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4x4 Rigs You Need To Own Before You Die - The Dirty Dozen

Posted in Features on August 12, 2014
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We took an informal poll amongst our friends with the biggest beards, dirtiest boots, and roughest hands to find out not only what they drive but which previous vehicle they owned was “the one that got away,” the one that makes their neck snap when it passes.

“These vehicles stand out in a sea of minivans and cute utes”

Instead of filling the list up entirely with Jeeps or military vehicles, our intention was to create a well-rounded list of vehicles that serve a distinct purpose, not only the specific vehicles that would be on our list but the type of vehicles you should experience in your lifetime as well. Criteria included capability in stock form, simplicity, styling, aftermarket support, and standing out in a sea of minivans and cute utes. Do any of our readers own all dozen of these vehicles?

Vintage Short Wheelbase: Ford Bronco
We could have filled a whole Top 10 list just with this category, as there are many choices with classic styling, solid axles, and metal dashes. Land Cruisers are great. Scouts are great. But the ’66-’77 Ford Bronco gets the nod for its coil front suspension, optional V-8 engine, and excellent axles.
Alternates: Chevrolet K5 Blazer, International Scout, Jeep CJ5, Land Rover Series I, Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40

Cheap Beater: Suzuki Samurai
While you might be afraid to dent your Early Bronco and hurt the resale value, that is never an issue with a Samurai. If you can fit behind the wheel of one of these pint-sized wheelers, you owe it to yourself to drive one. They are inexpensive, easy to modify, and surprisingly capable, and they provide more smiles per dollar than anything else we have ever driven.
Alternates: Geo Tracker, Jeep Cherokee, Suzuki Sidekick, Toyota pickup

Military Machine: Deuce and a Half
Anything with Olive Drab paint and numbers and letters stenciled on the side is cool. The common theme with military vehicles is that they are overbuilt and underpowered and can handle whatever you want to throw at them. But if you are going to do it, you might as well go big, and the M35 Deuce and a Half is big—really big. Don’t try and park one of these in your driveway in the city. Better opt for a Mighty Mite.
Alternates: CUCV, HMMVW, M37, M38A1, M151, M715

Diesel Truck: 12-Valve Dodge Ram
Modern diesel trucks are quiet and powerful, but they lost the simplicity, mileage, and pleasing clatter of early diesels. The Cummins 6BT is the engine that started the modern diesel revolution. It is possible to triple the original horsepower without taking the valve cover off. The transmissions used behind these engines don’t like triple the horsepower, but the rest of the drivetrain is plenty stout.
Alternate: 7.3L Ford Super Duty

Portal Axle’d: Mercedes Unimog
Portal axles are like cheating on the trail. They move the centerline of the axlehousing higher and have reduction boxes at the ends for gobs of ground clearance. Plus, Unimogs come with crawl ratios that make Toyota pickups jealous and factory selectable lockers, and have features that fit several other categories on our list (like expedition vehicles and exotic imports).
Alternates: Hummer H1, Pinzgauer

Expedition Vehicle: Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80
Overland travel is the hot fad right now, and despite appearances it can involve more than just bolting accessories to your vehicle and going camping. A proper expedition vehicle is comfortable enough to drive every day and capable enough for whatever challenges might present themselves. The coil suspension, ladder frame, and solid axles of the Land Cruiser make it our top pick. Like most Toyotas, these things are way overbuilt.
Alternates: Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes Gelandewagen

Modern Truck: Ford Raptor
There is something to be said for a truck you can finance at the dealer, is covered under warranty, and still has the chops to hit the trail. The Raptor is an amazing truck right out of the box, with a 400hp V-8 engine, Fox bypass shocks, and 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires. Strong aftermarket support makes owning the Raptor even better. Kudos to Ford for building this truck. We wish that other manufacturers would follow Ford’s lead.
Alternate: Dodge Power Wagon

Vintage Truck: Chevy K1500
Stepside Any pickup from the ’70s is cool, particularly if it’s a stepside. Chevy takes the cake though with the legendary small-block engine, excellent transmission options, and ability to bolt in 1-ton axles from a K3500. Just do us a favor and skip the modern paint jobs and 20-inch rims.
Alternates: Dodge Ram, Ford F-150

Über-Capable: Rock Buggy
Until you have driven a legit tube car, it is hard to fathom just how capable they are. The stability and visibility are unmatched, making hard obstacles easy and the impossible possible. We aren’t talking about a leaf-sprung pickup with the body replaced by some tube, but an actual well-engineered buggy like the Twisted Customs rig shown here.
Alternate: Cab truck

Car That Thinks It’s a 4x4: Baja Bug
True, these VWs are not 4x4s, but what they lack in low range they make up for in ground clearance. Bugs rival the Samurai for cheap thrills, and despite being way down on power compared to a Raptor, they have the potential to keep up with Ford’s best in the desert for a fraction of the price. The rougher the terrain, the more the little air cooled Volkswagens shine.
Alternate: Subaru Brat

Exotic Import: Land Rover Defender 110
Anything that we cannot get in the U.S. is automatically desirable and certain to retain its value and appeal. Make it diesel with a storied history and air of luxury, and the desire grows. That is why the long-wheelbase Defender gets the nod over a lot of very cool Toyotas.
Alternates: Ford Ranger four-door, Nissan Patrol, Toyota BJ70 pickup, Toyota Hilux diesel pickup, Toyota HJ45 pickup

Infinite Build Options: Jeep Flatfender
If you only get one vehicle on this list, it should be a flatfender. In fact, you could have 10 different flatfenders built 10 different ways. They are truly the blank canvas of the 4-wheel world. Fully restored. Rockcrawler. Sand drags. Ice racing. Even rat rod. There are just too many ways to build a flatfender. Use caution though, because there are as many ways to build a flatfender wrong as there are to build one right.
Alternates: None!

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