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October 2011 Inbox - Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on October 1, 2011
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More Overlanding, Please
I am a longtime reader of your magazine and really enjoyed the Aug. ’11 edition with all of the overlanding articles and goodies. We do a lot of camping and rockcrawling with our ’86 Bronco II (as a matter of fact, it was one of the rigs in Petersen’s 2010 Ultimate Adventure). We have been slowly scaling back the rockcrawling and doing a bit more expedition-style stuff. While I really enjoyed the articles, I had a comment on the Towering Tundra. You stated that the horsepower/torque numbers were 236/266? We also have an ’07 and use it as our tow rig when pulling the Bronco long distances, and the 5.7L makes 381 horsepower and 400 lb-ft, not the smaller number listed. Again, really enjoyed the magazine this month, and please keep up the excellent work!
Shay Stepp
Barstow, CA

Here’s the Silver Bullet with Metalcloak fenders and 37-inch tires.

Petersen? Who’s he?
Sorry for the goof on the Tundra’s power numbers. (These things happen in the best of homes.) And just so you know, rest assured that we will be revisiting the subject of overlanding—and specifically, how to build your 4x4 for it—in future issues of the magazine.

Engines: What’s in a Name?
Enjoyed your article about “Engine Names” (June ’10), though I am at odds with one entry: The International Scout “Comanche” slant-four engine.

I had a ’68 Scout 800 which had one of these. The engine was a 196ci four-cylinder. The V-8 block it was half of was an International 392ci truck engine that was never used in Scouts.

Your take on the Comanche slant-four being half the 304 V-8 engine comes out to 152 cubic inches if it were true. However, I doubt that such an engine would ever have 152 horsepower as you indicated. As info and to further blur things, quite a few model 800Bs and Scout IIs had 232- and 258ci six-cylinder engines which were AMC engines.

I hope you take the above as constructive, as some of your entries were priceless in the memory department.
Brian McMahon
Via the Internet

Actually, we’re both right. International Harvester used the “Comanche” nickname to brand its first-generation four-cylinders (pre-’68), which were 152 cubic inches (indeed, half of a 304) as we described; the 196ci version you mention debuted in the Scout for 1968. You’re right about one thing, though—the smaller I-4 only generated around 85 horsepower, not 150.

Buy American! Unless It’s Too Expensive
Just wanted to let you know I thoroughly enjoyed the article about the “Multi-Winch Shootout” (July ’11). It was extremely informative, and I was very glad to see the winner was a company that still makes products in the U.S. It is my opinion that the economy in this country will never recover unless we can get the manufacturers to return to the United States. I don’t mind paying 25 percent more for products that are made in the U.S. Usually, the crap that is made in China never lasts, so in the end you don’t really save any money. Unfortunately, the Warn winch was priced 450 percent more than Engo, the Fourth Place competitor. So until Warn figures out how to lower their price considerably, I won’t be purchasing a winch. Besides, it has been my observation that people who own winches never seem to use them to extract themselves. They only get used and abused to rescue others!
Steve Roones
Clovis, CA

Breaking: Top Truck Officially Sucks
I realize this most likely won’t make it to print, but as an avid reader for the past 20 years, I have to say I am highly disappointed with how Top Truck Challenge has transformed throughout the years. I mean, what happened to the rules of what the trucks had to abide by? Like, it had to be street-legal in the state of origin, and the rig also had to pass a walk-around by the California Highway Patrol. Plus, I highly doubt everyone can afford to build, let alone buy, one of these rigs that have been getting selected. Are 54-inch tires really needed to play in Hollister Hills? Um, no! This competition has turned from the backyard builders putting to the guys with the deepest pockets competing for the title.
Joseph Barrett
San Jose, CA

Nope, you don’t need 54s to wheel at Hollister, or even to win our event. But the generous folks at Mickey Thompson have offered each of our competitors a set of 54-inch Baja Claws for the last three years running, and most of the competitors have decided to take them up on their offer.

About bringing back the street-legal requirement: Sorry to say, that horse was long out of the barn by the time we made the rules change for 2005. Most of the rigs the readers were selecting to compete by that time weren’t built to be driven on pavement at all—and were a liability nightmare-in-waiting when they were driven on pavement—so we altered the emphasis of the event to reflect the changes in the types of vehicles that were coming to compete.

The way we see it is like this: At this point, TTC is sorta like the World Series of four wheeling, where the best and brightest teams battle for supremacy in a grueling Best-of-Seven format. The rest of us, on the other hand, still have our weekly softball league to compete in, and the fact that we’ll never be able to hit a 95 mph fastball like the big boys doesn’t detract from our enjoyment of the game, not one bit. If anything, it makes us more appreciative of how good the major-leaguers really are, and it gives us something to aspire to when we’re hacking away at 40 mph softballs between rounds of beer—er, Gatorade.

Top Truck Still Sucks. The Magazine is Even Worse
Jeep Wheeler, Jeep-Wheel and Off-Road, Jeep-Wheel-Drive and-a-few-Toyota-Utility Vehicles magazine, half-covered installation write-ups, and the Mini-Monster Truck Challenge . . . .

This year’s low-buck TTC winner.

These are the issues I have with your publication company. The off-road world is more than just Jeeps, but every time I open a copy of Four Wheeler, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, or Four-Wheel Drive & Sport-Utility, I see nothing but Jeeps. Yes, I know Four Wheeler has had a few articles recently about a fullsize or two, but that’s it. I’ve owned Jeeps, fullsize Broncos, F-150s and Nissans, and have wheeled them all.

Jeeps have Jp magazine. Keep that mag Jeep-specific. Toyotas have their own magazine as well. The other magazines are supposed to be more general, so get back to covering a larger base. I challenge you to do this. Every month, cover a different manufacturer (Ford, Dodge, Chevy, Jeep, International, Toyota, etc.). While jeeps are popular, they aren’t the only vehicles on the trails.

Your install write-ups need some work and lots more detail. You recently covered an article about installing gears, and for the hardest part of the task (getting the tooth contact pattern correct), all that was mentioned was the starting point for shimming (factory shims), checking the contact pattern (bare minimal information here), and the fact that it needed shims. You covered nothing about how it was shimmed, or why (you mentioned it was too deep). Well, how about some help for the newbies out there? I bring this one example up, but there are several in each of your publications each month.

Lastly, the Mini-Monster Truck Challenge, aka, how much can you spend on a 4x4, aka, you won’t really see these anywhere else but here, aka Top Truck Challenge. I call it “Mini-Monster Challenge” due to the fact that the average tire size is 50 inches now. This is ridiculous. This does NOT reflect anything in the real world. I grew up in southern Arizona—rock country. Even the tube buggies out there are at most running 40-inch tires. I’d never seen a 44-inch tire actually being used (not in a showroom or car show) in real life until I moved to North Carolina, and the guy who had them even said, “I don’t need them for anything in this state, I just like them.” Bring back the street-legal check of the original TTCs. That’s more relevant than ever, considering more and more people are building purpose-built daily drivers to wheel than $75,000 to $250,000 TTC behemoths.
Jeff Osterhoudt
Ft. Bragg, NC

We hate to burst your bubble, but what would you say if we told you a rig that cost its owner all of $2,500 to build actually won the Buggy Class at TTC this year? Believe it or not, it happened. You can read all about his rig in next month’s issue, and find out how he won in December.

We understand your concerns about Jeep-centric magazine coverage, but to be honest, we feel that we’re only following the ever-evolving trends in the marketplace—and from our vantage point, the Jeep Wrangler JK, and possibly the Ford Super Duty, have done more to drive new innovations in the 4x4 aftermarket over the past few years than just about all the other four-wheel drive trucks and SUVs combined have done. So if it seems like you’ve seen a lot of JK-related stories in recent months, you’re right. But in the world of wheeling right now, that’s where most of the action is.

We also know from experience that coverage of certain makes and models, while being popular with a loyal enthusiast base, don’t always help us sell magazines. Issues devoted to Ford and Jeep tech generally do very well for us on the newsstand; issues devoted to Dodges and Toyotas generally don’t, so our exposure and treatments of the various 4x4 brands are never going to work out equally over the course of a year.

We’ll concede your point that our tech and how-to articles are less detailed than they used to be. We just don’t have the number of pages that we used to delve into complex subjects such as ring-and-pinion swaps, so instead, we call out some of the highlights of the installation, with a few suggestions of things to look out for, and leave it up to the readers to fill in some of the particulars for themselves with information that’s readily accessible on the Internet. For us, it’s simply a matter of recognizing the changing nature of magazine publishing, and economizing to adapt to new realities.

Best Mild-Duty OE Wheelers
I am looking for advice on purchasing a four-wheel-drive vehicle. I plan to use it for the following: Driving on the beach to go fishing, driving on dirt roads, touring off-road trails in National Parks, and other light-duty applications. I’d also prefer a vehicle that gets reasonable fuel economy. What would you recommend?
Newt Young
Edinburg, TX

Judging by what you intend to do, frankly, we’d suggest you look at a four-cylinder crossover rig like a Subaru Forester or a Jeep Patriot. They’re more than suitable for the kinds of mild-duty wheeling you have in mind, and they get much better mileage than anything with a two-speed transfer case that’s based off a pickup truck chassis. If, on the other hand, you feel like you need something a bit more rugged and can live with less optimal mileage, you can’t go wrong to our minds with either a Jeep Wrangler JK or a Nissan Xterra. The Wrangler will be better in the backcountry, but won’t deliver the greatest mileage. The Nissan will be more streetable and go farther on a tankful, but won’t be able to handle the gnarliest off-road duties. Need a bed to haul stuff? A Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, or Ford Ranger (if your dealer still has any in stock) should fit the bill. Basically, though, it’s your call. fw

Breaking: JK Projects Do Not Suck
Any more photos of the “Silver Bullet” JK project? I’m waiting to see more pictures with the Metalcloak fenders and 40-inch tires. I can’t find any on the Internet, but this is exactly what I will be building and want more pics to show the wife.
Richard Bohlen
Salem, IN

Bullet builder Robin Stover replies: Thanks for writing in. We also like the way a four-door JK looks on 40-inch tires, though after wheeling ours in that configuration, we recommend that the stock Dana 44 axles be fortified for reliability. Our factory rear axleshafts twisted at the splines after just two trips out, and the front axle U-joints were never intended for the leverage that 40s can produce. We’ve since replaced said parts with chromoly upgrades and are running 37-inch tires until we get around to our planned axle swap project. There should be more cool pics of the project at by the time you read this.

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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