Solid Axle King- Josh Blyler’s 2020 KOH Winning 4400 car
In all of Ultra4 Racing, no event is as coveted as King of the Hammers. For those looking to prove they have what it takes to grab the honor of being crowned king, they do battle in the premier 4400 class. It’s here that we see technology, man, and machine battle lady luck, grueling desert two-tracks and the hardest rockcrawling trails on Mother Earth. With virtually no limits as to what you can race, we routinely see the biggest advancements off-road car technology in the 4400 field.
While the event has grown exponentially from the first race in 2007, many might be surprised to know that it’s been a solid axle car, not an IFS (independent front suspension) car that has landed the most first-place finishes at KOH. In fact, over the 14-year-span, a solid-axle car has taken the crown 10 times! This year’s Nitto Tire's King of the Hammers winner Josh Blyler (and co-pilot Jared Erdman) would mark another win for the solid axle as the Big B Motorsports team would put the Miller Motorsports Pro Series Chassis across the line first.
We showcased Blyler’s original 4400 series Ultra4 car in 2016 (read about it here). With his recent victory, we wanted to dive back into his setup and see how his 2020 KOH winning car has evolved over the years.
Blyler’s car is based on a Miller Motorsports Pro Series chassis. While there have been a few minor tweaks over his original one shown here, the core of the chassis remains largely the same. The main portion of the chassis, along with the high-impact areas are comprised of 2-inch, 0.120-wall 4130 chromoly tubing. The sub-frame uses all miter cut pieces of tubing, with areas around and under the chassis receiving aluminum inserts to provide additional strength.
Built by MAPCO Machine Shop out of Sunbury, Pennsylvania, Blyler’s LS7 is pumping out 765 horsepower and 725 lb-ft of torque at crank. Backing the V8 is a completely custom TH400 crafted by Edmund’s Speed & Performance.
A few components that also remain the same as his original car are the gear-driven Atlas II transfer case from Advance Adapters and the 3/16-inch-wall JE Reel drivelines fit with 1350 U-joints. This two-speed case has 3:1 low range, which is low enough to help move the 40’s over the rocks easier, but not so low that it hinders the speed on the trail.
Attached to the Spidertrax front axle housing is a Howe double-ended cylinder. The Howe pump works in conjunction with a fluid reservoir, cooler and relief valve from Radial Dynamics. Also paired with the axle is a GearWorks third member fit with 5.43 gears and a 40-spline spool.
Securing the Spidertrax housing in place are set of triangulated uppers and straight lower control arms. All of the arms are comprised of 4130 chromoly. Moderating over 16 inches of front travel are Fox 2.5 coilovers and bypass shocks.
One big change made to this car over Blyler’s previous was to the rear suspension. While triangulated uppers and trailing arm lowers remain the status quo, everything was lengthened by six-inches. This netted the car a 119-inch wheelbase and three more inches of suspension travel. Using his Fox 3.5 five-tube bypasses and Fox coilovers to dial in over 20-inches of travel, Blyler states that the stretch made a huge improvement in the high-speed handling of the car.
As is the case with the front, a Spidertrax fabricated housing is used out back. Making sure axle failure isn’t a worry are massive 45-spline axleshafts working with the GearWorks low-pinion third member. Going unused for KOH and adding a little weight balance to the car is the 40-inch Nitto Trail Grappler spare tire.
Since 2016, Blyler’s Big B Motorsports team has raced exclusively on Nitto Trail Grapplers. The proven performance on the trail had the Championship-winning driver hooked from the start and the 40x13.50R17 served him perfectly on race day. Paired with a forged-aluminum 17-inch beadlock from Method, he was able to go without a flat. A feat that proved to be especially difficult at this year’s race.
Fuel of It
The car’s radiator is mounted vertically behind the cab and relies on twin electric puller fans to help channel air. Ensuring that the car had plenty of fuel range between pits is a custom 40-gallon Fuel Safe tank. Dual in-tank fuel pumps and AllTech Motorsports fuel baffles work with Aeromotive fuel filters to ensure the thirsty V8 stays hydrated.
Built For Two
Having a copilot can be a critical part of a Hammers victory. This is one of the reasons Blyler continues to campaign a two-seater chassis. This cabin layout from his original car remains the same as it has proven to be functional (and safe) over the years.
In the event that the Big B Motorsports team does need to do a little field service, vinyl-wrapped .040-gage aluminum panels can be easily removed. And, while the Warn winch got a little workout during the race, Blyler finished with more than enough daylight. So, the ARB Intensity series lights remained off.
While the debate over which is the best car for the Hammers race rages on, there’s no denying that the tried-and-true solid-axle car of years’ past is a proven way to get on the podium. It’s also worth mentioning that this year’s third place car was a solid-axle Miller Motorsports car piloted by Erik Miller. Given the fact that Blyler took home the 2019 Ultra4 National points championship in his solid-axle car, probably means he won’t be moving out of it any time soon.
KOH Past Winners and car type (Solid Axle or IFS)
2007: JR Reynolds (Solid)
2008: Shannon Campbell (Solid)
2009: Jason Scherer (Solid)
2010: Loren Healy (Solid)
2011: Shannon Campbell (IFS) First time Independent
2012: Erik Miller and Robert Ruggiero (Solid)
2013: Randy Slawson (Solid)
2014: Loren Healy (Solid)
2015: Randy Slawson (Solid)
2016: Erik Miller (Solid)
2017: Shannon Campbell (IFS)
2018: Jason Scherer (IFS)
2019: Jason Scherer (IFS)
2020: Josh Byler (Solid)