There have been quite a few 4x4 rigs that we've seen that you wouldn't normally consider when building or buying your rig. Here are some of our favorites that we have seen hit the trail or race course.
The craziest off-road vehicle I have seen up close has to be Gerard DeRooy’s Iveco. Normally found in the silt beds of the Dakar Rally, I have seen these vehicles on tv. In 2014, DeRooy had the opportunity to bring one down for the Baja 500. The truck is massive. The tires alone are almost taller than a regular person. We even shot it for a DirtSports + Off-Road Masterpiece in Metal feature. It’s obvious the truck is not set up for the tight turns of Baja. The vehicle is just too big to fit on many trails. Right before the race, DeRooy had a swollen appendix and was unable to complete the race. I have never been to the Dakar Rally, but the truck looks like it is set up for the huge dunes that the rally is famous for. I am blown away with the trucks massive size and weight; it has no problem driving through the sand. DeRooy’s Iveco definetly packs some serious power. DeRooy has several Dakar stage wins with the truck.
For me, the craziest 4x4 has to be the Unimog. I thought that we were being invaded by the Wehrmacht the first time I saw one! Even though they are built by Mercedes-Benz, they are a beast of a vehicle and appear to follow the German military mindset. That is, they’re not pretty, but they sure seem to be capable of going anywhere and getting the job done.
Even the name Unimog is not pretty. Named from the acronym of its actual names, "UNIversal-MOtor-Gerät" (with Gerät being the German word for machine or device), the Unimog has been operating since just after WWII in places where brute strength is needed. Available in a medium and heavy series and having all wheel drive, a towering ground clearance and a flexible frame, they seem to be just as at home in the middle-eastern deserts as they are in the jungles of South America. Many militaries throughout the world use them in ond configuration or another.
The Unimog also have had a successful racing career, as many of them have competed in races such as the Dakar and other truck trials. They may have been originally designed for agricultural and military pursuits, but they have proven to be a do it all workhorse.
By far it has to be Jeff Friesen’s HydroDynamic Buggy. We featured the rig in the July ’10 issue of Four Wheeler and you can read about it HERE. This rig was an attention-grabber right from the get-go due to its unusual custom stainless steel and aluminum chassis. But it was crazier than that. It was a hydrostatic-powered machine with IFS/IRS and airbags along with an Eaton drive motor coupled to an Auburn 28:1 planetary driving each wheel. Did it work? Yep, but slowly. Top speed was about 22 mph. It had an impressive amount of control and adjustability, but it seemed like a heckuva learning curve to drive well.
The craziest off-road vehicle I have had the pleasure to spend time around is probably Jp Magazine’s and Discount Tire’s JK project RESQ1. Through a strange set of circumstances that I don’t really understand I was tapped to drive this behemoth of a Jeep on Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road’s Ultimate Adventure 2013. The experience was one that I will never forget. I was very scared I would bend, break, or otherwise destroy the expensive and rather large Jeep built by Off Road Evolution and my then boss, Christian. Up until that point the largest vehicle I had ever driven was probably a U-haul rental van (which is about the same size as RESQ1 was when first built). The largest off-road vehicle I had driven up to that point was probably my ’78 Jeep J-10. I was, and still am used to smaller lightweight rigs. In the end the big Jeep (she weighed more than 10,000 lbs) did remarkably well on the trip, and because I am lucky I was able to send the big rig back to her owners with only a few dents and dings that really just added to the character. The fact that I drug a huge welder, rotary air compressor, and a functioning full size tire machine through some of the South’s toughest off road trails is a testament to the vehicle, its builders, and my dumb luck!
The one that stands out the most might be Justin Marquand’s Ambulance. It was so heavy, but it worked great for its intended use. The way it was built inside and out was incredibly functional and smart. Looking at it, you would never think that it could actually work well in the dirt, but it did! Since I shot the feature a few years ago, I heard that the Mega Ambo now has a new owner. Hopefully, he is putting it through its paces as well. You can check out the full feature HERE.