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Letters To Four Wheeler Editor

Posted in Features on October 24, 2018
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Photographers: Readers

Rattle-Can Camo XJ

I read your article (“The Attraction of Ugly 4x4s,” Nov. ’18) and it rang true for my ’93 Jeep Cherokee. I am the fourth owner of this vehicle and I bought it as stock as they come in 2007 from a retiring coworker. I started out with an aftermarket lift so I could run 32-inch tires. Over time I wanted to do more and the modifications started. My friends have nice rigs and people would always walk down to the end to see the rattle-can camo XJ sitting on the trailer. It’s a very capable rig in the rocks, trails, mud, snow, and most every other situation it has seen. It garners attention at every stop.
Karl Ritchey
Via email

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Farson’s Collection

I enjoyed your article on ugly 4x4s and I am over 40 now, and while I have not been asked about whether I want a senior discount, it has been quite a while since anyone has asked me for my ID when purchasing my favorite beverages (normally Captain Morgan for my rum and coke!). Getting older sucks sometimes, but it has its benefits too, though being called “sir” by someone in their 20s or 30s isn’t one of them!

Anyway, I have owned four ugly 4x4s and two pretty ones (a ’97 S10 ZR2 and my current daily driver F-150). I actually still own two of the uglier ones. One is a ’92 Bronco that a previous owner decided to Plasti Dip.

The “Beater Bronco” (Photo A) doesn’t look so nice now. A lot of the Plasti Dip has come loose from wheeling. She’s got 205K on the original motor. I plan to strip the Dip and Raptor-line it Ford Blue. Should be an improvement! I’d like to swap in a beefier 351W with about 380 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque along with some Super Duty axles next year. But most of my attention is on my ’68 FJ40. Here’s a shot of her now (Photo B) as I prepare to pull the F engine and drivetrain. The donor ’78 2F is being rebuilt with forged high-compression pistons, fully reworked block and head, and RV profile on the cam. I am hoping to get 9:1 compression and with the EFI, I’d like to see about 150-165 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. I’ll be putting in a new wiring harness, power steering, 6 inches of high travel with Atlas springs, reverse shackles, and so on. All of the parts are sitting on my shelf right now.

Arguably one of the ugliest 4x4s ever, I had an ’83 Cherokee Chief that I LOVED (Photo C)! This one is still probably my favorite 4x4 ever. I installed hydroboost brakes (because stopping is nice), an Edelbrock Air-Gap four-barrel intake, custom 3-inch exhaust, long-tube headers, and I got the A/C working. I owned this while I lived in Ventura, California, and it spent a lot of time on the coast and in the hills above Santa Barbara.

Anyway, there’s my ugly 4x4s! I love ’em all and miss the ones I no longer own. Thanks for the great articles!
Tony Farson
Via email

1973 K25

About a year and a half ago, my wife and I decided to purchase a truck and trailer and start “getting away from it all” a few times a year on our own and occasionally with my parents who own a 39-foot RV. This was not going to be a $100K setup of a new truck and trailer...we don’t have that kind of taste or budget. My dad and I had discussed going in on a Chevy/GMC K20, since we had both owned several through the years, but neither of us currently did and missed having one to haul stuff and tinker with. I talked with him, and he was open to the idea of it being “our” truck and my wife and I could also use it for towing duty, so we started looking. Neither of us was happy with what we were finding locally, either due to the price or condition of the truck. We wanted a driver, but expected to do some work to get it to our liking. They had left on vacation and shortly after that a ’73 GMC K25 with ’81-’87 front clip popped up on Craigslist for $2,500. It looked clean and straight but seemed too good to be true for the price. I let him know and he gave me the OK to go check it out. During my call to the owner, he said that it had a complete drivetrain of a small-block Chevy and SM465, but was not currently running due to it missing a carb and distributor, so I went to go check it out. The truck appeared to be complete, straight and rust free although it was a bit of a mishmash of Chevy/GMC parts, which I’ve come to expect on these trucks. I really liked it, but what sold me on it was the camper shell that was included and original wheels and hubcaps! Don’t get me wrong, the truck was a little rough, but everything was there besides the carb and distributor!

After some discussions with Dad he gave me the OK to bring it home. Payment was made, paperwork was completed, and later that week I had it towed home. That same evening, my wife and I met my parents for dinner after they got back from their trip and they came back to the house to check out the truck. Dad was almost giddy when he saw it and was excited to get it going! We both did some digging and scraping to get the engine info and found that it was a ’76 305ci, which we both knew wouldn’t be great for towing, but when we pulled a valve cover to get some kind of idea as to the condition of the engine, we found roller rockers...which gave us hope! He had an older Quadrajet carb he had rebuilt to use and I purchased a new Summit HEI distributor and we went to work a couple Saturdays later to get it going. A starter and some starting fluid were the only unexpected purchases we had to make to get it going. Once we got it started the engine sounded good, but tired, and had a leaky rear main seal...all signs of high mileage and needing a rebuild, but we decided that if the engine had to come out for a rebuild, why stay with the 305? Another small-block Chevy would be just fine, but a big-block was the answer for towing! In the meantime, since we were still going to use it as a truck, we changed the transmission and diff oil, and in the process we also found the diffs were about half-full of water, but there was no rust inside either one! I also got a great deal on a 1-ton full-float 14-bolt with the same 4.10:1 gears as the front axle, so we swapped out the marginal-for-towing semi-float 14-bolt. The same guy had an original four-core radiator so that was cleaned up/out and swapped in too. In the meantime, the truck has been used for general hauling and Home Depot runs and is great for that, but not for towing a 25-foot fifth-wheel trailer...we found out the hard way!

After a long hunt for a solid big-block Chevy short-block, we found a used Gen VI four-bolt, forged bottom end 454 in an industrial co-gen application and the guy only wanted $100 for it. The guy selling said it ran on CNG and ran at only 1,800 rpm its whole life! He has a contract with several area facilities to swap them out for new ones when they get to 25K hours, so they have very light wear and he had several to pick from. He had a few Gen Vs also, so we picked the best/cleanest Gen VI we could find, since we plan to use the SM465 and mechanical fuel pump, for now. The plan is to build a clone of the GM 454 high-output, since the block is the same and the 0.030 over short-block should be ready to be picked up by the end of this week! The only other major plans for the truck will be an NV4500 swap, install a modern A/C system, and eventually install an aftermarket EFI system. My wife and I agreed that since the outside is decent looking we will keep it as is, but spend $$ as needed on the interior to make it more comfortable and convenient for travel. We also don’t want it looking too good as to attract the wrong kind of attention...we’ve already had people messing with it when it sits on the street in front of the house.

It’s been more work than planned, but in my opinion, not too bad for a $2,500 truck, and in the end we will have exactly what we want and need for about an $8,000 investment!
Matt Hackett
Via email

Pacer Pickup Lives!

I am writing in response to Jered Korfhage’s September 2018 Four Wheeler article regarding the ’77 AMC hatchback that was transformed into a 4x4 pickup.

In July 2017, my family and I did a Route 66 road trip. My 16-year-old son (David Chavira) is a devout car/four-wheeler enthusiast. We stopped at Darryl Starbird’s National Rod & Custom Car Hall of Fame Museum located north of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We were pleasantly surprised to see numerous beautiful, custom-built vehicles including the custom ’77 AMC 4x4 Pacer. Unfortunately, it seems the Pacer seemed to have not seen dirt in years because we saw it in person and it is preserved in immaculate condition at the museum.

I highly recommend seeing the Pacer, along with several unique custom vehicles, at the museum if you are near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Mr. Starbird sometimes visits his museum and my son was lucky enough to take a photo with Mrs. Starbird at the museum on our visit.
David Chavira
Via email

Loaded Crew Cab

After I scrapped my ’78 Chevy because of severe rust I kept all of the powertrain for use in something else, and I started looking for another truck for a project while I was going to school for automotive technology. I found this ’84 Crew Cab that needed its big-block rebuilt for $3,000. I took the engine to school and rebuilt it in class and I put the small-block from my ’78 in it so I could drive it until the engine was done. My dad also ended up driving it back and forth to work for a while. Now that the big-block is in I have a NV4500 to swap in place of the SM465 and I think I’ll have a pretty good tow vehicle for future projects. This truck came from the factory with a 454, SM465, NP205, and every option they offered in 1984 I think. A/C, even power windows and locks.
Gage Aisenbrey
Via email

K5 Attention-Getter

Though it doesn’t move very well on its own, my ’73 K5 Blazer attracts a lot of attention and (positive) comments, especially in squarebody Chevy groups on Facebook. Always thought it was odd it got more reactions than restored Blazers, and even had people tell me I should keep the colors the way it is. I love seeing people get excited over my old relic, even if it’s far from perfect!
Anthony Risch
Via email

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