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February 2010 Old As Dirt

Posted in Features on February 1, 2010
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February 1990:
The Dawn of The SUV Decade Begins

Twenty years ago this month, we welcomed a new kid from Dearborn to our California schoolyard for the 1990 Four Wheeler of the Year test. When we first testdrove it, we frankly weren't too keen on its "jittery and underdamped" ride, "understeer with a capital 'U'", bottom rear shock mounts that were "a tempting treat for hungry rocks," and a pushbutton four-wheel drive system that had "issues" getting out of 4-Lo. We also noted, however, its "enormous cargo capability, good fuel economy, a respectable power-to-weight ratio, outstanding crawl ratio, and a quiet interior noise level." And by the end of a week of on- and off-road testing, we liked it so much, we named it our 1990 Four Wheeler of the Year. It was, you might have guessed, the Ford Explorer, a vehicle that proved to be a runaway hit with the public and a harbinger of the SUV craze to come during the decade of the 1990s. (And for those of you wondering why there's no Four Wheeler of the Year story this month, well, we've had to juggle our test schedules a bit this year due to our recent move, and we'll be revealing our pick in the April '10 issue.)

Also in the February '90 issue was "Moab's Biggest, Best Bash," a review of the 1989 Easter Jeep Safari. While it was only 20 years ago, Moab was a much quieter and smaller scene than it is today; as we noted, "a total of 891 drivers registered" for 20 trail rides, and the size and scope of the event was such that we simply sent a freelancer to Moab to cover the action over a couple of days while the rest of us stayed home. Nowadays, all of our editors stay in Moab for an entire week, and attendance is darn near mandatory.

Want to See More?
Want to see more? Log onto, 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.

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