Sometimes we get burned out on the same old same old. And other times we come across something so harebrained, so unusual, so weird that it’s love at first sight. Maybe it’s “Why didn’t we think of that?” Maybe it’s “so ugly it’s cool.” And maybe it’s just that when everyone else is zigging, it’s refreshing to see someone zag.
Don’t get us wrong. We love Jeeps, trucks, buggies, and side-by-sides. But recently weird has become the new black. What’s hot right now are 4x4 vans with wild murals, off-road cars that are done right (dropping an old car on a truck frame with 6 inches of body lift isn’t right), and other ugly oddities that somehow just work out cooler than expected. If you can build a Jeep JK like we’ve never seen before, then kudos to you, but if you show up with Dodge Coronet station wagon with a Cummins diesel poking through the hood and a clean linked suspension and a futon in the back as the ultimate camping mobile on 38-inch muddies, we’ll be the first to high-five you!
Steal our ideas and run with them
Since we like weird, wacky, unusual stuff ,we also like to promote it. Sure, our advertisers all have suspension kits for late-model trucks and 4x4s, and we drive stuff like that daily, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream and promote those of you building outlandish off-roaders.
We rounded up some of the favorites we’ve seen and some sketches of things we hoped to build someday but probably never will. Feel free to steal our ideas and run with them. It may just earn you a photo in these pages.
How about taking a Hummer H3T alpha (the now defunct Hummer’s long-wheelbase crew cab truck thing) and transforming it into capable off-road camper/motorhome? The Alpha package came with a V-8 and locking differentials and a body-on-frame construction. With some talented bodywork you could have a place to sleep and could also head down difficult trails to find a campsite in the most remote locations. Call it the H3Travel.
We like buggies, but we’d like to see more built like this, a cross between buggy and retro off-roader. This tube car owned by Jason Weidhuner uses a bunch of late ’60s and early ’70s truck body panels to give the patina-look and style while still having all the big parts needed to run trails or race. Read all about it in "The Chevy Buggy"
With the resurgence of the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA) Mexican 1000 a bunch of retro off-road racing vehicles are coming out of the dust to get back in the game. There once was a Sedan class in off-road racing, and NORRA has revived this with the Vintage Production Sedan class. These are from the time when off-road racers would take production cars, often big V-8 muscle cars, and build them to race off-road. Did you know that a prior 4WOR editor raced a Challenger in Baja back in 1980? Maybe it’s time to revive this trend and build a retro racer out of a late-model muscle Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger.
We like the idea of the Jeep JK four-door, but we’d really like a troop carrier or panel van. Picture the back of the long-wheelbase JK set up for backcountry exploring with drawers and maybe a mattress, and everything inside is safe and secure. With the Mopar JK-8 body panels kit and a custom rear hardtop section, you could make a really cool expedition vehicle or a Jeep-based ’70s groovy van panel truck with a bubble window.
We like the idea of a Jeep troopie, but what about a JK-5? Start with a four-door JK and shorten it down to a sub-two-door wheelbase. Move the obnoxious rear door hump up to the front door so you have to climb over it to get in the front seat just like a CJ-5. While you’re at it, give it a stubby front clip like the early CJ-5s. And there you have it, a super shorty JK-5 that would be capable even with stock light-duty axles, although you’ll need a skilled bodyman to pull off the conversion.
The Chevy HHR panel wagon isn’t much in stock form, but why hasn’t someone built one into a little Grave Digger monster truck clone? Drop the body on a tube chassis and stuff a rowdy V-8 in the back with speed boat exhaust sticking out the back window. It would only need 35-inch Boggers to look like a mini monster truck.
The Nissan Juke is a ridiculous-looking car crossover thingy. But for some reason we want to see one on mud tires. Nissan made a special concept version with a 545hp twin turbo V-6, which would make a perfect little off-roader.
Wheeling is fun, but what are you going to do when the zombies attack and you have to wheel every single day just to survive? You’ll need something fast, tough, and with enough fuel to go hundreds of miles. Something with doors, comfortable seats, and reliable parts. Oddly enough, these same requirements would make a good off-road race vehicle. Maybe we should build a post-apocalyptic ’73 Plymouth Off-Road-Runner?