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Doomsday 4x4 Vehicle Buyers Guide

M35a2
Ali Mansour
| Brand Manager, 4WD & Sport Utility
Posted December 1, 2012
Photographers: Jason Sands

Mobile Fortress

The Mayans predicted that December 21, 2012 would be the end of the world. Some fret that it will be the zombie apocalypse, while others worry that they will get stiffed on Christmas gifts. We’re not ready to drink the Kool-Aid, but just in case we are wrong, we figured we should start prepping now. Surviving Armageddon could be the equivalent of an extreme camping trip and turkey-shoot rolled into one.

The idea of hunkering down in one place may seem like a sound option, but if the stuff hits the fan, being mobile could be the key to your survival. Imagine this: The sky is falling around you and the zombies are starting to invade your town. Are you going to hide in the closet with a broomstick like your Prius-driving neighbor? Or will you jump into your zombie-slaying doomsday 4x4 and get the heck out of Dodge?

While many of you may believe that your current 4x4 is Armageddon ready, the reality is, it’s probably not. Sure, your tubed-out Jeep Wrangler may have what it takes to get you through black-diamond trails, but will that soft top and delicate electrical system survive the gnawing jaws of a zombie ambush? Where will you sleep when you’ve retreated to the safety of the mountaintop? Can you carry enough supplies to last you for weeks on end? Get the picture?

The perfect doomsday rig should be part-tank and part-motorhome. You’ll need a place for supplies, ammo, extra fuel, and a spot to catch a few hours rest between fending off zombies. The rig also needs to be something easily serviceable, as your local shop may be reduced to a pile of rubble. To give you an idea of what we’re eyeing for doomsday getaway-rigs, we’ve compiled our top four picks for Armageddon-ready 4x4s. All of the vehicles on our list have durable diesel engines, limited electronic nannies, and gracious aftermarket support. And if you wake up December 22nd and all is right with the world, you’ll still end up with pretty wicked camper/tow rig. Not a bad fallback option at all.

M35A2
Weighing in at 13,000 pounds, the M35A2 (aka the Deuce-and-a-Half) is a heavyweight fighter in every way imaginable. Since the ’60s the U.S. military has used the M35A2 platform for everything from arms-haulers to basic troop-carriers. While the latest renditions of the classic M35A2 are a tad pricey for the average consumer, the ’60s- and ’70s-era trucks are extremely affordable.

One of the best aspects of the M35A2 is the inline-six multi-fuel diesel engine. The multi-fuel option allows you to feed the engine a mixture of diesel fuel, old engine oil, bourbon, and a host of other liquids if need be. Assuming fueling stations may be few and far between on December 22nd, the ability to burn a variety of fuel sources could be paramount to your survival. The downside of the fuel curve is that you’ll likely only get 7 mpg.

The standard five-speed Spicer 3053A manual transmission is as tough as they come, but try and opt for the better Timken T136-27 air-shift transfer case if you can. The Timken T136-21 sprag-style transfer case uses a form of a clutch that only engages in one direction and can be problematic. On the upside, even if the front fails to engage you will still have two 2½-ton Rockwell rear axles to push you along.

Look for models with the more powerful “whistler” turbo engine, but don’t expect a fast getaway. Top speed is around 55 mph, maybe faster if you can stuff on a larger set of tires. Forty-four-inch tires will fit with no lift, but you’ll need to flip the rear-axle-hubs when converting from a dual- to single-wheel setup. Since carrying supplies will be critical for surviving, a radio truck or ambulance model Deuce will make for a great starting platform. The rear enclosure would work well as a living space, and the thick walls and roof could easily be modified to carry extra gear.

Some of the models were even fitted with gas heaters. With some creative engineering you could convert the gas system to power a stove and possibly a flamethrowing device! A dozen char-fried-zombies coming right up! Ultimately, you don’t have to do much to the M35A2 to make it doomsday-ready. Focus on converting the rear half into sleeping-quarters and gear-holds, and we have a feeling we will likely see you on the other side.

Pros: Heavy-duty frame and parts, multi-fuel engine runs on almost anything, inexpensive initial cost, limited electronics, great base for a camper, plenty of load-carrying capacity, massive size, and heavy-duty bumpers makes for great visibility and zombie-dozing; aftermarket lockers, axleshafts, and steering components can beef-up the drivetrain even more

Cons: Slow, heavy, loud, older air components and lines are more susceptible to damage, long wheelbase hinders maneuverability, poor fuel economy, no A/C, older 24-volt electrical can sometimes be problematic, older models only available with a manual transmission, which could be a problem if you lose a limb in a post-apocalyptic zombie-battle

12-Valve Ram
When it comes to a simple, strong, and reliable truck, it doesn’t get much better than the Dodge Ram 4x4-equipped with the 12-valve Cummins diesel engine. The classic inline-six trucks have a reputation for lasting well-over 500,000 miles. The 12-valve spans from ’89-’98. The ’89-’93 trucks were fitted with a Bosh VE-style injection pump, which doesn’t quite have the power-potential as the Bosch P7100 pump that was used in the ’94-’98 trucks. The P-pump engines are easily tunable and fuel economy numbers are some of the best you’ll see out of a 1-ton truck. Another bonus of the P-pump is the ability to modify the injection pump fuel plate. Changing the fuel plate will turn up the power and leave your zombie tail in a haze of black soot.

Behind the Cummins diesel both manual and automatic transmissions were available. The early automatics had non-lockup converters which makes them a little easier on parts and cheaper to build. The later 47RH and 47RE automatics are a bit stronger, but weren’t engineered to hold much over the stock power-levels. The manual option for the early trucks was a Getrag 360, while the super-beefy NV4500 manual came in the later editions.

The chain-driven transfer case splits power between a Dana 60 front and Dana 80 rear axle. A mild lift, chromoly axleshafts, and lockers will make climbing over the rubble much easier. Luxuries like air conditioning and roll-up windows will make the hell-fire and brimstone much easier to navigate. And given the trucks namesake you should easily be able to push over a dozen or so zombies. The aftermarket support for these trucks is great, so you don’t have to cobble together your own Mad Max barbed-wire bumper.

A flatbed version would allow you to build your own digs, but for the less fab-savvy, a drop-in-style camper would provide plenty of living and storage space. Vegetable oil conversions and biofuel kits are an excellent way to keep you on the go. Another plus is that these trucks are nearly 2,000 pounds lighter than their modern-day counterparts.

Pros: Inexpensive purchase price, easy to service, simple and durable parts, powerful engine with great fuel economy capabilities, ample load-carrying capacity, great for a slide-in camper or custom zombie-proof bunker, strong aftermarket support, can run on biofuels.

Cons: Sheetmetal is more susceptible to zombie pounding, weak factory bumpers, by today’s standards these trucks are slow, but still fast enough to outrun zombies and heavy enough to push any disabled Honda out of your path.

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