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I'm assuming those who go camping, hiking, or hunting know a few things about four wheeling. I'll Be looking for my first off road vehicle shortly. And I'm interested in what YOU may know, for I most assuredly don't. My first thought is to get something that has a sound chassis and rebuild ground up. So as I'll know I'll get MY 20-40yrs out of it. So my question lies, gasoline or diesel? I have in mind a mid to compact vehicle. I know very little about diesel, and as for gas, I am thinking an in line 6/ 4.0.... What say you?
 

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Live Secret, Live Happy
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I'm assuming those who go camping, hiking, or hunting know a few things about four wheeling. I'll Be looking for my first off road vehicle shortly. And I'm interested in what YOU may know, for I most assuredly don't. My first thought is to get something that has a sound chassis and rebuild ground up. So as I'll know I'll get MY 20-40yrs out of it. So my question lies, gasoline or diesel? I have in mind a mid to compact vehicle. I know very little about diesel, and as for gas, I am thinking an in line 6/ 4.0.... What say you?
I bought my first truck in 1976.
Trucks come in two flavors, heavy tow vehicles, and compact off road vehicles.

I love my Dodge Cummins 4WD pickup. But the engine makes it very heavy and not a good choice off road.

I love my Jeep Wrangler as well. Sucks as a tow vehicle but I can drive it on mud, sand, and into tight spaces.

Decide where you want to go, and what you want to do, before you start looking.
 

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if you wanted to build something, I'd suggest Jeep CJ7. you can build a brand new one with brand new parts if you wante (frame and all), but it would be expensive. so the parts support for jeep CJ7, wrangler is totally there.

i sold my CJ7 and have regretted it ever since!
 

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reluctant sinner
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I have driven a lot of 4x4 and 6x6 in the Army and out with lots of cross country work.

I still have my 72 FJ-40 Land Cruiser. I run a Rochester 2 barrel carb, a Delco straight mechanical advance distributor and a Man-a-fre 6 into one header. Below 35 mph I can get 25 mpg and 18 in high range 4x4. No brain box, reasonably EMP resistant.

I'd love to put air lockers in both axles. A Ranger overdrive would be nice.

It has never been to the shop, I do all my own work.

Will haul 2 people and camp; don't shoot anything bigger than a grouse if you plan to bring it home.

My daily driver is an 84 F150. Gets 15-17 mpg or less
 

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It's all gonna depend on your needs for what kind of off roading you plan on doing. Straight up off road vehicle that will spend minimal time on the pavement, you would want something small and light, like wrangler or something that size. If your looking for something to do some occasional off roading and also be your BOV, I would suggest something a little bit larger. More along the lines of a Cherokee or a blazer. Still capable of off road, but have more cargo area of you need to pack your supplies and bug out. If your choosing for a BOV, my opinion is to choose a vehicle that is still common on the road for if you ever need to scavenge for parts.
 

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My advice get a vehicle with a good frame; unibodied vehicles do not seem to be as able to absorb long term abuse as well (there are frame stiffeners that can be made, in some cases purchased, to help some unibodies).

Make up your mind whether you want too big a vehicle or too small a vehicle, and what you want it to do;
Pickups often have issues negotiating tight terrain; some rocks, and squirreling through trees.
Long wheel bases work better on stair steps and steep climbs/decents.
In general lighter works better off road.
Towing capacity is directly related to vehicle weight, hevier weight means harder stucks (it will happen).
Tall lifts can exhibit poor handling and ride on highway, and are a PITA to get in and out of.
Its a guarantee that there is an obstacle somewhere that is going to mess with your mind.

Personally, I favor a quite small vehicle that has stronger than stock axles, as low as possible center of gravity, selectable lockers front and rear and a manual transmission(got stranded by automatics too many times).

I would avoid the Jeep CJs although mine has given very good service for many decades (all except the last few years have marginal frames, IMO, and hard doors & door parts are getting hard to come by).
YJs have better frames than CJs, but if doing another build I would go with a TJ or JK (2 door).
Diesel engines are excessively heavy and normally have marginal rpm potiential (I have never seen a streetable diesel vehicle that was able to achieve floatation on very deep snow and many make great anchors in bottomless mud).. for warm dry climates they are likely great.
Diesel engines, some times, do not make great cold country vehicles.

I evaluate vehicle size based on crowded parking lots; If it is not easily able to negotiate a crowded parking lot and easily park in a standard parking space; it is not a good vehicle.
If it cannot do a u turn on a narrow two lane street it will probably have trouble with tight situations off road.

Size and gear the axles for the tire size (Dana 44 axles should be considered a minimum axle for an SUV size vehicle and too small for a rear truck axle). Gear them for reasonable mileage at highway cruising speeds, avoid extra low axle gearing (do your off road/low range gearing in the transfer case, not the transmission or axles).
Independent suspensions are way more complex, and often limit ground clearance; for not appreciably better ride as a trade off.

If you need additional load space consider an off road trailer, it can be left at camp.

All terrain tires will guarantee a stuck vehicle eventually.
Tall tires can reach the ground better when driving over larger rocks than small tires.

Wide tires seem to float a bit better in some sand/mud conditions but can hurt in some snow conditions... if you want to avoid changing tires to get best performance in each terrain, a fair compromise is a medium width (12.50) aggressive mud tire although they will typically not be good on slippery streets they will probably give better performance off road.
Avoid extremely narrow mud tires they will often dig trenches off road.

Ultimately I would select the vehicle based on its desirability as a daily driver giving very high consideration to its modifyability for medium core offroading on less than extreme trails (extreme trails really need a purpose built buggy, IMO)...

Enjoy!
 

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I'll never own another jeep unless I decide I need one to handle muddy/snowy/icy roads, and then it'll be stock. Loved my jeep, but ...

In Arizona, side-by-sides and quads are (or can be made) street legal, meaning you can take them on any road where the traffic is slow enough that they can keep up. Taking them out on a highway is a bad idea, but secondary roads are generally fine.

A good side by side or ATV will go anywhere you need it to to, for a lot less money than any other comparable vehicle, and with a lot less chance of mechanical failure unless you do something really stupid.

Downside is that you need to dress warm in winter, and there's no air conditioning in summer. So depends on what you intend to do with them. (I never liked four wheeling in the desert in summer even if I had a jeep with AC.)

As far as diesel vs. gas -- they both have arguments for them. Purely from a practical standpoint, diesel is a bit safer to transport, and diesel engines tend to be reliable, but diesel is cranky to start in low temps, no pun intended.
 

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reluctant sinner
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Some of my friends are serious rock crawler types. They are in the 200 engine revolutions per wheel turn range when down in low range low. Big tires like 38 and up, lifted, hydraulic winch on the front and an electric on the back. Hand built engines, transmission, transfer case, axles, suspension etc.

Serious money invest in those rigs.
 

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I had an outdoor career and worked in the bush for a living. I drove personal vehicles, company vehicles, and rented vehicles in the dirt.

The best one by far is my Ford F-350 diesel, the last of the 7.3 liters. It will out haul anything and gets 20-24 mpg on the highway with the some mods.

4WD only gets you stuck in worse places. Sometimes the smart thing to do is get out and walk.
 

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Retired Army
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How many people do you need to carry?
How much cargo do you need to carry?
What type of terrain do you need to negotiate?

Go from there. Diesel is the best option IMHO. Not as easy to find in the smaller vehicles. You may have to roll your own. I like your plan of a complete rebuild. You gain a lot of experience when you piece together you own vehicle. If you plan on very rough terrain, get lockers at both ends, and a winch.
 

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The most important thing I would say is get good tires for the situation and weight in the right places. I had a two wheel drive gmc Colorado for work. It had about 5-600 lbs in the bed year round. It also had a small 4 cylinder and a short wheel base. It got me everywhere because it was under powered and had great traction. I drove it down power line right of ways and through the worst of Michigan winters. The only time I got stuck was driving over grass that had the frost coming out. The front wheels never sunk but I wasn't watching the back. Before I knew it I was axle deep.
I think the shorter wheelbase of jeeps and short bed regular cab trucks and small suv's held on hills and tight corners but the ride is always better on longer wheelbase vechicles, especially towing. Manual transmission and manual 4x4 controls and hubs are important. My off road/farm truck is a 77 f-150 with 3" suspension life 33" tires, with a 351 m engine with a 4 barrel carb, headers, true dual exhaust, and a mild cam. My only issue is without weight in the back my traction in 2 wheel drive is limited. In 4 wheel drive it's solid as a rock anywhere.
 

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Never trust anyone that says I have only been stuck once, or a couple of times. People that are out there a lot get stuck all the time. Bring a shovel, handman jack, deadman, haul strap, etc and learn how to get unstuck.

Never trust anyone that says "I love to go 4 wheelin'"
I would not trade my Ford diesel with 150 k miles for a new jap truck.
Your attitude is as important as your vehicle.
Your experience is more important than your vehicle.
 

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Never trust anyone that says I have only been stuck once, or a couple of times.
One of the reasons I didn't get stuck (that required someone else to get me out, because I had plenty of times I had to dig my way out or put sand down for traction. Just not stuck) was that I walked the bad areas, assessed my route, and the most important was to know the limitation of myself and my equipment. If you underestimate yourself and your equipment you will be surprised when things work and not disapointed when they don't. These are key things to keep your self safe too. you don't want to find out that there is a hidden ravine that is just big enough to swallow your vehicle with you in it 20 miles from anywhere. Winches, tow lines (mine are all 60K+ tow rating), and extraction tools are great but common sense beats all!
 

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One of the reasons I didn't get stuck (that required someone else to get me out, because I had plenty of times I had to dig my way out or put sand down for traction. Just not stuck) was that I walked the bad areas, assessed my route, and the most important was to know the limitation of myself and my equipment. If you underestimate yourself and your equipment you will be surprised when things work and not disapointed when they don't. These are key things to keep your self safe too. you don't want to find out that there is a hidden ravine that is just big enough to swallow your vehicle with you in it 20 miles from anywhere. Winches, tow lines (mine are all 60K+ tow rating), and extraction tools are great but common sense beats all!
Depends on what you go out for. To test your limits and to just have fun, or to have to get from A to B intact.
 

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Never trust anyone that says I have only been stuck once, or a couple of times. People that are out there a lot get stuck all the time. Bring a shovel, handman jack, deadman, haul strap, etc and learn how to get unstuck.

Never trust anyone that says "I love to go 4 wheelin'"
I would not trade my Ford diesel with 150 k miles for a new jap truck.
Your attitude is as important as your vehicle.
Your experience is more important than your vehicle.
Yes, pretty much everyone will get stuck sooner or later. I understand that people like to brag and stretch the story, however, there are people who have yet to get stuck. Maybe they haven't been out that many times. Maybe they are more selective on what trails they hit. Maybe they are skilled drivers with well prepared rigs. I have only been stuck a few times (probably less than a dozen in 30+ years) because I am a skilled off road driver, I had a well built rig, and was careful where I tried to take it. Well, most of the time. I know of two times I got stuck was poor judgement. Sure it's embarrassing, and can lead to some hard work, but it's still a fun pastime. It could also be a valuable skill one day if things go bad and you have to travel over rough terrain.

That begs the question... Why the hell do you say not to trust anyone that says "I love to go 4 wheelin'"? Does enjoying off road driving make a person distrustful? Sure some guys act like idiots out there, but the vast majority of people in the off road community I've met are good people.
 

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As a wise old wheeler once said;
"If you ain't been stuck you've never been any where."

Off road driving skill is just as important as vehicle prep (probably more so), IMO.

People who think stock/near stock and catalogue builds are where its at are generally fun to watch get stuck, roll/flop and break things, IMO.

Enjoy!
 

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My first question
What type of terrain are you thinking about?
Would a 2 wheel drive with good off road tires and good clearance work from you?

Reason I ask...most people have 4 wheel drive and it isn't necessary. Like Pine said...if it look bad...get out and walk. Or find another route. Even if that means back tracking.

I own a 2 wheel drive 2005 Chevy Avalanche. Good clearance...good tires. Took it every where I needed to go. Forded a few streams...climbed some good logging trails...usually while having my 6x12 enclosed mobile "man cave" in tow. I have dealt with snow..ice..etc. no problems.
4 wheel drive trucks are more maintenance. Heavier...cost more... Also they give you a false illusion that you " can make it across". When really you can't.
Just my 2 cents...

Mr Goodwrench
 

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I will throw in with the jeep crowd. I have a 2004 Rubicon and love it. It carries next to nothing without a roof rack or something similar. If you want a off-road go anywhere simple operation vehicle it's great. Might not be a good fit for passengers or cargo though.
 
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