Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Whatever happened to the hobby of converting various types of passenger cars to 4x4's, most often by attaching the bodies of various cars to the frame and powertrain of a 4x4 truck.

Back in the 1970's and 1980's, I used to see a lot of passenger cars that had been transformed into 4wd vehicles. Usually, then and now, the question is "why" to some folks, but to me a well done car 4x4 vehicle conversion is kinda cool.

Back in the 70's and 80's, you'd see them occasionally in Houston. I'm not one to frequent car shows, but back in the day I was more well read in various auto magazines including 4x4 magazines and fairly regularly you'd see a feature on a 4x4 car, usually pretty customized and chromed.

Back then, they used to say "If it don't go, chrome it" but that wasn't always true with some of the 4x4 car conversions that I saw that were built on a good 4x4 and transmission system.

It was not unusual in the 4wd magazines of the time to see Camaros or Trans Ams or El Caminos or other vehicles placed on a 4wd truck frame.  

Back then, 4x4 vans were also a rarity. I remember I saw some movie in 1977 or 1978 that had something to do with the beach and a high school near said beach and one of the rich-kid-about-to-graduate-high-school characters had a 4x4 van, and I thought that was pretty cool.

I occasionally peruse ebay and clist and look at 4x4 vans. I see a lot of folks offering auction finds on both places, so I need to find some of the auctions as some of the vehicles are reasonably priced with fairly low milage and of recent vintage. But I know you can get one for far less money at the auction itself, often governmental or corporate vehicle auctions.

I have not seen that many cars converted into 4x4's in recent years as I used to see back in the day. I don't read the 4wd magazines anymore and don't know if many people are still converting 

I've sorta looked around a bit on the web using the search term 4x4 cars and there are a few pics of cars turned into a 4x4. A lot of times, you find folks and websites referring to AWD cars as 4x4, but that's not really true. I'm talking about 4wd you control with a transfer case and a shift lever, not a dial or a knob on the dashboard.

I would probably now own, and certainly would have owned, a Subaru in the last 20 years if they were truly 4wd. Too bad they are "on demand" AWD, although I'm sure that their AWD are pretty great driving cars on the road, I remember the 70's when their hatchback/station wagons and the Brat had an actual transfer case and 4wd shift lever instead of AWD. My memory says it was some kind of funky transfer case, like with just one high and low each, and maybe someone can educate me on that.

I've always been a fan of rally cars and motorcycles that run the desert races like the Baha and the Barstow to Vegas run. The Subaru Impreza WRX or whatever it's called would be a whole lot better of a car with a lot more torque and an actual 4wd model.

After the recent LA car show, that I read somewhere that the Rogue by Nisson might one day soon have actual 4wd. Although really the Rogue is a small SUV, it's a handy size for the outdoors if it had a real 4wd system.

There was recently an online feature about cars for armageddon or something like that done by Popular Mechanics, and one of the cars was a very cool custom made (i.e. built by you + friends at the companies factory) car called  The Rally Fighter. Check it out because it's pretty cool, although I'd have gone a different way with the powertrain and some other design features. It's inspiring and it's cool in a desert off-road car kind of way.

I just googled offroad cars and came across a bunch of good links, so I'll get back more on off-road cars soon.

1 comment:

  1. I remember those days! Some real talent went into those creations. It is possible that is where some of the inspiration came for the major car-makers to create SUVs.

    I loved all of my old 4x4 vehicles (stock) but I have settled into to my old 1999 AWD GMC van. When it finally rots away I dunno what I will replace it with; it has been a good work horse. My first 4x4 was a rust bucket 1966 International Scout. Other than the seats, the interior was metal.