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All Things in Moderation

Posted in Features on August 2, 2017
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Photographers: Harry Wagner

So, what’ll it be today? Should we have ice cream and cookies for breakfast or sit down to a nice, healthy egg-white and kale omelet? Neither seems really appealing to me. My tastes lie somewhere in the middle. Ranging out to the extreme ends of any spectrum is nice once in a while, but there’s a reason most human beings gravitate towards a central common ground. With the exception of my inexplicable aversion for shiny paint, I think the same holds true for me—especially when it comes to building vehicles, selecting editorial topics for 4WOR, and even deciding where to take the Ultimate Adventure.

Take the UACJ-6D we (and by “we” I mostly mean Tech Editor Verne Simons) built for this year’s UA. Sure, by some accounts it is a completely gonzo, over-the-top creation that’s beyond the scope of anybody’s budget. But when you compare it with some crazy builds out there, it’s really not that stupid. It’s unique but not exorbitant. Heck, you could build it for less than some four-door JKs we see in Moab. The Cummins R2.8L Turbo Diesel engine, Ultimate Dana 60 crate axles, and even the slinky Skyjacker Curt LeDuc Series coilover suspension are each relatively affordable and easy-to-install options. We used a Ranger Overdrive and Offroad Design Magnum Box Doubler (we’ll never, ever, ever harm that beefy Magnum Box) because we wanted a gear for any occasion without skimping on quality and we eschewed a spendy eight-speed auto transmission for an unrebuilt $100 SM420 we found in a pile of parts behind a buddy’s shop: Balance. Compared with some UA creations from the past, the UACJ-6D falls roughly in the middle of the over-the-top crazy scale, which is right where the flagship vehicle of the world’s most real-world off-road event should be, in my opinion.

As for 4WOR editorial topics, you wouldn’t believe some of the pitches I get from would-be writers. “Hey, you wanna cover this $500,000 eight-wheel-drive overlanding truck I’m building? I already scammed six winches, eight snorkels, five rooftop tents, and three spare engines for it, and if I don’t get some coverage on the buildup then companies are gonna expect me to write checks for this stuff. Come on, be a pal.”

I’m not a pal. I’m 4WOR’s guardian. I remember reading this magazine as a college kid with virtually zero disposable income. When I saw those uber-expensive stories I’d just flip the page and look for an Ed Fortson or David Freiburger or Rick Péwé story about how to do some real-world tech that I someday had a chance of duplicating. Anything high-buck had to be really entertaining, groundbreaking, or compelling. Or at the very least the story had to be about something I could emulate with lower-cost equipment. I don’t think gold-plated winches and $25,000 paintjobs get the job done on that front. Like ice cream for breakfast, it might be nice one in a blue moon, but you can’t live on it.

And as for the Ultimate Adventure, my predecessors—Cole Quinnell, Rick Péwé, and Fred Williams—did a fantastic job keeping the event relevant for nearly two decades. As the event crisscrosses more and more of the Lower 48, it’s admittedly tempting to take the event out of North America. Perhaps a hardcore off-road assault across the wilds of Patagonia, a re-creation of a Camel Trophy jungle route, an invasion of New Zealand, or even an island-hopping excursion in Hawaii might be epic adventures some would want to read and watch video about, but just getting to the starting point of some of those places would cost more than our participants spend on the whole Ultimate Adventure by itself. In a recent column I opined about doing the exact opposite, proposing an alternate event called the Average Adventure. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

I don’t want to turn this column into a monthly committee questionnaire. And I’m absolutely not about to water down the UA or change it into an uber-expensive international explorer’s club. But let me know your thoughts on an international UA-inspired event. Is it ice cream and kale omelets, or something more palatable?

—Christian Hazel

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