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February 2011 Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on February 1, 2011
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Land Use 101 & Where To Wheel
I picked up your Nov. '10 issue off the magazine rack simply because of the headline "Will Four-Wheeling Be Banned?" and the smaller tagline "Where to Keep Wheeling." Living in Idaho, I had at one time been fortunate to have access to public lands that were relatively wheeling-friendly. Sadly, two of the three areas you listed in Idaho to wheel in, the Clearwater National Forrest and Nez Perce National Forest are not at all OHV-friendly, unless you consider wheeling to be driving on a dwindling number of graded roads you're out of luck, as I and most Idahoans are.

Our hobby is surely under attack, and I don't wish to seem as if I am faulting you at all. I'm afraid that nearly all of the areas you listed that have "National Forest" in their names are the same-stay on the road or you're fined. It is past time that we fight back. Vote, donate, join, and run for office. I know I will.

P.S. Take full advantage of the Saint Anthony Dunes while you can-just don't expect to be able to drive your fullsize rig: buggies, bikes and quads only.
Luke Baldwin
Lewiston, ID

Great job with the magazine. I enjoy reading it, front to back, when I receive it in the mail.

I do have a correction for you in your November issue. You listed Savoy Mountain State Park in Massachusetts as a place to go wheeling. It used to be open to ATVs and dirt bikes, but was closed to those uses about five years (or so) ago. Trucks and SUVs have never been allowed on those trails, even though there's a problem with illegal wheeling there. There are a few unmaintained town roads in the area, but they're not under control of the state. You might be referring to Old Florida Road, which starts in Adams and ends in Florida. This is an old town road that I would hate to see shut down due to larger problems with illegal OHV use, because I've heard that some people within the Department of Conservation and Recreation have tried unsuccessfully to close it down in the past.
Brenden Trela
Windsor, MA

I was disappointed that my local ORV areas were left out. I'm originally from Maryland, and my first time off-roading was at Greenridge State Forest. The trail there can be done in a stock or lightly modified 4x4, but it's still fun.
Patrick Minnick
Kings Point, NY

I noticed a misprint in your November issue. Blue Mountain Recreation Park in Kentucky is actually Black Mountain.
Josh LaFountain
Scottsburg, IN

The Chatsworth area in the Pine Barrens is no longer in service. You didn't miss anything-it was only meant to be used for a few years and then surrendered back for wear and tear. (A "trial run," if you will.) It really wasn't cool anyway, but it was legal. The Barrens themselves have many trails to cruise, but nothing too extreme. (All the good places are illegal to be on.) I live near there and wheel there a lot. The wheeling's not hard, but it's relaxing.
Brick, NJ

Judging by what's missing from your list of trails, you guys need to do a little more local wheeling. Ever heard of Truckhaven Hills?
David Garza
El Centro, CA

Oh, that place.

Thanks to all who wrote in response to this issue. We always appreciate being kept up to date with the latest local news on trail closures, and we're always happy to learn about "new" wheeling areas we hadn't known about previously. We also want to keep our list of accessible wheeling spots as current and accurate as possible, so we welcome any and all corrections as they occur.

Nissan Off Road vs. Pro-4x
Thanks for doing a long-term test of the Nissan Xterra Off Road (Nov. '10). It's been near the top of my next-purchase list since I first heard about it. How does the Off Road package compare to the Frontier Pro-4X (especially the Crew Cab) in terms of off road capability, comfort, quality, stability, etc?
Ryan Dionne
Superior, CO

Basically, they're two labels for the same options package. It's simply been re-branded on the Xterra for marketing purposes. We recently returned our tester to Nissan (and we're still broken up over it-we love that truck), and we'll feature the final installment of our long-term series next month.

Wheelers That Work
I volunteer with Mountain Wave Search and Rescue in Oregon. It would be neat to see an article about the vehicles of Search and Rescue. There are many search-and-rescue organizations across the nation, mostly volunteers bringing their own well-built all-terrain rigs to reach remote areas. Our organization alone hosts a number of print-worthy rigs, and it would be neat to see a great article about great volunteers.
Kevin Mapes
Hillsboro, OR

We couldn't agree more. And, in fact, we've discussed the idea of a "Wheelers That Work" series, which would showcase off-road-ready vehicles belonging to organizations such as the Border Patrol, police and fire departments, public-utility and energy-exploration companies-and yes, you search-and-rescue guys, too. The only things that have held us back have been a shortage of time and resources, but if we can make it happen in the coming year, we'll let you (and everyone else) know about it.

Mo' Better Beaters
I just wanted to tell you that I think the Chevy S-10 should have been on your beater list ("The Beater Files," Sept. '10). It has a lot of good components. I'm more partial to Fords, but I have a friend who has a stock ZR2 with 32s, and it follows my built Ranger through the trails all day.
William Snowden
Via the Internet

In your recent "Best Cheap 4x4s" article from a while back, I couldn't help but notice you didn't include the Mitsubishi Montero. They can regularly be had for around $1,000, and most '90s models come with a rear air locker and bigger axles than even the mighty Land Cruiser. Not to mention the Montero has won more Dakar races than any other vehicle, with eight of those wins in stock form, and we can't even count how many Top 10 spots-look it up and see for yourselves. As for building one on the cheap, they can fit 33s stock, and 35s with a little work. They make a great platform for any kind of buildup, from racing to rockcrawling to show trucks. Their frames are fully boxed, the transmissions are bulletproof and compatible with the common Jeep transfer cases, and the trucks come in long- and short-wheelbase (pre-'91) configurations. Anyway, great magazine, even though you guys don't show any love for one of the more legendary off-road vehicles.
Adam Campbell
Gilbert, AZ

Well, we sorta agree. Yes, there's no denying the Gen 1 (pre-'92) Montero was a pretty cool rig, with a rear locker and a stout rear axle. And we loved the short-wheelbase version, a.k.a. the Dodge Raider, which came from the factory with 31x10.50s and great approach/departure angles. But those rigs are pretty rare in our neck of the woods-most of the Monteros we come across in the classifieds are '92-and-later models. Keep in mind, access to aftermarket parts was one of the criteria we used in deciding which rigs to include on this list. A beater 4x4 isn't much of a bargain, after all, if no one makes parts for it, and the later-model Monteros just don't enjoy much in the way of aftermarket support-at least not in the U.S.

About the S-10: Leaving them off our list was a tough call. Those little Chevys were pretty good out-of-the-box wheelers-especially the '94-and-later ZR2s, which came with beefier ring gears at both ends, 31x10.50 tires, Bilstein shocks and full skidplating-though we've noticed that the aftermarket for older Rangers has remained fairly steady over the past 10 years while aftermarket support for the S-trucks has lagged somewhat in recent years. Given a choice between the two trucks, we opted to include the Ford, though as you noted, the S-trucks are quite trailable, and older high-mileage models can be had for a very modest price these days.

People Love Us
I have been a subscriber for several years and a reader for many more. I must say that, by and large, the content has fallen off during my subscription. I'm sure you'll defend this by saying that there is a place for bolt-on lift kits, new-model test drives, etc., in Four Wheeler. Let's be honest-this stuff used to be the exception, not the rule. There's too much fluff lately and not enough rough-and-tumble tech. How about some junkyard late-model engine/drivetrain swaps with some in-depth info on what it takes to get these parts running in an older vehicle? You could do one brand per month. I think it would be a hit. How about some in-depth fabrication articles (welding, solid axle swap, etc.)?

I will admit that occasionally you still peg the Way-Cool Meter, like the "Hydrostatic Rocker" feature (July '10). But this kind of stuff is too few and far between. I know it's tough, but you guys are supposed to be the voice of the hobby and the best 4x4 magazine around.

I loved your 6.0L Ford diesel tech series, but this last installment (Sept. '10), with a Banks Big Hoss rundown-seriously? Anyone who's seen those dumb Spike shows knows all about that setup. There are cheaper ways to get the same reliable power. I have nothing against Banks, but there's more info out there if you look for it. How do I know? Simple-I own an '06 Super Duty with the 6.0L and 86,000 trouble-free miles (with the exception of a tranny that went). I've run 13.80s in the quarter-mile, it's daily-driven, and used hard for work every day.

This is part of the reason why, as Tim Joyce noted in a recent Letters column, there are very few diesels on the trail. There is a huge knowledge gap, and most guys simply don't know what it takes to swap them, make more power, etc. Cost is also a driving factor, as you can build a whole 383 Chevy for what a set of injectors, turbo, tuner, and exhaust cost you for a 6.0L. Still the 12-valve Cummins can be built on the cheap, they make massive power, and they are easy to find. People just lack the knowledge. For 20 mpg and 1,000 lb-ft., you'd think someone would teach them.

Anyway, here's hoping you get your act together. I know this has a snowball's chance in Inferno of getting published, but I dare you to prove me wrong anyway.
Tom Krapf
Newark, DE

As you wish. Surprised?

As a side note, we have a magazine in our company stable called Diesel Power that does a pretty good job of teaching readers each month about the ins and outs of diesel tech. Because they can devote every single page in their entire magazine to the subject, and deal with diesel tech in such minute detail, we (and the other truck/off-road magazines) don't typically include much diesel tech in our regular coverage anymore. It's not that we don't agree with you about diesels, but we only have so many pages in each issue, and a lot of diverse topics to cover, and there are other sources out there, like Diesel Power, that do a much more comprehensive job of it than we can.

Finally, about the Banks Big Hoss system: Sure, there are cheaper ways to make more power. There always are. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're the smartest or most efficient ways to make more power. The Banks kit is a quality piece of work that uses premium parts; it's backed by a factory warranty; and its all-in-one-kit componentry makes shopping for diesel hop-ups a lot easier for the would-be engine builder. And yes, it costs a fair chunk of change, but so does your typical diesel engine swap.

Simple Answers to Complex Questions
Do you have any info on converting a '99 F-250 regular-cab two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive?
Ryan Graham
Luther, OK

Yes. Don't.

It's like this: In 2006, we published a two-part series in which we converted a two-wheel-drive '92 Chevy truck to four-wheel drive. (You can find it online at What we found was that we'd have come out ahead in terms of time and money if we'd simply sold the truck and bought a four-wheel-drive model instead. The only way it will make economic sense to you would be if you already have a compatible donor truck (i.e., wrecked, from a junkyard, that you bought for song) with all the parts you need to complete the conversion (transfer case, front drive assembly, brakes, steering, etc.) intact and mechanically sound. So, while we don't really want to discourage you, it's been our experience that a project such as yours almost always ends up being more trouble-and costing more money-than it's worth. Just so you know.

Needs a 4x4 Shop in Las Cruces
I have a '97 Dodge B2500HD 4x4 with the Cummins diesel option and it has done excellent duty for the last 293,000 miles. Unfortunately, it now has wobbly steering and "groans" when you turn the steering wheel. I would like to find a local shop here around Las Cruces, New Mexico, to totally rebuild/replace the front driving components and replace all factory bushings with new. I have been unable to find a shop yet that is willing to do the work. Would you be able to recommend a shop that I could talk to for this rebuild of my truck? The only engine related issues I have is the front and rear main seals leak, probably due to the rough four-wheeling that I do going up to my silver mines or going hunting on unimproved roads. If I can get my driving components repaired and the seals fixed on the engine, I think this truck will easily make the 1,000,000-mile mark.
John Tryon
Las Cruces, NM

We don't know any off-road shops in the Las Cruces, but there is a 4-Wheel Parts shop down in El Paso-which, if memory serves, is less than an hour's drive for you. You might give them a call. If they can't help you, they might know someone who can. Or, perhaps one of our readers can.

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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