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4-Wheel & Off-Road's 20th Anniversary: Past and Present Revisited

Posted in Features on July 23, 2003 Comment (0)
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As you know by now, the Mar. '98 issue brands 4-Wheel & Off-Road 20 years old. What began in 1977 as a special-interest publication brought to you by the editors of Hot Rod quickly grew into the biggest truck magazine in the world. This vicennial issue pays tribute to those people, events, clubs, companies, and vehicles that helped put us on the off-road to success!

Who's the Man: The Editors

March 1978--November 1979: Mike Anson
December 1979--June 1983: Craig Caldwell
July 1983--July 1985: Michael Coates
August 1985--October 1985: Mike Anson (also publisher)
November 1985--September 1986: John Stewart
October 1986--August 1991: Steve Campbell
September 1991--April 1994: Drew Hardin
May 1994--January 1998: David Freiburger
February 1998--present: Cole Quinnell

4-Wheel & Off-Road: Then and Now

1978 U.S. newsstand price: $1.50
1998 U.S. newsstand price: $3.50
1978 4-Wheel U.S. subscription: $9
1998 4-Wheel U.S. subscription: $23.94
Number of pages in Mar. '78 issue: 80
Number of pages in Mar. '98 issue: 172
Number of advertisements in Mar. '78 issue: 31
Number of advertisements in May '97 issue: 308
Base price of a '78 Chevy Blazer 4x4: $5,986
Base price of a '98 Chevy Tahoe 4x4: $26,185
Price of a straight-axle Chevy suspension lift in 1978 ad: $319.95
Price of the same suspension lift in 1998 ad: $525.60
Price of 32-inch tire in 1978 ad: $72.25
Price of a 32-inch tire in 1998 ad: $116.25
President of the U.S. in 1978: Jimmy Carter
President of the U.S. in 1998: Bill Clinton
Biggest news item in 1978: Jonestown
Biggest news item in 1997: Death of Princess Diana

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The Cover Photo: The Number of Times the Following Have Appeared

Trucks in water: 42
Trucks in mud: 35
Trucks in sand: 21
Trucks racing: 10
Trucks in snow: 1
Trucks on rocks: 32
Trucks in studio: 8
Trucks driving on dirt: 57
Trucks parked on dirt: 77
Trucks parked on grass: 16
Trucks jumping: 102
Chuck Norris jumping: 1
Trucks burning to the ground: 1
Trucks illustrated: 1
Total fakes: 17
Tsunami: 1
Nuclear war: 1
Engine only: 2
Chevy: 100
Ford: 42
Jeep: 25
Dodge: 12
Toyota: 5
Mitsubishi: 1
International: 1

Other Cover Notables

First issue with Jeep as main image: May '95
First issue with early Bronco as main image: Sept. '88
Second issue with early Bronco as main image: Aug. '97
First issue with Ramcharger as main image: July '91

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Sound Bites

Predictions

Consider 1979 a year of evolution and refinement.
--"1979: All That's New," Oct. '78

The Ranger--it's probably the worst-kept secret in Detroit, if not the entire state of Michigan.... It tips us off to the investment that Ford has made into its own future.
--"Ford Ranger: Suddenly It's 1983," Dec. '81

If the model year '85 was "The Year of the Engine," model year '86 will be remembered as "The Year of Fuel Injection."
--"4x4 of the Year," Mar. '86

Just remember...it was written here first. Conversations inside both Chevy and GMC indicate that there will be no more fullsize Blazers/Jimmys after 1984.
--"Free Wheeling," July '82

Hydrogen: Future Fuel?
--Cover blurb, Nov. '79

I envision the Samurai as a now-generation cult vehicle--a modern-day VW Beetle.
--"Miles of Smiles," Apr. '87

This month we are inaugurating what we feel will be the benchmark of comparative analysis in the field of 4x4 vehicles: the 4-Wheel & Off-Road 4x4 of the Year award.
--"4x4 of the Year!" Mar. '83

A '93 Corvette LT1 350ci V-8 small-block engine...swapped into the pickup truck: This operation may turn out to be the ultimate engine swap of the '90s.
--"The Ultimate Engine," May '93

Ford introduced a distributorless ignition system (DIS)... expect Ford to apply the new technology to the rest of its truck engines during the '90s.
--Drive Lines, Jan. '90

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Government

The last thing we need is a bunch of bureaucrats following us into the desert or mountains with a list of restrictions...get involved and write to your legislators...your investment may be only 13 cents.
--Tech Talk, Mar. '78

The '80s are going to be interesting years for four-wheeling. There's also a new breed in Washington who seems to be more willing to listen to the concerns of the off-road enthusiast and fellow sagebrush rebels.
--Low Range, Aug. '81

We automotive enthusiasts don't usually react until a fence has been put up. Unfortunately, most of us don't know that we're already faced with a brick wall.
--4xForward, July '95

See if your club or organization will get involved. When we approach the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and other organizations, we show that we are interested and that we care. It shows that we are professionals.
--Focus, Mar. '84

Even if you don't live in California you should worry, because this established a precedent for land closures in other states.
--"Get Out," Oct. '94

"Smog-legal" is heard now about as often as "increased power."
--4xForward, Mar. '92

OBD-III is being discussed for model-year 2000 vehicles--that law will require onboard transmitters that broadcast your vehicle's speed, location, and faulty emissions equipment to the government.
--4xForward, Mar. '96

Pre-'74 Vehicles Exempt From Smog Inspection in CA.
--Drive Lines headline Jan. '98

The New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles may make it illegal to perform many standard tire, wheel, and suspension mods.
--Drive Lines, Oct. '97

Suzuki is fighting charges from the Center [For Auto Safety] that the Samurai is unsafe due to a high center of gravity that causes it to roll easily.
--Drive Lines, June '88

...Isuzu [has] filed a lawsuit alleging defamation and product disparagement by Consumers Union. The suit claims Consumers Union manipulated the testing to show that the Trooper was prone to rollovers.
--Drive Lines, Nov. '97

As it stands, there are currently no airbag standards for light trucks.
--Drive Lines, Jan. '92

Studies...show that airbags were responsible for the deaths of 32 children and 20 adults as of January 6, 1997.
--Drive Lines, Apr. '97

ABS isn't producing overall safety benefits....
--Drive Lines, May '97

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Innovations

The most exciting news involves cassette decks, which have now become the number one setup by surpassing the sales of the ol' standby eight-track deck in 1978.
--Traveling, May '79

Toyota was really onto a good idea when they made a single key to fit the doors, gas cap, and electric rear window.
--"Family Fun Wagon," Nov. '78

The XJ-series Jeeps...will represent an entirely new idea of what Jeeps are all about.
--"Sneak Peek: 1983 Jeep XJ," Mar. '82

Mitsubishi's New High-Tech Montero.
--Cover blurb, May '83

Not to be left behind by the likes of Chrysler Defense Corporation, AM General Corporation has delivered 11 prototypes of its 1 ¼-ton High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle to the U.S. Army for testing. The same company that came up with the original Jeep has dubbed its new version the Hummer.
--Tailgate, Sept. '82

The mini-truck not only survived but also evolved. It took Chevy 10 years to build its own little pickup--the S-10. And the truck world hasn't been the same since.
--"Muscle Madness," Mar. '88

Detroit's 3-Ds are downsize, diesel, and dynamite (performance). They're new enough to make us excited about new 4x4s for the first time in years.
--"Detroit in 3-D," Oct. '81

What is the Scrambler--a pickup, mini-truck, Jeep, or none of the above?
--"1981 Jeep Scrambler Vehicle Test," Aug. '81

New For '80--Factory Turbo Scout.
--Cover blurb, Dec. '79

Taking a cue from Lamborghini, Chrysler is working on a high-performance V-10 engine.
--Drive Lines, June '88

Beginning next year, Ford will start offering driver-side airbags as an option on its light-duty trucks.
--Drive Lines, Jan. '92

Wow! The excitement at Chevy seems to be about the new Easy Access System third-door option....
--"'96 4x4 of the Year" Feb. '96

1980--Part-Time Is Back!
--Cover blurb, Oct. '79

Look, Ma, a V-6!
--"Dodge Dakota Preview," May '86

One of the most startling aspects of GM's fullsize re-design was the use of an A-arm/ torsion-bar independent front suspension for the whole line.
--Drive Lines, Sept. '90

We'll rave for days about the Big Gulp-friendly cup holder.
--"RAMifications," Dec. '95

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Sadness

On the morning of March 16, 1988, Mickey and Trudy Thompson were murdered in front of their home.
--4xForward, June '88

After 31 years of racing history and 16 SCORE Off-Road World Championships, Riverside International Raceway in Southern California will soon become the site of a shopping mall....
--4xForward, Nov. '88

I have AIDS.... AIDS is everywhere, even at 4-Wheel & Off-Road.
--4xForward, Feb. '95

Moaning over the death of the CJ should soon stop.
--"The '86 Wrangler," June '86

The Big News

For years four-wheelers have been wondering why they can't get radial tires taller than 33 inches.... Now you can! BFGoodrich is introducing a 35x12.50R15LT Radial Mud-Terrain T/A.
--Tailgate, Feb. '85

The Datsun-to-Nissan nomenclature switch is the largest in automotive history.
--Tailgate, Sept. '85

Suzuki may begin selling its four-wheel-drive SJ413 model, aka the Samurai...by the end of this year in California and Florida.
--Tailgate, Oct. '85

The best-selling car in America this year is a truck.
--4xForward, Mar. '86

Chevy has stopped its five-year-old "Heartbeat of America" ad campaign. Bob Seger's "Like a Rock" is the new musical tag line.
--Drive Lines, Jan. '92

...sport/utilities...though swank, are still trucks.
--"Sport/Utility Shakedown," Aug. '86

UK's Range Rover--Legal At Last!
--Cover blurb, Apr. '80

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Trends

The concept for 4-Wheel & Off-Road had first seen the light of day when the editors of Hot Rod magazine decided to put out a specialty publication that dealt with four-wheel-drive performance vehicles.
--4xForward, Mar. '91

High-riding comfort is provided by a pair of high-back swivel seats. Even the headliner is done in blue shag.
--"High-Rolling Blazer," Apr. '78

From the rear, you can see just how extensive the use of the gold and white crushed velvet really is.
--"Lady's Jeep," Mar. '79

Dare to Be Different.
--4xForward, June '95

Best new trend: real-world, functional, true four-wheeling rigs are where it's at.
--4xForward, Dec. '95

Those who have been complaining that we don't write enough about Mopar products are about to change [their] tune.
--4xForward, Apr. '92

The sicko 4-Wheel mentality attaches itself like trench foot.
--"The Top 10," Dec. '97

Ugly Is In!
--Cover blurb, Jan. '95

The Staff

The writing and editing staff of 4-Wheel & Off-Road doesn't hold any illusions that it is turning out a lasting contribution to the body of Great American Literature.
--4xForward, Sept. '83

Each of this magazine's editors [had] his own style of doing things, his individual quirks, both pleasant and otherwise.
--4xForward, Oct. '86

I should have a hobby like bowling or something. Maybe then I wouldn't care about this stuff so much.
--4xForward, Aug. '96

"Todius"--we made up the word a few years ago. It means "big" or "enlarged," as in, "44-inch Swampers are todius meats."
--"Wheelers' Dictionary," Jan. '95

(1) I love monster trucks; (2) I hate monster trucks.
--4xForward, Nov. '85

Sometimes it seems the only people who think the magazine is OK are my folks.
--4xForward, Oct. '97

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Uh...

I would like to know why all four-wheel-drive vehicles have to be high and carry big, fat wheels.
--Letters, July '79

We have made a subtle but very important change to the magazine: We have modified our title from 4-Wheel & Off-Road to Petersen's 4-Wheel. We feel the new logo is cleaner, less cluttered, and more immediately recognizable.
--4xForward, Jan. '91

Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road.
--Cover logo, Oct. '91

The 4x4 Sundae, served worldwide by Baskin-Robbins ice cream stores, is our choice for the 4x4 of the Year.
--"4x4 of the Year," Apr. '79

Yes, this is one fancy package. Yet at first glance, with a California purchase price approaching $13,000 (loaded), the rig just doesn't seem to fit the part it was meant to fill. It appears to be not much more than a big, glorified station wagon.
--"Chevy K20 Suburban," Sept. '78

Pick the 10 best boonie crashers? That's worse than picking the Playmate of the Year.
--"The Top Ten," Feb. '80

Answer one question: How do you feel about show trucks? ... We look askance at things, such as chromed leaves, that are prissy past all practicality. But every now and again, we see a show truck that...well, it's like looking lecherously at a neighbor's daughter: We know we shouldn't, but we just get all fired up inside.
--"Truck As Art," May '87

The games of the XXIII Olympiad are over, and once again off-roading was overlooked.
--Let's Get Small, Nov. '84

Boy, did I like the Brat! ... But I almost didn't give the car back to Subaru. It's that good!
--"Subaru Brat," July '79

You drive a Ramcharger/ Bronco/Blazer, and it's OK...but doesn't quite fit your...you know, image. The valet parking attendant always parks it behind the disco....
--"Mercedes-Benz 4x4," Sept. '79

When it comes to action, this '71 Bronco makes Star Wars look tame.
--"The Force of Titonka," Nov. '78

A set of inexpensive handcuffs, available at most surplus stories, can provide some theft protection for items you don't normally carry around. Simply lock them to the rollbar.
--"Driveway How-To: 10 Low-Cost Security Tips," June '79

At this point, care should be taken to avoid any distractions which may either delay you or cause the winch to fall on your thumbs. Small puppies are a particular hazard.
--"Pulling Power," July '78

The sea gulls will flock to anyone with food.
--"Island Retreat," Oct. '87

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Click on the links below for more 20th-anniversary stories:

Best vehicles.

Best action.

Best Whoops!.

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