I was raised in San Antonio, Texas, where my mother had moved to from Chicago when I was a wee boy. I went to the University of Texas and got a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After joining the workforce for a few years as an engineer, I felt the professional world was moving too slow for me and began hustling contract work in the nights and evenings.
Around that time I was also into trail riding on my dirt bikes and needed a way to tow them around. The BMW M3 just wasn’t cutting it as a tow rig. I decided I would start off with a 2007 Toyota Tacoma and figured I would leave it stock to use as my daily driver and dirt bike hauler. That didn’t last long because before I knew it, I had Total Chaos mid-travel arms with Fox remote resi IBPs on 33s, trying to figure out how to stuff 35s under the fenders.
When I realized there was no good “go fast” terrain in Texas and everything was about rock crawlers, I chose not to destroy my clean ‘Yota and picked up a 1992 Toyota pickup, which I named “Buttercup.” It was a blank slate that I learned to fab, weld and Frankenstein. This is where I would say my passion for off-road really took off. I always loved vehicles and camping, so I decided to make a company doing what I was passionate about and started Roam Adventure Co. with a mission to build the ultimate base camp. I wanted to build not only great products, but also a brand with a level of personality and community that I hadn’t seen before.
A LEARNING CURVE
Growing up my dad was always into cars, mostly sports cars with a Blazer and Bronco sprinkled in there. Probably because of his passion and always working in the garage with him, I too fell in love with vehicles. I’ve always had my eye on the first-generation Ford Mustangs. When I was 15, I got a job working for my dad’s business, saved up some cash and bought my very own Silver Frost-painted, black interior, no air conditioning 1966 Mustang. That thing was my baby, but it taught me a lot about mechanic work the hard way.
I was left stranded or without a ride for the weekend many times. The old engine forced me to learn just about every aspect of the internal combustion engine. By the time I sold it a few years later, I had rebuilt the original engine, built a new 5.0 engine, rebuilt the transmission several times, learned electrical, brakes, paint, interior, and you name it. I learned a lot about customization from that vehicle. In college, I joined the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE), where I learned to take my automotive hobby and turn it into a home-built race car. We used Solidworks to design our own parts, prototyped and analyzed our designs to reduce weight, improve efficiency and build cars that just hauled ass.
THE TALE OF BUTTERCUP
My first true build was Buttercup, my 1992 Toyota Pickup. I always used to tell my passengers to “buckle up buttercup” before I hit a gnarly obstacle. So I decided to call the truck itself “Buttercup.”
After four years of tinkering, Buttercup was a solid axle swapped, 6” wider axled, e-lockered (front and rear) 5.29 geared, caged and armored machine, with a “my other ride is your mom” sticker on the passenger side and a fake electric car charging port on the front driver side. I got to park in the front row at all the grocery stores…
My favorite thing was that none of the welds broke! During the build process, I got tired of waiting for my buddy to bring his welder over, so I swiped my CC, got a welder and a bottle of gas. I learned to weld on that rig by pointing and shooting and somehow they all stuck! I certainly set myself and my seats on fire a few times and there were some ugly spots, but I got much better with practice!
THE RISE OF THE RAPTOR
She’s just a beast. I chose the 2017 Ford Raptor to build after chasing for Cameron Chin of Nefarious Kustoms at the Mint 400 in 2017. It was so much fun trying to keep the cars together, running spares between pits in the dirt and the nasty terrain with a rag-tag team. This was my first exposure to desert racing and I was hooked. That was in March and the next race event we were going to attend was the Baja 1000 in Baja California. I decided I needed to build a rad chase truck so to the dealership I went!
Ford has a place in my heart because of my first 1966 Mustang. I love a bunch of other vehicle makes, but I think Ford will always win my heart because of my first love.
Typically, I go by the thought of building my vehicles from the ground up. I like to start with armor then begin building the driveline where the power meets the pavement and work my way up to the engine. This way, the vehicle can handle the performance mods down the road. With the 2017 Ford Raptor build, it was a bit different as the platform already has a bomber powertrain.
WRENCHING IS THERAPY
I do just about everything on my own vehicles. Wrenching is a form of therapy for me. When I look at a broken vehicle or any auto project, all I see is an easy problem to solve. Sure, some things are more difficult than others, but it’s just
a bunch of nuts and bolts that you have to figure out how to take apart and put back together. The problems I encounter in the garage are a lot easier to overcome than those we find in the business world!
On this build, it is mostly bolt-ons as there are sooooo many parts out there for the Raptor. I will say that the KC M-Rack is the first 9-light M-Rack of its kind. The one on my truck is the prototype of the now production version that the team and I built back when I was running Product Development for KC HiLites in 2019. I do have a custom-fabricated hunting knife that was made from the stock Raptor leaf springs sitting in my truck all the time, though! My buddy Jordan Kepler from Lost Sasquatch Provisions forged it for me as a gift.
KC HiLites Lights – I love the aesthetic of the Pro6 lights across the front and even more the utility of the lights when running around the desert at night.
Icon Vehicle Dynamics Suspension – The Icon Vehicle Dynamics suspension setup made a world of difference over the stock Raptor suspension. Because the rear leaf packs can be adjusted, I am able to set up the truck for different trails and events. I have even hit whoops fully loaded at 70mph comfortably!
Falken Wildpeak M/T Tires – The Falken Wildpeak M/Ts are super grippy on just about everything we have hit and aren’t overly obnoxious on the road. These tires have taken a beating and haven’t let me down once!
Advanced Fiberglass Concepts Fenders and bedsides – Not only did these allow me to run 37” tires through their full range of motion, but the way they improved the aesthetic of the truck is insane! The fenders look just close enough to stock that they are not obnoxious yet they help the truck turn as many heads as possible on the road.
Roam Adventure Co. Vagabond Roof Top Tent – I love how easy this thing is to set up. The built-in ultra-plush mattress and panoramic windows make laying down at the end of a long day a dream. Good rest makes the next day that much better.
UP FOR A CHALLENGE?
I was on a roll for a while there getting the truck built just the way I wanted. Then I got sidetracked with my RZR, Comanche and Ram builds, and the Raptor just got parked for a few months. I am hoping to get back to the Raptor soon. I plan to build a full interior cage, install the Camburg Engineering Performance Long Travel Kit upfront, some custom 52” long links in the rear, Arizona Desert Shocks 3.5” Coilovers up front with 3.5” triple bypasses in all 4 corners, and an Alcon Big Brake Kit.
Cost and space to build were challenges. Everything for the Raptor seems to be made of gold. As soon as the Raptor name is added to the product description, the price somehow doubles or triples! Because of this, I acquire the parts a bit slower than some other builds. While I was living in SoCal, space was an issue as well. I would work on my truck in the street or in my driveway where I had to park on top of the garden to fit this thing! Now that I live in AZ, I have an oversized 2-car garage where I can make magic happen.
This truck was built to be the ultimate base camp. I wanted a rig that could get me just about anywhere comfortably and fast! I use the base camp as the central point for so many other adventures. Oftentimes I take my mountain bikes, dirt bikes or RZR to explore the scenery more once I set up camp.
Really, there are so many good ones from the runs to Baja California, through the Mojave Desert water crossing, above the clouds in Big Sur… but if I had to pick one, it would have to be the big summer road trip I took with my lady Morgan Atteberry. Last year, we took off from Show Low, Arizona, passed by Ship Rock in northern New Mexico as we headed into Southwestern Colorado. There we hit some insane trails blocked by melting glaciers, speckled with snowmelt lakes, and huge mountain passes.
Imogene Pass sitting at 13,114’ was a wild trail to get through. It was tight and had several cliffhangers. We camped in the middle of the forest along snowmelt streams and waterfalls. We then took off to meet some friends in Moab, where we bombed some red rock trails, went cliff jumping, and completely doused our trucks in red dirt. There was one area of the trail that had to be a foot deep in loose red dusty dirt. It made for a wild time. After we had a few nights of fun in Moab, we took off to Lake Powell as a crew and found some of the most epic camp spots up on the rim and down by the water. That trip was full of so many incredible views, broken trucks, good people and awesome adventure… man, I need to do that again!
I was previously living in SoCal, where friends and I loved Anza-Borrego, Joshua Tree National Park and Big Sur. Now I live in Northern Arizona, which is quite a different scenery. The trails I have been exploring up here are full of towering Ponderosa Pines, cold water lakes and immense wildlife. I haven’t found my new favorite spot just yet, but this area of the country is truly incredible for camping, fishing, and cruising the backwoods with the windows down.
Most of what I have run in the Raptor has been on desert runs in SoCal or Baja California, which is mostly about hauling ass, eating whoops and getting stuck in loose sand from time to time. The most difficult trails I have hit were out in SouthWest Colorado near Ouray and Silverton. My truck is just so dang wide for those tight, twisty mountain trails, and she drags her wide hips through just about everything out there. As for battle scars, she’s got trail rash all over and rock chips pepper the bedsides, but that’s how I like my rigs – beat not babied.
PREP & PLAN
Friends and radios are a must. I plan on getting a hold of a Garmin Spot X at some point, so I can communicate with people if I am out alone but as of right now I just rely on the people that head into the wilderness with me!
Typically, the short trips start with a friend calling or me and my lady just wanting to get out, we pick a spot, grab the Rugged Cases full of gear and roll out. When we are preparing for a larger road trip, I like to look at a map and pick a direction. Sometimes we start with a few spots that I have wanted to see or camp at and add them to the route. Then, I begin researching destinations along the way and some trails that lead there. Once I get to the area of our destination, we will cruise the trails and just explore to see what kind of adventure we can get into! Though we may get a bit sandy sometimes, we always stick to the trails and leave the areas we camp in better shape than we found them.
2017 FORD RAPTOR
POWERTRAIN AND UNDER THE HOOD PERFORMANCE:
Mountune High Flow Intake, Mountune front mount intercooler, COBB Accessport V3 ECU Flash Tuner
WHEELS & TIRES:
Falken Wildpeak M/T 37×12.50R17LT, Icon Alloys Rebound 17×8.50
Bumper: KC HiLites 7-Light Gravity LED Pro6 Light Bar with amber covers, A-Pillar: KC HiLites Flex LED Duals, Overhead: KC HiLites 9-Light Gravity LED Pro6 Light Bar, Roof Rack: KC HiLites 10” C-Series LED 100W Flood Lights, Rear: KC HiLites Flex Singles, Chase Bar: KC HiLites 28” Chase LED Light Bar, Rock: Feniex Industries Amber/White Cannon
GEAR STORAGE, ORGANIZATION, ROOF RACK, BED RACK: Top:
Roam Adventure Co. 83L Rugged Cases with Lid Organizers, Bed: Roam Adventure Co. 105L Rugged Cases with Molle Panels, Back Seat: Roam Adventure Co. 82L Rugged Case, Roof Rack: KC HiLites M-Rack, Bed Rack: Wilco Offroad Low Pro Bed Rack, Bed Storage: Decked Truck Bed Drawer
Winch (sitting in the garage): Warn VR EVO 12-S Winch, Deadman Offroad Recovery Kit, MaxTrax MKII Vehicle Recovery Device
ARMOR, BUMPERS, SLIDERS:
Icon Impact Off- Road Armor Front Bumper N-Fab RKR Rails
Advanced Fiberglass Concepts 2” Flare 2” Rise Front Fenders, Advanced Fiberglass Concepts 2.5” Flare 1” Rise Rear Bedsides
Icon Vehicle Dynamics 3.0 Remote Reservoir CDCV Coilovers Icon Vehicle Dynamics Billet Upper Control Arms with Delta Joint up front, Icon Vehicle Dynamics
3.0 Triple Bypass Shocks, Icon Vehicle Dynamics Multi Rate Leaf Pack, Icon Vehicle Dynamics Hydraulic Bump Stop Kit in the rear, Freedom Motorsports R1 Concepts GEOMET Double Coated Rotors, Centric Posi Quiet Ceramic Performance Brake Pads
ELECTRONICS, COMMUNICATION, IN- CABIN ACCESSORY MOUNTS:
Kenwood TM-V71A Dual Band Transceiver, Rugged Radios V3 Handhelds, Feniex Industries Typhoon Handheld 100W Siren and Controller, Builtright Industries Dash Mount RAM X-Grip Mount, Dash mounted hula girl, Ipad Mini
Roam Adventure Co. Vagabond Roof Top Tent, Roam Adventure Co. 5’ Straight Awning, Roam Adventure Co. 20qt Rugged Cooler, Dometic CFX65DZ Portable Fridge