Four Wheeler Projects Worth Remembering - Five Of Note
A Look Back On Some Of Our Favorites
All of the following Four Wheeler builds almost made our list of the top five best project vehicles. In fact, many of you will certainly think one or all of these deserve a top spot. And we’re probably inclined to agree. But no matter where they fall in the annals of project vehicle rankdom, here are several Four Wheeler projects that are still really cool.
You don’t see many Scout projects on the trail, let alone built up in a magazine. Willie Worthy’s Project Tonto combined a rust-bucket 1977 driver and a clean 1973 half-cab, as well as a 392 engine and other assorted parts from a Travelall, to make one clean and compete IH. Project Tonto covered the rebuild and upgrading of every component, from rust removal to rebuilding the 392-cube V-8 to everything in between. The project featured a Tri-County Gear-built Dana 44 front with 4.10 gears and a Truetrac diff and a semi-float Dana 60 rear with 4.10s and a Detroit Locker. Superlift springs cleared the way for 265/75R16 Big O Big Foot XT tires on 16x8 American Racing wheels. The interior was completely revamped and treated to deep brown carpet and seat covers, while trail-oriented niceties like a Premier Power welder, Delta interior storage boxes, custom front and rear bumpers with a 9,000-pound Superwinch receiver winch, and Hella lights made Willy’s home trails of Montana easier to negotiate.
Project Jeep for Cheap
Never one to eschew the weird and wacky, staffer Jimmy Nylund purchased a government-surplus 1975 DJ-5D, and then proceeded to make a full-blown magazine project vehicle out of it. Nyland kept the project realistic, using mostly factory parts where available. Although a regular Jeep Dana 30 front axle would’ve bolted in, one of the only deviations from the “Cheap” in Project Jeep for Cheap was a Tri-County Gear-built Dana 44 front. Nylund loaded the custom axle with 4.10 gears and a Truetrac limited slip before installing the Postal’s steering knuckles on the axletubes -- it’s right-hand-drive, after all.
The factory rear Dana 44 received 4.10s and a Detroit Locker. Nylund adapted a Jeep Dana 300 to the stock TF727 three-speed auto with an adapter from Novak and then hung hardcore items on the Postal such as a Link Arc welder, Warn 8274 winch, off-road lighting, and some modest 235/75R15 tires. The little Jeep kept the bottom line in check and showed it doesn’t really matter what you start with because any project can be a winner as long as you build it right.
Another quirky and unique Jimmy Nylund idea was the buildup of this 1989 Dodge W350 “for work and for play,” hence the 4+4 name. Beginning as a 1-ton cab-and-chassis, the Dodge was equipped with a standard sub-200hp 360 V-8. Of course, it wasn’t the mighty Cummins, but the Dana 60 front and dually Dana 70 rear were loaded with 4.56 gears to help get the rig’s massive loaded weight under way. And what a weight that was when you consider a reinforced Royal service bed was filled with just about any tool under the sun like an air compressor, welder, full tool box, grinder, jacks of all kinds, and even a Honda generator.
An array of 360-degree lighting made working at night a non-issue, and an arsenal of towing gear allowed pulling stuff behind the W350 that didn’t fit atop the service bed, such as a drop-in camper or Nylund’s M38 flattie.
Project Plain Jane
Obviously having a penchant for plain, base-model pickups, another cool big-truck build from Ned Bacon was Plain Jane, an 2000 F-250 Super Duty equipped with virtually no options, a six-speed manual transmission, and a Dana 50 front and Sterling 10.25-inch rear. The factory 3.73 gears wouldn’t cut the mustard with the 36-inch Swampers Ned installed after putting on a 5-inch Fabtech lift, so he slapped in some 4.30s and a pair of ARB Air Lockers. Other well-selected, yet budget-oriented off-road upgrades such as a Warn winch, hubs, and lighting gave Ned the option of taking Plain Jane, or the trail rig that Plain Jane towed to the trail head, out for a run.
Project Good ‘ol Toy
Good ‘ol Toy followed the complete refurbishment and upgrade of virtually every component on author Greg Grasmehr’s 1984 Toyota pickup -- and we mean every component. The project kicked off with repairing a bent frame and other issues stemming from a front-end collision and travelled all the way through a full paint and body job, interior refurbish, rebuilding the axles with a front Truetrac limited slip and rear ARB Air Locker, a dual T-case setup and crawler gears, and more parts than you can shake a stick at. It was lifted and treated to off-road-friendly fare such as a Warn XD9000 winch, ARB Bull Bar bumper, dual Optimas, Hella lighting, and more. The biggest bummer about the project came later after it was finished. Grasmehr flipped the pickup onto its roof while driving the Rubicon trail and subsequently cut it in half to make a trailer out of it. What a pity.