People have called it the biggest turd ever, while others have called it the coolest truck they have ever seen, and here at 4-Wheel & Off-Road we have called it such things as the "Ultimate Ulcer," the "big red pile," and "one bad-ass machine."
Yes, we are referring to our 2003 Ultimate Avalanche. We covered the buildup in the Aug. through Nov. 2003 issues, and then in Dec. '03 we told the story of how the Avy made it home on the back of a trailer after some unhappy parts decided to eject themselves from the truck while rolling down Interstate 80 in the middle of Iowa (an episode we'll refer to as "The Carnage").
Now understand that we were trying things on this truck that hadn't really been done before. We tore out all the axles and replaced them with front - and rear-steering Dana 60s, changed all the suspension, and tried to make a modern truck with too many computers work with simple proven lowbrow technology--and we did all that in just seven weeks.
Then we drove it across the country and back (well, almost back) while wheeling some of the toughest trails we could find with no previous testing whatsoever ("Ultimate Adventure," Nov. 2003). All in all, we were happy with what it did, but also wish it hadn't broken as much as it did.
To put it bluntly, the truck was awesome on the trail. But when it broke, it exploded parts, and it wasn't until this past January that it actually worked again after the August Carnage. We think we narrowed down a reason why the truck failed as it did, but our biggest problem was definitely excessive weight, a big motor, and pushing parts to--and beyond--their limits. How many people do you know run a fullsize daily driver on trails made for little Jeeps and buggies?