4×4 Garage Is Back! The Team at Four Wheeler Is Making a New 4×4 Video Series
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and this company conveyed the majority of its storytelling by spraying ink onto dead trees, then selling the finished products as tangible periodicals of which you could dog-ear a page, newsstand sales contributed substantially to our corporate bottom line. So much so, in fact, that during the early 2000s the company was always looking for another idea to turn into a title they could sell through their newsstand distribution. That’s how I wound up launching a new brand.
It was 2003 and then-Publisher John Steward (former editor of Four Wheeler magazine) and Editorial Director Doug McColloch (also former editor of Four Wheeler) got the idea to create a 4×4-themed, newsstand-only title. They invited me to John’s office overlooking Angel Stadium to hear any ideas I had on the subject. No sooner had I arrived than they whisked me out of the building to an executive lunch at a high-class joint called Hooters. Between the mediocre chicken wings and unremarkable burgers the three of us devised and outlined what would soon become our company’s new tech-based 4×4 SIP (special interest publication). We had a couple of working titles, but nothing that really captured the entirety of what the new publication would be about. It was actually my wife, that night, who said, “why not just call it 4×4 Garage?” Winner, winner, Hooters chicken dinner!
And so, while still serving as tech editor of Jp Magazine, I set about writing almost an entire issue of 4×4 Garage myself (though I did manage to con one or two of my coworkers into doing stories for me that the editor of the books they worked for wouldn’t green-light, like a Banks turbo installation Fred Williams did on his horrendously slow CUCV 6.2-liter diesel). This was all assembled and published as a winter 2004 issue, and it did really well, but for reasons I can’t recall it was a couple more years before we came out with the second issue, which I put together in 2007 and sold on newsstands for a few months in 2008. That issue hit like a sledgehammer, and soon the company was putting a 4×4 Garage SIP out on the newsstands a couple times a year. Only by then, I had moved up to being editor of Jp Magazine and others were editing 4×4 Garage.
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Fast-forward to about two months ago and, bang, I’m invited to a meeting about a new tech-based 4×4 video series show called … you guessed it … 4×4 Garage! So now I’ve sorta come full-circle, serving as host of MotorTrend’s new 4×4 Garage video series. I don’t want this to be a super-polished fluff piece in which parts magically fall onto completely pristine and perfectly prepped vehicles. Here’s the unvarnished truth: I’m not perfect. The stuff I do doesn’t always work out perfectly. Aftermarket parts aren’t always built perfectly. Sh!% goes wrong, and when it does, I don’t wanna hide it from y’all on this show. I’m not looking to make myself out to seem like a total clown who can’t work a screwdriver, but I also don’t want to magically star-wipe away the warts that come with building 4x4s. The first episode of this new show will be dropping on MotorTrend’s YouTube Channel on April 30, so be sure to check it out.
We’re prepping a buddy’s 1988 Bronco with some relatively simple bolt-on parts so he can take it on Overland Adventure. Simple, right? Well, with today’s manufacturing shortages and supply chain hiccups, we actually started filming before any of the parts had landed. Then, the diffs to regear the Dana 44 TTB and 8.8-inch rear got delayed after we had torn the Bronco apart. And because we had to get the vehicle out of our borrowed lift bay at the SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar, California, between shooting the first and second episodes, we wound up assembling the front without the drive components. Like I said, warts and imperfections. But I promise you it’ll all be real and relevant, just like the print version of this magazine was. So tune in if you wanna and check it out. I’ll be posting updates on my @hbombindustries Instagram account as the build unfolds.
“4XForward” is the monthly column of the Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road brand, penned by editor-in-chief Christian Hazel. It’s a fun, if not slightly warped, rabbit hole of random thoughts from Hazel’s noggin, often assembled into a cohesive comparison or metaphor related to off-roading. Send feedback to [email protected] or hit him at @hbombindustries on Instagram.
Watch Episode 1 of 4×4 Garage! Ford Bronco Build, Part 1
Ford Bronco Build Update: 4/25/22
It’s been some weeks since we first wrote about the new 4×4 Garage show, and in that time we’ve put a lot of work into the 1988 Ford Bronco we used to kick off the show. The Bronco was a well-worn but good-looking example that’s typical of what you’d find on the used market today. The engine was solid, but really needed a good tune and some neglected maintenance addressed. The exhaust system had been sort of butchered, with a custom single-into-dual system that had omitted the catalytic converter. The factory suspension was worn and rough, and the brakes, starter, battery, and even transmission were in need of some quick repairs to make this rig safe and reliable.
Realtruck: Superlift 6-inch TTB Long-Arm Suspension
The first thing we did was rip the factory suspension out from under this vehicle to install a 6-inch Superlift suspension system that replaces the short radius arms with longer radius arms for a smoother ride on-road and more potential for flex off-road without binding.
Additionally, we upgraded the steering system to Superlift’s Superunner steering system that greatly reduces the angles on the factory tie rods and helps reduce bumpsteer and toe change as the longer-travel Superlift suspension cycles.
Eaton Detroit Truetrac Limited-Slips and 4.88 Gears
We’re making sure this Bronco works as well as possible both on- and off-road. To help with that, we selected some 4.88 gears to regain the drivetrain’s mechanical advantage and turn the 37-inch Falken tires we’ll be running. And for exceptional traction no matter what, we gave the nod to a pair of Eaton Detroit Truetrac limited-slip differentials for the front TTB Dana 44 and rear Ford 8.8 rear. The Truetrac is a helical-gear limited-slip differential that does not use consumable clutch packs or cones like some other aftermarket limited-slip differentials, and requires no special lubricant additives for proper operation. It’s been our firsthand experience that the impressive traction you’ll get out of an Eaton Truetrac on Day 11,111 will be the same as you get on Day 1. They’re forgiving and civilized on the street, but off-road they’ll give this Bronco all the tractive performance required to go anywhere we’d want to take this classic full-size 4×4 in our quest for adventure.
Duralast Brakes, Starter, and AGM High-Performance Battery
While we had the suspension apart to regear the differentials we discovered our front disc and rear drum brakes were in sorry shape. The pads and rotors up front were fairly worn and the calipers were rusty as all get-out. Out back, one of our axle seals was leaking and had entirely contaminated our brake shoes, plus both drums had a noticeable wear ridge you could easily catch with your thumbnail, so it was a great opportunity to visit the Duralast website and order all the parts we needed to make it right.
After we got the differentials regeared with their new 4.88s and Eaton Truetrac differentials, we upgraded our front brake pads and rotors to high-quality Duralast Gold parts. The Duralast Gold exceeds OE specifications and will give us the secure stopping power we need to haul the larger-diameter 37×12.50R17 tires down from speed safely and securely.
Out back, new Duralast brake shoes and Duralast drums replaced the checked and worn factory-replacement parts to make sure this old horse stops on a dime.
While we were underneath we noticed the factory starter that had been dragging was in need of replacement, so while the Bronco was up on the lift, a new Duralast Gold starter went in, and while we were already upgrading electrical components, a Duralast Platinum AGM battery replaced the wet-cell unit that we inadvertently killed by leaving the ignition in the ON position overnight.
The Duralast Platinum AGM battery offers a big reserve capacity and long amp hours to keep overlanding gear like onboard fridges and inverters running without completely draining the battery of starting power, plus the AGM construction is ideal to withstand the rigors of harsh off-roading and pounding down rutted washes and rough terrain all day long.
Holley for Our Ignition and Exhaust Upgrades
On the initial test drive of this 1988 Ford Bronco, before any work had been performed, the most noticeable thing about the truck when running was the horrendous exhaust leak and insanely loud note coming from the twin tailpipes, and a bad ignition stumble right off-idle. Given the fact that, as we said earlier, the exhaust was completely missing a catalytic converter, we needed to dive into the exhaust system anyway to make this truck legal for use in California.
The first thing we did was pop the hood to install a new MSD drop-in distributor, high-performance MSD ignition coil, and a set of cut-to-fit MSD low-resistance, high-performance ignition wires. All the MSD parts fit like a dream.
Then we quickly segued to cutting out the old exhaust system and removing the cast exhaust manifolds from the factory 302ci V-8. As it turns out, the exhaust leak we had heard was coming from a crack in the passenger-side manifold, so onto the engine went a set of very nice-fitting Flowtech headers. With the headers installed, we lifted the truck back up into the air and installed a full Flowmaster exhaust system consisting of a Y-pipe, replacement high-performance catalytic converter, a fully welded Flowmaster muffler that still allows some nice exhaust burble and a throaty sound without being obnoxiously loud, and a simple and elegant single tailpipe that exits in the factory location behind the passenger-side rear tire.
Superior Protection With Amsoil
There’s no two ways about it, upgrading your lubrication to Amsoil products is one of the best things you can do to ensure the highest level of protection for your vehicle’s moving parts. We completely flushed the old brake fluid in our 1988 Bronco’s system with Amsoil brake fluid, gave the engine a full crankcase of Amsoil’s OE full synthetic for longer drain intervals and the utmost in protection, and topped the front and rear differentials off with Amsoil’s excellent gear lube.
While we were at it, we treated our radiator to Amsoil’s Coolant Boost to give a huge boost to the coolant’s anti-corrosion properties, and help the engine come up to temperature more quickly to reduce tailpipe emissions and overall engine temps. The fully synthetic Amsoil product is engineered for maximum performance and protection no matter how hard you flog your ride. As long as your fluids are Amsoil, you’re gonna be as protected as possible.
All-Terrain Time With Falken Tire
For the final piece of the puzzle, nothing sets a vehicle off like the right tires. And for this 1988 Ford Bronco being built as a dual-purpose daily-driver and off-road overlanding platform, there was no better choice than Falken Tire’s exceptionally good Wildpeak A/T3W all-terrain in a 37×12.50R17 size.
The tires clear the Bronco’s fenders nicely thanks to the 6-inch Superlift suspension, and the tread is specifically designed to roll smoothly and quietly on the street while providing all-season performance, including the coveted Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol indicating exceptional performance in snow and severely cold conditions. The Wildpeak A/T3W packs insane amounts of technology into a tire that features a 55,000-mile tread life warranty, and includes ramped tread blocks that provide rigidity and resistance to chunking, rugged sidewall protection, internal cooling protection via sidewall-located heat diffusers, super-deep tread blocks, and shoulder lugs designed to provide interlocking support for high-torque situations while still remaining flexible enough to be supple when slow-speed finesse and finger-like traction is called for.
Watch Episode 1 of the New 4×4 Garage Video Series!
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