With all the risks taken by the men and women of the United States Army, we guess a few perks are in order. While driving a HMMWV on maneuvers is certainly a thrill, check out the Army's latest tricked-out military wheels: the COMBATT 4x4.
The military's objectives for the COMBATT are strictly logical: build a safer, better-performing military 4x4 with a focus on the fast adaptation of civilian production trucks to wartime needs - all at a lower cost to taxpayers. This truck development program, dubbed COMBATT, COMmercially Based Tactical Truck, is sponsored by the Army's National Automotive Center, is managed by Veridian-ERIM International and includes participants from General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, and Ford Motor Company.
While the concept of using civilian-based trucks in a military application isn't new, the Army saw such trucks as the COMBATT as a targeted solution to a problem with their million-vehicle fleet. Many trucks in the current fleet are 20-plus years old and need to be replaced. By modifying commercial trucks for general military use - including cargo and troop transport - more of the expensive HMMWVs could be sent to the front lines of a conflict. Furthermore, using trucks such as the COMBATT in a military situation will help the Army maintain a modern, mission-ready fleet while reducing the cost of developing and producing a military-specific truck.
There's an additional reason the Army has been giving such vehicles as the COMBATT a lot of thought: leasing. Yeah, that's right; in theory, the Army could lease an F-350 COMBATT, use it, then trade the used trucks in on new models. Army spokespeople believe the slightly used - and well-maintained - trucks would be an ideal vehicle for loggers, mining companies, surveyors, rural fire fighters, and for countries with an undeveloped road system, based on the upgraded equipment installed on the 4x4s.
Speaking of upgrades, the Ford F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab COMBATT trucks are stout: The chassis and suspension has been structurally enhanced to handle a gross vehicle weight of 12,000 pounds, and its axles and differentials are the largest and strongest available. The suspension's high-performance dampers are electronically controlled, and the suspension uses both traditional steel springs and adjustable airbags. The 37-inch-diameter tires are run-flat style, with a central tire inflation system ( l the Hummer). The onboard air compressor is routed to the airbags and the tires, so the COMBATT's ride height, tire pressure, and ride quality are automatically set according to whatever varying surface conditions the COMBATT encounters. We told you it was trick.
There's more: The COMBATT sports an onboard computer and GPS navigation system, a night-vision system, and a powerful electrical system that's capable of providing 12-, 24-, and 110-volt power. A special winch mount allows the winch to be rapidly mounted to either front or rear. The COMBATT is capable of fording 30-inch-deep water, can operate in temperatures from 50 degrees below zero to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, will climb a 60-percent grade, and can negotiate 40-percent side slopes.
If the Army's idea of leasing the COMBATT trucks from Ford works out, you could be seeing these rugged 4x4s on a used-car lot in the future. Given the popularity of Ford's civilian Super Duty 4x4, we can see the COMBATT Super Duty being a huge hit with enthusiasts looking for a way-rugged F-350.
Quick Look: Jeep Liberty Renegade, Wrangler Apex
Never let it be said that Jeep's parent company, DaimlerChrysler, isn't aware of niche 4x4 markets. The nation's No. 3 automaker has introduced two new Jeep models with unique styling cues and accessories intended to set them apart from ordinary Jeeps.
"The Jeep Wrangler offers a lot of fun to a very diverse group of customers," said Tom Marinelli, Vice President, Chrysler/Jeep Global Brand Center, DaimlerChrysler Corporation. "The Apex Special Edition adds a fresh new look to the successful Jeep Wrangler X model with an eye-catching exterior and unique features that will set it apart and capture the intrigue of those who seek to be a bit different."
To set the Apex apart from other Wranglers, the Apex is equipped with all manner of styling and performance goodies, including unique graphics, chromed steel wheels, Cognac Ultra-Hide leather seats, and a seven-speaker stereo/CD sound system with separate tweeters (two), four midrange speakers, and a subwoofer mounted in the center console. The Apex will be offered in three new colors: Bright Silver Metallic, Patriot Blue, and Black. Power is supplied by Jeep's popular 4.0L I-6 engine, which produces 190 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque and is backed by a five-speed manual gearbox.
Jeep's other new ride, the Liberty Renegade, showcases upgrades to the new Liberty. The compact Liberty SUV already boasts distinctive style and strong four-wheel-drive capabilities, but Jeep designers took things one step further with the Renegade model by adding a special roof rack, high-powered lights with a combined rating of 150,000 candlepower, fender flares with exposed bolts, removable side steps, and 16-inch, six-spoke wheels exclusive to the Renegade.Commenting on the Renegade's functional enhancements and upgraded styling, Rick Aneiros, Vice President, Jeep/Truck Product Design, DaimlerChrysler Corporation, stated: "Renegade builds on the Jeep
Liberty's expressive appearance and adds rugged design cues taken from the existing Dakar concept vehicle which inspired Liberty's original design." The Renegade will be offered in several new paint colors, including Bright Cactus Green, Light Khaki, and Bright Silver.
New Tire Rubber Compound from Canada
Canadian researchers working on improved rubber compounds are said to have developed a new type of rubber that is more environmentally friendly than current tire rubber. The new rubber is actually the latest version of a compound that's been available for several years, but lasts longer than previous compounds and is completely recyclable. Tire manufacturers and plastic and rubber trim manufacturers are said to be watching the research at the University of Western Ontario with great interest, since the new tire compound may forever change the way tires and rubber are manufactured and remanufactured.
Ford 4x4s Sidelined by Defective T-Case Part
Ford Motor Company recently halted shipments of its popular 4x4 trucks and SUVs because of a defective electronic control in the transfer case of certain Explorer, Expedition, and Lincoln Navigator SUVs and Ranger and F-150 trucks.
Ford spokesman Ed Lewis said the problem involved a defective electric motor on the transfer case that regulates shifting. "They are mostly '02 trucks and SUVs," continued Lewis, who further stated: "At this point, most, if not all of the effected vehicles were contained at the plant." Ford fitted new, improved electric motors to the 4x4's T-cases, and company representatives cleared the stockpiled vehicles for shipment.