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March 2011 Firing Order

Posted in Features on March 1, 2011
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Re-launching a magazine is a tricky balancing act. Because deadlines, like rust, never sleep, and because you need to keep selling magazines each month to stay in business-you don't get to take two or three months of sabbatical time to meticulously plot out and deploy in stages a brand-new issue. You have to do it on-the-fly, brainstorming new ideas and discarding others as you go along while working on another issue of the existing book. Like a highway-expansion project, you have to devise a plan that allows the traffic to keep flowing every day while you make the necessary improvements to the existing infrastructure over a period of months.

"Ho hum. Another dreary day in the office."

But like a road that's seen years of heavy use, we'd come to the conclusion that the magazine, while basically solid, could use a little "freshening up." It's been close to a decade since we revised our editorial package in any meaningful manner, and 35 years since we unveiled a new logo. So we set out several months ago to launch a "new" Four Wheeler that's livelier, more opinionated, and exudes more personality-heck, call it "attitude"-than it has in recent years. While we're generally pleased with our initial effort, we'd ask you to consider what you see in the following pages as a work-in-progress, or grounds under construction, if you will. We'll surely be tweaking and refining our latest formula as we get more comfortable with it, and scheming up new and novel twists on our editorial coverage.

For those of you wondering about the title of this column, well, it's an automotive play-on-words, obviously. It's also the first thing that needs to happen for a vehicle (or this magazine) to run, and as the alpha-dog Editorial Director, I get to decide who gets fired from their jobs. This actually happens more often than you might imagine. I have to admit that I've probably fired each and every one of my editors at least once over the last two to three years, usually over something trivial that's put me in a grumpy mood. (Hint: That's not hard to do.) Since my employees know my work habits-and my moods-pretty well by now, they endure my rants, then wisely ignore me, go back to doing their usual bang-up jobs, and everything works out in the end. Let's face it-when you have employees with names like Péwé, Cappa, Phil Howell, and Jerrod Jones (not to mention the esteemed firm of Brubaker, Holman, Stover, Smith & Allen, who toil heroically for this magazine each month), you've got an all-star roster of ace writers, wrenches, and photographers on your team who all make my alpha-job a heck of a lot easier.

Another thing we're definitely aiming for with our new look and attitude is a greater degree of engagement with you, our readers. So we encourage you to let us know what you like about the "new" magazine, what you don't like, and what you'd like to see more or less of in the future. You can email me directly at, and I heartily welcome your comments. (Unless they make me grumpy-someone's gonna get canned!)

Speaking of our long-suffering editors, we recently returned from a week of testing a trio of brand-new pickup trucks for our annual Pickup Truck of the Year test, which you can read starting on page 28. It's one of those things we most look forward to each year, getting the opportunity to share with you the latest in new-truck tech that's coming soon to your local showroom. It's also one of those gigs that remind us, as we pack up our camera gear while the sun sets over Afton Canyon after a picture-perfect day of wheeling in the high desert, that we have some of the coolest jobs on the planet. We try never to forget that, and we hope-with this issue and every other-that we're able to convey the sense of freedom and liberation we all enjoy when we're out plying the wide-open backcountry in our rigs. And naturally, we'll keep including plenty of useful tech tips to help get you there and back, too.

Oh, and no editors were fired in the making of this issue-at least not today. I'm putting grumpiness on sabbatical. -Douglas Mccolloch

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