King of the full-size GMCs, Stephen Watson on Episode 109


Stephen Watson of Off Road Design shares growing up in rural Colorado to wheeling experiences all over the country. The King of Full-Size, especially GMC’s, Stephen has a storied history. Listen in on your favorite podcast app, or dive in on YouTube – wherever you are, we’ve got your content ready for you.

Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to Conversations with Big Rich on your favorite Podcast Player


5:21 – learning how to steer at 3 or 4 years old

14:02 – the magic is less when you know how things work

27:53 – I think there would be more value for most people by just spending more time outdoors

36:45 – I think he was scared I’d end up being a welder

47:21 – all I needed was gas and tires

58:46 – people miss the experience of going to seeing things work

1:04:13 – working on the squares

1:21:45 – makes it easy to assume you need it because somebody built it

1:29:29 – the start of the race hangover

1:38:37 – we got bit by the Hammers bug

We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine.


[00:01:40.710] – Big Rick Klein

Today on today’s Conversations with Big Rich, we have Stephen Watson. Stephen is with Off Road Design. He’s the owner and the originator, and he is a full size Chevy GMC aficionado. Been around the sport a long time. It’s going to be fun sitting and talking with Stephen. Never get enough time to sit and talk with him. So here we are. Steven, thank you for coming on board and sharing your life.

[00:02:10.990] – Stephen Watson

Yeah, great to be here. I think this will be kind of fun.

[00:02:13.840] – Big Rick Klein

Yeah, I agree. So let’s get started. I know that you’re from Rifle, Colorado, or that’s where you’re at now, but where were you born and raised?

[00:02:25.450] – Stephen Watson

So my real roots, as I get a little older, I find out that those roots go deeper than anybody ever thought. But my family is all from the Oklahoma Panhandle. My mom grew up on a farm there that her dad was born on that farm and ended up he died on that farm. And then my dad was from a little town near there called Hooker, Oklahoma, which has been the butt of many jokes over the years. They met and I ended up living on the farm there. They moved out when I was four, and without the family ties, it probably would have just been for the most part. Goodbye to that influence. But we spent a lot of the holidays down there and I always spent usually at least a couple of weeks every summer down there with my grandparents. And it was kind of cool because you get to see some of the background of your parents, which ends up inevitably influencing you. But had definitely the farm influence, and that’s a pretty rural place even now, which kind of affects things. But they moved mom and dad. I’m not sure exactly what all happened.

[00:03:50.470] – Stephen Watson

They got the bug to go somewhere, and they landed in Carbondale, Colorado, which is near where we are now. My dad had got a job with a company servicing, repairing, building mine equipment. So not actually underground, but working on mine equipment. And they picked up mom had one high school friend that lived in the area, and they picked up and moved one person, met all their new friends and on and on, but we ended up I mean, they lived in the same house until they sold it last summer. Wow. So I really grew up in Carbondale. Like I said, summer is part of the summer is back in Oklahoma, and then was there, went to high school in Carbondale. And we live 13 miles out of town, which is another, especially in the late Seventies, 80s, Carbondale was relatively rural, and we lived out of town and up in the mountains. We had big peaks basically in the front yard. And for an off road guy, I know we’ve all got different backgrounds and a lot of people actually start in it and stay in it, but we always had four wheel drive stuff around by necessity.

[00:05:21.230] – Stephen Watson

And it’s actually kind of funny when they being in Oklahoma. Everybody has these giant sedans is what the family car was, the family hauler. And my dad had a CJ five that he actually bought new. It was 74, I believe, and my pop up, that would be my mom’s dad that my dad was working for. Just thought that was the dumbest thing in the world for doing farm work, which it probably was. But he had toolboxes set up in it and had all of his stuff set up so we could go service irrigation Wells and do everything with it and actually tell stories of trying to get me at three or four years old to steer it because he could put it in low range and had whatever four speed it would have had, and he could walk alongside and he’s still a pretty good sized burly guy. And back then I can’t imagine. But he would pick up irrigation pipe by himself, and he had to figure out how he could load it on the trailer himself. But he’d have to hop out, load a joint pipe onto the trailer, and then drive the whole thing forward to load another one.

[00:06:40.160] – Stephen Watson

So apparently at one point he tried to get me to drive the thing. Obviously, I could barely see over the steering wheel standing in the seat, but it didn’t sound like that worked that well. So I can’t say I was a good driver from four, but they tried.

[00:06:56.450] – Big Rick Klein

Steering a straight line kid, right?

[00:07:00.260] – Stephen Watson

Yes. As long as it stayed somewhat straight, I guess he was okay. But I have this really vivid memory of that big white I think it was maybe an old sedan with a door that must have been to me it seemed like it was 8ft long. It probably was practically 5ft long stuck in the ditch on the road up to their house in a snowbank. And I had to have been four at the time but they had not gotten another four wheel drive for my mom to drive. I just have the picture of that car with that door being like half across the road and thinking this is kind of dumb. And shortly after that they bought a 74 Blazer and that was kind of I guess the beginning of the Blazer life for us and they had that until 1983 and we’ve got a few pictures of doing what I guess were kind of some four wheeling trips. It was really more backcountry driving and exploring. But they were camping trucks and we for a while we took the Jeep out and then when we got the Blaze take the Blazer out and go do some camping. READ MORE


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