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Firing Order: Tax Return Turned Into 4x4 Stuff

Posted in Features on April 27, 2017
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Like you, I look forward to my annual tax return check. Much to my wife’s dismay and annoyance, I almost always find a way to use at least a portion of it for something 4x4 related.

My wife and I have been married for almost 35 years, so she’s put up with my tax return check shenanigans for a long time. It started early. About three years into our marriage, I proposed that we spend the money on a set of used aluminum wheels and 36-inch mud-terrain tires for our ’76 Blazer. She was irritated but went along with it. I was stoked. Those 36s were considered big back then, they made the Blazer look awesome, and they worked great in the Illinois farmland.

After I killed the Blazer, I bought a ’77 International Scout. The Scout swallowed tax return checks for quite a while because I owned it for quite a while. One check was used to rewire the old truck. That was expensive. Over the next several years all or part of our tax return was used for new manual hubs, tires, lights, fiberglass body panels, wheels, dual exhaust, and a needless T-case R&R. When I couldn’t think of anything to buy, I went four-wheeling and broke something, which instantly gave me something to buy.

I got less of the tax return check for 4x4 parts during the “kid years,” but in the midst of the kid years in the spring of 1997, we bought a brand-new Jeep TJ (my wife and I made a pact early on to never buy a minivan). Some of the tax return check that year was used for new sway bar disconnects. The next year a portion of the check was used for a trail cover so I didn’t have to put the soft top up each day while at work. Next up was an upper half-door and window storage bag so I didn’t have to squish the windows and doors behind the back seat and damage the clear plastic. Another year we spent some of our tax return on a receiver hitch rack so we had room to carry all the stuff associated with a family. With the mind-boggling array of Jeep TJ accessories available I didn’t have much trouble finding stuff to spend a portion of my tax return on during the time I owned that rig.

Not all tax refund checks were used for 4x4 parts. Sometimes we used ’em for 4x4 vacations. My wife and I loved to travel and wheel so before kids we’d earmark our tax return for off-road trips. One year we converted an entire tax return to travelers checks (how many of you remember those things?) and pointed the Scout to the high country of Colorado for a week of wheeling. Another year, we flew to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, rented a 4x4, and explored for a week. We continued our tax return-fueled off-road vacations even as our family grew to five. One year we used the money to fly our family to Colorado, where we rented a 4x4 and wheeled trails in the Telluride/Ouray/Silverton area.

It’s surprising I remember this stuff, considering I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night. It just goes to show the power of the tax return and how it’s helped to fuel my 4x4 life.

Sometimes I knew what I wanted to do with the money far in advance, while other times I studied 4x4 magazines and product catalogs to see what was new and read product reviews. With that said, in this May ’17 issue we’ve compiled 25 cool products into a story, and we’ve included a slew of new products from the 2016 SEMA Show. Hopefully this info will help you decide how to spend your upcoming tax return.

–Ken Brubaker

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