Hanging out with Adam Woodlee and Wide Open Design
Story and Photos by Marcy Border
Wide Open Design is a small operation that has come a long way in a short time. What began as a literal backyard fab shop has now evolved into a respected world class recreational and competition off-road shop. When I first met Adam Woodlee, owner of Wide Open Design 5 or 6 years ago, I never would have thought this industry would grow so much so fast. Adam was working in essentially a garage/barn behind his Dad’s house fabricating with minimal equipment and was sending out top notch rigs like Donald Hadden’s Top Truck Challenge “Pimp’n Ain’t Easy” Cabtruck and John Galbreath’s show-quality “38 Special”. When I heard he was moving out of the old place to a new 15,000 sq ft shop I had to be there for the Grand Opening event!
The first thing I noticed in the new shop was how quickly it was filling up! It was amazing that they somehow found room in the old shop for 6 or 7 chassis, 3 or 4 complete rigs, and countless tools and parts. The place looked like a full blown race shop with all the chassis neatly lined up with ample room to work on each. Among all these amazing works of art rigs is the same old JD squared Model 3 manual bender and manual tubing roller that started it all. Adam and his crew are definitely sticking to their roots and it’s a good thing. Quality workmanship is what Wide Open Design was founded on and it’s what they will continue to produce!
One big thing a lot of people will notice about Wide Open Design is their move in the market in the past year of moving from only doing 100% custom turnkey vehicles to building buggies off of their own chassis line up, and RZR parts. They have developed a couple good looking chassis that will fit the needs of most wheelers and they are way more affordable than the 100% custom stuff. Don’t think that Wide Open Design can’t handle that one off custom build though. They are still willing and able to pull off the custom rigs that are over the top. Adam says” We simply put the new chassis line up into the mix to become more affordable to the average guy. We will always build custom stuff though” It’s a great mix having the two different approaches to a build up under one roof.
The Grand Opening / Open House event drew a huge crowd all day. There were probably 300 people throughout the day to come see the new digs. The 4wd community is definitely tight-knit; I spent the day getting to enjoy some great stories as some big names in the industry just got to hang out and bench race with each other like average joes. Stan Haynes, owner of Branik Motorsports drove down from Indiana and brought down some his trick machined parts to show off, Kraig and John of RCV performance were there with some new prototype axles for the “rock bouncer” crew, and even Ian Johnson from Xtreme4x4 dropped by to hang out for a few.
Dwight Woodlee, Adam’s dad manned the grill and hooked everyone up with free hamburgers and hotdogs all afternoon which was just icing on the cake!
The coolest thing was many of the previous Wide Open Design rigs from all over the area were on display around the shop. Bob Barnett brought his “UBkon” buggy from Mississippi, one of WOD’s first full tube chassis, Nazir Adam’s Blower Buggy, and Andrew Dobosh’s new TPPD Revolution buggy (yes, it’s named the “Trailer Park Panty Dropper”) were all there for everyone to check out. BJ Allen’s and Michael Dalton’s fully race-ready Wide Open Design built RZRs were also there for the side-by-side crowd. WOD is getting into the RZR world heavy with cages, a-arms, doors, bumpers, and more.
Sunday, there was a small private ride with all the WOD rigs that were available. After a long day and night of hanging out, everyone loaded up and rolled 2 hours to the wheelin’ spot. The trails were awesome dry creek beds with nasty ledge climbs and technical crawling sections that you don’t often see in this area of the country. Sticky tires and the well built suspensions ate up the rocks all day.
Dwight Woodlee, Adam’s dad, and WOD machinist, cruised the trails easily in his Wide Open Design built “Low Life” Jeep CJ.
Bob’s “UBkon” is more of a hill killer rig, but didn’t struggle any at this technical rock crawl section as his sticky 42” Iroks heated up and hooked on the slick rock.
Ron McCracken’s full bodied Wide Open Design GM 383 powered Jeep CJ7 was built to be able to take the whole family wheelin’ in comfort. Ron’s Jeep was driven on the trail all day by his 13 year old son, Logan. Logan drove like a pro maneuvering the long wheelbase rig through the rocks barely slipping a tire.
Adam’s KOH car’s tune suspension soaked up this huge rocks and he was able to just cruise these ledge climbs like they weren’t there! Unfortunately all the quick climbing ended up tearing one of Adam’s Krawler sidewalls.
The 38 Special is probably the nicest, most show-quality rig in the industry. Countless hours were spent fabricating every detail by hand making sure the final product was nearly flawless. Everything on this rig is over the top. Original ’38 sheet metal, chromed links, leather heated seats, in-dash monitor for the backup and rock cameras, and even a built in aluminum cooler. Most people would never expect to see this thing get used! It owned the nasty rock ledges, strategically maneuvering with the rear-steer John was able to pull off lines most had to beat on to make.
After the technical trails the group had to pass an optional climb the locals called “Everest” on the way out. Our trail guide Cliff Gulley was the first to line up on it in his “UBkon” inspired Rockwell rig he built himself. Cliff’s long wheelbase wasn’t ideal for this trail but he powered through the ledges and launched out the top on the rev limiter!
Rocky Jannuzzello handles Wide Open Design’s Sales/Shipping/Tech Support/IT/Manager/everything department. He is the guy you talk to when you call WOD who can help you get the parts you need, and fix whatever problem you’re having. He was next to line up on Everest, and his short wheelbase and brand new Red Label Krawlers hooked and allowed him to make this obstacle look easy.
Check out the photo gallery here:
It’s great to see a small company like Wide Open Design making it in the industry. They’re doing what they love while selling us the parts we need and building the rigs we want. Check them out at www.wideopendesign.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wideopendesign or call them at 615-962-9135.
Wide Open Design
500 W Lytle St
Murfreesboro, TN 37130