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Trail’s End: Requiem For Small 4x4s

Posted in Features on June 21, 2017
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Photographers: Four Wheeler Archives

Thumbing through the Feb. ’90 issue of Four Wheeler, we were struck by the volume of parts and accessories ads for small 4x4s that are no longer in production. Yeah, we know that was 27 years ago, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that we miss having a selection of new, small, agile, two-speed T-case-equipped rigs any less. And nowadays it seems like these old rigs are disappearing fast, especially in climates where corrosion is prevalent. Sure, there are many small rigs available nowadays, but the majority are T-case-less all-wheel drive machines. And many of the “small” rigs manufactured today with a two-speed T-case are bloated in comparison to the small rigs of the 1990s.

Check out some of these 1990 ads for now out-of-production compact 4x4s that were offered at a pre-Internet time when you still had to call or write the manufacturer for more information.

The compact, solid axle–equipped Toyota pickups had only been out of production for five years so they were still everywhere in 1990. Downey’s offerings included front axle trusses, dual shock hoops, Weber carb kits, headers, and camshafts. Heck, Downey even offered V-6 swap kits.
Olympic was keyed in on the Suzuki Samurai in its ad, which included a “Front Racing Bumper” and the oh-so-’90s double tube bumpers.
Suzuki was the name of the game for Calmini, and it appears the ad targeted the tiny Samurai. A suspension kit, 4.56:1 gears, Weber/header combo kit, and clutch were some of the offerings.
The Roundup was a mesh concoction that fit on the 1983-up Ford Ranger and was designed to keep items contained in the dash utility box.
John Baker Performance Products’ ad included info on accessories for the Ram 50/Mitsubishi Sport Truck. The accessories were said to make the pickups “run faster, handle surer, haul heavier, tow safer, ride smoother, off-road stronger, and look tougher!”

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