No 4x4 project in the history of the world has ever been done. Given more time, more money, and more experience there is always something you would change or replace. You can't stop it. It's four-wheel-drive evolution.
Every month we do our best to fill these pages with as many of your plans as possible. We figure that by showing you what to expect, you'll be better prepared when you get around to adding, removing, or fixing that next thing on your 4x4.
However, this time it's a little different. We're showing you how to get started. If you read about Fred Williams' Suzuki Samurai last month, you saw how he took an abandoned 4x4, got it running, fitted it with bigger tires, and then blew the head gasket on its first testdrive--all for under $1,500. Hopefully you learned something from Fred's experience. I know I did. Which is why, for my Cheap Truck Challenge 4x4, I went looking for a truck that I could fix up, and counted on the factory hardware to make it a capable trail machine. Most of my $1,500 budget went into replacing things that had worn out and upgrading things that I couldn't afford to have fail. Fred's 'Zuki might be more fun to drive around on some backwoods trails, but my Bronco is closer to being a driver that won't break down when you take it off-road. We'll let you be the judge.
Out of Cash, and Just Getting Started
So $1,467.45 later I have a Bronco that safely runs and drives on 35s. The downside is that the interior is still a dump, the truck is slow, and I don't trust it to get me to work. On the upside I would have killed to have a truck like this in high school.
For a daily driver, 33s would have been a better choice with 3.50 axle gears. As it is now I almost wish I could drive it on the street in low-range. Unfortunately my budget didn't let me replace all the fluids in the truck, or get the engine to pass the local smog test. My next $1,500 will go toward regearing the axles with 4.10s and slipping a Detroit Locker in the rear. The $1,500 after that will go to cleaning up the interior and a four-barrel carb swap. The $1,500 after that...well, you know how it goes!