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The Trail Duster Transformation

Low Lift & Big Tires

Ali MansourPhotographer, Writer

Cheap, big, and functional is what many of us look for when purchasing our first 4x4. So when our buddy told us about a '77 Plymouth Trail Duster that he could pick up for only 500 bucks, we told him to go buy it and we'll show him how to build it on the cheap. Like many of us, he didn't need some super wizbang buggy, but rather, he simply wanted something he could place a big tire on, fit the entire family in, and that wouldn't break the bank with a never-ending modification list.

Since he picked up the Trail Duster for such a bargain he decided to go ahead and do what many of us do: put a on an inexpensive lift kit and squeeze on the biggest tires he could fit within reason. Of course a Sawzall, a big hammer, and a grinder ended up making this task a lot easier.

For us, there's something about a complete disregard for sheetmetal that makes working on a budget beater rig so much more enjoyable. For this installment we tossed on a heavy-duty 4-inch lift kit from Rough Country Suspension along with a set of 39-inch Pit Bull tires. Check back next month as we toss in some low-buck traction aids and see what this classic fullsize is capable of off road.

Before you start trimming up the sheetmetal be sure to look behind everything you are cutting to check for things like fuel, brake, and electrical lines. Also, try to avoid removing body or sheetmetal support braces. Instead of removal, we suggest modifying said brace to keep the body panels from flopping around.

We are applying the "less is more" strategy everywhere we can on this rig. This meant peeling off the hardtop and factory bumpers to give the truck a little more visibility, to make for better approach and departure angles, and to lighten it just a touch.

MT's & Big Bulls
For tires and wheels we went with 39x14.50 Pit Bull Mad Dogs and fitted them on 15x10 Mickey Thompson Classic IIs. While the tire tread is extremely aggressive, just the way we like it, the overall package felt very lightweight for a set this size. The big cleats definitely give this $500 beater a new look and a much-needed larger footprint.