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August 2011 Inbox - Letters To The Editor

Posted in Features on August 1, 2011
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Mensa Candidates = Not Us?
Looking through your “Engine IQ Test” answers (“Willie’s Workbench,” June ’11), I may be wrong (and often am), but it looks like your answers could use some tweaking. For instance, you say:

“Cobra Jet: 429 Ford performance engine; higher-horsepower version referred to as a Super Cobra Jet.”

Nothing wrong with the answer, but you dissed the original Cobra Jet. It was the FE-based 428. The 429 CJ followed.

Also, according to you:

“Interceptor: 312ci Ford “police” Y-block V-8; 210 horsepower, used from 1957-60. Name later used in 1968-69 for 429ci FE V-8.”

The 429ci was part of the 385 family of big-blocks (along with the 460). The FE line included the 390, 427, and 428, among others.
Michael Reagan
Via the Internet

After reading “Willie’s Workbench,” I found myself double-checking two of the engine names that stick in my head.

The first was “Turbo-Fire V-8,” which I was sure of because I had one in my ’70 Nova SS. I ended up checking out the Chevy small-block info on Wikipedia (great site). According to Wiki, the small-block V-8 first became noticed (nicknamed) as the “Mighty Mouse” motor (after the cartoon character) and later shortened to “Mouse.”

The next one I didn’t see was “Wildcat,” which I only knew from the ’60s Buick Wildcat. It had a 465 engine (the torque rating, not the displacement), which had dual four-barrel carbs from the factory. After reading Wiki, I found out that it came in several different displacements and carb configurations. It’s from the family of Buick V-8s known as “Nailheads” (which also was not on your list). The Wildcat was available from 1962 until 1966, and the dual four-barrel version (known as “Super Wildcat”) was originally shipped with the intake and carbs in the trunk to be installed at the dealership; in 1966, it was possible to be ordered with dual fours from the factory.

Another neat fact I found was that the SR-71 Blackbird used a Wildcat engine mounted on a trolley for a starter motor.
Harold Shumate
Via the Internet

You forgot the first one of all: the Flathead Ford.

There also happens to be an engine called the “Lightning” that was also put in the Willys Jeep. I know because I have a ’46 Willys with said engine. When I was younger, I worked in an engine rebuilding shop, and we serviced government contracts to build anything from Jeep engines to big Continental engines for 5-ton military trucks. I did teardowns, checked for spun bearings, and dusted for cracked blocks. Now the Lightning is somewhat of a weird make by Continental that has a two-piece rear seal, as the “Go Devil” in the Jeep has a rope-type of rear seal. In my years of working at the engine rebuilder’s, I never ran across a Jeep engine with a two-piece rear seal—all had the rope seal and the rope that goes down the sides of the main bearing as this one does.
Joey M. Toth
Via the Internet

Hey, you forgot the Mopar “Maxwedge” of the early ’60s and the “Magnum” of the late ’60s. (We refer to a Chevy engine as a “Boat Anchor,” but that’s just a Mopar family’s preference.)
Tom Kough
Via the Internet

We researched all of our engine data as thoroughly as possible, but we figured there’d probably a few minor flubs among all the names, dates, and applications we cited. (Actually, we’re kinda surprised we only messed up those two Ford motors.) Of course, there were plenty of old engine names we just plain forgot to include, or that we omitted due to lack of space—which means we may need to publish another IQ Test sometime down the road. Thanks to all who wrote in with their suggestions.

Super Jeep Mistaken Identity
You’re mistaken about the 1976 Super Jeep (“Jeep: The First 70 Years,” May ’11). The Super Jeep was a 1973 model year option and available for only that year. The pictures shown of the two “Super Jeeps” are of ’73 models, not ’76 models. You can tell by the outside windshield wiper motor cover, the high placement of “Jeep” logo on the sides, and the black windshields. The ’76-and-later model years had inside-mounted wiper motors, body colored windshields, and “Jeep” placed lower on the sides. Also, the ’75 CJ-5 Renegade in the picture is actually a ’76 CJ-7 Renegade. I also have sales brochures from 1976 that claim that the 304 V-8 was standard with the Renegade package, contrary to what you state.
Mitch Dunbar
Wichita, KS

You’ve got a sharp eye. Thanks for the corrections.

Garage-Friendly Silver Bullet JK
About that Trail Master 4½-inch short-arm kit for JKs (“Rock Bound,” May ’11): You put 37-inch tires on your Jeep. Will it fit in a standard-height parking garage or home garage? I’d really like to go 37s (instead of 35s), but I have to be able to get it into a parking garage.
Danny Kidd
Amelia, OH

Robin Stover replies: The Silver Bullet project Jeep does indeed fit inside most typical garage structures when equipped with 37-inch tires shown in the article, but with 40-inch rubber, it would be questionable. The total height of the rig on 37s is 6’ 4”. I suggest you check the clearance of your garage first. Happy wheeling.

Top Truck: Who Goes, Who Blows (Guess Who?)
I am totally unsatisfied with the Top Truck Challenge results for 2011. In the Jeep class, I understand four Canadians got in. We bought every magazine we could find (that’s in three states), and for the second year in a row, the best Jeep did not get in again. He was the alternate for last year (Terry Estes out of Texas), and he should have automatically gotten in this year. He is the only diesel-powered rig in the group, and I feel sure that he would win if he could only get in. What you can do? Put 10 in each class and also make the entry ballots easier to come by.
James Patterson
Neeces, SC

Well shucks, we only count the ballots, so if our field of competitors is all-Canadian, all-American, or all-Cyborg, it’s out of our control.

About magazine and ballot availability, that’s a valid point, and one we’ll continue to work with our circulation department to improve. As an alternative, we’ve heard some crazy rumors of people ordering hundreds of magazines from our back issues department ( just to get a hold of the extra ballots in the April issue. You might give ’em a shout next year and see if they can help you out.

About doubling the size of our field, well, it’s a lot easier said than done. We’d pretty much need to double the size of Top Truck’s annual operating budget to make it work, which is another way of saying it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. You can see the list of this year’s finalists online at, and we’ll have complete coverage of TTC in our November and December issues.

Front Lift Options for First-Gen Taco
I have a ’96 Toyota Tacoma SR5. I’m thinking about giving it a small lift, something like 2 to 2½ inches. I know what to do in the rear—either new leaf springs or the add-a-leaf system. My question is how do I lift the front? I do not have a solid axle in the front—it’s IFS.
Pioneer, CA

How about a basic leveling kit? Revtek, Daystar, and Trail Master offer kits that will get you 2½ to three 3 of front lift, and Skyjacker and Fabtech make coilover conversions that provide similar amounts of elevation. Check out some of the ads in this issue, and do a little comparison shopping on the Internet. There are plenty of good options out there for your truck.

Electrified FW Project Rigs?
Is it time for you to build an electric trail rig? I remember many years ago you wrote up an electric Series 1 Land Rover. All this hybrid stuff is high-end dollars, and the future is coming. Could you electrify something with a real transfer case and solid axles? (There was that series-hybrid Wrangler a few years back.) Also, there’s a company out of Canada that sells an S-10 electric conversion, and you could toss a diesel generator in the bed and hit the trail (after the solid axle swap). Imagine the impact if you guys would build one and hit the show and off-road events. You could show the non-off-road public that we are serious about the future of our sport.
Jim Stock
Brooklyn Park, MN

True enough, and the thought of building an all-electric 4x4 is an intriguing idea since electric vehicles generate their maximum torque at zero rpm. (How’s that for low-end power?) There are, however, some things to take into consideration.

The first is total cost. A DIY conversion kit like the one for S-10s you mentioned will run about $10,000 (and batteries are usually not included). If you have someone else do the conversion work, add two to five thousand more. In addition, most EV conversion kits run a direct current (DC) setup due to convenience, lower cost, and the fact that you don’t need anything beyond a simple DC controller and motor to make it work. If you want a DC-to-AC conversion (which will give you extended range, better performance, and the ability to plumb in regenerative braking), this will cost several thousand on top of what you’ve doled out thus far.

Then there’s the matter of batteries. The EV conversion kits we’re familiar with run upwards of 20 batteries (and sometimes more, depending on vehicle type and driving demands) hooked up in sequence. It’s not a terribly complicated system to set up, but it begs the question: Where do you put all the batteries? You’re also going to add about 1,000 pounds of weight when all is said and done, so you have to figure out how to distribute that weight without it messing up your vehicle’s chassis and suspension dynamics.

Finally, there’s range. That S-10 equipped with an automatic transmission will only be good for some 35 miles max at conventional road speeds before the system needs a recharge; a manual transmission-equipped model will get maybe 50. Swap in a heavier solid axle in place of the Chevy IFS, and those numbers go down further.

Bottom line: A generic diesel engine swap (cost: around $7 grand, give or take) makes a lot more sense to us than an electric conversion both in terms of cost and eco-friendliness, since modern-day diesels are quite clean and deliver excellent mileage—not to mention superior torque. But we’re certainly open to the possibility down the road as consumer EV technology becomes more widely available and less expensive.

No Late-Model Dakota Mods?
I’ve been trying to get a couple of questions answered for several years now and no one seems to have a good enough answer for me. So here are my questions and I hope you guys can finally put an end to my curiosity! Does anyone have a suspension lift kit for my ’04 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4x4 SLT? Are there any superchargers, or any upgrade kits for my 4.7L V-8? I’ve read that the Ford Mustang has several upgrades for its 4.6L V-8, and it has dual overhead cams like my 4.7L. Why couldn’t I use the same upgrades for my 4.7? Is there that much difference between the two?

Now, I did find in my investigations on the upgrades to my Dakota that a company called Airbagit ( has a 4.5-inch, four-link suspension lift kit for my Dakota, and the cost isn’t that bad—it runs about $1,600, but I am unsure of the site and cannot find anyone who has used them. Is this an investment that I should make? Or do you guys know of a better one?
Pat Kerby
Via the Internet

Well, there’s not much difference between a 5.4L Ford truck engine and a 5.3L Chevy truck engine, either—except for the compression ratios, firing orders, air/fuel ratios, bore diameters, stroke lengths, intake runner lengths, cam profiles, and every piece of reciprocating mass that’s inside the block. Otherwise, they’re darn near identical. (So please, don’t go there.)

In general, pickings for your Gen-3 Dakota are pretty slim, most likely because the following model year (2005) marked the introduction of the higher-output version of the 4.7L, which attracted a lot more attention from the performance aftermarket. A Florida company called KRC Performance used to offer a supercharger for the 4.7L, but the company has since been sold; it’s possible you might find one of their older units being sold by some jobber on eBay. Kenne Bell ( used to make a supercharger for this engine, too, and may still have some in stock. Volant also makes a cold-air intake for it.

We’re not too familiar with the four-link suspension source you mention, though generally speaking, airbag suspensions for your (midsize truck) application are generally tuned for guys who lower, not lift, their trucks. Such a lift would probably work if you’ve absolutely got to have one, but we’d guess that your ride and handling are going to be pretty harsh at full inflation pressures. If you’re looking for other, more conventional suspension options, sorry to say, but you’re basically hosed. Perhaps some Dodge-savvy readers have some suggestions here.

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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