SUV Safety In The NewsThe safety of sport/utility vehicles, a longtime topic of discussion, has gotten even more play in the media lately.
*The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluated 12 small SUVs in a series of side-impact crashes to provide information to consumers as to how those vehicles will perform when struck in the side by a pickup or SUV going about 30 mph. The Subaru Forester and Ford Escape, both equipped with optional side airbags, performed the best in the tests and earned "good" ratings. The Mitsubishi Outlander performed the worst. An Escape without the side airbag option fell into the "poor" category along with the Outlander. Also judged poor were the Toyota RAV4, Suzuki Grand Vitara/Vitara/ Chevrolet Tracker, Land Rover Freelander, Saturn Vue, and Honda Element. The Jeep Wrangler and Honda CR-V earned "marginal" ratings, while the Hyundai Santa Fe was judged "acceptable." Why does the IIHS feel side-impact crash tests are important? The increasing sale of trucks and SUVs has created a growing amount of height mismatch between large and small vehicles, which increases the risks to occupants of vehicles struck in the side.
*That mismatch in vehicle height, also known in safety research circles as vehicle compatibility, has become a significant enough problem that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a report with strategies to deal with the issue. Among the factors the agency is studying are a vehicle's "average height of force," which is the height at which a vehicle transfers force into what it hits; a vehicle's "self protection" features, which include structural components that contribute to occupant safety; the affects of lighting and glare and their contribution to accidents; and how corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards led to the downsizing of certain vehicles, which has had a significant impact on their safety.
*A second study initiated by the NHTSA is looking to mitigate (a fancy government word for decrease) vehicle rollovers. The agency is examining the effectiveness of electronic stability control systems and other means to improve vehicle handling. It is also attempting to come up with a dynamic rating for vehicle stability. Right now the agency's Static Stability Factor, its only rollover rating system, is mathematically based on a vehicle's track width and center of gravity and doesn't take into account how a vehicle actually performs while in motion.
*A front-page story in the Los Angeles Times said the NHTSA is looking into seat-belt design following a rise in the number of deaths of belted SUV drivers and passengers. The agency believes that the standard three-point lap and shoulder belts, which are designed to work best in a frontal impact, are not sufficiently protecting SUV occupants during rollovers, which produce dynamic forces very different from those in a frontal crash. During rollovers, belted occupants are slipping out of or under the belts and striking the pillars and roofs of the SUVs, or being ejected from the vehicles altogether, causing injury or death. The agency is looking into whether or not a pre-tensioner device, which would automatically take slack out of the belts during a rollover, might help avoid some of these problems.
Mickey Thompson Introduces 46-inch TireFor those of you who feel a 44 is just not quite big enough anymore, Mickey Thompson has released three new sizes of its Baja Claw tire, all standing 46 inches tall. The new tires are LT-rated 46x19.5s and are available in three rim diameters: 15, 16, and 16.5 inches.
Mickey T calls the Baja Claw its "ultimate off-road tire," and has designed it with a directional tread pattern for grip and self-cleaning in mud and snow, extra-large Sidebiters for traction and sidewall protection, and a six-ply lower sidewall with a cut-resistant compound. It is also available in heights down to 31 inches, if the 46s won't tuck under your fenders.
Euro Camp Jeep Biggest Ever
Some 800 European 4x4 enthusiasts driving more than 300 Jeeps converged on the Italian mountain town of La Thuile for a continental version of Camp Jeep. Like the Camps held here in the States, the Euro Camp offered a number of off-road and Jeep-themed events, ranging from trail driving and GPS navigation trials to roundtable presentations on topics including the latest developments in Jeep technology and off-road driving techniques. There was also a display of classic Jeep vehicles, a Jeep clothing and merchandise shop, sponsors' exhibitions, and live concerts.
In keeping with the Tread Lightly program, which Jeep actively promotes in Europe as well as in the U.S., 150 trees were planted by the Jeep owners to enhance the health and beauty of the area around La Thuile and to replace those that were destroyed in a recent avalanche.
Jeep owners were also able to view some of the make's latest models, including the restyled Grand Cherokee, the Wrangler Rubicon, and the Red River edition of the Cherokee (which is the name Jeep gave the Liberty outside of the U.S.).
This Just In...
*File this under "Duh." A report by Kelley Blue Book shows that half of minivan owners would rather be driving something else, primarily an SUV. Conversely, only 1 percent of SUV owners would rather own a minivan. Surprised?
*Toyota's first V-8 engines manufactured outside of Japan were produced at the company's Huntsville, Alabama, plant earlier this year. The facility will produce up to 120,000 engines for the Tundra pickup made in Indiana.
*GMC has set pricing for its new Envoy XUV (the one with the Midgate and sliding roof panel). Prices start at $31,890 for the SLE 4x2 model and run up to $38,715 for the uplevel Envoy XUV SLT 4x4. Those numbers don't include destination charges or options.
*In the wake of the recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) side-impact tests, in which the Jeep Wrangler earned a "marginal" rating, DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group responded by saying the Jeep "scored well in the majority of test categories" in the IIHS test. "While no one single test can determine a vehicle's overall safety performance, Chrysler Group looks forward to working with IIHS to better understand how this new test and rating scheme will relate to real-life accident scenarios," read the statement. "Our priority continues to be designing vehicles that perform safely for our customers and their families in everyday driving conditions."
*Just what we need-another high-line European carmaker jumping on the SUV bandwagon. This time it's Saab, which will offer a Chevy TrailBlazer- based SUV for 2005, reports Automotive News.
*Nissan is planning a major revamp of the Pathfinder compact sport/ute for 2005, says Automotive News. The next version of the truck will be based on the same platform that carries the Frontier pickup and Xterra SUV, and it will be assembled in Smyrna, Georgia, along with those other two trucks. The current Pathfinder is built in Japan.
*Land Rover will put four diesel-powered SUVs-two Range Rovers and two Freelanders-in its U.S. test fleet to demonstrate (for politicians, Ford employees, and the media) how well common-rail diesels work. This does not mean, says a Rover spokesman in Automotive News, that LR plans to offer diesels in U.S. models. OK, then why the demos, we ask?
*Though traditionalists still squawk about it, the Cayenne is doing what the factory wanted it to: sell Porsches. While sales of the 911 and Boxster sports cars have flagged, overall Porsche sales for the first three quarters of 2003 were up 13 percent because of the SUV.
*The Associated Press is reporting that Toyota's Land Cruiser has earned an unusual nickname in Iraq: the Monica, after the infamous White House intern. "They are a very tempting car," said dealer Marwan Shaban. "Just as Monica tempted Clinton, they will tempt you."
*Tired of all the SUV bashing of late, a new group called the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America ran a full-page ad in USA Today that asked, "What Would Jesus (Rivera) Drive?" Rivera, an SUV owner, likes his truck because it gets him through the snow in winter. "For millions of people like Jesus Rivera, it's all about safety, utility, and versatility," read the ad. "Maybe that's why they call them SUVs." Well, no duh.
Veteran Off-Road Racer Vic Hickey Dies
Vic Hickey, who designed several innovative desert race vehicles at the dawn of the sport, passed away of natural causes in June. He was 84.
A GM engineer, Hickey built several desert racing machines, including the Hurst Baja Boot and the Oldsmobile Banshee. The Boot, which raced in the first Mexican 1000 Rally (which was to become the Baja 1000), was a tube-chassis, four-wheel-drive buggy equipped with a small-block V-8 that was installed backwards, in front of the rear axleshafts. It boasted 9 inches of suspension travel and zero overhang front and rear. With Hollywood stuntman Bud Ekins driving, the Boot won the first Baja 500. Ekins' pal, actor Steve McQueen, later bought the Boot and raced it in Baja.
The Banshee featured a shortened Olds Cutlass body sitting on a tube frame and was powered by a 480hp 455 Olds V-8 mounted in the middle of the car. It was driven by another racing actor, James Garner, and later by Mickey Thompson himself.
Hickey was a versatile engineer, having a hand in everything from Indy race cars to the Lunar Rover. He also lent his name to a number of truck accessories, including rollbars, grilleguards, and nerf bars.
If you own one of the following vehicles and haven't been notified by the maker that your vehicle is under recall, get yourself down to your local dealer to find out if the recall affects your 4x4.
*'03 Jeep Grand Cherokee: On certain SUVs, the power-steering gear may contain an improperly formed spacer clip that could become dislodged, resulting in increased steering effort. Dealers will replace the steering gear assemblies.
*'03 Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, Oldsmobile Bravada: Certain SUVs were built with a left-front brake pipe with a circumferential score at a random location along the length of the pipe as the result of manufacturing. If the brake pipe partially or fully fractured, brake pedal travel would immediately increase and front brake performance would be reduced, which could result in a crash. Dealers will replace the left-front brake pipe. The manufacturer has not yet provided an owner notification schedule for this campaign. Owners may contact Chevrolet at 800/222-1020, GMC at 800/462-8782, or Oldsmobile at 800/442-6537.
*'02 Chevrolet TrailBlazer/TrailBlazer EXT, '02 GMC Envoy/Envoy XL, '02 Oldsmobile Bravada: Certain SUVs fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards No. 101, "Control Location, Identification, and Illumination," and No. 208, "Occupant Crash Protection." These vehicles have an intermittent condition during vehicle start-up in which the instrument panel cluster may not properly power up, disabling most of the displays, telltale lights, and functions. Dealers will reprogram the instrument panel cluster.
*'02-'03 Chevrolet TrailBlazer/TrailBlazer EXT, '02-'03 GMC Envoy/Envoy XL, '02-'03 Oldsmobile Bravada, '03 Hummer H2: Certain SUVs fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 114, "Theft Protection." These vehicles are equipped with a mechanical override that could allow the ignition key to be removed with the shift lever in a position other than Park. In addition, these vehicles have an override that can allow the transmission to be shifted out of Park with the ignition in the Off position. These overrides are not permitted unless the vehicle has a locking steering column. Dealers will eliminate these conditions by disabling the overrides.
*'03 Lexus GX470: On certain SUVs equipped with the Lexus Link System (LLS), it may be difficult to lock one of the two latches on the bottom of the middle row left rear seat (the larger side of the bench seat directly behind the driver). Due to the thickness of the Lexus Link System storage case, the stopper on the bottom of the seat is slightly elevated. This elevated position misaligns the latch to the striker. If the vehicle is operated with only one latch locked, the occupant of the seat may be improperly restrained in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of personal injury. Dealers will remove the LLS case panels around the seat stopper.
*'03 Toyota 4Runner: On certain SUVs with V-6 engines, the fuel pulsation damper, located on the fuel rail, may have been improperly assembled, causing a diaphragm in the pulsation damper to be damaged. If the diaphragm fails, fuel may leak. This could result in an engine compartment fire if a heat source or an ignition source is present. Dealers will replace the pulsation damper.
Hero Cards Available
To help promote sponsorship and exposure, Sports in the Rough is coming out with its Signature/Hero cards, featuring a 5x8-inch photo of each rockcrawling competitor in the Superlift ProRock series. These cards feature the individual vehicles in a variety of action positions and are intended to be signed by the drivers and spotters and handed out to fans and sponsors. We can see that they could be the next wave of collecting and trading, just like baseball cards. For more info contact Sports in the Rough at 800/556-2801 or visit www.sportsintherough.com.
Attention promoters, club officers, racing sanctioning bodies, and anyone else planning a 4x4 event: It's not too early to send us your calendar of 2004 listings. Because of press lead times, we need your items at least three months in advance of the event. Don't miss out on free national publicity for your special happening! Send all events listings to: Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048; or e-mail them to 4WOR@primedia.com.
Oct. 10 Event City Expo, Farmington, NM. Information: 714/579-3264, e-mail email@example.comOct. 10-12 20th Appalachian Fall Jeep Jamboree, Murphy, NC. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.comOct. 10-12 First Red Rock Canyon Jeep Jamboree, Las Vegas, NV. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.comOct. 11-12 7th Carolina 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Anderson, SC. Information: 317/236-6515, www.familyevents.com Oct. 11-12 IOK Four Wheelers Swap Meet, Gravelrama Park, Cleves, OH. Information: 812/432-5848, www.gravelrama.comOct. 11-12 Truckin & 4x4 Nationals, Firebird International Raceway, Chandler, AZ. Information: 602/268-0200, www.truckinationals.comOct. 17-19 14th Mohawk Trail Jeep Jamboree, Charlemont, MA. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.comOct. 17-19 14th French Lick Jeep Jamboree, French Lick, IN. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.comOct. 18 4x4Quest off-road driver training, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA. Information: 818/370-3582, www.4x4quest.comOct. 24-26 5th Moab Jeep Jamboree, Moab, UT. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.comOct. 24-26 14th Ouachita Jeep Jamboree, Hot Springs, AR. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.comOct. 25-26 Valley Off Road Racing Association (VORRA) Championship Short Course Race, Prairie City SVRA (near Sacramento), CA. Information: 530/622-0370, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.orgNov. 1 Toys For Tots Toy Run, Paragon Adventure Park, Hazelton, PA. Information: Blue Mountain Jeep Alliance, 800/975-9464, e-mail email@example.comNov. 13-16 Tecate/SCORE Baja 1000, Baja California, Mexico. Information: SCORE International, 818/225-8402, www.score-international.comNov. 14-15 MEPCO/Larry Miller Mopar State Rockcrawling Championships, location to be announced. Information: RCAA, 801/446-5337, www.rockcrawler.orgNov. 15-16 Valley Off-Road Racing Association Awards Banquet, Reno, NV. Information: VORRA, 530/622-0370, www.vorra.com
Nissan the Official Truck of CORR
Nissan Motorsports was named Official Truck of this year's Championship Off Road Racing (CORR) series. In addition to the sponsorship, Nissan's involvement with CORR includes two trucks that are running in the series wearing Nissan Motorsport graphics.
Art Schmitt and Joe Wutke race Nissan Frontiers in the CORR Pro-Lite division under the Art Schmitt Racing Team banner. The Frontiers are powered by 16-valve, four-cylinder racing engines that produce 289 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
Schmitt is a veteran off-road racer with more than 100 career wins, 12 class championships, three Driver of the Year Awards and two Hard Charger Awards to his credit. Wutke has been involved in off-road racing since 1990, when he started driving buggies. Wutke has competed in CORR since 1998, running in the Super Buggy division until 2001, when he jumped into the Pro-Lite division.
Department of Corrections
No, not you guys in the slammer, but a goof we made. The contact phone number for OMF wheels ("The New BFGoodrich Krawler T/As," Sept. '03, page 81,) was incorrectly listed. The correct phone number for OMF bead-lock rims is 909/354-8272. We apologize for the typo, and to the guy whose number we printed.
The $137,850 Chevy Pickup
No, it's not a 4x4, but we found this interesting nonetheless. The second Chevrolet SSR pickup built (and the first to be made available to the public) was recently offered at auction through eBay. Ohio-based Chevrolet dealer Bob McDorman entered the winning bid of $137,850 just two minutes before the bidding closed.
Chevrolet won't enjoy the payday, though. It donated this SSR to the SAE Foundation, which put the truck up for auction. The proceeds from the sale will be used to benefit the Foundation's Heinz C. Prechter Award for Automotive Excellence. The award was established in memory of Prechter, who founded ASC Incorporated, a global specialty vehicle and systems company. The Chevy SSR was among the last vehicles with which Prechter was involved.
Coolest Reading Places Special
The Middle East is still a dangerous place for the men and women of our armed forces, yet those brave and selfless 4Wheel & Off-Road fans keep sending us cool reading submissions. Here are a few more of their words and pictures from the world's hot spots.
Greetings from sunny Iraq! I thought I'd send a pic of me reading my favorite mag in my least-favorite country. Between jumping from location to location and following the 3rd ID sweep across the country, we often find time to sit down and catch up on some reading. It's a great way to take your mind off the surroundings and the stress of what tomorrow's mission may hold. This harsh and rough desert terrain is prime four-wheel-drive territory. Often I'll see a great off-road spot and think, "I wish I had my truck out here." About that time, we'd pass a blown-up Iraqi tank and I'd think, "Eh, maybe not."1st Lt. Travis ChapmanOn the road to Baghdad
I read my husband's 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine while he is away in Kuwait with our USAF. He has been gone since January 9. With less than three hours' notice to pack I think one of the few things he remembered were his 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazines. My husband and I both drive 4x4s-he drives a Ford Ranger with a 6-inch lift and I drive a new Dodge Ram four-door shortbed 4x4. I have attached a few duty pics that he has sent recently. Thank you for your support of all our troops! God bless America.Mrs. Jared TermanTravis AFB, CA
Political & Environmental Watch
*Members of the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) recently visited California state lawmakers in Sacramento to discuss off-road recreation and the growing number of land closures in the Golden State. The group told state Senate and Assembly members that while OHV registrations have increased 144 percent over the past 22 years, the land available for off-road recreation in the California desert has decreased by 48 percent during that same period. "We are upset that hypocritical anti-access organizations have been influencing what the politicians will do and how they vote without input from off-road groups," said ORBA president Roy Denner. The group met with positive response from several legislators. "I not only support more OHV parks in California, but I want you to know that I am on your team to secure a site for off-road enthusiasts in San Diego County for an OHV park," said Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego): "I fully support your efforts to secure an OHV park for off-road enthusiasts in San Diego County. I supported recent legislative budget action to fund an OHV park in Riverside and other areas of the state, and I will work hard to preserve access to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. Off-roading is great family recreation and I fully support it."
*Our friends at the SEMA Action Network (SAN), who watch legislative activities in Washington D.C., told us that the Bush Administration announced that it would continue to enforce the Clinton-era roadless rule in 58.5 million acres of national forest lands. At the same time, it released a plan that would allow governors to seek exemptions from the rule to address health and safety issues such as reducing the risk of wildfires. Roads could also be constructed to provide access to private property or help maintain existing infrastructure. Exemptions would not be granted for lands identified as national monuments, national recreation areas, or wilderness study areas. In related news, several lawsuits are working their way through the courts challenging the validity of the roadless rule. Meanwhile, legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate to turn the rule into a law (without incorporating the Bush Administration's proposed exemptions), though there has been no action on the legislation to date.
My husband, Paul Darga, is a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Tech. He is currently serving in the Middle East, participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and has been gone for six months now. He is reading your magazine regularly thanks to our ability to send care packages. His job is primarily to defuse and dispose of unexploded ordnance. The cloud in the photo is an explosion set to dispose of ordnance.Sincerely,
Karie Darga, USN WifeNorfolk, VA
I hope that my coolest reading place will suffice for your magazine, though it's not very cool now-115-120 degrees F most days. I've enclosed a few pictures, including one of a curious Iraqi boy becoming a 4-Wheel & Off-Road enthusiast. He knows Jeeps! My rig out here? A Hummer, of course.Semper Fidelis,
Maj. R.W. Egenolf, USMC
1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Babylon, Iraq