This'll be a little long-winded, but you'll see where I'm coming from...
We live in Cleveland OH and have property in rural WV, about 4-5 hrs away. The place is basically a valley, with several pretty steep hills to get down into it.
Have an 00 Sierra, extended cab 4x4 pickup. She works great most of the time, and it's a comfortable vehicle to travel in. Problem is, it's a heavy vehicle and, when it rains, we can't get off the property because the tires fill up with mud and we slide right off the driveway. Have a nice new dent in the front fender/door from last week's visit.
The neighbors all have those little quad 4x4 ATV things. They seem to go just about anywhere, but only carry one or two people and aren't street legal (although they are routinely driven on the county roads).
We'll probably end up getting a few ATVs (which are surprisingly expensive, even used). My observation is that they work so well because they have wide and knobby tires, and they're light weight so don't sink into the mud. They barely disturb the ground where our truck puts in ruts everywhere it goes when the ground isn't hard.
We put our camper down on the property last week, so we no longer need to haul a bunch of stuff down when we visit. Been thinking about building something that would be capable of getting us into and out of the property, while being street legal enough to drive down on the state routes (never faster than 55mph). All we need to do is haul the wife and I and the dog, maybe a lightweight trailer for a cooler.
I have a pull-a-part down the street. Prices are pretty decent. Been thinking about building something.
Thought about starting off with a Ranger chassis. Then get a drivetrain out of a compact pickup or Cherokee. There were some rangers with a 5 speed and 4x4 and that'd be ideal. Figure I'd use the existing drivetrain and the back half of the frame. Then fab front rails and use the front axle off a Cherokee, which is basically a straight axle with ball joint ends. Ugly, but not as much as IFS. Mount that up with a transverse leaf much like a rod, ahead of the engine so I could get the engine as low as possible. I don't need a lot of ground clearance - probably get more than enough with some conservatively-sized mud/snow tires. Would like to get the drivetrain as low as practical - about axle height - to keep the center of gravity down to make it stable.
Then I'd build a fiberglass body, something along the lines of a tudor, but probably just a similar shape and not any sort of reproduction. Just need space for two seats and a shelf for the dog.
I found this pic on the HAMB:
Something with that sort of stance would easily clear the 4x4 drivetrain if you pushed the front axle forward. I'd have to add some sort of fenders.
Surely wouldn't be a traditional rod of any sort, but I'd like to kind of capture an old school type look, and that sort of vehicle is inherently light weight with a minimal body and a suspension that was made for rough roads.
Just throwing this out for thoughts/comments. I'm a little new to the offroad type vehicle thing and maybe this won't work as well as I think it will..
I know this is a little off-the-wall.