Tamara and Mick Glover aren’t like the other couples you know.
While we spend weekends trudging through IKEA, Tamara and Mick are out in the wild looking for the biggest, toughest obstacles they can find; then they drive over them.
Their Suzuki Sierra Buggy, JIGSAW, is their weapon of choice as they take on rock crawling comps around the country. Tamara drives, while Mick scrambles ahead on foot to navigate and pick lines. Together, they push car and skill to the outside limit.
What’s rock crawling? Almost exactly what it sounds like. It’s the most extreme form of off-roading. Finding the impassable and passing it. It requires a totally different set of skills to the regular four-wheel driving. It is technical, replacing speed with precision and control, as much a problem-solving exercise as a motorsport.
Rock crawling requires an intimate understanding of vehicle limits. The bond between vehicle and driver needs to be strong, but the navigator/spotter relationship needs to be telepathic.
“You need to know where the tilt point is, how to get over the rocks or up a waterfall and how to progress without doing damage,” says Tamara. “Being a husband and wife as well as driver and navi has its tense moments. I will voice my concerns, but I need to rely on him as being my eyes outside of the car because a lot of the time I cant see.”
Rock crawling contests are won by getting through a marked course in time, avoiding markers and passing through gates sequentially. To avoid penalties, teams have to stay in bounds, avoid reversing and place every wheel where it needs to be.
“Comps are unreal- you have so much fun, you get to meet so any new people,” says Mick. “We did a comp last weekend and we got a first place. It blew us away. The best we’ve done is fourth or fifth. We were wheeling with guys with more capable cars, but it was just our time.”
Roll overs are accepted as inevitable. Few teams are spared the embarrassment of landing on their roof at some point, and the short, stout vehicles are built with this in mind.
“It’s one of those sports where it’s only a matter of time before you push it that far that you end up on your side or your roof. It’s going to happen, it’s just when” says Mick.
Bespoke contest buggies like JIGSAW aren’t mandatory. Stock vehicles are encouraged to try it out. However, when it comes to the pointy end, an extreme sport requires an extreme vehicle. The Glover’s JIGSAW is named for the bloodthirsty antagonist in the SAW series. A natural first date for a pair of horror film nuts, the couple’s connection to the gory series endures in the Zook. Like Jigsaw’s victims, the interior and exterior have been dramatically chopped up and reworked. Converted to a full-house competition buggy, the body has been replaced by a seamless tube frame. For maximum reliability car runs a 1.6 litre carburated Vitara motor, and a three-speed trimatic gear box. The transfer case is fitted with 6:5:1 reduction gears with HiLux differentials fitted with 4.88 gears. 2.0 Fox air shocks support the buggy, with 16 inches of travel keeping this brawler flexed over a range of terrain. The car features probably the biggest rubber a Sierra has ever worn. Beadlocked to the Allied Thunder 17×9’s is a set of 40 inch Trepador tyres. These are not your average mall-crawler muddies. Constructed from an ultra-soft and sticky compound they are designed for maximum grip, specifically built for competition rock crawling.
Tamara was raised on four wheel-driving and has the off-road pedigree to match. Mick, a four-cylinder show-car lover, had to be converted to the trails, but hasn’t looked back. The couple’s sons, aged nine and six, are already on the rock crawling path.
“I got it into it through my dad,” says Tamara. “Learning to drive at 10 years old on 100 acres of bush, it was the perfect opportunity for a kid growing up. He taught me everything that I know. How to drive, how to rock crawl, how to winch, and how to love everything about it. Mick has this natural ability to pick a line and guide us where we need to go. That’s how we came into it. To carry on the legacy from my dad and what he taught me, and what I have taught Mick and what we teach our boys is just to love it.”
Like so many, Tamara and Mick have found a lifestyle and a community who share their passion. Their club, Mud Mafia and their entire social circle is made up of off-road nuts.
“They are always there at the comps to support us or look after the kids when we’re on track,” says Tamara. “They cheer for us. We’ve made so many friends and created a family. That’s’ what it’s all about.”
We couldn’t agree more.