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Go Back   REVscene Automotive Forum > Automotive Chat > 4x4's and the Great Outdoors

When pavement meets dirt, Beautiful British Columbia
When life on tarmac isn't enough. This section is for 4x4 Offroad Events, Pics, Discussion. Places to test your truck, Techniques and Skills. Everyone of all skill levels are welcome. Got a wicked campsite you would like to share? Discover the great outdoors, gear discussion etc.
A little mud never hurts, so get down and dirty...

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Old 01-28-2010, 12:38 AM   #1
What hasn't Killed me, has made me more tolerant of RS!
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Go Big or Go Home ?

A decent read writen by Lars ...


We've all heard that phrase but how many of us buy into it, or more importantly, how many wrongly buy into it? Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with someone building up their 4x4 so it suits the type of 'wheeling they like to do. For that matter, I'm fine with someone building up a 4x4 just because they enjoy having a built-up 4x4. What I'm cautioning people about, though, it the trap of building your 4x4 into something you don't really want. That's what happened to me.

I bought my '91 YJ when it was a bone-stock, "lady-driven" (yes, despite the hackneyed claim of a vehicle being lady-driven, mine actually was), very street-looking Jeep. Before that, I had a series of stock 4x4s; I grew up in the interior and I never owned anything else except 4x4s. But after living in the city for over a decade, I had gotten out of the activity of camping and exploring back roads. With my new Jeep, though, that interest in exploring returned. It just so happened that a friend of mine, and my brother, both bought new 4x4s at about the same time. So we started camping and exploring BC back roads together. But what really fanned the flames of my desire to build up my Jeep were two things: The Four wheeler's Companion, and the Internet. The former was a book of local 4x4 trails, which included some very difficult (at the time) trails. It was this book that showed me what a really tough trail looked like. The hardest, the Clear Creek trail, was way beyond my Jeep's capabilities. I actually visited it while on a camping trip one time and I was amazed at how tough it looked. But I was even more amazed when I saw a group of modified Toyotas and an Early Bronco come down the trail, easily crawling over the big boulders. That's when the idea of building up my Jeep crystallized in my mind. The build was a gradual process that spanned quite a few years and it was a lot of fun. With each major improvement, I was able to tackle tougher trails. But what I didn't notice at the time was that as I was able to do tougher trails, I was also becoming reluctant to do the easier trails. It wasn't just because they were boring. It was because my Jeep was slowly becoming less and less comfortable to drive for longer distances and at highway speeds. In other words, for all practical purposes, building up my Jeep didn't actually result in me having more trails to 'wheel on. I just traded the easier ones for the harder ones.

I didn't mind the trade because I was having too much fun on the harder trails. But after several years of that, my interest began to wane. The problem with hard trails is that there really aren't that many of them, so you end up doing them a lot. You also run a greater risk of damaging your vehicle because, well, the trails are hard. Inevitably, I became tired of 'wheeling the same old trails and sustaining an ever higher damage-to-kilometers-driven ratio. Now, you're probably wondering where I'm going with this, right? Let me be clear that I'm not saying it's a sucker's bet to build a hard core off-road vehicle. I know many people who continue to enjoy that type of 'wheeling even after several years in the game. What I am saying is that you need to be very careful about how far you choose to go with your build. In my case, I went too far for what I was truly interested in. And then there was the other big change in my life: I became the father of two kids. Simply put, my YJ was too small to bring my wife and our kids camping.

My Jeep when I first got it, and then when I sold it. My next 4x4 will be somewhere in between those two extremes.

After far too many hours spent reminiscing about past 4x4 trips and daydreaming about what vehicle I should get, I've decided that I would be best served by a mid-sized SUV sitting on 33" tires, enough lift and fender trimming to fit those tires, and a pair of lockers. I think that, for me, is the sweet spot between building big and staying stock. With that setup, I figure I could do all the hard trails that actually go somewhere interesting (as opposed to hard trails that were built solely to provide a four wheeling challenge). With the addition of a roof rack, it would also give me the room I need to carry my family and camping gear comfortably. Also, by sticking with 33" tires, the highway manners should still be quite acceptable and not make me paranoid about getting stopped by a cop for a vehicle inspection. That's what I think will work best for me. Reaching this decision wasn't easy, by the way. After many years of driving a capable 4x4 (my Jeep was by no means a hard-core 4x4, but it was quite capable, nonetheless), it's tough to accept a future of driving a hard-top 4x4 rolling on little 33" tires. I can't deny the guilty pleasure of driving an aggressive-looking 4x4. But I also couldn't deny the fact that I avoiding going on some great 4x4 trips because it was a very sucky experience driving my Jeep on the highway. So, while I know that I'll miss being able to do some of the 4+ trails, moving to a less-capable but more highway friendly vehicle will end up giving me more enjoyment.

As for you, dear reader, you'll have to decide what's works best for yourself. Just remember that every now and then, it's a good idea to take a step back and think about where you're going with your vehicle's build up. Do you have a clear goal or are you stuck in a constant game of keeping up with, or beating, your 'wheeling buddies? Like I said, there's nothing wrong with building a full-on rock crawler, just make sure that's what you really want.

Happy trails, everyone.


00 em1 - I/H/E, act hdss, koni coilover's, 17' konig helium's ... DD
97 ek - b16 swaped sleeper ... parted RIP
90 ef - I/E, rota slips, 140db stereo ... sold & missed
91 ef - sold
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Old 01-31-2010, 02:35 PM   #2
Better safe than Surrey
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good read.
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Old 02-26-2010, 11:23 AM   #3
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Flashback... I rode in his Jeep in 1999. lol
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