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Four Wheeler Magazine 40th Anniversary Issue - Limited Articulation

Posted in Features on June 1, 2002
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Contributors: Jon Thompson

The issue you hold in your hands marks the 40th anniversary of Four Wheeler's existence. That fact is, we believe, worthy of celebration. Lots of organizations make it to 40, and beyond. But lots more don't. That Four Wheeler made it as far as 40, and continues on while working from strength to strength, testifies to the rightness of the magazine's original vision, to the tenacity of the executives and staffers who created it and made it work, and most especially-here's the part we're most pleased about-to the enthusiasm and loyalty of four-wheeling readers.

The shocking thing, of course, is how far all this has come in what amounts to, really, a comparatively short amount of time. In February of 1962, when Four Wheeler first appeared-and yes, the cover was a dandy photograph of three Jeeps descending Black Bear Pass into Telluride, Colorado-it was mailed to about 3,000 eager 'wheelers. The number of people now relying on Four Wheeler for information and entertainment is more than 100 times that size.

That first issue, overseen by founding editor Robert Ames, consisted of a whopping 18 pages. Vehicles? That was easy. That first issue contained reports on the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Datsun Nissan Patrol, the name of which was spelled incorrectly on the contents page, illustrating again, as if we needed to be reminded, that typographic gremlins strike when and where they will, often in spite of our best efforts.

Tech? It had that too, consisting of a brief story describing the procedure for hanging a Rancho Overdrive onto the back of a Willys Jeep trans. There were two pages dedicated, even then, to concerns about land closures. There was a calendar of events and, yes, a subscription ad: $4.50 for a year of Four Wheeler, "the magazine devoted to backcountry driving and camping."

Well, the more things change, the more they, uh, change. That first 18-page magazine has grown in what magazine-speak calls package size-it's now about 140 pages. And that first issue in all its black-and-white glory has blossomed into even-more-glorious color on very nearly every page-the least we can do to reward your loyalty as readers.

So Four Wheeler has experienced significant growth and change. But in doing so, it's merely reflected the change and growth in four-wheeling itself. We've gone from a few hardcore campers and backcountry enthusiasts who were pleased to drive to the beat of a different drummer to a huge body of trend setters who build and drive the vehicles that, it seems, the entire rest of the country wants to drive. Why else would there be such a rush by suburbanites who never leave the pavement to buy and drive 4x4 pickups and SUVs? It's because you've made such vehicles cool, that's why.

So it is that this issue of Four Wheeler represents a small change in focus. Usually, we spend a great deal of time looking ahead for events to attend, experience, and cover tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. We attempt to cadge glimpses into the manufacturers' respective crystal balls to see what they're going to be building for us in model-years to come. And we plan for changes that we'll make to our rigs next week or next month so that the next time we go out, they'll work better, or more reliably, than they did last time we went out.

But this issue, we're going to spend just a little time looking back. All of us here hope that doing so will constitute a profitable and entertaining enterprise done within the context of celebrating 40 years not only of Four Wheeler, but also 40 years of four-wheeling by dedicated enthusiasts who helped convert four-wheeling from a specialized activity that only a few folks knew about into a pastime that now influences the very corporations who used to ignore us all. Ladies and gentlemen, we salute you.
Jon Thompson

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