with Bill Johnston
We have seen Mike Hagen before even if we never realized it. He builds some really 'kickin' Zooks. Last year we saw him compete in the ZookiMelt Rock Rage with a bright yellow Track/Kick that really showed it's capabilities. This year's iteration has shown great improvements in strength, articulation and all around cool factor that really shows that a Track/Kick can be built to take on the big stuff.
When we caught up with him this year at ZookiMelt, we got him to shed some light on some of the details in his rig.
The first things you notice when approaching the rig is a few serious considerations for major articulation. The front fenders have been cut away and replaced with a tube front clip. The rear tires have even less chance of rubbing body panels because the rear quarters have been dove-tailed. The tailgate has been reduced by about half of its original size, but it still retains its original look and fit.
The reduced sheet metal was plenty to allow the 39.5" Pittbulls a chance to rotate freely. The beadlocks seem to be more of a staple than bling because they looked right at home on this rig.
Mike retained the basic look of the 97 by keeping some of the basics hidden. Look closely at the front 'bumper' area and you will notice a small square hole. This 2" cutout is actually a flush mounted receiver that pins from behind. No ugly square tube sticking out up front. He also runs a 16 valve, 1.6 liter motor and stock 5 speed tranny. His transfer case is stuffed with the Calmini 4.24:1 gearset sending the power to the Detroit locked 5.83:1 axle gears. He also made some smart changes to the front differential. Being an IFS suspension, the front differential is bolted in solid. Usually there are two different front CV shafts (different lengths) under the front, but Mike has made it easier to maintain by shifting the differential to the center and using equal length Toyota CV shafts. This means only having to carry a single spare that can be used on either side. He has also made additional changes to the axle configuration that allows him to swap CV shafts without tearing the whole front end apart - he just cranks the wheel to one side, turns a few bolts, and pulls the bad shaft out. We keep calling it a Track/Kick. Both Tracker and Sidekick vehicles are a very close match with only a few small differences. But why do we not say which one it really is? Because that is exactly what Mike calls it. Good enough for me.
Nice Job Mike.
Mike HagenCottage Grove, Minnesota