This year’s low-buck TTC winner.
Top Truck Still Sucks. The Magazine is Even Worse
Jeep Wheeler, Jeep-Wheel and Off-Road, Jeep-Wheel-Drive and-a-few-Toyota-Utility Vehicles magazine, half-covered installation write-ups, and the Mini-Monster Truck Challenge . . . .
These are the issues I have with your publication company. The off-road world is more than just Jeeps, but every time I open a copy of Four Wheeler, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, or Four-Wheel Drive & Sport-Utility, I see nothing but Jeeps. Yes, I know Four Wheeler has had a few articles recently about a fullsize or two, but that’s it. I’ve owned Jeeps, fullsize Broncos, F-150s and Nissans, and have wheeled them all.
Jeeps have Jp magazine. Keep that mag Jeep-specific. Toyotas have their own magazine as well. The other magazines are supposed to be more general, so get back to covering a larger base. I challenge you to do this. Every month, cover a different manufacturer (Ford, Dodge, Chevy, Jeep, International, Toyota, etc.). While jeeps are popular, they aren’t the only vehicles on the trails.
Your install write-ups need some work and lots more detail. You recently covered an article about installing gears, and for the hardest part of the task (getting the tooth contact pattern correct), all that was mentioned was the starting point for shimming (factory shims), checking the contact pattern (bare minimal information here), and the fact that it needed shims. You covered nothing about how it was shimmed, or why (you mentioned it was too deep). Well, how about some help for the newbies out there? I bring this one example up, but there are several in each of your publications each month.
Lastly, the Mini-Monster Truck Challenge, aka, how much can you spend on a 4x4, aka, you won’t really see these anywhere else but here, aka Top Truck Challenge. I call it “Mini-Monster Challenge” due to the fact that the average tire size is 50 inches now. This is ridiculous. This does NOT reflect anything in the real world. I grew up in southern Arizona—rock country. Even the tube buggies out there are at most running 40-inch tires. I’d never seen a 44-inch tire actually being used (not in a showroom or car show) in real life until I moved to North Carolina, and the guy who had them even said, “I don’t need them for anything in this state, I just like them.” Bring back the street-legal check of the original TTCs. That’s more relevant than ever, considering more and more people are building purpose-built daily drivers to wheel than $75,000 to $250,000 TTC behemoths.
Ft. Bragg, NC
We hate to burst your bubble, but what would you say if we told you a rig that cost its owner all of $2,500 to build actually won the Buggy Class at TTC this year? Believe it or not, it happened. You can read all about his rig in next month’s issue, and find out how he won in December.
We understand your concerns about Jeep-centric magazine coverage, but to be honest, we feel that we’re only following the ever-evolving trends in the marketplace—and from our vantage point, the Jeep Wrangler JK, and possibly the Ford Super Duty, have done more to drive new innovations in the 4x4 aftermarket over the past few years than just about all the other four-wheel drive trucks and SUVs combined have done. So if it seems like you’ve seen a lot of JK-related stories in recent months, you’re right. But in the world of wheeling right now, that’s where most of the action is.
We also know from experience that coverage of certain makes and models, while being popular with a loyal enthusiast base, don’t always help us sell magazines. Issues devoted to Ford and Jeep tech generally do very well for us on the newsstand; issues devoted to Dodges and Toyotas generally don’t, so our exposure and treatments of the various 4x4 brands are never going to work out equally over the course of a year.
We’ll concede your point that our tech and how-to articles are less detailed than they used to be. We just don’t have the number of pages that we used to delve into complex subjects such as ring-and-pinion swaps, so instead, we call out some of the highlights of the installation, with a few suggestions of things to look out for, and leave it up to the readers to fill in some of the particulars for themselves with information that’s readily accessible on the Internet. For us, it’s simply a matter of recognizing the changing nature of magazine publishing, and economizing to adapt to new realities.
Best Mild-Duty OE Wheelers
I am looking for advice on purchasing a four-wheel-drive vehicle. I plan to use it for the following: Driving on the beach to go fishing, driving on dirt roads, touring off-road trails in National Parks, and other light-duty applications. I’d also prefer a vehicle that gets reasonable fuel economy. What would you recommend?
Judging by what you intend to do, frankly, we’d suggest you look at a four-cylinder crossover rig like a Subaru Forester or a Jeep Patriot. They’re more than suitable for the kinds of mild-duty wheeling you have in mind, and they get much better mileage than anything with a two-speed transfer case that’s based off a pickup truck chassis. If, on the other hand, you feel like you need something a bit more rugged and can live with less optimal mileage, you can’t go wrong to our minds with either a Jeep Wrangler JK or a Nissan Xterra. The Wrangler will be better in the backcountry, but won’t deliver the greatest mileage. The Nissan will be more streetable and go farther on a tankful, but won’t be able to handle the gnarliest off-road duties. Need a bed to haul stuff? A Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, or Ford Ranger (if your dealer still has any in stock) should fit the bill. Basically, though, it’s your call. fw
Breaking: JK Projects Do Not Suck
Any more photos of the “Silver Bullet” JK project? I’m waiting to see more pictures with the Metalcloak fenders and 40-inch tires. I can’t find any on the Internet, but this is exactly what I will be building and want more pics to show the wife.
Bullet builder Robin Stover replies: Thanks for writing in. We also like the way a four-door JK looks on 40-inch tires, though after wheeling ours in that configuration, we recommend that the stock Dana 44 axles be fortified for reliability. Our factory rear axleshafts twisted at the splines after just two trips out, and the front axle U-joints were never intended for the leverage that 40s can produce. We’ve since replaced said parts with chromoly upgrades and are running 37-inch tires until we get around to our planned axle swap project. There should be more cool pics of the project at fourwheeler.com by the time you read this.
Where To Write
Address your correspondence to: Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245. All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department can also be reached through the website at www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.