1980 Four Wheeler of the Year
January 1980: The Eagle lands
Thirty years ago this month, Four Wheeler celebrated the dawning of a new decade with a variety of vehicle and product tests. On the truck side, we treated ourselves to a ride in a "five-passenger" Toyota pickup, which was crew-cab model built by a California customizing company that rode on a stretched wheelbase, which, we noted, "made for a smoother ride." We also tested a unique extraction device called a Wheel Reel. This was essentially a spool-type gizmo that fastened to the hub of a stuck rig via the wheel lugs. A length of nylon rope was wrapped around and secured to the reel, then run out to a sturdy anchor point (in our case, the bumper of a Chevy LUV-yes, we really did that). The stuck rig was shifted into low-range, the "slow acceleration" began to reel in the rope, and presto!-"the Bronco wound itself from hub-high sand to firm ground" in three seconds flat. With success like that, we can't imagine why Wheel Reels didn't catch on with the wheeling public. Well, actually, we can.
We also showcased the two finalists for our annual Four Wheeler of the Year award, and a more unlikely pairing of vehicles would have been hard to imagine: The fullsize Ford Bronco with its brand-new TTB suspension system, and the Concord-based AMC Eagle with its Quadra-Trac differential, which eliminated "the need for a low-range or a transfer case shift lever." (Yes, we used to test rigs like this, and often.) We were genuinely enthused about each rig-the Bronco for "reshaping and rethinking truck design," and the Eagle for "its awareness of the changing trends in four-wheel drive vehicles and the entire recreational vehicle scene." We announced our winner the following month (you can probably guess who won without any hints).
Want to See More? Want to see more? Log onto fourwheeler.com, where we've archived this great ol' road test and plenty more. We're uploading more old stories from the '60s, '70s, and '80s to our site every month, so visit the site often to see what's new-or maybe not so new.