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  • Our Favorite Magazine Project Builds: Staff Picks

Our Favorite Magazine Project Builds: Staff Picks

Pickup, Jeep, Bronco, Toyota, SUV, or other.

Christian Hazel
Jun 1, 2020
The Four Wheeler Network and Truck Trend Network are composed of many, many brands that have existed in one form or another since the early 1960s. Over all that time, each has performed many full-blown project vehicle builds. So what are our favorites of all time and why? Glad you asked, because here's what the staff had to say when asked that very question.
Photo 2/8   |   01 Our Favorite Magazine Project Builds Lead

Ken Brubaker: Project GI Gyp

Photo 3/8   |   02 Our Favorite Magazine Project Builds 1985 M1008 Cucv John Cappa Gi Gyp Suspension Flex
There have been so many outstanding project 4x4s within our family of publications over the years, it's truly mind boggling. But my favorite was John Cappa's 1985 M1008 CUCV pickup he called GI Gyp. Anyone who knows John knows he thinks outside the box when it comes to building 4x4s, and GI Gyp reflected his thought process with a variety of unique mods. Even in stock form the truck was appealing to me for several reasons. It was a fullsize rig, ex-military, and diesel-powered. Yeah, the 6.2L wasn't exactly a powerhouse, but it did the job. I really dug how he converted an M101A2 trailer to the truck's bed. John did an exceptional job with GI Gyp, and the truck not only worked well off-road, it looked darn good on-road with its wide-shouldered, beefy stance, lack of frou-frou, and quasi-military demeanor. Yes, please.

Jeremy Cook: Project Over/Under

Photo 4/8   |   03 Our Favorite Magazine Project Builds Cooksilv
Since I come from the Truckin side of the group, I had to pick one that we did. I truly think it was one of the best buildups we did in a long time. We took a 2003 Chevy 1500 standard cab longbed with the 4.8L and made it into something truly respectable—on road and off. What started as a beat-up work truck got a full rebuild that included all the bolt-on horsepower available for the engine, huge interior and audio upgrades, and most important, a 7-inch lift, 35s, and a 4.56:1 limited-slip rearend. Exterior upgrades include a shell, bumper steps, a rack, an HD front end and mirrors, and custom matte tan paint. Check out the full build here.

Jason Gonderman: Project Mega Titan

Photo 5/8   |   04 Our Favorite Magazine Project Builds Project Mega Tital
Seriously, why aren't these questions getting any easier? There have been so many great projects built by the editors of the Four Wheeler Network that choosing just one is a near impossible task. Fortunately, one project stands head and shoulders above the rest, Project Mega Titan. Beginning life as a 2004 Nissan Titan, Project Mega Titan led readers on a journey that ended with a darn near legit monster truck. The Titan had 54-inch tires, massive axles, a full rollcage, rear-steer, and way too much else to mention. This project holds a special spot for me as it was the first vehicle that I had driven with rear-steering (the manual hydraulic kind, not the GM Quadrasteer variety). As far as I know, the truck still exists and lives along the coast in Northern California. The project ran from early 2005 until about 2011. Not all of the stories still live online (thanks to a few systems changes over the years), however, I've found some of the installments.
Photo 6/8   |   05 Our Favorite Magazine Project Builds Project Mega Titan
2004 Nissan Titan - Project Titan, Part 2
2004 Nissan Titan - Project Titan, Part 4
2004 Nissan Titan - Project Titan, Part 7
2004 Nissan Titan Dynatrac Pro Rock Dana 80 - Project Mega Titan
2004 Nissan Titan Exhaust Upgrades - Project Mega Titan: Part 9
2004 Nissan Titan Rear Steering Kit—Project Mega Titan
UPDATED WITH VIDEO!—Nissan Titan XD Warrior Concept Debuts in Detroit
2009 South Eastern Tough Truck Challenge Florida
 

Christian Hazel: Freiburger's 1975 Dodge Ramcharger

Photo 7/8   |   06 Our Favorite Magazine Project Builds David Freiburger Ramcharger
As the builder of over a dozen project vehicles in various publications myself, I'll ignore the overwhelming impulse to select one of my own creations and will instead go with the one that made my head explode when I first saw it in the pages of Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road. Although as a subscriber, at the time I admittedly dug watching the transformation of Ed Fortson's "Cheap Thrills" 1973 Chevy shortbed stepside pickup with white wagon wheels (for which I'm a total sucker) from zero to hero, I'm a firm function over form kind of guy. Plus, I've always been a Mopar/Dodge fanatic.
Shortly after Freiburger took over the helm of 4WOR around 1996, the gorgeous (to my eyes) red-on-white Ramcharger first appeared as fodder for a 6-inch Skyjacker lift story. Using the factory semi-float Dana 44 front and Chrysler 9.25 rear, Freiburger shoehorned some 36-inch Denman Ground Hawg tires on Eaton steel wheels under the vintage sheetmetal. A follow-up to that article was the installation of 1-ton axles sourced from Boyce Equipment. But instead of using a Dodge axle, a CUCV Chevy Dana 60 with narrower spring perch spacing than the Dodge was used. Rather than cut one of the perches off and move it out an inch or so, they ratchet-strapped the springs in and cinched down the U-bolts.
It was a down-n-dirty git-r-done install, but the end result was spring U-bolt nuts that frequently walked loose and twitchy, sketchy handling on the road. But none of that mattered to me because somebody had finally built a Ramcharger on 1-tons. The last time I remember seeing that truck in was an epic winch comparison article in which Freiburger and his staff dragged the truck up the Panamint Springs trail. By the time I joined the 4WOR staff a few years later, I found myself duplicating many of the finer points of this build with my '85 Ramcharger like the 6-inch Skyjacker suspension, removable roof, and 1-ton axles while learning from some of Freiburger's mistakes. In my mind, while not the most mechanically perfect project, Freiburger's '75 Ramcharger broke barriers and pushed the boundaries of its time and at the end of the day, to me that's the most important role of an editorial project vehicle.
 

Verne Simons: 1985 Toyota 4Runner

Photo 8/8   |   07 Our Favorite Magazine Project Builds Steve Sasaki Powertank 4runner
Of the rigs that went on the first Ultimate Adventure, I remember being amazed by Steve Sasaki's Red 1985 Toyota 4Runner. That vehicle seemed to me at the time to be one of the most capable rigs a person could get away with daily driving. It even inspired me to go find my own 1985 SR5 4Runner. If course mine wasn't as nice as Steve's, and the 22RE left something to be desired. From there I became obsessed with flatfender Jeeps. John Cappa's beat-up CJ-2A with red scallops on the hood and Rick P w 's beat-up Ford GPW made my enthusiast's heart go pitter patter. Once I started working at the magazine, there were so many cool projects that I'm not sure I could narrow it down to just one or two. If I had to, I'd say I'm a pretty big fan of my own 1949 CJ-3A. Shrink Ray TJ was also a ton of fun for me. I wish I could steal Fred Williams' UA Summer Camp Jeep. John Cappa's hot dog truck on Rockwells: That truck was innovative and low despite being huge. I'm a huge fan of the UACJ6D and the Ultimate International for selfish reasons.

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