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Owning It: Long-Time 4x4 Owners Share Their Story

Posted in Features on March 14, 2017
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Photographers: Readers

Recently, we published a story talking about longtime 4x4 ownership (Firing Order, Dec. ’16)—you know, folks that have owned their 4x4 for far longer than it takes to pay it off, and they have no plans to part ways with their ride. We concluded the story by asking if you’ve owned your vehicle for a long time, and if so, we invited you to drop us an email and tell us your story.

Turns out, there are quite a few readers who’ve owned their 4x4s for a long length of time. Our inbox was inundated with great stories, and we’ve compiled a few here. What you’ll find as you read through each story is that these 4x4 owners have formed a bond with their rig. In many cases their vehicle is like family.

Name: Kenny Campbell

Vehicle: ’67 Ford F-250 4x4

Kenny says: “I’ve owned my ’67 Ford F-250 4X4 for 44 years last August. It started out as your basic truck: 352ci V-8, four-speed, manual drum brakes, manual steering, heater, AM radio. It’s had four engines, four transmissions, two overdrives, three transfer cases, four front axles, three grills, two beds and four paint jobs. I’ll skip the middle and tell you what it has today. A ’95 fuel-injected 460, C6, whatever transfer case came in the ’95, Gear Vendor overdrive, high-pinion 3,500-pound front axle, power steering, four-wheel disc brakes, and custom built 16x8 steel wheels from Stockton Wheel. In the ’70s it was my only vehicle and also used to tow our off-road racing Bronco. It preran the Mint 400 two or three times. Used it to four-wheel all over Colorado and participated in many All-4-Fun weeks put on by Mile High Jeep Club of Denver. Now it has a life of leisure and lives in a nice garage at the lake. We use it to launch the boat and to cruise the sandy beaches.”

Name: David Erickson

Vehicle: ’47 CJ-2A

David says: “I purchased my ’47 CJ-2A in May 1971 in Phoenix Arizona. It was pretty much stock except for a tired, leaky, and poor-running old Y-block Ford V-8 of unknown size or age and a tow bar. The first major work was to rewire everything. Then came Armstrong Norseman L78/15 tires and 8-inch wheels from Dick Cepek and a Smittybilt rollbar. The old Ford was replaced with a ’63 283ci Chevy in 1972. A friend rolled my Jeep shortly after the engine swap, and his insurance gave me $1,000, and in 1972 that was enough to purchase a new body, glass, four wheels, and new rollbar. The Jeep was put back on road with lime-green paint and new black Bestop top. Many adventures were had in the backcountry of Arizona until I left for Thailand in 1973.”

The Jeep followed David for years through his career in the Air Force, and there were many adventures in all those years, including some negative 30 degree weather in Alaska that proved difficult but definitely not impossible. David retired and moved to Boise, Idaho, in 1987. He and the Jeep continued their adventures and the Jeep got a host of upgrades as the time passed. “After 46 years, I could write a book,” David says.

Name: Bart Apple

Vehicle: ’95 Chevrolet K2500 Cheyenne 5.7L

Bart says: “I purchased this truck in 2001 when I was 16 years old as my first truck from the original owners. It was bone stock with about 80,000 miles on it. It’s been a part of me for the past 16 years. Anytime I come across an old friend usually the first question after the ‘Hey, how are ya?’ is ‘You still got ol’ red?’ I’ve passed up many offers over the years—they just don’t make them like this anymore. It’s got that old truck smell I remember my dad’s ’85 K20 having when I was about 10 years old. To me, there’s just something about a single cab longbed truck. Just feels like a real truck. There are so many of these 1/2-ton crew cab mini-box trucks these days, crawling the malls. Ole Red has done it, hauled it, towed it, pulled it, and never laid down or failed me. I installed a Tuff Country 4-inch suspension lift about a year after I got it and installed some Eagle Alloys rims and Sport King 33’s. Then I put Mickey Thompson Classic II wheels with Goodyear MT/R 35x12.50 tires on it a few years later when I had the funds for all of that, which are still on today. Added and painted Bushwacker Pocket flares, Bully 3-inch stainless steel step bars, a DeeZee toolbox and bedrail caps, and KC Apollo lights up front. It’s now at 198,900 miles, original everything else, and it runs like a beast. My four-year-old old son LOVES it! If he wants, we will start restoring it when he is old enough to help, and it’ll make a sweet first truck once more for him as it did for me.”

Name: John Goering

Vehicle: ’55 CJ-3B

John has had several Jeeps for a long time. The one he singled out for us is his ’55 CJ-3B that he purchased in 1972. The Jeep had an LT1 small-block 350 with a Muncie M20 backing it until the early ’80s when Goering swapped out the LT for a 381c.i. V-8 he built using GM parts and aftermarket pistons. He explains that, “The Willys still sports the Saturday Night Special hood made from an aluminum frame and sheet fiberglass.”

Name: Bruce Bishop

Vehicle: ’86 Jeep CJ-7

“The ’86 Jeep is my first car, and I’ve been driving it 30 years,” Bruce says. “My dad bought it new, and I bought it from him in 1989 when I left for college. The only thing left from the original Jeep us the steering wheel, the seat brackets, and rear seat. It had a supercharged small-block Chevy for 17 years and, since 2010, has had a supercharged LS, which is much more manageable rockcrawling at elevation than the Holley double-pumper. It has had an air-ride suspension since 1995. We’ve taken it to Colorado every other year since 1990. The ’85 Chevy I bought in 1995 and made it a 6x6 in 1997. It has air-ride on all axles, a 535ci tall deck, 5.13 gears and Detroits in the twin 14-bolts, and a Dana 60 front. It has turned into my 15-year-old’s first vehicle.”

Name: Roy Shelton

Vehicle: ’76 Chevy K10

Roy says: “I am the original owner of this truck. I bought this truck when I was a senior in high school on January 6th, 1976.” Roy explained that he and his son are now restoring the truck. “We are still restoring it, the interior and exterior is done. But we still need to replace the door/window gaskets and completely rebuild the front suspension and steering. That is all original! Primarily, we use the truck for transporting our dirt bikes and picking up large items for the household. It is a four-speed manual and part-time 4WD.”

Name: Robert Havekes

Vehicle: ’88 Jeep Wrangler

“I bought my YJ as a used car October 1989 in Germany with only 8,174 miles on the odometer in Sand Dune Yellow and with the 4.2L. Today, I am still driving it as a daily driver with over 250,000 miles,” Robert proudly states.

In 1996, Robert converted the Jeep to run on LPG. Every OEM part that has failed over the years was replaced with better aftermarket parts. He has added 1 1/2-inch-lift Rancho leaf springs with RS5000 shocks, an Optima RedTop battery, Ramsey 8,000-pound winch, and much more.

Name: Mike Johnson

Vehicle: ’86 Chevy K30

“I’m a disabled USAF veteran and the original owner of my 30-year-old Chevy K30 that I bought new from the dealer,” Mike says. It has a 454ci big-block V-8, SM 465 four-speed transmission, NP 205 T-case, 4:10 axle gearing, locked 14-bolt rear axle, Dana 60 front axle, a Rancho 4-inch lift and 9000 shocks, 285/75R16 Goodyear Wrangler SilentArmor tires, and Firestone Ride-Rite airbags on the rear suspension. “I have a ’87 Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper I bought new also, it’s the very rare 10-foot Keystone model. I did all work on the truck myself and the welding of 4x9-inch rectangular tube rear bumper with three 2-inch receiver tubes for the trailer hitch and custom cycle rack,” Mike notes.

Name: Alan Olson

Vehicle: ’91 Dodge W150

“Purchased new is my ’91 Dodge W150 with the short wheelbase,” Alan says. “It is powered by the 318ci V-8 with the overdrive automatic, Chrysler 9 1/4-inch rear axle, and a NP241 transfer case. With 150,000 on the clock, the paint and all of the running gear is still in untouched and original condition. Truck guys comment on its like new appearance! As you can see, it is fit with a rooftop camper for my off-road excursions.”

Name: Scott Roerig

Vehicle: ’75 Toyota FJ40

Scott says: “Bought my FJ40 in October 1975 new from Mac Toyota in McMinnville, Oregon. That makes it 41 years. It is pretty much stock. PTO winch, Rancho springs, and a Man-A-Fre header. My brother was so impressed he bought one in November 1975. We wheel together in the Oregon coast range as often as we can. If it’s going to be a hardcore day, the FJ40 goes. On an expected easy day with several friends, the Suburban goes. I bought the Suburban new in December 1997. Nineteen years next month.”

Name: Richard Brandt

Vehicle: ’80 Toyota pickup

“This an ’80 pickup that I purchased new and have owned since,” Richard says. “In the early years, I installed a Superlift 7-inch lift and tires and wheels. All else is original and the truck has 11,000 miles. It’s still in new condition, which is a little strange, but it goes anywhere I point it. These shots are recent and my only regret is that I waited so long to buy goodies for it because a lot of what was, no longer exists.”

Name: Ed and Janice Helmick

Vehicle: ’04 Jeep Wrangler

Ed says: “I bought my current Jeep Wrangler Rubicon in May 2004, and it just turned over 290,000 miles. My wife and I are active in three off-road clubs: Lone Peak Four Wheelers (Utah County, Utah), Grand Mesa Jeep Club (Grand Junction, Colorado, where I was an original member in 1962) and associate members of the Red Rock 4-Wheelers (Moab, Utah). The Jeep was an integral part in our recently completed 266-page trail guide to 42 off-road destinations in the San Rafael Swell area of south-central Utah. The Jeep is used for serious four-wheeling and backcountry exploring two to three times a month. I hope to keep the Jeep to at least 600,000 miles, after that I am concerned about my own ability to continue useful life since I was born in 1944.

“The yellow TJ that I drive with my passenger wife we affectionately call AYJ, standing for Absolutely Yellow Jeep. That name is carried forward with personalized license plate reading ‘AYJ 4X4.’ The original straight-six engine does not use a quart of oil between 3,000 mile oil changes. The four-speed automatic was replaced at 240,000 miles. The factory maintenance and inspection schedule has been religiously followed. Post trip inspections and simply listening to the vehicle is also part of the maintenance schedule. We do not hesitate to take the Jeep trails up to a 6 or 7 difficult rating.

“An AEV Highline fender kit was purchased in 2009, and we have been running Goodyear MT/R 33-inch tires ever since. Alloy USA chromoly high-strength Dana 44 rear axles were added in 2014. The rest of the drivetrain and suspension is stock design. Heavy-duty front and rear bumpers were added many years ago. A Superwinch 11,500-pound Tiger Shark winch provides some self-recovery assurance. To improve night vision Truck-Lite LED headlights were added in 2015. Under the driver seat is a DC/AC inverter. The Garvin roof rack provides a carrying location for a Hi-Lift Jack, shovel, axe, Pull-Pal, and Max Trax recovery boards. I can also carry up to four 5-gallon fuel cans on the roof rack.

“The Jeep is equipped exactly the way we want it. The short wheelbase two-door TJ meets our needs and I plan on keeping it for a long time. It has also become our trade mark because the Jeep is so recognizable with the word ‘Absolutely’ on the rear side windows.”

Name: Mike Brink

Vehicle: ’84 Jeep CJ-8

“I have had my ’84 Jeep Scrambler for 20 years now and have no desire to replace it,” Mike says. “It was 100 percent stock when I bought it and now has Mopar MPI, a D44 front, D60 rear, ARBs, 4.88 gears, a Jeep T-18 transmission, Scout D300 T-case with 4:1 gears, SOA suspension, and 37-inch MT/Rs. All built in my garage. Works great on the street, and local Rubicon, Fordyce and Barrett Lake Trails. Recently painted it orange in memory of my wife’s dad’s orange CJ-5 that lived on the Rubicon when she was growing up.”

Name: John Calkin

Vehicles: ’72 Chevy Cheyenne, ’71 Jeep CJ-5, ’95 Ford F150, ’01 Chevy S-10 ZR2

“I read your editorial asking, ‘How long have you owned your 4x4?’ I might have something of interest. Between my dad and myself we will crush the number you put in the write up. All of the 4x4s listed here are clean and in incredible shape. Definitely picture worthy,” John says.

One is a ’72 Chevy Cheyenne 3/4-ton 4x4 truck that’s blue and white two-tone. John’s dad is the original owner. It has been “gone through” and repainted and it’s almost stock except for some motor improvements and wheels and tires. John’s retired dad still uses it for fishing and camping. Another is a ’71 Jeep CJ-5 that was purchased used in 1977. This was John’s “high school ride.” It too has been completely gone through. It still has the factory guts with a rebuilt engine, full cage, custom interior, and Imron Blue metallic paint. It got some hail dents from years ago but is still very clean. Another is a ’95 Ford F-150 Eddie Bauer pickup. This is John’s truck and he bought it in 1995 as a demo and still has it. He lifted it three inches and added wheels and tires. It has 98,000 miles on the odometer. John says he uses it for camping and fishing plus some road trips. Finally, there’s a ’01 Chevy ZR2 pickup. This is also John’s and he purchased it new. It’s his daily driver. The truck has been repainted and has aftermarket wheels and tires.

John included a photo of two of the vehicles and sums up the collection by saying, “That is it. I don't see any of these going anywhere very soon. They are all taken care of, and we are very happy with them.”

Name: Dave, Jack and Don Hagey (brothers)

Vehicles: ’63 International Scout, ’71 Ford Bronco, ’76 Toyota FJ40

The Hagey brothers say, “All of the rigs started as bone stock when we all got them, and we have modified them to suit our styles. We have been wheeling together since the early ’90s. Each year and each location, we try get a picture of our rigs together.”

Name: Jack Craig

Vehicle: ’01 Ford F-150

Jack is a man of few words, but succinctly sums it up. “My truck has a few miles on her, passing through 387,000 now…photo from Death Valley.”

Name: Kevin Logan

Vehicle: ’97 Ford F-150

“It is a ’97 F-150 I purchased brand new in October of 1997 (my first new vehicle purchase) and has been a daily driver for many years,” Kevin notes. He goes on to say, “It has towed boats, snowmobiles, jet skis and plenty of scrap metal over the years! The truck is completely stock with the original 4.6L engine and drivetrain. She has 248,000 miles on it and still runs great! It is a little tired and rusty, but she's a runner! I have a goal of 300,000 miles.... I should be able to hit that, since it’s a Ford!”

Name: Robert Pfisterer

Vehicle: ’75 Toyota FJ40

Robert says, “I bought my ’75 Toyota FJ40 in December 1985. It was what I was looking for. It had no engine, transmission, T-case, drivelines, or seats. It was serving as a literal dog house. What was left was stock. I had a M38A1, or CJ-5 copy, that was breaking axles too often, so I removed the engine, a 327 small-block Chevy and SM420 with Dana 18 and started the transplant that would take on a constant evolving and improving 4x4. I have continued to make improvements and I’m not done yet today. My list keeps growing.”

Name: Darrell Hammond

Vehicle: ’90 Toyota pickup

Darrrell says, “I’m the proud original owner of this ’90 Toyota, which is my daily driver with 267,000 miles. The name Old Blue came from a coworker. The truck still has the original drivetrain and clutch. The blue paint has a patina all its own. Old Blue has some issues but the seat fits like a glove and the issues just build on my connection with the truck.”

Name: Greg Crist

Vehicle: ’76 Jeep CJ-7

“My Jeep is a light yellow ’76 CJ-7 that I bought in April of 1977 and have wheeled it ever since. It currently is on its third life/rebuild and better than ever. I could not have a Jeep like this without friends and family to help in the builds over the years. I've been a member of Sundowners 4x4 for almost 40 years now and have been able to travel all over the country wheeling. From the Panamint trail in the west to North Carolina beaches in the east, Canada to Georgia,” Greg says.

Name: Robert Stebrink

Vehicle: ’93 Jeep Wrangler

Robert purchased his Jeep new in November 1992 and it has over 190,000 miles on the original four-cylinder engine. Over that time, he has added a 4-inch lift, 33-inch BFGoodrich tires, and 4-inch wider tires.

Name: Mark Miller

Vehicle: ’79 Ford F150

Mark says, “I ordered it new early in 1979, and took delivery in July of that year. It has been in most states west of the Mississippi. Lots of off-road, hunting, fishing, and so on. Today it has a built ’74 Cleveland 351 V-8, NP435 transmission, and a NP205 transfer case.”

Name: Steve Rouchleau

Vehicle: ’83 Jeep CJ-7

“This is my ’83 CJ-7,” Steve says. “I bought it stock used in 1992. It has since received more upgrades than I can list in a ‘brief description.’ I have had it approximately 23 years. Longer than my son. She’s part of the family and has conquered the Rubicon, Hammer trails in Johnson Valley, frequents Truckhaven, etc. We tow her behind the RV and is our general runabout on all our camping trips. I taught the kids to drive ‘stick’ in it, a dying skill in my opinion.”

Name: Gene Johnson

Vehicle: ’76 Ford Bronco

Gene says his Bronco has been a “part of the family.” “We’ve been through a lot together! Especially in the 1980’s. There isn't a bolt or nut that I haven't turned at some point in the time I've owned it.”

Name: Michael George

Vehicle: ’98 GMC K1500 Suburban

Michael purchased his Suburban new in 1997 and took delivery of it in February of 1998. The truck is sporting a 2-inch lift with Bilstein shocks and rear Firestone Ride-Rite airbags. A GM crate 383ci stroker with headers was dropped under the hood. “Most days it’s good.” George explains. “I keep fooling with it all the time. I love to drive it, my kids think I am crazy for the money I spent.”

Name: Josh Parrish

Vehicle: ’94 Ford Ranger

Josh says, “It's a ’94 Ford Ranger that originally came with a 4.0L/five-speed and was four-wheel drive. I bought it from the original owner in 2008 when I got back from deployment. I drove it for about a year like this with a small lift and played out in Ocotillo Wells back before they had the little fun park. In 2010 I had a shop put full-width axles from a ’79 Bronco in it, added coilovers and different rear springs, threw in a doubler, some lockers, some worn out 35s and painted it bright yellow. Then we took it to Moab, the Rubicon, Ocotillo Wells, and local spot of Corral Canyon. Then I tore it all apart and put in a V-8, automatic transmission, NP203/205 doubler, cage, 37s, and a completely new body from a ’01 Ranger. Today, here it sits.”

Name: Bob Campbell

Vehicle: ’93 GMC Sonoma

Bob says this about his truck: “This ‘mule’ is my daily driver and I don’t hesitate to take her out for firewood, helping friends move and engaging that 4x4 with an Auburn rear locker to get around country roads in the winter. I still see about 19 mpg, and well, everything just works – why get rid of her? As I approached 200,000 miles, I thought I would keep it until 250,000 miles, achieving the distance to the moon. But once there, well, I had to come back home; right? So with earth now clearly in sight, everybody tells me to get home (67,621 more miles) and then retire the old gal. Little does anyone know, I ‘forgot’ something, and I just might have to return back to the moon to get it!”

Name: Clay

Vehicle: Suzuki Samurai (no year specified)

Clay says, “Going on 10 years. Bought it on locked Samurai axles and 33-inch radials. Gathered parts for a Toyota axle swap and ran it that way on 35-inch Boggers for five years or so. Two years ago I lowered it 1.5 inches and stretched the wheelbase 5 inches. Mostly used as a wheeler. I used to daily drive it when on 33s. I also use it as a log skidder.”

Name: Steve Monroe

Vehicle: ’76 Ford F-250 4x4

“We have a ’76 F-250 four-wheel drive we bought in 1979. We took the truck on our honeymoon, down to Cabo San Lucas following the Baja 1000. It started with a 360 with four-speed. Changed to ’68 429ci from a T-bird with automatic transmission. The truck didn’t like the auto, so we went back to the four-speed. The truck has 35-inch BFG's and dual shocks all around. We put a 460 in it five years ago. We have over 500,000 miles on the truck and it still runs great. We call it Traveler because we go everywhere with it. We are heading for the Pahrump 250 in a couple of weeks. We also have a ’70 Bronco that we have had for 23-24 years. It’s a 302ci with three-speed transmission, dual shocks and extended radius arms, 5 1/2-inch-lift front springs and 3 ½-inch-lift rear springs. Did a new 302 a year ago in August.”

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