There’s no single formula for getting your truck into our annual four-truck list of favorites. Each of these trucks had a unique “something” that made them stand out beyond the rest of the 2012 feature trucks. The common denominator? These trucks were built to suit their respective owners’ needs, tastes, and budgets. Our advice? Build your truck to fit your world, and let the chips (and photos) fall where they may.
Hard WorkJanuary 2012
There are usually two ways to find yourself in the left seat of a high-flying, smooth-landing desert truck: through your wallet or through sweat equity. We’ve got admiration (and a little envy) for those with the budgets to write the big checks, but we’ve got the most respect for the guys who cut and weld their own tubing and turn their own wrenches. Chris Ovrebo is a “sweat equity” guy who turned a beaten ’97 Chevy into something many of us can relate to—and possibly build, as long as we’re willing to work hard enough. Chris’ metal mastery made a Chevy chassis and Ford I-beam front suspension play nice together; something especially valuable considering long-travel front suspensions that fit the stock Chevy A-arm pivots are few and far between. I-beams are simple and proven. A long-travel three-link brings up the rear, and the whole chassis was treated to a front-to-back rollcage during the process. Whoever coined the phrase “hard work never hurt anybody, but why take chances?” never had the opportunity to experience a truck like this.
Mr. CleanApril 2012
The Ford Ranger is one of the most popular desert trucks in the history of desert trucks. Decades of iterations make it easy to choose from different suspension types and drivetrain packages, and the sheer production numbers make it affordable. Add in the teeming aftermarket support and you’ve got a truck that’s easy to buy, easy to build, and capable once you’re done. Eddie Velarde’s 2006 4x4 model was built one carefully planned, expertly executed upgrade at a time until he ended up with a daily driver that’s equipped to fly high and fast, or to creep along in 4-Lo. It’s a triple-duty Ranger. Characters in the parade of upgrades include Dixon Bros. Racing, S.I. Motorsports, Currie Enterprises, and Fox Racing Shox. Add in Eddie’s attention to detail and the way he returns it to spotless condition after every dirt outing, and you’ve got a truck that’s going to be doing triple duty for years to come.
Everything but the Kitchen SinkOctober 2012
Old military vehicles are cool. If not for the military, the need for a multipurpose, rugged, go-anywhere vehicle might not have been recognized and subsequently developed. Jeff Pichler’s ’57 M37 isn’t just cool because of nostalgia. It’s cool because he’s supplemented nostalgia with modern-day off-road function. The anemic original engine has been shelved (or maybe donated to a museum) in favor of a 340-horse Chevy stroker motor, and the original axles, suspension, and steering system have all gone by the wayside in favor of updated parts capable of holding up to the 40-inch Interco tires. With the gargantuan stock wheelwells, the 40s have room to flex and look just right. The kitchen sink part comes from the way Jeff has outfitted the service bed with enough tools and equipment to get himself and everyone else successfully back to base camp. Who knows? Jeff’s M37 just might be equipped with a kitchen sink by the time you read this.
Not Your Grandpa’s Old FordNovember 2012
Tom Webber’s F-250 is one of the best sleeper vehicles we’ve ever seen, and it took a feature story to bring this truck’s true character to light. A retired Air Force pilot, Tom built his truck to fly low and look stealthy. The stealth includes leaving the front and rear suspensions at stock width and painting the Autofab drop-center hood and fenders to match the original mint-green-and-white paint scheme. Flying low? This truck’s got 18 inches of wheel travel at each corner to do just that. When the bed started self-destructing after lots of Baja pounding, Tom consulted with Darin Brandvig and John Ehmke of Autofab. The three joined forces to build a ’cage that holds the truck together, provides occupant safety, and gives a home to shock mounts, spare tires, and other essentials. Topping it off, there’s a camper shell above and most of the stock bed space below is still clear for hauling race-chasing cargo. If your grandpa’s got an old Ford, Tom Webber’s F-250 shows just what you can do with it.