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1961 Chevy Pickup & Jeep Wrangler JK - Off-Road Notes

Posted in Features on March 1, 2007
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I like muscle cars. I've always liked muscle cars. I even tried to turn my very first vehicle, my trusty '61 Chevy pickup, into a muscle car by swapping in a Chevrolet 348 Tri-power V8 (didn't work - it was still an old truck). This year's SEMA Show had a muscle car theme, and there were plenty of Pontiac GTOs and Firebirds, Chevrolet Camaros and Malibus, Ford Mustangs, Dodge Chargers and Challengers, Plymouth 'Cudas and Road Runners to see and drool over. There was even a display of old Funny Cars with one of Gas Ronda's Mustangs (I used to work for Gaspar Ronda. He's a great guy) and one of Dick Landy's many Mopars (did you know that Dick Landy started his career in Fords?). The muscle cars ranged from perfectly restored models to beautiful cars with modern drivetrains. There was one white Challenger with a new Hemi in it that I wanted for my very own

There were some innovative and interesting off-road products at the show too. Toyota FJ Cruisers and Jeep JK Wranglers were the off-road vehicles du jour at this year's show, and there were interesting new products for both of them. Donahoe Racing had its Baja racer FJ Cruiser in BFGoodrich's booth. We'll be featuring that vehicle soon here in Off-Road. BFG also gave us a sneak peak at a new tire it'll be introducing mid-2007 (I can't say much here, except it looks like it will be a great performer off-road and on). All-Pro Off-Road had its very competent FJ Cruiser in Off-Road magazine's vehicle space, as the FJ it's building for us wasn't finished yet. JK Wrangler suspensions were everywhere. Some of them were scary, with pinions moving 30 degrees during articulation and control arm designs that were so innovative they won't work. It makes you wonder if the engineers took a break while the marketing people had the vehicles built for the show. Not all the JK suspensions were bad though. Some of them were even great. Once the new Wranglers get into the backcountry with these parts on them, we'll be able to see what works and what won't.

American Racing had its Ranger prerunner built by Desolate Motorsports using Camburg suspension. After walking by all the booths with urban cars in them and then spying the Ranger, I felt like I'd come home. We'll be featuring this Ranger soon too.

Daystar had products molded out of its new EVS foam material. This material looks just like polyurethane but is less dense. It's offered in two densities: black (stiff) and red (soft). The bumpstops are progressive, don't break down, and are offered in a number of sizes and configurations. Daystar also introduced innovative new EVS foam shock isolators that ride on the shaft and soften the shock's compression by preventing hard-impact bottoming.

Both American Racing and Weld Racing introduced new, serious beadlock wheels for Trophy Trucks that will work on our trucks. Greg Mulkey at Allied Wheel showed us his new composite beadlock ring that can be machined to work on any beadlock wheel as well as his own excellent beadlock wheels.

Advance Adapters showed off its new 4L60E/Jeep 4.0-liter adapter with CompuShift's stand-alone transmission computer. This is big news for swappers. Also big news is Dynatrac's Dynaloc and StubHub hubs for Dana 60s that work much better with modern wheel backspacing, as they don't stick out as far as the old-style hubs did. They are also three times stronger than the OEM hubs. Also from Dynatrac was news that its Free-Spin hub conversion kit, just like the ones we installed on our Ram project, are now available for the '05-and-later Ford Super Duty.

There are always new and interesting products at SEMA worth seeing. This year was no exception.

One last thing. We want to see your truck or project, whether it's finished or not. Please send a short description with your name and town, as well as a higher-resolution digital photo, to Low-res photos won't do. If you don't have a higher-resolution camera, have a friend shoot your vehicle for you.

See you off-road!

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