Coolest Reading Places In UniformJohn R. Williams, serving in Afghanistan, writes:"Here's how this picture came to be. We were on a patrol in an undisclosed city in Afghanistan when our patrol route took us on a dirt road that ran next to a river. Well, needless to say there was a lot of mud left over after three days of rain. We made a pass through to finish our route and quickly turned around again to get some more mud on the tires. We wrapped it up after the fourth pass because both our machine gun and gunner were covered in mud, as you can tell."
In the photo, from left to right, bottom to top: Lance Cpl. Beckman, "Shoe" Interpreter, Doc Williams, Lance Cpl. Combs, Lance Cpl. Poziviak, Lance Cpl. Perez aka The Dirty Gunner, Lance Cpl. Holt, Lance Cpl. Sharp, and Lance Cpl. Duhon.
Anyone remember the Blackwood? Ford is probably hoping that you don't (or that you remember it fondly) as it takes another shot at adding a pickup truck to its Lincoln line. Called the Mark LT, this F-150-based truck will go on sale early this year as an '06 model.
Why a Lincoln pickup? "This is a Lincoln designed for two different types of customers," explained Darryl Hazel, Lincoln Mercury president. "First, it's for people who need a truck, but want all of the trappings of a luxury vehicle. Second, it's for those who don't necessarily need a truck, but need to make a bold statement that can only be made by a few unique vehicles in today's market."
In other words, Lincoln is trying to win back some of those sports and music stars that defected from the Navigator to the H2.
Mechanically the Mark LT and F-150 are very similar: 5.4L Triton V-8 power; 4x2 and 4x4 models, both using an independent front suspension with coilover shocks; Super Crew body with four fullsize doors and 5.5-foot bed; and a towing capacity of up to 8,900 pounds.
Design details, however, are very different. The LT's body is accented by hefty doses of chrome, not just in the "waterfall" grille but also in a chrome band that wraps around the entire truck. Plush interior appointments include premium Nudo leather upholstery (with "French-styled pleating," whatever that is) and real ebony wood accents.
On paper, anyway, the Mark LT seems like more of a "real truck" than the Blackwood ever was-remember that the Blackwood was a 2WD-only model with a carpeted bed and hard tonneau cover that rendered the cargo area usable for little more than golf clubs. It has one other thing going for it: price. According to a report in Automotive News, the Mark LT will retail in the low to mid $40K range, which sounds spendy until you compare it to the $54,000 Cadillac Escalade EXT, the only other vehicle on the market that's even remotely close to a luxury pickup.
Texas TitanNissan is working hard to prove that its Titan fullsize truck is, in every way, a true American-style pick-'em-up. And what better way to do that than to produce a Titan aimed squarely at the heart of truck country: Texas.
Yep. The State Fair of Texas Auto Show in Dallas was the setting for the introduction of the "Texas Titan," a special edition with "additional features Texans say they want in a truck, while at the same time giving them a great value on something special," said John Spoon, regional vice president of Nissan North America's South Central Region. Those features include chrome 18-inch wheels, chrome step rails, foglamps, special dashboard accents, floor mats featuring the Texas Lone Star, and "Texas Titan" badges.
According to Nissan, the Texas Titan will go on sale at Texas dealerships in early 2005 and will be available with a special offer for Texas residents to be determined later.
Special Jeep Jamborees Announced For '05Jeep Jamboree USA has a busy year planned for 2005. There are nearly 40 trail rides on the JJUSA calendar, including several new events. The year kicks off with a springtime Ouachita ride in Arkansas March 11-13 and a Big Bend ride near El Paso, Texas, March 18-20. New events later in the spring include a Tennessee Mountains run in Oak Ridge April 8-10 and a Snowshoe Mountain run in West Virginia June 17-19.
And then there are the specialty events. There will be two Mark A. Smith Rubicon Trail Adventure tours (the all-inclusive Rubicon trip-covered in this issue-in which all necessary gear and the use of a Jeep are provided) July 15-17 and August 26-28. JJUSA is also offering an Advanced Off-Road Training Program, which includes hands-on Special Forces-like training in addition to coached driving on the Rubicon Trail, to be held July 19-21 and August 19-21. Finally, there will be a Women-Only Lake Tahoe Adventure Sept. 9-11 that encompasses off-roading, kayaking, hiking, and training sessions covering outdoor and automotive survival basics. "And yes, we're serious. No men are allowed to register for this trip," said JJUSA's Pearse Umlauf.
For more information on the 2005 Jamborees, contact Jeep Jamboree USA at 530.333.4777 or www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
Sema Launches New Off-Road ShowRecognizing the 4x4 industry as a "booming niche," the Specialty Equipment Market Association (what we lovingly refer to as SEMA) is launching a show exclusively for off-road equipment.
Called SEMA Offroad, the show will be held along with SEMA's Spring Expo on February 4-5 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. Unlike the famous trade-only SEMA Show in Las Vegas, SEMA Offroad will be open to the trade and to consumers. According to the association, the show will include the latest products in sand sports, rockcrawling, mud bogging, desert racing, and other 4WD categories. In addition, tons of dirt and boulders will be used to construct an indoor proving ground, where companies can demonstrate the capabilities of their latest products. The proving ground will also be open for attendees to test "the latest off-road vehicles fitted with SEMA member equipment," said the association. For more information on the new show, contact SEMA at 909.396.0289 or visit www.semaoffroad.com.
Can't Touch This JeepAs we were poking around the DaimlerChrysler media Web site one day, we stumbled across some press releases from the Paris Motor Show regarding European versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. We've long known that most automakers offer models outside of the U.S. that are different from their American siblings, and here's a peek into what's available on the other side of the Atlantic.
The Euros get two special edition Grands, the Black Pearl Series (shown here) and the Vision Series. Based on the Overland model, the Black Pearl gets distinctive "platinum finish" alloy wheels, chrome bars in the front grille, and matte black rock rails. The Vision, based on the Limited model, receives silver-painted 17-inch alloy rims, silver rock rails, and powdercoated silver roof-rack bars.
The U.S. and Euro Grands are fitted with similar drive systems-Selec-Trac, Quadra-Trac II, or Quadra-Drive transfer cases, depending on model-and familiar engine options in the 4.7L V-8 and 4.0L I-6. Europeans can also have their Grands with a 2.7L common-rail-diesel, which, if it performs like the diesel we sampled in the Liberty for our 4x4 of the Year test, is a torquey little beast.
Can't Touch This Chevy, EitherChevrolet's S3X concept SUV, unveiled at the Paris Motor Show, was a preview of a production version that will bow in Europe in 2006. It's a nice looking little SUV and seats seven passengers in a trim package that's bigger than the typical cute/ute, but slightly smaller than Chevy's five-passenger Equinox crossover SUV. More significantly, it will be powered by a diesel engine, a first for Chevy in Europe. Plus, the S3X was developed solely by GM's South Korean Daewoo Auto & Technology division, heralding further growth by the South Korean auto industry. Don't scoff, folks. It wasn't all that long ago that Japanese automakers were making these kinds of baby steps into the U.S. market, and look where they are now.
Durango Adds AdventurerSince it was all-new last year, there aren't many changes to the Durango SUV for '05. However, Dodge has added a new model to the Durango lineup. The "Adventurer" package doesn't boast any mechanical changes, but it is fitted with options "designed for the outdoor enthusiast," says Dodge, including a Thule roof rack, tubular side steps, reversible "slush mat" floor mats, and a rubberized, washable cargo-area liner with a built-in cargo organizer. You'll be able to spot the Adventurer model by its unique badges, gray side moldings with silver inserts, and gray painted front and rear fascias.
This Just InIn truck sales news, GM has cut back on the number of dealers it had planned for the Hummer brand. Currently there are more than 160 Hummer dealers in the U.S. Original goals for 200 to 225 dealers have been dropped in favor of a number closer to 180, reports Automotive News. Sales of the H2 through August were off by more than 20 percent compared to the same period in 2003. GM has also asked AM General to cut back H2 production. Analysts say the sales slowdown is due to the fact that "the people who wanted them have gotten them," said the trade paper. Another analyst quoted in the story said the smaller (and more fuel efficient) H3 should be a high-volume vehicle for the brand. nGM stepped in to help Florida's hurricane victims by donating three H2s and several Chevy and GMC hybrid pickup trucks to the Red Cross to assist with rescue and cleanup duties. In addition, the GM Foundation contributed $100,000 to the Red Cross and said it will match up to $100,000 in contributions from GM employees.
Here's a bit of irony: Detroit ranks as the most expensive city in the U.S. to own a car, according to a study by Runzheimer International, a management consultant specializing in transportation reimbursement. The study tracked car ownership expenses, including fuel, oil, tires, insurance, registration fees, and other items, and found it costs more than $11,000 a year to own a car in Motown. Los Angeles was ranked Number 2. At the other end of the list was Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where the cost to keep a car running for a year was $7,100.
Low-speed crashes equal sky-high repair bills: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted a series of low-speed (10 mph) crashes between cars and SUVs to see how the difference in bumper height between the two types of vehicles would affect damage and repair costs. Ford was at the low end. When an Explorer rear-ended a Taurus, the total cost of repairing both vehicles was $1,200. In the same crash test between a Grand Cherokee and a Dodge Stratus, the total of the repair bills topped $6,100. At 10 mph, folks. Ouch! Tests between a Nissan Altima and Murano caused more than $5,000 in damage, while the coming together of a Chevy Malibu and TrailBlazer cost more than $4,000 to fix.
Thinking about taking the "Land Rover Experience" driving school in one of those fancy resorts? The list of participating hotels has gotten shorter. Land Rover recently announced it has concluded its agreement with the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia to operate the school on the property. Instruction is still taking place at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello in Quebec and Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
Moss Motors in Southern California has published an accessories catalog with nothing but parts for the new Ford F-150. Suspension, interior, exterior, and lighting products are just the start of what's featured. Living in the virtual world? You can order the parts from the company's Web site: www.F150store.com.
Sales of the new GM midsize Colorado and Canyon are not off to a roaring start, according to WardsAuto.com. Combined sales of the two trucks for the first eight months of 2004 were below the sales of the Chevy S-10 and GMC S-15 during the same time period in 2003. GM execs argue the comparisons aren't valid, since production startup caused low inventories at the beginning of 2004. nLiberty rumors, part one: From a fairly reliable source we've heard that Jeep is considering putting a live axle under the front of the Liberty, to increase its appeal among hard-core off-roaders. While the change sounds interesting, it's hard to believe Jeep would do such a thing and potentially upset the truck's ride quality for the 98 percent (our guess) of Liberty owners who use their SUVs on the road only.
Liberty rumors, part two: From another fairly reliable source we've heard that the Liberty may be available for just a few more years. As in three more, then out. Now, it would be pretty cool if the Lib ended its life as a live-axle-suspended, serious rock buggy. But that niche seems to be well filled by the Rubicon Wranglers. So take all this with a grain of salt.
Nissan executives at the Paris Motor Show indicated they'd like to build a heavy-duty version of the Titan pickup and equip it with a diesel engine, according to Automotive News. One exec noted that the pickup's platform would not have to be wholly redesigned to accommodate the change.
Environmental & Political WatchAnd they think we're the bad guys: A recent Los Angeles Times article-covered by the Inland Empire Four Wheelers in the club's newsletter-reported that a California conservancy group was accused of mismanaging millions of dollars. Instead of using the funds to buy and restore parkland as it was supposed to do, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy instead spent the money on airline club memberships, hotel room service expenses, travel for conservancy executives' family members, and to fund "administrative overhead" that was a whopping 350 times bigger than the overhead of similar groups in the state. The group's response? "I don't know what the numbers are, and I don't care what the numbers are, frankly," said the conservancy's executive director, whose wife bought airfares with the conservancy's money.
The TRAIL Act of 2004, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last fall, would set up "consistent penalties across all public-lands agencies for those who would abuse our public lands," said Larry E. Smith, executive director of Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA). The Trail Responsibility and Accountability Act would enforce a consistent set of fines and penalties for federal agencies with jurisdiction over public lands, including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. The bill would also authorize that fines collected under its provisions could be used to rehabilitate lands damaged as a result of the offense which led to the fine. The bill, H.R. 3247, now moves to the Senate for approval.
California does it again: Long a leader in antipollution regulations, the Golden State (courtesy of the California Air Resources Board) recently decreed that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and will regulate tailpipe emissions of the gas. The regulation takes effect in 2006 and will first apply to '09 model-year vehicles. Unfortunately, about the only way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to reduce the amount of fuel burned, so what this really is (according to vehicle manufacturers) is a back-door way of increasing the state's fuel economy regulations. Not to mention a means to make it even more difficult to modify an engine to increase power. Since the automakers figure it will cost them about $3,000 per vehicle (!) to meet the requirements, they may challenge the ruling in court.
More "good news" for Californians (we sure hope the sarcasm is coming across): Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill that repealed California's rolling smog-test exemption rule (which kept vehicles 30 years old and older from having to go though a test). Instead, all '76-and-newer vehicles will now be required to undergo smog testing for the lifetime of the vehicle. This despite desperate pleas by a number of car enthusiast groups and even Jay Leno, asking Schwarzenegger to leave the rule alone, since well-maintained vintage vehicles contribute tiny amounts to the state's pollution.
SEMA reports that efforts to create the "Wild Sky Wilderness" in Washington's Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest appear to be dead, since lawmakers cannot agree on whether to protect existing roads, buildings, and structures within the wilderness study area. A SEMA-supported House proposal (H.R. 5083) to set aside about 93,000 acres as wilderness and also create a 13,300-acre "backcountry wilderness management area" to maintain the previously developed lands lacks votes critical for passage.
CorrectionDoh! Someone get the paddle because we made a mistake. Our butts were happy for the whole Ultimate Adventure while sitting in our Corbeau VX2000 seat, but we deserve an ass-chewing for screwing up Corbeau's phone number in our source box. We hate when we screw up, but we understand that we deserve this spanking. So give Corbeau a call at 801.255.3737, or check out the Web site (www.corbeau.com) if you're looking for a new place to sit. Meanwhile, we'll be in the corner sulking.