As we near the end of the year and get ready to welcome a new one, it's always a good time to take stock of all that's happened in the past 12 months, to review the things we did well, and the things perhaps we didn't, and to make some resolutions for the coming year. Here are a few of ours:
First, spiff up Four Wheeler for the next decade. It's been several years since we messed with our magazine's design or story line-up, and while we think we make a pretty fair product as it is, it's always a good idea to stay abreast of the times, and to keep up with the ever-shifting trends of the automotive and publishing businesses. Starting in the March issue, we'll re-launch Four Wheeler with (among other things) a new logo-for the first time in 35 years. You'll also see some new looks to our tech and feature pieces, new columns with fresh takes from a variety of voices, and a renewed emphasis on the pleasure of Being Out There in a four-wheel drive. Be sure to check it out when it hits the newsstand, in late January.
Devote more pages to axles, gears, and lockers. In every reader survey we've ever conducted, the subjects of "Suspension" and "Wheels and Tires" always come out on top of the list of topics our readers say they want to see in our magazine. Funny, then, that our best-selling issues each year usually revolve around the subject of "Axles and Gears." Of course, we'll have plenty of suspension tech and tire tests in the future, but for some reason, a lot of you really dig eight-lug Dana 60 swaps, locker installs, and Rockwell tech. Is everybody building their rigs for Top Truck Challenge these days?
Stop putting race trucks on the cover. We've known for years that cover images depicting various kinds of off-road racing don't sell very well on the newsstand. Why this is, we don't exactly know, but it has been an unshakable truism for decades. And every few years, as if on cue, we seem to forget the obvious, and we learn the same lesson all over again. The last time was in June, when we trumpeted our coverage of King of The Hammers. At the time, we thought it was brilliant. It turned out to be one of the worst-selling issues of all time. (D'ohhhhh!)
Give good overlanding. Ever since our "Border to Border" travel series started up late last year, we've received a growing amount of fan mail each month from aficionados of overlanding, the manly art of backcountry exploration. These readers not only want to see more stories like "Border to Border" in the magazine, they'd also like to see us cover more overlanding tech, with tips and advice on how to build a 4x4 for extended backcountry travel, as well as for the kinds of activities-camping, fishing, hunting, biking, hiking, and fossil-hounding-we like to do once we're out there. We'll aim to please as much as we can over the course of the year.
Make room for more low-buck projects and strong fixes. Low-dollar project tech is always a popular subject, and even more so in poor economic times, so we'll try to include at least one simple and sensible tech tip each month that the average home wrench can put to good use. We'll also revisit our popular "Weak Links, Strong Fixes" series, bringing some of the older episodes up to date and launching some new ones. If you'd like to see us dissect a particular vehicle model that we haven't covered yet, by all means, let us know your choices.
Start planning for a Top Truck Champions Challenge. The year 2012 will mark the 20th running of our flagship event, and to commemorate it, we've been thinking about shelving the usual format for a year (where you vote for the competitors) and inviting all of the past winners to compete against each other instead. We're pretty sure we still want to do this, but we'd like to hear what our readers think about it. Also, if there is anything you'd like to see at this one-off event that we don't normally do at TTC, be sure to send us your best ideas.
Finally, keep bringing you the best in new-vehicle tech, tests, and travel. We've been doing it every month for nearly five decades (our 49th anniversary happens next month), and we'll keep doing our darnedest to keep you in tune with the latest developments in the world of wheeling. If it's hot, new, and on the cutting edge of 4x4 tech and travel, it'll be here first. At least, that's our goal for 2011.