Reader: My husband is a loyal Four Wheeler reader as well as a huge off-road guru. We have every Top Truck Challenge DVD you have put out, but he is always a bit disappointed in the fact that a lot of the good parts of the Challenge are left out of the DVD. We understand that only so much can fit onto a DVD.
During a recent discussion, I asked him if he would like to go to Top Truck Challenge in person and watch the events. He loved this idea, so I have begun the necessary research to see what needs to be done. We are not thinking that we would go this year but perhaps next year is a definite contender. We live in Southern California and would most likely drive to the event. If possible, I would like to receive information on the location and any relevant info on the 2007 or 2008 Top Truck Challenge. I would love to surprise my husband. Can you help?
Lisa Marie Smith
Editor: Sorry to disappoint, but Top Truck Challenge is not open to the public. The only way to score an invite is to gain the approval of our faithful readers-and if you want to see this year's roster of hopefuls, turn to page 46.
Reader: The four-wheel drive quit workin' on my '89 GMC Sierra 1/2-ton with a 3-inch body lift and 33x12.50 M/Ts on it. We just got 15 inches of snow, and snow removal here is a joke, so I need to get this fixed ASAP. I replaced the actuator, and that seemed to do nothing at all-and I had to drive 2 1/2 hours to get that part. So now I am stumped. When I engage four-wheel drive, it sounds and feels like it is engaging but the front wheels do nothing. Any and all ideas would be helpful.
P.S. The guy down the street in his lifted Dodge keeps goin' up and down playin' in it. You guys gotta help me here.
Editor: Your problem is a common one on GMs equipped with the Insta-Trac four-wheel-drive system. The earliest version of this system used a heating element to expand air and thus create vacuum in the actuator to engage four-wheel drive on the fly. In very cold weather, the actuator could be slow to heat up, or it might not heat up at all, which resulted in no drive power to the front wheels. After 1998, GM replaced the thermal actuator with a worm-drive version. Your local GM dealer should be able to order it for you, and it will come with a new harness to make it work. Did you swap in the later version of this part? If so, and you're still having problems, then check to make sure it's wired up properly and/or that no crud got into the actuator or any connections when you re-installed it. After that, we're stumped. Readers?
Reader: Hey guys! I just wanted to write you and thank you for the great magazine. While I can't claim to have been a longtime subscriber, I've been reading your magazine since before I bought my rig and continue to read them over and over again, cover to cover. It's a great remedy for an exchange student who's Cruiser-sick (kinda like being homesick, but I miss my Land Cruiser more than I miss home)
The September '06 issue is great-it's really nice to see a good long article about Cruisers, that and the note at the bottom of page 56 is hilarious, probably because its true: "Toyota Land Cruiser owners are some of the most faithful and fanatical we have ever encountered. In an effort to minimize letter bombs being sent to Four Wheeler headquarters, we have refrained from recommending any engine or axle swaps in this article." If you guys want to get inside the mind of a Cruiserhead, checking out www.ih8mud.com would be a good start. Thanks again for the awesome magazine!
Guy Lamontagne (yotawheeler)
Exchange student in Finland
Editor: Hey, when it comes to Cruiserheads, we're no fools! Thanks for the kind words, and for the Web link-we'll be checking it out.
Reader: I want to build a prerunner truck-the only problem is that I was born in Wisconsin so I know nothing about long-travel suspensions. All that I ever dealt with was mud bogging. I have read your articles about building them, but I have no idea where to begin. Is it better to go with a Ford, Toyota, Chevy, or Dodge? I would much rather stay with a Ford or Chevy. Is there an entire package that you can buy? Is it better to go with two-wheel or four-wheel drive? I think that I would like to keep four-wheel in case I get in a soft spot. It does not have to be street-legal, either-I have a truck to pull it, and a trailer.
You built a Ranger that looked like the Dukes of Hazard's car. I really liked that-how much did it cost to do? Is it necessary to do all the welding and frame work? Whom should I contact? Where is the best and cheapest? Can you buy already set-up prerunners? If so, what price ranges?
Cpl. Michael Homola
Editor: Whoa dude, that's a lot of questions, and if we tried to answer them all in detail, our reply would fill up the next several pages. But here are some answers, in brief:
Make and model? Take some time to troll around the Internet, and see who makes the most parts for which trucks. Long story short: Midsize Toyotas and Fords are your likely best bets here, and our own Sean "Boss Hawg" Holman will vouch for the Ranger as a nonpareil prerunner platform.
An entire package? Yes, for suspensions, and you can find good stuff from Dixon Brothers, Camburg, Donahoe Racing, and Fabtech, among others. Two-wheel drive versus four-wheel drive? Looks like you've answered that one yourself.
Cost? It all depends on how wild and radical you want your ride. If you want a truck like our "RangeRunner" project, plan on spending several thousand dollars on suspension parts alone, and that's even if you're doing all the wrenchwork.
Can you get one already set up? Well, sure, you could probably get Rod Hall to build one for you. Got a couple hundred grand or so? Otherwise, your best bet would be to check your local classifieds, an online auction house such as eBay Motors, or perhaps set your sights a bit lower on a two-wheel drive running a moderate lift, a rear locker or limited-slip, and some 33-inch all-terrains. You'd be amazed how far (or fast) you can go in the desert with a mildly built rig-or even, for that matter, a bone-stock truck like a Nissan Frontier Nismo.
One thing we'd recommend, whichever way you go: Regardless of your choice of suspension, don't skimp on shock absorbers if you want a truly capable prerunner.