Honestly don't know why it is that I so disdain trailers. Maybe it's because any vehicle dragging a trailer severely tests my driving skills, the same driving skills I'm proud of under most circumstances. For some reason, my brain simply won't accept the "reverse" thinking required when backing a trailer into a space. I also don't like looking into my truck's rearview mirror and seeing a long trailer, laden with expensive toys, slowly bobbing and weaving in the truck's wake.
But I digress. The point I was trying to make is that, for the most part, the vehicles showcased in OFF-ROAD magazine don't require a trailer to arrive at the dirt. Obvious exceptions include purebred race trucks, prerunners not registered for street use, and a few truggies and rockcrawling buggies sans lights, muffs, and fenders.
The trucks you see in this magazine are truly driveable, and most, even the show trucks, are driven on a daily basis, except when they're being maintained or further modified. And why not? Driven by an enthusiast familiar with a modified vehicle's unique handling and braking traits, a lifted, off-road modified truck can be a terrific street ride.
Visibility is maximized in a lifted truck, and that's helpful for spotting traffic snarls ahead or when looking for an unfamiliar business or landmark. Do I need to mention that a truck with a tall ride height is an excellent location for people watching when stuck in traffic? Speed bumps, potholes, and dips in the pavement are of little concern to drivers of trucks with large tires, and nasty weather (rain, snow) that threatens to swallow standard-height cars is easily traversed by a lifted, large-tire-equipped truck.
As to the actual on-street driving feel, there are few as good as V-8 or V-6 rear-wheel-drive machines. Sure, AWD generates an excellent feel, but most of our trucks are rear-wheel drive until locked into 4WD when driven on dirt. I'm mainly referring to the superior feel of rear-wheel drive as it compares with front-wheel drive, where the front driver's skimpy front tires are required to transmit power as well as produce steering forces and generate cornering grip, sometimes all at the same time. Powering the rear wheels seems a much better method; leave the steering and cornering forces to the front wheels.
"Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!" yaks that kid on Mazda's television commercials, and while there are many cars with an acceptable amount of power, nothing beats a V-8-powered truck for torque. And if the factory power level isn't enough for you, the aftermarket is more than willing to offer an array of bolt-on power boosters that will fit almost any budget. Try finding a selection of reasonably priced intake, ignition, and exhaust goodies for most cars and you'll come up short. Like I said, an off-road truck is an excellent street machine.
Generating cornering forces is normally where our trucks fail to meet the standards of the average econobox, but even that segment of performance is not always as it seems. There are several all-terrain tires on the aftermarket (Nitto's Terra Grappler, to name one) that are capable of impressive lateral grip. One of the best-kept off-road tire secrets is the incredible on-pavement performance of BFGoodrich's Baja T/As. Yes, these soft tires develop a pronounced flat-spot on the tread overnight (it goes away after 10-15 miles), they're pricey, and the tread wear could be better, but wrap your truck's wheels with a set and, in the words of BFG's Jeff Cummins, "You'll surprise some import cars in the twisties!" Try 'em; you'll like 'em. Then go smoke an import car.
I don't really expect much interest in an editorial whose subject matter chronicles the superiority of dirt-worthy trucks on the street. I simply find it interesting that a dirt-ready truck can be a truly versatile ride, with the ability to excel during weekday, on-street duty yet be fully capable when the time comes for roosting - and all without the need to be dragged to the dirt atop a trailer.
Until next month.