If you’ve never had a chance to rip, crawl, or haul around in a 4×4 truck or SUV on an off-road route, then you really need to get it on your automotive enthusiast bucket list. There’s a magic about it, the adventure of it, that you really need to experience. Ah, but what 4×4 to do it in. The possibilities, like the trails, are virtually endless.
To get a feel for what 4x4s would be high on the fun meter, we asked the experts over at Four Wheeler and the Truck Trend Network what they have at the top of their 4×4 dream machine list, and the results may surprise you. Check them out and see what you think. And for those of you out there who love the off-road life, we bet there’s a 4×4 you’ve always wanted to own but never have because it’s too rare, too expensive, or just too impractical for your current life. If you got one on your personal list that you want to share, email the crew at editor@4WOR.com and let them know!
1940s Dodge Power Wagon: Ken Brubaker
Without question, hands down, no debate necessary, I want a vintage Power Wagon. Preferably one similar to the one shown here. This 1947 WDX model belongs to Clint Dixon and has a 230ci Dodge L-head, manual transmission, and 5.83 gears, among other goodies. Everything about these old Power Wagons appeal to me. Check out the vent windows, front fender-mounted headlights, tall bedsides, bedside-mounted spare, old school winch, roof-mounted windshield wipers. Oh man, the list goes on and on. I would love for this truck to be my daily driver and I’m cool with the old engine even if it isn’t a powerhouse because it adds to the experience of owning a true vintage Power Wagon. I have daydreams about taking a few months off work, loading this ’47 with camp gear and exploring U.S. backroads and trails. Sigh. I really need to start playing the lottery.
Chevy Blazer Prerunner: Jeremy Cook
This is the 4×4 that I’ve been dreaming about for the last few years. I want to build a Blazer for fun around town and on the trails, but I’m going to do in a way that conforms to current NORRA rules, so hopefully I can do the vintage race one day. I’ve already done the race a couple times with friends, but we run a late model prerunner buggy that usually keeps us in the top 20 or so on the course. Vintage racing is very different. The class I’m looking at, which is loaded with first-gen Broncos, has a 35-inch max tire rule and a 2-inch max shock rule (and no reservoirs), so you have an idea of what you’re working with. You also have to run the suspension configuration it came with, so the Blazer would have to retain the leaf springs all-around. Basically, the only modern addition is the safety equipment, the rest is made of years of experience, trial and error, and a ton of spare parts. Shown is a McPherson-sponsored Blazer from the early days of Baja that doesn’t have much of a pedigree, but I like to stare at it for inspiration from time to time.
AM General Humvee with Duramax power: Jason Gonderman
All of them. The end. Seriously though, the collection of vehicles that I either currently or have previously owned, while not as impressive as some, is not insignificant. That’s just to say I enjoy owning off-road machines. So, the answer to this question could be any of hundreds of different off-road trucks. But, the one currently on my mind is a retired military AM General HMMWV. I’ve spent way too much time browsing the GovPlanet.com website and have found some pretty spectacular four-door, 2009 model year Humvees for sale for less than $5,000. Yeah, it’s a bad decision. They are nearly impossible to register for street use, let alone insure. The 6.5-liter diesel engine is an underpowered dog. And there’s not a single creature comfort to be found. But dang it, I want one. And pretty bad too. And it really doesn’t help things that most of them are located just two hours from my home in Southern California, making acquiring one that much easier. I haven’t decided yet if I just want to get one to drive around town and explore old ghost towns with or drop a Duramax under the hood and have some real fun. Either way, I plan to have a HMMWV sitting in my driveway by this time next year. Take that, HOA!
Legacy Motors Custom Super-Crew Carryall: Christian Hazel
Photo: Courtesy of Legacy Classic Trucks
For me, the only real dream 4×4 that’s outside of my reach is one that Legacy Classic Trucks technically doesn’t offer. The company is well-respected for its crew-cab Power Wagon pickups, standard-body Carryall transformations (like the image shown), and other unique turn-key builds that feature a 1-year, unlimited mile warranty on the manufacturing and 2-year, 50,000-mile powertrain warranty. I’d love to be able to call up Winslow Bent at Legacy and put my special order in for a stretched Carryall with four doors and seating for eight like a Suburban. I’d talk them into cramming either a 6.7-liter Cummins crate engine with 1,200 lb-ft and a six-speed Aisin AS69RC or a supercharged 6.2-liter and a 10L90 10-speed feeding power to a Dana 60 front and Dana 80 rear. The engine packaging, intercooling, and radiator system would be the stuff of nightmares to ensure my off-road-tow-rig-commuter-kid-hauler-daily-driver could blast up interstate grades at 75 mph with a 10,000-pound trailer in tow and the wife and kids chilled by meat locker-like air conditioning, but if anybody can pull off my dream 4×4 build it’s Legacy Motors. I’d just have to sell my house to afford the cost, which would be deeeep into the six-figure mark, but hey—you only live once, right?
Short-bed GM pickup and Mahindra Roxor: Verne Simons
Oh man, I have to pick just two? But…but there are so many! (We actually asked for one, Verne, but we’ll give you two.) Honestly this is a problem for me, but I’ll try to distill it down to two realistic rigs I’d like to own. First, I always liked the idea of finding a late model GM short bed (say a 2006), regular cab 4×4 1500 truck with a 4.8 or 5.3-liter V-8 with a factory manual transmission. They’re out there, but few and far between. I’d solid axle it with a three-link and coilovers so it can go faster in the bumps but also rockcrawl down just about any trail where the roof wouldn’t be too compromised. I’d run 40s and keep the thing low to the ground and try to avoid making it super heavy.
Second, I want a Mahindra Roxor. Why, because I like the idea of a new (as two-year-old) 1980s CJ-7 with a little turbodiesel. Sure it’s not exactly the same as an ’80s CJ-7 (and that could be good), but its close and I think I’ll regret not getting to play with one. From the list of Verne wants, but will probably never have: A red Toyota FJ-45 truck, Land Rover Defender 90, 110, or 120, Suzuki Jimny (not sold here), a Lada Niva (also not commonly in the U.S. ). More realistic rigs would be a 2-door JL stripped down with a manual and soft top, 2012-present Toyota Tacoma, Toyota FJ-60 or FJ-80…oh man, so many wants!
4×4 Crew-Cab Dually Pickup: Jered Korfhage
At some point in my off-road life, I’d like to transition from the 95.4-inch wheelbase and only-four-rubbers-on-the-ground philosophy of my two-door JK Wrangler, to wheeling a dually. Why? Why not! A monster, six-wheeled machine with a much longer wheelbase has the potential to make even seemingly simple trails more challenging. Six contact patches could also prove useful while clawing through slimy ruts or bumping over a rocky ledge. And, ultimately, I think duallys on the trail just look damn cool, like Kevin Walker’s 1990 Chevy CUCV military pickup truck, seen here conquering a Moab obstacle.