‘Holy Grail’ trucks and guns can both warm one’s heart

While guns are my business and I’m very much “into” them for recreation and self defense as well, my hobby is trucks, specifically four-wheel-drives, as I’m more interested when the power goes to both axles.

There are a few “Holy Grail” four-wheel-drive trucks that most enthusiasts can agree on:

  • The ’71-’72 GMs, since they are a classic body style that even Chevy haters like, and because those years had front disc brakes.
  • The ’77 Bronco, as it was the last of the “little” Broncos and also had front discs, qualifies. Everything had evolved on the little guys to the point where the drive-train in the beefiest models was basically a narrowed and shortened half-ton.
  • The ’77 F Series Fords generally get the nod, again because of the front discs added that year and ’77 being the last year of what most consider to be the better-looking grille before the ’78-’79 egg-crate style took over.
  • In mini-trucks, the 1985 Toyota extra-cab pickup had the half-year introduction of the 22RE. This motor is well known as one to look for.

The “E” denotes electronic fuel injection giving the motor slightly more power, better fuel economy and the ability to run when driven at odd angles off-road. The ’85 also had a stronger/better front axle – and you could also get the unpublicized turbo diesel. If you can find one of these, be prepared to pay  through the nose for it.

  • Although not generally at the top of the list, but cool in their own family, are the ’92-’93 GM 6.5L turbo diesel models. An upgrade form the 6.2L (especially in power), these were mechanically injected (no computer – cheaper/simpler) and available mated to the great NV4500 five-speed manual or the desirable 4L80E  over-drive automatic (the only 4L80E with its own stand-alone ECU).
  • One that is coming on, and is very rare, is the ’93 Ramcharger by Dodge. This was a one-year-only SUV with the multi-port fuel injected, and with a roller camshaft 360 known as a 5.9L Magnum.

It delivered 245 horsepower in an era where Ford’s 460 and GM’s 454 only managed about 230, a powerhouse in its day.

  • The next is also a Dodge and probably the “HG” truck.

The early ’98 Dodge Rams with the Cummins engine had 12-valve motors – desirable, like the earlier-mentioned GMs, because of their mechanical fuel injection and also the best diesel fuel injection pump ever put in a consumer diesel.

But mostly it is because, for just a few short months, that engine was available in a quad cab pickup with rear doors. The combination of four  doors, the 12V Cummins and a version of the NV4500 trans that is even better than the one GM used just checks all of the right boxes for heavy-duty truck lovers. As an additional bonus, you could even get a long or short bed.

  • Another of the most-sought-after would be a late ’99-2000 Ford Super Duty with the 7.3L Power Stroke. Part way through the model year (which was actually two calendar years, as there is no ‘98 F-250/350), Ford did quite a few upgrades to the PS that makes these versions more desirable.

Then, in 2001, they changed to powdered metal connecting rods, which are fine but not as bullet-proof as the earlier forged ones. As an aside, the Dually F-350 would truly be the “HG” version, since Ford put a ridiculous Dana 50 front axle in all of the single rear wheel SDs (even F-350s) until 2003, when enough owners figured out they had been duped and complaints started rolling in.

  • The last one is unattainable for most of us: In 2006 GM wanted Hummer to go out with a bang, so they created the H1 Alpha. All 2006 H1s are Alphas, but were manufactured in 2005 as well. The Alpha was a fancied-up H1 all around, but most important was what was under the hood. The H1 had always been powered by either a 6.2L, 6.5L or Turbo 6.5L GM/Detroit diesel. This motor is no powerhouse anyway, and always struggled with the four tons of military vehicle it had to carry around on its back.

The 5.7L gas motor was also offered in ’95 but it really fared no better and got worse fuel mileage. Then the  Alpha got the 6.6L Duramax V-8 turbo diesel, paired with an Allison 1000 transmission (a host of other changes for quieter operation as well), and it really woke up. The cost was roughly $150K and, to be honest, might have been a good investment, since used ones aren’t far off of that.

Now, why did you sit down and read all of that in a supposed “gun” column? Well, I’ll bet 80 to 90 percent of you enjoyed it since I’ve noticed about that percentage of “gun guys and gals” are also “truck” guys and gals, at least in this area. I also believe 50 percent of that 80-90 percent  have something to say about my list, good and bad, since car people are very opinionated! I know ’cuz I are one!

Just as there are “Holy Grail” trucks, there are “HG” guns. In point of fact, there are thousands of them. That’s why my list, which is much shorter than that, will have to be broken up into more than one issue of the newspaper. So don’t let your subscription run out! There may be firearms on this list you can get into collecting that you don’t even know about yet.

I am going to start with revolvers and then get into semi-auto handguns. Later will come a few rifles and shotguns as well. So here we go…

The Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, and Rolls-Royce of revolvers is the Double Action Korth, made in Germany. I’ve only seen one and the owner almost had to shoot me with another gun to get me to hand it back. It is impossible to describe the fit and finish of these revolvers. To describe them as a Swiss watch is an understatement of epic proportions.

As a gunsmith, I don’t even see how a revolver can be made this well. The only other one that even comes close is the finest grade of Freedom Arms revolvers and they don’t really compare, to be honest.

Handling the Freedom Arms Premier Model single-action revolver and then picking up a Ruger makes the great Ruger feel like an old H&R. Handling a Korth and then a Freedom Arms makes the F.A. feel like a Ruger.

There is a button on the right  forward portion of the frame that allows the cylinder to literally glide out of the frame. It’s to make disassembly for cleaning much easier than any other double-action revolver, or single-action for that matter. ‘If you push that button, you had better have control over the cylinder (which costs thousands of dollars on its own) as it will slide out so smoothly you will never notice until it hits you in the foot or clatters to the floor. No, I don’t know this from the time I dropped one on the floor, but it has happened to others.

The Colt Python has to come next, and I own one myself, but I have never been enamored with them and have considered selling mine many times. I think the Smith & Wesson Model 27 is as well-built and better-engineered and if I could have only one .357 revolver, it would be a Ruger GP-100.

Nevertheless, the Python is a “HG” revolver without a doubt. My favorite has always been one with a 6-inch barrel, royal blue finish, Elliason rear sight and factory-checkered wood grips.

Since Pythons currently sell in the thousands of dollars themselves my example has the 6-inch barrel but matte black finish, the cheaper Accro rear sight and beat-up factory grips. I built it up for a customer who, like me, couldn’t/wouldn’t afford the high-end version and settled for what was attainable. He later sold it to me.

Sticking with Colt, I would much prefer to have a 3-inch barreled Detective Special, or even better, the aluminum-framed Agent. One chambered in .38 Special would be just fine, since these D-Frames are all six-shots, no matter the caliber.

The Single-Action Army, Model P, Peacemaker, 1873 – whatever you want to call it – will always be in demand as it is one of the most-copied guns of all time. The Colt 1911 is probably the only handgun that has been copied more.

I own quite a few copies but have never wanted to hold onto any of the originals I have had pass through my hands. The copies are just fine for me – and way cheaper!

Moving to Colt’s long-time rival: Smith & Wesson has maybe made more collectible “HG” revolvers than all of the rest put together. Colt got the jump on them, but once S&W got rolling, they never stopped. Many books could, and have, been written on S&W collecting, so I’m going to stick with the ones I like.

Another is Model 58. This is an N-Frame (large frame, .44 Magnum size) revolver with fixed sights, which makes it very unique in modern times. Many of the old hand-ejectors and triple-locks had fixed sights, but after World War II almost all N-Frames came with fully adjustable rear sights. The Model 58 was made as one of the small family of Military & Police models.

It is the biggest, baddest one actually made for only the police side of the M&P moniker. Elmer Keith (father of the .44 Magnum), Bill Jordan (legendary trick shot expert and border patrolman) and a few others wanted a police duty revolver with power somewhere in between the .357 S&W Magnum and the .44 Remington Magnum, preferably in .40-ish caliber. The result was the .41 Remington Magnum.

The Model 57 was a clone of the .44 Mag. Model 29 with adjustable sights, target grips etc. The 58 was the police duty version with service stocks and fixed sights for ruggedness and durability. Suitably it was only available with a 4” barrel. The big, heavy revolver didn’t prove at all popular with police and was discontinued.

I like them because of their uniqueness in the S&W family and they just have a mean look to them. I’ve never been a big fan of the .41 Magnum, so I’m redoing mine into a .45 Colt. It’ll look even meaner with the bigger hole in the barrel. The 58 has not really skyrocketed as a collector item yet, but I’m saving the .41 magnum barrel and cylinder, just in case.

In my next column, I’ll go to the other end of the spectrum, the J-Frame S&W revolvers.

Jeff Hutchins writes occasionally about firearms-related topics for Lebanon Local.  He operates Rangemaster Gunworks at 1144 Tangent St. in Lebanon.