Off-Road Proving Ground at SEMA Spring Expo
Because we tend to call SEMA's Las Vegas aftermarket parts extravaganza "the SEMA Show," many people don't realize that the trade organization puts on several other events during the year. One of them, the SEMA Spring Expo (SSE), is largely dedicated to the display of truck parts and accessories. (Before you book vacation time to go to next year's show, we should tell you that it, like the Vegas show, is a trade-only event. Sorry!)
This year, the SSE had some new features, including an off-road proving ground that was sponsored by UROC, Pro Comp Tires, and Skyjacker Suspension. There, professional competitors drove rock buggies through an indoor dirt-and-rock obstacle course while commentators explained the "intricacies of the rapidly growing sport," said SEMA.
Due to the popularity of the proving ground, it will be back for the 2005 edition of the springtime SSE, says SEMA, which will return to the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. In addition, the '05 event will include an off-road pavilion dedicated to off-road equipment exhibitors.
High Gas Prices Don't Slow SUV Sales
Here's an interesting question: How high would gasoline prices have to go before you'd forego your 4x4 for a hybrid or some other fuel-efficient vehicle? If you're like those people polled in a market research study featured recently in USA Today, pretty damn high.
According to CNW Market Research, gas would have to hit $3.25 per gallon before a third of those people polled would "consider eventually" buying a more efficient vehicle. And to get those people to actually "immediately consider" a hybrid or some other gas miser, the price per gallon would have to reach $3.75.
Current new truck sales support this attitude. Even though gasoline prices have risen a whopping 20 percent this year, fullsize trucks and SUVs are enjoying double-digit sales increase percentages. Sales of the Chevy Tahoe, for example, are up 41 percent over the same period a year ago.
Consumer Reports Finds "True Off-Roaders"
How's this for a "no duh?" moment. A recent article in Consumer Reports (as reported by USA Today) found that the bestselling SUVs in the U.S. are among the worst off-road performers.
The magazine tested 34 vehicles with 4WD systems that included low-range and judged the Ford Expedition as the worst off-road performer. The Expedition also happens to be the second-bestselling SUV in the country. The Ford Explorer and Chevy TrailBlazer, sales leaders in the compact SUV category, were the second and fourth worst in the study, respectively.
What did score points with the Consumer's Union judges? A Toyota Tacoma pickup equipped with the TRD off-road package. Go figure.
Bi-Coastal Camp Jeep: Giving It Another Try
We wrote in this space a year ago that the organizers of Camp Jeep would hold two events in 2003, one in the east and one in the west. Well, the western one was cancelled after that issue went to press-too late to chase the story.
Ever the optimists, we're going to announce, yet again, that there will be two Camp Jeeps this year. The first will return to last year's site at the Oak Ridge Estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Nelson County, Virginia, July 15-17. The second will take place (we hope!) in the Santa Ynez Mountains near Santa Barbara, California, August 19-21.
In addition to the raft of special activities available to Jeep owners attending the Camps, the new Wrangler Unlimited will be available for testdrives at both events. California campers will have the added bonus of trying out the all-new '05 Grand Cherokee.
For Camp Jeep registration information (you must be a Jeep owner to attend), call 800/789-JEEP (5337) or log on to www.jeep.com/campjeep.
This Just In...
*We just learned that Alcoa Forged Specialty Wheels signed an agreement to be the national sponsor of the Professional Rockcrawlers Association's 2004 Superlift National Series and Superlift Women's National Rockcrawling Championship. We need to get out more...
*Sad news from the world of finance: More and more people shopping for a new vehicle are finding themselves "upside down" in salesman-speak. That means the money they owe on the vehicle they want to trade in is more than its value, so they're starting the new-vehicle purchase in the hole. As a result, the negative balance-which averages almost $4,000, says Edmunds.com-is being rolled into the new vehicle payments. According to Edmunds, nearly a third of new-vehicle buyers were upside down in 2003, compared to a quarter of them the previous year.
*Cause for celebration: Penda Corp. sold its 10-millionth bedliner earlier this year.
*Though we're looking forward to driving the diesel-powered Touareg (can you say "550 lb-ft of torque"?), Porsche has announced there will be no diesel Cayenne, says Automotive News. The reason: Half of the Cayennes sold annually are for the U.S. market, where there is no demand for diesel, says Porsche. Yeah, but who could have predicted any sort of demand for a Porsche SUV, either?
*GM's first gas-electric hybrid fullsize pickup trucks will carry a $2,500 premium when they're made available to fleet and commercial customers later this year. That number is consistent with prices Toyota and Honda charge for their hybrids compared to conventional versions of the same or similar vehicles. What's different, though, is that GM's system is considered a "mild" hybrid, with limited assist from the electric motor, while the import cars are full hybrids.
*CNN reports that the most stolen car nationwide in 2002 was the '89 Toyota Camry, followed by the '94 Honda Accord and the '00 Honda Civic. But before you start snickering about the import owner's rotten luck, read this: When the most-stolen data was broken out by state, the fullsize Chevy pickup topped the theft list in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
Douglas Wins in Pure-Stock Explorer
We know, it doesn't look "pure stock" to us either. But that's the name the Best in the Desert racing organization gave to Class 3100, which mandates that the race truck maintain the factory body, chassis, engine, transmission, differentials, and front and rear suspension components. Working within those parameters, Ford/Rancho Suspension pilot Scott Douglas has developed a late-model Explorer that dominated the class at the Parker 425 earlier this year, beating his next closest competitor to the finish line by nearly an hour.
Because of the class's suspension restrictions, "the shocks were the only component we could really work with," said Douglas. The Explorer was equipped with 3-inch i.d. DMS/Rancho prototype race shocks built by Ted Kendall, Douglas' crew chief. The truck needs a lot of damping control, as Douglas shod it with massive 35-inch BFGoodrich Race T/As.
Douglas' win at Parker was his 52nd career victory and put him in the points lead for the class.
GM Launches Huge Recall
General Motors is recalling nearly 4 million fullsize trucks built during the 2000 to 2004 model years because of problems with-of all things-the tailgate support cables. The Chevy Silverados and GMC Sierras (plus a few Avalanches and Cadillac Escalade EXTs) were built with galvanized, braided-steel support cables that, as it turns out, are prone to fracturing if they become corroded. Should the corroded cables break while the tailgate is down and loaded, the tailgate would come to rest on the back bumper, or slip to a lower position if there were no rear bumper, and potentially spill its load (or the person sitting on the 'gate when it happened).
The good news is only some minor injuries, no crashes or fatalities, have been reported as a result of the problem.
GM will replace those cables free of charge with stainless steel cables. Because so many vehicles are involved, however, the replacements will have to be made in phases. In the meantime, GM is advising owners to avoid applying direct loads to the tailgate until the cables can be inspected and, if necessary, replaced.
June 5 JeepSpeed Baja Challenge, in association with SCORE/Tecate Baja 500, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Information: www.jeepspeed.com.
June 5 Off Road Driving Clinic, Hungry Valley State Vehicle Recreation Area near Gorman, CA. Information: 310/374-8047, www.4x4training.com.
June 5 Tuff Truck Competition & Campout, Melbourne, Ontario, Canada. Information: London & Area Jeep Owners Club, 519/666-0143 (prior to 9 p.m. EST), www.londonjeepclub.org.
June 5-6 4x4 Safety Clinic, Prairie City SVRA near Sacramento, CA. Information: Capital City Mountain Goats chapter of Cal4Wheel, 916/421-7219.
June 5-6 4Wheel Parts Truckfest, Ontario, CA. Information: 800/284-9840, www.4wheelparts.com/events.
June 5-6 Piute Passage Tour, Piute Mountains, Kern County, CA. Information: ECO 4WD, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 6 Mid States Mud Racing Association mud race, Stapleton, NE. Information: www.msmra.com.
June 8 Arrowhead Adventure Tour, Lake Arrowhead, CA. Information: ECO 4WD, e-mail email@example.com.
June 11-12 Summer at Tellico, Tellico, NC. Information: Rough Rangers Off-Road Club, www.rrorc.com.
June 11-13 12th Drummond Island Jeep Jamboree (first run), Drummond Island, MI. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 11-13 7th Penn's Woods Jeep Jamboree, Bradford, PA. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 11-13 Southern Four Wheel Drive Association 2004 Summer Convention, Mountain City, TN. Information: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 12 "Trailriding Southern Style" by the OffRoad Sportsman Association, Ellijay, GA. Information: 770/478-2587, e-mail email@example.com.
June 12-13 CORR Lucas Oil Series Championship Off-Road Racing, Antigo, WI. Information: 317/272-2827, www.corracing.com.
June 13 Mid States Mud Racing Association mud race, Merriman, NE. Information: www.msmra.com.
June 13 Mud Mushers Off-Road Rodeo, Erie, PA, by Erie County 4x4 Mud Mushers. Information: 814/868-5308.
June 18-20 Herring Creek 2004 for International Scouts, Stanislaus National Forest, near Sonoma, CA. Information: Black Dawg Scouts, 209/533-4776, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 18-20 UROC Pro National Series and Extreme Rockcrawling National Series, Jellico, TN. Information: 801/932-0322, www.uroc.com.
June 18-21 CalROCS Northwest Regionals, Goldendale, WA. Information: 530/622-0370, www.calrocs.com.
June 18-20 12th Drummond Island Jeep Jamboree (second run), Drummond Island, MI. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 19-20 Hot Spring Mountain Tour, San Diego County, CA. Information: ECO 4WD, e-mail email@example.com.
June 20 Father's Day Feature, Muddy Run Raceway, Smoke Run, PA. Information: 814/378-5723, www.muddyrunraceway.com.
June 20 Mid States Mud Racing Association mud race, Valentine, NE. Information: www.msmra.com.
June 24-27 Vegas to Reno off-road race. Information: Best in the Desert, 702/457-5775, www.bitd.com.
June 25-26 Dog Days of Summer Diesel Truck Event, Aberdeen, ID. Information: Bully Dog Technologies, 208/397-3200, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
June 25-27 3rd Poconos Big Boulder Jeep Jamboree, Blakeslee, PA. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 26 3rd Annual Central North Carolina 4x4 Truck Show and Swap Meet, North Carolina State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, NC. Information: www.CNC4x4.org.
June 26 MDR 400 off-road race, Lucerne, CA. Information: Mojave Desert Racing, 626/442-0320, www.mdrracing.com.
June 26-27 CORR Lucas Oil Series Championship Off-Road Racing, Crandon, WI. Information: 317/272-2827, www.corracing.com.
June 26-27 2004 Rockport Off-Road Park's Rockcrawl Challenge, Rockport, IL. Information: 217/437-JEEP (5337).
June 26-27 8th Annual Southeastern 4Wheel Jamboree, Anderson, SC. Information: 317/236-6515, www.familyevents.com.
July 3 Mid States Mud Racing Association mud race, Philip, SD. Information: www.msmra.com.
July 4 Mid States Mud Racing Association mud race, Gregory, SD. Information: www.msmra.com.
July 8-10 UROC Extreme Rockcrawling National Series West, Cedar City, UT. Information: 801/932-0322, www.uroc.com.
July 9-11 17th annual Summer 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, Bloomsburg, PA. Information: 317/236-6515, www.familyevents.com.
July 9-11 13th Ghost Town Jeep Jamboree, Bridgeport, CA. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
July 10 Pacific Mountain Cruisers swap meet, Petaluma, CA. Information: 707/431-0604, e-mail email@example.com.
July 10-11 CORR Lucas Oil Series Championship Off-Road Racing, Topeka, KS. Information: 317/272-2827, www.corracing.com.
July 11 Off Road Driving Clinic, Hungry Valley State Vehicle Recreation Area near Gorman, CA. Information: 310/374-8047, www.4x4training.com.
July 15-17 Camp Jeep at the Oak Ridge Estate, Nelson County, VA. Information: 800/789-JEEP (5337), www.jeep.com/campjeep.
July 15-18 Chubfest 2004 by Rough Rangers Off Road Club, Badlands Off-Road Park, Attica, IN. Information: www.rrorc.com.
July 17 Mid States Mud Racing Association mud race, Merriman, NE. Information: www.msmra.com.
July 17-18 "Legendary Tellico Trailride" by the OffRoad Sportsman Association, Murphy, NC. Information: 770/478-2587, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 23-25 East Coast Xterra Challenge, by the Mid-Atlantic Xterra Club, Rausch Creek Racing ORV Park, Tremont, PA. Information: www.ecxc.com.
July 24-25 7th Annual Summit TruckStyle 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Canfield Fairgrounds, Canfield, OH. Information: 317/236-6515, www.familyevents.com.
July 24-25 UROC Extreme Rockcrawling National Series East, Badlands Off-Road Park, Attica, IN. Information: 801/932-0322, www.uroc.com
July 25 3rd annual 4WD Truck Show & Swap Meet by Deep Woods Extreme Inc., Hopkinton Fairgrounds, Contoocook, NH. Information: 603/886-5933, www.deepwoodsextreme.com.
July 28-Aug. 1 Black Hills Cruiser Classic, sanctioned by the Toyota Land Cruiser Association, Black Hills, SD. Information: 605/348-9125, e-mail email@example.com.
July 31-Aug. 1 4Wheel Parts TruckFest, Denver, CO. Information: 800/284-9840, www.4wheelparts.com/events.
July 31-Aug. 1 10th Anniversary Bond Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction, VT. Information: 317/236-6515, www.familyevents.com.
July 31-Aug. 1 X-treme Showdown and Groundpounders Daze (sand drags), Wallace Outpost, Alberta, Canada. Information: www.x-trememotorsports.ca/xtremenetrance.htm.
Utah Couple Wins Rhino Linings Sweepstakes
Why are Michael and Barbara Broadhead so happy? They won Rhino Linings' Safari Sweepstakes, entitling them to a deluxe 11-day, 10-night African safari including airfare, hotel accommodations and a guided tour to see-what else?-rhinos. The Broadheads also received a Sony camcorder and digital camera, two pairs of binoculars, and $4,000 spending money.
An over-the-road truck driver, Broadhead said he hasn't traveled much in his life, not counting the 800-mile trip he makes between Salt Lake City and Ontario, Oregon three times a week. "My wife Barbara and I have talked about traveling after I retire," Broadhead said, "but Africa is probably a trip I could never afford on my own. We're very excited."
Broadhead qualified for the sweepstakes by having his '98 Dodge sprayed with a Rhino Linings bedliner at Rhino Linings of Utah in Murray.
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Support Our Troops!
I read your magazine as often as I could while I was deployed in the Indian Ocean. We were supporting OEF and later OIF by building and delivering bombs. The shot with me and the missiles was taken about a week before the Iraq War started. Shout out to all the brave troops on the ground: Fight the good fight!SRA Matt KenneyMinot, ND
My name is Jeremy Agner. I am 21 years old and have been reading your magazine for about five years. I am currently deployed in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, 1-187 Infantry. This picture was taken on a patrol near the Tigris River, where part of our unit was receiving fire two days prior from a sniper across the river. I hope this makes it into the magazine. If not, my '83 Dodge Power Ram surely will when I get home.
Environmental & Political Watch
Our friends, the government watchdogs of the SEMA Washington D.C. office, have alerted us to a bill currently making its way through the Massachusetts legislature that would ban the sale or installation of "an exhaust system which has been modified in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust." The bill's approval by the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Safety came after a non-publicized hearing that was clearly intended to keep opponents of the measure at bay, says SEMA. The bill has now been referred to the House Steering, Policy and Scheduling Committee. H.B. 1722 ignores the fact that aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to make vehicles run more efficiently without increasing emissions; does not supply law enforcement officials with a clear standard to enforce, allowing them to make subjective judgments on whether or not a modified exhaust system is in violation; and makes it difficult for hobbyists to replace factory exhaust systems
with more durable, better performing options. Contact your local state legislator (especially if you live in Massachusetts) to voice your disapproval of this bill.
Jeep Rescue Future Uncertain
Remember the brawny Rescue concept SUV that Jeep unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show? Don't hold your breath waiting for it to go into production. DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche, speaking at a press event (and quoted in Automotive News) noted that his company is trying to determine how to expand the Jeep brand, but he's concerned that borrowing parts or entire platforms from other DC lines may have a negative effect on Jeep's go-anywhere reputation. That parts- and platform-sharing practice is common with other automakers; think of how many products have been spawned from the basic F-150 platform.
So what does this have to do with the Rescue? Underneath the futuristic Jeep bodywork was a platform derived from the Dodge Ram pickup.
On the other hand, Zetsche acknowledged that what makes a Jeep a Jeep doesn't necessarily have to do with which bin its parts come from. He realizes that Jeep-ness has more to do with capabilities, characteristics, and a certain style that stays true to the brand.
All this seems to fly in the face of recent reports that Chrysler is planning to soften the off-road capabilities for some new Jeeps in order to broaden the line and sell more units. Let's hope so!
Trevor Creed, Chrysler's senior vice president of design, introduces the Jeep Rescue at the Detroit Auto Show.
Rick has shot new photos for this page about the Jeep Rescue. There may also be new copy included.The Jeep Unlimited may also be shown here. This page will be finished on April 12th after we get back from Moab.-Alan
Zetsche, later that same article, thinking he can meet Jeep buyer expectations regardless of vehicle engineering. He needs to read this magazine more often.