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Awesome Oddballs

Posted in Features on January 1, 2006
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Photographers: The Readers of Four Wheeler

Four-wheelers tend to be iconoclasts. They don't look to follow the crowd - far from it, they'd rather get as far away from the crowd as their rigs can take them. But even among the most rugged of individuals, there are those few nonconformists who just can't be content with your garden-variety trail machine. Here are a baker's dozen of them.

Aussie Trailex
Since emigrating to the U.S., Aussie native Corey Byrne Roberts has longed for his "baby" 2004 Toyota Prado Grande. Better known Stateside as the Lexus GX 470, Corey's Toy sports the 3.0L turbodiesel V-6 and Torsen center diff, and Corey has supplemented an already capable package with ARB and TJM parts, including a snorkel and bull bar. A Warn winch is along for the ride, as are dual batteries and a host of racks and recovery gear. The Elmont, New York, resident admits he hasn't had the heart to purchase a new four-by, as he's still pining for his baby back home, seen here 'wheeling the clay of his beloved Queensland.

Big Blue, Minus the ECU?
We'd expect trouble codes galore for a 1996 Chevy Van running 44s, but we trust that Rick Isbell managed to handle those worries during the course of his clean-looking 4x4 van conversion. The big Cepek Fun Countrys and 15x14 Weld Stone Crushers are cleared by an 18-inch (!) lift sporting Edelbrock and Fabtech components, and the 350 small-block, tucked between the rails of a 1976 Blazer chassis, has been dressed up with stainless headers. A pair of Sidewinder drop steps can be lowered 12 inches for ingress and egress, surely a convenience for those icy mornings around Brighton, Michigan.

No Pygmy Ponies at Perkins'
"Just another day at the Perkins Ranch" is Dan Maloney's description of the photo you see here. In this case, Dan's the stuck half of the equation, his solid-axle-converted 1984 Bronco on 35-inch Swampers and 6 inches of lift being retrieved from the muck near his Pinckney, Michigan home. "Perkins" would be Don, the owner of the 460-powered 1986 Bronco running 70-inch tractor tires on axles grafted from a skip-loader to ensure that Dan's day of wheeling doesn't end prematurely.

The Cat's Pajamas
Brubaker might not believe it, but not all Scouts are cooped up in a barn or serving as homes for feral cats. This nice-looking 1971 80B belongs to Russ and Valerie Anderson, who've rebuilt the original 304 V-8 and T-39 three-speed. The stock Dana 30 frontend was deemed too wimpy for trail use around Calimesa, California, so a 44 with disc brakes and a Trac-Lok was swapped in. The factory 44 rear wasn't overlooked either, and now is locked by Detroit. The result of all their efforts, the Andersons say, is "fun in a can." And that ain't Friskies we're talking about.

I Was a Teenage Spud Monster
Seventeen-year-old Caleb Killian calls his Samurai "Zukzilla," and for good reason, as his enclosed letter included a laundry list of bombproof parts, not the least of which would be the 205 transfer case and pinion-braked, sprung-over 2 1/2-ton Rockwells. A chopped Toyota Land Cruiser frame serves as the platform for this Dubois, Idaho - based rig, which is motorvated by a Chevy 350/TH350 combo spinning 39.5-inch Boggers. But Caleb, this truck is way too bitchin' to consign to Readers' Rigs. How about entering it for Top Truck Challenge one day?

Plow First, Pull Later
"Finding parts for these is harder than pulling teeth!" So says the owner of this 1971 Dodge Power Wagon--and since Dennis Spillane is a dentist by trade, we'll gladly take his word for it. Dennis' W100 sports the Sno-Fiter snowplow, which means the Dodge also came from the factory with heavy-duty springs, either the 225 six or 318 V-8, and front ID lights. The six-ply M+S tires, on the other hand, appear to have been replaced by more recent rubber. Either way, Dennis' Dodge is well set up to wheel (and plow) the trails around his Deckerville, Michigan, home.

Flex on the Beach
At first glance, there might not be much excitement here, but Greg Cummings does get credit for showing his ride on a trail - and come to think of it, driven front axles aren't factory issue on Ford E-250s, either. That's because the Point Pleasant, New Jersey, resident's Triton-powered 2004 Club Wagon is in fact a Quigley conversion sporting a coil front suspension, a B-W transfer case, and stainless MileMarker hubs. Rancho 9000Xs and BFG A-Ts provide damping and traction, respectively, so Greg can enjoy 'wheeling his 3 1/2-inch-lifted E-van along the Jersey shores in search of surf-fishing spots with son Christopher.

Lone Star Mud Dubs
Most 'wheelers we know are skeptical of 18-inch rims, and no one in his right mind would even think of running 20s, right? Then again, most 'wheelers have likely never met Tanner Sheffield, whose 1978 Chevy Stepside runs 28s--yep, that's right - though to be fair, the 54x15 Kelly Springfield tractor tires ensure a decent aspect ratio, if not much sidewall flex. Built for mud, Tanner's rig runs a Holleyfied 350, but the presence of the SM465, NP205, and GM 2 1/2-tons with 6.17s would suggest this rig would be equally at home crawling the trails of Moab as it is in the bogs around Spurger, Texas.

Life on the Home Front
Bruce Andrew Peters sent along this pic of his Kaiser M35A2 10x6 cargo carrier. The 1968 sports all kinds of Mil/Spec muscle, including the 478ci Continental turbo I-6, Spicer 3053A grindbox, T-136 transfer case, Rockwell axles, and 10,000-pound PTO winch. Bruce admits the Kaiser is "more at home off-road than on-highway," and we'd certainly agree--though judging by the photo, could it be the Kaiser has spent a little too much time off the road around Bruce's Washington, D.C., home?

Tucson Low, for Sure
Glen Barnard's 1956 is one sweet-looking Bow Tie. And yes, we know that Chevy didn't start making trucks with transfer cases until 1957, but it should be obvious that this sparkling Stepside has gone through a few makeovers since it rolled off the line in Task Force trim. From the Hooker'd and Edelbrocked 350 to the Muncie 420 four-speed, 203 'case, and Dana 44/12-bolt axles, there's not much ol' iron to be found beneath the sheetmetal. The custom 5-inch lift wasn't standard in 1956, and the BFG radials wouldn't be invented for 25 years. Still, Glen's "labor of love" is sure to turn heads, whether it's cruising the streets or 'wheeling the desert around Tucson, Arizona.

The Eagle Has Sanded
Gary Greytak originally stripped out his 1983 AMC to compete in a local demolition derby, but a rules change prevented the Eagle from being entered. So Gary sent us this photo of what appears to be a recent attempt at solo demolition, in a streambed near Havre, Montana. So far, he admits no luck at destroying the AMC, having "driven it very hard, and [I] have yet to break any parts." These would include the welded rear diff gears, 7.00-15 mud treads, and "homemade header" for the 232 six that comprise the mods made to date. The Eagle's current incarnation, according to Gary, is as a dune buggy.

Irie Honduki
Long a Mecca for surfers and Rastafarians, Santa Cruz, California, is also home to this unique rig. Living proof that you can convert just about anything to four-wheel drive, Michael Hebert's mini is ... well, a head-scratcher, to be blunt. In case you're stumped, too, it's a 1970 Honda 600, its rear sheetmetal chopped and formed into a pickup bed and resting on a Samurai chassis and running gear. The 'Zuki's 1.3L four-banger is certainly a step up from the 36hp Honda mill, and we'd imagine those AWG brushguards - with 56 rivets apiece - should keep the bodywork safely above the weeds of the Central Coast.

Creek It, Jimny
Nick Mitchell isn't afraid to get his rig dirty - in this case, a right-hand-drive Suzuki LJ20, aka Jimny, seen splashing around the waterways near Vacaville, California. While Nick may be kicking up a bit of agua, don't imagine that he's going too fast. The 359cc two-stroke was only good for 32 hp, 27 lb-ft, and a 47mph top speed back in 1973, but on the other hand, the 3:1 transfer case low-range gave the LJ a quite-respectable 68:1 crawl gear. Fifteen-year-old Nick admits that "I wheel it hard" and has "plenty of time to work on it." Er, does this mean they teach four-wheeling at Vacaville High these days?

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