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July 2005 4x4 News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on July 1, 2005
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Are you ready for the Bad Boy? Homeland Defense Vehicles LLC of Newton, Texas, says its luxury conversion of the military's Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) A1 truck "falls into a new category of supertruck," and we'd have to agree. Based on either the 2.5- or 5-ton FMTV, the Bad Boy is powered by a 7.2L Caterpillar 3126 diesel that makes 275 hp and 817 lb-ft of torque. Backing the Cat is an Allison seven-speed automatic transmission and a full-time AWD drivetrain that offers a 30/70 torque split front to rear on the pavement and a 50/50 split for the dirt. The BB rides on ArvinMeritor axles with 6.14:1 gears, and the 395/85R20 Michelin all-terrain tires help achieve its 22 inches of ground clearance. Central tire inflation is also included.

How big is the Bad Boy? Just 253 inches overall (on a 153.5-inch wheelbase) and 96 inches wide. A Hummer H1, by comparison, is 184.5 inches long overall on a 130-inch wheelbase and is 86.5 inches wide (exclusive of side mirrors).

To that basic military platform Homeland Defense Vehicles adds upscale items like leather seats; an audio system that'll play CDs, MP3s and DVDs; XM satellite radio; GPS; a 2,400-watt power inverter; and a sat phone. For any extra-Homeland adventures, the Bad Boy can be equipped with night-vision goggles, grille-mounted infrared illumination, and protection against nuclear, biological, and chemical attack.

Gotta have one? Check out Homeland Defense Vehicles at

Special Rubicon Trips From Jeep Jamboree USALast summer's Mark A. Smith Rubicon Trail Adventures were such a success that Jeep Jamboree USA has added two of those trips to its 2005 calendar, as well as two all-new Rubicon programs. The RTA, which we covered in our Jan. '05 issue, allows you to drive one of JJUSA's prepped Rubicons (including a handful of Unlimited versions) along the famous Sierra Nevada trail, led by Mark Smith's hand-picked staff of trail guides. Meals, camping gear, and Smith's generous hospitality are included; you just have to get yourself to Reno and back. This year's RTAs take place July 15-17 and August 26-28. Spaces are limited and sell out quickly, so don't wait to call.

New this year are the Advanced Off-Road Training Programs and the Women's Only Lake Tahoe Adventure. The training programs (July 19-21 and Aug. 19-21) include two days of coached driving on the Rubicon Trail, plus a day of hands-on exercises that cover winching, strapping, driving techniques, and backcountry vehicle repair. This is the same kind of training Smith and company offer to military and law-enforcement agencies, and the student-to-instructor ratio is a low 3:1. The Women's Only trip is just that-four days in South Lake Tahoe of four-wheeling, kayaking, hiking, outdoors and survival training seminars, for females only, September 9-11.

For more information on these and JJUSA's other trail rides, call 530.333.4777, e-mail, or visit

Rancho Increases SponsorshipsRancho, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is expanding its presence in the competitive rockcrawling arena. Rancho is the "Official Suspension Brand" of both the World Extreme Rock Crawling Championship (W.E. Rock USA), operated by CalROCS, and the Extreme Rock Racing Association (XRRA). Rancho will also campaign three rock buggies at more than 20 W.E. Rock USA and XRRA events and will bring its product demonstration rig to nearly 40 off-roading events this year.

GM Styling Awards At Sema Spring ExpoFor more than a decade, General Motors has handed out a series of Creative Styling & Trim Awards at SEMA's Spring Expo (formerly the Truck & Auto Accessories Expo) in Indianapolis. The program is intended to "showcase and recognize restyler ingenuity, creativity, and craftsmanship as applied to vehicles designed for 'real-world' application-as opposed to one-off concept vehicles-through the creative use of 'off-the-shelf' accessory components and packages," according to GM.

Jhan Dolphin, vice president of RealWheels in Gurnee, Illinois, is seen here holding GM's Best of Show award for his company's "Track Time" '05 Hummer SUT. Built as a tribute to racetrack support crews all over the country, the Hummer has been accessorized with more than 500 LED lights, emergency strobes and sirens, 20 video monitors, custom paint, and a Pro Charger supercharger. "Yes, it's a bit over the top," Dolphin admitted.

New Rocky Mountain Jeep ModelsAfter the Bad Boy, this is almost anticlimactic, though probably a bit more real-world for most of us. Jeep has announced new Rocky Mountain special editions of the Grand Cherokee, Liberty, and Wrangler. Each vehicle has a distinctive paint scheme and interior accents and is also equipped with what Jeep calls "popular options." The Wrangler, for example, is an X model upfitted with a Dana 44 axle, 15-inch Ravine aluminum wheels, and 30x9.5 Goodyear Wrangler tires. The Laredo-based Grand goes high end (naturally) with heated leather seats, a power sunroof, and a premium Boston Acoustic sound system complete with a one-year subscription to Sirius satellite radio.

Gullwing NissanWe have no idea what the name is supposed to mean, but the Zaroot is Nissan's latest SUV concept. Unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show, the Zaroot represents "Nissan's vision of how sporty SUVs could look in the future," says the company. Those gullwing doors are pretty cool, but we'd guess that their weight (they'd have to be sturdy enough to meet side-impact standards) would preclude them from production. Still, maybe some aftermarket company will step up and do an Xterra version.

Mystery Jeeps?As he was coming home from Iraq, reader Rick Siegfried snapped these photos of what appear to be long-wheelbase YJs at the Kuwait airport. "From what I could see, both were four-wheel drive, one had a hardtop and the other was set up as some sort of personnel carrier with a soft top and inward facing bench seats in the back. They have been sitting for some time, as a couple of the tires were flat. I wish I had been able to get a closer look at them and find out more information on them. If I had known about these earlier and been stationed in Kuwait instead of Iraq, I would have inquired about buying them and shipping them back to the States."

Had Rick spied some sort of pre-Wrangler-Unlimited test mules? Nothing quite that exciting. According to one of our sources at DCX, the company has sold long-wheelbase Jeeps overseas as military vehicles for some time now. So maybe it's not news, but one would be cool to have, just for the uniqueness factor.

Old-School Muscle From DodgeDodge must figure there's a niche of truck guys out there who are also huge fans of the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird, those iconic winged musclecars that terrorized NASCAR in the late '60s and early '70s. That would explain the Dodge Ram Daytona, a limited-edition, Hemi-powered Ram 1500 dressed with a retro rearend stripe and foot-tall airfoil. Unlike the Ram SRT-10, the Daytona package is available in 4x4 models as well as two-bys. Two colors are offered: Silver Metallic or the vintage Go ManGo! (seen here). The trucks were introduced in February, in conjunction with the Daytona 500, and are priced starting at $32,000.

This Just InCongratulations to Jeep: The new Grand Cherokee earned five-star frontal and side-impact crash ratings from the NHTSA. This is the ninth consecutive Chrysler product to earn the highest frontal-crash rating; others include the Durango, Ram, and Dakota. nFirst beer, now tires? A safety group has asked the NHTSA to require born-on dates on tires to protect consumers from buying rubber that may be too old to be safe. Tire dealers insist there's no problem, as they turn their stock fast enough for age to be a nonissue. nSUV sales may be in a slump, but pickup sales aren't. According to Automotive Digest, growth in fullsize pickup sales in 2004 outpaced the growth in sales of all SUVs, the first time that's happened in 10 years. nLook for more limited-edition vehicles from Dodge and Jeep, says Automotive News. Chrysler hopes spiffing up products with option packages, like the Rocky Mountain Jeeps and Ram Daytona, will prove to be a better-or at least more profitable-way to improve sales than incentives. nLust for Quadrasteer? Better buy now, as GM is dropping the rear-steer option from its fullsize trucks when the '07 models come out next year. The option just didn't catch on with buyers, even when GM cut the option price in half. nLook for a V-6 version of Land Rover's LR3, possibly as early as this summer. SEMA forwarded a report that an upgraded version of Ford's 4.0L V-6 may find its way into a less expensive version of the Discovery replacement. nSpeaking of LR3, that model's popularity has helped Land Rover notch record sales recently. LR3 sales made up more than half of all Rover sales in February, which was a record month for Rover.

Environmental & Political WatchAccording to our friends at the BlueRibbon Coalition, a senior U.S. district judge ruled recently that the U.S. Forest Service "has not been properly managing off-highway vehicle use in [California's] Eldorado National Forest." Is this good news? Maybe. The case that spurred this decision was originally brought by an anti-access organization, but a number of vehicle access advocates (including Cal4Wheel and the BRC) joined the action to represent our side. Both camps will now submit information for a future hearing, which will search for remedies for the problems. "We remain committed to working with the Forest Service, the plaintiffs, and interested members of the public in forging a new plan that will preserve the environment while allowing reasonable human access to the forest," said Don Klusman, natural resource consultant for the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs.

The Chicago Tribune reports the government is raising the CAFE standards for trucks for the first time since 1996. CAFE is the average fuel economy figure a manufacturer has to achieve with its entire line of vehicles or face stiff fines. The 2005 truck standard of 21 mpg is up from the previous 20.7-mpg level, will increase again in 2006 to 21.6 mpg, and again in 2007 to 22.2 mpg. Bigger changes will come after that, though, as the NHTSA is reviewing the very definition of what makes a vehicle a "truck." The idea is to close the fuel economy loophole that crossover SUVs and other carlike "trucks," like the PT Cruiser, currently enjoy. Cars have to meet a much stricter 27.5-mpg CAFE standard. So far the government agency is mum as to what the requirements will be, but any major mpg increase will more than likely require truck makers to reduce the size and weight of their vehicles, opening a real can of worms.

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