A rustle in the tall grass…the ground trembles and a low rumbling growl resonates through your ears and down to your belly…the grass parts on the mound above you and you swivel around to find yourself face to face with a hulking, fire-breathing Unimog! Like a huge German Panzer tank, the Mog creeps over the ridge, flattens the brush, and heads straight for you at an unrelenting slow crawl. What do you do? Stand your ground and pray for a quick death. Run to the nearest military base and report a German invasion. Stick out your thumb and catch a ride down to the river for yourself and your kid. The latter is the correct answer because you’re at MogFest!
NorthWest MogFest is held every August on the Waldersee family farm in Sheridan, Oregon. Here Jim Malloy and his wife Emilie host owners of exotic European–based offroad vehicles from all over North America, and as far away as Australia. It’s a few days of camping, driving, and geeking out on the coolest vintage trucks and gear you’ll ever find in one place. At first glance MogFest may look like a hillbilly truck jamboree, but look a little closer and you’ll see that’s exactly what it’s not. There are no guns, but you’re encouraged to try axe throwing. Adult beverages are enjoyed, but there are no rowdy drunks. There is plenty of gasoline, but no fires; the days are hot but the nights are cool, and guests keep warm with companionship and high spirits.
The Malloys bought their first Mog in 1996 after trying many different rigs including Land Rovers, Land Cruisers, and Jeeps. They wanted something that could function like a VW Syncro camper but at a more affordable price. They began hosting MogFest in 2000, growing the gathering from nine trucks and about two dozen people to 2015’s sweet sixteen event, all the while attracting “a broader range of vehicles and more interesting people,” says Jim.
It’s common to find a variety of factory, highly modified and ex-military vehicles from a camperized Volvo C304 to a bone-stock VW Syncro van. Tiny Haflingers buzz in circles around monstrous Unimogs while a Land Rover Series II sits next to a state-of-the-art Earth Cruiser. The action is centered around an obstacle course knows as “The Pit”, a 150-yard trench that snakes through the farm with dug out slopes, berms, and mounds that offer varying degrees of technical challenges to drive through. The big Unimogs have it easiest as their amazingly articulated suspension and ultra-low gears allow them to confidently climb an obstacle and negotiate any off-camber turn.
The Syncros seem to have the most fun as they use sheer torque and driver control to power their brick-like bodies through the tight channels, crash over the teeter-totters, and seemingly launch right out of The Pit like little rocketships. The G-Wagens and Rovers sensibly take the middle ground, finessing their way through the obstacles, offering comfortable rides while showcasing their ability to safely go just about anywhere without getting stuck. No matter the vehicle, experienced drivers make a turn through The Pit look like a smooth, Sunday drive, while beginners jubilantly bash their way around as they learn how to off-road their rides.
The mid-August days can get pretty hot around Sheridan, so many guests will participate in a group drive to the beach at Pacific City where the trucks can legally play on the beach and frolic in the sand and surf. Those staying at the farm can head down the river at the back of the property to cool off, while kids play in the giant bouncy Vanagon set up by specialty shop GoWesty. There are scheduled activities to watch and participate in, like the axe throwing contest, ladies’ back hoe challenge, Haflinger obstacle course, and the big prize draw and auction. Campers can rustle up their own grub, or enjoy group meals cooked up by the local Boy Scouts.
This was the second year MogFest offered on-site yoga classes. Some have asked the Malloys, “why yoga?” “Why not?” says Jim. “We want MogFest to be different from any other high mobility vehicle-centric event anywhere.” Small camps pop up all about the farm and one can easily spend an entire day walking between the groups, catching up with old friends, making new ones and chatting about cars. Many guests bring their whole families for the weekend and it’s pretty normal to see a gaggle of giggling kids bumping along in a Pinz, having the time of their lives.
The Pit is lit up at night and a “well-oiled cadre of organizers” keeps an eye on things and stays in radio contact in case of any accidents. While there has been a rollover or two, there have been no major injuries in the event’s history. “We have had a few ambulance runs over the years but nothing serious,” Jim says. “There is a lot of self-policing going on, but nothing can make the event 100% risk free. Our goal is to allow people to test their vehicles and themselves in a relatively safe environment and to do so responsibly.” The volunteers who make it all happen are a much-treasured part of the experience. “If it were not for all our volunteers who show up early and stay long after the gathering’s end, we would not be able to pull this off at this stage,” Jim notes.
He goes on to praise his wife, who is simultaneously front-and-center and behind the scenes, keeping the show going. “There is no question that the heart of the organization is Emilie. NorthWest MogFest is a true labor of love for both of us. I can never thank her enough — ever!” To attend you have to ask for an invitation — and try not to show up in a regular old Chevy.
“This event is, first and foremost, a European vehicle event,” Jim says, adding that he will consider letting a non-Euro vehicle in if he thinks it’s interesting enough. NorthWest MogFest is an original, unique, welcoming event for enthusiasts of European-bred offroad vehicles. You can come alone or bring the whole family; just watch the happenings from the sidelines or dive right in and get dirty in The Pit. Come the first time for the great trucks but come back again for all the great people.
Visit www.northwestmogfest to get invited!