Over the course of a year we feature vehicles in the pages of 4-Wheel Off-Road that we hope will help you dream up, plan, and build your ideal 4x4. Sometimes the vehicle is a high-dollar work of mechanical and engineering art, and sometimes it's a truck your neighbor down the street built in his barn. We try to cover as broad a spectrum of vehicles as we can, and that means traveling all over the country and searching out rigs that combine radically new technologies with proven off-road concepts in a 4x4 package that works better, looks cooler, or goes further than anything else out on the trail.
We can't discriminate between vehicle brands because a functional 4x4 will prove itself whether it's a GMC or a Scout 800. It's true that certain vehicles make better foundations than others, but ultimately it comes down to what you build and not what you buy. So every year we compile a cross-section of reader-built rigs that have been inspired by trucks, tech, and trends that are brought to you every month in the pages of this magazine. We are happy to say that we have never seen so many capable rigs out on the trail, and bringing you 4x4s worthy of your attention gets easier every year. Flip through the following pages and start planning your next rig or next modification. We can't wait to see it, and more importantly, we can't wait to show it to the rest of the world.
The 4x4 Equivalent Of Your Backyard HammockGMC-Mog
Daniel Tibus built this K15 in Germany and then had it shipped over to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari so we could check it out. We had toyed with the idea of putting Unimog axles under a fullsize truck ourselves, but could never have done as clean an install as this. The portal Unimog axles he runs have a lot of advantages over even the Dana 60, and after Daniel narrows the housings and converts them to disc brakes the only downside is the 7.54: 1 axle ratio, if you consider that a downside.
Vehicle: '85 GMC K15
Owner: Daniel Tibus
Tires: 39.5x15-16.5 Swamper
Wheels: 16.5x9.75 Hummer bead lock
Front Suspension: Radius arm two-link with track bar, Eibach springs, and Koni shocks
Rear Suspension: Three-link wishbone system that uses an upper triangulated arm from a Rover and lower arms from a Mercedes G-Series truck with Eibach springs and Rough Country shocks
Engine: 6.2L GM diesel with 4,800 engine rpm injection pump, 170 bar injectors, and J-code intake manifold
Transmission: 4L80E with Jet TCM
Transfer Case: 2.61:1 NVG218 AMG clocked up for better ground clearance
Front Axle: Killer Axle 404 Unimog portal, 3.54 gears in diff, 2.13:1 geared hubs at knuckles, Unimog selectable locker, and eight-lug hub conversion
Rear Axle: Killer Axle 404 Unimog portal, 3.54 gears in diff, 2.13:1 geared hubs at knuckles, Unimog selectable locker, and eight-lug hub conversion
Advantages: Extreme ground clearance, flexible suspension, and more room than a Jeep
Drawbacks: Early Hummer 218 transfer case has not held up. In Germany a 39-inch Swamper costs $700
If you hate getting covered in mud, and you can't afford to compete in desert racing or rockcrawling, there's still a ton of fun to be had roaming the desert range. Unlike with mud and rocks, you are far more likely to take your daily driver out for a day in the dirt without needing to spend a week in the car wash or the body shop undoing the fun-damage.
These seven rigs are about having fun with as little stress as possible. That's what being a Desert Dog is all about-relaxing and cruising your favorite trails with as little work as possible. These rigs will hardly ever break and always make for good trail companions, and the drivers will always be in good moods.