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June 2010 Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on June 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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Where To Write
Address your correspondence to: Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245. All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department can also be reached through the website at Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

If It's Time for Top Truck, It's Time to Pummel the Editors
I am very disappointed with the decision to split the Top Truck Challenge up into two groups (April '10). What's next? Are you going to just give everyone a First Place trophy just because they showed up? Remember, to be the best, you have to beat the best!

I'm very disappointed with how the magazine is going all of a sudden. I will have to decide if I will continue to subscribe to your magazine or not.
John B
Pittsburgh, PA

I'm looking over the April '10 issue today. It's a good idea for separate Top Truck and Buggy categories for Top Truck Challenge. However, I counted only nine buggies with two possible others. (These two entrants were not described as buggies by FW.) On your tech list, maybe you could add a line for frame construction. With a ratio of approximately 1:4 (buggies to trucks), that is how I will vote. If the TTC finalists were determined in this manner, a truck might win overall.
Michael Beeson
Oakland Park, FL

I would like some information on the rules and regulations of building a Top Truck Challenge vehicle.
Trent Christensen
Malad, ID

For Top Truck, we try to keep the rules to a minimum to encourage creativity, though there are a few basic requirements that we insist upon. Your vehicle needs to have a full rollcage, a winch, at least one locking differential (preferably both), and have accessible recovery points (i.e., towhooks) at both ends of the vehicle. You need to wear a DOT-approved helmet and seatbelts/harness at all times while you are in your vehicle, and you need to have a working fire extinguisher onboard your rig. Front lift blocks are not allowed, and rebar steering is strictly verboten. Other than that, you're pretty much left to your own devices.

About the truck/buggy breakdown, we are at the mercy of our readers to provide us with suitable candidates for the competition. We're trying out two separate classes this year as an experiment, primarily because so many of our readers asked for it. If it doesn't work out as well as we'd like, we can always revert to the old format. Nothing's written in stone around here.

Motor vs. Engine: Which Is Which
Regarding your "Techline" letter, "Engine vs. Motor" (Feb. '10): I've been enjoying your magazine above all others for 32 years. Your articles and contributing editors are second to none. However, I may be able to educate you. Ninety-nine percent of the "motor name" examples you listed were for advertisement or slang.

Motor: An electrical device that is used to convert electrical energy into mechanical motion. Basic to the understanding of all "motors" is the reaction between a fixed magnetic field and a current carrying conductor in that field.

Engine: A mechanical device that is used for converting mechanical energy into mechanical motion.

Now you know that the device under the hood is called an engine. So, do I get a T-shirt?
John Fisher
Detroit, MI

We guess. But doesn't this mean we gotta swap out the diesel engine in our "motorhome" for an electric motor instead?

Building a Boondogglin' Tracker
Thanks for a great mag. I have been wheeling, on and off, for several years and you guys have always been a great source of information for all my vehicles. Now don't laugh too hard at my current project, okay? I picked up a 2000 4x4 Tracker 2.0. I've taken it on the trail a few times already & find it quite a capable little 4x4. I'm planning a lift kit, bigger tires, some bars and maybe a roof rack as this is my fishing and shooting rig. I've found a couple of places for the suspension lift: Calmini and E.M.O. I'm having some difficulty deciding which 2.5-inch lift to get; one is more complete than the other, but one of the competitors claims some of the components on the others kit are unneeded and that it produces a rough ride. Since this is my daily driver, I do want a semi-civilized road vehicle as well. I don't really do any hardcore rock climbing, mostly just boondogglin' trails out here in San Diego and Imperial counties. Cost isn't an issue, as I do want to use the right components for my needs. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Lakeside, CA

Hey, no laughs from us. We've always had a soft spot for Suzukis around here.

We've never heard of "E.M.O." Perhaps you're referring to Old Man Emu (OME)? They manufactured lift kits for '93-'98 Trackers and Sidekicks, but nothing for your vehicle. We've heard of some shops and individuals who've cobbled together suspension lifts for '99-and-later vehicles using some of the older OME parts, but the installation is likely going to require some custom work and mixing-and-matching of componentry. The Calmini kit, by contrast, comes as a complete kit, and since they're located in California, you shouldn't have to wait very long to have the kit delivered to you. Just so you know.

We Get All Sorts of Requests
I have a '97 Jeep Cherokee engine and transmission from a wrecked Jeep. I want to put them in another model, but the wiring harness is a mess. Do you have one that I can buy to run the engine and trans?
Reidsville, North Carolina

Nope. Next question?

What Makes a "Best Buy"?
I read your article "The Best Buys in Used 4x4s" (Sept. '09) and wondered what features about the '85-'95 Toyota trucks caused you to select those models. I am looking at a 1998 Toyota Xtracab, 4x4 with the 3.4L V-6, five-speed standard, and 175,000 miles. My use will be for off-road hunting- following and chasing dogs that locate and tree game.

If you could give me your advice on this truck and advise if it has problems or weak components that give trouble.
Richard McGuire
Benton, AR

The primary considerations in picking our "Best Used Buys" were availability, aftermarket support, purchase price, and ease of modification. There's nothing at all wrong about that '98 Tacoma, and for your intended use, it should work just fine. We opted for the earlier-generation SR5 trucks and 4Runners since they're still plentiful; more parts are available for them via the aftermarket than for the later-model trucks; they don't come with quite so many electronic nannies; and high-mileage versions of them in decent running condition can be had for a very inexpensive price.

Chronicling a Labor of Love
I am writing you in hope of displaying my truck in your magazine.

It all started when my grandfather had a '67 C10 for his company truck. When he passed away, I received it and drove it everywhere. But it was too heavily rusted to restore, so I bought a '67 1-ton dualie and built it. I was still not satisfied so I found a '70 two-wheel drive from a neighbor that wasn't too beat up for $1,000. I really wanted a 4x4, so I found an '86 GM city snowplow truck. It had been burnt badly from an engine fire. This truck was $400 and would be my donor chassis. We sent it out to be blasted since it was a plow truck-imagine the rust.

I installed 12-inch Superlift springs, quad BDS shocks, and stabilizers at both ends. One-and-a-half-inch tubes were used to build ladder bars, which were powdercoated. The axles were HD Corporate units which I rebuilt with 4.11:1 gears and Detroit Lockers. I found a 454ci V-8 at a salvage yard, along with a Turbo 400 and transfer case for $800 used. (I wanted a 700R4, but didn't think it would hold up to the abuse it may get at times.) T&S Transmission in Martinsville, Indiana built the tranny and transfer case with a TCI 2,400 stall.

The engine was sent out to Quinlin Automotive in Indianapolis, Indiana, to be rebuilt. It was bored .030 over, with forged pistons, Comp cam (.575 lift/272 duration), Edelbrock intake and 700cfm carb, Hooker headers, and an HEI ignition. Pro-Kote of Indy ceramic coated the 4-inch exhaust system with Flowmasters Goodyear Wrangler MT/R 40x13.5/17 on Ultra 17x10s were selected for a great ride and traction qualities. This truck could handle 48s, but the quality ride would be lost.

The body was massaged, and the usual cab corners and rockers were replaced. The bed was another story, as the floor was rusted and sides were beat up. Extra welding and time were spent on the body. To increase the cab legroom, the fuel tank was removed and a custom aluminum tank was made to rest between the rear rails. I added a fuel fill door in the bedside from a newer truck. Bushwacker made a set of flares for the truck, which fit nice and added a much needed look.

I tossed around colors for awhile 'til I found the perfect color scheme: House Of Kolor Sunset Orange and Dark Toreador Red Metallic with a flame to break the two colors was selected. Since the interior was going to be leather, I painted the tan flame to appear as leather with stitches in the flame so it looked sewn together. The body was off and on several times to lay out the scheme as it goes through jambs and between the bed and cab. Then the body was clearcoated five times with House Of Kolor UC-35. It was then wet-sanded and buffed to bury any tape lines.

Since this truck is a '70, you can't just go out and buy a bumper, like all the cool bumpers for new trucks. The bumper templates were made out of cardboard and measured, and plate steel was sent out to be laser-cut and Tig-welded; 130-watt KC lights were added and bezels were made flush, then painted.

The interior was restored with stock instruments. Leather on the seats and armrests were done by Coverall in Martinsville. A custom speaker and amp box were built similar to the old fuel tank, but slightly smaller. Clarion provides sound thru a CD stereo with four speakers-two in the rear box and two in custom kick panels.

It took Riley Customs of Martinsville 525 hours to build this truck in six months and it was worth it-lots of thumbs-up wherever I go. It drives nice and has no problem lighting up those big 40s. It does like gas, but who cares when you're driving a truck like this? It's no trailer queen.
Phil Reilly
Martinsville, IN

Those are the only modifications you made to your truck? So what's the big deal? Okay, by all means feel free to send us some photos. And if you don't want to wait for us to get them into the magazine, you can also post images at once you've created your own (free) account there.

Nothing Says "We Love You" Like Pickup Truck of the Year
Your 2010 Pickup Truck of the Year test (Mar. '10) was a bit stacked. I suppose Toyota fans should be flattered that you felt the 2010 4.6L SR5 pickup was fair competition for the test, but come on, part of the eligibility criteria was being all-new or substantially revised. The Tundra SR5 has remained largely unchanged since 2007. The Ford Raptor is top-of-the-line with a much bigger engine, and the horsepower rating is the same as the Tundra. Perhaps you should have used the 5.7L TRD or Limited versions, considering that the staff was complaining about a boring interior in the base SR5. They're not even close on MSRP either, comparing the $33,000 Tundra to the $56,000 Dodge. You're not even close to comparing apples to apples. Furthermore, what was the reason for having two Dodge trucks? Where was the Chevrolet or Nissan? The overall competitive analysis sucked. Come on, testing a Dodge diesel Megacab on the trails? Give your head a shake. Maybe next time throw in a Ford Ranger and see how it compares.
"Anywhere," Oregon

Sure, the next time Ford offers up a new or substantially revised Ranger, we'll be happy to test it. Which apparently will be never, at least in the U.S. Is that our fault, too?

We explained in detail why each truck qualified for our competition, but to recap The Tundra qualified for testing on account of its new-for-2010 4.6L V-8: The Raptor qualifies with its off-highway package (the engine was the carry-over 5.4L V-8, not a "much bigger" engine-that comes next year), and the Rams both feature the new-for-HD body styling, with all-new interiors.

Also, we do consider price as a parameter in our scoring, so the Dodges took a hit in that department versus the Toyota. As far as trim level goes, we test whatever the manufacturers make available to us. And while we'd love to test the Silverado and the Titan, and everything else too, we simply lack the time and resources to testdrive every single pickup truck, every single year.

Wants Mo' Power for Lifted Sidekick
I have a '95 Suzuki Sidekick with 30-inch tires and a 5-inch total lift. What can I do, affordably, about my power issues?
Jeff Thurby
Big Clifty, KY

Assuming that you're running the 16-valve version of the 1.6L, you don't have a lot of power options, but there are a few out there-Doug Thorley makes a Tri-Y header for it, and K&N has a higher-flow replacement air filter. Calmini offers an after-cat exhaust, and if you're really feeling adventurous and want to dig into your internals, Hawk Performance has a re-grind Torquer 260 cam available to maximize low-end power. All of these are reasonably affordable upgrades that won't set you back more than $250 apiece (or less), on average.

If it were up to us, though, we'd rely on gearing to multiply your available torque rather than trying to squeeze a few more horsepower out of your engine. Trail Tough offers a replacement "Rockmonster" 4.24:1 low-range gearset for your transfer case, and Rockcrawler also has a 4.30:1 low-range gear; if you're running the stock five-speed and 5.13:1 ring and pinions, either of these upgrades will give you an (approximate) 80:1 crawl gear for the trail while leaving your stock (two-wheel drive) street gearing unaffected. Throw in a pair of ARB Air Lockers, and we'd say you've got a near-perfect Trailkick. However, these upgrades are all quite a bit pricier than the engine hop-ups mentioned above, so it all depends on the size of your budget.


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