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April Cruelties Truck Challenges - Limited Articulation

Posted in Features on April 1, 2007
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April is the cruelest month, it's been written, and while we're not sure if T.S. Eliot ever had to slug his way through a Schedule A, we know that this time of year can be, er, taxing on some folks. It's the same with us-not with taxes, of course; we never need to worry about owing the government, for reasons you can probably divine. No, what taxes us most heavily each spring is the chore of making our final cut of Top Truck Challengers for your approval. It's a cold-hearted task that we approach with the solemnity of performing jury duty.

We receive dozens upon dozens of TTC entries each year, and winnowing down the roster of hopefuls to the Final 50 requires making some harsh, and sometimes cruel, decisions. Vehicle type, tire size, engine displacement, axle ratio-all are weighed in the balance. We consider the clarity of your photos and the legibility of your entry form. (If your handwriting's like ours, best to type out a separate spec sheet). We look at what your rig is actually doing in your photos (crawling over rocks, or parked in a driveway?) and what you and your passengers are doing-not wearing seatbelts? Drinking beer on the trail? Giving the camera a one-digit salute? Believe it or not, we've received pics like this, and worse.

In the end, we rely on our experience and select those rigs that represent the most diverse mix of entries, and which also stand the best chance of surviving the week in Hollister. We do try to be as fair as possible, but in the end there's no room for sentiment or emotion. My best buddy from childhood might submit his rig, but if all he's got up front is a Dana 30, he ain't gonna pass muster for TTC. Call it Tough Love with a Transfer Case.

And now that we've done our job, it's time to do yours and send in the ballot you'll find on page 60.

At least we're not alone-Top Truck elicits a fair amount of reader cruelty too. We know for a fact, based on what we see posted on various bulletin boards in Cyberland, that there are more than a few of you out there who will cast your vote(s) for a particular rig for the sole purpose of watching it self-destruct on our TV show-and, true believers in democracy that we are, we're glad to accede to your wishes. As long as you're flooding our mailbox with ballots, we're happy-and we'll count every one.

Last summer's Real Truck Club Challenge, also covered in this issue, offered its own forms of cruelty. Because we ran all of the competitors over the same courses consecutively-instead of splitting them into groups and running two events at the same time-we had to cut some of their running times in half, which led to all sorts of carnage. Imagine if we told our Top Truck Challengers that they only had, say, five minutes total to run the Mini-Rubicon. Grounds for impeachment? Probably so. But our Real Truck participants, good soldiers all, took it in stride, gave it their best shot, and picked up busted drivetrain parts as they went along. You can see their results on page 34.

Finally-because it is April, after all-we've included something in this issue that's a bit of a leg-puller, though there's nothing actually bogus about it, even if its grille sports a Rolls-Royce logo. And for those of you with memories of Aprils past, rest assured that our resident trailer-park hip-hopper and his 'dubbed Escalade have been consigned to the ethanol patch for good. Hey, like we said, it's a cruel month.
-Douglas McColloch

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