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America's Ugliest 4x4 Trucks - Eyes Of The Beholder

Posted in Project Vehicles on March 1, 2009 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Courtesy Of The Owners

We feature all kinds of trucks in Four Wheeler. Or so we like to think. But every month, we seem to receive an inordinate amount of mail from readers complaining about the presence of too many high-dollar trailer queens and shiny show rigs in our pages. So last October, we asked you, dear readers, to send in pics and stories of your ultimate anti-show trucks. To sweeten the pot, we promised to pick a "winner" (sort of), who would receive a set of Pro Comp rims for their efforts.

This month, after sorting through your entries, we're pleased to share some of the "best of the worst" of what we received from you-your Ugliest Trucks, in your very own words.

What were our criteria? Well, we were looking for rarity and uniqueness-that one-of-a-kind Ugly Truck that you just don't see every day. Or any day, for that matter, and probably for good reason. Second, we needed high-resolution images that would reproduce in the pages of the magazine. (To those who sent thumbnail or cell-phone pics, sorry, we can't use them.) Naturally, Ugly should also be functional, so we tended to defer to vehicles that are actually running instead of immobile boat anchors gathering rust behind the barn. And of course, if we could get a good story or two from our readers about their rigs, that wouldn't hurt either.

So here is our Grand Prize winner, who'll soon be receiving a set of Pro Comp wheels, and with a passel of Honorable Mentions, all of whom will be receiving a box of exclusive Four Wheeler goodies in the mail. Thanks to all who sent in submissions.

Grand Prize Winner
Mike McCormack- Herkimer, New York
1954 Chevy 6400
Now, first of all, don't tell my Bug I entered her in an "ugly" anything. She-and I-believe she is a thing of beauty, whose beauty is more than just skin deep! This is the first time I've seen what I'm assuming is sincere interest in other than glamour-puss big-buck rigs, and it's your game, so I will condescend to the use of an otherwise odious term to extol the virtues of the truly unsung hero(ine)s of off-roadin': Doodlebugs! Yeah, I know, the term dates me-and my rig-but, what the hell, let the tail go with the hide. You young whippersnappers ain't the first knuckle-draggers to wanna go where no man has gone before-and do it in style!

My Bug is a '54 Chevy 6400-series heavy-duty commercial rig, whose first life was as a town plow in a neighboring village for many, many years before being put out to pasture. I'm pretty sure it came from a supplier basically set up as she still is today; the venerable ol' 235 six, hellacious heavy suspension with a Coleman Conversion 4WD bolted to the stock four-speed tranny with PTO. I don't know who shortened 'er, but she is, and it really helped when I morphed her into what you see in accompanying pics. In the first version (Bug 1) we installed the shortbox, a 30,000-pound Braden winch, powered via a '50 Chevy three-speed car transmission coupled to the aforementioned PTO with surgical precision, and installed a removable rear A-frame boom. Used the ol' girl in this configuration for a couple years; had a lot of fun with 'er, too. However, you know how you can never leave well enough alone, right?

She is now known as "Bug 2," due to the fact that, in "Bug 1" version, I listened to my idiot son one day on one of our more challenging side-cut roads when he said, "Let's go down here!" I turned and we went down there, alright! We tumbled down "there"-I think you kids call it doing a 560, or some such term. Saying "keep the rubber side down" never meant much to me before that day! Now, wifey says I still scream it in my sleep some nights. Luckily, the idiot kid had his wimp-ass '89 YJ parked at the top of the bank that he told me to go down, so we winched 'er back on her feet, pulled the radiator outta the fan, cobbed the battery cable back to usable, cranked 'er up, and drove 'er out.

As the pics show, there's no rollcage, no harnesses-just good ol' Detroit iron around us, and we came out with only superficial wounds and wet pants! Our women weren't too happy with us when they saw us come chargin' up my back bank, but what the hell, they eventually got over it. What's even better, now they won't let the ankle-biters even ride with their-I think the word was "demented"-dad and grandpa when we go traipsin' off into the north 40.

So, Bug 2 commenced with removin' all the twisted parts, engineering a 12-point rollcage, beatin' most of the twisted parts back into usable, modifyin' the winch fairlead, and, yes, installing four-point harnesses, both seats. She's still one of my main toys, and will still do anything I ask of her-gets a little nervous when we go near that side-cut road, though...or maybe it's me that gets nervous-ain't sure!

Think of us ol' timers once in a while.

Corey Green- Carnation, Washington
1982 Chevy 2500 Suburban
I traded a mountain bike and a pistol for this Suburban three years ago. It was formerly a Scout troop carrier with Boy Scouts of America decals down each side. I hate yellow cars, so I painted it with epoxy remover. I bought it for parts and figured I would tear it up when it quit running. As hard as I try, that just doesn't seem to happen.

It has a 400 small-block (seven-cylinder) and TH400 trans. Modifications include the "retro Avalanche kit" courtesy of my Dad's backhoe and a concrete saw. Reworked body panels were achieved by trying to squeeze between trees in my Back 40. Oh, I've also added an Optima gel-cell battery and a neat seat cover! I had a mean front bumper made out of pipe and log holders out of my parents' fireplace, but a high-speed "cedar tree incident" removed it and cracked the passenger side of the windshield.

I use the truck for yard work now, mostly tree removal, brush clearing, and firewood hauling. Future plans include dropping in the '76 Cadillac 500 I have in waiting, shortening the frame 2.5 feet, and a Willys pickup rebody...if only the current motor would die.

Bryan Bagwell- Salem, Oregon
1983 Toyota pickup
My ugly truck is a 1983 Toyota. It was originally red from the factory. The previous owner painted it with bedliner which is flaking off terrible. The bed has some decent rust holes, and the floorboards are pretty rusted out too. The fenders were replaced with blue ones at some point, and I replaced the doors with white doors. So now the truck is black, blue, white, and red.

I bobbed the bed, installed an Aussie locker, and rebuilt the rear third. It has a Trac-Lok in the front, diff armor, 4.7:1 transfer-case gears, Trail Gear crossmember, and rebuilt front knuckles with new wheel bearings, calipers, and rotors. The rear end has new wheel cylinders, shoes, drums, and axle seals. The front has a homebuilt tube bumper with a 6,000-pound Warn. It has a 20R engine from a '78 Celica. The suspension consists of homemade rear shackles, Trail Master shocks, and in the front are Old Man Emu springs with Marlin Crawler shackles and Pro Comp shocks. It has an internal 'cage as well.

My girlfriend calls it a "rat rod." I am sure the neighbors love seeing it parked in front of the house.

Jack Erekson- Lund, Nevada
1980s Chevy pickup
This has been in the household for about six months. It was purchased for $100 as is for the 6.2L diesel for another project, and was promptly claimed by my 13-year-old son as his. (He even gave me the $100 from his lawn mowing jobs right then and there!) The bald TSL Swampers actually still hold air for about two weeks at a time. We look forward to good times at Moab with our rigs.

Jim Lacer- Lebanon, Oregon
1979 Jeep J-20
This is what is left of my '79 J-20. I bought it three years ago to use the running gear under my '55 Willys pickup after keeping the blackberry bushes knocked down and the mud stirred up. The coolest thing about a rig that looks like this is there is nothing you can do to hurt it. It still runs and drives, and I can't bear to dismantle a rig that still has some life left. I'm trying hard to kill it but it will not die-and when it does, the Willys gets a new lease on life. Spending too many years rusting on the Oregon coast, the top and the box had to be amputated and the floor boards are almost gone.

Kurt Goodman- Middletown, Delaware
1974 Dodge PowerWagon
Here is our beloved DRV (deer retrieval vehicle), originally a '74 Dodge shortbox Power Wagon used for just about anything at the hunting camp in the southern tier of New York state. It ended its road life after seven years as a service/plow truck in a gas station when it went end over end in a traffic accident. I've had possession of it since 1981, and had to do extensive repairs just to get it to start. (Notice the inner tube and hose clamp used to seal the right front lockout hub!) When I went to pick it up with my new girlfriend (now my wife), she asked if I was hauling it to the junkyard. Now she knows better! With chains on all four wheels, it works excellent as a log skidder and firewood hauler. The bed even dumps with the aid of the once-used snowplow pump. It still starts and runs fine after sitting unused for 10 years (when this picture was taken). Guess Dodge just doesn't make 'em like that now.

Ryan Roy- Auburn, Maine
1985 Toyota pickup
I've got one ugly 'Yota that I use on a weekend basis up to my camp in Andover, Maine. I use it regularly for my own personal skidder to pull trees with, and to go bird hunting. I've owned it for three years now. My girlfriend and her son go wheeling with me every chance we get, and as you can see, we're not afraid of a little carnage. The most expensive thing on my truck is my 34/10.5 LTB tires.

Randy Swartz- Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania
1966 Ford Bronco
I have a '66 Bronco U14 half-cab. It has a straight six-cylinder and three-speed on the column. I bought this truck early last year off of an eBay auction. I bought it for what I thought was a Dana 44 front diff only to learn that this year Bronco used a Dana 30. It spent most of its prior life as a plow truck in eastern Pennsylvania (where I live), so it had rust everywhere. I was going to scrap it, but it still ran and drove fine, so I decided to make it a first-time rock buggy project for my son and I that we named "The Lil' Turd."

Brian MacDougal- East Haddam, Connecticut
1970 International Scout
This is my cosmetically challenged 1970 International Scout that I've had for about seven years; we call her "Trusty Rusty." In the summer, she is used primarily for a habitat for birds and mice (the birds really like the glovebox). When winter comes, her job becomes hauling firewood and plowing snow. The rear section of the Scout was removed, because of rust, and was replaced with a custom flatbed made from scrap 2x4s and shipping pallets. The driver-side door was removed, using a large hammer, after the top hinge broke. This had the added benefit of being able to see while plowing snow, because the wipers don't work. Thirty-eight years of being exposed to the elements has brought out her inner beauty, literally.

Jack Erekson- Lund, Nevada
1991 Nissan Pathfinder
This Pathfinder was bought from my brother already beat-up. I have only had this for about six months, but have big plans: Solid front axle, double transfer cases, rollcage, and winch for starters. I have removed the fenders, cranked up the torsion bars, and cut up the rear fenders. The 35-inch Boggers were donated by my brother-in-law. This usually resides with no doors, but during the school year, this is my daughter's daily driver and she prefers keeping as much dust out as possible. Also she enjoys heat.

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