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December 2010 4xForum - Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on December 1, 2010
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Send questions, comments, and suggestions to: 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility MAGAZINE, Attn: Christian Lee, 1733 Alton Parkway, Ste. 100, Irvine, CA 92606, or

Jeep Commander Parts
Q: I purchased a 2006 Jeep Commander XK 4x4 last December. My question is, why isn't the XK written about, or mentioned in this and other 4x4 publications? I really enjoy my XK. But even the older XJs and ZJs get more attention, even in advertisements. Is there something bad or unpopular about the XK that I just don't know about?
Rodney Hart
Del Rio, Texas

A: Rodney, there is nothing bad or unpopular about your Jeep Commander and we're glad you're enjoying it. The main reason these vehicles don't get as much attention as other Jeep models is that they use an independent front suspension that isn't as conducive to modifications or heavy trail use (the Jeep XJ and ZJ models use a solid front axle and four-link coil suspension with track bar). As a result there isn't as much aftermarket support available. That isn't to say the Commander can't be built to perform well on trails of moderate difficulty. Right from the factory some Commander models are stocked with quality off-road equipment, including front and rear electronic limited-slip differentials (ELSDs), a selection of three Trail Rated 4WD systems to choose from, and skidplates protecting all of the steering, powertrain, and drivetrain components, as well as the fuel tank. The Hemi engine option is also a winner. As for aftermarket parts, Superlift, AEV, Rough Country, Rocky-Road, Rusty's Off-Road, and others, produce the basic essentials, such as body armor and suspension lift kits. Superlift offers the most aggressive kit with its 4-inch system designed to fit 33- to 34-inch tires, depending on wheel choice. Some cutting and welding is necessary for installation. The Superlift kit also requires use of AEV's EGR Module so the Commander's ESP system will function properly. Most of the other available suspension kits are spacer-style kits that allow a max of 31-inch tires. Thanks for writing. 'Wheel on.

An Off-Road Legend Dies In Plane Crash
"Shock" and "disbelief." Those are the two best words I can think of to describe how this news hit me when I received an email from Kurt Scherbaum that broke the news. Scherbaum is a fellow off-roader who used to volunteer for Frank "Scoop" Vessels's off-road racing team.

Kash (left) and Frank "Scoop" Vessels stand in front of the historic Ford F-100. Scoop used the truck and its BFGoodrich tires to win the 1977 Baja 500 and Baja 1000.

Vessels died in August when his plane crashed in Oregon while en route to Montana.

Even though Vessels was best known in desert-racing circles, he gained a big appreciation for trail-style off-roading. In fact, Vessels was first introduced to Lion's Back in Moab by our editor, Phil Howell, himself. The trip over Lion's Back burned deeply into Scoop's memory and he spoke of it fondly for years afterward.

I had the chance to meet Scoop a few years ago, writing a profile story about the man who lived in the dual worlds of horses (racing, breeding) and horsepower and loved them both.

A little background info is in order here. Scoop's work in the world of horse racing and breeding had made him a very rich man. His stallion farm in Bonsall, California, can be accurately called "elegant" and "sprawling." I mention this because despite all of the wealth and accolades he'd garnered over the years, he was an approachable, nice man.

I suspect that much of his grounded, approachable nature came from hard work at an early age. That same hard work is also the origin of his nickname. When Scoop was growing up, the Vessels family owned the Los Alamitos horse-racing track in the Southern California city of the same name. As you'd guess, where there are horses, there are piles to clean up. It was young Frank's job to be handy with a shovel. "When they needed something cleaned up," he had told me, "they'd just yell, 'Scoop!'"

Vessels is survived by wife Bonnie and sons Kash, Colt, and Bryan.

Godspeed, Mr. Vessels. You'll be missed by many. I'm glad I had the chance to meet you.

-Kevin Blumer

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