I have driven Trophy Trucks and I have flown the F/A-18. People always ask me which is more fun. I always tell them that the Trophy Truck is more fun – by far. And when they ask why, I say, "Because it's pure, visceral freedom." —Kent Kroeker

Marine-turned-off-road racer and Ram Runner developer Kent Kroeker got some shade for shitting on Chrysler; citing their impotence in building a real enthusiast-oriented truck when given the chance.

He shrugged off their response with another barrage of his opinions; basically saying most companies would rather invest in great commercials and slap some stickers on a vehicle to create a "performance variant."

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There's some truth to his words about the state of the auto market; it does make more sense for companies to play it safe with big investments like product development, and enthusiast-oriented off-roaders aren't exactly "safe" from a sales standpoint.

But I'm more interested in what Kroeker has to say about off-roading itself. He does a great job articulating why I love it so much, and I reckon it might resonate with you too.

I've spent a lot of my life flying around from place to place, all over the world. Ninety percent of the time, when I look down I see vast spaces and open country with no inhabitants. From helicopters over Papua New Guinea, I've seen red clay roads cut through dense jungles. Flying military aircraft over Africa I've seen dunes that go forever and a mixture of green jungle and desert called, "The Sahel." And there is nothing more empty and desolate than the middle of Australia. Everywhere, no matter how exotic the terrain, there are dirt roads. And when I see these dirt roads and open spaces, I want to explore them; I want to know what the terrain is like and to see where the path may take me.

Finally... someone who understands the innate and unignorable desires I feel to run down every road, and chart the convoluted network of dirt tracks I see from a plane land some place like Pheonix, Arizona or Denver, Colorado.

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Kroeker goes on to articulate off-road touring and racing as boundless adventures that are "honest and free." Chrysler won't build a desert runner? So what; build your own.

Off-road culture is something that has to be owned by enthusiasts, not dictated by companies who sell you some sweet stickers.

We will continue to race, chase, pre-run, explore, and get lost in the middle of nowhere.

That's what off-roading has to be about; not what color your shocks are going to be. If that's not inspiration enough to grab whatever rig you've got and go on an adventure, remember Kroeker had more fun in his race truck than he did in an F/A-18 fighter jet. Surely that translates to your beater being at least as fun as, like, a Piper Cub.

Here's his whole diatribe as posted to the Race-Dezert forum:

I want everyone at Race-Dezert to know that I have received a lot of flack for my comments about the Ram Runner. Flack from Chrysler, flack from the off road community and flak from Internet pundits.

I am totally unapologetic.

I built a project vehicle for Mopar. It was a hit at the reveal at Moab. It wound up on the cover of Off Road Magazine. Many articles were written about it, creating a lot of buzz because it begged a series of questions: "A major OE is training for a fight. Could this be the beginning of something great? Could this inspire GM, Toyota and Nissan to reevaluate their position on off road? Could this be the beginning of a whole new market? Could this foretell the Majors getting back into off road racing?"

Sadly, Chrysler bowed up for a fight but then never actually got into the ring, never threw a punch.

They had a golden opportunity but they let it pass.

Except for the fact that a brand I had independently supported for 15 years was actually taking interest in off road, I had nothing to gain from Chrysler pursuing a factory-produced Ramrunner. I had no follow-on deal to supply parts or consult. I simply wanted to see Corporate America do something they haven't done for a long time; I wanted to see them take risks, innovate and compete.

I wanted to see a fight.

The problem is that off road, especially desert racing, is a real fight.

When we race, we run our vehicles across unforgiving terrain and whoever gets to the finish line first proves that they have the best team, the best prep, driving, tuning and equipment. I love off road racing because it's tough, gritty and honest. I love off road racing because it does not lie.

The sword does not lie, the bullet does not lie, and off road racing does not lie.

On the other hand, Corporate America has become very good at telling us that we need more cup-holders and 20" chrome wheels on our pickups. Unfortunately, Consumer America has been sipping this Koolaid for years. This is why we don't have (what we desert racers) call "real performance." We're being programed to believe that we don't need to crush it - and that sticker packages and colored shocks are good enough. It's more profitable to direct marketing efforts toward the uninformed because margins can be higher. American consumers are getting dumber and less demanding while corporations continue to provide us with less capable gear.

It's the proverbial self-licking ice cream cone. And it's not a bad thing; the aftermarket breaks the cycle by offering products to enhance performance. If you're a Dodge fan, you can buy a Ramrunner kit from KORE for less than half of Mopar's price.

As I write this, I'm flying to Detroit for some meetings. I've spent a lot of my life flying around from place to place, all over the world. Ninety percent of the time, when I look down I see vast spaces and open country with no inhabitants. From helicopters over Papua New Guinea, I've seen red clay roads cut through dense jungles. Flying military aircraft over Africa I've seen dunes that go forever and a mixture of green jungle and desert called, "The Sahel." And there is nothing more empty and desolate than the middle of Australia. Everywhere, no matter how exotic the terrain, there are dirt roads. And when I see these dirt roads and open spaces, I want to explore them; I want to know what the terrain is like and to see where the path may take me.

There is a lot of off roading to be done. And all that empty space isn't going anywhere.

I have driven Trophy Trucks and I have flown the F/A-18. People always ask me which is more fun. I always tell them that the Trophy Truck is more fun – by far. And when they ask why, I say, "Because it's pure, visceral freedom." And, to a large extent, when my wife and I are in our Ramrunner, driving to a secret SCUBA beach in Baja, we're doing the same thing - it's free in the same way because it's our adventure; it's our responsibility, and we're left to our own recognizance. No flight path, no altitude restrictions, no speed limits, no police, no rules. It's off-road. It's honest and it's free. If you're exploring mining roads in Nevada or racing a dirt bike in the Baja 1000, off roading is the last bastion of motorsports anarchy.

What I think underscores the disappointment about Chrysler not pursuing the Ramrunner project was that whether you're a Ford, Chevy or Dodge fan, we were all hoping that Corporate America would formally recognize off road in an authentic way. We wanted Corporate American to honestly support the kind of off road we like – the kind that requires wide open spaces. That didn't happen, so we're left with 2 choices, either buy a Raptor or accessorize what you've got.

Unfortunately, Ramrunner wasn't the beginning of something great; it was the end.

Now it's just another tombstone on corporate Boot Hill.

We, however will not give up. We will not back down. We will continue to make uncompromising products specifically for off-road.

One of my good friends always says, "Corporations do not make culture, people do."

This is our culture. Corporate America, the BLM, and ambulance-chasing lawyers aren't going to stop us.

We will continue to race, chase, pre-run, explore, and get lost in the middle of nowhere.

We will always Off-Road this planet.

Image: Marius Lengwiler/Flickr