Our off-road judges were four driving instructors from Land Rover. Arriving in a beautiful
Off-Road Abuse Testing
The best part of the event is when we rolled onto a few-thousand-acre ranch, also known as our top-secret 4WOR test facility, for some highly scientific testing. We had invited very experienced off-road instructors as judges, and we had every intention of impressing them with our fine vehicles. There were five tests of off-road prowess to evaluate these nickel-and-dime machines and their ability to surmount extreme terrain without extreme expense.
First up was the drag race. This involved backing each truck up a steep hill since cheap trucks need all the help they can get. At the drop of the flag we went ripping across a rutted cow pie–infested pasture as fast as possible before stopping quickly after the finish line so as not to crash into a huge ditch.
After four races it was apparent that the Bronco was the fastest, but only when it would r
Next was the crawl race. This involved putting each truck in its lowest gear and letting i
Imagine a hypothetical situation where you’re hanging out in, say, the woods with your friends. Maybe you need to break up the party in a hurry and jump in your truck and drive away quickly. Our obstacle course was designed to test the suspension of the vehicles as well as how quickly the driver could get in and drive.
The course started with a high-speed run down a rocky riverbed and went up and over various small hills and berms, down through a brush-filled gully, back into the riverbed for a big sweeping donut, and then across the finish line. To fully test the high-performance economy suspensions, an open gallon of milk was duct-taped to each vehicle’s hood. (Plus, a milk-splattered windshield impairs visibility, not uncommon when trying to escape the woods in the dark.) The quickest off the line, the fastest through the course, and the least milk lost were all judged.
Each driver had to start the race sitting outside his vehicle, and Freiburger hopped in th
The Toyota, with Pewe behind the wheel, was not exactly smooth across the course. He was i
Williams’ seatbelt in his Suburban jammed, and he lost precious seconds on the start line
After an incredible lunch by the caretakers of our super-secret off-road testing ranch (thanks, Chris and Dusty!) we went to the hillclimb. This twisty V-notch was a mixture of speed and grace as each truck had to weave its way up the hill, turn around, and come back down. The suspension on the Bronco twisted up nicely and gave it both the fastest time and the smoothest run. However, on a second go-around the Bronco was slowest trying to be the most graceful. The Toyota may have had the best traction, but the Suburban was by far the most fun to watch as Williams and his passengers battered, bounced, and laughed their way up the hill.
The day was quickly fading and we realized no test would be complete without a run through the mud hole. The hole was untested when Williams was picked to go first, and like most kids in their teens with a new truck he drove (or should we say dove) in without checking the depth. The big Suburban looked more like a submarine as it nosed down and sent a giant Sea World orca splash toward onlookers. Somewhere below that cattle-dropping-filled waterhole must have been solid ground, as the Swampers dug in and pulled the big truck through.
Pewe drove the mud pit like any skilled desert rat would, but skirted the side to keep the
You’d think he would rest on his success, but every kid knows that if you make it once you
Freiburger wrapped himself in a tarp trying to stay clean and dry, earning himself a tie f
Sunday morning we headed to the dunes under cloudy skies. This is where the Bronco would shine. V-8 power, coil-sprung front suspension, and Finnegan’s total lack of respect for mechanical wellbeing resulted in the epic jump seen on our cover this month. Plus, an open-topped 4x4 at the dunes is just more fun—it results in sand in your hair, eyes, and everywhere else.
A Suburban is the last truck you’d expect to see hucking off a dune, but Williams apparent
Pewe wound up the squirrels in his little Toy and threw sand with ease, but when we lined
Then Finnegan lined up and performed a spectacle of flight the Wright Brothers would have
With the day finished, judges and competitors retired to a campfire, where lies about the
Each truck had its strong points. The Bronco could fly better—when it would run. The Suburban is the premier party wagon best suited for the kid with lots of friends to haul. The Toyota is economical for sure. However, each truck also had its share of carnage.
Finnegan and Freiburger claimed victory in the dunes with their epic jump, but upon landing it was discovered that their front diff had done serious damage to the engine oil pan. The Bronco still ran and drove home, but alas, it lost a tire on its return from the beach and, with no spare, ended the weekend on a tow truck.
Williams seemed to lose his mind whenever he crossed the start line and drove the Suburban like a 17-year-old kid with a 30-pound foot. The mud bog is a perfect example of his ridiculous driving, but even worse, the front tires were off the ground every chance he got to jump something. This resulted in a bent 10-bolt front axle. It made for great video and fun four-wheeling, but driving without a brain isn’t cheap. The Burb made it home without a tow truck but now requires additional attention and with that, cost.
Péwé has seniority in the group, and some said he drove like an old man, his tires barely off the ground in the dunes. Although he made good time in the off-road sections he didn’t end up hydrolocked or broken off-road. Yes, he had some cooling issues, but otherwise his little Toy was mechanically sound. While Williams and Freiburger/Finnegan may have driven like 17-year-olds, Péwé was ever-vigilant to show you how a proper driver should wheel: calm, collected, and methodical (and boring to watch).
Picking a winner would be ridiculous (though you can watch a great video on Motor Trend’s YouTube channel, goo.gl/u5C2X, in which Freiburger and Finnegan falsely claim the title) because each truck is a great example of what you can get for not much money. No matter what you drive, it is possible to get out there and have fun in the dirt for little to no cost, especially if you refrain from abusing the truck. But if you do happen to drive like we sometimes do (tires off the ground, or buried in a mud bog somewhere in a cow pasture), be sure to send the pics to our Whoops section at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to everyone who helped make CTC a success!