You've got to understand something; the staff at 4-Wheel & Off-Road love 4x4s. We're not just putting on an act for you-we live this stuff everyday! Sure, we all have our own personal preferences, but not one of us drives a car into work. So when we sit down to deliberate and vote for what we think the 10 best 4x4s of 2001 are, you know we are going to have a hard time.
Man, we'd rather show you all the trucks that have made the last 12 issues worth reading again, but we had to narrow it down to the simplest terms and present you with the best of the best. It wasn't easy (by the time you read this we'll be working on finding fresh meat for 2002). But if you draw your ear real close to these pages you can almost hear these 10 engines roaring, feel all 40 tires clawing, and taste the conquered earth, mud, sand, snow, and rock that these machines were built to tame. So here we present you with the 10 4x4s that left the biggest 44-inch-tire impression on us in 2001. Enjoy.
Rob MacCachren's F-150 Race Truck
"Inside the CORR Pro-4 Champ" January
Yeah, $400,000 is a lot of money, but wouldn't you love to be able to smoke Porsches, Vettes, and Vipers, and then go hit the dunes for hours? 'Cause in this thing-you could! Maybe none of us mere mortals will ever drive or own a truck like this, but so what? The whole staff was drooling over MacCachren's full race, nothing-stock-but-the-F-150-fender-emblem-hardware so we had to show it to you again. We know it's a race truck. But go back to the January centerspread and have a close look at the fabrication on this truck. Awesome, huh? Ever seen a 455ci Ford "small-block"? This sucker's got one! Steal some of these ideas to make your trail rig better, because that's why we show you stuff like this. With a decent welder, and a lot of planning (OK, maybe some trigonometry too) you could duplicate some small part of this on your own ride. While it probably can't rockcrawl or mud bog, it's purpose-built design delivers all the fun you could want.
Jason Mack's 2000 Ford F-350 Super Duty
"Extreme Duty" January
The shape of things to come. A big (yet flexible) lift, powerful (yet miserly) diesel engine, and supremely off-roadable (yet spotlessly clean) 4x4. It's got 300 horses and 610 lb-ft of torque spewing from the 7.3L. We drool over the new 4R100 transmission, the NVG271 transfer case, (makes your NP205 look weak) and the 4.56-geared axles that spin 44-inch Swamper Boggers. This F-350 is a perfect example of how diesel technology has begun to dominate the trends in big power. Predictions are that diesels will be the wave of the future with added benefits of torque and low cost fuel. Jason Mack's "red roller coaster ride" is the epitome of glory and valor with 17 inches of lift, 1-ton beef, and comfort and convenience for six. We'd tow with this thing. Honest, we would!
Chad Dunn's '72 Chevy K20
We love clean old trucks like Chad Dunn's because even though they get rarer every year, people still use them as they were designed to be. This rig was suppose to be a restoration rig, but the call of the mud was just too strong. The classic style of the '68-'72 Chevy is just so right, and when we see them riding on 36s it just makes the whole truck come together perfectly. We're sure the Dunns are having so much more fun with their $20,000 dollar project now that they can swamp it, jump it, and daily drive it instead of just cruising at the 4th of July parade every year. These trucks were great as is, and guys like Chad make 'em even better with a beefier, newer drivetrain and suspension. Hey, you got any old restored trucks in the garage just collecting dust?
Randy Ellis' '86 Suzuki Samurai
"The Party Animal" June
Lightweight equals better performance. Say it. Learn it. Live it. When you go diet wheeling with a Suzuki like this you don't need 400 hp, Dana 60s, or any of that super-expensive stuff. With less mass you can almost defy gravity out on the trail, and we've seen this machine do it time and again. Randy's dandy tubed Sammy buggy showed up everywhere this year. And climbed most anything with Randy's driving finesse. Cutting brakes, a Dana 30 front and 44 rear, and a two-link suspension that uses 300 psi of Nitrogen in place of springs in the rear makes for a lightweight that can do some heavyweight wheeling. The little Sammy is a super-flyweight competitor that shows up a lot of the bulkier trucks on the rocks. Randy's secret isn't anything tricky or underhanded. He set up the Suzuki to be low to the ground and used a simple suspension-all at a seemingly low cost.