Four Wheeler|February 2022
Tori Tellem
The Feb. '12 issue of Four Wheeler was perhaps one of our most significant. It marked 50 years of being published. Humans are lucky to live that long, let alone paper goods. To celebrate, we did a deep dive and revisited the magazine's entire history—the ebb and flow of new 4x4s, how you were building and modifying your vehicles, groundbreaking new products, events from around the world, trends that went mainstream (or crashed and burned), automotive milestones, and everything else related to the off-road world.

Then we blinked.

We're now at our 60th anniversary. Don't think much of - 196 note could have happened in just 10 years that could shift the entire off-road industry? Without effort, some things that instantly come to mind include the increasing demand for electric vehicles, a global pandemic, a new segment called Overlanding (to which we responded with our popular Four Wheeler Overland Adventure event), the rise and/or fall of diesel engines and compact trucks, and an auto manufacturer chip shortage that caused unremarkable used 4x4s to cost nearly as much as some base-model new ones. And while we've reflected mainly on happenings of the past decade, we did manage to sneak in a few moments from the previous decades, too.

Remember our 50th-anniversary recap? It was in the February 2012 issue. We also did a 54th-anniversary recap in the May '16 issue, which may sound random to celebrate, but it was an excuse to put together a collection of The Best —our best-of feature trucks, adventures, ads, and Top Truck Challenge, with never-before seen-before-then photos.

Truth be told, 60 years later, it still feels like we're just getting started, because age is only a number, right? But we know we couldn't have made it to any TH number, let alone to the diamond anniversary, without the ongoing support of our readers and advertisers, to which our gratitude is as immense as a monster truck.

It was the July '20 “Firing Order column that perhaps ERSARY said it best: “As we've done since 1962, our goal is to 2022 offer 4x4 fans worldwide inspiration, entertainment, and information. So buckle up, Four Wheeler is on the throttle. We've been at wide-open throttle from day 1 to day 21,900, and that's where we're staying. Thank you for being along for the ride!

How It Started, How It's Going

“The first issue of a new magazine is really difficult to put together. There are so many things you want to include—and so many more facts about the stories you do include that the whole project is discouraging.”

—Feb. ’62, “Our First Year”

“Four Wheeler got started at a meeting of the California State Association of 4wd clubs in the fall of 1963 when I made a brief announcement of my idea. I sent out a subscription advertisement and our first subscriber, a confident man in Utah, sent in in [sic] his money for twelve issues.”

—Nov. ’65, “Editor’s Report”

“Four Wheeler is 30. In that time, the magazine has been up and been down, been saved and been lost, bought, and sold.”

—Mar. ’92, “Random Input”

“We receive dozens, sometimes hundreds of your reader's rigs each month, and as regular readers know, there are never enough pages in the magazine to showcase them all.”

—Jan. ’07, “Limited Articulation”

“John F. Kennedy was President, Marilyn Monroe was still alive, John Glenn was the first American orbiting the earth in space, and a postage stamp cost four cents—that’s what was going on 50 years ago when Four Wheeler printed its first issue in February 1962. It’s hard to put it in perspective, especially when you consider that the iPhone in your pocket has more computing power than John Glenn’s entire spaceship.”

—Feb. ’12, “Firing Order”

“For those new to the magazine world, David Freiburger is one of the main editors that helped transform off-road magazines like Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road from mall-crawler showcases to technical how-to books that featured real-world wheeling trucks.”

—May ’13, “Off-Road Heroes”

“I’m not going to make Four Wheeler into a clone of the other off-road brands under the SIM umbrella, but I am going to annihilate any remaining vestiges of the days when real off-roaders referred to it as Faux Wheeler.”

—June ’14, “Firing Order”

“Four Wheeler has always been something of an enigma to me. On the one hand, you have lots of new vehicle reviews and testing, including our Four Wheeler of the Year and Pickup Truck of the Year competitions. If you care about off-road performance, our evaluations are the ones you really want to follow ’cause, while other venues like Motor Trend or Automobile may be good at citing facts and figures or talking about how many potted plants you can cram in the cargo area, they think driving a graded dirt road counts as off-roading. Mix in some up-to-date breaking new product info and new vehicle modifications, and if you’re a late-model guy, you’ll most likely find what you’re after in Four Wheeler’s pages. But on the other hand, Four Wheeler also has Top Truck Challenge, an event which showcases the most extreme hardcore (and often budget-built) vehicles out there.”

—Aug. ’14, “Firing Order”

“I’ve been a subscriber since 1976—got every issue including the special monster truck issues. Somehow, one thing led to another, and after 4 years at the University of Illinois, I decided to set out with my brother Mark to build one. After all, we thought if we could somehow make a living doing it—why that would almost be as good as working for an off-road magazine.”

—Jan. ’20, “Inbox”

“I was really surprised to find the March 2020 issue of Four Wheeler in my mailbox today. As a 40-plus-year subscriber, I am saddened that Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road has been discontinued. Honestly, I have been a little disappointed in Four Wheeler in recent years ... that being the reason I chose not to renew my subscription a few years ago. I have to say the March 2020 Four Wheeler has left me speechless and impressed.”

—Sept. ’20, “Inbox”

“I’m interested in submitting my truck to be in your magazine. Many ask why a magazine? Well, simply because when this style truck was popular, magazines were our go-to for ideas and parts sources. And inspiration.”

—Sept. ’21 “Inbox”

“First off, thank you for your fantastic magazine. I’ve been religiously reading it for the last 25-plus years.”

—Dec. ’21, “Inbox”

Four Wheeler’s Numbers Obsession: Sampler Platter

“Ten Terrific Trips” —July ’15

“The Top 13 First Modifications We Would Make to the All-New 2018 Jeep Wrangler

—June ’18

“21 Cool Products for All Types of 4x4s”

—May ’17

“22 Proven Parts You Need”

—May ’03

“A mega collection of 34 new tires for your 4x4”

—Apr. ’18

“35 New Cheap Tricks”

—Apr. ’93

“42 ways to dress the wheels on your 4x4”

—Apr. ’19

“43 Ways to Lift, Level, or Overhaul Your Rig’s Suspension”

—Aug. ’19

“54 Hot Upgrades and Accessories”

—May ’20

“101 Great American Trails”—Aug. ’88 “Flash! Record-Breaking Issue 124 Pages”

—June ’76


“In 1979, the biggest Wrangler Radial you could get was 32.4 inches tall. A brand-new GMC Jimmy cost $6,870; a CJ-5 cost $5,582 with lots of options, and a Ford F-150 Flareside short bed cost $6,470 with a 351 V-8, CB radio, automatic trans, air conditioning, and Trac-Lok.”

—Dec. ’89, “Random Input”

“As for pricing, a nicely equipped ’20 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 Crew Cab 4x4 with the 5.3L EcoTec3 V-8 will set one back around $54,000. A loaded Sierra 2500 Crew Cab AT4 Duramax like we drove comes in around $77,000. Step up to a full-featured ’20 Sierra 2500 Denali Duramax Crew Cab 4x4, and the MSRP is pushing $79,600.”

—Feb. ’20, “Pulling Ahead”

“I bought my ’85 Ramcharger in 1991 for $4,000 with less than 80,000 miles on it. A similar vehicle today in non-running condition, a roached interior, and 200,000 additional miles on the odometer is poking the $7,000 mark. We used to routinely see flat fenders for less than $1,000. Heck, I paid $400 for my ’53 DJ-3A back in 2000. Now you’re lucky to find one missing the engine and drivetrain for under $3,000. And YJ or TJ Wrangler prices have eclipsed CJ-7 prices. I paid $500 for my ’89 Wrangler less than 15 years ago but now you’ll be lucky to find one in the same condition I bought mine for under $7,500. Or my favorites; Wagoneers and Cherokee Chiefs. I can’t understand how the same vehicle I paid $800 for about 10 years ago is now fetching more than 10 times that amount in much poorer condition. Heck, I recently saw an XJ Wagoneer with woodgrain siding in average condition with a $19,000 price tag. Yup, it’s just dumb, but it won’t last forever.”

—Sept. ’21, “4xForward”

The Story of “Of the Year” Competitions, Told in 222 Words

“Four Wheeler of the Year, our annual new 4x4 competition, was started way back in 1974, with our inaugural winner being the full-size ’74 Jeep Cherokee. Back then the award was simply called the “Four Wheeler Achievement Award.”

—Feb. ’12, “2012 Four Wheeler of the Year”

“By the late ’80s, the SUV world had grown by leaps and bounds, so we split the test into two parts and created specialized scoring for each. The goal for the two tests remained the same: introduce, disseminate, and test the latest and greatest four-wheel-drive vehicles.”

—June ’18, “2018 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year”

“Pickup Truck of the Year (PTOTY) was launched in 1989 as a spinoff event from Four Wheeler of the Year, which traces its roots back to 1974.”

—June ’17, “2017 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year”

“Four Wheeler of the Year contains two tests. One is SUV of the Year (SUVOTY) and the other is Pickup Truck of the Year (PTOTY).”

—Dec. ’16, “Four Wheeler of the Year 2017”

“Five days and approximately 1,000 miles, both on and off-road—that’s the short story.”

—May ’18, “2018 SUV of the Year”

“We score each of the vehicles based on extensive testing criteria of five weighted categories that include Trail Performance (30%), Empirical (25%), On Pavement (20%), Interior (15%), and Exterior (10%).”

—Feb. ’12, “2012 Four Wheeler of the Year”

“The 2017 competition was special, partly because it had a new name (it was formerly known as Four Wheeler of the Year)…”

—May ’17, “2017 Four Wheeler SUV of the Year”

“SUV of the Year (SUVOTY), formerly known as Four Wheeler of the Year, celebrated its 45th year in 2018.”

—May ’18, “2018 SUV of the Year”


“Off-roaders are well aware of the growing popularity of vans.”

—July ’72, “Four Wheelin’”

“The boom of 4WD vehicles is just at the beginning stages in my country, Japan.”

—Feb. ’82, “Letters”

“We’re bringing back an idea whose time has come again: namely, we’re looking for America’s ugliest truck...”

—Oct. ’08, “Limited Articulation

“One other thing that we noticed in abundance this year was the relatively large quantity of ‘nonhardcore’ trail machines in abundance—hundreds of Jeep TJs and JKs, Cherokee XJs, and Toyota FJ Cruisers sporting off-the-shelf suspension lifts, Dana axles, and 33- to 35-inch tires.”

—Aug. ’10, “Limited Articulation”

“Over the years Top Truck suspensions have reflected how our reader’s wheel and there have been a wide array of setups. Yes, technology has certainly affected how these suspensions have been built through the years, and many have sported the latest and-greatest products of the time, but not everyone has jumped on the technology bandwagon. As a matter of fact, some Top Truck competitors have burned the bandwagon to the ground and created their own suspensions using thinking that is far outside the box.”

—May ’12, “High Tech & Homegrown”

“I’d love to tell you that solid axle 4x4s are making a comeback, but the truth is I’m typically laughed out of the building whenever I ask a vehicle manufacturer to offer a 4x4 with a solid front axle.”

—June ’12, “Firing Order”

“Demand is so high for EcoBoost V-6 engines, Ford has added a third shift where they are built.”

—Sept. ’12, “RPM”

“What happened to camping? When did some self-absorbed, highbrow, pompous ass decide to call it something so pretentious sounding? I’m talking about Overlanding.”

—Oct. ’12, “Firing Order”

“The independent front suspension (IFS) is on a tear. It wasn’t that long ago (2001) that the entire Jeep vehicle line (Wrangler TJ, Cherokee XJ, and Grand Cherokee WJ) sported a solid front axle. Now, 12 years later, only one Jeep (Wrangler JK) has a solid front axle. IFS is also found under all new 1⁄2-ton and compact pickup trucks, all SUVs (excluding the Wrangler), and one-third of 3⁄4- and 1-ton pickups sold in the U.S. Further, IFS is used on some desert racing trucks as well as Tough Trucks, King of the Hammers machines, and military vehicles.”

—Aug. ’13, “Frontend Feud”

“You see, there’s a new trend on the trail: action cams (also called POVs). Four-wheelers are regularly mounting them to their 4x4s and shooting the trail and obstacles or the details of how their trucks perform offroad, like how the suspension looks at full droop.”

—Aug. ’13, “Two Idiots Outside”

“Today, SUVs with two-speed transfer cases are becoming more and more rare.”

—Apr. ’14, “Firing Order”

HOT: LS Engine Swaps NOT: Diesel Engine Swaps

—Dec. ’14, “Do This, Not That”

“We often joke about the typical SEMA show truck. Interestingly enough, many SEMA trucks look like cartoons.”

—Mar. ’15, “Excess Overload”

“Motorcycles seemed to greatly outnumber the 4x4s at the Expo.”

—July ’15, “Overland Expo East”

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Bronco Options, a New Four-speed, an Alternative to the Divorced 'case, and More From 1966

As Four Wheeler magazine is celebrating its 60th anniversary throughout 2022, our nostalgia levels remain high and we dove into the archives. With no particular rhyme or reason, we flipped open the October 1966 edition of the magazine, landing on these highlights from Ford, Chevy, and Dodge.

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