axle and power steering due to a collision in the rock section. However after the battle was over we took 1st. This course took out over 50% of the competition and left me and the RZR pretty banged up.TeamDucky-2015-GlenHelen-1

Glen Helen Grand Prix

Next up was the Glen Helen Grand Prix. Since Glen Helen Raceway is only a few miles away from Desertcrafts shop, Mark volunteered to set up, pit and spot for us. This was a fast grand prix format consisting of a 1/2 hour qualifier and a 1 hour main event. We got some testing in on Friday. Desertcraft had a brand new offering for

me to try from Bilstein. The new 8125’s were bad to the bone with 2.5″ bodies, reservoirs and 7/8″ shafts front and rear. We had done zero testing on the new shocks so Mark arranged for his Bilstein contact to meet us at the track for final tuning. The fronts were spot on, but the rears needed some attention. We were able to take the shocks off the car made the valving change and had them back on the car in under an hour. That did the trick. They did everything I asked of them and more. After testing Friday we developed an engine problem and could not determine if it was fuel delivery or electrical, but knowing the competition this was going to make it hard to compete. Mark brought his XP1000 with him for the pits, so we proceeded to swap out every part we thought might be the issue and called it at 11:30 pm not knowing if we had resolved the problem. During the pre-lim, the car ran great. Unfortunately my brakes faded near the end. We qualified .5 seconds from the pole. The main would see 17 UTV’s at the starting line. The brakes failed halfway through the first lap. With three laps to go, Mark radioed and he told me that my gas cap was missing and fuel was spilling out. Just as he told me this the car sputtered and I had to make an emergency pit stop. With the help of Mary ( Desertcraft) and one of our competitors (4 Wheel Parts) who gave us gas and a gas cap from Marks RZR we were back on the track. I lost three positions during the stop. A lap and a half later Team Ducky was back in first place and held the lead to the checkered flag. After pulling a tire it was determined that the rear brake pad fell off and the rotor ate up the caliper.


Fallon 250

The Fallon 250 was our next destination. Held in Fallon Nevada, the course consisted of 6

laps on a 41 mile loop. During our one lap practice run we used up 6 gallons of fuel. The car was running very bad and I could not determine the problem. My race strategy of stopping every 2 to 2.5 laps was out the window. The dust was ridiculous, visibility was almost zero. I put in a pretty good first lap, but had to stop in the pits for fuel. I did not have any pit support for this race and Andrew Gorman, fellow UTV racer had his pit team help me out. Thank You Andrew! Three cars passed me up during that pit stop as I was the only one that needed fuel. By mile 26 of the loop on the second lap I was back in the lead and pulling away. Again the suspension components were working overtime and to perfection.

I thought that maybe I could get 60 miles out o


f a tank of gas and get to the second pit area. 5 miles from the second pit I ran out of fuel. I tried to walk through the desert to the pit area and that was a very bad idea. After 2 miles I had to turn around and get back to my car as I had fallen down twice heaving my guts out all over the desert floor. ¼ mile from my car there was someone broke down with a flat tire. They had no tools and no jack. I traded them a gallon of gas for the tool and I helped them dig out the tire and change it. Team Ducky was back in the race after a 2.5 hour delay. The rest of the day was a blur as I put the pedal down and just drove. The last lap I had to stop to give a racer a part and then at the remote pit for my last three gallons of fuel. That lap time was 54:48 which was as fast as most of the Ultra 4 guy’s fastest laps. The car held up to the abuse with no mechanical failures. I later found a broken wire that goes to the MAF sensor and that’s what made me use so much fuel. We finished 5 out of the 6 laps and that was good for 2nd place.


Team Ducky Racing

Ultra4 National Championships Reno, Nevada

We went into the final event of the year in good shape. The RZR had taken on some of the most brutal races during the season and was getting a little tired after so many race miles. The field had thinned at this point down to a dedicated group, all wanting to prove they could complete one of the hardest off road racing series in the country. Fridays practice went pretty well, but the track was going to be a challenge for the little RZR’s. The boulder fields were intimidating and simply dwarfed the UTV’s. We found some decent lines through the rocks and felt good about the set up on the car. On the last lap of practice the car developed a bad clanking noise that sounded like the transmission was coming apart. We found that the U Joint was hitting the main frame brace on the chassis. The brace had been bent from a season worth of abuse. Brian at Desert Concepts offered to help us out. They had their hands full after a failure on their own Ultra4 car, but were ready to help. Mark and Brian agreed that cutting out a pocket so the u-joint had clearance would be the way to go. They cut out the pocket and welded strips around the cut out to strengthen it. Next was the carrier bearing. Brian (Desert Concepts) suggested trying a clamp around the bearing and through the mount. It was worth a try, so we pulled out a large hose clamp and installed it. That seemed to do the trick and felt like it would stay together for the race.

The rest of the car was in good shape so we got some rest and prepared for the pre-lim on Saturday. The 7:30 am start would see conditions on the track changing rapidly with a steady light rain. They did a hat draw for the starting positions, which ended with us in the back of the field. Flag drops and I find myself three wide into the rock section and made it first through the rocks. Flew through the rocks and had a pretty good lead. Decided to take it easy to save the car for the main event, but got caught in the rocks by the second place car. They rammed us so hard in the rocks that they destroyed the back of the cage, climbed up the back of the car and slid off the driver side ripping the whole left side of the car off. Second got by us due to a missed shift. Ended up dragging the fender assembly around the track for two more laps until it finally fell off in the main rock section. We finished the qualifier in second which would give me a front row start for the main event. There was now a constant rain and the track was deteriorating rapidly. The track was turning to gumbo, and the rock sections glistened with mud and rain. The bearing fix was holding and the dive shaft was staying in place. Inspection of the belt showed that the “Slide Guide” by GForce racing was doing its job. Except scrapes from the rocks the OMF rims fitted with the Moto Race tires looked like they were holding up well. Cover the car and wait for the main which was a few hours away.TeamDucky-2015-2

Team Ducky Racing

It rained right up to the start of the main, the track was in bad shape and I knew getting through the rocks was going to be a challenge. The car that nerfed us at least 10 times during the pre-lim broke his front diff and was out of the race. Starting on the pole I reach the rocks first and got through without issues. The rest of the field bunched up in the rocks and most got stuck. Next time through the rocks I found myself having to pick a harder line to navigate around the field that was stuck in the rocks lapping most of the field. I got through only to feel something wrong on the right rear. Mark radioed and informs me that we had lost the right rear tire getting out of the rocks. Tried to keep up the pace the best I could and got around to the front rock section. With the slick conditions and a flat rear I really struggled to get out of the rocks on lap 3, working the car too hard and busted three out of four axles, but I still managed to clear the rocks. Getting around to the down hill rock section I let gravity take me for a ride and got through it. The next rock / hill climb on the course would prove to be too much of a challenge with only one axle and a flat. I had to pull off and watch the rest of the carnage from the side of the track. This was an absolutely brutal final and not one competitor made it to the checkered flag. After the final racer moving on the track came to a stop due to failure they called the race.

This race was crazy. Based on lap count we ended up getting a podium finish in third. After calculating all of the points for the season not only did we win the West Ultra4 Title we also clinched the Ultra4 National title as well!

Running the Ultra4 series was an amazing journey filled with ups and downs. Countless hours of prep and changes to the car, and strategy all played a huge part in keeping us in contention. Of course I could not have done it without the support of my wife, family and friends. Our sponsors were also key and the personal support we received from Mark and Mary at Desert Craft was invaluable. Thanks to all!!!

Please be sure to follow us online at Team Ducky Racing Facebook and @team_ducky_racing

Team Ducky Racing Sponsors:
•High Lifter
• Desertcraft
•Moto Race Tire
•OMF Performance
•Factory UTV
•Muzzys Performance
•Tire Blocks
•Dirty Dawg Clutch
•Pro Armor
•Rugged Radios

Ultra4 National Championship photos courtesy of Danny Adair, Vision X


Mud-toberfest 2015

Email Blast 3 banner

It’s time for Mud-toberfest 2015, October 1st through the 4th at Mud Creek Park in Jacksonville, TX.  Bring your family out and have a great time riding. It is a smaller event than the Mud Nationals in March and offers fun family things plus we are expecting great weather to ride.

Every attendee gets a free Mud-toberfest T-shirt. And believe me, they look good!Mudtoberfestcolorprf

Plus, we’ve got a new competition that will be challenging and fun. Have you ever driven blindfolded?

Well how about giving it a try at our first ever Blind Folded Barrel Racing. That’s right! Hop in your SxS and grab a trustworthy and highly skilled friend to guide you around the barrels while you are blindfolded. I can’t wait to see how well some of you can do. Blind Fold Barrels

So join us for Live Music, Great Food, Competitions, Poker Run, Trail Riding and of course…  MUD!

I /hope to see you in Jacksonville, TX for our Family Weekend. for more details, go to

http://www.mudtoberfestex.com for more details.









High Lifter – How it All Began

September 2015

“My first four-wheeler experience is an interesting story,” says Scott Smith, owner and President of High Lifter Products, Inc. “Let me take you back probably 4 or 5 years before High Lifter was imagined. I was in the rice fields down in central Louisiana, snipe hunting with a buddy of mine. He had an old Honda Fourtrax 250. It was the first time I ever sat on a 4 wheeler, 3 wheeler or anything.  I was a mud-truck guy. So we started pulling towards this slough (Louisiana swamp) and I was on the back. Keep in mind, it was February and it was damn cold. There was a better rice field on the other side of this slough and we could see a snipe flying in and out. My buddy started towards that slough and I said ‘What are you doing?!’ He said, ‘I’m going to cross this slough and go to the other field!’ I was like, ‘Oh hell no, not with me on the back!’ He wouldn’t stop to let me off and the next thing you know, the water was halfway up to the seat. It was unbelievably bad mud. We got to the middle and were still moving. It was at that point I realized we were going to make it all the way across! I thought to myself, ‘holy crap, I gotta have one of these!’ Sure enough, we came out of the slough and crossed the levy to the other rice field, and we ended up getting our snipe. That was my introduction to four wheelers.”



High Lifter Products, Inc. is known for creating and distributing high-quality, aftermarket parts for four-wheel drive ATVs, UTVs and side by sides. What was once a one-man, evening hobby is now a 55 employee, multi-million dollar corporation, and it all started with a little snipe hunting, and then some father and son quality-time.


Armed with a degree in finance, Scott Smith, 49 of Shreveport, Louisiana, started out his professional life as a commercial real estate appraiser. He specialized in financing downtown office buildings, nursing homes and shopping centers. He became interested in construction and soon changed his profession to being a general contractor. When he wasn’t working, Scott enjoyed riding four wheelers with his father, Mike Smith.

One day, back in 1996, Mike came to his son with an idea. “He wanted a lift kit for his four-wheeler,” Scott explained. “At the time, the largest tire you could get was a 26 inch Super Swamper. He wanted to put those on his four-wheeler and he couldn’t make them fit. So, I built him a lift kit, welded it on and it came out pretty cool.”

first liftfirst lift after

Scott’s dad saw enormous potential. “It was my dad’s idea to try to sell them,” Scott adds. “I told him as long as you have to weld this kit on, you’ll never sell it commercially. So we set out to create a bolt-on kit. Back then, nobody knew what a lift kit was. People would see our four-wheelers and notice that ours were taller than theirs. They’d ask and we would have to explain what a lift kit was. I told myself, if we could sell 50 lift kits a month, it would be a great hobby for me in the evening. My dad was the driving force behind all of it. He even came up with the name, High Lifter. With his ideas and my hard work, I started building the ATV lifts in the evenings.”

His evening hobby soon turned into a two story office building with 30 employees, a giant warehouse and a website, complete with a forum where riders could chat about their experiences. “Before Facebook and Instagram, our High Lifter forum was the social site for all things mud riding. We had the biggest, most active mud-riding forum and website on the web. Our customers would talk about riding and meeting each other to go on rides. My dad, now retired, was High Lifter General Manager at the time, and Dan Doughty, General Sales Manager, decided to plan a ride and invite all the forum people plus a few vendors, and make it a riding competition. So, my dad and Dan get 100% of the credit for creating our annual High Lifter Mud Nationals.”


Scott ran his construction company and High Lifter for seven years before he decided to sell and go to work for High Lifter full-time. Making that kind of change can be challenging and downright scary. “My first thought when I got here was ‘What the hell do I do?’ I was always involved in research and development but that’s not an 8 hour day so I would sit there for the first, I don’t know how many months and just stare at my computer,” said Scott. “Everybody either took care of things themselves or they went to my dad or James “Tank” Cassell, current General Manager, if they had questions. However, after a few months, my office turned into a revolving door and now I don’t have that problem anymore!”

In 2007, with the birth of the 50 inch Polaris RZR, High Lifter began a partnership with Polaris and shifted part of the focus to side by sides. “We had five RZRs in our shop months before they were released to the public,” says Scott. “So, we got to do a lot of playing and riding them. It was clear that it was a home run and we needed to be in the side by side business.” Scott told us that his proudest accomplishment thus far at High Lifter involves the partnership with Polaris. “Having four High Lifter models in the Polaris line up is my proudest accomplishment. There are a lot of one hit wonders in life but having that full family of units, to me, is pretty amazing,” says Scott.


In 2008, High Lifter was named Small Business of the Year by the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and The Forum News. This award honors the achievements, sustainability, productivity and contributions to the community of area businesses. The entrepreneurial and mechanical skills of Scott Smith, along with Mike’s genius ideas, and outstanding support staff of employees have made High Lifter Products one of the leading ATV aftermarket businesses in the nation, to-date.


“My advice, for anyone starting their own business, is to be willing to work for free for years and years,” Scott says. “Be willing to hear the word ‘NO’ over and over and over again. You’ve got to push through it and understand success is going to have to come from within, because nobody is going to hand it to you.  My interpretation of the word ‘no’ is: you just don’t understand yet, I’ve not been clear enough.”

High Lifter Products has an outstanding reputation for quality side by side parts and accessorizes.

Thanks to our friends at SidebySideStuff.com’s BLOG for writing about how it all began at High Lifter! SidebySideStuff.com is a distributer of High Lifter Products parts and accessories.



Amateur Hour is Over…It’s Time to Start Rollin with the Big Boys by SidebySideStuff

August 2015

There’s three little words that we live our lives to hear. These words make our hearts race, our hands twitch, and fill our eyes with tears of joy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a whisper in our ear, a shout from a rooftop, or even a text on our phone. We’ll take ‘em any way we can get ‘em:

“Wanna Go Muddin’?”

I don’t mean just hopping puddles. I’m talking extreme, monster-style mudding. The kind of mudding that requires sitting sky-high on gigantic tires, with a suspension that will man-handle anything you can tromp it through.

Our friends at High Lifter have just made our mud boggin’ dreams come true, with the announcement of the

High Lifter Polaris RZR 1000 10Lift Kit.RZR Big Lift

“We’ve had customers request this for years,” says Scott Smith, owner of High Lifter products. “We’ve been so busy on other projects, we’ve had to turn them all away. We finally got the right amount of resources and time to devote to the project. We were confident we could do it as good as or better than anyone else and we feel like we’ve accomplished that.”

High Lifter’s design team worked for 10 months to develop a kit that maximizes 10 inches of lift plus provides the strength and reliability of a mud machine.

“There are two things you need to achieve when building a big lift kit or any kind of lift kit,” Smith adds. “The first of which is clearance; everything has got to clear. You don’t want to bolt up and have stuff rub right off the bat. Beyond clearance, the next thing you need to achieve is maximum strength: it’s got to hold up, stuff can’t bend or move around.”


The High Lifter Polaris RZR 1000 10” Lift Kit includes:

Heavy Duty Laser Cut Front and Rear Upper Lift/Shock Brackets

  • Upper and Lower Radius Arms
  • 4 Custom Heavy Duty Max Clearance Front Control Arms Fabricated at High Lifter with 1 ¼” – .120 Wall DOM Tubing, Heavy Duty Support Gussets & Shock Mounts
  • 2 Custom High Lifter Heavy Duty Max Clearance Trailing Arms
  • Front & Rear Custom High Lifter Heavy Duty “Helper Springs” to be installed on your factory shocks to improve ride quality
  • 4 New Custom Outlaw RCV Axles by Rockford
  • Custom tie rods
  • Custom rear brake line kit
  • Lift Brackets, control arms, trailing arms and tie rods come with durable powder coat finish
  • All required hardware and brackets
  • Detailed instruction with photos for install
  • Complete kit proudly Made in the USA by High Lifter Products



Designing a big lift that functions well in the field is not a simple task. There are many factors to consider and challenges associated with this kind of expert-level work.

We asked Brian Smith, Head Engineer at High Lifter, what kinds of engineering challenges he and his team faced in order to accomplish the strength and reliability needed for this extreme of a mud lift.

“Balancing maximum axle angle against the width of the RZR and ensuring the control arms can handle the higher stresses from the bigger lift and longer arms,” Brian replied. “We tested several versions with different thicknesses of steel and gussets through deep ruts to ensure the arms could handle the flexing that they would see during extreme mud riding.  We put a lot of miles on these lifts before releasing them to the public. Also, it was important to keep the ride comfortable which was achieved by adding the secondary [helper] springs.”

Purple Princess

In addition to designing high quality products and being able to build virtually anything their customers dream up, High Lifter takes great pride in their staff being enthusiasts, which is extremely valuable during the testing phase.

“We put the High Lifter Big Lift on our personal units and pounded on it weekend after weekend. It was just real world experience,” says Scott Smith, Owner. “We made changes and tweaks to the steering, control arms and radius bars. We did all that through just riding extremely hard. Between our Chief Fabricator, Jesse Johnson, and I, we can break more stuff in a weekend than the average guy can in a year. We ride really, really hard.”

Smith adds, “I can tell you, on the Polaris RZR , Ranger , and Scrambler kits we have, we really went overboard in design. What we tried to do was focus on making it trail-friendly. A lift this big definitely turns any machine into a good-lookin’ monster, but we’re really proud of how well our kits performed in the field. Drivability is a really important factor, one we made sure we didn’t sacrifice.”

The High Lifter 10” Lift Kit is priced at $4395.00 and will be available for other models beginning in the next few weeks, starting with the Ranger.

Thank you to our friends at SidebySideStuff.com for writing this story on their newly launched BLOG. We are excited to be a part of it!

Scott Blogs: Building a Mud Machine

For more than a decade our customers have been asking us to produce a High Lifter Edition unit.  It’s easy to understand that, given our small size, there was no way for us to pull off an endeavor of that magnitude, but hey, we could always dream….

When Polaris came to us a few years ago and pitched us the idea of a High Lifter Edition RZR 1000 XP we couldn’t say yes fast enough – but under one condition.  The unit had to be a real mud edition.  We didn’t want fancy stickers with our name on a RZR that wouldn’t hold up or perform in the conditions we thrive in.  Not surprisingly, Polaris didn’t just agree, they agreed and upped the ante.  They wanted to make the entire unit functional for the mud, not just the new parts added for the mud.  Throughout the entire process, we couldn’t believe the level of detail addressed.

Bubba1From the beginning, there was a list of must haves and a list wants.  The obvious must haves were the tires, snorkels, maximum clearance suspension, winch and tow points.  The wants were the lower door halves to keep out the mud, the rear view mirror, the upgraded front mud riders winch bumper, better reverse chain and lower gears in the transmission.  We got all the wants we asked for!

Once the list of parts was agreed upon, we participated in video conferencing.  This is where Polaris showed models of the new parts on the computer that could be adjusted and spun around. This was even better than just talking about parts, we could actually see them.

Bubba2After the parts were designed, test units started showing up down here in Louisiana to ride and evaluate.  That was the best part!  Now a lot of people talk about how cool it would be, or is, to be a test rider.  I have to agree, it can be the most fun part of the job.  Unfortunately, people don’t always realize that testing gets done no matter what.  Everyone always pictures a balmy 80 degree day with no clouds in the sky and perfect trails.  The stark reality is that those days are limited.  Most days are either really cold and raining or extremely hot and dry with lots of dust; Murphy’s Law always makes sure of that.  I’m here to tell you that this unit was mostly tested during a very cold and rainy season.  It was brutal.  I was actually glad on the days I went to work while they stayed to ride.  In addition to bad weather, there is the reality of broken parts.  While the good news is you have plenty of spare parts; the bad news is you’re replacing them in a cold rain, in the woods and in the mud.  I really need to write an entire blog about all the things we encounter while testing.Bubba3  Those days make our typical days of mud riding look like child’s play.

After all the designing, redesigning and testing, it was time for the graphics.  Polaris is second to none when it comes to cool factor with colors and graphics and they didn’t disappoint.  They wanted to do something that was a first, a color powder coated frame.  This is way more complex than you may realize.  Think about every frame coming down the line in black with a recovery system in place for all the extra powder.  Now, tell the line that you want to mix some orange in the group.  You can imagine the discussions that ensued.  Beyond the custom powder coating, the graphics on this model are best yet.  We couldn’t be happier.

Bubba4After the talk, the design and the testing, all that’s left is the waiting.  Waiting on the results.  The results that tell us if we did well or missed the mark.  That score card is given by you, the riders.  So far, you have spoken loud and clear.  There will not be nearly enough High Lifter Editions built to supply the demand.  All of the features we put into this unit and the level of quality and detail Polaris produced, hit the mark.  If you want one, I hope you get it soon; otherwise you’ll be waiting to see if we do it again next year.  Enjoy your RZR life, I know I sure do!


Scott Blogs: This is Real

We’ve got a new top secret project in the works that is going to change things. That is such a cliché. When I hear companies say that my radar goes off and I think whatever. We’ve all heard that time and time again like the boy that cried wolf. However, there are still those few times in life when it’s true. This is one of those times. I’ve hinted about us testing this new product before and it’s really close to launching. The amazing thing about it is we had to put an 8,000 lb winch on my Ranger just for the testing. The holes we hit that bury normal units are no match for us now. When we do find holes that stop the Ranger, we have had to double line our 5,000 lb winch. I’m talking about deep stuff.

Having a little fun with the Ranger at High Lifter Off-Road Park. We'd call this an above-the-waders hole!

Having a little fun with the Ranger at High Lifter Off-Road Park. We’d call this an above-the-waders hole!

We ride like a lot of other people when we’re not testing. We know the holes we can make and know the ones no one can make. Usually, we hit all the no-brainers and a handful of the others. The testing of this new product means we are hitting EVERYTHING. Yes, we’ve stuck the Ranger, but the places it is making us go to get stuck are simply unimaginable. I truly believe that out test Ranger is genuinely the baddest Ranger on the planet. The holes we are hitting during testing I would swear we should NOT be able to go through. And yet, time after time, we are going through them over and over. When I talk about deep holes many people think right off – deep water. Not this go round. I’m talking peanut butter, sludge and water. Thick nasty goo. The stuff that takes 5 hours to clean off after riding.

Now that we’ve logged hundreds of miles testing, it is just starting to sink in that this performance is not a fluke. It’s real. This Ranger will really go this many places. All I can say is the deep holes are going to get a lot deeper once this is released. Hold to your seats boys and girls, this ride is about to get serious.

Scott Blogs: It’s True – Huge Tires and Axles Can Be Friends!

In my 20+ years of mud riding, I’ve learned that huge mud tires and axles are definitely enemies – but that doesn’t mean they can’t live happily together. Now that machines have

One of my favorite ways to break an axle!

One of my favorite ways to break an axle!

ridiculous horsepower and tires that are beyond huge, the focus on axles and other driveline parts has really become sharp. When I ride hard, I want to lay on the gas, then jam into reverse, then back to drive again. I want to thrash and bang like nobody’s business. In the old days of 16 HP that wasn’t a problem. I didn’t have enough power to break anything. Now that I have 100 HP subject to the every whim of my foot on the throttle things are different. We all can break things and there is no skill in lying on the gas and shredding axles. It has taken me a while to adjust to all the newfound power and big tires. Intuitively, I knew not to lay on the gas while bound up, but I just couldn’t resist the power. While I do still break axles sometimes, it mostly happens during testing when we have to drive harder than normal.

Say hello to my new best friend - my 8,000 lb Viper Winch! We put it to work this week!

Say hello to my new best friend – my 8,000 lb Viper Winch! We put it to work this week!

When it comes to finding the happy medium with axles, driveline parts, and large tires, the solution is found in the technique and knowing what to do. There are a handful of situations that you will find yourself in when you’re just stuck in a position that is almost a sure thing for breakage. Our egos push us on to fight the hole when the smart thing is to just get pulled out so we can live to show out on the next hole. This is not to say that every time you get slightly stuck you call out for the rope, I’m saying there are holes to be fought and holes to give up on. Your job is to learn the difference.

The number one position begging to shred your expensive parts is the nose down, rear up bind. This position transfers weight to your front end, which is not nearly as robust as the rear. When you go to reverse it takes amazingly little power to blow the front apart. If you find yourself stuck like this just have someone pull you out. Trust me, after the first few times of being pulled out like this, it gets way easier on the ego.


We decided to go for the rope, instead of killing our ride on this day!

Another sure-fire way to destroy axles is the nose up way high and the rear down deep in a hole, climbing out forward. When all is level left to right this isn’t too much of a problem. However, most often things aren’t level. One side is almost always getting better traction that the other. What happens next is either you’re left or right axle is trying to push out the entire weight of the vehicle on its own. When you have one axle working to lift all the weight, you are begging to blow that axle.

With power and size come limitations. If you are that person that wants to stab the throttle at every hole, huge tires and lots of power are probably not for you unless you don’t mind turning some wrenches after every ride. For those of us with a little self control I’ll take the added power and big tires every time.

Scott Blogs: So You Want to Build a Tire

In and among our 20-plus ongoing projects going on last year (we like to work on special projects), we decided to make a new Outlaw 2. We didn’t want to just super-size an existing Outlaw 2, we wanted to jazz it up and make improvements based on what we’ve learned in recent changes to manufacturing and design capabilities. With that in mind, we started out with a blank sheet of paper.

The result of our hard work - the 32.5" Outlaw 2. It's going to be awesome on the Polaris RZR 1000 XP!

The result of our hard work – the 32.5″ Outlaw 2. It’s going to be awesome on the Polaris RZR 1000 XP!

As you would expect, the first decisions that needed to be made were the overall height, width and wheel size. Those were relatively easy decisions. We wanted the tire to be a true 32.5” tire. Over the past 14 years designing tires, we have learned that a 32.5” tire on paper rarely comes out a 32.5” tire from the mold. This is true for most tires, including truck and agricultural tires. Our next decision was the width. The current trend is to run skinny tires front and back. While my personal opinion remains that is not the ideal setup, and the topic for a future blog, that is what the market is looking for much of the time. Given that, we decided we would maximize the performance by making only one width, 10.5”, slightly wider than traditional front tires and slightly narrower than traditional rear tires. This width will maximize the footprint on the ground without robbing as much horsepower as wide rear tires frequently do.

The wheel size took a little more thought. Since the wheel market is exploding with a variety of sizes, it is hard to predict which size will become the new standard or if there will even be a new standard. In the old days 12” wheels were the only thing available and it took years before the 14” wheel became the standard. Now there are 15”, 16” and 18” wheels on the market. We stuck with the 14” wheel for this tire to maximize the number of wheel choices for our customers.

Our blank sheet of paper now looked like a massive donut, a giant circle of rubber with a 14” hole in the middle. The tread bars were the next design feature to complete. Even though our tablet was blank, we knew the existing Outlaw 2 tread bar was a clear winner with respect to pulling, cleaning and delivering a good ride. We now also had benefit of several other tires in this line with lots of data on which features worked the best and which just looked good. From this information we were able to fine tune all the key dimensions of each tread to maximize the benefit and reduce the amount of rubber in production. Less rubber equals less weight. The end result of the new design is remarkably similar to other Outlaw 2s, but with superior dimensioning and construction to minimize weight and improve performance. A hard lesson was learned on our first shot at the Outlaw 2. This tire was so advanced in terms of the size of the treads and the amount of rubber needed to build it, we had to improve the way rubber moved inside the mold while in the press. Some of the early tires were casualties of this learning curve. We aren’t proud of having to learn on the fly, but we are proud to say we stood behind these tires 100 percent for our customers.

Between the superior design and the improved knowledge of moving rubber in the mold, this new 32.5” Outlaw 2 tire is going to be phenomenal in regards to performance, quality and weight.

Scott Blogs: Preparing for a Test Ride

So the other day we were at my shop at home waiting on a big group of guys, many from out of town, for an important test ride. In total, there were going to be about 10 of us on the ride. Since anyone reading this is probably a diehard enthusiast, I realize your mind has already sped past the details. You went straight to: I wonder what they were testing? Why were so many people needed for this test this? Why were they from out of town? These are good questions, the same questions I would be asking. One of the most aggravating things is for people to dangle carrots like this and not tell the answer. I won’t do this to you, so here is a subtle hint: it was a tire. That should be a good enough hint. By the way, this wasn’t just any tire. These guests were here to confirm our opinion; this tire is going to be the new standard. You know we’re always working on new stuff, creating and testing the things we come up with. That’s one of the things I love most about my job. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can get back to our day.

While the weather was great that day in Shreveport, Louisiana, the rest of the country was getting hammered by a massive snow and ice storm. Needless to say, that delayed most of the planes for our group. Scheduled “go” time had been set for noon, but around 10 a.m. we learned they were going to be at least four hours late. At this point, there was already a small group that had made it to my shop, from various places, and all of us were getting restless. For those of you that don’t know much about me, I’ll fill in a few blanks. I have two modes: 100% full throttle or 100% couch potato. I do both equally well and am very happy in both conditions. Problems arise when I’m shifting from one mode to the other or trapped in the middle. Since this particular day was to be spent all out hardcore test riding, my mind and spirit were already on the gas, but my body was stuck sitting around waiting, which I absolutely hate. To make matters worse, this was our last window of opportunity for this ride in good weather. The storm covering the rest of the country was headed our way and would be in that night. Even though we could ride the next day, it would be raining and in the low 30s, whereas today was sunny and 75. The anxiety was building …

As we sat under the covered porch of the shop sharing horror stories about different rides we had been on, I kept eyeing a huge pine tree in the front yard. This tree sits about 20 feet from our master bedroom and has no protection from the wind. Several months ago I noticed it was dropping all of its green needles and looking pretty poor in general. Since then, I had been entertaining how I could cut it down so the top wouldn’t make a surprise appearance in my bed on a windy night. The longer we talked the more I thought about this tree and how it needed to be gone. Although it was still warm and sunny, the wind was picking up and the storm was approaching. We had already killed several hours, so the rest of the group was only about an hour out. In theory that wasn’t a problem. After all, how long could it take to chop down a monster pine tree?

No sooner than I got the words out of my mouth, “Let’s go chop that pine tree down” my little brother Brian, who I love and respect immensely, piped in with 20 reasons why that was not only a bad idea, but a horrible idea. To cover a few of them in no particular order:  your chainsaw is too small, the tree is too tall, you don’t have enough time, your house is right next to the tree, it could hit your house, and the biggest – the wind is blowing fairly hard now and in the wrong direction. I’ll admit that last one got to me just a little. The wind had picked up and was gusting on and off. However, the decision was made. It was time to soldier on and make things happen in true Scott Smith fashion.

Scott doing a little work on the dozer!

Scott and Tanner  doing a little work on the dozer!

I grabbed my trusty saw and headed across the yard. It fired on the second pull, and without another thought I tore into the massive trunk like it was a sapling. Strangely enough, as soon as I got through the thick bark all progress stopped. The motor rev’d, 2 stroke fumes filled the air, the blade spun, but no more chips. Ahh, the blade was spent.  At this point I wondered, is God telling me Brian was right? Is this really a bad idea? After all, if this goes badly, what will I do? I’ll have a lot of guys here in less than an hour to go test riding on a perfect day, and how will it look if I have a 10 ton tree lying across my house? I could imagine and hear Rachel as she came home and found this tree across our house and me trying to explain, “I’m so sorry, honey. You see I chopped this tree down to protect our house, but then it fell on the house. As soon as it fell everybody showed up to ride. I didn’t know what else to do, so we went riding.” That surely wouldn’t be one of my brightest moments. As those thoughts were running wildly through my mind, I heard James, our General Manager at High Lifter, shout from across the yard, “Hey, I have a bigger chainsaw with a better blade at my house. Do you want me to go get it?” YES! God wasn’t telling me not to do this; He was telling me I needed a bigger chain saw! We were back in business boys.

As I stood under the massive pine looking up at the already decaying branches, I watched as the wind whipped the beast back and forth. I knew we would only get one chance and we were going to have to do this right. At this point I pulled out my ace in the hole. That’s right, I had a backup plan, a Plan B, the excavator. It’s simple really; you just pull up, put the bucket against the tree, and push. That’s how it works on TV, right? So that’s what I did. I pulled up, put the bucket against the tree, and pushed. Nothing. I pushed harder. The excavator lifted off the ground. Not to be discouraged or give up, we hatched Plan C. Plan C was pure brilliance; we would push against the tree and cut it at the same time with this newer, larger, sharper chainsaw. Nothing could go wrong. This is where my brother, the engineer, steps back in.  He tells me, “Scott, you’ve got a great plan right here. You’ve got it well thought out. You have all the tools to accomplish this task, and I can see you’re ready to get back at it. I just want to point out one small thing, just a tiny detail you might not have considered. The excavator is going to act as a pivot point on the tree, and with the wind gusts we have now, that big ‘ole tree is going to pivot on the bucket and come right back on your head in the excavator.”

Now this had not been part of the plan. In truth, I had not even considered this as a possible outcome. Sure I worried about the tree landing on the house, but I was willing to take that risk. Now we’re talking about it falling on my head. Not only that, falling on my head before a big mud ride. I had to study on that a minute. After careful thought and consideration, I arrived at a satisfactory conclusion. We will in fact cut the tree down, but since there is considerable risk involved, we will also video the act. That way, if it does go badly, it can be submitted to all the various TV shows about stupid people doing stupid things.

With no more to do’s, I got to pushing on that tree and James got to cutting. The wind picked up and I pushed harder. The excavator lifted and the tree cracked with resistance.  It wasn’t going to go easy, but at this point there was no way we were going to give up.  The saw was steadily making chips, and the excavator continued to grunt against the strain of the old pine. The cracking sounds grew louder, and then there was movement. It was slow at first, just a lean. More cutting, more pushing, louder cracks, then, the trunk started to snap. The momentum had begun. There was nothing more we could do at that point but watch. We all watched as the big tree headed down. Much to Brian’s amazement the plan worked perfectly. The tree didn’t come back on my head, and there would be no new stupid people videos made that day. As it turns out, the excavator had enough push in to get the tree leaning as the saw weakened its base. I was able to get the tree pushed far enough over so there was no real danger of it coming back on me in the wind. Gravity was my friend. When you cut a tree down of this size you don’t cut all the way through it then watch it fall over. Cutting it takes a long time.  It will get weak and begin to fall long before you get all the way through it. I already knew this. I knew the excavator was more than big enough to get things headed in the right direction, so it really wasn’t nearly the gamble many feared.

That’s me though. Some say fools rush in but I say aggressive people rush in. When others see problems and challenges, all I see are ways to fix or solve them. That is the way High Lifter operates. We don’t understand “no” or “can’t” or “too hard”. We see a problem, we fix it. We see a challenge, we tackle it.

Within minutes of the tree hitting the ground the rest of our crew showed up and we were all ready to ride. The ride turned out amazing and is worthy of an entire blog itself. Hopefully I can steal away a few hours and type it up soon.