No 4x4 project in the history of the world has ever been done. Given more time, more money, and more experience there is always something you would change or replace. You can't stop it. It's four-wheel-drive evolution.
Every month we do our best to fill these pages with as many of your plans as possible. We figure that by showing you what to expect, you'll be better prepared when you get around to adding, removing, or fixing that next thing on your 4x4.
However, this time it's a little different. We're showing you how to get started. If you read about Fred Williams' Suzuki Samurai last month, you saw how he took an abandoned 4x4, got it running, fitted it with bigger tires, and then blew the head gasket on its first testdrive--all for under $1,500. Hopefully you learned something from Fred's experience. I know I did.
Which is why, for my Cheap Truck Challenge 4x4, I went looking for a truck that I could fix up, and counted on the factory hardware to make it a capable trail machine. Most of my $1,500 budget went into replacing things that had worn out and upgrading things that I couldn't afford to have fail. Fred's 'Zuki might be more fun to drive around on some backwoods trails, but my Bronco is closer to being a driver that won't break down when you take it off-road. We'll let you be the judge.
The ad in the local paper read, "'84 Ford Bronco, V-8, needs radiator, $700." It was more than I had to spend, but cheap enough to get my attention. Sure enough, when Fred Williams and I went to go see it, we found a fully loaded XLT model complete with the broken vent window, parking lot rash, and zero maintenance options. It was a mess, but it was complete; and those two things are the makings of a good deal. The owner told us the last guy had passed on the truck because he thought the transmission was shot. Turns out the transmission was fine but the transfer case had been shifted into Neutral. The engine fired up, had good oil pressure, and sorta-idled. So I gave the guy $400 (Williams was convinced he would have taken less), shifted the NP208 into 2-Hi, filled the radiator, aired up the two flat tires, and drove it 35 miles back to the office.
Budget Left: $1,100
The worst part of the truck was the interior. The headliner was falling out, the seats were torn, and everything was filthy. But most of the gauges worked and thanks to the hole in the carpet I could tell the Bronco didn't have a hidden rust problem. So far all I've done is torn down the headliner and stuffed it in a garbage bag with the other trash I've found in the truck. My plan is to replace the carpet and fit the seat with a cover, but for now I just wear some grungy clothes when I drive it.
Budget Left: $1,100