It’s only been a couple of months since I grabbed the wheel of this big ocean liner that is Four Wheeler. For a long time, the magazine has been steaming along the same course through familiar, muddled waters. As the dude in charge, it’s the editor-in-chief’s job to decide whether to hold ‘er steady or come hard about. I think I’ll spin that wheel and point the bow toward new horizons, as well as dispense with the nautical references for a while.
Four Wheeler has always been something of an enigma to me. On the one hand, you have lots of new vehicle reviews and testing, including our Four Wheeler of the Year and Pickup Truck of the Year competitions. If you care about off-road performance, our evaluations are the ones you really want to follow ‘cause, while other venues like Motor Trend or Automobile may be good at citing facts and figures or talking about how many potted plants you can cram in the cargo area, they think driving a graded dirt road counts as off-roading. Mix in some up-to-date breaking new product info and new vehicle modifications, and if you’re a late-model guy, you’ll most likely find what you’re after in Four Wheeler’s pages.
But on the other hand, Four Wheeler also has Top Truck Challenge, an event which showcases the most extreme hardcore (and often budget-built) vehicles out there. They’re created, owned, and driven by some of the most capable off-road drivers in the world over some of the toughest courses we can devise. We devote a large portion of several issues to the entrants, competitors, and the event itself. And that’s not counting the web-only stories you’ll find on fourwheeler.com, the DVD we produce, or the countless official videos that make it to our Four Wheeler and Motor Trend YouTube channels. In a nutshell, Top Truck Challenge is the top of the hardcore off-road food chain and by far the most popular editorial we produce all year long.
“I’m not a junkaholic. I’m a junkologist.”
And that dichotomy is the enigma I reference a minute ago: Shiny and new or gritty and worn? Maybe that’s why it’s always been hard to me to peg just where Four Wheeler’s core lies. And as the guy in charge, it’s fairly important I find its center and run with it. It’s not as dire as ‘ol Abraham Lincoln’s profession that a house divided against itself cannot stand, but certainly a magazine that caters to too many masters won’t serve any of them well. So what’s it gonna be?
Maybe I should’ve covered all this in more detail in my first Firing Order a couple issues ago, but I’ve been pondering that question a lot lately. What is Four Wheeler and how do I create content that best serves that. But overwhelmingly, the answer I keep coming up with is, “screw it; I’m going to do stories that make me happy.”
What makes me happy? I like old 4x4s. Glass-smooth body panels and swimming-pool-deep paint makes me cringe, but I can’t think of anything I like better than a faded 40-year-old paintjob with just a whisper of rust emerging. Time, nature, and abuse are our best bodyshops. Low-slung vehicles that do more with less should be celebrated. And a junkyard stroll on a cool, overcast day is one of my favorite outings. My idea of the perfect vacation would be to travel backroads with a low-deck semi and a wad of pocket cash in search of junk vehicles languishing in people’s barns and fields. I’m not talking about rotted-out tetanus breeding grounds. I’m not a junkaholic. I’m a junkologist. I deal with a higher level of discarded vehicles. Something you can drop a modern engine and transmission into with a set of 1-ton axles and hit the trail, maybe in an old ‘40s International tow truck that still has the boom on the back or an imported Suzuki Jimny from the ‘60s. Anything that’s unique, unusual, or oozing character gets my juices going—something like my ’53 DJ-3A that I built back in 2002-2003.
So, that’s what I like. That’s what makes me happy. And while I won’t completely abandon high-tech stuff or new vehicle testing, that’s what you’ll start seeing more of in Four Wheeler. Back to the nautical speak, an ocean liner doesn’t exactly turn on a dime. Neither does a magazine—especially when you don’t have a dedicated staff to order around. But the wheel is hard to port and change is on the horizon. Stick around to see if it’s a destination you wanna head to with us.