Hors de Combat

So I bent the Zombie Emergency Response Vehicle (ZERT) today. It’s fully drivable, only it’s now missing the capability to be a 4×4. Here’s why:

Also former front drive shaft

Former front drive shaft

That was, until this morning, a one-piece front drive shaft with slip yoke, from the transfer case to the front axle. It’s now a three piece drive shaft and no longer connects the transfer case to the front axle.

The back story is thus – The big motocross track in Southern Maryland, Budds Creek Motocross Race Track, along with Big Dogs Offroad LLC hosted an event here this weekend at the Track. (No, I’m getting no money or goods from this…). The motocross track was opened to 4×4 street-legal vehicles only, low speed, along with a confidence/obstacle course, teeter-totter, show-and-shine, vendors booths, and three different woods trails. Inaugural event for the combined organizations, though Big Dogs holds events at other locations, just first time at Budds Creek.

Shortly after the driver meeting I headed onto the motocross track. Nice solid surface, lots of ups and downs. 4×4 Low engaged, headed out. First couple of hills OK. Then got noise from the front end while going down hill, especially if I had to brake. About four good hills in, about 1/4 of the way, the noise got louder and became a thumping noise. Pulled off the trail into a field and saw the front and back portions of the drive shaft hanging down with nothing in between. Another 4-wheeler delivered the missing section. I whipped out a couple of wrenches (9/16″  of mine, borrowed a 1/2″), yanked the remaining pieces off, and finished the course easily in 2×4, rear only.

Why did it fail? The original springs had been re-arched when I converted from the donor 1984 Suburban to the ZERT. 200,000+ miles and a diesel engine has taken a toll on them. So going downhill, in combination with braking, brought the driveshaft into intimate contact with a starter bolt. Worked just like a pipe cutter and sheared the shaft in half. Custom piece to fit the modified ZERT drivetrain, I’ll have to order a new one. And get some new springs, bump stops, and shocks. Good thing I recently weighed each corner of the ZERT. 1400 lbs on each front tire, 1300 on each rear. Near 50/50 weight distribution. If the truck had the original 350 gas engine, it’d be right on the mark.

After a while, I repeated motocross track 2×4 only. With the rear locker, diesel torque, the new (used) Hummer tires, I made each and every hill without fail, a little wheel spin at the top of the steepest ones. Otherwise, the ZERT was a hit at the meet.

Went with a buddy in his nicely tricked up Jeep. He had done the obstacle course once already and decided to try his luck again. This time, he had a little problem and had to get an “assist” out of the tire/log portion.

Hung up on the log in front

Hung up on the tires in the rear

Nothing damaged other than his pride.

So I rode shotgun and we headed to the trails. People were breaking and getting stuck on all three trails. I bailed out and stopped traffic at the entrance to all three while everyone sorted themselves out over the course of a hot, sweaty hour or more. In the woods, not a lot of room to maneuver. One of the passengers of another Jeep got out of her ride. And promptly slid and fell in the mud. Her little brother was clean though. I suspect that he pushed her…


An old 4×4 showed up and tried the motocross track:

Old Power Wagon

Finally, our county EMS/Fire recruiters showed up to get some more suckers, er, volunteers. Like me:

St. Mary's County EMS/Fire recruiters

There’s more going on there tomorrow but I’ll be busy with the wife. Overall, a fantastic time, met lots of great people, got reacquainted with a few old buddies. For those one or two readers who meet for dinner and shots, I’ve got some interesting information from the Big Dogs owner. Not for general dissemination yet. I’ll be in contact about that somehow…

3 Responses to Hors de Combat

  1. Well, better to find out on a play course than when you actually NEEDED it! 🙂

  2. Well, 99.9% of my driving is on-road, and I don’t particularly expect to have to get off-road very often, so I haven’t had the chance to test the capability. Now that I think about it, this is only the 2nd time the truck has really been off-road, and the other time I didn’t have the lockers OR the front drive shaft. So this was a “chocks-out” test of the vehicle.
    So – do I go whole-hog with a custom suspension, or just get good new springs/shocks/bump stops? It can get expensive either way, and I need to do something soon, there’s more events coming up I wanna do!