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September 2013 Firing Order - Editorial

Posted in Features on July 22, 2013
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It was the worst riding 4x4 I’ve ever driven or even ridden in. It felt like I was constantly bouncing off the headliner and floor. It’s no wonder the seats in these vehicles are always thrashed. How could they not be, with 200-plus pounds of human meat sack bouncing around inside like a pinball? I wish I could tell you I was making fun of someone else’s rig. Unfortunately, this rough-riding ’85 M1008 is mine. I didn’t actually notice how poorly it rode for several months, since all of my drive-time had been on-road. I mean I knew it rode stiff, but not back-breakingly unusual or anything. As with any new-to-me used 4x4, I was too busy chasing down gremlins to actually take it in the dirt.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out the finicky-shifting TH400 automatic transmission. After locating and repairing a few small issues with no success, I finally broke down and took it to a transmission shop. I felt at least a little vindicated when it took the tranny guy a few hours to figure out what wasn’t working right. Eventually, I got my truck back, now with a properly shifting transmission, and went for a spin off-road with a buddy. It only took a small bump or two before my butt collapsed the springs in the seat and I bottomed out, only to find myself rebounding and launching skyward toward the roof like a rocket ship. Fortunately, the seatbelt kept me from actually crushing my skull on the unpadded headliner made of steel. My passenger wasn’t so lucky. He didn’t hit his head or anything, but his seatbelt kept ratcheting tighter and tighter like a Boa constrictor trying to collapse his lungs and break his pelvis in two. I’m sure that the 1¼-ton suspension and tires aired to 80 psi didn’t help this situation.

I wish I could tell you I was making fun of someone else’s rig.

I got to thinking about how irritated and out of control I would be if I were trying to flee a nasty firefight in this military truck, although I’m pretty sure that M1008s were considered support vehicles and not used in actual combat. I’d like to believe our modern-day soldiers are transporting themselves in something that rides better than a wheelbarrow with a cast iron tire on a cobblestone road.

Anyway, I’ve been tweaking my project truck as time permits. The original bed was hammered and didn’t allow much ground or tire clearance. The M102A3 trailer bed conversion I have been working on is just about done. The fuel line fittings that I needed to move the fuel tank recently came in the mail. You’ll be able to read all about this project and how I goofed in an upcoming issue, so I won’t spoil the surprise here.

When my truck is eventually in a somewhat complete off-roadable state, I sure hope it rides better than it does now. I’m pretty sure that any modification aside from welding the axles directly to the frame would be an improvement.

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