Sweet 4x4s: Past, Present & Future

Updated Aug 30, 2016

Rod Hall Dodge BWS_3321Rod Hall's 1987 Dodge Ramcharger W150 reigned supreme in SCORE Class 4 (4x4) desert off-road racing.

Rod Hall Dodge IMG_2461Spare tires were mounted in the bed because flats were common in desert racing and the driver/co-driver needed to be able to change them out as quickly as possible.

Rod Hall Dodge IMG_2467State-of-the-art (at the time) suspension included four shocks per side at all four corners on Hall's '87 W150 Ram 4x4. Note springs are basically stock.

Rod Hall Dodge IMG_2462All the comforts of home-for a desert race truck. Roll cage, 4spd automatic, ratchet shifter, a few gauges and and thinly padded racing seats. A Laramie Limited it isn't.

Rod Hall Dodge IMG_2463Off-road lighting consited of a pair of halogen lights on the push bar and another pair on the roof. LED and HID weren't even in the racer's vernacular back in the late '80s.

Cherokee Overlander BWS_3323Jeep Cherokee Overlander concept vehicle. The perfect vehicle for the Urban outdoorsman.

Cherokee Overlander BWS_3325Roof-top tent for two keeps the urban outdoorsman driving the Jeep Cherokee Overlander concept from having to rough it on the ground.

Jeep Cheif Concept BWS_3326One Jeep concept that would be a huge hit: The Jeep Chief. It's a nice blend of modern chassis/drivetrain technology mated with retro bodywork.

Jeep Red Rock BWS_3330This Jeep Wrangler "Red Rock" concept drew a lot of attention. It has a short bed masked by the high sides.

Jeep Red Rock IMG_2470Jeep Wrangler Red Rock concept's bed adds a lot to the utility of the typical Wrangler. This concept could easily be put into production.

2015 Ram Rebel BWS_3353Ram Rebel drew a lot of praise in the looks department. Now if Ram could share some of the off-road suspension features from Ramcharger they'd have a wicked 1/2-ton 4x4.

Wrangler Africa BWS_3328The Jeep Wrangler Africa concept sports a 2.8L diesel under the hood and a host of nice aftermarket accessories that'd make any trip into the wilds a little easier.

Wrangler Africa BWS_3351

2016 Ram 3500 Chassis Cab BWS_33332016 Ram 3500 Chassis Cab with a Knapheide flatbed and 6.4L Hemi under the hood. A good basic work truck package that's one of the most popular sellers in this segment.

2016 Ram 3500 IMG_2457The top dog on the 2016 heavy-duty diesel trailer towing podium. The 6.7L Cummins sports 900-lbs/ft of torque and the Ram 3500 is rated to pull 31,210 pounds.

There’s a lot going on at Chrysler’s Chelsea (Mich.) Proving Grounds and the general public is kept at bay lest any secrets get out as to what’s coming down the road.

But once a year what is now known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) invites automotive journalists like me to spend a day driving the company’s newest vehicles, from the Ram Rebel to the Jeep Wangler, from the Fiat 500 to the Dodge Charger Hellcat.

Rod Hall’s ’87 Dodge Ram W150 next to 2015 Ram 3500 Cab Chassis at FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds.Rod Hall’s ’87 Dodge Ram W150 next to 2015 Ram 3500 Cab Chassis at FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds.

It’s a good time had by all.

This is also a time when you can walk around the newest concept vehicles and dream that one day soon they will be offered in a production model.

To my surprise, sitting in the same area is another vehicle that brought back fond memories-Rod Hall’s 1987 Dodge Ram W150 desert race truck.

I had the honor of riding in the very same truck as “co-driver” with Rod during one leg of a Mint 400 desert race in Nevada. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget.

Back in the late ’80s his W150 Ramcharger was considered a state-of-the-art desert race truck and Rod drove it to victory after victory in the roughest and most demanding of off-road conditions.

Today a stock Ram Rebel could give it a run for its money. Wow! Trucks have changed a lot in three decades.