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Reader: I am a subscriber and look forward to reading your magazine each month. I especially enjoy the tests section where you evaluate new trucks and SUVs from various manufacturers. I even enjoy the long-term tests and the information about real-world mpg and maintenance costs.
This brings me to my idea. I was in the market for a used pickup last month because I, like many other readers, can't afford a new $30,000 to $50,000 pickup. My criteria were a fullsize, 11/42-ton V-8/automatic 4x4, extended-cab or double-cab. I only wanted to spend about $13,000, so as you can imagine, just about every truck I looked at had 100,000 miles on it.
I drove Fords, Chevrolets, Dodge, Nissans, and Toyotas. Let me tell you, there is a big difference in how trucks drive after 100,000 miles from one manufacturer to another.
My idea for an article would be to choose parameters (V-8/automatic, 4x4 extended-cab, one owner, 100,000 to 120,000 miles on the odometer, never wrecked), then choose a truck from each manufacturer that meets that criteria. You could find the trucks by posting a want ad on your Web site. Your readers would be honored to participate. Then, you testdrive the trucks and rate them the same way you would a new truck-in terms of driveability, tightness, squeaks and rattles, responsiveness-and give an opinion of which used vehicle you would look for if you were in the used market. Just an idea. I know I would like to see an article like that.
Editor: It's an interesting idea, though our initial impression is, even given comparable drivetrains, mileage and cab configurations between trucks, there would be too many variables involved for us to draw many useful conclusions. Did that single owner drive like a madman, or like a little old lady? Did the truck rarely see dirt, or was it 'wheeled hard every weekend? Did the owner meticulously adhere to maintenance schedules, or did the oil usually resemble molasses? Did the truck tow a fifth-wheel or haul heavy gear frequently, or not at all? Did the truck spend its life in sunny California, or in the colder climes of the Northeast? You can see where we're going with this.
But a review of "Best Buys in Used 4x4s" is always a good subject, and one we'll be revisiting shortly. 'Til then, check out our "10 Best Buys in Four-Wheel Drive" on page 40 of this issue. Those pickups might be a bit pricey for you now, but a few years down the road...
Editor's note: In our May '05 issue, we asked readers to volunteer to join the Critic's Corner, a unique Four Wheeler focus group that will evaluate potential covers of the magazine via e-mail every month. We received dozens of eager responses, and what follows is a sampling of what was waiting for us in our Inbox every day.
Name: Joe Wickens
State: New Brunswick, Canada
Years wheeling: Since I was 15
Why be a Cover Critic? I have a head full of rocks and mud in my veins. I am a big dirty white trash hero who would work hard for a free t-shirt. I know what I like and what my friends like. I am the perfect demographic.
Name: Cruz Hendryx
Years wheeling: 3
Why be a Cover Critic? I read every issue from cover to cover. Religiously. If I get bored, out comes a Four Wheeler. And if I've read it all, I start over. I'm the "go-to" guy among all my 'wheeling friends, and a lot of the tips and info I give them comes from your publication. There are several issues of Four Wheeler in my center console-I'm just a Four Wheeler kind of guy!
Name: Max Christensen
Years wheeling: Since November 2000
Why be a Cover Critic? Because I really dig hot trucks, hot chicks, and have an eye for beauty and detail! (How's that for what I like and don't like?) I myself am involved with putting out a yearly in-service manual for over 10,000 school-bus drivers, and trying to make it interesting and enticing-and I can't use hot chicks, either! Think that's easy? You ought to try it sometime.
Name: Larry Thayer
Years wheeling: 22, off and on
Why be a Cover Critic? I'm more of an average Joe. I keep my trucks stock and try to stand behind what I drive. I've pushed a lot of snow in the last 10 years, and love to tow trailers with my diesel. The sound of the turbo gives me goosebumps! I love to talk trucks and believe I have an eye for what is an up-and-coming new trend. And I also have a lot of opinions.
Name: Josh Woodworth
Years wheeling: Since I was about 10
Why be a Cover Critic? I love to criticize! I love four-wheelin' and I love the magazine!
Name: Chad Fisher
State: North Dakota
Years wheeling: 6
Why be a Cover Critic? You guys don't seem to have too many people from up north who like to play in the snow like we do in North Dakota. We look at things a bit differently here-like, IFS trucks will do pretty well in snow if they're high enough-so I think I would give you a different spin on the decision-making process. Not to mention that I'm in the military (Air Force), so every once in a while I can give you the opinion of the Armed Forces from an undisclosed location to be named later.
Name: Jerad Tuxen
Years wheeling: 9
Why be a Cover Critic? I'm not one to discriminate between import/domestic or classic/late-model. I've been around the scene for some time now, and have seen just about everything first-hand. Toyotas will 'wheel just as good as Jeeps, so when the cover comes down, I'll take the functionality and looks of the vehicle over the badge on the grille. Also, I have a paid subscription through the end of the decade, so I'm dedicated to your magazine. And if that isn't enough, I'm like a shareholder. Now give me my voting rights! Oops, forgot my Midwestern manners.
Name: Kevin Easley
Years wheeling: N/A
Why be a Cover Critic? I'm only giving myself 30 seconds here. I'm new to four-wheeling, and there are way too many magazines to choose from on the newsstands. At this time, no "one" magazine stands out. To grow your subscription base, you need new readers, but too many of the magazines' covers and articles are all geared towards veterans. You need a "newby" perspective. I can help, period!
Years wheeling: 8
Why be a Cover Critic? (1) I have a good eye for detail and eye-catching trucks. I got into photography shortly after I got into 'wheeling and I've always said that when I grow up (if it ever happens), I would love to be a photographer for a 4x4 magazine.
(2) The tech articles and pictures of sweet rigs are mainly what attract me. So that would probably be my main focus if I were picked.
(3) I took photography and design courses in high school.
(4) I'm pretty well known on a local Internet forum for 'wheelers in my area, so I know I would be able to get a lot of feedback on what other hard-core 4x4 enthusiasts really want to see in your magazine and what really attracts them at the magazine rack.
(5) I'm a girl. We bitch about everything.
Name: Rod Skaggs
State: North Carolina
Years wheeling: Over 50
Why be a Cover Critic? I have BA and MA degrees in Theatre Arts and English, and have designed and built stage productions for schools, from kindergarten to college and community theatre. I know layout and audience perception of the picture being presented.
For over 20 years, I've enjoyed how-to articles, reviews and previews of new vehicles, and columns like "Techline," "Willie's Workbench," "Readers' Rigs" ... Hell, I like it all. I read each issue from cover to cover and keep every one of them all the way back to 1984. And I still miss old Granville. But I think that you do need help.
Name: Daniel D'Aurora
State: Italy, courtesy U.S. Navy
Years wheeling: 10
Why be a Cover Critic? As an American serving in the Navy in a foreign country, I can provide a unique perspective to four-wheeling outside the U.S. as well.
Name: Carmen Wythe
State: Alberta, Canada
Years wheeling: All my life
Why be a Cover Critic? I have grown up 4x4'ing with my family and have been 'wheeling since I got my '87 Blazer four years ago. Everyone knows me for my love of my truck and 4x4'ing. The only magazine I read is Four Wheeler (no Cosmo for me!). Coincidentally, I happen to be a full-time graphic designer with the biggest (and best) firm in my city. It just makes sense that I would make the perfect critic for Four Wheeler!
Name: John Perry
State: North Carolina
Years wheeling: 4
Why be a Cover Critic? 'Cause I'm the only kid out there who's keeping it real and gangsta on the trails. I do most of my own work on my rig, and you need some young gunz in the magazine.
Name: Shaemes Cassidy
Years wheeling: 13
Why be a Cover Critic? I feel I would be a good candidate because I'm still young enough to know what's cool but old enough to appreciate a good classic when I see one. Plus, I love your magazine, and I love watching the TV show. Finally, it's probably the closest I'll come to saying that I work at Four Wheeler magazine.
Name: Big '79 Terry
Years wheeling: 28
Why be a Cover Critic? Greasy truck parts are my addiction.
My divorce allows me much more personal time with my 'wheelers. My children love to wheel. The ex didn't.
I once called out my supervisor on his new '87 Ford F-250 (brand new with many googahs) because he applied a Chevy emblem on it. He was very angry with me.
In the past I would have to have a shipping address, so UPS wouldn't meet with wife. Not pleasant!
I Have been an avid reader of all things dirt-related for 30 years. Are subscriber fees tax-deductible?
Name: Jim Ferguson
Years wheeling: 13
Why be a Cover Critic? Why not?
Editor: Why not, indeed? Well, guess what, folks? You're all invited-welcome to the Critic's Corner! And thanks to all of you who wrote in with your critiques, comments, and suggestions.