The Petrolicious 4×4 Adventure Was A Dirty, Dusty, Downright Good Time Going Off-Road
Photography by Shayan Bokaie and Siddharth Pandey
Over the course of a single year, Petrolicious Rallies have taken us from the famed Fiat Lingotto Rooftop factory test track in Turin to the California coast in the annual pilgrimage to Monterey Car Week, but our latest took us to a place unlike any we’ve been to before. To quote Doc Brown, “Roads? Where, we’re going, we don’t need roads!” We channeled our inner dirt devils to dive into some of California’s most desolate paths for the first-ever Petrolicious 4×4 Adventure.
Participants gathered for an intimate kick-off dinner in Ojai in one of Paul Newman’s frequent hangouts, the historic Ranch House restaurant. Other regulars included Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, John Lennon, and Barbara Streisand, just to namedrop a few. of their star-studded guests. Over a half century later, the stars of Ojai’s hidden gem were now the cars. Outside, a broad range of vehicles from off-road Porsche 911s to Chevrolet Trail Blazers to a plethora of Jeeps, waited patiently for their all-terrain activities. Petrolicious fans from all over California quickly became friends over a three-course meal, swapping car stories, spec sheets, and wish lists. All participants were treated to a full set of Turtle Wax’s new Hybrid Solutions car care waxes and sprays for their post-drive cleaning. Additionally, pairs of handmade, Italian sunglasses from LGR World were also apart of our participants’ welcome packages.
In the morning, our drive began on the scenic Highway 33 before heading into Ballinger Canyon OHV area for off-road training and a survival course. Veteran instructors provided instructions and demonstrations before the group started the survival course. Dips, gullies, elevation changes, and the occasional dirt bike made for a challenging yet surmountable topography, with each car taking their own angle of attack best suited for their particular setup.
The mix of machinery made for some great overland eye candy. Our friends at Jeep not only provided the Gladiator Rubicon “pace car” but also brought along their Wagoneer Roadtrip concept, a nostalgic experiment from FCA’s design department. Done tastefully with period correctness in mind, the Wagoneer was no slouch on the trails, and a gem to look at in its element.
On the lower-slung end of the spectrum were two Porsches taking a completely different approach to the typical 911 use case. Petrolicious Founding Member Kurht Gerhardt in his Porsche 912, featured in our Member exclusive series Peking 2 Paris, was adding to his car’s collection of mud from around the globe. Behind, was Gen Shibayama driving his Porsche 911 SC/RS tribute, just one week after completing the build. In a moment of Porsche camaraderie, Kurht offered to set the line best suited for the P-cars. Even so, one trough proved to be too much for the well-traveled 912, as it was caught with its front wheel stuck firmly one foot above the ground. All laughs, the snafu provided a great opportunity for our instructors to give a live lesson on how to extract a vehicle from the tightest grips of the terrain.
Along the way, we rode with some of the drivers, learning more about their stories and their overlanders. Dow Chang of Los Angeles shared his 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser with us, “this is the daily driver. I had a modern car and realized keeping things simple is a lot more fun and helps me be more present so I went with analog everything. I’ve always been a Petrolicious lurker so it seemed like the stars aligned when I saw you’re doing the Petrolicious 4×4 Adventure and I’ve got a vintage 4×4.” When asked how the car was on the trails, Dow continued, saying, “this is the first SUV I’ve owned. This is the first manual car I’ve owned. This was my first time taking it off-road. This was a brand new, out of the comfort zone experience. I felt like the idea here was to push limits, and this was that opportunity for me especially with zero experience. I’m almost proud of myself because I can’t believe I did all that.”
Also on his first overland outing was JD Jurentkuff in his patina-perfect 1971 Ford Bronco 302 V8, who told us that, “after living in LA for 20 years, I’d seen them around and always wanted one. So one day I saw this one sitting in a lot on Lincoln Boulevard and had to have it. Nine years later here we are, the Petrolicious 4×4 Adventure is by far the most outrageous place we’ve taken it.
“In many ways the Bronco exceeded my expectations. As we started to approach the entrance to the survival course the Porsches started to go off road and pick up speed, so I tried to keep up and was really pushing it. At a certain point I’m looking down and saying, ‘oh, the speedometers out. Odometers out.’ JD Jurentkuff tells us through a chuckle. “It’s been a really great group of people with cool cars, especially the Porsches. It’s been really cool following them and watching them tackle the off road experience.”
In the consortium of Jeeps was a father-son team, John and Nick Russel, in their 1995 Jeep Cherokee purchased with the intention of sharing the gasoline passion together or as John puts it, “Off-roading, dirt biking, tracking, sports cars—anything that burns gas.”
“I’ve always loved Jeeps, so it had to be a Jeep and I really wanted the inline-six. I didn’t want to drop a ton of money and the XJs are half to three quarters of the price of Wranglers both for the car and the aftermarket parts,” John continued. When asked how the car performed on the trails, Nick explains, “the survival trail had more challenges than I was expecting, so it was interesting to feel the suspension actually work.”
After our survival session, the group headed to Carrizo Plains, a much flatter trail where we picked up speed. The Porsches would occasionally dive off path and drove alongside making for some very Dakar-esque scenes. A final photo session against an epic California sunset in what felt like the most beautiful place in the middle of nowhere closed the 4×4 Adventure with some unforgettable memories. We finished at a dead-end junction which felt straight out of an old Western movie. Teams from Southern California head left, and teams from Northern California headed right. Dirty and dusty, drivers shook hands, exchanged numbers and their separate ways. Another amazing Petrolicious experience in the books.
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