Each and every week we sit down with our trusty envelope openers and sift through the mountains of snail-mail that pile up high on our desks. We see everything from formal invitations to check out new widgets, to official notices from companies who claim they can solve all our problems with a little green pill. We wish life were that simple-if a mystery pill could somehow resolve our issues, we'd probably swallow one each week before we have to sift through the stack of Readers' Rigs we receive. But nothing in life is simple, and sifting through the weekly deluge of Readers' Rigs submissions is no exception. So we labor our fingers, looking carefully at each photo and critiquing every vehicle to determine which ones work best for Four Wheeler. It's probably the least enjoyable task our staff of editors has to endure. Nobody likes to decide which rigs are more worthy of inclusion, so we decided to give a little more back this time, and along with the usual stats and specifications, we'll explain why we picked each rig, in hopes that you the readers will understand what makes a good Readers' Rig.
Ken Desjardins of Meridien, Connecticut is the proud owner of this '87 Chevy K5 Blazer. This photo makes a great Readers' Rigs selection because it shows that Ken has no problem getting technical with his truck while out on the trail. A balanced Chevy TPI small-block V-8 sends power to an SM465 transmission, then on to an NP205 transfer case with a twin-stick conversion. Both driveshafts were built by High Angle Driveline. A stout Dana 60 front axle is equipped with stainless Mile Marker hubs, and the rear 14-bolt axle features a Detroit Locker and disc brakes. Both pumpkins house 4.88:1 gearing, which Ken says works well with the 42-inch Super Swampers. For steering, Ken added a PSC hydraulic-assist ram setup along with an Off Road Designs high-steer crossover steering linkage kit. Additional mods include a York air compressor, custom front and rear bumpers, 9 inches of lift and a set of Bushwacker cut-out-style fender flares.
Alan Cavendish of Tenino, Washington sent in a picture of his '70 Toyota Land Cruiser back in May 2000. Somehow, we've managed to miss it until now. Chances are Alan has made significant changes to the vehicle since he submitted it, but we're sure he'll be happy nonetheless to see the old 'Cruiser get some ink. Under the hood is a stock I-6 connected to a stock three-speed manual transmission. The axles also remain stock, turning 33-inch Goodyear Wranglers. This is an example of a decent action shot. With mud flying and tires turning, this is the type of photo we like to see.
John Howard of Manassas, Virginia picked the right picture of his '02 Tacoma XtraCab 4x4 at the beach for use as a Readers' Rigs submission photo. We love pictures like this that feature unique settings and/or beautiful scenery. John's Toy features a 3-inch suspension lift and a 2-inch body lift. It has 305/70-16 Dunlop Mud Rovers on Mickey Thompson Classic IIs. For performance, John added a K&N FIPK Gen II intake system as well as a Gibson after-cat exhaust.
This '84 Ford Bronco belongs to Kenny Clark of Westmoreland, Tennessee. Kenny says he takes this 351-powered beast out each and every weekend, as long as it's not in need of repair. A trusty set of 33x12.50 BFG Mud-Terrains helps Kenny find traction in the deepest mud holes. Otherwise the truck is stock. Notice how this picture establishes the setting of Kenny's favorite wheeling spot. We like to see what readers do with their trucks; photos like this make it easy.
This '70 Chevy C20 truck belongs to Shawn Mander of Evans, Colorado. It was originally two-wheel drive that has since been converted to four-wheel drive. Though always in some state of revision, the configuration right now looks pretty stout. Under the hood sits a '95 Chevy LT1 complete with headers, a Flowmaster exhaust and a K&N air filter. Next is a Turbo 400 with a shift kit and other internal mods for strength. The transfer case is an NP241 out of a '90 Blazer. For axles, Shawn set up the rear Dana 60 with a Powr-Lok and 4.56:1 gears. The front is an '87 GM 10-bolt 3/4-ton unit with a Truetrac and 4.56:1s. The front springs are 4-inch Pro Comps on custom mounts for 6 inches of lift. The rear springs are '02 F-250 Super-Duty units with a shackle flip kit and a pair of 3-inch blocks. Additionally, the truck features custom bumpers, rock sliders, and 37-inch SSR radials on 16.5/9.75 wheels. This picture is a classic example of what we like to see in a Readers' Rigs photo. It's well lit, in a natural setting, and the truck is clearly visible.
Eric Hoffman resides in Michigan, not far from the Silver Lakes Sand Dunes OHV area, which is likely the reason he built this 4x4 dune buggy. We picked his rig because everyone likes high-flying action shots like this one. The buggy features a Chevy 454 mated to a Turbo 350 transmission and a NP205 transfer case. The front axle is a '91 Chevy pickup front IFS assembly, and the rear consists of a '78 12-bolt. To move this beast, Eric added some 28-inch Hooker Scoop paddle tires in the rear and a pair of 14.5-inch street paddles up front. One unlikely mod that sets Eric's creation apart from other sand machines is the leather seats from an '01 GMC Jimmy.
Bruce Owens credits his friend Mike for building this clean '73 Chevy truck. Bruce bought the truck from Mike some time ago and hasn't had to change much. He did, however, add a rollbar for safety reasons. Underneath the bright yellow paint resides a healthy 454ci big-block bored 0.030 over. Torque is fed to an SM465 transmission and a NP205 transfer case. To ensure traction, a 3/4-ton Dana 44 front axle features a Powr-Lok limited-slip differential. Out back, a Corporate 14-bolt axle is equipped with a Detroit Locker. The 35-inch BFG Mud-Terrains are mounted to chromed steel wheels.
Will Coburn is stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Whenever he has time to play, he takes his '99 Jeep Wrangler out to the surrounding desert. With a 3-inch BDS suspension system and 33-inch Wrangler MT/Rs on 15-inch Eagle alloy wheels, traction is rarely a problem. Other performance mods include an Airaid air intake system, a Super 35 axle kit from Superior Axle and Gear and a Detroit Locker in the rear. This photo is good because it shows a challenging section of a trail instead of a suburban driveway.
Rick Potter shows his buddies how to pilot a truck through this mud hole near his home in Louisville, Kentucky. Rick's '84 Toyota features 33-inch TSLs and a 3-inch lift. Other accessories include a custom front bumper with an 8,000-pound Ramsey winch. The rear suspension also includes a custom-built track bar and buggy leaves. Aside from the rear spool, the rest of the drivetrain remains stock. This shot really shows how hard Rick had to push his truck to make it through the mud pit.
This '97 Dodge Ram 1500 belongs to Shane Welker of Buffalo, New York. The idea Shane had for shooting his Readers' Rigs submission in the snow was a good one because snow makes a vehicle stand out. Shane's truck features a 360 V-8 with a Hypertech chip and a K&N intake system. Set up on 35-inch BFG All-Terrains, this Ram is all Shane needs to negotiate the icy roads between home and work.
Don't have the best photography skills? No worries-just do like Brad Houser of Auburn Hills, Michigan did and Photoshop your way to perfection. Brad sent us this picture of his friend Jeremy's Jeep buggy via the Internet. This creation is the handiwork of Campbell Enterprises in Gilbert, Arizona. It has a Corvette LS1 engine, an Atlas II transfer-case, Unimog axles with heavy-duty shafts and four-wheel steering, a flexible coilover suspension with dual-rate springs and nitrogen bumpstops, cutting brakes and an onboard air compressor to power the factory lockers and air up tires. Currently, this tube terror sits on 42-inch Super Swampers mounted to beadlocked wheels.
This '96 Grand Cherokee was flipped while Jeff Pullinger was out wheeling. Like any true enthusiast would, Jeff turned his misfortune into a capable trail machine. First, Jeff grafted on a new roof, then a new driver-side door was installed, and finally he did some slight trimming around the rear until he found the look he wanted. With the bodywork done, Jeff moved down to the stock drivetrain, first installing two new driveshafts from Tom Woods, then a slip-yoke eliminator kit. The stock axles were removed in favor of a pair of Ford 8.8 units with Detroit Lockers and 4.56 gearing. Next, a custom rollcage was fabbed, and a custom soft top was built for the rear. The final pieces of the puzzle were a set of Dunlop 33x12.50 Mud Rovers. We like Readers' Rigs like this, where good old-fashioned ingenuity results in a clean and functional trail machine.
This '99 Jeep Wrangler Sport caught our eye because its owner, Mike Walko of Sedona, Arizona knows how to take a decent picture, and his rig is nicely equipped for the trail. Non-stock equipment includes a 4-inch Rubicon Express suspension lift, a set of 33-inch Goodyear MT/Rs, a Wilderness roof rack, a Jet Performance chip, a K&N intake system and a Gibson stainless steel header followed by a Flowmaster exhaust.
Jennifer Schaub of Pinnacle Hill, New Hampshire sent in this fine photo of her '76 CJ-5 on its first time out since she purchased it in August 2004. Modifications from stock include a power-steering conversion, power-assist front disc brakes, new seats, a set of 31-inch tires and a Ramsey 9500 winch. Jennifer's dad assisted her with the changes that she claims "make it ready for backcountry exploration." We like to see female-owned rigs because girls don't typically get involved in our predominately male motorsport. Way to go, Jennifer!
Bill Tarvin of Clifton Park, New York took a photo we'd refer to as the lucky shot. Black is a very hard color to photograph; consequently very few black vehicles actually run in Readers' Rigs. This one however, is just perfect because the light was just right, and the venue provided a good contrast of colors. Bill's '86 CJ-7 has a 258 I-6 mated to a five-speed manual tranny. A Dana 300 transfer case splits the torque between a pair of Dana axles. The front is a 30 with 4:11 gears and an open carrier. The rear is a 44 with like gears and an ARB. To clear 33-inch MTRs, Bill added a 3-inch Black Diamond suspension lift and a 1-inch Daystar body lift. A tried-and-true Warn 9000 winch is on hand for extraction duty, and a York air-compressor system helps keep tire pressure ready for wherever Bill ventures.
This '89 Cherokee belongs to Dan Montuori of Madison, Connecticut. Dan enjoys wheeling deep in local forests after rainstorms. He claims that his winch, a Ramsey 8000, is all he needs to keep his Jeep from getting terminally stuck. Other mods include a 6-inch Skyjacker suspension lift, Bushwacker fender flares, custom driveshafts from Tom Woods, a DynoMax exhaust system, onboard air, and a Lock-Right locker in the rear. A set of 33-inch BFG All-Terrains provides the traction.
Matt McLaughlin of Beaumont, Texas knows what we're looking for in a Readers' Rig submission. This is the basic formula: Vehicle in the dirt, no shadows, vehicle centered, and a cool list of mods. This '85 CJ-7 sports a stock 258 engine mated to a T-176 tranny followed by a twin-sticked Dana 300 transfer case. Stock Dana axles turn 33-inch Goodyear MT/Rs, and a Full Traction shackle reversal helps smooth out the bumps. Matt also built some homemade bumpers, and rock-skids round it out. Nice work, Matt!
Matt McKeon of Glendale, Arizona built this '95 Jeep Grand Cherokee to tackle mild and moderate trails. We like it because we don't see many Grands on the trail, and this one features a decent list of modifications. For starters, a Rubicon Express 3.5-inch lift clears 31-inch BFG A/T tires. A set of Tomken rock rails helps keep the sheetmetal straight, while a Rusty's Off Road skidplate protects the stock transfer case from bashings. The front axle features a Four X Doctor diff guard and a pair of Skid Row Auto lower control-arm skidplates. For performance, Matt added a Turbo City intake tube and K&N filter. There's also a Turbo City-ported throttle body, Borla header and after-cat system.
Edward Knight of Ann Arbor, Michigan takes special care of his vintage 4x4 Ford F-150. The heart of this beast is a very healthy 460 V-8-equipped with a slew of high-end components that help Edward play out at Silver Lake Sand Dunes on the weekends. The drivetrain consists of a stock automatic, NP205 transfer case, a locked 9-inch rearend and an open Dana 44 front axle. On the street, Edward runs 33-inch BFG All-Terrains on Pro Comp Extreme alloy wheels. In the sand, Edward swaps a set of paddles on to ensure ample traction and maximum fun. Nothing like a photo of a cleanly restored rig that actually gets used on the trail.
Steven Carter says he's owned this '83 Dodge Power Ram for about four years. He enjoys wheeling around his hometown of Sacramento, California. The mostly stock drivetrain consists of a 5.2L V-8 connected to the stock manual transmission and NP205 transfer case. To pump things up just a little, Steven installed a K&N air filter, a Flowmaster 3-inch exhaust system, and two custom-built CV driveshafts. A set of 35-inch BFG A/Ts and Rancho RS 5000 shocks round out the list. In the future, Steven plans to swap in Dana 60s with Detroit Lockers front and rear.