The title can never quite describe the podcast; Adam ‘Skinny” Lunn is so much more. Coming out of North Texas, he wiggled his way into the Arizona scene as a sweeper in the Campbell shop and expanded from there to 11 years driving and winning desert races—great stories from the early days and beyond. Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.
5:06 – I started chopping this thing up, thinking I was going to rock crawl a Z71 pickup
8:31 – I think right away we knew we were outgunned – we showed up with a 4 wheel drive and left with a one-wheel drive
12:41 – “kid, everyone that works in here’s last name is Campbell”
15:37 – I was going to be a professional rockcrawler, so I quit school without telling my parents
22:22 – I went into gypsy mode
25:21 – …until the fire got to me, I wasn’t burning…
35:39 – I don’t know if I’m dumb or tough, maybe both, anybody else would’ve quit
41:29 – I got my biggest break, the Trophy Tractor was born
Special thanks to 4low Magazine and Maxxis Tires for support and sponsorship of this podcast.
Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.Support the show
Welcome. To Conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviewed are all involved in the offroad industry. Being involved, like all of my guests are, is a lifestyle, not just a job. I talk to past, present, and future legends, as well as business owners, employees, media, and land use warriors. Men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle we call offroad. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes, and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active in offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world that we live and love and call offroad.
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[00:01:39.380] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Adam Skinny Lunn. I don't know if he's still going by Skinny anywhere, but maybe some of the old rock crawlers. But Adam has been around for quite a while in the rock crawling scene. As a young kid, he got started, will get into the age and all that. But he progressed himself up to a full time fabricator shop and desert racer. So Adam, thank you for coming on board and spending some time with us.
[00:02:08.600] - Adam Lunn
Yeah, awesome. Thanks for having me, Rich. It's been a while and I look forward to catching up.
[00:02:14.320] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. So let's just jump right in with both feet and find out where you were born and raised.
[00:02:21.620] - Adam Lunn
I was born and raised in Wichita Falls, Texas. It's about two hours north of Dallas Fort Worth, right here on the Red River. Born and raised here. And actually, out of all the crazy wild places I've worked and lived, I've come full circle. And that's where I'm living back today. A suburb of right near where I grew up. And that's where my shop is.
[00:02:46.340] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, excellent. And when you grew up in Wichita Falls, I've been through there a number of times. Were you in town or were you on the outskirts, more rural?
[00:02:57.070] - Adam Lunn
I was growing up. I was I was in town, but my family has always been into ranching and a little in the oil business. So we were always running around ranch and lease roads. And that's how I got into a four wheeling, to be honest with you.
[00:03:13.970] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And those early school years, how did they impact your future life? Were you studious or were you a little rebellious or whatever?
[00:03:27.180] - Adam Lunn
I was always pretty good at school. But once I got to high school, high school, I'm sure like a lot of guys back then, it was pre all the phones like it is now. Everybody was into the magazine. So probably about 15 or 16, once I got my first truck, I was in school with magazines tucked in the books, acting like I was doing school work. But I was almost always over there sketching up offroad cars and trucks and making list of modifications and reading magazines and seeing what everybody was doing in the offroad scene.
[00:04:01.420] - Big Rich Klein
And did your high school offer industrial shop classes or anything like that?
[00:04:08.490] - Adam Lunn
Yeah, they did. And actually, I give big credit to them for being one of the few that still had it back in that day. They're coming back around now. But we had what they just called AG, and that was at a full metal fab shop with torch and welders. And you could go in there and use the stuff as your own and really dive into it. And that was key. I did that my junior and senior year, and that's when I got bit by the... I enjoy driving them, but I... And even to this day, I'm not sure which I like more, driving or building them. I got bit by the FAB bug there and haven't been able to kick it since.
[00:04:47.920] - Big Rich Klein
Very nice. So then when you were at that age where you said your family did some ranching and that stuff, and you were out on the ranch roads, were you driving yourself? What was the first vehicle you got to drive?
[00:05:06.930] - Adam Lunn
So first vehicle I drove was a 60s F 100 two wheel drive, which is sliding around. We know down here in the south, you drive pretty young. We were probably 10, maybe nine, eight starting driving that thing. And then in high school, back then, it was like the thing. I wanted a Z 71 pickup so bad and got a used extended cab, four wheel drive Z 71 pickup when I was 16 and then lifted it up, put it on mud tires and was in the... Back then, it was just mud bogging hill climbing, just rallying that thing around. And that's what led me to start grabbing the magazines. And that's when I started seeing, got bored with the mud and then seeing all these guys on rocks and was just fascinated with it. So as ridiculous as it sounds, I started chopping this thing up and thought I was going to rock crawl a Z 71 pickup and was just really fascinated with it. And then realized real quick, a Z 71 is a little too big for rock crawling. So then I migrated into K5 Blazers and Jeeps. And my dad, he was hacked at me because he thought I was tearing up this nice truck.
[00:06:23.460] - Adam Lunn
So he made me a deal. He said, Why don't we sell the truck and get a little commuter car, and then I'll let you have five grand to buy a beater. You can do whatever you want to that thing. So I got a K5 Blazer and made a buggy out of it. And that was really the start to what I consider real offroading.
[00:06:42.300] - Big Rich Klein
And when was the first time and where did you get a chance to get out on the rocks?
[00:06:48.230] - Adam Lunn
We just, you know, around here local. There's some actual somewhat mild rock crawling around that we would do. And then I saw in the magazines that everyone was going up to these places in Oklahoma, Clayton, Oklahoma, Disney, Oklahoma, which are still popular to this day. And back then, it was one of the first K5 runs. There was a forum called Colorado K5, and they had a big run out there in Disney. And I begged my granddad. I said, I got to get to this thing. Can I borrow a pickup in a trailer? And I towed my Blazer up there and saw for the first time what real rock crawling was and met guys from around the country and how cool that was, all the camaraderie. And in the industry and the sport, everybody helping each other fix their rigs and was just bitting from there and then saw that they were going to have a rock crawling championship event in Johnson Valley, California, where they were going to play. I think it was maybe 20,000 back in the day. And that's all I could do is just read about this competition every month in the magazine and convince my granddad as my senior year to haul all the way out there with me from Wichita Falls 26, 28 hours, something like that, and haul that thing to Johnson Valley.
[00:08:17.890] - Adam Lunn
And that was my first competition. I think I had just turned 17, so probably 98, 99, somewhere right in there.
[00:08:27.590] - Big Rich Klein
And did you actually compete at that one?
[00:08:31.520] - Adam Lunn
Yeah, I did. And honestly, when I would consider decent for back home, I thought we were pretty good. I'll make you laugh, Rich. I figured we would go out there and probably win the thing, some cocky kid. And so I show up and the first thing I see is Jason Polly's buggy in the parking lot where we were staying the night I got there. And I'd never laid eyes on something like with a whole tube, chase, rear steer, a real buggy. And I was just in shock. I remember looking at my granddad and he even knew nothing about the sport. And we could see all the other rigs in the parking lot. I think right away we both knew we were a little bit outgunned. But still I thought we could probably get it done. Long story short, my grandpa said we showed up with four wheel drive and we left with one wheel drive. We broke about everything on that car. We at least started every obstacle both days. I think we got dead last, but it was the most fun I'd ever had. And I was hooked on it. And my granddad, he has a little bit of radio background.
[00:09:36.100] - Adam Lunn
And the whole time he spent researching and watching the guys that were doing good. And we went and watched the awards that he told me. And Jason Polly won that event. He said, What we need to do is we got to go talk to that guy. The rig we're in isn't going to cut it. If we even see if you've got any talent at all, we're going to have to have a better car. And so we approached Jason in the parking lot. And George Lates and after about buying their car. And they told me they had just built it and that one wasn't for sale. But they had just... They had previously been crawling in a C J7 that was pretty heavily modified and thought it'd be a good one for me to get going and learn in. So we struck a deal right there with George and Jason to get that old C J. And my granddad, I think a little bit, he got the bug as well at that point and saw the fire in my eyes. So we were he told me, he said, I can't fund your way in this thing all the way, but I'll get you started and get you a car to learn in.
[00:10:37.400] - Adam Lunn
And maybe you can get some sponsors on a little help and work hard and get a job and put in your own money and maybe do this if that's what you want to do. And that's how it all started as far as that. And then I realized living back then, almost everything was like offroad racing. The capital of it all was more in the Southwest. So I convinced my parents that I wanted to go to Arizona State to go to college, mainly in the back of my mind, knowing that's just where all the good wheeling was and to be more centrally located to the competitions. But convinced mom and dad that I was just mainly interested in the academics out there. But as soon as I got out there, I immediately just started crawling pretty much every day out there. And that's when I would really say it, it all started coming to fruition.
[00:11:33.930] - Big Rich Klein
And who did you hook up with first in Arizona?
[00:11:38.250] - Adam Lunn
So back then, Pirate 4x4, it was just really starting to get big. And so I remember I had nowhere, of course, to keep a buggy or my Jeep in my trailer. And so I just put a post up, seeing if anybody would help me. And Ian Llijablad, one of the first guys I met, he didn't even know me. He reached out, still friends to this day. And one of the nicest guys. He quickly volunteered that I could keep my trailer and Jeep at his mom's house and work on it in there if I needed it, or at his shop. And I'd seen him doing well in the comps. He was in the scene as well. And so I really appreciated his offer. And he was running around with Randy Ellis and Shannon Campbell and Rob Bonnie and those guys. And all of them at that point, to me, were just legends. Just like Jason Polly and these guys, like, you star struck, almost, I'd say back then. And I remember Shannon had a shop there. And so I called them and just wanted to come by and check it out. They said, sure, come on by.
[00:12:41.540] - Adam Lunn
And I went in there and saw they were building the IFS Crawler at the time, the Cadillac on the table. And my head was exploded at what these guys were doing and building and they had so many cool tools and just ate up everything they were doing. So I asked Shannon for a job and he laughed at me and said, Dude, everyone that works in here's last name is Campbell. Sorry for you, it's not going to work out. I was disturbed. So I thought about it and I talked to my granddad that night. I was like, Man, he told me no. My granddad said, Well, I'd get back out there at the brim tomorrow and just get to work. I said, Well, he told me he didn't hire me. He said, Well, I didn't say you're going to get paid. I said, I'd get out there and get to work. So the next day, I went out there like my granddad said to do, and I just said hi there, wondering what I was doing. And it was awkward. I just grabbed the broom and started sweeping. And Shannon was like, What are you doing, kid?
[00:13:35.220] - Adam Lunn
I told you, no, we don't need anybody. I said, I'll work for free. And he said, What? I said, I'll work for free. And he said, You're going to drive over here every day and just clean up and you don't want anything. And I was like, Nothing, just let me watch what you guys are doing. So stay out of the land, don't get hurt. He, I think, tried to run me off that first week. He had me weed eating his house. I mean, all kinds of washing trucks and trailers. I'd hang out in there in the evenings. All their buddies would come over after work and help them work on stuff at night. And I'd hang over. And he later told me that I made them laugh. So they kept me around. And I think maybe a month later, he felt guilty. And I was working my butt off, at least thought I was. And he said, Hey, man, why don't I pay you five bucks an hour? And I was at that point on top of the world. I was working in my mind. I didn't care how much money it was for. It was for Shannon Campbell.
[00:14:30.330] - Adam Lunn
Then we started wheeling together and he saw I think I had a little bit of talent and offered to help me get into one of his cars at the shop if I worked on it in the night and the evenings up there with him. Him and nick helped me get my first car together that was what I consider a real buggy all tube chassis. And we debuted at Farmington Super Crawlers. It was doing all right. I think we finished top 10, but had an untriviality time we roll over. And then I think two or three events later, we had our first podium. And Shannon helped me at the time. He was really good with sponsors, and he helped me get in the door with some product sponsors, which was huge on my car. He always... Everyone says it, but he really did. I mean, take me under his wing. They were feeding me at the house. I was living in Whelan's room there for a little while. He was a little baby. I was riding every morning in the shop back and forth to Shannon. And about school, it only lasted about four or five months.
[00:15:37.540] - Adam Lunn
And I decided enough of the school I was going to be professional rock crawling. So I quit school without my parents even knowing at the time and just kept working with Shannon and then got in with Randy. I ended up doing some work for Randy and Shannon and Ian, all those guys in the time that I lived there. And anybody that knows the Phoenix area knows how big of a hot bed for crawling it was. So back then, really didn't need a lot of money. I pretty much ate at Shannon's house and we wheeled every weekend from Friday when we got off to late Sunday and work hard all week and then either go to a comp or practice wheeling every weekend. I tell people, yeah, I was competitive back then. But when all of us were doing, I was probably doing 20 events a year at the height of it for me. And even the other 30 weekends a year, we'd still go crawling all those. That's all we did back then was wheel and compete. It wasn't a sport. It was a lifestyle back then. And that's what... People all the time knew guys in the crawling scene will ask me what it was like back then in the gold major or whatever.
[00:16:47.830] - Adam Lunn
And I'm like, man, I wouldn't even realize how good we had it because I think, yeah, we all wanted to win and win money, but I mean, most everybody was... We were just cutting up having a good time with our friends. It was half the fun was in the budgeting parking lot after the competition.
[00:17:05.420] - Big Rich Klein
So true. Let's go back a little bit. When you went to that first comp and your granddad went with you, did he spot for you? No, he.
[00:17:17.620] - Adam Lunn
Did not. A friend came with me and my granddad had a funny story. He's probably heck rich. He had to be close to 70, maybe even 75 at the time. Big man, my granddad was probably 6'4, 5 and 222, 40 big guy. And so for him huffing around at that age, we went in there so unprepared, had no water, no coolers. We had no idea what we were getting into, what Johnson Valley is. We thought it was going to be like a rodeo arena with concession stands and stuff. And that first one, especially. So we had the bum water. And he tells the story great. He called my grandma. He says, from the shade of a rock. He said he was about to pass out, resting. And he said, This is the worst day I've ever had. Her name is Valene. He said, This is terrible out here. And she said, already, that's his name. Just tough it out. I'm sure Adam's having fun. And I didn't know he had said that. Well, then he meets up with me at the end of the first day and I tell him, granddad, this is the best day I've ever had.
[00:18:20.890] - Adam Lunn
So he gets back to the hotel and calls my granddad and my grandma and says, Scratch that. It was a good day. I've never seen a kid so excited.
[00:18:30.920] - Big Rich Klein
[00:18:32.630] - Adam Lunn
And he came back and he tried to explain it to his friends in Wichita Falls. He's like, You won't believe what these people do. They go out here with these perfectly good cars in the middle of Death Valley, California, and crawl over Volkswagen sized boulders and tear up good equipment for no reason just to go through some cone.
[00:18:51.720] - Big Rich Klein
And that's what we still do.
[00:18:54.740] - Adam Lunn
That's what we still do. That's what we still do. But then I remember when I was working for Shannon, his dad had done a lot of off road racing, and they would always tell me stories about desert racing. And we went to the park for a few of the races around there just to spectate. And being a fabricator and a gear head, I would look at those desert cars and Shannon and Don, his dad would show me. And that was the highest level of fabrication and building and teams and support and just the logistical challenge. And in essence, I had an experience that coming from Texas, but they made desert racing like it was this mythological thing. It seemed so cool to me at the time that these trucks had helicopters and hitting jumps at 130 guys on the crew and seeing chase trucks and pig welding and coming even from seeing rock crawling competitions. When you see that, especially back then for the first time, it was awe inspiring. And so that was the other thing I picked up from moving up there in Phoenix, not only really lit the fire for rock crawling, but was my first exposure to desert racing.
[00:20:09.110] - Adam Lunn
[00:20:09.730] - Big Rich Klein
And when you were there in Arizona and you ran with Bonnie and Ellis and that group, did you ever work at 4 Wheelers as well? 4 Wheelers Supply, like the rest of them did?
[00:20:25.720] - Adam Lunn
No, that's actually... I was very good friends with the owner and Rob. That's probably the one place I worked. A long time for Randy, long time for Ian, and a long time for Shannon. And then even Desert Rat, the retail store, I worked there a little bit. I worked about most everywhere in town but 4 Wheelers. But Rob was always running. Every weekend, it was Rob, Randy, Shannon, Ian and those guys back then. They'd all meet up and then we'd have every Wednesday or something or whatever it was, we'd all do lunch. Kind of all the fad crawl guys, we'd eat lunch together. Those guys were really top back then. So you weren't going to run around with one without running with all of them top of the deal.
[00:21:10.520] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And then how long were you there? I know that you said you went for college. How did your parents feel when they finally found out that.
[00:21:20.620] - Adam Lunn
You backed out? They were not thrilled. And I'll probably get it back again as live comes full circle. But they asked what I... Of course, they had sent me money for books, which I promptly spent all that money immediately on rock crawling parts and told them I was... School was going good. But eventually, I knew the report card was going to come. And I'll never forget, my dad called me, and usually it's my mom. My dad calls, of course, you know it's serious. And he had told me the report card had come. And as he said, the ride was over. If I wasn't in school, if I thought I was grown man enough to not need school, then I was going to have to be 100 % a grown man. And I was on my own and the best of luck to me. And of course, like any hard headed kid, I was, in my mind, working for the best in the industry, doing what I wanted to do, sure didn't need school. And like any kid, you dang sure don't need your parents advice. So I almost took it as a challenge. And what you also don't realize is how much your parents really helped you.
[00:22:22.800] - Adam Lunn
All of a sudden when the car payment on my pickup quit getting paid that they've been helping with, and the apartment quit getting paid they've been helping with all of a sudden, $5, $10 an hour, didn't cut it for grown man. And so really had to tighten down at that point. And honestly, that's when I went into what I call gypsy mode where I, in essence, lived out of a Dodge pickup with my trailer and my buggy and tools, whoever shop I was working with. And really, we'd go to a comp. And if it was in Utah and there was another one there in two weeks, we decided it'd be cheaper just to hang out there rather than go back home and burn all the diesel. So just talk to somebody who lives close at the event and go hang out with them for a week or two in between. And that's really when I got running with Pat Gallagher and Johnny LeMount of the RP films guys. They realized I didn't have a real job and crawling was it. So then they pitched the opportunity of I could come stay up there with them.
[00:23:32.430] - Adam Lunn
We could do a bunch of filming. Offered me a place to live. And in between the comps, we just pretty well would be solid filming footage up there, hanging out. And that's when I got in with Nate, who was my longtime spotter, Jason Pauley's cousin. He was always at the events with Jason, and he had agreed to be my spotter. And he liked that lifestyle, too. So Nate and I headed up to Truckee, California. And we were back and forth up in and out of there about a year and then decided to... Didn't call Phoenix home anymore. At that point started calling South Dakota home because when we were in California, that's where Nate's family was from. And Jason had the shop there and had a little work for Nate and I to do and a place for us to work on the buggy. So ended up living between California and South Dakota for the next two or three years after that.
[00:24:34.310] - Big Rich Klein
One of the times that I remember really well, and I bring it up a lot, was Cougar Buttes at one of the... I'm sure it was Cal Rocks or W ee Rock at the time, and I'm not sure which one it was, but that you were on course, your car caught on fire. I came running up trying to get your fire extinguishers off, but you kept moving and I said, Stop, you're on fire. And you go, No, I got to finish the course. I was able to get the fire extinguisher off. We got it. Somebody else came running up and got the other side one. And we got the fire out while you were still driving on course. You never really did stop. And then I think you did finish the course.
[00:25:21.640] - Adam Lunn
Yeah, we did. We had a good portion of the car on fire, but you know how it is when you get the, I call it race drunk when you get the blinders on. And until that fire got to me, if I wasn't burning, I don't think I was stopping until we got done. I tell people it's a different level of pressure. Back then, we were trying to win some prize money to get home and eat. You can't be stopping for any fires.
[00:25:50.110] - Big Rich Klein
I remember after that as well, there was a couple of guys in the crowd that got really mad at me because I used your fire extinguisher. I was like, Dude, that's why they're on the car. That's the closest ones to the fire. What are you getting mad about? And this guy, they were drunk. Drunk people can be. Yeah. They just kept on me. I was getting really ready to throw them out or do something. I'm not sure what. Then nick Campbell and nick Hall walked up and said, Is there a problem over here? And those guys just... Four on one was okay. All of a sudden, three on four was... The odds were against them.
[00:26:42.340] - Adam Lunn
Yeah. And I can tell you, nick Campbell's got some heavy hands. You don't want to be messing with that guy.
[00:26:49.770] - Big Rich Klein
nick Hall was not a small dude either. He was a scrapper. No. Oh, God. Those were days. They sure were.
[00:27:00.340] - Adam Lunn
Those were the days. And another good funny one from one of your events. I'll never forget, we were on top of an obstacle and it just got all crossed up in there. Really had no real option. And I remember Nate looking at me and saying, I think with the only option is just purposely roll the car and I think we'll go through the finish gate if we roll how I think you're going to roll. So we just rolled that thing down there and we were so pumped. I think we got like, maybe fifth place, which is like $750. And then kids don't even realize we probably did 10 grand in damage to win the 750. But in our mind, it was like, it worked perfect.
[00:27:41.020] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. Do you remember what event site that was?
[00:27:45.960] - Adam Lunn
They all run together, but I'm almost positive. Again, that one was with Cedar City. And then another, I remember they had the wall, as everybody calls it. I remember when that was first there at Cedar City, and we drew it for First Obstacle Day 2. So you had to sleep on it all night. I remember the last car to go on day 1 was John Nelson and Tiny. And I remember he rolled all the way to one of the most vicious rolls. I don't know if you remember that, Travis. I've ever seen crawling all the way from the pure leaded off the top of the wall and probably 30, 40, 50 foot right to the roll cage about smash the thing. And so we had to we had to marinate on that all night. I remember in the morning trying to brush my teeth and gagging on water. I was so nervous. It was probably the most nervous I've ever been in a crawling was that wall there in Cedar City. And I remember walking it thinking, you promoters have lost your mind. There's no way anybody's going up this. And sure enough, you know how it is.
[00:28:51.670] - Adam Lunn
You put some bonus comes somewhere, somebody's going to figure out a way, especially back then to do it. And it was just wild. I remember the walls was started. But just from there, the progression of not only the obstacles of the cars and it's... I tell people all the time, you can watch video, do whatever you want, but unless you really experience true big crawl and you can't put it in words. It's phenomenal what's really possible in those things.
[00:29:20.330] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, that's so true. We have so many people that show up to events now because with all the media and social media out there and everybody playing the videos and everything, that we get a lot of people that have never seen it in person. They've seen it in video on social media. They show up and they're just absolutely astounded about the difference. Oh, that climb and that drop didn't look all that bad. And then they're standing there and they're totally blown away.
[00:29:55.320] - Adam Lunn
[00:29:56.210] - Big Rich Klein
It's not gotten any easier, that's for sure.
[00:30:01.070] - Adam Lunn
Perspective is wild. It really is. Whenever you walk around and see it with your own eyes, it's mind blowing when you're really in there. It's like big mountain skiing. And if you watch the video, it almost looks easy. But then you stand on top of something and you're like, Wow, this is a whole different ball game when you're actually above it. True.
[00:30:21.880] - Big Rich Klein
Very true. So then you're up in South Dakota working off and on with Jason Polly and doing events and stuff like that. What came after that?
[00:30:36.100] - Adam Lunn
Well, after that, I remember Rock N oveling was it's debatable what caused it, but some people say the moon buggy, some say whatever the economy at the time. But for whatever reason, everyone was starting to go away from the competition crawling. It was really, especially with the two seat cars, what I cute on earlier, it was always so fun to me about the sport is I was able to compete in something that you could also recreationally have fun in. And in my mind, in my personal opinion, no one will ever know, I think what killed the sport, or didn't kill the sport, but hurt the sport, is when the cars went away from something that you could use other than competition. We all went to such small fuel cells, single seaters, Moon Buggy s are variants of it. And those cars, in essence, other than competition, they really don't have any practical use. I mean, sure you can, but how much fun is we in a car that can only run for 25 minutes and you can drive by yourself? It's not the same as it was. And so I think when you took the recreational aspect away from it, it lost the fun and alerted a lot of people.
[00:31:53.430] - Adam Lunn
So for whatever reason, it seemed like, honestly, overnight everybody started going different directions. Guys were getting into short course racing. Xra was popping up. Everybody was starting to have these rumors of rock racing, which to us back then, I'm sure you remember, there was no such thing prior to that. No one ever tried to go fast while you did obstacles. It was all about control, doing it fluid, just traditional crawling. Back in high school, some of my favorite things to do was just high speed gravel road ripping. And then whenever we'd go wheeling on the weekends, half the fun was we'd go race our buggies. I mean, we were basically off road racing, Shannon, Randy, everybody, racing trail to trail, almost what Hammers is now, but just for fun. But in junky crawlers, just to beat your buddy while you drink beer to the next trail to talk mess, you got there quicker. So I got rumor that Shannon, I think he went and did one. And I talked to him and he was like, Man, there are a lot of fun. And one was coming up in Cort, Colorado. So I outfitted my competition, buggy.
[00:33:08.480] - Adam Lunn
Back then, I joke, the race car conversion, all that was back then was like a set of air bump stops. That's all pretty much anybody did on their car. Put a bigger gas tank in a set of air bumps, and now you got an offroad racer and went out there and we did well. We got a podium and it was fun. And I really liked the adrenaline and going fast. It was a new challenge. And I realized that the car was pretty limited. I was going to need to build something from scratch. And then I got to thinking about it. And at that point, I'd been watching those desert people videos over and over. And it was just obsessive, what I keyed on earlier, desert racing. It was like, maybe this is a good opportunity to make a change. And decided it was a wild decision. But some friends of mine had started a retail off road shop here back in Wichita Falls, and we're doing well with it, that I went to high school with. And they offered me the opportunity to come back and work with them, get closer to home, shop space.
[00:34:13.550] - Adam Lunn
I honed my fab skills working with all these guys, was a decent fabricator and decided I was going to sell my rock racer and sold it to a guy in Albuquerque, and then bought all these parts and decided I was going to build a 7200 desert race truck, which back then was a brand new class they had just introduced, which was in essence supposed to be a trophy truck, but with the V6. And I remember at the time, honestly, people were laughing at me when I told them I was going to build one. There's no way you could do that. You could build something yourself. And honestly, looking back, they were right. We had no idea what we were doing. But we did get the thing built, and it took about a year and a half. I worked on this thing 20 hours a day, seven days a week. All I did was work on building this truck. And that started the next chapter of my life career, whatever you want to call it. I switched from the rock sports to desert at that time, probably my mid 20s and got it done and found some local sponsors.
[00:35:20.170] - Adam Lunn
I joke I was like, ten cup, the golf, maybe showing up to my first desert race. We get out there and all these other guys got energy drinks and shock companies and Ford and all this on their car. And I think we had a septic company and a farm implement supply company. Is that why.
[00:35:38.730] - Big Rich Klein
You called it the tractor? A couple of my.
[00:35:39.610] - Adam Lunn
Other buddies helped me get out there. And it was the 07 Henderson 250 was our first event. We showed up. We had no GPS. The other racers, they couldn't believe it. You guys don't have a GPS? I was like, No way, man. That's like 1,500 bucks. We can't afford that. We're just going to go off the map. And they're just looking at me like I'm crazy. And we legitimately rich. My mom, I think, laminated the map with lamination. And our plan was literally to drive around and look at laminated paper and just follow the markers, which in modern desert racing, if you're wondering, is not a good plan. It ended up raining and water got all in between the lamination. And so our maps got wet and everybody started running all the course markers. So we were basically just completely driving blind, had no idea where we were at. Ended up rolling the truck pretty hard on the first lap. And like my desert racing story, almost anybody else probably would have quit. I don't know if I'm dumb or tough or maybe both. I don't know. But again, after crashing my car and destroying everything, I left there like, this is it.
[00:36:49.450] - Adam Lunn
This is the ultimate challenge. I want to win races, finish races and do this with something I built. And you'd always heard people say trophy truck. And then it was 7200. But my goal, I set it. And I remember telling Nate on the phone, and he was like, Dude, you're out of your mind. You got to own a casino to do that. And I was like, I'm going to race a trophy truck. You wait and see. I said, It may be a home built one. It may be a piece of junk, but I'm going to do it. And just put my mind to it and went back home and just kept working hard and really didn't stayed that course for a couple of years. And then one of our first break, there was a show called Danny and the Bingo on fuel, a pretty big fuel TV at the time, reality TV show. And my buddy who we joke, he called himself my agent at the time. He was like, Dude, I'm just going to try. If I can find anything for you, I'd like to help. And he actually sent the TV show an email and they responded and decided they were going to come film this TV show, which was a national TV show.
[00:37:55.100] - Adam Lunn
The whole hour was going to be on us. Danny Kass Olympic snowboarder was going to ride in the truck with me, and it was wild. All of a sudden we had sent maybe 250 sponsor emails for desert racing and couldn't get anybody to even return anything other than generic response. And then all of a sudden the second that we had the official email that we were going to do the Danny and the Dingo show, it broke the floodgates for us. We ended up getting a tire deal, a shock deal. Several companies wanted to come on board. Of course, I'm realistic. It wasn't so much to be a part of my program as it was to get their stuff on TV. But regardless, it was the start. It was like everybody always asked, what was your break? That was the first one to even make it possible to keep going. And then that enabled us to run one more year. And I just fizzled out. The V6 is starting to get really expensive, almost trophy truck money level, and was getting priced out and frustrated. And I remember making the joke, I said, Dude, let's just...
[00:39:01.140] - Adam Lunn
I built a full trophy truck. It just had a six cylinder. I said, Dude, at this point, let's just put a 60 Chevrolet V8, like a 500 horse motor in our trophy truck. And everybody, like my crew and my friends, they're all laughing. Yeah, right. It was a joke. So we're driving home and I remember I looked down and the MIP400 was going to come back. The Martelly's had just got it and it was 2012 and it was going to be the MIP 400. And I just was like, man, Vegas MIP 400. Holy, this is going to be so cool. We should just put a VA and go enter the MIP 400 and trophy truck. And then the reality of how much is a junkyard 6L? And literally, we had a board and stroke junkyard 60 decided to throw it in there and go race the MIP 400 in trophy truck. And of course, they had qualifying, which I had never done before coming from rock sports and in 7200. And I'll never forget it. I'm in this homebuilt piece of junk truck with a 60 motor, no dry sump, carburetor on a 60 would barely run.
[00:40:10.490] - Adam Lunn
And it's random staging. And I had to in qualifying, they put me behind Rob B. Gordon and in front of Rob McAkrin in my truck.
[00:40:18.060] - Big Rich Klein
No pressure. It's the.
[00:40:20.160] - Adam Lunn
Mips 400 and there's like 10,000 people, of course, out here watching or whatever. And I'm just like, I can tell you I've never been that nervous in my life, that's for sure. Amazingly, we got around there. My friend said it wasn't embarrassing slow. Maybe they were being nice. The thing was loud. We had it on straight headers, so it at least sounded like a race motor. And we went off... And back then, there was probably 50 trucks at the first minute. I think we went off maybe 30 or 35th. And my whole family came out. And it was such a big deal to me. And of course, the motor blew up first lap somewhere relatively quickly. Things all got hot. It blew up. Not enough oil. But still, I could see how much fun everybody had. I had a few sponsors that had come up to me and shook my hand that were like, Man, this is a really cool story. Some kids in a homebuilt truck came out here and tried to race against the big dogs. And I mean, the thing, we was literally spray painted, od green. Ugliest truck you've ever seen. So we cup hugged.
[00:41:29.550] - Adam Lunn
But again, in our mind, all we were away was we just needed a real motor is what we thought and a little more seat time. So we're back home and I'm testing on a Ranch out here and I'll never forget it's the biggest break I've ever had in my life. It was the high fence game Ranch, the God is Awesome Ranch, Texana Ranch, where there's still races to today. They let me come test on their Ranch. So we're driving around and next door, the people around the ranch next door, I look over and they're in a Raptor watching. I'm like, oh, they got a Raptor? That's pretty cool. So sure enough, they come over and turns out Jeff, who I'll get to in a second, Jeff Miller and his son, Max, is who rolls up the owners of trophy tractor. We had done a little work on his son's truck in the past at my buddy's retail shop. So we knew him, small world type of deal. So Jeff asked if I'd give the two of them a ride. And of course, anybody that wanted to ride, especially back then, I'm like, come on. So gave her both a ride, could see they were really enjoying it.
[00:42:38.130] - Adam Lunn
And then Jeff asked me why I was getting him his ride. Why I didn't have a big company on the door. And I said, Man, I'm trying to find one. And that's what's holding me back, I'll be honest, we just raised the net. We're out of money. I'm just testing until we're just looking for a break. And he said, Well, maybe I'd like to get my logo on the side of that. And I said, Oh, you got a business, sir? And he said, Yeah, I've got a heavy equipment sales and rental company. And very modest guy downplayed it and told me that he'd be interested in me coming by his office the following Monday and talking about being a sponsor on the car. And so we go home and Google his business and you could see, like I said, he's a modest guy. And he still does have a heck of an operation here selling mining equipment all over the world. And I could tell that maybe he wasn't popping off that this guy, realistically, could be a good fit for our team. And so I went and had a meeting with him on that Monday.
[00:43:42.110] - Adam Lunn
And I'll never forget it. I didn't think I had a chance. I brought all this paper in there, a budget, trying to be as professional as I could, but never really been in any type of meeting like that, especially talking about the type of money it takes to run a trophy truck program. And at the end of it, he stood up and shook my hand and said, Let's do it. And I was like, What? You're still in shock? Let's do what? And he said, Let's run this truck. I'll commit. Let's do one race. I'll be your primary sponsor. And if it goes well, we'll just go from there. And so our first race was Vegas, Torino. And I'll never forget, I got product and I'd won some prize money, but I'd never really got real funding, a real sponsor check. And I was like, Oh, never forget one. And that day he sent me with the check. And I remember just looking at that thing. I don't even think I cashed it for two weeks. I just hold it and looked at it just been shocked that somebody had enough faith in us that they would help us do something like this.
[00:44:45.480] - Adam Lunn
And so our first race under the Trophy tractor team name was Vegas Torino. And prior to his help, I don't think we'd ever gone 100 miles in a desert race. We always had problems. And we went the race race is like roughly 540. We went 525 miles. He was like, longer than we've ever gone. And we lost the engine with 15 miles to go from finishing our first best in the desert race. And I was sick, I'll be honest, I remember unplugging the radio crying because in my mind I figured if I finished the race, he might help me again. But now I just didn't finish the race. I blew this motor. We just bought up. There was your one shot. You were so close and you blew it. Just really bummed. We were even trying to get out a hole in the block and I was trying to undo the connecting rod and try to drive it out of there on seven cylinders. And it just wasn't going to happen. So I had to radio Jeff and let him know we weren't going to get the truck. And I know how excited he was to see his logo and everything on that podium.
[00:45:51.090] - Adam Lunn
And we didn't make it happen. So we all part ways that night. And then the next morning at breakfast, I'll never forget it. It was pretty early. We were all going to have to, he was going to fly back home to Texas. And he was like, Well, when's the next one? And I couldn't believe he'd even ask that. And I said, It's in October. There's only six weeks between these events, Jeff. And he said, Well, we better get us another motor order today then, huh? And I was like, Really? And he said, Yeah. That killed me, too. I saw how close you were. He's like, I got the bug now, too. Let's do this deal. And so we finished up that year. He got me to the end. And I think honestly that maybe he might have just done that one year. And I'll never forget it. The Tesco guys ribbed us a little bit, just poking fun at us. And that last race when we were loading up, and Jeff's a competitive guy, and I could tell it I packed him off a little bit. And I remember he came up to me and hit me on the shoulder and he said, Hey, we're running again next year.
[00:46:52.970] - Adam Lunn
And I said, We are? He said, Yeah. He said, We're going to beat Tesco too. I said, All right. Yeah, we're going to beat Tesco. You watch. That's my goal. He said, Let's get it done. And so he was a man of his word and turned it into a little bit of a ramble on it. But in the end, fast forward, that was 2012, and I'm still racing with Trophy Tractor today. Been an 11 year relationship. We did over 50 Trophy Truck events together. We later changed 6100 and now Class I. But there's not a lot of guys that can say they race 50 events, stood the test the time. You see a lot of guys maybe get to race a trophy truck one or two times and fade. But we were there a dang near solid 10 years at it and really proud of that. And you still have.
[00:47:51.560] - Big Rich Klein
That relationship. That's awesome. Yeah, still.
[00:47:53.840] - Adam Lunn
Have that relationship. And then we went from trucks I built myself to, again, purely with Jeff and Trophy Tractor and my great product sponsors. Bfg has been with me almost since the beginning. We were able to get our motto fully professionally built trophy truck with all the good parts in it. And at the end there, we had a good two season run in what I consider a competitive truck, a really competitive truck. We had a third place finish in one of the two day events in a trophy truck. Looking back, I never won a big event in trophy truck, but I don't know as a privateer how realistic that goal really is. But we had a number of top 10 finishes. And that next year we did. We finished fifth in points out of 60 trucks and best in the desert and actually beat both Tesco trucks. Nice. Jeff was really proud of that. And that was finishing top five for the year when everyone was running one series. That was back when all the guys were, if you raced in the US, you were running best in the desert. There really wasn't any other place to run.
[00:49:08.800] - Adam Lunn
So to finish with all the heavy hitters was really the highlight of my trophy truck career. Awesome.
[00:49:16.000] - Big Rich Klein
And then after the trophy truck, you said you went to... What happened.
[00:49:25.130] - Adam Lunn
Was, as everybody sees now, the trophy trucks were going the all wheel drive direction. Everyone was going big block. A lot of people, I think, would guess a number that takes to run a truck even somewhat competitively. But once you factor in all wheel drive, big blocks, the new generation, what trophy truck is now, we were already on a shoestring budget at a big disadvantage when everybody was with small blocks and two wheel drive. And in essence, Jeff and I had a meeting where you were either going to have to build another new trophy truck to have anything remotely competitive, or we have the option of converting our existing truck to 6100 and determine that that was a better use of the funds. And at the end of the day, we're both competitive and we got to believe that we got a shot to get on the podium and win races. And when the four wheel drives came up, that just really wasn't going to happen in our current truck. So we moved to 61 hundred. And about that time, we ran a couple of events. And then through social media, actually started running a little bit with R.
[00:50:44.260] - Adam Lunn
J. Anderson. And that formed that partnership. I was getting a little older as far as Desirée is concerned. I used to do all the driving, but then in your late 30s trying to just solo Vegas, Torino, and some of these 500 plus small events in a 61 100 truck, 10, 12, 14 hours in there, started to realize it probably be more on pace, be better to have two fresh guys, which most of our competitors were doing. And wanted to bring someone that was really talented that could help us. Social media was starting getting obviously big at that point and realized that that was the direction marketing and everything else was going. So I was like, I need to find a teammate that's savvy with video promotion, the business side of the sport. And R. J and his family are fantastic at that. And we tried it on at one event. And now we've been, I think this is our fourth year, we've run every race together since the first one now. And so that's been a good partnership. All of our sponsors, Kind of Align as far as BF Goodrich, Rigid, Walker Evans, Wheelz. So it was a natural fit for both of us.
[00:52:03.170] - Adam Lunn
Excellent. And I take.
[00:52:05.830] - Big Rich Klein
It that the future holds the same as for right now. Do you have any plans on jumping back into the big TTs?
[00:52:16.800] - Adam Lunn
I do. Like a lot of people, life has changed for me quite a bit. Over the last five years, I've got two boys married, eight and six, and all the time away from home, of course, being based out of Texas and trying to run the full championship season, a trophy truck between test and everything is probably half the year away from the house. You got to figure if you want to be competitive. And really that isn't viable anymore with my home life. So we've migrated to... We run three or four big events now, and that necessitated the move to Class 1. Run in a truck only three or four times to have all the equipment, everything that it takes to run a truck, all the extra bodies, etc. The juice really wasn't worth the squeeze. And so my new plan now is I've stepped back, I call it jokingly semi retired running. Last year we ran King of the Hammersmith Baha 500 in a local Texas event. I think we'll probably do the same this year, maybe the 1,000. Just trying to focus on some big events, make sure we're still relevant in the sport, still getting out there.
[00:53:35.510] - Adam Lunn
But the master plan is I'm really focusing on business these days more than racing, trying to build my fabrication shop in the end of something where maybe 5 to 10 year outlook. I'd sure like to build my own all wheel drive truck out of this shop and race it with my two boys. I can't think of that'd be the icing on the cake, so to speak, to dedicated. For lack of a better way to say, this is all I've ever done since 17, so I can't think of a cooler way to wind down as to race it with them and then eventually pass it over to those guys and just create team for them and watch them have all the fun and memories that I've got to have in this sport. Cool.
[00:54:25.900] - Big Rich Klein
And your business is that on the area 53?
[00:54:28.950] - Adam Lunn
Yeah, that's our fabrication business. And like I said, I had all these tools you got to have just to keep a truck running. And then when COVID hit, of course, I'm sure for everybody... And that's how I made my living was off racing. That's all I do. And when COVID came, of course, sponsorship became tough for everyone, especially financial health. And so just honestly, for lack of a better way to say it, just to survive, keep the shop, keep the employees, keep the guys pay. We started having to take on outside work, working and prepping on other people's cars, doing race car builds, rock crawling stuff. And it was a blessing in disguise. It was the hardest time as far as racing, but I never really knew how much work I guess was out there, so to speak, for the shop. And then we got some good equipment in here, CNC stuff. And then I've got in the industrial and aerospace manufacturing. I'd say we're 60 % manufacturing business, 40 % motorsports these days. And I've got five guys here, plus me. So we've morphed on accident from a race team to a manufacturing facility.
[00:55:52.080] - Adam Lunn
But now I see the light. You never could tell... I have young guys hit me up all the time, 18, 19, 20, how do I race a trophy truck? And I remember people telling me this, I didn't want you want to hear, but the honest truth is the easiest way is go focus on building the business, make some money, then race the trophy truck in your 30s. Don't try to do it when you're 20 is the honest truth. And it took me 20 years to finally see. I don't know. I would have changed the way I did it. The memories were more priceless, but I definitely did it the harder way. Spending other people's money is much harder than making your own, I promise you that. That's true.
[00:56:37.100] - Big Rich Klein
That is so true.
[00:56:38.650] - Adam Lunn
It really is. Talk about.
[00:56:41.570] - Big Rich Klein
[00:56:43.980] - Adam Lunn
Got my oldest boy, he's eight, is D rake. And then Wyatt's six, and they want to do everything like dad. The shop's here behind the house. Both of them are in there. We've got a dirt bike track behind the back. And we've been helping R. J. We took the whole family up to Crandon, spent a decent amount of time out there in the summer. And I've been trying to keep him away from the trophy charts I can. But over there, he's discovered that you can race at eight years old and got the never ending questions of when is it my turn? And so if I had to guess, I'll probably be putting together some kidraisers in the shop here pretty quick. Awesome.
[00:57:31.340] - Big Rich Klein
Well, that's good. It's good that you're in a position where you can think about doing that. Yeah.
[00:57:38.800] - Adam Lunn
And it's funny how life works. For sure, 10 years ago, I've been down and you hear people say that, they say, I'm going to focus on my kids. I get more enjoyment out of it. And you think, oh, that's just some crazy old man. He's just saying that. There's no way. But I think anybody tell you this is so true. To watch your kid do something is 100 times better than doing it yourself. And so I can't even imagine when they cross the line at their first race or get their first wheel. That must be. And I think that's why if you look at any offroad sport, rock crawling, desert racing, they're all so family oriented, family driven. I think almost every guy does it race. His dad is more than likely right there, probably did it before him. I think that's why you see so many multi generational families in offroad racing and motorsport. Once you get a taste of it, they're in the real world that compares. Right. Well, Adam, I want to.
[00:58:42.830] - Big Rich Klein
Say thank you so much for spending the time and conversing and talking about your life and everything. And I really, truly wish you the best of luck in the future. I really appreciate that, R ich. We haven't.
[00:58:56.610] - Adam Lunn
Talked in years.
[00:58:58.440] - Big Rich Klein
And when I saw your name pop up again at KOWH this year, I was like, All right, you were already on the list. There are certain people that guys have asked, Hey, find out what these guys are doing. Get them on the podcast. And you were one of those. Yeah. Thank you for taking the time and making this work. Absolutely. And I really.
[00:59:20.520] - Adam Lunn
Appreciate the opportunity you've given me to be on here today. And it was great talking and catching up. All right. You take care.
[00:59:27.900] - Big Rich Klein
And enjoy life, buddy. You do the same. Okay.
[00:59:32.000] - Adam Lunn
Let's not let it go a couple of years this and that. Absolutely.
[00:59:34.830] - Big Rich Klein
All right. Later, buddy. Okay.
[00:59:36.480] - Adam Lunn
[00:59:37.020] - Big Rich Klein
Bye. Well, that's another episode of Conversations with Big Rich. I'd like to thank you all for listening. If you could do us a favor and leave us a review on any podcast service that you happen to be listening on, or send us an email or text message or a Facebook message, and let me know any ideas that you have, or if there's anybody that you have that you would think would be a great guest, please forward the contact information to me so that we can try to get them on. And always remember, live life to the fullest. Enjoying life is a must. Follow your dreams and live life with all the Gusto you can. Thank you.