Off-roading is one of the few automotive hobbies where you can have a completely beat or unrecognizable vehicle and it’s perfectly acceptable. Can you imagine if a Ford Mustang drove onto a drag strip with no fenders or doors? In any other realm, the modifications we do to our 4x4 rigs would be downright absurd. Fortunately, the ’wheeling community has always embraced the ugly, odd, and awesome.
In this issue, we’re highlighting some of the most practical modifications you can do to your 4x4, along with some of the most extreme examples of custom-built ’wheeling machines. I suppose that’s what has always drawn me to the off-road hobby. You don’t have to be a brand loyalist (although many are) or know everything there is to know about this history of the 4x4. You just need to be enthusiastic about going off-road.
I often think back to my early days of ’wheeling. I had a ’87 Isuzu Trooper II. It was fitted with a four-cylinder diesel engine, five-speed manual transmission, and lots and lots of rust. Everything was stock. For the most part, it was a below-average ’wheeler, but I didn’t care. I simply enjoyed going off-road with my friends. The lessons I learned piloting that pile off-road are still with me today.
Over the years, I’ve owned and wrenched on a variety of rigs. Some I’m extremely proud of, others I try to forget. With each vehicle, I always take away some new nugget of information. Sometimes it’s a build trick, other times it’s a hard lesson in what not to do.
Ultimately, I enjoy modifying 4x4 rigs nearly as much as I cherish using them on the trail. For me, it’s not always about how capable a rig is, but if it works for the owner’s needs. It doesn’t matter if it’s a converted ambulance or late-model buggy disguised as a ’66 Ford Bronco. So long as the vehicle serves a purpose to you, custom 4x4 creations, no matter how odd, will always have a home in the off-road hobby.