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September 2006 4x4 News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on September 1, 2006
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After 14 years, Hummer will stop marketing the civilian version of the $130,000-plus H1 to focus its "engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and dealer resources to bringing more new or significantly revised models to market," read a joint statement from Hummer and AM General, the H1's manufacturer. More than likely that means GM wants smaller and more gas-pump-friendly vehicles like the H3, though Hummer General Manager Martin Walsh told the Associated Press rising fuel prices were not a factor in the decision. H1 buyers "typically have been less sensitive about gas prices than most other drivers," Walsh said.

For its part, AM General will "focus all of its research and development efforts on continuing to make the finest light tactical vehicles in the world available to the U.S. Armed Forces," said the statement. AM General is already changing its H1 assembly lines to produce only military HMMWVs.

H1 owners shouldn't feel abandoned, said Hummer, as they "can continue to depend on Hummer dealerships to provide warranty repairs, parts, and service for their vehicle for many years to come." We haven't heard yet how (or if) the announcement will affect Rod Hall's desert-racing Team Hummer, which fields an H1 Alpha alongside H2 and H3 race trucks.

While we're on the subject, Team Hummer posted particularly strong finishes at the Best in the Desert Racing Association's Terrible's Town 250 in April. Rod Hall, wheeling the team's H3, earned a First in the Pure Stock Mini SUV class. His son Josh, who is defending his 2005 Pure Stock Full SUV class championship, also took a First in class. The team's H1 Alpha, in its racing debut, had some shakedown problems, but son Chad was still able to bring it to the finish line.

PhotosView Slideshow

Forty years after their introduction, and a full decade after the last one rolled off the assembly line, Broncos still inspire mad love by their fans.

In his usual understated way, rocker Ted Nugent put it this way: "The Bronco represents a powerful force in the huntsman's life, a way for us to reconnect with the spirit of the wild." The Nuge has owned seven Broncos, the first he bought in 1971. "It was light green with a white top, and I had all the heavy-duty options available at the time, even a Warn winch, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was rockin', baby!"

Ford engineer Harry Erle Rawlins IV had his first Bronco experience when he turned 16 and inherited his mother's '81. "I drove that Bronco pretty hard during high school," Rawlins said. "Flew it a few times." Though that truck gave way to "more practical" transportation when he went to college, he immediately bought a '73 Bronco when he landed a job at Ford. Rawlins, now a trailer tow engineer for Super Duty trucks, has since built the Bronc for severe trail duty with Detroit Lockers in both axles, a 351 Windsor under the hood, deeper gears in the transfer case, and 36-inch Super Swampers.

Rawlins took both his and Nugent's Broncos to the Early Broncos 40th Anniversary Celebration in Victorville, California, this spring, which is covered in this issue on page 40.

Apparently medium-duty trucks aren't just plain-Jane workhorses anymore. Alongside the personalized International CXTs, we're starting to see more and more special edition Kodiaks and TopKicks from GM and aftermarket parts supplier Monroe Truck Equipment. There's so much activity in dressing up these haulers that GM and Monroe have launched a new Web site ( where you can find accessories ranging from DVD entertainment systems to stainless steel vertical exhaust stacks.

BFGoodrich, Tread Lightly!, and the United Four Wheel Drive Associations (UFWDA) have launched a new Outstanding Trails program that highlights some of the best off-road trails in the country and is dedicated to the responsible use and preservation of those trails.

Named in the new program are Black Bear Pass near Ouray, Colorado; Pyeatt Draw in Payson, Arizona; Hell's Revenge in Moab, Utah; Naches Pass, also known as the Longmire Wagon Train, in the Cascade Mountains near Naches, Washington; and Trail No. 4 in the Upper Tellico OHV Area, located in the Natahala National Forest in North Carolina.

As a part of the program, BFG will host events at designated trails to highlight the uniqueness of each location as well as to educate off-roaders on the responsible use of each trail. The tire maker will also give a grant to a selected off-road club to help with the costs of trail conservation.

No, our current president didn't make some Clinton-esque gaffe with an intern. USC tailback and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, who was selected No. 2 overall in the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, will receive two Hummers to drive during his rookie season. (He's shown here getting the keys to one of them from Hummer General Manager Martin Walsh.) Hummer is the "official vehicle of the NFL Draft."

For 2007, all Dodge Ram and Dakota pickups, Durango SUVs, and Jeep Grand Cherokees and Commanders outfitted with a 4.7L V-8 engine will be capable of running on E85 (the ethanol/gasoline mix), gasoline, or any combination of the two. This is part of a plan to sell more than 250,000 flex-fuel vehicles in 2007 and nearly 500,000 such vehicles in 2008, which will represent nearly a quarter of DCX's U.S. fleet.

"A significant part of the solution to our energy, environment, and national security issues can be homegrown," said Tom LaSorda, Chrysler Group president and CEO.

Here's a photo of us relaxing after hiking up and down the Great Wall in China. We wish we could have driven our '75 Blazer at least to the start. The Blazer resides in Southern California and sports a Chevy 383 stroker with TPI, a TH400, and an NP205 transfer case. If it would float, we would have tried to drive it across the Pacific Ocean for a chance to wheel the Great Wall!
-Craig and Jennifer Boone

How's it going? I thought I would submit this picture from the Arctic Slope in Alaska. I just got done spending a month riding around in Rolligons all over the tundra. My brother, Cole Wininger (far right), Moe Lambdin, the Rolligon driver (middle), and I (left) thought it would be cool to get a picture of us reading the newest issue in front of the beast.
-Frank Wininger

* As a way of promoting its all-new '07 Silverado, Chevrolet is looking for personally owned Silverado pickups with 200,000 miles or more on the clock to join the Silverado 200,000 Mile Club. Chevrolet will acknowledge the top trucks and their owners at a major event at the Texas State Fair in Dallas in late September, where the Bow-Tie guys will unveil the new pickup.

* Some makers are seeing a slip in vehicle sales in the wake of ever-rising gas prices, but Chevrolet experienced a surprising lift in truck and SUV sales in April. Car sales fell nearly 18 percent, but truck sales were actually up 1.3 percent, due in large part to sales of the new Tahoe and Yukon SUVs. Will it last? We're not holding our breath.

* Nissan has donated 50 Titan pickups to Habitat for Humanity to aid the organization's rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast in the wake of last year's devastating hurricane season. This isn't Nissan's first goodwill gesture for the people in the Gulf. Nissan has already donated $500,000 to the American Red Cross; donated 50 vehicles to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency; established the "Nissan Disaster Relief Fund" to aid affected Nissan employees, dealers, and affiliates; matched employee donations dollar-for-dollar to various relief organizations; and had employees donate items to benefit victims and evacuees nationwide.

* Toyota will sponsor NBC television's Sunday Night Football halftime show and use the air time to show off the all-new Tundra fullsize pickup to football fans, which Toyota sees as key potential buyers. Toyota is calling the Tundra's launch "the most important new model launch in Toyota's history."

Good news: SEMA tells us Interior Secretary Gale Norton issued an order that could eventually open thousands of miles of roads and trails to "right-of-way" claims brought by state and county governments under an old mining law known as RS 2477. RS 2477 claims are based on the fact that the subject road or trail has been in continuous use since before the land was designated as federal property. At issue is a dispute over the definition of "continuous use." The federal government had argued that such lands must have been mechanically constructed. Utah and other states or local jurisdictions have a more liberal definition that is based only on use. The federal government will now defer to state or local law. The order applies to the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies within the Interior Department and could lead to more claims on roads and trails in national parks, wildlife refuges, national monuments, and wilderness areas.

More good: Kansas legislation to allow qualifying military vehicles to be registered and operated on public roadways as "antiques" was approved by the Kansas Legislature and signed into law by Governor Kathleen Sebelius. The new law defines an "antique military vehicle" as a vehicle, regardless of the vehicle's size or weight, which was manufactured for use in any country's military forces and is maintained to represent its military design. The law excludes fully tracked vehicles from this definition.

Now the bad news: In a blow to Southern California off-roaders, a federal judge struck down a plan by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to allow off-roading on large sections of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area that were originally closed in 2000. The court ruled that the BLM violated the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws in proposing to reopen approximately 49,000 acres in four areas of the desert dunes to OHV use. In its ruling, the court stated that BLM relied on a flawed report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that concurred that the dunes could be reopened without "jeopardizing" the existence of the Peirson's milk-vetch, an abundant desert plant which was placed on the endangered species list in 1998.

Bret Lovett, President & CEO, Superlift Suspension Systems

Drivelines: How has Superlift's business changed in the last five years?
Bret Lovett: The most notable change has been our ongoing efforts in product development and manufacturing. About five years ago we made some major staffing moves, plus we are continuously investing in technology to help keep us at the top of the food chain in terms of product quality and functionality. Everything is product driven. The consumer has tons of information available, and those that do the research can cut through the marketing B.S. and discover what products actually perform as advertised. We actually want the masses to be informed; not all suppliers can honestly say this.

On the technology side, an increasing number of new vehicle manufacturers now make their computer modeling data available to certain aftermarket manufacturers. Fortunately we have the expertise required to actually utilize this information, which greatly improves each design and considerably speeds up the concept-to-market process.

DL: What's your most popular product right now?
BL: The fullsize truck market remains strong with Dodge and Super Duty diesel applications leading the pack. Also, our 1/2-ton GM line continues to thrive.

DL: Can you tip us off to any new products on the drawing boards?
BL: Yes, but then I'd have to maim you. Well, OK, since you've assured me that this is strictly confidential. We have a new long radius-arm front/leaf-spring rear system for the Jeep YJ and TJ (yes, a TJ). This system, called the X2, along with a more conventional long-arm TJ lift will be shipping about the time your readers see this. Our '07 Tahoe/Yukon lift should be shipping by then as well. We're already working on the '07 Wrangler lift too; there is never a dull moment.

DL: How has activity been at the Superlift ORV Park in Arkansas?
BL: The Park continues to enjoy steady growth. The 1,254-acre trail system caters to all experience levels, and the combination of a trail map, signage, trail rating system, and the gorgeous scenery provides a truly unique experience. We're also continuously adding new trails, features, and services. The latest additions are ATV rentals and a large open-air pavilion which will be a gathering spot during events. We're now planning a spectator-friendly competition area. Jeep has added us to its Off-Site Proving Grounds List, which is flattering. In fact, the '07 Wrangler development group has made a couple of outings to the Park.

DL: Biggest pucker-factor moment while you've been off-roading?
BL: I've experienced my share of rollovers, both the tame "flop onto the side" and the more intense "turtle" varieties. Most don't really bother me since they generally happen so quickly, and damage is normally minimal. I consider those a part of a healthy adrenaline-release diet. Obstacles in terrain that's unforgiving spook me. Farmington, New Mexico, comes to mind. I do not remember the specific trail, but years ago there were a couple of places where, if you did get out of shape, you could easily launch off of a ledge. Situations that pose potential catastrophic carnage concern me.

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