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Old, Cheap 4x4s For The Win!

Firing Order editorial: Old 4x4s are cheap and simple. What’s not to like?

"You don't really like old, used 4x4s do you?"

I was asked this question by an acquaintance recently after he read one of my past Firing Order columns where I voiced my like of old, used 4x4s and old 4x4 tech. I answered his question by confirming that yes, I really do like old, used 4x4s and old 4x4 tech. I like the simplicity of manual locking hubs, a lever-shift T-case, and even *gasp* a carburetor.

Old 4x4s Can "Talk"

Another thing I like about old 4x4s is their stories. You've probably heard someone say, "If this old 4x4 could talk, it would have stories to tell." I've found that old 4x4s can talk, in a way. After I buy an old 4x4, I give it a thorough inspection that usually takes a few hours. It's during that time the 4x4 "talks." Over the years, I've found things like wiring modifications that indicate past problems or accessories, repaired latches and switches, mouse nests indicating the vehicle may have been parked for a while, items buried deep under the seats that have been there for years (including tools and candy from a Christmas past), exterior and underbody dents and scratches, and other fascinating things that offer an insight into the 4x4s history.

Old 4x4s Are Budget-Friendly

I try to be thrifty, so maybe this is another reason I like old 4x4s. Typically, old, used 4x4s are cheap compared to new ones, unless of course the old 4x4 in question is a rare, collectible machine. New 4x4s are cool, and there's undeniably some amazing stuff engineered into these rigs, but if given the opportunity to, let's say, disappear for a multi-month backroad and off-road tour of the U.S., I would prefer to do it in a simple, old, used 4x4.

I Own A Lot of Old Stuff

My attraction to old, simple things is not limited to 4x4s. An example is my motorcycle. It's up in years, like almost all the 4x4s I've owned. It's a 1984 Honda Gold Wing Aspencade that I paid $1,200 for several years ago. The bike is rudimentary by today's standards: It has scars acquired from decades of use, a slew of glitches and quirks, and almost 100,000 miles. Riding the Wing is always exciting because I never know if something is going to fail and leave me stranded (it hasn't happened yet). I always give the old bike an appreciative pat when we return home after exploring rural roads in southwest Wisconsin, my favorite riding locale. Recently, I parked the bike on the main street in Galena, Illinois, and a guy stopped and freaked out over the Wing. "Wow, I haven't seen one of these things in years! Do you collect vintage motorcycles?" he asked. "Nope, it's my daily; and I just rode it three hours to get here," I said. His expression was one of surprise as he processed that my well-used Wing made it that far and that it's my only bike. It reminded me of the time I took my beat up old 1977 International Scout II on a wheeling vacation from Illinois to Colorado and South Dakota. Along the way, several people expressed surprise that I would drive an old (and incredibly ugly) 4x4 on that length of trip.

Old 4x4, Long Trip

Recently I hopped into a 15-year-old 4x4 that had been sitting for months and drove it from South Carolina to Illinois and back to South Carolina. Due to circumstances, I didn't have any time to give the truck much of an inspection prior to departure other than to ensure fluids were topped off and tires were properly inflated. I wasn't too worried. By today's standards, the truck is super simple and has lockout hubs, a manual shift T-case, and a heckuva lot fewer electronics than a new 4x4. The truck made the trip with no problems.

Are You Into Old 4x4s?

I like stories about old 4x4s, and I'd like to hear yours. Do you drive an old 4x4 daily? Have you hopped into an old 4x4 and drove it on a long trip and/or wheeled it, not knowing whether or not it was going to complete the task? Drop an email to ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com, tell me about it, and please include a photo of your old 4x4 if you have one. We may publish your story and photo in an upcoming issue of Four Wheeler magazine!