It’s good to hit the reset button now and then. Among other reasons, I think that quite often 4x4 magazine editors become too jaded and blinded by extremely capable 4x4s and fancy expensive off-road hardware. Of course, it’s no wonder why this happens. Most of us have the opportunity to travel to cool off-road events in great locations chock-full of well-built vehicles, and we put our hands on the newest innovative products. But what we see is not always representative of what the rest of the world is doing. I like to keep that in check by following up on reader projects and doing some ordinary recreational off-roading with my buddies. I leave the camera and Four Wheeler gear at home so I don’t have to play magazine editor, and I get to do what I truly enjoy—the adventuring, off-roading and challenging technical driving that made me want to be a 4x4 magazine editor in the first place.
In the past, I have snickered at other magazine guys who bolt-on the latest wingding to their 4x4 without thinking about cost, function, or overall vehicle theme. Many of the project vehicles in our industry are hideous amalgamations of random parts that don’t necessarily work well together or even look that great on the same vehicle. I’ve seen presumably lightweight vehicle ideas become 4x4 pack mules loaded down with enough equipment and armor to make an Abrahams tank envious, and I’ve witnessed simple, fix-anywhere builds become high-tech wiring nightmares that look like C-3PO barfed up his guts.
"4x4 magazine editors become too jaded and blinded by extremely capable 4x4s and fancy expensive off-road hardware."
I think you can have fun in any 4x4. In fact, I often prefer to be behind the wheel of a sleeper rig that everyone underestimates. I mean, if you show up with a $100,000 rig, everyone expects you to drive right up every obstacle on the trail. If you try some impossible climb, you’ll likely get heckled and be considered a poor driver for not making it. On the other hand, if you do conquer the obstacle, the success is rarely credited to the driver’s skills, and everyone assumes that they could do exactly the same thing in such an overly-built 4x4.
Speaking of expensive 4x4s, it’s shocking how popular the ’07-present Jeep Wrangler has become. I’m fascinated that you can pretty much bolt together a $100,000 JK, but perhaps even more interesting is that once you’re done, it’s worth about $60,000. Now I’m no investment genius, but that doesn’t seem like the best allocation of funds, especially if you are trying to assemble something original and out of the ordinary. It’s become so easy to build these expensive Jeeps that they rarely even turn a head anymore. They are all starting to look the same. Wrangler JKs sporting 6.4L Hemi swaps, 40-inch tires, and heavy-duty axles are pretty commonplace nowadays. If you want to build something eye-catching and memorable, you really have to start with a different vehicle platform. The JK market is ready for someone to hit the reset button. I suspect it’s coming soon in several different forms, one of which will be the new Jeep Wrangler that must be due to dealer lots in 2015 or 2016—maybe even with a diesel engine.
The reset button we hit for Top Truck Challenge worked out extremely well. Although, I think we still need to hone the new Coal Chute event a bit. It’s not the first time the TTC events have been changed up, and it won’t be the last. Overall, the competitors seemed really excited to be a part of our revamped event. I think the changes will allow progression in a new direction.
Ultimately, don’t be afraid to hit the reset button. I’ve recently seen lots of guys put their extreme, trailered 4x4s to the side while they assemble and drive basic, fun, and simple street-legal 4x4s for everyday-average adventure wheeling, which interestingly enough, is the same thing that got most of us into the hobby to begin with.