Interview by: Harry Wagner- 3/2003
Editor's Note: The following is the next of our new feature focusing on the talented people who run shops specializing in Toyota 4x4 components. Recently, Rockstomper owner Scott Ellinger took time out of his busy schedule to speak with 4x4Wire's Harry Wagner.
|Scott Ellinger, owner of Rockstomper.|
4x4Wire- How did you get involved in four wheeling?
Ellinger- It wasn't really a concious decision, it just kind of happened. I bought a truck to have fun with… and it just kept getting more and more modifications.
4x4Wire- What was your first trail rig?
Ellinger- My white 1986 Toyota pickup. I was looking for reliable transportation and Toyotas have an excellent reputation.
4x4Wire- The pickup that you competed in Top Truck Challenge with? That was your first 4x4?!
Ellinger- Yeah, I never imagined that it would evolve into what it became.
|The white IFS truck that Scott used to compete in FourWheeler's Top Truck Challenge.|
4x4Wire- How long ago was it that you bought that truck?
Ellinger- That was about ten years ago.
4x4Wire- How long has your shop been in business?
Ellinger- Officially for three years now, but I was fabricating for myself and friends for a couple of years before that.
4x4Wire- How many people work at Rockstomper
Ellinger- I am Rockstomper. My wife assists me and if I am really swamped I have some good friends who help me out, but primarily it is just me.
4x4Wire- So you take orders, ship parts, and fabricate components?
Ellinger- Yeah, anything that needs to be done I do it. (Editor's note: Scott was working on his car hauler during this interview in order to leave that day for the Toyota 4Runner Jamboree.)
|Taking time off to run the Hammers at the 4Runner Jamboree 2002.|
4x4Wire- What kind of background do you have?
Ellinger- I have a degree in industrial technology management, it is a engineering/business hybrid. I worked as a mechanical engineer before pursuing Rockstomper fulltime.
4x4Wire- Your background sounds perfect for running a company that makes custom four wheel drive components.
|Light weight and big tires make for a lot of fun in the snow.|
Ellinger-I think so. I did not anticipate running my own business when I was in school, but it is a great foundation.
4x4Wire- And what prompted you to make that transition from hobby to a full time business?
Ellinger- Well, as I mentioned, I was making parts for my truck and my friends and it got to the point where that was taking up more time than my “real” job. I had to make a decision at that time, and I do not regret starting Rockstomper.
4x4Wire- Where do you see the sport heading?
Ellinger- I see a wider division between competition vehicles and recreational rigs. Competition rigs are going to continue to develop with tube frames and removable body skins. They are very single purpose but I do not see that many revolutionary changes becoming the norm in the future.
4x4Wire- What about vehicles like Tiny and the Chainlink?
Ellinger- My hat is off to Jon driving Tiny, he has done a really great job. Most of the really different ideas though finish way back in the pack where I finish, they are just novelties and I think that they will stay that way. Don't get me wrong, I admire anyone with the courage to come up with a totally unique design and then go out and use it, but people like Tracy Jordan and John Gilleland are winning every weekend with pretty standard parts like 4.3L motors and Dana 60s.
|Scott and the Mantis on the Independence Trail in Colorado.|
4x4Wire- And what about recreational rigs?
Ellinger- Normal wheeling setups are evolving much more slowly and will continue to be primarily Jeep based. I think that they will push the limits of what can be driven daily though, like my green truck.
4x4Wire- You drive your green truck on a daily basis?!
|Scott in action at the UROC Supercrawl.|
Ellinger- [Laughing] I don't drive it every day, but I do take it to the store and around town. It wouldn't be legal somewhere like New Jersey, but Colorado has very liberal vehicle laws and the truck is street legal. The biggest hazard is the attention that it attracts going down the road, even when it is on the trailer.
4x4Wire- Are you planning to compete in the Mantis (the green truck) again this year?
Ellinger- I will be competiting in UROC and I will be at the Kremling Krawl, but I haven't decided if I am going to compete or just help out. I am building a new buggy too, but it will not be ready until next season.
4x4Wire- What are the specifications on your rig?
Ellinger-It turns 44” Super Swampers on Rockstomper beadlocks with a 22R, G52 transmission, and dual cases with 4.7:1 gears in the rear case. The axles are a Dana 60 in front with a Lock-rite and 4.10s and a welded Eaton/14 Bolt hybrid in the rear. The suspension is a balanced design with wristed radius arms front and rear utlitizing Aerostar cargo van coils in front and normal Aerostar passenger van coils (with a lower spring rate) in the rear. The remarkable thing is how off-the-shelf all of the parts are.4x4Wire- I thought that you were running a 9" rear?
Ellinger-The rear 9" gave up the ghost at JV; one axleshaft went and exploded inside the ARB, expanding it, the carrier bearing, the bearing cap on the third. I drove it some the following day (including two "competiton courses") knowing that the other axleshaft was already twisted and the entire rear axle was trash, which broke the other axleshaft. I swapped in the Eaton/14 Bolt hybrid that it has now, shortly thereafter. It has a 10.5" ring gear, three-bearing pinion, ring gear load bolt, 14-bolt axleshafts, welded 14-bolt diff guts, all in a sheetmetal housing. It has the ground clearance of a stock 9", the strength of a 14-bolt, and it only weighs 300 pounds. I did a fair bit of machine work on the wheel hubs and a little on the spindles to make it work.
|The front suspension design of the Mantis.|
|The rear suspension design mirrors the front.|
4x4Wire- Do you sponsor any other competitors?
Ellinger- Von Werrett and Carl Whitmore have some sponsored parts on their rig, and I am sponsoring Mike Fox in NeuROC this year.4x4Wire- What product lines do you carry, or do you just sell your own brand of products?
Ellinger- 99% of the products that I carry now are unique to Rockstomper. I do have a relationship with Spidertrax and Crane, but in the past I have had issues with other manufacturers and delivery time. If it is a common item it is just not worth it for me to carry it anyway, I cannot compete with 4Wheel Parts Wholesalers. My market niche is stout, custom rockcrawling parts.4x4Wire- Speaking of products, any new ideas you would like to share with us?
|The new Dana 60 knuckles soon to be available from Rockstomper.|
Ellinger- A lot of my time is currently being commited to the new Dana 60 knuckles that I am developing with Crane. I would like to offer everything from one individual knuckle to complete hybrid axles. I think that there are a lot of opportunities with these knuckles and applying them to Toyota axles, Dana 44s, and other front axles, all while fitting the brakes under 15” wheels.4x4Wire- Can you tell use more about these knuckles?
Ellinger- They are a replacement for Chevy kingpin knuckles, which I have found are much stronger than the normal Dana 60 ball joint knuckles. They are cast out of 8630, which is a gear steel chromoly. Inners and outers will be available for a variety of applications.
4x4Wire- Do you do any custom fabrication and installation, or just sell your products?
|Testing the Mantis before the paint and tube work was completed.|
Ellinger- I do not do any installations or one-off parts anymore, my preference is to focus on developing new parts. There are only so many hours in the day so I have to focus on what I want to do.4x4Wire- How often do you get to wheel?
Ellinger- I try to go every month or two, but it doesn't always happen. Actually I try and go a couple of times a month but that rarely happens these days.4x4Wire- What organizations/clubs do you belong to?
Ellinger- My local club is the Larimer County Mountaineers, but I am also a part of the Colorado Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, Blue Ribbon Coalition, and United Four Wheel Drive Association. I think it is very important to support the four wheeling community as a whole.