Though 2017 marks the 36th iteration of the 4-Wheel Jamboree in Indianapolis, it was a new sight for our fresh eyes. We flew to the Hoosier State recently to witness this truck-centric event, and came back with an appreciation for how folks get their off-road (and diesel) on in the Midwest.
No matter what we came across, at a minimum, it seemed like all of the trucks had things in common: a lift kit, big tires, a train horn, and a killer paint job. However, we wanted a bit more from a vehicle to have it make our top five.
And here they are. From an uber-lifted Super Duty to a mudbog-ready Jeep CJ, these were the vehicles that went the extra mile to impress us. Let’s kick things off with Travis Birk’s 1995 F-250.
#5 Travis Birk’s 1995 Ford F-250
Hailing from South Bend, Indiana, Travis Birk brought out his white F-250 to the festivities. We always like a clean truck; all the more so when it’s an OBS Ford.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was raised in trucks,” said Travis, explaining his background. “Farm trucks, lifted trucks, semis, farm equipment – they were a big part of my young life.”
When Travis turned 18, he bought this truck. As a California vehicle, he knew it would be a much better platform to work on than one from the Rust Belt.
Then began the lifts. “I started with a reverse shackle kit and 35-inch tires,” said Travis. “Then I did a six-inch kit with 37s. Now, it’s got 20 inches of lift and 46-inch tires.”
Other features are its stock 460 cubic-inch V8, full-length headers, front and rear lockers, crossover steering, a custom VFN hood, and custom-built traction bars with “Birk” stenciled in the shape of the Ford logo. All in all, it’s one serious Ford.
#4 Devon Morgan’s 1936 Dodge Ram Flatbed
In a land populated with drivetrains and chassis that belong together, finding Devon Morgan’s 1936 Dodge Ram flatbed was a needle in the haystack. This truck was one we had to find out more about right away.
We spoke with Devon and got the skinny on the truck. “In all the times I’ve been here, I’d never seen anything older than a 1950s Dodge,” he said. “So I set out with this project after I sold a square body Chevy.”
Devon found a cab in Arkansas that would suit his needs. The chassis and engine were from a 1989 Dodge Ram, among the first of the Cummins pickups ever built. We noticed bracing between the cab and frame, to which Devon remarked, “The cab is flat with a new floor, while the frame has a curve in it. We raised the cab up since we didn’t wanna tunnel it. Now, the cab sits pretty much right on top of the transmission.”
The flatbed, meanwhile, was added during the build. It was installed in favor of lower costs and ease. This was because finding a suitable bed was proving difficult. The axles underneath the whole vehicle are the original Dana 60s from the 1989 truck.
Still riding on its stock suspension, the truck is hardly comfortable. “It rides like a log wagon,” joked Devon. “We rode in here an hour and a half from Lafayette. It was a ride!”
#3 Frank Berrian’s 1982 CJ-7
While circling the fairgrounds, we found Frank Barrian and his family doing the same. We were on foot; the Berrians were cruising in a decked-out 1982 Jeep CJ-7.
As one of the more eye-catching Jeeps at the Jamboree, we had to find out more. “I wanted to make a cherry ride, initially,” said Frank. “I went to New Mexico to get this one, and came back with it. Then my buddies got into mudbogging, then I did. One thing led to another, and here we are.”
Frank learned the hard way on building up a Jeep. “I put on big wheels and tires and broke everything,” he said. “If I could go back knowing what I do now, I could have saved hundreds of dollars!”
Nowadays, Frank is doing his build right. A stroked-out LS engine, Turbo 400 transmission, Dana 300 transfer case, 5.13:1 gear ratio, one-ton axles with chromoly shafts, and more keep the Jeep rolling strong.
#2 Dean Pigg’s 2002 Ford F-250
The vision of a lifted gray F-250 brought us to Dean Pigg. Dean hailed from Valparaiso, Indiana, and got his start in trucks with a 1985 Ford Ranger.
Before long, he was hankering for a diesel, and got this Super Duty. “I bought it brand new,” said Dean. “I bought it knowing I wanted to turn it into something big like this. As soon as it had temporary tags on it, I started lifting it.”
Dean went through a variety of lifts to get the truck to where it was today. “I began with mocking up an eight-inch lift, then did a 12-inch lift, then a 21-inch lift, and now it’s at 30 inches,” he said. “I finally had it where I wanted it by the winter of last year.”
Now, the truck is running on a Bully Dog stainless exhaust system, powdercoated brakes, 5.38:1 gearing, and a Superchips programmer. The engine and drivetrain are still stock, but have been either powdercoated or chromed to match the rest of the undercarriage.
“My favorite parts about the truck are the 54-inch tires and the 20×20 wheels,” said Dean. “They’re what I was aiming for all along.”
#1 Henry Laxton’s 1982 Chevrolet K30
Towering and purple, this early ’80s Bowtie had us salivating. Henry Laxton of Paragould, Arkansas, was as eager to share its details as we were to learn about them.
Henry’s childhood was steeped in car culture. “I have a wingnut from a 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic that I’ve always kept with me,” he said. “On to today, I have been to the 4Wheel Jamboree 10 times now. It’s like a family reunion with your buddies.”
Using parts from three different trucks, Henry was able to craft his big purple monster. His vision, however, precluded him from making something like anything else.
“I wanted to do an extended cab,” said Henry. “Well, they didn’t make one that year, so I took the rear windows from a 1997 extended cab Chevy and made my own body to fit them.”
Now in its third form, the Chevy sports 32 inches of lift, 44-inch TSL Bogger tires, locking differentials, a 900-horsepower 6.2-liter V8, and much more. “I built it for show, but if push comes to shove, I would hop in the Chevy and get to it,” said Henry. “I would go anywhere I wanted to go.”
We weren’t entirely certain of what to expect when we flew out to Indianapolis for the 4Wheel Jamboree. But now that we’ve had a taste, we want more. We’re looking forward to enjoying more Family Events shindigs in the near future, and we encourage you to check out the website for upcoming shows.
In the meantime, pop down below and check out our gallery of the Top Five. You can also catch some of our awesome videos on our Facebook page.