Blazing a new path

Off-roading group aims to lure SUV drivers with educational run

By DANIELLE C. BELTON, Californian staff writer

Posted: Saturday June 19th, 2004, 10:05 PM
Last Updated: Saturday June 19th, 2004, 10:19 PM

It used to be a Toyota truck.

He thinks. No. He's sure. Well, it most certainly was once a truck in another lifetime, but now Peter Castor's Toyota is more like a vehicular version of Frankenstein's monster.

That monster was waiting in the parking lot of Lake Isabella's McDonald's Restaurant Saturday morning for the Bakersfield Trailblazers' first-ever sports utility vehicle run in the nearby Keyesville area.

Of course Castor, surrounded by a sea of four-wheel drive Jeep Wranglers, wasn't quite sure whether his modified Toyota fit the SUV bill.

The Toyota's front axle is from a Chevy Blazer. Its back axle from a pickup. The truck bed was sawed off. The back wheels brought closer up. Each wheel has its own light and it has global positioning system technology.

"Who are the SUV people?" shouted team leader and event organizer Ken Lollich.

"I'm driving a Toyota," Castor piped up.

Lollich smirked and chuckled -- "That's not an SUV."

Most of the cars weren't SUVs and the ones that were had been heavily modified. Lollich said he hoped more SUV owners would show up later.

The group was trying to recruit SUV owners with four-wheel drive capabilities as part of a statewide push by their parent organization, California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, to get SUV owners into off-roading.