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Off-Road Unloaded - Letters To The Editor - May 2010

Posted in Features on May 1, 2010
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This month every letter writer is getting a copy of Trucks Gone Wild 8 from TGW Productions. The eighth entry into the Trucks Gone Wild family is the newest DVD to capture all the crazy off-road action of a bunch of giant off-road trucks. You can find your own copy by logging on to

What Year Chevy To Build?
Hi, I read your magazine and have been looking for an old Chevy truck for slight mudding and off-roading. I was wondering what is the best year of a Chevy truck to get? I like the late '70s to mid '80s. Thanks!
Calvin "Captain Cal" Ode
Via email

Good question! I'd say start with a '73-to-'75. That way you never have to worry about smog equipment and emissions testing (even if you aren't in California, the smog testing rules are going to get more serious in every state).

After you got that era of truck, I'd pull that front clip off and stick on fenders, a grille, and a hood from an '81-to'91, as the hood and fender line is dropped by a few inches at the nose of the truck in those later years. The slanted front clip gives much better visibility of things up close (plus I think it looks a whole lot cooler).

Baja 'Burban?
Hey guys, I have a '95 Chevy Suburban 4x4 that I want to take to the next Baja 500 and I was wondering if you guys could get me some sponsors or help to make it Baja worthy. The truck is on its last leg and I just want to give it what it deserves. Thanks for all the great help you give young guys like me! Love the mag.
Ryan Johnson
Rockvale, TN

Man, a Baja Suburban does sound cool! I've never really thought about racing the Baja with six guys sitting comfortably in a race truck for 500 miles, together. But, unfortunately, I don't think we can help you build it or get sponsors. We get requests like this all the time and it just wouldn't be fair to build yours without building every single other reader's truck, too.

But that would be so cool if we had the resources to hook up everyone's trucks, huh?! Can you imagine an entire fleet of thousands OFF-ROAD readers all bombing through the mud, mountains, and desert together?! We could totally take over....

Suspension Control
I enjoyed your editorial (February 2010) on what I like to call "Quantity vs. Quality." One reason I enjoyed it so much is because I've been trying to spread that very same gospel for quite some time. It's nice to see someone else in a much better position to get the word out to the masses.

My own ride walks it like I talk it-a 2004 2WD Nissan Titan set up for light pre-running and chasing for friends who race SCORE class 40 motorcycles down in Baja. It's equipped with Sway-A-Way units front and rear, but "only" with about 10 inches of travel. But the shocks have been completely revalved by Greg Gagnon at PRG Products, Just about every guy who's ridden in my truck has commented on how nice and smooth the street ride is, and all those that have spent time with me in the desert are blown away at how well a 10-inch-travel truck can run at speed. In fact, I just got my rear shocks back from Greg so he could do a third valving update on them and loosen the high-speed compression a bit. My next upgrade is the install of the Light Racing jounce bumps that are now sitting in my shop.

After your editorial, I think an off-road shock valving primer is due. Many guys don't know the difference between low-, mid-, and high-speed valving and the type and speed of the terrain class they fall into.

I also agree on you proposed travel definitions-standard, mid, and long.

Love the magazine and the direction it has been taken. Another great section: Long-Term Updates! Keep them coming.
Louis Schilling
Burbank, CA

I agree, Louis! It's probably time for another shock valving story. Look for one soon!

What Is Bumpsteer?
First of all I love the mag. I can't wait for it to show up every month and then I read it cover to cover that day and then glance through it again almost every day until I get my new one.

I have a suspension question concerning my beloved '02 Ford F-150 Supercrew. I already have a Pro Comp 4-inch lift, 33-inch BFG ATs, 16x10 MB Motoring wheels, a Flowmaster exhaust, and a K&N filter. As of now my whole front end is new: hub bearings, inner and outer tie rods, and idler arm. But still I have a little wheel shimmy when going over certain sized bumps! Is this what is referred to as "bumpsteer" and would a steering stabilizer help? Also, does anyone make tubular upper control arms for my truck? I would like to upgrade and not just replace my suspension parts when they start to wear out. I have looked around a little, but I figured I could just save some time and ask you guys. Any help would be much appreciated. Included is a picture of my truck. Other than the lift, wheels and tires, it is all stock. My future mods are: gears, lockers, 35s, and Dixon Bros Racing long-travel suspension kit (as soon as I can save up the money). Thanks for the great mag.
Dustin Sowerby
Clearfield, UT

Dustin, first of all, thanks for reading! Secondly, I think we can help you out with your questions. Bumpsteer is a phenomenon that occurs while the suspension is oscillating and you can feel the steering pulling or diving to one or both sides. Many modified vehicles display some sort of bumpsteer (either minor or severe). What your truck is exhibiting doesn't sound exactly like bumpsteer, but it's a definite problem, nonetheless. I believe a high-quality steering stabilizer would help your vehicle, definitely. Steering stabilizers are sort of "steering band-aids" that are good for masking the little shimmies and shakes that come from imperfect steering systems (and most trucks don't have completely perfect steering systems).

As for an upper control arm, I'm not aware of anyone who has a bolt-on upper control arm for your era 4WD F-150 (I am assuming you have a 4WD because you mentioned "lockers," plural), but there is that cool long-travel kit you mentioned.... For other readers with your same model truck, they should check out the Dixon Bros kit ( made for '97-to-'03 F-150 4x4s. I know a couple guys who have it and really like it.

I've owned my '89 F-150 since new. It now has 80,000 miles on the odometer and it needs attention. It's got a 351ci engine with a C6 tranny and 3.08:1 gears in the axle. I've always kept it garaged and frequently serviced. I know this truck has 20-year-old fuel injection on it (CA model), but can anything be done to help its weak power and lousy (7 to 11 mpg) fuel economy? If the fuel injection can be upgraded, please fill me in!
Ron Hamilton
Minden, NV

Ron, unfortunately you're working with an engine came out of an era famous for bad fuel economy and low power numbers in search of cleaner emissions.

And no, you can't really upgrade your fuel injection system without voiding your smog legality. But there are a number of ways you can increase your vehicle's fuel economy. One sure way to increase the fuel economy on your engine is to add a Fitch fuel catalyst inline on your fuel line. This works by improving the fuel that goes into your engine.

You can also try increasing engine efficiency by adding an exhaust, a high-flow air intake, and better ignition parts (spark plugs, ignition boxes, wires). A third way to increase fuel economy would be to add an overdrive unit in back of your transmission. And if you wanted to get really drastic, you could swap in a new Ford 5.4L engine and transmission.

Editor's Note: If you want to say or ask something, email Unloaded at

Remember, we're giving away swag every month to the author of our favorite letter. Be sure to include your address, so we know where to send your goods. And because we lost our copyeditor, please know that we are not going to be copyediting your letter if you are going to be hating on us, so you better check it over well before sending it our way! Thanks!

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