Carl Jantz finds solutions to mechanical problems on a regular basis.
A Toyota pickup was under repair in his shop Dec. 3. Tools and parts filled benches and tables throughout the shop.
The owner of Jantz Engineering and his small staff stay busy.
But it’s not always business for Jantz.
Parked outside the shop sits a 1942 Willys Jeep. The fuel-injected Chevy V8-powered 4×4 is not the kind of Jeep commonly seen on the road. The Jeep has been stretched 25 inches. It’s 47-inch tires and lift raise it high off the ground — enough to make an average size person stretch to get in.
The backup gas cans, rope tow, and other tools make it clear the vehicle is not meant for picking up the groceries.
The roll cage on the Jeep shows anyone who glances at this 4×4 that it has seen a few rough trips.
“I did all the work on it,” Jantz said proudly.
It’s known as Super Jeep.
Inside his shop, Jantz shows a photo of what the Jeep looked like when he first purchased it. It was candy apple red. Now, the amount of wear and tear — dirt and scratches — are making it tougher to tell exactly what this machine looked like when it drove off the lot.
Though few have seen what the Jeep looked like off the lot, plenty of people know what it looks like now.
Jantz, born in Walla Walla, and Rich Rudman of Kingston, were selected as one of five teams to race off-road for the History channel show “Alaska Off-Road Warriors.” They were the only non-Alaskan team, according to the History channel. The show premiered Nov. 30. New episodes are Sundays at 10 p.m.
Five teams of two are racing for a grand prize of $100,000, according to the History channel. Each team has a driver and navigator. The teams are racing across trails in the Alaskan wilderness. The trails are divided into two legs. The race began near the Pacific Ocean, close to Anchorage on the southern coast of the state. It continued to Deadhorse, on the northern coast of Alaska. The team with the lowest aggregated time from all the trails will be named the winner.
The two Kitsap residents are the oldest in the contest, according to the show.
Though Jantz is not able to discuss the show because of his contract with the History channel, it’s clear his life leading up to the race prepared him for what he faced in Alaska.
“My folks used to talk to me about all the crazy places they used to go hunting,” Jantz said. “I have just always loved the outdoors.”
Jantz drove his first 4×4 — a pedal 4×4 — when he was 5, on his birthday. He likes to say he’s been off-roading since then.
His love of all things 4×4 continued to grow.
Jantz would go hunting with his older brothers.
“I wasn’t as hooked on hunting as my brothers were,” he said. “I just kind of liked driving around, seeing the mountains, and four-wheeling.”
Jantz took a slightly different path, focusing on driving challenging terrain. The 57-year-old has been breaking and repairing vehicles for fun nearly his entire life.
“It’s just what I do,” he said.
There have been some tense moments for Jantz during his time in the wilderness. He estimates he’s rolled his Jeep about three times. He’s had to abandon the Jeep when it has broken down on multiple occasions.
Jantz’ typical off-road excursions are in the Olympics and Cascades, where he tries to go about once a month. In the summer, he goes over to the Cascades because of the legal trails offered. During the winter, he heads to the Olympics and drives logging roads covered in snow.
“You get a few feet of snow on the road and it’s challenging,” Jantz said. “It’s a blast.”
There have been some hairy breakdowns. For example, one afternoon the Jeep broke down and Jantz found himself about 22 miles from the nearest house. The road was covered in snow and he had gone about 12 miles. Luckily, the last snowmobiler of a group picked him up not too long after the breakdown.
“The No. 1 rule is don’t go out alone,” he said. “With that being said, I’ve pushed that limit a couple of times…”
Why does he do it?
Well, people have pioneered their way as far as the North Pole and South Pole; and even left the atmosphere. For Jantz, it’s a similar draw, but he wants to do it in a 4×4.
Jantz has a degree in mechanical engineering. He opened an 4×4 shop in Spokane before working for Boeing as a manufacturer in research development.
Now he’s back to what he loves. He operates Jantz Engineering (www.jantz4x4.com) in Poulsbo. The business isn’t your average shop; specializing in 4×4 repair and modifications — although vehicles of all kinds are welcome. The shop offers its own line of specialty products, too.
Rudman owns Manzanita Macro, named for Manzanita Bay and headquartered in Kingston (www.manzanitamicro.com). The business specializes in electric vehicles and modifications and is an electric-vehicle component supplier.
Since returning from Alaska, Jantz’ phone has been constantly ringing. The show brought a lot of attention for the Poulsbo resident.
“I hope it kind of gets down to a dull roar,” he said, adding that he’s enjoyed every minute.
The 57-year-old Poulsbo resident plans to continue off-roading until he’s in his 80s, he said. Jantz wants to celebrate his Jeep’s 100th birthday before he stops.
“At 82 I’m going to park it and say it’s done,” Jantz said. “Then I’m going to tell my grandkids stories; actually it will be great-grandkids by then.”