Becoming an off-road hero is not as difficult as it seems, if you've got the right equipment. We're not talking about driving ability here--that's something that needs to be developed with practice or is some innate skill a lucky few are born with. Instead, we'll concentrate on two very popular vehicles and the simple steps needed to turn them into all-around quality four-wheeling rigs. It doesn't require a mega-buck custom buildup either, just time-honored, proven upgrades that most of you can buy or build.
The two most popular 4x4s we see on the trail, and the ones most owners write to us about, are Chevys and Jeeps, more specifically the '73-'87 solid-axle Chevy and GMC trucks and the '76-'86 Jeep CJ-7. Are these the best 4x4s ever? Not according to owners of other brands, of course, but these two types of rigs are blessed by the shear numbers of vehicles produced and more importantly, the wide range of aftermarket accessories available for them. For instance, an Isuzu Trooper may be a good 'wheeling rig, but there are virtually no aftermarket lifts or other specialty items to make it perform better off-road. On the other hand, any 4x4 shop worth its salt will have a 4-inch Chevy lift kit in stock, along with most other common accessories.
Dont think that were forsaking the other fine vehicles many of you drive, as most of the products and modifications are applicable to Fords, Dodges, and others. For that matter, some vehicles, such as the Suzuki Samurai, never seem to need a steering brace or other accoutrements that the larger rigs do. Every vehicle has its own strengths and weaknesses, and these tips for Jeeps and Chevys are the basics from which to build upon. We even went so far as to informally poll a few 4x4 shops to get their recommendations based on practical experience, and all their answers were surprisingly similar to what weve seen ourselves. Take a look at the sidebars below to get a few great ideas.