Serial entrepreneur Chris Overacker on Episode 90. Founder of Stage West Offroad Outfitters, Mountain Off-Road Enterprises, and CODE 4x4 talks engineering, building, marketing, Jeeps, and full-size.
4:22 – “Well, you must not have been trying very hard!”
8:12 – I found the light!
13:11 – How come you didn’t tell me that slider was in there backward??
21:18 – Lee Sharp was a fantastic mentor
26:50 – I don’t want to be competitors with you
32:15 – “Why don’t you export product and import money?”
55:44 – we went to an off-road racing school with Rod Hall and Steve Kelly
1:00:18 – we’re going up that trail right there – where? – right there, there’s a trail
We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine.
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[00:00:01.030] - Speaker 1
Welcome to the Big Rich Show. This podcast will focus on conversations with friends and acquaintances within the four wheel drive industry. Many of the people that I will be interviewing you may know the name. You may know some of the history, but let's get in depth with these people and find out what truly makes them a four wheel drive enthusiast. So now is the time to sit back, grab a cold one and enjoy our conversation.
[00:00:29.370] - Speaker 4
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[00:00:55.990] - Speaker 2
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[00:01:16.550] - Big Rich Klein
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On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich. We have Chris Overacker. Chris is a guy that's been in the four wheel drive industry for quite a while. We'll get into all of that, but he has started a bunch of different companies in the offroad world, and we're going to talk to Chris about all that. So, Chris, thank you so much for coming on board and being part of Conversations with Big Rich.
[00:01:46.350] - Chris Overacker
Well, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity. And it's going to be fun to share.
[00:01:50.080] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I think so. Your name first came up with Jack Bettio, one of the other interviews that I did East Coast competitor, and he bought a white vehicle from you. I think it was a CJ seven or something.
[00:02:04.250] - Chris Overacker
Yes, it was. Okay.
[00:02:05.570] - Big Rich Klein
Well, before we dive all into that, let's start at the beginning. And where were you born and raised?
[00:02:13.450] - Chris Overacker
Well, I was born in San Jose, California, in 59.
[00:02:17.740] - Big Rich Klein
[00:02:18.290] - Chris Overacker
And didn't spend a lot of time. There was. My folks moved to Colorado in, I think, 64. So I'm just a little tot then, but I would like to consider Colorado kind of my home stomping ground, even though I've lived in New Mexico for a bit. But anyway, I moved to Colorado Springs in 64 and then just learned to love the Rockies and skiing and backpacking and everything Colorado had to offer.
[00:02:47.770] - Big Rich Klein
So Colorado Springs, the home of the Air Force Academy?
[00:02:52.060] - Chris Overacker
[00:02:53.480] - Big Rich Klein
Was your parents moved there just to get out of California, or was it work related?
[00:02:58.760] - Chris Overacker
Well, my dad worked for Hewlett Packard, and they had a plant in Colorado Springs, and he transferred there as an electrical engineer. And he jumped at the opportunity to get out of California and move to a state that was known for its outdoor activities. So he really encouraged the whole family to go along with that. And I guess my brother at the time was four and a half years older than us. So he was all for it. And I was obviously for it. So it's like, yeah, let's go to Colorado.
[00:03:31.040] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. And you said you were born in San Jose. I was born in the North Bay, in the San Bruno, Burlingame areas where I was born. But I was raised in San Bruno, California, but I spent through my high school years there.
[00:03:45.470] - Chris Overacker
I see. Well, I don't remember it much, obviously, but I sure admire that state and everything they've done for our industry.
[00:03:52.540] - Big Rich Klein
Yes. True. Too bad. Now we won't get into political anyway. Almost everybody knows how I feel about that. I'm no longer a guest of their situation in California, so I'm glad to have escaped.
[00:04:14.290] - Chris Overacker
[00:04:15.170] - Big Rich Klein
Anyway, we find yourself in Colorado Springs at the age of about five years old.
[00:04:22.180] - Chris Overacker
Yeah. I moved there at about five. And like I said, my dad had me on snow skis at about that age. And as a matter of fact, he volunteered on the ski patrol at a couple of different ski areas, so we would head out to go skiing almost every weekend. And matter of fact, I can remember one time we were heading back and I was all proud of myself. I said, dad, I didn't fall down once today. He kind of looked at the rear view mirror at me and looked at me and said, Well, you must not be trying very hard.
[00:04:54.970] - Chris Overacker
So kind of burst my bubble, but it was a good lesson, and it kind of stayed with me.
[00:05:01.210] - Big Rich Klein
I always had that same attitude. You can't have great success without some failures, right?
[00:05:12.980] - Chris Overacker
Exactly. So anyway, we did that in the wintertimes, and we did a lot of hiking and backpacking as youngsters, and we just really learned to love the outdoors and everything that entailed. And obviously I was kind of grown up to elementary school there, and some of my friends would have mini bikes or go carts. And I thought, wow, those are fun. And I get to ride them every now and then or go out to the local parking lot with them and rump around. And I kept bugging my dad.
[00:05:41.930] - Chris Overacker
I want a mini bike, I want a go cart, whatever he was not really for at all. He wasn't totally closed minded, but it was always just kind of a subtle no. So I was kind of disappointed in that. But that's just the way it was anyway. And I think it was about 1969 or 1970 somewhere in there. My dad got offered a job in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Hewlett Packard, but with a different division, he was going to go into sales. And so we all talked about it.
[00:06:17.940] - Chris Overacker
And we all packed up and headed down to Albuquerque from Colorado Springs. So we got there. And I think it was probably late 69 or 70. And my folks bought a home that was in the northeast foothills, not really in the town of Albuquerque, but kind of near the foothills but still near a lot of the desert and kind of rural but still close to town, if you know what I mean.
[00:06:42.770] - Chris Overacker
And it was just a wonderful place to grow up. There was all kinds of boys my age and my brother's age that we would hang out with, and we'd have to ride the bus to school. We were the first ones on the bus, and the last one is off, and we'd sit in the back of the bus and be rather mischievious, if you will. But typical boys. And there again, a lot of my friends out there had dirt bikes, and it was to the point where my dad finally had to give in and bought us a couple of dirt bikes, and he actually got into it as well.
[00:07:14.360] - Chris Overacker
And next thing you know, is my brother and I and my dad out riding dirt bikes in the desert and exploring all the terrain. So that's where I kind of got my start in the offroad world was riding dirt bikes in the desert.
[00:07:27.370] - Big Rich Klein
So then I would take it that while you were in school, you were more of a do it your own way, do your own thing instead of Scholastic or athletic.
[00:07:41.570] - Chris Overacker
Absolutely. I was an okay student. I think most of my problem was I just probably didn't apply myself as much as I should have, but at the same time, it just didn't really interest me a whole lot. The Scholastic stuff, English and math and science. And what am I going to use that for? But I'll tell you what, when I got into high school in 9th grade, I signed up for metals shop. They had metals one and metals two for your junior and sophomore year. And I found the light.
[00:08:15.570] - Chris Overacker
This metal shop was set up. It had welding boost, and you could learn how to MiG Weld and tig Weld and stick Weld and they had a milling machine in there, just a manual bridge Port. They had a lathe, they had a Foundry, you could cast aluminum, had a sheet metal shop. You could build little tool boxes and stuff. It was like, this is it. I know right now this is where I'm going, because this is fun.
[00:08:38.610] - Big Rich Klein
So what were some of the projects that you remember building?
[00:08:43.410] - Chris Overacker
Oh, I built a couple of little toolboxes I gave one to. This is funny. I gave one to my grandmother in California, my dad's mom, and when she passed away, I got that back. So I still have that. It's kind of cool.
[00:08:56.050] - Big Rich Klein
[00:08:56.930] - Chris Overacker
I made a little dust pan for somebody on sheet metal and let's see welding projects. I remember one of the projects we had to do was to take some I think it was like eight or 316 stick steel, like little cubes. And you had to Weld it into a square box, and then it had to float, so it had to be airtight. And if it didn't float, then you got to go do it again until it floated. So that was fun. And in the Foundry, I think I cast a little ashtray.
[00:09:27.340] - Chris Overacker
Never did smoke. But I got an aluminum ashtray that I made in the Foundry, but they had a project for the Lathe, where you could take a piece of bar stock and you had to turn down different sizes and make a taper and then put some nerdles on one end until you kind of got the basics of how to do a lay and how to read blueprints and how to follow those blueprints just all kinds of cool little projects like that.
[00:09:51.250] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. And that was in high school, correct.
[00:09:55.200] - Chris Overacker
That was in 9th and 10th grade in high school. And Meanwhile, we were still riding dirt bikes and having fun. And I was working on dirt bikes and learning to wrench on them because we were out using them and had to maintain them. And that was interesting as well. And then let's see it. My grandfather gave me his 46 Willys CJ two A, and I think we got that between my sophomore and junior year in high school, we drove out to California and towed this Jeep back, and it had been rode hard and put up wet, and it was in good shape, but it needed a lot of tender, loving care.
[00:10:36.570] - Chris Overacker
So that was going to be my daily driver. And I started driving that Jeep and started learning in a hurry that you had to work on that to keep it going constantly. Yeah. And so I kind of learned in a hurry that that was what you had to do. So there's lots of four wheel drive shops in Albuquerque, but one in particular was named Lee Sharp Four Wheel Drive Center. And Lee specialized in replacement parts for Jeeps. He didn't really have a lot of accessories. Matter of fact, he was old school.
[00:11:06.960] - Chris Overacker
He didn't have any accessories, maybe a floor mat or something. But he had Jeep parts, and he worked on all kinds of four by four vehicles. Well, I got to know him right away because he had wheelbearing parts and brake parts, and he had all the replacement parts that I needed for that old Jeep. Matter of fact, one funny story is it was time to rebuild the old T 90 transmission. And I talked to Lee goes, yeah, I got parts for that, no problem. So I got some advice and went home and in my garage I took the thing out and I think used a floor Jack or something done and got the transfer case, split it off and got it all apart.
[00:11:45.370] - Chris Overacker
And I put all the parts in a box and took it down to Lee, and he looked at it and he fixed me up with all the different parts I needed and gave me some more advice. I went home and stumbled through it and got it all rebuilt. I thought to myself before I put this back in. I better take it down and lean and have him take a look at it just to make sure that's right. So I put the transmission in a box and I use my dad's truck and I go down there and I put it up on his bench and he comes out and he looks at it and he looks down inside the top covers removed, and he looks at it, looks at me and it looks good, like 5 seconds.
[00:12:21.600] - Chris Overacker
And I'm like, you didn't even shift, remove any sliders or turn the input shaft or nothing. Okay. Well, he said it's good. So I went home and I bolted the transfer case back on it and I put it all back up in the Jeep, and I got ready to put the top shift cover on it. It just felt kind of weird and I had to kind of move around and I kind of maybe forced a little bit. I mean, I had silicone on the gasket. It went on there.
[00:12:45.380] - Chris Overacker
I put the floor pan back in and I put my makeshift carpet back in it, and I filled it with oil and pushed the clutch and started up the old L head and let the clutch out. And they just stalled the engine. Like, right now. What? And it wouldn't shift. Right. Well, come to find out, it was locked in two gears at one time. So I figured that out and took it all back apart and turned the second 3rd synchro thing around or slider around and put it all back together.
[00:13:11.770] - Chris Overacker
Then we're fine. Boy, I got on that Jeep and I went down to Lee and I said, how come you didn't tell me that slider was in their backwards? He started laughing and carrying on he goes, you know, Chris, if I had told you that was in there backwards, you'd have never learned a thing. I can guarantee you'll never do that again.
[00:13:30.010] - Big Rich Klein
That whole thing about a little bit of failure.
[00:13:33.190] - Chris Overacker
Exactly. So that was a lesson to this day. I still know which way that goes in the T 90.
[00:13:40.150] - Big Rich Klein
Like, a lot of the guys I've talked to, they say they held the flashlight for their fathers, and the whole thing is that you're a young kid, you're really not paying attention to maybe what dad is doing. You don't even have the light in the right spot, but you learn after a few episodes of that that you hold that light so that they can see so you don't get told you're doing it wrong?
[00:14:09.260] - Chris Overacker
Absolutely. My dad was really good at coaching me, and well, I said more hands on and telling me that that's what I needed to do. But letting me do it a lot of the time on that William, like, for instance, I remember taking the rear axle axle shaft up. I had a bad bearing or something. And there was all these I called a metal gaskets. What's with these metal gaskets that he goes, Well, let's talk about that. Those are shims, and those are used to set the inputs.
[00:14:38.030] - Chris Overacker
Oh, okay. There's different thicknesses, but he let me do it and let me figure it out. And it was probably one thing that set me up for the future.
[00:14:45.460] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. My dad was a hot rodder, and it built dragsters, basically drag racers.
[00:14:53.430] - Chris Overacker
[00:14:55.990] - Big Rich Klein
My first vehicle was a 54 Volkswagen Bug. And I got that before I was 16, so I had the chance to tear it apart, build it up, bought a couple of other bugs to grab parts off of that kind of thing. And it was amazing. I was the oldest of all my friends. We were all within eight or nine months of each other, but I got my car running first, and it was amazing. By the time we all got out of high school, most of us had Volkswagens.
[00:15:27.740] - Big Rich Klein
And it was because I was the one that could work on them. And so they had somebody that could coach them. My dad was around more because of either marital situations or just because of jobs. And my dad was a tool and die maker and Machinist and had been in the racing and had Motors, and that was in his blood where the other dads didn't have that. So our house was the house that everybody came over to work at. Our driveway was always dirty. The garage was always kind of a mess because kids never put things away.
[00:16:06.490] - Big Rich Klein
Of course, him being a tool and die maker. That was a Machinist. That was like a no, no. First off, but I learned a lot from him that way. And then I was able to help friends of mine that were basically the same age. So that was a good lesson for me, but also for those friends of mine that I still have today. So it's pretty cool.
[00:16:27.660] - Chris Overacker
Excellent. Yeah. That's a really neat story.
[00:16:29.480] - Big Rich Klein
So from that Willy's, where did you go from there? Did you have that flat Fender all the way through high school?
[00:16:37.830] - Chris Overacker
Oh, yeah. Even beyond, but kind of a little more story about that era. Okay. I really showed this interest in working with metal, and my dad saw that. And I think it was the summer between metals one and two, which would have been the summer between junior and sophomore year. My dad bought me a welding setup, and we made a kind of a welding bench in the garage. And I started tinkering with projects. And next thing, my friends discovered that I had this, and they bring their broken bike frames over there, lawn mowers or whatever.
[00:17:14.790] - Chris Overacker
And I was welding up everything I could get my hands on and really learning all about how expensive consumables are and that my buddies are kind of taking advantage of this. And so I finally made a little sign and put it up on the back of my bench, said, all welding chores, $5 or whatever it was. I don't remember. And they were like, What's this for? I said, well, this stuff costs money. And so that was kind of probably set me up a little bit for thinking about the future.
[00:17:45.670] - Chris Overacker
So that was a neat experience in my life. And about that time, all the dirt bike things started to kind of fade away. And I got more into the Jeeping thing. And a lot of my friends had Jeep. So it kind of all molded into the dirt bike world, went more into playing with offroad vehicles out in the desert and the Northern mountains in New Mexico. We'd go up there, go camping, and this Jeep thing was pretty fun. So let's see, in my junior year of high school, I took Autoshop, and there was an auto shop, too for the senior year.
[00:18:19.540] - Chris Overacker
Well, now all of a sudden, all the welding and fabricating stuff to come into working on cars and working on Jeeps. And now my friends were discovering that, well, these Jeeps break pretty easy. So now we're fixing these up and we're working on them. And we're the same thing in the driveway and kind of doing all of the repairs and everybody's kind of hanging out at my place because I had all the tools and some of the knowledge and a lot of the ambition to do it.
[00:18:42.960] - Chris Overacker
So that's what we were doing in high school. So that was a really fun part of my life.
[00:18:49.290] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. That is a great foundation for where you've taken the next steps.
[00:18:57.670] - Chris Overacker
Yeah. And then there were several students in the auto shop that decided, we need to go to that Denver Automotive and Diesel College. They had a sales rep they sent down, and I thought, that sounds like a great idea. Let's get out of this down. Let's go to Denver and let's go to school. So let's see that graduated in 77. So that same year, September of 77, we all went to Denver, and I went to Denver Automotive and Diesel College. I actually worked during the days from eight to five at a place called Trailer, and I was the hot boy and then went to school at night from six to 1030.
[00:19:35.790] - Chris Overacker
So put myself through school doing that. And that was a year long course. And after I graduated in 78, it was like, yeah, I don't really want to hang around here. It's kind of cold up here in big city. So I moved back to Albuquerque and still had the Woolly's Jeep. It was doing okay. But it was kind of getting tired again. And I think I got a Chevy truck or something. I can't remember what I had, but I got the Woodies back to Albuquerque, and it was time to find a job.
[00:20:06.780] - Chris Overacker
So I didn't know what to do. I just kind of graduated goofed off for a little bit. And my buddy was working at Kmart Auto Center. So he got me a job. They're doing tires and batteries. And I thought, this is not really what I want to do. So I did that for about a month. And then Lo and behold, get a phone call from Lee Sharp at Lee Sharp four wheel drive center.
[00:20:27.570] - Chris Overacker
And he had kind of watched me and kind of coached me with all my Jeep and stuff. And he knew that I'd gone to school. And he said, Why don't you come on down here and we'll kind of see if we can get you going and working in the back as a mechanics helper. And I did that and loved it. And there were some other good guys. There was a mechanic there. I don't remember his name, but he kind of took me under his wing and was showing me all kinds of stuff.
[00:20:50.650] - Chris Overacker
And next thing, he got another job offer and quit. And I'd only been there for probably, I don't know, less than a year, maybe six months or so. Next thing you know, I'm one of the lead mechanics, at least Sharps. And I've got all the very little experience but me in charge and said, Go for it. And, boy, we were setting up gears, and we were doing transmissions and clutches, and you name it. We were doing it in the shop, and it was just a lot of fun.
[00:21:18.750] - Chris Overacker
Learned a lot. Lee Sharp was a fantastic mentor and took me under his wing and showed me how to do not only the mechanic stuff in the back. But next thing, he had me upfront answering the phones and dealing with customers. And then he had me ordering parts. And then he had me doing bank deposits. And next thing, he's going on vacations. And here's the keys. You run it. And I'm like, Whoa, we're only into it like a year and a half, two years now, and I'm overwhelmed at all this responsibility, but at the same time, I'm just soaking it up like a sponge and just loving it.
[00:21:51.910] - Chris Overacker
So that went on for, I'm guessing, probably three or four years or so. And then Lee decided he was kind of getting he was older at that time. I'm guessing he was in his mid 60s, and some guy came around wanting to buy the business. And it turns out it was a guy from California by the name of George Adler and four wheel Parts hosted bought out Lee Sharp and moved into four wheel parts hosted in this location in Southern Alburque there. So next thing, I'm working for George and working for this big Corporation.
[00:22:35.740] - Chris Overacker
And George is back in California running his whole show back there. And it's like we're the black sheep out here in Albuquerque. It's his first venture outside of California, and it was all good. There's no bad days there. But it was just a big Corporation. And I missed working for Lee, and I was kind of frustrated and paychecks would show up late. And it was just, like, just different. And Meanwhile, my parents moved back to Colorado. They moved to Littleton. My dad got another job with Hewlett Packard and some other division, and they moved.
[00:23:09.690] - Chris Overacker
And I was in Albuquerque with just all my friends and assistant manager at Four Wheel Parts and kind of frustrated and not quite sure where I wanted to go. But I was in the field that I wanted to be in. So my dad calls me on the phone one day and we're talking and he goes, Well, why don't we start our own four wheel drive shop in Colorado? I'm like, that sounds like a neat idea. So long story short. I moved to Littleton where they were living, which is just a suburb outside of Denver and moved in with my parents again, moved all my stuff up into the garage.
[00:23:43.650] - Chris Overacker
And then I went on a journey. I had to find a place in Colorado where we wanted to start a business that we could enjoy, all of the cool things that Colorado had to offer, the mountains and the four wheel and the skiing and all the cool stuff that's out there. So I started scouting little towns and we looked along the Front Range, and then we looked on the Western slopes, kind of divided into two States. There's the Front ranges from Fort Collins all the way down to Pueblo.
[00:24:12.790] - Chris Overacker
And then if you go east, it's the Plains. And then they're at the Foothill of the Rocky Mountains. And you have to go through the Rocky Mountains to get over to God's country. That's the Western slope. And that's where we live now. And that's where we started our business in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, which is about 25 miles from Aspen.
[00:24:29.880] - Big Rich Klein
So there where the river goes up through the Canyon.
[00:24:35.330] - Chris Overacker
Yes. Right there, where the Colorado meets the Roaring Fork. It's just this beautiful and it's just a wonderful place to live. My parents bought a place outside of town. It was the perfect setup. It was on about maybe not quite a half an acre, about five or 6 miles south of Glenwood Springs towards Aspen, and it had a shop and a small house attached to it so perfect. You can live right there and you can work there. It was older place kind of run down. I had to do a lot of fixing up and all that kind of stuff, but we did that.
[00:25:08.220] - Chris Overacker
And I got it all outfitted to be a four by four shop and opened the doors at Stage West Offroad Outfitters in June of one 1983.
[00:25:18.310] - Big Rich Klein
[00:25:19.810] - Chris Overacker
Yeah. Everything alone for a while just couldn't afford to have any employees and didn't really think about it. I had to build up a clientele. It was interesting moving into a small town where I was not from and didn't really know anybody and trying to get accepted by the locals. But I persevered and worked hard and tried to get the word out there. And when I did get customers, I would treat them with respect and do a good quality work for them. And the word spread and just grew from there.
[00:25:49.560] - Big Rich Klein
So let's talk about that portion being accepted into the community and then trying to get the word out about what you were doing. How did you go about that? Was it just by word of mouth, or did you join any of the organizations in town, like the Lions Club or Masonic Lodge or things like that to try to get more people to know who you were? What was your Avenue to market?
[00:26:24.010] - Chris Overacker
Well, those are all very good questions, and I was new to this. I didn't really know how to market it. My dad and mom were living in Littleton, and he was working for Hugh Packard, a way up in management. He'd come up on some weekends and help me with some things, but it was like trial by fire. Here you go. So obviously I put up a sign on the side of the building, and I did that right after we bought the building so that it got the interest up.
[00:26:47.570] - Chris Overacker
And it's a small town. We're spread pretty fast. Okay.
[00:26:50.860] - Chris Overacker
But one thing I did right away is there was another four wheel drive shop in town called The Four Wheels, and I befriended them right away and said, hey, I'm just here to kind of do this whole thing together. I don't want to be competitors with you, but I'm here doing this thing, and they were very friendly and invited me to join the local four wheel drive club and the high country Four Wheels out of Glenwood Springs. And they've been in existence for ten or 15 years when I got there in 83, and they immediately accepted me.
[00:27:20.810] - Chris Overacker
And I kind of jumped right in there and went four wheeling on the trips. And next thing, we're organizing events like four by four rodeos or Jeep shows or doing poker runs. And it just kind of grew from there. And I didn't really do any advertising to say the least. I mean, maybe a few direct mail things, but I never did any radio or any of that kind of stuff. So it just kind of word of mouth just spread. And like I said, there was only a town of five or 6000 people, so it really kind of spread the word fast.
[00:27:52.720] - Chris Overacker
But everybody kind of got to know me and knew that I was doing good work. And one thing that was pretty cool is that kind of backing up a little bit. I've always kind of been into spectating desert races. That was always kind of a fun thing. Even back when I was working for Lee Sharp, he was kind of dabbled in the real estate business, and he knew Don Adams of the famed Class three racer. And Don was into real estate. And one time Don was hanging around Lee Sharp, and I recognized him and introduced myself and talked to him for probably about an hour about off road racing and all that.
[00:28:28.320] - Chris Overacker
So that kind of sparked that. And Meanwhile, some friends and I would always spectate the Mint 400. We go out to the Mint every year. Sometimes we would go to the park or 400 back then and just really enjoy doing all that. Well. Meanwhile, back to Stage West. I started taking a bunch of buddies out to the mid 400, and we go spectate that whole thing. And that was just a blast. And I always liked to look up pre runners, and that whole bad was coming up strong, so well, I figured I got to start something new up here in Glenwood Spring.
[00:29:00.350] - Chris Overacker
So I bought a two Bender hospital hydraulic two vendor and started building bumpers and cages and shock Hoops and Nerf bars and all kinds of stuff. Man, that bad hit Western Colorado like wildfire. Everybody had to have a preorder looking truck, and we were so busy building custom stuff and just going to town with that and not to mention the day to day water pumps and ringing pinions or clutches or whatever you're doing, but just fabricating and building stuff and having fun.
[00:29:30.670] - Big Rich Klein
So by then, did you have employees?
[00:29:34.030] - Chris Overacker
I hired a good friend of mine that I met in Albuquerque named John Castro, and he moved up to Glenwood Springs and actually lived in that house with me. It was a several bedroom house, and he had his own place. And we just worked pretty much 12 hours a day. And then after that work on our own stuff. So I had him as an employee for quite a while. And then I think that was it. And then after he worked there for four or five years and then moved back to Albuquerque.
[00:30:06.700] - Chris Overacker
But I think I had one or two other employees after that. But it was pretty much a small business for the extent of the time that I owned it.
[00:30:15.460] - Big Rich Klein
And how many years was that? So you figure 83. 84 was the start of Stage West?
[00:30:21.910] - Chris Overacker
Yes, 83 is when I started, and I think I sold it in, like, 94 or 95 after I started mountain off road.
[00:30:31.520] - Big Rich Klein
[00:30:32.590] - Chris Overacker
But I'm kind of getting ahead of myself there because we're building all this cool stuff at Stage West, and it was mostly necessity. For instance, we were starting to do things like shackle reversals because we wanted to go faster with these old lease run vehicles. So we put the shackles behind the front axle, and then we'd start breaking frames. We build frame reinforcing plates, and we wanted to get more clearance underneath with flat cross members. So we rock the transfer cases up, and then we'd need a one inch body lift to clear that.
[00:31:01.380] - Chris Overacker
And we're building all these one off parts and building all these cool Jeeps to go play. And we were breaking them, and we were just trying to build them better and breaking motor mounts and trying to build those better and just you name it. So all of the stuff that we were building as a one off, I finally said, there's probably a market for this stuff. And Meanwhile, we've been going out to Jeep Safari out in Moab, which is only about 3 hours from where we lived in Glenwood Springs.
[00:31:31.000] - Chris Overacker
And I can't remember which magazine article writer. I think it was Mark Workmeister who used to write for it for utility.
[00:31:43.870] - Chris Overacker
Okay. He saw one, and then he called me later and said, hey, is that something you can send me? I don't know. He lived out of state, and I got to thinking, wow, we just kind of build these and Weld them on. But could I make this product Bolt on? Okay. So I started engineering it and kind of figured it out. So I built one. And yet Bolton. Well, now I got to send this to them. So now I better write instructions. Okay. So I have to figure out how that works and write all these instructions out and maybe take some pictures of it.
[00:32:15.250] - Chris Overacker
My very first Chapel reversal kit while I still own Stage West, went to Mark Workmeister, and then he installed it on his project Scrambler and wrote an article about it. And I'm like, wow, this could be something. Next thing, we were trying to build more of these things. One off, just out of a little bit of shopping and Harbor freight pipe bandsaw and stuff. Obviously, it was going somewhere, but I didn't quite know where. And I was talking to my accountant one day and he said, Chris, why don't you export product and import money?
[00:32:52.270] - Chris Overacker
Yeah, that sounds like a good plan. It's mail worst thing. So I had an employee at Stage West at the time who was interested in buying it. So I'd already kind of started doing this Mountain Offroad thing and started selling a few things. So I thought, yeah, let's do that. So I sold the business to Joel Snyder and started Mountain Offroad Enterprises. And next thing you know, we're in the manufacturing of mail order business.
[00:33:19.510] - Big Rich Klein
[00:33:21.730] - Chris Overacker
It just kind of all evolved. It wasn't really planned. It was just like, okay, next step. Okay. Well, let's just do this now. So I moved to Rifle, Colorado, which is about 25 miles west of Glenwood Springs, right on I 70 and rented a shop there and started coming out with more products in my first catalog. And then we would mail catalogs out by the dozens and the phones started ringing, and we're just building products. And next thing you know, I'm hiring more people and we're buying more equipment, and it's just incredible how fast that moved.
[00:34:00.370] - Chris Overacker
That was probably in. Like I said, 94. 95 ish range. And we'd go out to Easter Jeep Safari and Moab and set up a display and sell stuff out there. And all for Fun Week was sponsored by, I think, Mile High Jeep Club out of Denver. They have a big fun day that they had a display where all the vendors would set up a display at. And we do that. I actually went out to Sierra Trek one year and showed all my stuff out there. Yeah, it was fun.
[00:34:36.110] - Chris Overacker
It happened fast.
[00:34:39.130] - Big Rich Klein
That's pretty cool. And it was all just because you were building your own stuff. And somebody said, hey, can you build this for me and created a market?
[00:34:52.870] - Chris Overacker
Exactly. That pretty much sums it up. It's not like I planned on going to the mail order business, but it just sort of happened. And there was lots of different products that just kind of evolved from going on a lot of different Jeep trips on a lot of different areas and seeing what vehicles needed and seeing what broke and seeing where you can improve them. And even some things were working with other manufacturers. For instance, we came out with what we call bombproof motor mounts. Well, that all stemmed from back in the offroad racing spectating days.
[00:35:25.540] - Chris Overacker
And you'd go to the Mint 400 and you'd be on Contingency and Tech Row, and all the vendors are set up. And there was a guy there named John. I don't remember his last name from Autofab. And he had these urethane motor mounts for race trucks that would replace the stock rubber mounts. Those look pretty cool. Well, Jeeps have a real big problem breaking the motor mounts and especially on the six cylinders. When the rubber Mount breaks, the metal comes down and punctures the oil filter.
[00:35:53.750] - Chris Overacker
And now you're walking. So I thought, I wonder if he could build Jeep motor mounts. This is back in Stage West days. I talked to John, and he said, yeah, I think so. Build me up some fixtures and I'll call and mail it to me, and I'll come up with something, and we worked back and forth two or three times, and he finally had it nailed. We probably bought dozens of those motor mounts from John and put them on every Jeep that we could think of because they all needed it.
[00:36:19.470] - Chris Overacker
So little did I even know back in the early days of Stage West, we were going to be manufacturing a mail order and motor mouse. And next thing, that was a big product for Mountain off road. In fact, I continued to buy those six cylinder mounts from John, and I engineered and built some other mounts for V eight and Chevy conversions and Jeeps. And then the Wranglers came along. We did six cylinder mounts, and we were building all kinds of different things to reinforce the frames on those old weak Jeeps.
[00:36:48.940] - Chris Overacker
And we were building one inch body lift pucks and sending out. It's amazing how you can take a piece of two inch diameter aluminum, cut it into a one inch long puck and drill a hole in it and put eleven in a kit and sell it with a bunch of bolts for $80. And you got $30 in it. And we were selling dozens of those a day. It was incredible how many body lifts were going out of there. And I think it was Phil Howell from one of the magazines did an article on the one inch body lift pucks.
[00:37:16.510] - Chris Overacker
And next thing you know, they're flying off the shelf. And David Freiburger did an article on the shock reversal and some shock Hoops we were building and some other stuff. And he brought his Jeep out to Glenwood Springs from California, and we did a bunch of stuff and he goes, do you want Inc or money? I said Inc. Okay. So he wrote a bunch of articles that's back in the computer just coming into Vogue. And the Internet was just kind of there. But everybody still had to have all the different four wheel drive magazines and publications.
[00:37:47.770] - Chris Overacker
And that was couldn't wait for the next issue to come out. We were getting one or two and three part series on some of the different products we had. And we're going turns out that the magazine Editors were just as hungry for new things to write about as we were for getting our stuff noticed and out there. So it was kind of a win win.
[00:38:06.970] - Big Rich Klein
It's true. And it's still that way, even though there's less magazines, the big magazine groups, they've quit producing the magazines. Basically they're down to one, but they're still like our magazine for Low. And then John Herrix Crawl magazine. And we're still looking or interested in getting parts and being able to do our tech articles about those parts and everything. So it's still viable out there. It's just a different market. I know a lot of people are Internet now, but there's enough of us old school guys that like paper.
[00:38:53.520] - Big Rich Klein
And even some of the younger guys who grew up with computers and buying everything online are starting to turn to paper, just like they're going back to vinyl records and take cassettes and stuff like that, because there's value in that what you have in the Internet. You got to keep finding where that magazine stack that sits next to your workbench or your favorite chair is right there at your fingertips.
[00:39:23.510] - Chris Overacker
Exactly. I really miss the days where the mail would show up and you go to the mailbox. Alright. I got a new issue that was always so much fun to go through that cover to cover.
[00:39:33.450] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. Absolutely. So then what was your first product that you built, say, at Stage West, or the first thing you started selling to other people, was it that Shackle reversal kit or the body language?
[00:39:52.310] - Chris Overacker
I would say that was probably one of the first things we did to the Jeeps to make them perform better was the Shackle reversal. But before that, probably making the motor mouse better because Jeeps were just never known for their ability to hold the motor in place, and they would not only flop all over, and then that would cause the clutch linkage to come disengage and you'd lose the clutch or the fan would go through the radiator or the oil filter would get punctured, or it would just generally fall down until the metal to metal brackets hit.
[00:40:26.850] - Chris Overacker
And it just was bad. They just didn't have very good mouse back in the day.
[00:40:30.680] - Big Rich Klein
I can remember all my old Jeeps. I had chain. I had the regular motor Mount factory motor Mount. And then I put in a chain as like a limiting strap for the engine.
[00:40:47.330] - Chris Overacker
We did that, too, but that was just kind of a bandaid for the whole problem. When we finally got hooked up with John and Autofab and we started going with what we call the bomb proof motor mouse that just made the engine another cross member in the frame, and it gave everything stronger. It did pick up some vibration, and you would definitely get a lot more rigid feel out of the Jeep. But, boy, it sure eliminated a lot of the problems.
[00:41:14.770] - Big Rich Klein
[00:41:15.780] - Chris Overacker
So the motor mouse probably came probably first and then Shackle reversals Jeep frames are just known for their breakage. So we made these frame reinforcement plates that would go on the outside of the frame from the front bumper back to about the first body Mount out rigor. And I had a cardboard template that we'd lay that out on a piece of 316 steel, and then you trace it out and torch it out by hand and grind it all down and put it in the drill press and drill all the different holes needed for motor mounts or for shocks or for brake lines or whatever.
[00:41:51.350] - Chris Overacker
And that's how we build frame plates. And we just did those one off for a long time. Matter of fact, even when I started mountain off road, I was still building frame plates that way. And finally, I was sick and tired of drilling holes in them. So Pat Grammilian from Pole Pal was just up the street in Carbondale. He said, Well, come on up here and use my iron worker. And I said, iron worker, that's a cool concept. So I drag these frame plates up to his shop and sit down on a bench and then just punch these holes out in this way.
[00:42:20.770] - Chris Overacker
Cool iron worker. I thought, what a cool thing. I got to have one of these. So next thing, I bought an iron worker. So it's just funny how things evolve because of necessity.
[00:42:31.940] - Big Rich Klein
Right. So let's talk more about more than the bomb proof motor mounts, shackle reversal kits, frame frame rails. Were you still doing the two bumpers? What other products did you start with?
[00:42:53.930] - Chris Overacker
Well, after we got going with those basics, started hooking up with other companies that made longer brake lines. So we would sell brake lines to go with more travel suspensions with the Shackle verses and things. I wasn't actually building the bumpers in house, but we got hooked up with a company in Denver that was doing a lot of our flame cutting, and they would build some bumpers for them. We did front rear bumpers. We did Bolt in roll cages for CJ's, YJS and TJS. And the neat thing about that was they were all ups shippable, and they would Bolt in with no welding.
[00:43:33.290] - Chris Overacker
Sold a bunch of those. We built a heavy duty steering box mounts because the steering box mounts on Jeeps was junk. So we make those out of half inch thick steel and the steering box braces. And we built bring over axle conversion components because that was kind of big back in the day. And I made a cool little bracket that would Bolt onto the passenger side knuckle of the newer Jeep Wrangler. The YJS and not necessarily the TJ, but the YJ. When you did a spring over the stock, steering just didn't work.
[00:44:08.740] - Chris Overacker
So I made this cool bracket. It bolted onto the knuckle, and we give you high steer and was just simply bolting a bracket on a drilling a couple of holes. So sold a bunch of those with most Jeep. I'm kind of getting more to the Wrangler here now, but you know how they all came with a Dana 35 year end, and that was obviously a problem weekly. And everybody was breaking those. There's just got to be a better way. And sure you have. You could figure a custom built career Dino track, but they were big Bucks.
[00:44:37.040] - Chris Overacker
There's got to be another alternative. One day I was at my Buddy's shop here in Rifle, and he had just a home garage. And he was a technician at the Ford dealer. And I was snooping around his garage, and he had this rear end sitting there and he was doing something with it. What's this out of? He goes, I thought of a Ford Explorer. What is it? Ford 8.8. I got the tape measure. I said, Man, this is the same width as a Wrangler within really close tolerances.
[00:45:05.580] - Chris Overacker
But I said in the same Bolt pattern, it's got this brakes and it looks heavy duty. He goes, yeah, it's really stout. So I said, Where did you get it? He goes, we got a whole pile of Mount on the back of the dealer. I said, what he said, yeah, because they're warranty. And a bunch of these for a bad squeak. And we got dozens of them out there. He goes, do you want some? I said, yeah. So I grabbed four or five of them and discovered that you take all the Explorer bracketry off the housing and you could put some spring purchase on some shock mounts and Bam it bolts right under a YJ or an XJ.
[00:45:35.960] - Chris Overacker
And you got the bomb proof. We're in now compared to Dana 35, and I put one in my own Wrangler. And sure enough, I got this squeaking noise from what they were talking about with the warranty issue, and it was really obnoxious. I thought, what is that? So I started digging into it. It turns out that the axle shafts are held in with Cclips, and they misfisheen to stamp the Cclips wrong or something. It would allow the axle shaft to move a few thousands of an inch from side to side.
[00:46:06.130] - Chris Overacker
And then that would cause the brake road to rub up against the brake pads, barely just enough to make this obnoxious squeaking noise. So I already set up a bunch of air lockers and different things that I had all kinds of sea clips. So I pulled the cover off. I changed different sea clips and with some real thick ones, noise went away. Okay, great. Now we've got all these four door ends we can use and no squeak, and they work good in Jeeps. And then we started building conversion kits for putting them in all the different Jeeps.
[00:46:32.970] - Chris Overacker
And we even made all the bracketry to put those things under TJS because they had what, ten or eleven different brackets for the coil Springs and the link mounts and the sway bar and all this stuff. We geared up and built all those brackets and you could take all this stuff off the Ford 8.8, and Weld all the TJ brackets on and have a heavy duty rear end under your Jeep.
[00:46:54.060] - Big Rich Klein
Nice and almost unlimited supply of 8.8, huh.
[00:47:00.930] - Chris Overacker
Well, back in the day when there were so many explorers around, I don't remember the years that they were, like, starting in early 90s, up to 98 or 99 or something. How many Ford Explorers did they build? Right? They were everywhere. And you could pick up a complete rear end in the junkyard for a couple of $100 and buy our conversion kit for another couple of hundred and change gear ratios and put a locker in over $1,500. You had an excellent rear end.
[00:47:28.550] - Big Rich Klein
[00:47:29.690] - Chris Overacker
Yeah, that was good.
[00:47:30.850] - Big Rich Klein
And Ford couldn't figure out that it needed a thicker.
[00:47:34.250] - Chris Overacker
Oh, I don't know if I'm sure they probably did. But Meanwhile, there were piles of these things behind the local Ford dealer. And I don't know how many of those I obsconed with. I'm guessing probably six or eight of them. And then that's all we really needed for our own stuff. But the word got out that that was a thing to do. So people across the country would just go read their local junkyards and grab that and then buy your kit. Perfect. Exactly. But other than that, just typical Jeep parts in general.
[00:48:03.960] - Chris Overacker
We had a pretty big catalog by the time I ended up selling that company, but it's still going strong, matter of fact.
[00:48:12.890] - Big Rich Klein
So the whole entrepreneurship of building companies and then selling them. That wasn't intentional. It just happened that people would come along and say, hey, I'd really be interested in buying your company. And it was just the right time. Or did you look at it that way?
[00:48:32.510] - Chris Overacker
Well, not really. When I sold Stage West, obviously, I knew that Mountain Off Road was my next adventure, and I couldn't do both. And I was excited to get into that with Mountain Off Road. I think I determined in about 2000, somewhere in there that I really needed to expand. I was working out of a fairly small shop in Rifle, and we're just bursting at the seams. I needed to hire an engineer to get everything CAD drawn out because I wasn't going to be the one to do that.
[00:49:02.200] - Chris Overacker
I needed to take my manufacturing to bigger facilities that could handle more quantity of the raw materials that we would done well together. I just wanted to expand. Well, at the time I was married to my first wife and she didn't want to move at all. She was happy here, and I was thinking, Grand Junction, Colorado, about 60 miles to the west, or possibly even somewhere bigger, but wouldn't going to move. And I figured, okay, that's going to be stuck here for a while. And that's good.
[00:49:32.110] - Chris Overacker
So I sold Mountain Off Road to an employee of mine who then in turn did make it bigger. He kept it here in a rifle, but he built a new building forward and put in a bunch more equipment and hired more employees. And that kind of thing. I didn't really retire at that point in time, but for two or three years, I just kind of goofed off. We had just built a house on some acreage just outside a rifle, and I put up a shop and decided to kind of tinker and work on some friends vehicles.
[00:50:03.370] - Chris Overacker
And then customers started coming around. The next thing. I was kind of a job. And so I started Code Four by Four, which was an acronym for Chris Overacker Design Enterprises. And it didn't really work too well out of a home shop because it was pretty rural, and if the weather was bad, ups wouldn't deliver. And it just was not the thing. So I moved Code Four by four into the downtown Rifle area and to a rented building that was much more suited for a business.
[00:50:35.450] - Chris Overacker
And I ran that there from probably 2003 to I just sold it in January of this year, 2021.
[00:50:44.150] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. And any plans on starting another business, or are you just going to stay as an employee for someone?
[00:50:53.210] - Chris Overacker
Well, at this point in time, never say never. But I've been self employed for a lot of years, and it had its challenges, and they were all good. But they were challenges. And in this environment today, with all of the rules and regulations and fees and different things and employees and all of the things that have to happen with being self employed, I just decided I need to take a break for it from it for a while. So I sold Code four by four to a customer of mine.
[00:51:26.270] - Chris Overacker
Actually, he had been a customer for several years. He's still running it here in Rifle, and I worked for him for a number of months. The plan was to work for him for quite a while. But in April of this year, he decided that he could probably do it on his own without me. So I found myself unemployed, and that was okay. This summer was coming up. I took kind of a break and we really, like, going out and camping and goofing off. So I did that for a while.
[00:51:54.930] - Chris Overacker
But then probably about July or so I was like, yeah, I got to do something on board. So I hooked up with a past friend of mine who I'd known for years and years named Steven Watson, who owns a company called Offroad Design, and I'm now working for him and enjoying it and really looking forward to our new building because he recently bought a building in Rifle on 35 acres, actually, two buildings. And we're going to be moving everything from the Carbondale area down to Rifle here in a month or so.
[00:52:28.080] - Chris Overacker
I'll have no more commute, and I'm really looking forward to checking out the new digs.
[00:52:32.450] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And so you went from more of Jeep based to more of a full size then exactly.
[00:52:39.560] - Chris Overacker
But I'm not really doing anything important. I mean, it's very important, but I'm not doing any engineering or manufacturing. I'm just working in the warehouse in shipping and receiving and learning a lot about his line of products. And it's all completely different, but all the same because it's all my background and what I've been doing really helps because you're looking at this bracket. Okay. That fits onto a 60s. It goes over here. So it's just a whole new thing. But yet it's still very rewarding because we're shipping a lot of product out of there.
[00:53:17.970] - Chris Overacker
It's amazing how much stuff moves out of the shop we're at.
[00:53:21.120] - Big Rich Klein
So a lot of the guys that to backtrack a little bit history. A lot of the guys that had shops or worked in shops got into the rock crawling events in the early days, whether that was what became Pro Rock or Arca. Did you ever compete at all, or were you just on the shop end of it?
[00:53:47.390] - Chris Overacker
Well, interesting that you bring that up because I never actually competed myself driving, but you can probably help me with these dates. I think they called it a super crawl, and it was in Farmington, New Mexico. I'm thinking 20 00, 20 01, maybe 2002. Does that sound about right?
[00:54:07.280] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. 2002, I think, was the first Supercrawl.
[00:54:10.070] - Chris Overacker
Okay, well, the guy that I had sold Stage West to name was Joel Snyder, and he had a fairly well equipped Jeep YJ Wrangler, and he wanted to go do that. And he said, hey, Chris, you want to be my spotter? I'm not sure. Let's go check this out. So we went and did that. And that was just an absolute blast. And I was absolutely amazed at where you could take these Jeeps and that Farmington area that they had that SuperCall set up in was ideal for an event.
[00:54:36.740] - Chris Overacker
There were some challenging obstacles in these full body Jeeps, and that was a lot of fun. But I never really got into it competitively only because I was just so busy running a business. We did dabble back when we had Stage West. We dabbled in off road racing a little bit since I'd been taking all these buddies of mine down to the mid 400 to spectate one year. I think it was in 86. We decided that, hey, let's build a Jeep. Let's go race them in 400.
[00:55:09.970] - Chris Overacker
So one buddy donated is CJ seven, and we parted out a wagon here and put the automatic training in the quadraturek and the Dana 44 axles under his CJ seven. And we went racing. We raced the 87 Mint 400 in class three and had a blast doing that and didn't actually finish the race. We finished three of the four laps we didn't break, but we just timed out because we weren't taking it as seriously as the big boys, but ended up good enough for fourth place in that class, even at three laps.
[00:55:44.030] - Chris Overacker
But that was fun. And then we actually got hooked up with BF Goodrich and Team Ta back then, they called it. It was kind of a grassroots part of BF Goodrich to help small racers run their tires. And what's interesting is they were going to have an offroad driving school, and this was going to be in September of 87. So after our Mint race in 87, we signed up for this offroad driving school, and it was going to be in Denver, taught by Rod Hall and Steve Kelly off road racing bank.
[00:56:22.390] - Chris Overacker
So, heck, yeah, we're going to sign up for this. And so we headed over and did that driving school. And it was a blast, having not only Venturasing with those guys, but learning from them. And a funny story is they rented Ford Broncos brand new Ford Broncos for this event for all of us students to drive around a course they made inside the horse racing track of a Fairgrounds over there. I don't remember which one, but they had a small little track with some turns and jump set up.
[00:56:50.740] - Chris Overacker
And here we got these rented Broncos, and we got Rodhall or Steve Kelly sitting next to us saying, Go stop, turn right. Whatever. And we beat those Broncos to a pole. Matter of fact, one of them, the rear bumper got bent on. And after the event was over, Rodhall himself was underneath that Bronco, trying to straighten out the bumper with the adjustment brackets. He was funny. He told a funny story in Class two. He was talking about one of the races that he'd run in Dakar.
[00:57:22.140] - Chris Overacker
I think it was Dakar. It was in Africa, and he had just hooked up with Dick Seabeck on his own line of offroad lighting. So I think it was kind of a sales pitch for lights, too. But he was talking about how dark it was over there. And he'd come around a corner. He goes, all I saw was black, just darkness. And he paused for me. Goes after he paused, he said, Elephants absorb a lot of light. That was pretty good. But then right after that, driving school was the one and only Hydro, which is High Desert Racing Association, Colorado 300.
[00:57:58.990] - Chris Overacker
And it was in Craig, Colorado, which is about an hour and a half north of Rifle. So we had this race Jeep, and we had just got done with the Mid 400 and prepped it and went up to race the Craig 300 race. We didn't finish that one. We smoked the motor on that race, but we all had a good time. Anyway, after that, I kind of discovered that racing and competition, whether it be off road racing or rock collar and what it's just really fun, and I'd love to do that, but it's expensive and the desert isn't near Colorado, and I have a business to run, so I better concentrate on making money instead of spending it.
[00:58:40.400] - Chris Overacker
Well, there's a novel concept because it was real easy to spend it when you're dabbling with raising your competition. Shh.
[00:58:48.070] - Big Rich Klein
You're not supposed to tell anybody that that's a secret.
[00:58:51.710] - Chris Overacker
Okay, I see. I heard somebody once said, it's easy to win $100 off road racing if you start with a million.
[00:58:59.360] - Big Rich Klein
Exactly how to become a millionaire. And off road racing start with two.
[00:59:06.630] - Chris Overacker
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But that's kind of the chronological order of what happened with me.
[00:59:14.260] - Big Rich Klein
So let's discuss some of the people that you did work for or were customers. I know that Jack Betio said that he bought a white Jeep from you with stage four. I guess that was he'd seen you in Moab or something or seen the Jeep when he was there in that area. And then that's how he actually got into Offroad was because of that Jeep. Was that a CJ seven or a YJ?
[00:59:43.120] - Chris Overacker
It was a CJ seven. And I don't remember all the details on how he acquired it. I'm trying to think back. It was originally my dad's Jeep, and it started out as just a totally stock CJ seven, and we kind of built it up as a company Jeep and did everything we could do to it and put a nice paint job on it and et cetera. And I think it was in Aspen. And I don't remember why, but Jack saw the Jeep in Aspen because he had that's right.
[01:00:16.840] - Big Rich Klein
He has a house there.
[01:00:18.250] - Chris Overacker
He does. And I don't remember how all that came down, but I don't remember if he bought it directly from my dad or what. Anyway, he ended up with this wonderful Jeep, and he wanted to go use it. So I said, hey, great. Let's take you to Moab. It's close. So we drove down to Moab and spent the night in the motel and got up in the morning, and I took him to the bottom of Moab Rim trail. I said, We're going up there and he was up where I said, there's a trail up here.
[01:00:44.700] - Chris Overacker
No. Yeah, it's right up there. Honest. And we started up that fee Moab Rim, and he just loved it. He just said, I've done all kinds of things in my life. I've been a pilot, I've done boats, I've done hot rods. He goes, this is it. He just fell in love with the sport. And as does everybody, especially when they go to Moab. But it was just the rest of history because he went on to totally love it and compete and be very successful at that as well.
[01:01:15.850] - Chris Overacker
But that was the story of Jack. As for other customers, I don't remember any specific names, but that went on to be famous like that. But just built all kinds of different rigs. I mean, a lot of the rigs start out as our own. We fix them up and sell them and then build another one and just had a lot of fun doing it.
[01:01:38.180] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. So now I'm guessing that you're 62 then, because I was born in 58. So the math was easy for me.
[01:01:49.950] - Chris Overacker
[01:01:52.970] - Big Rich Klein
And you're working for Steven Watson, and you're married to your second wife. Is that correct?
[01:02:01.180] - Chris Overacker
[01:02:01.920] - Big Rich Klein
And living there in rifle and enjoying the outdoors and working. That's pretty cool.
[01:02:10.670] - Chris Overacker
Yeah. We've discovered side by side. I know that sometimes side by sides and jeeps don't Intermix. So we try and not go on Jeep trips with the side by side. Of course, I don't even own a Jeep anymore. Embarrassingly enough. But after that, going fast with dirt bikes and playing in the desert. I love speed. And now that you can buy a machine that's got 24 inches of wheel travel and almost 200 HP and a warranty, it's like, how can you not go wrong? And we find ourselves out all the time on the side by side camping and trail riding with friends.
[01:02:51.010] - Chris Overacker
And we've owned since they side by side, were invented back. Well, at least like the Polaris Razor. Back in about 2007 or 2008, I've owned three or four of them and probably logged almost 20,000 miles on these things and just absolutely love it. So we like the camping and the razor ridings we're into.
[01:03:12.520] - Big Rich Klein
And hopefully my biggest complaint with side by side or the power sports side of the four wheel drive industry is that it does give the guy that or the family, the people that have never been offroad in anything else, the ability to jump right in off road. And then they look at the commercials and everybody's zipping around and ripping around and through the Creek beds and not sticking to the trails and not understanding the Etiquette around others.
[01:03:50.790] - Chris Overacker
I completely agree. And that is a problem.
[01:03:53.270] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And that's one thing that I wish that the manufacturers would address, because I don't think it can come from anywhere else because the people that are buying these machines are not necessarily in offroad clubs, or if they are clubs of a bunch of guys that got together and they call themselves a UTV club. They're all in the same situation. They've never been taught the Etiquette on trails.
[01:04:28.870] - Chris Overacker
Yeah, I agree. That is a problem. And I think that it's up to us as users to try and educate those people. And there's been times when we've been out and we've actually seen people doing things that they shouldn't be doing, and we'll actually try and have a word with them and tactfully say, hey, you got to slow down when you come up on some mountain bikers or slow down and stop when you come up on horseback riders and you have to ease up in camp and you don't do doughnuts when you get back here and Brazil a bunch of dust and just use common sense because they're going to ruin it for all of us.
[01:05:05.630] - Chris Overacker
And Luckily, I have a background in Jeeping, and I got taught all those proper things and we definitely ride with respect out there. And when I say we the group of people that I write with, we don't cause any other problems, and we pick up more trash than we go in with and try and really promote the sport in a positive way. But yeah, you're right. There's lots of people out there that don't see it that way.
[01:05:29.610] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And I hope that the users that are transferring because there's a lot of guys that have either transitioned all the way completely from Jeeps or Toyotas or the full size street legal vehicles into the side by side market that they will help with that training and get people to understand the need to be more aware of their surroundings and what they're doing and staying on the trails. Otherwise they're going to get just like what's happened in Moab now where they're not welcome.
[01:06:11.810] - Chris Overacker
Exactly. That's exactly what's going to happen. And we see that problem more and more. And we have to band together as users to try and improve our image and get on a better rapport with everybody, because there's more and more users out there and less space to use them, and then that space gets overused and then closed down. So it's a real problem that we need to start addressing because it's going to get shut down, right?
[01:06:47.090] - Big Rich Klein
That was pretty much the battleground to getting UTVs registered and licensed in Utah as recreational vehicles and then being able to as long as you're not on the interstates or the major highways to make it legal. And now Moab has said at least the city Council, we don't want you exactly where other places like Sand Hollow and Hurricane St. George area, they're allowing it. But if the users aren't responsible, they're going to end up. It's going to go the same way, which would be a shame.
[01:07:25.730] - Chris Overacker
It really would. I agree.
[01:07:29.390] - Big Rich Klein
[01:07:30.650] - Chris Overacker
I'd like to maybe get back in a Jeep and again someday. But more of an exploratory type of I don't want to use the term over landing because that's kind of overused. But as for the GungHo rock crawling, if I had to go for it buggy, maybe that'd be different, but that'd be expensive to build. But I think it'd just be fun to get out and use the Jeep for exploring some terrain where you got a defroster and a heater.
[01:08:00.770] - Big Rich Klein
I'm all about that.
[01:08:02.460] - Chris Overacker
Yeah, because there's been some trips on the side by side where it's been. Roger Chile, but I think that you never say never. But I was so immersed into the Jeep market that I needed to do something different for a while. And that's where I've gone the way I have. But yeah, I'd like to get back into it.
[01:08:21.390] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. I've had flat Fender. I have had CJ five. I got into the unibody Jeeps with an XJ, and there was the heat and the AC. Of course, the AC never worked very well for those in those XJS. I still own a beater. That's the event. It's basically we call it the wood stove because it has great heat, even when you don't have it turned on. But it's impossible to drive on long trips in any kind of warm weather because it gets 150 inside the cab.
[01:09:05.230] - Chris Overacker
I take it that's generated from the drivetrain.
[01:09:08.280] - Chris Overacker
[01:09:09.080] - Big Rich Klein
As soon as I put the Atlas in.
[01:09:11.300] - Chris Overacker
Absolutely. I can relate.
[01:09:14.400] - Big Rich Klein
But now that we've I love those vehicles because you can lock them up. You can have the ability to have air conditioning if you do it. Right. So we're having one built right now, a 98 with a V eight in it and a Chevy engine swap. And so it's got the Chevy AC in it. And that was the main thing when we were talking to Novak was like, okay, it has to have a working AC system.
[01:09:43.370] - Chris Overacker
I don't care if it even has a heater.
[01:09:45.370] - Big Rich Klein
But it better have AC.
[01:09:47.050] - Chris Overacker
That's great. You'll love it.
[01:09:48.720] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And so that way we can tow our Adventure trailer because we have a trailer that we had made by a guy named Rob Falandrow out of Salt Lake City, who built this trailer. He towed it behind his 4400 race car at over 90 miles an hour, and it's got a rooftop tent on it. We've got it built out with a toolbox where all the cooking stuff is in it. It's got a built in shower on it. It runs 35s.
[01:10:16.690] - Chris Overacker
How fun. That sounds great. Oh, yeah.
[01:10:18.860] - Big Rich Klein
Now I'll be able to tow it with the V eight Jeep because the six cylinder just didn't like it.
[01:10:24.130] - Chris Overacker
Of course, that sounds awesome.
[01:10:25.920] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. So until that car is completed, though, we're towing with the Raptor, which doesn't give me more fun, like when we go to the sand dunes like Glamus, but not on the trails.
[01:10:40.610] - Chris Overacker
That's a big vehicle to take on trails.
[01:10:42.810] - Big Rich Klein
Yes, it is, which I don't know. It isn't as good as it was when I got it.
[01:10:48.700] - Chris Overacker
Well, that's good. Of course, working at Offroad design and seeing what some of these guys do with their full size trucks, it's pretty amazing.
[01:10:55.330] - Big Rich Klein
Yes, it is. Absolutely. Some of the guys with those big Suburbans it is. But then again, they're not worried about the paint job and Overlanders or extreme campers auto campers. That's what I like to call it is guys are a little more concerned with the look of the vehicle. I'm not that way.
[01:11:26.910] - Chris Overacker
Come on. You've got to have a snorkel going up and down the highway.
[01:11:30.750] - Big Rich Klein
No, I'm an anti snorkel guy.
[01:11:33.160] - Chris Overacker
Yeah, I suppose they're functional in Australia or somewhere out back, but I think they're pretty funny looking or on Ford ice.
[01:11:42.220] - Big Rich Klein
When you got to cross the river crossings to get to the windshields, you may need them, but on most trails. Yeah. No, not really. So what's next? Besides just relaxing, enjoying the offroad? Do you think you'll get into more of the extreme Overland auto camping?
[01:12:06.450] - Chris Overacker
That's a good question. I don't know if I'd use the word extreme, but I think right now my wife and I would like to really enjoy life. We're at that age where we're still healthy enough to get out and do things. But yet we don't want to get to the where we're old enough to where we have a lot of money and we didn't do a bunch of things. We'd like to save some money, obviously, but we want to go enjoy and have fun. So that's going to involve a lot of traveling, not only with family, but meeting family, fun places and doing fun things that we haven't done before.
[01:12:42.570] - Chris Overacker
My wife is a total Motorhead and loves all kinds of different racing. So we've been to band a mirror and watched the drag races. We'll continue to do that. We've gone to several NASCAR races. We're going to do that, been to several offroad races and Supercross races. So we're going to try and catch some of those. We're going to continue to go camping a lot and riding a lot. And what our favorite vacation is is to have, like, two, four or five day weekends a month.
[01:13:10.190] - Chris Overacker
So I'll have to. Okay, that with Watson, but I'm going to take some time off and go have fun.
[01:13:17.140] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. Excellent. Sounds like a great idea. Around our rock crawling season. We called call our off season. That's what we've done with the adventure trailer, owning the magazine, getting out there and creating content or finding content to record. And now we've bought a boat down on the third coast down here in the Gulf Coast.
[01:13:44.190] - Chris Overacker
Oh, good for you.
[01:13:45.810] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. It's a nice home office. And in fact, that's the name of the boat. It's a home office during our off season.
[01:13:52.710] - Chris Overacker
Good for you. Well, I'm going to definitely check out your schedule because I would love to go and spectator rock holeing event.
[01:13:59.390] - Big Rich Klein
Well, we will have one in I think it's in June, up in Rangeley, Colorado, and then we do Cedar City in like, May.
[01:14:10.890] - Chris Overacker
Wow. Okay. Well, I'm definitely going to hook up with you because I have four wheeled Rangeley, and all I can say is if you're going to be in Rangeley at their offroad park, you better like the Side Hill. So true that's some tippy stuff up there for sure.
[01:14:26.850] - Big Rich Klein
Well, Chris, thank you very much for coming on board and spending some time talking about your history and what you've gone through to get to where you're at. I think it's going to be a good interview. And people are going to hopefully get some great ideas on how to make off road lifestyle for them.
[01:14:50.370] - Chris Overacker
Well, I've been very blessed, and I thank the good Lord for all the wonderful opportunities that I've had. And I feel very blessed. I've had just a wonderful life working my hobby. And if anybody is wanting to get into this field, I highly encourage them. Just buckle down, work hard and you can get paid to work your hobby.
[01:15:12.130] - Big Rich Klein
That's right. Find your niche.
[01:15:14.020] - Chris Overacker
[01:15:15.210] - Big Rich Klein
Well, Chris, thank you very much and have a great life. And I hope that everything works out for you. And I hope to see you out on the trail someday or at one of the rock walls.
[01:15:26.980] - Chris Overacker
Yeah, me too. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity and good talking to you, Richard.
[01:15:30.150] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. Thank you.
[01:15:31.770] - Chris Overacker
Bye bye bye.
[01:15:34.530] - Speaker 2
If you enjoy these podcasts, please give us a rating. Share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be like minded. Well, that brings this episode to an end.
[01:15:47.110] - Big Rich Klein
Hope you enjoyed it.
[01:15:48.120] - Speaker 2
We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big rich.
[01:15:51.280] - Big Rich Klein
Thank you very much. Bye.