History of the 4WD Sport

Have you noticed people often ask “Why do you enjoy Wheeling the trails in a Jeep or 4X4 vehicle. Why not just use an ATV or dirt bike?” Well, that is a great question, so sit on down for a minute and let me tell you.

spykerWe four wheelers enjoy being a part of and experiencing history. The Horse was obviously the first mode of transportation when accessing and enjoying the more rural areas, but what came after the horse? The four wheel drive (4X4), dating back to 1893 where the first concept was designed and patented by Bramah Joseph Diplock. Not long after, in 1903, the first four wheel drive car with an internal combustion engine was produced called the Spyker. A 60hp 6 cylinder engine, 2 seater sports car presented by 2 Dutch brothers Jacobus and Handrik-Jan Spijker of Amsterdam.

Since this time, history has seen all sorts of four wheel drive vehicles which have taken us further into our continents, developed business and trade and won us wars. With-out the four wheel drive the world would be a much different place.

The four wheel drive community as we call it today is likely one of the most diverse communities spreading across the globe. These vehicles are used as tools in people’s livelyhood every day and over the last 30 to 40 years we have seen people enjoy the 4X4 as a daily driver and recreational activity of choice. In my over ten years of off-roading now, I have met people from countries and continents around the world who thoroughly enjoy the 4X4 sport. Australia, Asia, Russia, Europe, Africa, South America, and North America all have 4X4 clubs and 4X4 recreation as a very popular past time for their residents. No matter what language you speak or religion you worship we all have that common bond through the love of our four wheel drive.

lineofjeepsSo why do we love our 4X4 for recreation?

You always hear the stories of people who knew someone or perhaps owned a four wheel drive truck or Jeep back in the day and all the adventures they had with it. Pretty much everyone I have ever come across, male or female, child or adult, has some sort of love or interest in it. We love to drive around town with the top down and doors off as the children point, woman smile and men drool over the woman driver sitting high and mighty in her Jeep enjoying the outdoors and the nice weather. Just to be clear the male drivers get the same reaction however the on looking men are likely mesmerized by the vehicle and its coolness, or perhaps they’re ticked off because their girlfriend is smiling at you. Either way, people from all walks of life love the unique 4X4 vehicles.

accessibleAndre Huard and his modified CJ with hand controls allows him to access the lands and spend time in the great outdoors with his family and friends.

The 4X4 allows everyone to enjoy the outdoors. Un-like some other motorsports the four wheel drive allows people with accessibility issues to enjoy the more rural and remote areas. For example, the Ontario Federation of 4 Wheel Drive has members who are paraplegic, whom have had their Jeep modified for hand controls allowing them to enjoy the same sport and metal health benefits of recreational off-roading. Some people have medical problems such as musculoskeletal diseases or heart conditions whereby being on an ATV or Dirt bike would not be comfortable or safe for them.

The Tillaart Family attends many events and takes long weekends out on the lands enjoying everything the off-road sport has to offer

kidsHow about families? Many families enjoy the off-road sport as an affordable way to get outdoors. In today’s economy, most households do not have the disposable income to afford off-road only vehicles nor do they have the space for them in their suburban homes and driveways. On the other hand, one can buy a 2 or 4 door four wheel drive, like a Jeep JK, and drive it to work during the week while enjoying it recreationally on the weekend. Equipped with seat belts for child seats and tons of trunk space, young families can now head out on an educational and active adventure into the great outdoors without spending their life savings or putting their kids at risk on higher speed machines

The four wheel drive gives all these people the necessary means to access the beautiful back country and enjoy the same experiences as every other person has the privilege of

Well, is it safe? Don’t people roll their trucks all the time?

In actual fact the recreational 4X4 sport is the safest motorized activity available. Due to the nature of the sport and the terrain type, the vehicles move very slowly through the trails at about 5-10 km/h on average. With the slow speeds, people have plenty of time to pick their path of travel, avoiding possible tipsy situations and enjoying the scenery. If a vehicle does have the unfortunate incident of a flop or a rollover, the drivers are well protected by the vehicles roll cage and seat belt systems much like any other vehicle. The rollover momentum is usually very slow and not aggressive which protects the occupants and minimizes damage to the vehicle for the most part.

learningTami Hamilton learns decent control on a steep rock near Minden Ontario.

The aggressive rollovers you see on TV or the internet generally come from the competition style vehicles which must adhere to strict guidelines and undergo rigorous inspections for safety. Competition 4X4 drivers are only about 2% of all the recreational 4X4 vehicle drivers out there and have been in the sport for a very long time, knowing all the risks. Many of the competition drivers actually teach off-roading 101 courses or become trail guides teaching people how to pick the right path and what not to do when riding the trails. These guys are a wealth of information.

So whether you are from Canada, across the border, or across the seas, a man or a woman, or have accessibility or medical issues the four wheel drive sport can be adapted to you. You too can have the mental and physical benefits the sport has to offer while meeting lifelong friends and enjoying the great outdoors. Be proud of being a four wheeler and as always, tread lightly and respect the trails no matter where you are enjoying them.

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