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Firing Order: The Beginning Of The 4x4 Obsession

Posted in Features on April 20, 2017
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How did you become a four-wheel-drive enthusiast and what was your first 4x4?

I’ve found that it’s a topic which often comes up while sitting around a campfire or leaning on a shop bench with new 4x4 friends, and I love to hear the stories of fellow wheelers.

Me, I’ve always been a gearhead. It started when I was just a young’un; about the time I got a ride in my uncle’s ’62 Plymouth Fury convertible. To this day, I remember that grumbly V-8 and the feel of the wind in my hair. After that, I was all about cars. I bought magazines about cars and read ’em cover to cover. And then I read ’em again. I absorbed every word, which in retrospect was amazing because I couldn’t focus on or retain almost anything they were trying to teach me in school. By the time I was 12 years old, it was SOP to pedal my bike to the Chevy dealer a few miles from my house and spend hours prowling the lot. I’d study the window stickers and peer into the interiors. This was 1975 and the new Camaros were my primary object of attention. Along the way I gathered a significant collection of new vehicle brochures and I read those with the same focused intensity as magazines.

This was my first 4x4: a ’76 K5 Blazer.

I became a 4x4 enthusiast around 1976 when my uncle, the same one that had owned the Fury, took me off-roading in his ’72 K5 Blazer. He was in the Air Force, stationed in Michigan, and we wheeled on trails near the base. My 13-year-old brain was on overload as he piloted that big Blazer up and down hills and through mud and water. I remember being mortified and mystified at the same time. The paved-street city dweller kid in me was freaked out by the off-camber and steep hills and puzzled at how such a big vehicle could so easily glide over the terrain. Another significant impact it had on young me was that I recall being transfixed by the remoteness of the area and the incredible views after ascending hills—views no one in a standard car was going to see. I remember thinking that someday I wanted to own a 4x4. I began to read 4x4 magazines in addition to car magazines.

The path to owning a 4x4 turned out to be more like a long superhighway. It wasn’t until 1985 that I finally purchased a four-wheel drive. Not only had I wanted a 4x4 but necessity was dictating that I own one. By this time in my life, I had fled the city and was living in a small house on a one-lane country road in northern Illinois. Deep snowdrifts and my ’77 Pontiac Trans Am did not play nice together. Besides, there was acres of land to explore and miles of trails nearby and my off-road forays with the Trans Am had never ended well.

Ironically, my first 4x4 was a K5 Blazer. I was more of a pickup truck fan, but the Blazer was cool. It was relatively tall for the time and fit with aggressive tires (36s, I think). I had a blast with the K5. From snowdrift bashing to trail exploring to pasture crawling, there wasn’t anywhere I didn’t point that rig. It was also my daily driver, and it served that purpose well. Owning that K5 was a dream come true.

Now it’s your turn. Drop an email to ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com and tell me about how you got into four-wheeling and your first 4x4. If you have a photo of your first rig, include that too (high-res photos if ya have ’em, please). If we get enough submissions we’ll put together a story and feature some of them!

–Ken Brubaker
ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com

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