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August 2011 Drivelines - Off-Road Truck News

Posted in Features on August 1, 2011
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Moab Gets Moparized
Mopar, Chrysler’s performance division, modified six Jeeps for the Easter Jeep Safari. Next month’s report from Moab will include driving impressions of some of these tricked-out Jeeps, but we wanted to give you a sneak peek at what Mopar has up its sleeve for the big week.

Wrangler Blue Crush: Inspired by the rigs that tackle the King of the Hammers, Mopar fitted a Wrangler Unlimited with a trick suspension system that includes bypass shocks and full hydro steering. Custom driveshafts turn the 39-inch tires, as does a 540hp Hemi stuffed under the hood.

Our three favorites are pictured here. The others include a diesel-powered Cherokee Overland (what we know as the Liberty) fitted with a 3-inch lift, ARB Air Locker and lots of body armor; a Hemi-powered Wrangler Renegade; and a lifted and skidplated Compass.

PhotosView Slideshow

Which Came First?
After reading about the North American International Auto Show in Detroit (Drivelines, May ’11), reader Joey Eannotti wrote to say that while GMC’s Sierra All-Terrain HD concept truck “is great looking and well put together, if I recall correctly, Chevy came out with one very much like this at the 2009 SEMA Show. I just wanted to point this out because I believe Chevy should get the credit for this design. Even though they are basically the same company, I feel that Chevy is much better and has a better history off-road.”

We went back to our coverage of the ’09 SEMA Show and dug out a photo of Chevy’s Silverado ZR2 concept truck to compare it with GMC’s show truck. There’s a definite family resemblance—enhanced by the fact that both roll on 35-inch tires and 20-inch wheels—so you could make the case that Chevy pioneered the general look. But the two trucks are far from identical. The Chevy is an extended-cab hot rod with carbon-fiber bodywork, a 4-inch lift, and a supercharged, 550hp LS crate engine. The GMC is a crew-cab with stock Duramax power and extensive suspension mods that widened its track and raised its ground clearance—a heavy-duty Raptor, if you will.

So maybe the Chevy was first. Does that make it better?

70 Years of Jeep at Chrysler Museum
As part of Jeep’s 70th anniversary celebration, the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan, is holding a special exhibition of historic Jeeps that includes as its centerpiece a rare ’41 Willys MA like the one in this vintage photo. The Willys’ owners, George and Bernadette Hollins, have traced its origins back to July 5, 1941, the day it was delivered to the U.S. Army from the Willys-Overland plant in Toledo. It is believed to be one of four MAs shipped to the 15th Infantry for testing in Fort Lewis, Washington. Jeep historians estimate that just 45 of these early MAs still exist, and fewer than half are restored. Of those, eight are in the U.S.

Joining the Hollins’ MA will be a rotating collection of vintage and significant Jeeps, from a ’43 MB and a ’45 CJ-2A to some of Jeep’s latest concept vehicles. The exhibition runs through December 30, 2011.

In addition to the Jeep display, the museum will hold events to commemorate July 15, 1941, the date the U.S. Army signed the contract that made Willys-Overland the lead producer of the military reconnaissance vehicle. On July 13 there will be a cruise night with Jeeps featured in the museum’s parking lot, and on July 16 Jeep history buff and Chrysler retiree Larry Johnson will give a talk on Jeep’s enduring popularity as part of the museum’s 2011 Lecture/Workshop Series. For more info on this special Jeep celebration, stop by

This Just In
• Remember the “Imported From Detroit” ad that ran during the Super Bowl? A Michigan Jeep dealer had 500 shirts printed with his own version—“Imported From Toledo”—to celebrate Jeep’s heritage. According to USA Today, Ralph Mahalak Jr. of the Monroe Superstore in Michigan was planning to sell them for $19.41 in honor of Jeep’s founding year and donate the proceeds to local charities. You can guess what happened next. Chrysler’s suits shut him down, saying they did not want anyone to diminish or dilute the official tag line. So Ralph has given away the rest of the shirts. We haven’t spotted one on eBay yet, but we’re sure it’s just a matter of time.

• Last month we told you about a value-priced Ram pickup with the code name Adventurer. We have since learned the Hemi-powered truck will be called the Ram 1500 Express. If that name reminds you of the Li’l Red Express pickup truck from the late ’70s, it’s supposed to.

• A recall of some 144,000 Ford F-150s because of a possible short circuit in the airbag system has grown to include 1.2 million ’04-’06 F-150s and Lincoln Mark LTs, says Automotive News. The issue is wire chafing, which could do as little as trigger the airbag warning light in the dash or as much as deploy the bags.

• Apple iPhone and iPad owners can now take advantage of a free app from General Tire that provides tire sizing and model information, a dealer locator, racing videos, and a photo gallery. The app is available at and the iTunes Store.

Earth Watch
• Tread Lightly! has released a new phone app that helps users find parks and public lands throughout America based on their favorite activities. The Oh Ranger! Park Finder is available at the iTunes Store and at the website. It’s free thanks to sponsorship from Ford.

• In response to perceived changes in BLM policy, a task force lead by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) headed to Washington, D.C., recently to meet with Bob Abbey, the BLM’s national director. The task force included AMA District 37 President Jerry Grabow; AMA Senior Vice President, Government Relations Ed Moreland; Off-Road Business Association President Fred Wiley; and Jeff Knoll, representing the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs. The meeting allowed the OHV leadership to express the growing concern enthusiasts have regarding policy, safety, management, staffing, and cost recovery for Special Recreational Permits (SRPs) on BLM managed lands. Spectator safety has remained the highest priority for the BLM regarding SRPs, and the group offered suggestions based on their experience in an effort to create a national policy regarding enforcement of spectator boundaries.

Not for Us
We’ve heard for a while that the Detroit Three are getting out of the small truck market—in the U.S., anyway. Overseas is a different story. Small trucks are a mainstay in other parts of the world, and Chevy and Ford are ramping up two new compacts for those markets.

Chevrolet unveiled a concept truck at the Bangkok Auto Show that, the automaker says, “previews the next-generation Colorado midsize pickup truck.” Why Bangkok? Thailand is the world’s largest market for midsize pickups, according to GM. The show truck features an extended-cab body sitting on a high-stance AWD chassis and 20-inch wheels. Power comes from a 2.8L turbodiesel engine. Strip away the big rims and fancy body panels and you’re left with “the basic proportions and form” of the next-generation Colorado, said a GM exec. We asked GM about the possibility of this truck coming to the U.S. and got the expected “announced as overseas only at this time” response.

The mule you see dripping with jungle ooze is the next-generation Ranger, which also made its public debut in Bangkok. Ford is proud of the work it has done to the truck’s drivetrain and suspension, giving it ground clearance of up to 91⁄2 inches and a fording depth of nearly 3 feet. Power options consist of one gas and two diesel engines, the largest of which is a 3.2L five-banger that makes 197 hp and nearly 350 lb-ft of torque.

Call us crazy, but we think Chevy and Ford could sell more than a few of these in the States, especially with a clean-diesel option. Don’t you?

American Gazelles Finish Second Overall
Rod Hall Racing’s Emily Miller and co-pilot Armelle Medard finished a strong Second Place overall at the 21st running of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles in southern Morocco. The nine-day rally is unlike other endurance races not only because it’s open to women only but also because the competitors are not allowed to use GPS or other modern technology to navigate the Saharan desert.

“We competed in a stock H3 with no modifications, so it was truly a test of vehicle management as a driver,” said Miller. “My co-pilot was spot on with the traditional dead reckoning navigation. Many times she used the sun to keep us on target.”

This was Miller’s third Gazelle rally. Another American team, made up of first-timers (and sisters) Amy Lerner and Tricia Reina, finished 52nd overall after battling vehicle problems and illness.

Ram & Mopar Sponsor TORC
Chrysler’s Ram Truck and Mopar brands are sponsoring The Off-Road Championship (TORC) series in 2011. The sponsorship will see five Pro-class drivers behind the wheel of a Ram truck during the 14-race series. The computer rendering you see here shows the livery going on the Traxxas Racing team Rams, which will be driven by off-road racing veteran Rob MacCachren and Formula Drift champion Sam Hubinette.

Sponsorship means that Ram is the “official” truck of TORC. A Ram truck outfitted with the Ram Runner conversion kit will act as the series’ pace vehicle. The Ram Runner was among the vehicles Chrysler brought to Moab; it features a 4-inch prerunner-style suspension kit, fiberglass front fenders and bed sides, and BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains.

MacCachren Wins San Felipe 250
For as long as Rob MacCachren has been racing off-road (his record includes 175 event wins and 20 championships), he has never won a SCORE Trophy Truck race as the driver of record. Until now. Wheeling a Rockstar-sponsored F-150 with co-driver Cisco Bio, MacCachren powered through the MasterCraft Safety Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 with an average speed of 58.68 mph, giving him the Trophy Truck class win and the overall victory. And not just overall in the four-wheeled divisions. MacCachren’s time beat everyone, bikes included. It wasn’t an easy victory, as he fought with Jesse Jones, last year’s San Felipe winner and the 2010 Trophy Truck champion, throughout the day and nipped Jones at the finish by just 44 seconds.

• July 2-3: Wheeling for Freedom, Twisted Trails Off-Road Park, Copemish, MI. Info: 231.651.9548,
• July 2-4: JeepSkool, NE Ohio. Info:
• July 8-10: 4Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, Bloomsburg, PA. Info:
• July 10: Mud bogs by the Tri County Four Wheelers, Elkton, OH (near Lisbon). Info: 330.501.7316, 330.386.3264, 330.692.0948
• July 14-16: Killington Jeep Jamboree, Killington, VT. Info:
• July 14-16: Northwoods Mole Lake Jeep Jamboree, Mole Lake, WI. Info:
• July 14-17: Crawl for the Cure at the Iron Range OHV Park north of Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Info:,
• July 15-16: Ultra4 American Rocksports Challenge, Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, UT. Info:,
• July 15-17: Offroad Jamboree by the IOK Four Wheelers at the Gravelrama site, Cleves, OH. Info:,
• July 16: Getting Started Off-Road 4x4 Skills Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,
• July 16: Sand drags (under the lights) by the Tri County Four Wheelers, Elkton, OH (near Lisbon). Info: 330.941.9376, 330.277-3851
• July 17: Advanced Beginner Off-Road Driving Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,
• July 17-19: Crawl for Christ off-road event, Black Mountain Off Road Adventure Area, Harlan, KY, by the United Christian Off Road Alliance. Info:
• July 23: Wine Safari, Southern California, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,
• July 23-24: Deep Woods Extreme 4x4 Truck Show & Rock Crawl Competition, Gunstock Mountain Resort, Gilford NH. Info:
• July 24: Mud bogs by the Tri County Four Wheelers, Elkton, OH (near Lisbon). Info: 330.501.7316, 330.386.3264, 330.692.0948
• July 26: Night Run held at Kansas Rocks Recreation Park, Mapleton, KS. Info:
• July 30: Sand Driving Clinic, Oceano Dunes, Pismo, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,
• July 30-31: Iron Range Offroad driving school, Iron Range OHV Park north of Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Info:
• July 30-31: Midnight Special desert race, Primm, NV. Info:
• July 30-31: Trail rides at the Apple Valley Farms Off Road Park, Chetek, WI. Info:
• Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, a description of the event, and contact info—phone numbers and/or email/website address—to Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 310.531.9368; email Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

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