Re: General info on prerunners
What a prerunner is, is best understood if you know the history. They've been around a long, long time. A prerunner used to be a vehicle that was used by desert racers (SCORE and SNORE in historic times) to run sections of the race "course" before the race. Typically, they were older, retired race cars (buggies mostly) that were no longer up to racing but were still servicable. When trucks became more popular the truck guys began doing the same thing, using old race trucks to prerun the course.
The prerunner of today is based on this model. They use off road racing principals to build a truck that is similar to a race truck but is still streetable. You are correct that the idea, in a real prerunner as opposed to a street truck that looks like one, is to gobble up relatively rough terrain FAST. It's not, as the magazine pictures would have you believe, to make a truck that jumps (even though that's a fun side effect.) To do this you have to unlearn everything you've learned about mud and rockcrawling because the principles are different.
If you are talking small truck the best candidates are '97 and earlier rangers or toyotas. I lean toward the Ford but if I said they were the best Cleartoy would immediately come on with reasons Toyota is the best. It's really a toss up. There's a lot of good off the rack stuff for both, but make sure some showroom salesman isn't selling you some piece o' crap street lift. (And stay away from body lifts.) I see 'm all the time here.
As for the mighty max, I'm sure a good fabricator could make prerunner out of it, but I have no idea how good it would be since I've never seen one built. I'd also be surpised to find a good desert race fabricator in your area of the woods, but feel free to surprise me.