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January 2011 Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on January 1, 2011
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Kudos for Camp Trailers
I read your article about the Mopar camp trailer (Oct. '10). You guys might also want to do an article on the Starcraft RT-series off-road pop-up trailers. We own one of their original smallest models, the 10RT. It is scarcely bigger than the Mopar trailer, tows great over everything but the most extreme 4x4 trails, and offers all the comforts of home: Sleeps five, with hot and cold water, shower, full galley, fridge, gas grille, plus we've added A/C and solar. Our family of four has spent the last three Thanksgivings in the middle of nowhere in Death Valley in remote places where only a few wheelers dare to go. We couldn't love it more, and it's added a whole new dimension to family wheeling.
Brian Dunning
Laguna Niguel, CA

We're seeing a lot more of these fold-out/pop-up camp trailers on the market nowadays, and we think they're a great alternative to say, a bulky cabover camper shell or a full-size motorhome. We'll see if we can get a hold of one for testing sometime during the year.

Wants More Expedition Stories
I'd like to start off by saying, great magazine (especially since you got rid of the male enhancement ads). I look forward to getting my copy of every month! That having been said, I would like to suggest maybe running more of the expedition-type articles. I love the "Border to Border" series in the latest issues. You've said that people seem to be getting more and more into this type of four-wheeling, and after all, wasn't that the whole purpose of four-wheeling to begin with?

I'm not trying to be nitpicky here, but in the latest issue (Oct. '10), you have an article on an 8-inch lift! Eight inches? With what, 2-inch-tall tires? What good will a truck with that kind of setup do off-road? (Just a small gripe.) If there are no plans to run more of the expedition-type articles in your mag, could you please point me in the right direction? I have subscribed to Four Wheeler for 12 years now and don't plan to stop-I just want a little more.
Joseph Vallin
Turlock, CA

We certainly hope you'll stick with us for the coming year. For starters, we'll be running the last installment of the "Border to Border" series in next month's issue, so you'll want to be around for that. Second, we're building an expedition-type rig of our own this year off a time-honored Toyota 4x4 platform, and our "Project 4Runner Backcountry" buildup starts in next month's issue, too. We think you'll enjoy it. And rest assured, after we finish building it, we'll be using it for some backcountry treks, which you'll be seeing in the pages of this magazine later in the year.

About that lifted truck you mentioned: The owner of the rig in question ("Pieces of Eight") could have gone to a bigger tire size than the 33s he chose, but he would have probably needed to re-gear his axles to keep his rig's powertrain performance optimal. We're guessing he was just looking to save a little scratch by going with a smaller tire size and keeping the stock gears for now.

What Happened to the Ranger Aftermarket?
I have a new 2010 Ford Ranger 4x4 with 4.0L V-6. I have been looking for a 4-inch lift all over the Internet and have encountered the decline of options available to the Ranger after about year 2000. Is there anyone who makes an aftermarket suspension lift for the Ranger anymore? Ford still makes the 4x4 version of the truck-did consumer demand drop so drastically that the aftermarket discontinued those lift kits?
Darrel, J. Kopriva
Santa Rosa, CA

Yes, Ford still makes a 4x4 version of the truck, but not for long. Ford will cease domestic production of the Ranger right around the time you get this magazine in the mail, and thereafter the truck will only be manufactured for sale overseas. Which should give you a pretty good idea why aftermarket support for the current truck has vanished into the ether. We know that ReadyLift offers a 2 1/2-inch leveling kit for your rig that's said to accommodate 32-inch tires, but if you want to go bigger than that, you're pretty much left to your own devices.

Best First Upgrades:
Making a List
I recently purchased and read the Sept. '10 issue and enjoyed it thoroughly, as I do with all the issues of yours I pick up. But I just wanted to make one suggestion in regards to your "First on the List" article. I do agree with all the upgrades performed, but the order had me scratching my head a bit. I think the traction aids should be higher than ninth-more like second or third, as big tires and traction aids almost go hand in hand. A lot can be accomplished by just adding these two one after another rather than doing all the other things first and adding lockers later. And shocks should be closer to the lift, if not combined with them. Why spend money on shocks, if down the road (and usually soon down the road) a lift goes on when you replace the shocks anyway? So the order I would have put it in goes:

  • Better Tires
  • Traction Aids
  • Inhale
  • Exhale
  • Lift/Shocks
  • Winch (My own add-in since lift and shocks should be done together)
  • Brakes
  • Programmer (if Inhale/Exhale don't give enough power to get places)
  • Lights (Since you shouldn't night wheel till you're avid with your rig and know the area well)
  • Protection (body armor)

That way, the article is angled more at the beginner wheeler (which seems who you are targeting), since wheelers who already wheel should know where to start for their tastes.

One last suggestion: Feature more home-built rigs of the normal guys. Not all of us have lots of money to spend on expensive gear, big axles, and nice paint jobs. I love home-built, on-a-budget, in-the-driveway builds of the average worker. They've got more personality touch to them!
Jesse Hernandez
Avondale, AZ

When we listed our "12 Best Upgrades," we didn't intend to rank them by importance. Different guys operating on different-sized budgets will have different priorities when building their trucks. The numbers we used were more of a visual cue to connect photos to the appropriate text windows. If we were ranking these upgrades in order of "stuff we gotta do first," our list would look very much like yours. You'll also see more home-built projects over the coming year in our long-running SuperBurb and Long-Range Clunker builds.

Ranger Gearbox Correction
I was a little bit disappointed in your September issue. As a Ranger enthusiast, I just wanted to let you know that in the "The Beater Files," you stated the M50D manual transmission is especially the weak link of the Ranger. I want to let you know that the weakest transmission of the Rangers and Bronco IIs are the automatics, specifically the A4LD that came in Rangers and Bronco IIs from 1985 to 1994. I'm not only citing this from personal experience, but the forums at the most popular Ranger enthusiast site ( will confirm this. That's kind of like saying that of all the stock Jeep rear axles, the Dana 35 is particularly the strongest. Don't get me wrong-I love your magazine, and I always learn something new when I read your magazine, so I just want to get that out there! Needless to say, I am going to start collecting parts for my M50D Swap as soon as my 5R55E goes out-it's starting to slip!
Jordan Owens
Wayland, MI

We've always thought that the A4LD is a fine transmission when an external oil cooler is attached, but there's always room for disagreement.

His Favorite "Off-Road" Rig
I just had to respond to Douglas McColloch's column, "Our Favorite Trucks" (Sept. '10). This is especially poignant for me as the best 4x4 I ever drove wasn't even a 4x4-it was a '59 VW Beetle. I graduated from High School in 1960 and with money I had saved along with graduation gifts I purchased a used 1959 36hp Beetle. My buddy and I drove it everywhere in northern Arizona-through rutted washes, behind dams, through the forest bouncing, over fallen Ponderosa pine trees, and much of the El Paso natural gas pipeline right-of-way across the state, it never failed us. Once, as we were coming up a ridge, having just crossed behind a dam, we happened across a flatfender. The driver asked where we had just come from, and after telling him he declared he wouldn't take his flatfender across that area. All of that, and it got 30 miles to the gallon.

By the way, please don't start sentences with "and." As a former communications instructor at the college level, I can tell you it is almost never correct.
Robert G. Stewart PhD
Via the Internet

Douglas McColloch replies: Great letter, and one that hits especially close to home for me. You see, my first true off-road experiences were also in a VW-only in a Westfalia (aka "hippie") van, not a Beetle. Back in my misspent youth, I used to flog my '71 on old mining roads in the California deserts, on dirt and gravel backroads in the rural South, and even down to Baja once to camp in the Sierra de San Pedro. Like you, I beat the stuffing out of my rig, and while it rode pretty rough and handled like a schoolbus (worm-and-roller steering = need bigger biceps), besides a few flat tires, it was generally quite reliable. Anyway, your letter brought back some great memories. And thanks for writing in.

Plymouth Suburban Trademark?
In your review of the GM Suburban (Sept. '10), you mentioned that the General didn't trademark the Suburban name until 1988. This may be the reason: The '49 Plymouth Suburban was the first all-steel station wagon from Chrysler. How many years does it take for a trademark to run its legal course? Eighteen seems to stick in my mind.
Mike Monahan
Auburn, CA

According to our (admittedly murky) understanding of U.S. trademark law, trademarks can be held indefinitely as long as the trademark holder keeps the mark in continuous use and re-applies to the Patent Office for an extension of trademark rights every ten years. We guess you're probably thinking of federal copyright law, which used to grant copyrights to written works for a 14-year period, followed by a second 14-year renewal period. (The law has since been re-written to provide longer much copyright protections.)

Shout-Out for New Jayhawk OHV Park
I'm with Kansas Rocks Recreation Park. We are a 240-acre off-road park outside of Fort Scott, Kansas, about 1 1/2 hours south of the Kansas City metro area. I was wondering how we would go about getting coverage of our park or one of our events in your magazine or show. Thank you for your time.
Chris Canary
Board of Directors
Kansas Rocks Recreation Park

We can't guarantee when we might be able to get out to cover an event, but for starters, we can give you some free publicity right here, and urge all wheelers around the Kansas City area to check out your park. You can also give yourself a little free publicity by logging onto the forums at and posting some pics of your park. Thanks for writing in.

Blazer vs. Ranger:
Which To Buy?
I have a bit of a dilemma. I'm looking at two 4x4s to buy. One is a 2000 Ford Ranger (off-road model) with the 4.0L V-6 and automatic transmission. The other is a 1985 Chevy K5 (retired police vehicle) with the 6.2L diesel and auto transmission. The Ranger is free, but is going to require $500 to $600 in engine work. It is burning oil, but the truck runs and drives, has just over 100,000 miles on it, and is in excellent condition. While the K5 is going to cost $1,000 plus whatever work I don't know about, it has 158,000 miles on it and is in fairly rough shape. I don't do any hardcore wheeling at the moment; I'm just looking for something I can have some fun with but still have decent gas mileage for the longer trips. Which vehicle would you recommend, and what should I do to it to improve its off road capabilities?
Tyler Brown
Maryville, MI

If you want decent mileage, it's the Ranger, hands down. If you're looking for a rig that can be built for serious wheeling duties with a zillion aftermarket parts, it's the Blazer.

If we were you, however, we'd likely pick the Ford. It doesn't sound like you're looking to modify your truck for severe-duty use, and 600 bucks' worth of engine work seems like reasonable trade-off to acquire a vehicle that otherwise seems mechanically sound. Also, government service vehicles tend to be run rather hard during their lifetimes, and while they're often available at rock-bottom prices, they typically require a great deal of rehab (and rubles) to bring back to their original condition. Besides, the 6.2L is an anchor of a motor-one that you should stay away from.

How to improve the Ranger? You can lift it, add larger wheels and tires, install lockers and lower differential gears, add some rock sliders and a winch/bumper . . . the possibilities are endless. It all depends on what kind of wheeling you want to do and the size of your buildup budget.

The Engine-Motor Conundrum Redux
I was reading the Feb. '10 issue of your magazine today, and came across something I missed in Techline: The age-old question of "What is a motor and what is an engine?" You gave a politician's answer-that is, you danced all around the subject, but didn't answer the question.

A motor is a device that converts some kind of energy to mechanical energy-thus motion. This could be spring-driven, electric, hydraulic, or a combustion engine. An engine is a type of motor that uses fuel to produce mechanical energy.
John Polasik
Farmington, MN

Awesome. Glad that's settled . . . or is it? Readers?

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.

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