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Off-Road's Project Vehicles - What's Active, What's Gone, And What's Coming

Posted in Features on June 1, 2010
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Let's stop for a second and take stock of how many project vehicles we currently have enlisted at OFF-ROAD. After all, we're starting to lose track, and it's time to put some out to pasture. We have some new projects that you might have already caught a glimpse of in a random picture or story, and we have some old favorites coming back out of the mothballs.

Active Duty

OFF-ROAD received this Super Duty from Ford in 2003 with the new (at the time) 6.0L engine that was supposed to be so much better than the 7.3L Powerstroke diesel. In case you haven't read the last ten stories on this truck, it's been pretty much a headache ever since it was brought into our fleet. The frame, body, suspension, and drivetrain have all held up, but the engine has been a nightmare. Currently, the truck is running better than it did when it drove home from the dealer, and we're going to try to keep it this way from now on. Long live the STD.

Toyota's Tundra

OFF-ROAD got a brand new Tundra on long-term loan from Toyota when the body style changed. Feature Editor Jordan May built it into a SEMA show truck for Pro Comp's booth, and it remained largely unchanged after its inception. Over the last couple years, it has been used for hauling parts and transportation, but was never really a favorite off-roader. Lately, its horrific fuel economy with the 37-inch tires kept it sitting in our storage garage until Toyota recently repossessed the truck to go to the crusher. Goodbye, Tundra.

Active Duty

If you couldn't tell from its name, this infamous Dodge has been quite the problem child over the last 8 years of project building. A carryover that Editor Jerrod Jones brought from his years at Petersen's 4 Wheel Off-Road, Jinxy has probably been built and wrenched on more than it's been off-roaded during the last decade. A recent rebuild in 2009 has revitalized this truck and it's now being used for off-roading and daily driving. Its days as a project vehicle are just about over.

Active Duty
The Juice

Our project Bronco has been a ton of fun to build and off-road, and has probably seen more off-road miles over the last couple of years than any other project vehicle we have. The Skyjacker radius arms and front coils are still on it, but we've swapped on some Deaver leaf springs and Bilstein 5100 shocks to help out the performance. It's still running great, and by the time you read this the Juice should have a new Camburg coilover front end and some fiberglass. It's not done quite yet.

Still Classified
Jordan's New '97 Chevy

Jordan May has made a new purchase of an old truck and is now getting ready to build our new '97 Chevy 2WD prerunner project. It's already got a 2WD lift kit with some 33-inch tires on it now, but we'll soon be yanking that kit to make room for a long-travel suspension and a bunch more mods. Stay tuned.

The K500 (aka Premudder)

Editor Jones brought more than just his old red Dodge over when he took over OFF-ROAD; an old '74 Blazer that was known as the Premudder came with him, too. The Premudder was a project that was built way too fast in order to meet story and trip deadlines, and it was built for a different purpose than what it's used for these days. It spent a couple years sitting with a bent frame, cracked body, wasted tranny, and out-of-tune engine, but we've recently been busting knuckles trying to re-release this beast as the K500. A resurrection is coming.

Suzuki's Equator

This was maybe the shortest-lived projects we've ever had. Half the staff hadn't even gotten the chance to drive this truck before Suzuki took it back, but we had some fun in it before it was gone. Basically a Nissan Frontier with different badging, our little Equator was fun to drive and didn't get too bad of fuel economy. The PRG long-travel kit made it fun for fire roads and other mild off-roading activities, but a lack of power and some lame traction control left us wishing for something a bit less tame. Goodbye, little truck.

Active Duty

When we got the idea to start driving to work on 47-inch tires, we tried to figure out what the heck we were going to put these tires onto. Passing by Jeeps R Us one day, we looked at their high-horsepower fullsize Cherokee that had remained dormant for a year. After stopping in and chatting with the owner, we had ourselves a new project truck to make 47-inch tires work on. It's been interesting, to say the least. And to date, no tickets yet! We'll see how it goes....

Wonder Woman

Not everyone at OFF-ROAD liked the Sport Trac, but Contributing Editor Kevin Blumer dug it. "Yeah, the 'Wonder Woman' paint job was easy to poke fun at, and the thing had no shortage of mechanical issues, but it was a perfect size for an all-around vehicle," Kevin states. Four seats and long-travel 4WD were a primo combination and the truck served the magazine and its staff well over the years since it was taken on as a project almost a decade ago.

In 2009 it was decided that the truck was no longer needed as part of our fleet and was sold. We kept the lasso, though.

Still Classified
S-10 Builder

We finally acquired ourselves an S-10 to build after countless emails and letters asking tech questions about them. We would have opted for the truck, but we were happy to take the Jimmy at the price we got it for.

Recently, we did run a story introducing the little S-10, but you might have missed it if you're not an avid S-10 enthusiast as it wasn't too exciting. We basically had to get some things running and in working order before we started moving it from shop to shop to be built. We'll have more S-10 stories to show you in a few months.

Polaris RZR

This little Polaris RZR was about the absolute most fun that you could fit into the back of a truck bed. We in no way want to encourage you to copy us (so please don't) but we could have stacked cars up and jumped over them with some of the stunts we pulled in this little RZR. It did have a few months of downtime though after playing chicken with a giant boulder at about 40 mph. Guess which one won? Unfortunately, our little RZR was on a year-long loan from Polaris and they've since taken it back. Yes, we miss our little-bed toy.

Active Duty
The Wasabi Project

After wanting to address a little more of the compact prerunner truck market, we set out looking for an S-10 and an older pre-Tacoma Toyota truck. An early '90s Toyota truck still seems like one of the most sensible buys in the compact-truck market because it gets better fuel economy than most currently-produced trucks. Plus, we could pick one up for a couple grand.

Over the course of its build, we stuck fiberglass in the front along with 32-inch BFGs and a Chaos long-travel kit. By the time you read this, it will be back from Arizona, where it's currently getting an LC Engineering four-banger built for it. Wasabi so hot that it's on fire!

Still Classified
The $400 All-Purpose XJ

This one hasn't seen a single magazine page yet, but we are already almost done with our $400 Cherokee project (well, it'll be worth more than $400 once we're done with it). Bought with a bad head and an already-conceived plan, we went to work immediately building this XJ before ever writing a single story so we could do some thorough testing before it gets some ink in the mag. Wait for it.

Active Duty
'04 Dodge 2500

When a good friend bought a 2004 Dodge 2500 4x4 and we couldn't (still can't) afford to get a bitchin' diesel truck to turn into the ultimate chase/haul/tow vehicle, this blue 2500 Dodge started getting built into what may be one of the most badass daily-driven diesels out there. It doesn't look too gnarly at a glance and only puts out about 800 to 1,000 lb-ft of torque (depending on the tune), but our diesel Dodge is getting 20 mpg on 37-inch Toyo tires and can tow more than most other diesels, thanks to beefed up rear end and a six-speed manual transmission outfitted with an ATS clutch and manual tranny cooling system. We're gonna try to pull a house down with it soon.

Active Duty
Blumer's 4Runner

Kevin Blumer has had his 4Runner for a little over a year now, and he loves it. Since most of us are rolling fullsize at this magazine, we're glad Blumer picked up this midsize sport ute, adorned with a Total Chaos long-travel kit and some front fiberglass. It's still pretty new, but we'll see what mods we can talk Blumer into a little later down the road once it has a few more dings in it. It's only a matter of time.

1st Gen Tacoma Project

Our first-generation Tacoma project was a lot of fun and was really easy to build. The availability of aftermarket parts made this project a bolt-on special that was easy to take to the next level with long-travel suspension, fiberglass, and bumpers. But as many of you probably saw in the two-page spread in November 2009's issue, our Toyota Tacoma project is no longer with us. Two barrel rolls late at night decommissioned this truck forever, as the cab ripped completely off of the frame. Luckily all the passengers survived, and none with life-threatening injuries. R.I.P, little Tacoma.

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