At the end of every amazing issue year, the staff takes a step back to recollect what we thought of the blur that was the past 12 months. We usually a staff meeting to figure out where we've been and what we're doing for the coming year and to pick our favorites among the rigs that have graced the pages of 4-Wheel & Off-Road. We each have our own intricate preferences when it comes to our personal rigs, but as a staff we share a common interest-we like well-built, functional 4x4s. So how do we come up with our top 10 favorite rigs of the year? We spend a few hours in Pw's office saying things like, "Yeah, that truck is super cool, but not as cool as your flatfender, boss. Now can I have a raise?" Then after some serious deliberations, we come up with the best rigs of the year. We hope you like them too.
Andy Brown's '71 Dodge Power Wagon
(Feb., Page 80)
4x4's don't always have to squeeze down the tightest trails. Sometimes they just look right and have enough modifications to make them the equivalent of a fine multipurpose tool. This yellow Dodge has a great older body style that was changed just enough to add the 35-inch Mickey Thompson tires without using a lift kit. Bet you didn't even notice. Did you also miss the air tank incorporated into the rear tube bumper? How about Brown's other subtle additions, such as the AGR Rock Ram-powered steering, customized Ramcharger front bumper, dual gas tanks, disc brakes, and the eight-lug conversion on the Dana 60 rear and Dana 44 front axles? If that isn't enough, just know that it's all motorvated by a '63 426ci Wedge turning a TF727 tranny and a divorced NP205 transfer case.
David Freiburger's '81 Jeep Scrambler
(Jan., Page 96)
It took years-perhaps a decade-to finish, but it was worth the wait. Freiburger's Scrambler is your basic tough-as-nails trail machine with twisty Wrangler leaf springs and plenty of building tricks by Pat Hegelson of Custom Welding in North Dakota. The tech sheet reads as the perfect recipe for the durable and dependable backcountry Jeep: dual Dana 60s with 7.17:1 gears and air lockers, an Atlas 3.8:1 transfer case, an NV4500 trans all hooked to a 300-horse Chevy 350ci V-8 and topped with a tried-and-true Quadrajet carb. If all that doesn't do it, Freiburger can quickly spool out the cable from the Warn 8274 winch for some help. It may be Olive Drab, but it sure ain't dreary!
Phil "Von Chop" Dunievitz's'75 Ford F-250
(May, Page 48)
Picking up on the street-rod craze of beatdown-looking rides called rat rods, we called this truck a rat rig. If you think about it though, the trend of functional vehicles that have a worn-in look was actually started by the off-roading crowd. Von Chop's F-250 is a beautiful example of the breed. Inside you'll see Mexican blanket seat covers, Betty Page stickers, and a pistol silencer used as a shift knob-all to get that period flavor. Of course we wouldn't feature it if it was only style with no substance. This rat can crawl. The 12-inch-bobbed Ford runs a real 390ci V-8, a he-man NP435 manual transmission, and NP203 and NP405 transfer cases mated with an ORD adapter. It really does crawl. Twin Dana 60s with 4.56 gears and ARB lockers make sure all four 39.5x13.5x17 Super Swamper Iroks are turning.
Jeep Corporation's Military J8 Wrangler
(Aug., Page 35)
Our readers and shops don't get to have all the fun. The manufacturers can join in the 4x4 party as well. This year Jeep showed us a bunch of cool concept vehicles while we were in Moab for the Easter Safari. These rigs weren't just stuffed into some building and surrounded by velvet ropes. They were meant to be driven. One vehicle that hits close to home is this military export model called the J8-a two-door built on the Unlimited's 116-inch wheelbase. With its rear Dana 60 mounted on leaf springs; a more-standard 5-on-51/2 wheel bolt pattern; and especially its 2.8L turbodiesel, four-cylinder, 158 hp, 295 lb-ft engine; this rig shows all kinds of potential. Rumors persist that the rear axle may become available over the counter from Mopar Performance. We wish the entire vehicle were!
Chris Godfrey's '68 GMC 1500
(Sept., Page 44)
OK, back to a vehicle we might be able to actually afford and build. We're not talking big V-8 power and coilover shocks here, just your basic 292 straight-six and leaf springs bolted to a basic 4x4 that somehow comes out more capable than the sum of its parts. In the front is a Dana 60 filled with an Ox Locker and 5.13 gears, while out back is a Corporate 14-bolt with a mini spool. Great custom touches include a bobbed bed, pipe bumpers, expanded steel mesh for a bed floor, and those cool half doors complete with drink holders. Somehow the old-school white spoke wheels wearing tall-and-skinny 38x12.50 Super Swamper TSLs and unique camo flame graphics only add to the truck's aura of deluxe trail fun.
Pepe Palomino's '98 Toyota Tacoma
(Oct., Page 60)
You'd never know it to look at it now, but this truck was once a frame-dragging 2WD street cruiser. Palomino gave the rig an attitude adjustment of the highest order! It's always a good idea when rockcrawling to put the smallest available body on 1-ton running gear like a Detroit-locked D60 in the front and a spooled D70 in the rear. It also helps to have 42-inch Super Swamper TSLs clamped by Off Road Overstock beadlock rims and crawler gears, which Palomino gained by mating two transfer cases with a Marlin Crawler adapter. All-Pro Off-Road was called on for a set of 5-inch leaf springs and a rollcage, which was modified to fit a rear seat so the whole family could enjoy the ride.
(Buildup Aug. '08-Jan. '09; UA coverage Nov. & Dec.)
We aren't trying to break an arm patting ourselves on the back by including our Z-71 project truck purpose-built for Ultimate Adventure 2008. We are, however, giving king-sized kudos to Mel Wade and his guys at Off Road Evolution for creating and fabricating the world's most awesome, and therefore ultimate, Z-71. None of it would have been possible without the products from the event sponsors, such as 40-inch KM2 M-Ts from BFGoodrich, a winch from Warn, an exhaust kit from Flowmaster, filters from K&N, steering components from PSC Motorsports, and the Doubler dual transfer case from Off Road Design. All of this was hot-zapped together using Hobart welders and a lot of late nights by Feature Editor Ali Mansour. Thanks to you all for a truck that works, speeding through mud or sand as easily as it crawls over rocks.
Tom Allen's Jeep M-715
(Nov. & dec. UA coverage)
When Tom Allen, proprietor of PSC Motorsports, rolled into Sturgis for the start of the 2008 Ultimate Adventure with this perfectly patina'd M-715, all we could do is stare in disbelief. Not only because of its ratty Grosbeck Fire Department red color and 42-inch Swampers, but because we heard the truck was put together in just over a month! Allen and co-driver Carl Yarbrough quickly collected and bolted together a 350ci Chevy, a 700R4 auto, an Atlas 4.3:1 box, and Dana 60 front and Dana 70 rear axles topped off with 5.86 gears in Detroit Lockers. Allen says the truck was built for "rocks and parties," so that explains why he also installed the train horns, right?
Gregory Wiley's '67 International Travelall
(Dec., Page 74)
What a gorgeous concoction of stamped sheetmetal! Who cares if it might be too long and have too much rear overhang to be an extreme trail rig? The beautifully oxidized paint and 42-inch Swamper Iroks grab your attention like a wardrobe malfunction. Once you get to know the truck better, you find the power of an awesome 8.1L Vortec V-8 (that's 498 ci, by the way) lurking under the hood connected to a naturally beefy Allison transmission. Handling all that power is a divorce-mounted NP205 transfer case linked to a front Dana 60 and a rear Corporate 14-bolt stuffed with 5.13 gears and Detroit Lockers. Four-wheel disc brakes make sure that the retro hot body stops in its tracks-just like the truck's admiring 4x4 fans do.
Patrick Demming's '68 Ford Bronco
(Nov. & dec. UA coverage)
We still want to run a proper spread on Demming's Bronco from our 2008 Ultimate Adventure and take a closer look at all its modifications. This Bronco would require two or three pages to do it justice. Pat and his brother Steve represented the readers on UA08 well, having virtually no mechanical issues all week even though they drove every tough line and obstacle we could throw in their way. To whet your appetite for a proper expos, we'll mention the Ford 347ci stroker small-block, NP435 tranny, NP203/205 Doubler transfer case, Dana 60 front with 5.13 gears, hybrid Ford 9-inch rear axle with Portal outers and a final gear ratio of 5.26, and ARB lockers outfitted with 40x14.50 BFG KM2 M-Ts on Raceline beadlocks. The Bronco also has... Well, wait for the full feature!