It’s always fun to reminisce and bench race about old rigs, trail tales, and seemingly impossible ideas that never quite came to be. Sometimes a quick glance in the proverbial rearview-mirror can remind us of things we’ve enjoyed and offer newfound motivation for those forgotten projects. With the 2012 magazine calendar year in the bag, we are starting off our editorial New Year by taking a look back at some of our favorite rides of 2012. Instead of giving you a glorified overview of our top picks, editors Cappa, Brubaker, and Mansour each served up their straightforward opinions on the memorable machines.
While they could all agree that each rig on the list was magazine-worthy, they didn’t always see eye-to-eye on what made each 4x4 a standout. The top picks were not about which rigs were the most tricked-out, but rather focused on the vehicles that resonated and offered up ideas and inspiration for our own builds. To find out more information about the rigs on our list, flip through your back issues or view them online at www.fourwheeler.com.
Randy Ellis' Samurai
TTCC Competitor, October ’12, pg. 72
Cappa: OK, I am on board with this one. Aside from the fact that Randy is an excellent wheelman, it’s hard to imagine someone having the balls to show up to Top Truck Champions’ Challenge with a four-cylinder Samurai on 37-inch paddle tires. The rig has some really cool tech and it plain and simple works well off-road.
Brubaker: I love this rig’s simplicity. It just works without a lot of fanfare. I dig the paddles and the nitrous, too.
Mansour: I am a big fan of lightweight rigs and Randy’s Samurai is a shining example of the light-is-might build philosophy. It may have appeared as though he brought a knife to a gunfight at TTCC, but Randy’s driving skills and featherweight wheeler ended up well in the pack after the smoke settled. I would trade the paddles in for a set of DOT mud-terrains and happily make it my dedicated trail wheeler.
Power Wagon Concept
Power Wagon, July ’12, pg. 30
Cappa: Look, I get it; nobody would actually buy a $50,000 standard cab, shortbed, stepside, ¾-ton truck. It doesn’t make any sense for the typical consumer. But that doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with the enthusiast market. It’s by far the coolest fullsize concept truck to come out of Detroit in a long time. I think the suspension needed a little tweaking, but the UnderGround guys at Mopar nailed the styling and tire size! I might have liked it even more if it had a manual transmission.
Brubaker: The proportions of this truck are outstanding. The stance is wicked and the overall look screams “beef.” I agree with Cappa, though. The standard cab is a drawback, but I get the point. I’d almost be willing to give up some bed length to have an extended cab just to have a tad more interior room.
Mansour: The UnderGround build crew has an incredible eye for making things just look, well, like they belong. The regular cab shortbed is great for wheeling and the fact that it is sporting 40-inch tires and doesn’t look like some over-the-top mud-slinger is just icing on the cake. If Ford can have the Raptor, why can’t Ram have a two-door, multi-link Power Wagon? Makes sense to me!
The Mighty FC
Jeep Mighty FC, August ’12, pg. 24
Cappa: It’s just kooky enough to be likeable and not too kooky to be weird. I really like that it has a sort of industrial edge to it. But it is kinda tall and unstable-looking for the wheeling around my parts. Maybe it’s better suited as a swamp buggy.
Brubaker: I think it’s a great modern interpretation on a classic model and Chrysler deserves a lot of credit, again, for creating it. I’d like to have this rig outfitted with a dump bed and a snowplow.
Mansour: It’s my interest in Unimogs that draws me to the Mighty FC concept. My initial reaction was mixed, but the more I see it and visualize its purpose, I really dig it. Wheeling the Mighty FC could be spooky at times because of its height and cab configuration, but it would still be a fun 4x4 workhorse to call your own. A crew cab version with around the same wheelbase would be extra cool.
John Simmons’ 1970 GMC
Fantastic Flatbed, September ’12, pg. 40
Cappa: Gawd I love this truck. I really wish it didn’t have a flatbed though.
Brubaker: Modernizing an old rig is tricky, but this rig was built to perfection in my opinion. It may have the latest tech (like the fuel-injected 8.1L big-block and leaf spring/cantilever rear airbag suspension system) but it still retains the classic GM truck vibe. I love the fact that it’s set up for daily driving, hard work, and trail use. The flatbed resembles a piece of art and it flows nicely with the old Chevy’s lines and it has so much functionality it makes my head spin. This truck is awesome.
Mansour: The classic lines of Simmons’ ’70s GMC truck make it such a visually appealing truck it’s simply hard not to want one of your own. The late-model powertrain and well-placed upgrades give it function and performance that trucks of that era couldn’t even imagine. What the flatbed lacks in classic flair, it more than makes up in top-notch American craftsmanship.
Allen Hummel’s ’98 S-10 Chevy
S-4BTA, March ’12, pg. 64
Cappa: Oh, geez. Here we go again with the Brubaker S-10 propaganda. I’m not even sure how putting a woodchipper engine in an S-10 makes it better, Ken. But at least pretty much everything S-10 has been removed from this rig and replaced with much more robust components.
Brubaker: What’s not to like? It has a Cummins turbodiesel powerplant, NV5600 transmission, NP205 T-case, simple leaf-sprung suspension, Dana 44 front axle, and a Dana 60 rear axle all nestled in the compact, easy-to-drive S-10 pickup. Bonus: It was designed with as many stock parts as possible so if something breaks that something is easy to acquire. This is a great daily driver/trail machine, and I want it.
Mansour: Mini-trucks are some of my favorite wheelers. The smaller platform allows them to navigate tight trails more easily, the body-on-frame construction makes for a solid build platform, and the visibility and gear storage is great. Hummel’s pickup is a great example of what can be done with the S-10 platform. It is also a reminder that in order to make one of these trucks a serious trail rig, you have to ditch a majority of the stock drivetrain. The 4BTA is a great engine, but the sheer weight and constant rattle would not be something I’d look to add in my daily-driver.
Inconspicuous, March ’12, pg. 46
Cappa: If I had a family of five and more camping gear than a Boy Scout troop, I would own a Suburban like this. But I don’t, so I would prefer to have something smaller for my wheeling adventures.
Brubaker: Very well done, simple rig, with lots of interior space for family, friends, owners of other trucks that have broken down on the trail, and all their gear. I’m drawn to fullsize rigs, so this Sub is callin’ my name.
Mansour: This is another one of those rigs that unless you have a lot of friends, dogs, or a big family, it’s hard to justify. That being said, I really like how cleanly executed the rig is and would love to have a shorter Tahoe version of my own. It looks like something that you could easily daily-drive and with an estimated value of $30,000, it is realistic for the average guy to replicate.
The T-Rex 6x6
Chrysler’s T-Rex, April ’12, pg. 90
Cappa: I have no clue what I would do with it and the fuel bill has got to be ridiculous with that V-10, the extra weight, and the additional parasitic drivetrain friction. But I want it!
Brubaker: I wish Chrysler would’ve produced the T-Rex. Stan Prueitt’s version is the next best thing. The only thing I’d want to add is a Cummins under the hood.
Mansour: Chrysler’s concept had six tires, three Dana 60s, and a V-10. How could you not like it? Prueitt’s adaptation is still one of the coolest rigs Ram’s ever built. Ram bean counters, if you are reading this, build the T-Rex. America needs it.
Durham’s Jeep Thing
Chris Durham TTC entry, April ’12, pg. 32
Cappa: It’s a really cool truck that sits low. It would be great for climbing just about anything and it’s built with easy-to-get and repair parts. There’s nothing too oddball or expensive. It just freakin’ works. It doesn’t hurt that Chris can drive circles around most people.
Brubaker: If a class were taught in how to build a textbook trail machine, this would be part of the curriculum. Standard, proven components in a compact package.
Mansour: I’ve wheeled alongside this rig for a couple of years and it simply works great. The deceptively simple looking rig is packed with strategically placed components that allow Durham to run virtually no lift and still cycle a 42-inch tire. It’s definitely a unique creation and an excellent evolution of the low lift and big tire trend.
John Floyd’s 1982 HJ47
Frank, October ’12, pg. 50
Cappa: It’s hard for me to hate an FJ pickup. It’s not outfitted how I would want, but the truck itself is really cool-looking and rare here in the states.
Brubaker: This truck is so cool it hurts. It’s a concoction of a bunch of different body parts (hence the name “Frank,” which is derived from “Frankenstein”), but they all seem to blend together like a finely-tuned orchestra. The simple and rugged truck is fully decked-out with a custom tray filled with camping gear and a sleeping area; it’s turbodiesel-powered; and it’s even set up with two spare tires (which, of course, we all know isn’t really appreciated until tire punctures start to happen in the backcountry). If I had this truck, I’d slap a big ol’ winch on the front and back and bid adieu to civilization.
Mansour: At this point in my life I would probably modify this truck so wildly that FJ enthusiasts and Toyota purists would mail in angry letters for years. I like the concept and platform, but there would be no way I could just leave it the way it is. Maybe I will revisit this rig in a decade or two, when I am good and tired of crawling in and out of heavily-modified 4x4s.
Bantam Or Bust, January ’12, pg. 36
Cappa: Who wouldn’t want the stock ’42 GPW piloted by Julius Lorentzson and Russell Dicks? I know it’s not very practical, I probably wouldn’t use it very often, and when something broke or wore out I’d screw the thing up by upgrading with aftermarket components. Next thing you know it would have 33-inch tires, a V-6 engine, and beefier drivetrain parts. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to own a restored military Jeep.
Brubaker: Even if I had something bad to say about this stone-cold cool machine (which I don’t), it would be un-American to do so.
Mansour: Living on the Carolina coast, it wouldn’t take long for the GPW to gain a weathered patina, which to me would only add to its appeal. I’ve been thinking seriously about building an old flatfender and either converting it into a flat rod or lightweight trail rig. (I can hear the Jeep purist cringing from here!) Ultimately, I wouldn’t leave it stock, and for that reason I’ll leave this rig to the old-timers.