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January 2010 Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on January 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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Top Truck Suggestions & Slams
I'm a long time wheeler/truck builder, and I've always been a big fan of Top Truck Challenge. I look forward to it every year, and I've always hoped of someday having the chance of entering it myself. However, over the past years I've seen TTC slowly evolve into a "Buggy/Machine" Challenge rather than a "Truck" challenge like it was intended to be. In my mind, this has been discouraging for guys like me who modify their trucks and who like to push the limits of what a truck can do.

I suggest splitting the event entirely into two fields: Trucks for Top Truck Challenge, and Buggies in their own division all together. I challenge Four Wheeler to place a poll on your website to see where the public stands on this issue. After all, every single other motorsport event is separated into fields and/or classes. In dirt bike races, do 500cc bikes race the 125s? In Baja, are the pre-runners in the same field as the Trophy Trucks? Maybe we'll see sailboats racing hydroplanes? Please consider this suggestion-I know in my area, this opinion is shared by many.
Dwight Sexton
Moses Lake, WA

I watched one of your 2005 videos of the Tank Trap. Just hearing the editor describe the track in the first video, I knew what a seedy, limited perspective your organization takes. He was almost giddy describing how the traps would damage the trucks. Is this what your organization has for goals?

Then, when they pulled the one truck that broke down back out and did more damage than when the truck was running, I realized what kind of damage an unprofessional and myopic group of people can do to others. The track you and your "editors" set up was typical of the organizational leadership's one-sided perspective (build the course to stop the trucks, and who cares if there is no recovery plan-the idiot owners signed a release, right?). Sure, it makes sense to have a challenging track, but to have no decent plans to recover the trucks that get stuck and to let the guy's truck get destroyed during the recovery is a direct reflection on your organization's professionalism and skill set. Congratulations on destroying someone's hard work and passion.
Patrick Scileppi
Via the Internet

Seedy editor Douglas McColloch replies: We've been called all sorts of things over the years, but this is a new one on us.

We'd probably take your suggestions more closely to heart if you weren't commenting on an event that happened four years ago. We do recall the situation you describe, and while we do whatever we can to avoid damaging someone's vehicle, in that particular case, there was no other way to retrieve the truck safely except by dragging it backwards through the canyon-and unfortunately, a fair amount of carnage was the result. Bear in mind, the Tank Trap is a narrow canyon sluice-the canyon walls are very steep in most places, and overgrown with foliage. You can't just put a recovery rig anywhere you want in there. There are always going to be some inaccessible "blind spots" in the Trap, and the infamous "canyon" is one of them.

But TTC is a learning experience for us, as well as for the competitors, and we are better prepared nowadays to handle Worst Stucks like the one you described, with more trucks and heavy equipment on hand than we had in 2005. Check out some of our later videos, and you'll see what we mean.

About splitting up TTC into separate truck and buggy classes: Sure, the thought has crossed our minds in the past. And we're sure there are others who think of TTC the same way you do. Up to now, we've been content to run 55 to 60 vehicles-trucks, buggies and everything else-in the April issue each year, and let the readers sort them out by using the power of the ballot to choose a Top Ten. But maybe, as you suggest, we should try something different next year-maybe pick the five trucks and the five buggies that get the most votes, and hand out awards to the winners of each class when the event is over? It's an idea at least. Readers, what do you think?

Wants More P/W "Experiments"
I looked forward to your "Project Power Wagon" series and so far am slightly disappointed. Yep, I got ahold of a 2005 myself. A great platform for an easy-build non-radical dream truck. Your first article stated that the lift kit you had wanted had not come in, so you went with 1-inch spacers and 35s. Are you going to follow up on the lift and larger tires? I too don't want to get too crazy, but would like to put on some real mudders and get the pumpkins away from dirt. As a good all-American working man, I would rather ya'll spend the money experimenting-I prefer to learn from others' mistakes. If not planning on following this avenue anymore, have your readers sent in good or bad tales about lifts and tires? Cruising the 'Net leaves a distinct void when it comes to the already-elevated tank-on-wheels. No worries, though, I'm looking at another two years of your subscription. Keep up the projects, and we P/W owners will keep on crawlin'.
Al Haag
Corpus Christie, TX

Our Power Wagon is still very much a work-in-progress, and we'll be exploring-and experimenting with-more suspension options as time passes and more goodies become available for it via the aftermarket. And rest assured-now that our project Dodge resides full-time at the Four Wheeler Midwest Bureau, it's going to see its share of mud, and we'll modify her accordingly.

Willie On The Chopping Block
It was with amusement that I read Willie Worthy's reply, titled, "Careful With That Axe, Willie," to an anonymous letter in the September '09 issue. While the education on the current regulations on USFS requirements for a campfire were in contrast to a widely held belief that an axe is a requisite tool, the opinion offered that, "An axe is kind of a useless tool, as most people don't know how to use them properly anymore, and they are usually dull," is preposterous. Is an axe such a complex and unusual tool that the average off-roader, a person capable of operating a complex machine on a busy freeway, cannot effectively use or maintain it? Did "most people" forget? How does the instruction manual of an axe read? "Holding the long, skinny part in the user's hands, swing the pointy metal end at the object you desire to chop, cut, or split, being careful not to chop, cut, or split the user's foot."

Your suggestion that a shovel can be sharpened and used to cut brush is equally ridiculous. Are you implying that a person who is too incompetent to sharpen or swing an axe is capable of sharpening and swinging a shovel? To cut brush?!? Wouldn't an axe, even a dull one, perform this job much easier? A person who is too mentally sluggish to swing an axe surely cannot be trusted to flail a sharpened shovel, with the curved "blade" glancing unpredictably and ineffectively into various directions inflicting untold injuries to the semi-retarded user. Although, I will concede that an axe is less effective at "dirt-tossing."

Also, this from the same reply: "One of the facts about driving in mud is that wheel speed is important in cleaning out the tire tread."

Another important fact is that chains, properly installed and tightened, negate this. Snow/Mud chains can transform the mildest set of tread-less, steel-belt-protruding, "may-pops" into the most aggressive of mud tires. The widely-spaced cross links of the chains become the tread, and wheel speed to clean them is totally unnecessary. Since you are so well educated on the current USFS regulations, I am surprised that you are completely ignorant of regulations in some states that require motorists to carry, and during certain conditions, install, chains on their vehicles. I hardly worry about "ruining" my chains, since they are a wear item that I fully intend to ruin, if necessary, to avoid a long walk, or a cold night spent in the back seat munching on cracker crumbs from beneath it. Much as I don't worry about ruining my brakes when avoiding a collision and the resulting violent and fiery death.Another important fact is that chains, properly installed and tightened, negate this. Snow/Mud chains can transform the mildest set of tread-less, steel-belt-protruding, "may-pops" into the most aggressive of mud tires. The widely-spaced cross links of the chains become the tread, and wheel speed to clean them is totally unnecessary. Since you are so well educated on the current USFS regulations, I am surprised that you are completely ignorant of regulations in some states that require motorists to carry, and during certain conditions, install, chains on their vehicles. I hardly worry about "ruining" my chains, since they are a wear item that I fully intend to ruin, if necessary, to avoid a long walk, or a cold night spent in the back seat munching on cracker crumbs from beneath it. Much as I don't worry about ruining my brakes when avoiding a collision and the resulting violent and fiery death.

I have been a faithful reader of this magazine for over 15 years and this is the first time I've felt compelled to write. While I understand your personal philosophy of traveling light, some of us can afford to carry the extra 20 pounds and resent the suggestion that we are too stupid to use an axe.

P.S. If you need some instruction on how to sharpen an axe, or swing it effectively, please contact me and I will be glad to assist you.
Kelly Clark
Fiddletown, California

We'll concede your point on axes. In our opinion, however, snow chains should be kept inside your vehicle unless (a) the law requires you to run them; (b) the law explicitly allows you to run them; or (c) you're in a life-or-death, gotta-get-out situation in the backcountry. Unless you do all your wheeling on private lands, using snow chains simply to go driving through mud sounds to us like a surefire way to turn a good trail into a chewed-up trail-which too often results these days in a closed trail. Remember, in most states that we're aware of, local vehicle code regulations apply on any public thoroughfare, whether you're driving on state or federal lands, on or off pavement, so unless you expect to be wheeling in a snow storm on a regular basis, get a good set of mud tires instead. On a related subject . . .

Just finished reading the September '09 issue, and while I agree with many of Willie Worthy's remarks in his "Workbench" article ("No More Excuses"), I must take issue with several of his remarks.

Regarding the activism of the four wheeler community: it is not always easy for an individual to be as proactive as one might wish-especially in my case, where I run a small family business and often work 12 to 16 hours a day, six days a week, while my beloved FJ40 sits forlornly in the yard collecting dust. I would like to become more active, but one has to balance taking care of one's family first. I am a member of Tread Lightly! and United Four-Wheel Drive Associations and applaud them for the great work they are doing. I tend to believe that many other wheelers may be in the same boat as I and not have the luxury of being able to devote the time to keeping people out of areas they feel only they are qualified to manage.

Unfortunately, while we fight to keep a few hundred acres of land and trails open, our esteemed legislators take away hundreds of thousands of acres with the stroke of a pen for no real good reason other than it makes them look good in the eyes of their liberal friends. I noted to no one in particular that if this land grab continued, you would start to see those who wish to recreate off-pavement start disregarding the closure signs as you are now starting to see. And yes, Willie is right-sooner or later, all our 4x4s will be nothing more than boulevard cruisers with the greatest challenge being the speed bumps at the local Wal-Mart.

I have been a longtime subscriber to Four Wheeler and like many of your articles, especially Willie's, but I couldn't let this one go by without comment.
Ron Hill
Via the Internet

We can't see much disagreement here-and yeah, we realize that "getting involved" is sometimes easier said than done when one has to balance work and family obligations, and the time that they demand from us. On the other hand, simply because some public lands are being closed by various government agencies, it's no justification for disregarding the law and behaving illegally. We don't get to choose which laws we want to obey, but we do get to choose the legislators who write the laws and who appoint the heads of the various regulatory agencies. Long story short: "getting involved" can be a multi-pronged effort ranging from practicing and preaching Tread Lightly! principles on a face-to-face basis, to working with national or regional organizations such as UFWDA or Cal 4-Wheel to advocate wise-use land management, to getting politically active with a party organization and/or candidates for office at the state and local level.

Wheels And Weight Ratings
Your recent wheel-tech article, "The Wheel Deal" (Oct. '09), discussed how to calculate minimum wheel load ratings based on the GVWR of the vehicle. The example given was a Ford F-350 with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds, which you claimed should use a wheel with a minimum load rating of 2,550 pounds. This is not correct. Gross axle weight rating (GAWR), not GVWR, should be used to calculate minimum wheel and tire load ratings. All truck and SUVs have the GAWR printed on a sticker on the driver's door jamb.

In the case of the F-350 example, I have seen rear GAWRs as high as 7,000 pounds on some F350s, which would require a 3,500-pound wheel load rating, not 2,550. When we started seeing 7,000-pound GAWRs a couple of years ago, we increased our wheel load ratings from 3,200 to 3,500 pounds on all new eight-lug truck wheels.
Keith Alinder
Wheel Pros
Cerritos, CA

Wants More Love For K5 Blazers
I get so jealous of all the Jeep owners. Don't get me wrong-I love my 1977 K5 Blazer, but Jeep owners always get "Buyer's Guides" in any 4x4 magazine I look in. I wish that you guys would make a K5 buyer's guide because those are just as popular as Jeeps. I see as many K5s as I do Jeeps on the road and on the trails. I spend a lot of hours trying to hunt down the biggest bang for my buck, and it would be nice to have some professionals just tell me what is the best for my rig. I would really like to see a K5 buyer's guide before Christmas.
Jon Crawford
Mesa, CA

Well, we missed the Christmas deadline, sorry to say. As a rule, our Buyers' Guides are typically meant to showcase new products for later-model rigs-and truth to tell, there ain't a whole lot that's new under the sun for your 33-year-old truck. But we're always on the lookout for new products and buildup items from the aftermarket, and as they make their way onto the market, we'll be sure to let you know.

Where To Write
Address your correspondence to: The editorial department can also be reached through the website at www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

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