As I write this, the Four Wheeler staff has recently returned from our annual pilgrimage to Moab, Utah, for the weeklong wheeling orgy known as Easter Jeep Safari. Attendance at Moab seemed to be down this year versus previous years-no surprise, given the state of the economy. And while we missed seeing some familiar faces this year, we counted our blessings-shorter lines at local eateries, fewer traffic jams along our favorite trails-and enjoyed a week of wheeling over some of America's most scenic and challenging backcountry byways. It's days like these when we realize how lucky we are to actually get paid to do what we do.
One other thing that we noticed in abundance this year was the relatively large quantity of "non-hardcore" trail machines in attendance-hundreds of Jeep TJs and JKs, Cherokee XJs, and Toyota FJ Cruisers sporting off-the-shelf suspension lifts, Dana axles, and 33- to 35-inch tires: the kinds of street-legal 4x4s that could be driven to Moab and then driven home without the need of a trailer or a dedicated tow rig. We thought back to the days when we began covering this event, 20-odd years ago, when these "daily drivers" were just about the only kinds of rigs you'd find at Moab, and it struck us as a case of "getting back to the roots" of wheeling, before custom buggies with mega-travel suspensions, Mil-spec axles, and articulating chassis became the rage. Don't get us wrong, we've still got plenty of buggy love-the guys who design and build 'em have been among the greatest drivers of the aftermarket over the last ten years, and we've incorporated many of their innovations into some of our own project buildups-but we have to admit we were also heartened to see a lot of "real-world" vehicles at EJS this year. We think it bodes well for the enduring allure-and the long-term future-of recreational four-wheeling.
Anyway, this naturally got us to thinking about the current issue of the magazine, and how we could incorporate a "daily driver" theme with an emphasis on, yep, Jeeps. So this month we turn our attention to some "sensible" buildups and modification tips that apply to nearly any 4x4-like installing dual batteries, or upgrading an axle, or improving the capability of a rig like a Wrangler TJ with a few simple, affordable bolt-ons.
Of course, we've also got Moab event coverage in this issue, including plenty of photos of our favorite trail rides and a look at some of the custom one-off concept rigs from the twisted minds at Mopar Underground. They've become a big attraction over the years, and a good reason in their own right to attend Easter Jeep Week. Our crack staffers also combed the big annual trade show at Spanish Trail Arena for the latest cool parts and products from the aftermarket-there never seems to be a shortage of them-and we feature several of the best that we found there in our monthly "What's New" column.
Heck, we love Moab so much, we even returned there three weeks later to be among the first wheeling journos to testdrive the long-awaited new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which we shake down over Hell's Revenge starting on page 26. It's a dirty job, true, but somebody's gotta wheel at Moab each year.