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July 2007 4x4 News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on July 1, 2007
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By the time you read this the snag may be smoothed out, but for a week in late February, Navistar stopped shipping its new, twin-turbocharged 6.4L Power Stroke diesel engines to Ford for the '08 Super Duty pickups. Industry reports estimated the stoppage cost Ford some 4,000 diesel trucks.

The issue between Ford and Navistar is money. In a nutshell, Ford refused to pay Navistar, its longtime diesel engine supplier, the full price Navistar wanted for the new Power Strokes (over $7,600). Why? Ford said it was having to pay huge warranty costs because of problems with the previous 6.0L 'Stroke, and didn't want to pay full boat for the new engine as a way of recouping the repair costs. Navistar, in response, stopped shipping engines to Ford's Kentucky assembly plant.

In early March, a Michigan judge stepped in and hammered out an agreement under which Navistar would resume engine shipments and Ford would pay for the engines in full, while lawyers figured out how to handle the 6.0L's warranty costs. Ford dealers, meanwhile, anxiously awaited Super Duty deliveries, knowing that GM and Dodge are also bringing new heavy-duty pickups (with new clean-burning diesels) to market.

As if Ford didn't have enough to worry about, Toyota reports that the early sales of the all-new Tundra fullsize pickup "exceeded expectations." Now, this news was based on sales of "close to" 600 pickups in the U.S. during the month of February. But Toyota likes the trend, especially since February was a short month and the truck didn't go on sale until February 5. Toyota won't know until later in the spring just how well Tundra will stack up next to its domestic competition, since the full model mix of body styles (including the big CrewMax) wasn't expected in dealer showrooms until April or May.

Speaking of big-dog trucks, GM announced that a new six-speed Hydra-Matic transmission, the 6L90, will be standard equipment on '07 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickups outfitted with the 6.0L Vortec gas V-8. (The Allison 1000 is bolted to the 6.6L Duramax diesel.) The new trans has a wider gear spread than the 4L80 it replaces, allowing for a lower, 4.03:1 First gear and two Overdrives. According to GM, those two top gears reduce engine speeds at 60 mph by about 19 percent-or 400 rpm-reducing engine wear and fuel consumption.

BFGoodrich Tires, working with Tread Lightly! and the United Four Wheel Drive Associations (UFWDA), has expanded its Outstanding Trails program for 2007. This year, the Whipsaw Trail in British Columbia has been added to its list of five other Outstanding Trails: the Redbird State Riding Area in Indiana; the Rubicon Trail in northern California (shown); various trails around Tillamook, Oregon; Poughkeepsie Gulch in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado; and "All Day Sucker" at Flat Nasty in Missouri's Ozark Mountains.

Launched in 2006, the Outstanding Trails program is "dedicated to the responsible use and preservation of off-road trails while aiding in trail conservation efforts," says BFG. During the June-through-October program, the tire maker will host events at these trails to "highlight the uniqueness of each location as well as educate off-road enthusiasts on the responsible use of each trail." BFGoodrich will also present a grant to a selected off-road club at each trail event to help aid with costs associated with the trail's conservation efforts.

Celebrating our 30th anniversary has unearthed all sorts of surprises (and we don't mean just incriminating photos of previous editors). A trend from the '70s and '80s-4xFreaks-has reemerged.

Reader Marty Erickson e-mailed us with the news that he had recently purchased Garfield's Ride, a Chevy Vega-bodied freak that ran in the magazine back in 1982. "It sat in the original owner's garage for about 23 years. It's missing the winch and the rubber guard around the undercarriage. It has some rust around the front window like all Vegas did, but all in all it was in very good shape, considering Indiana salts the roads in the winter."

Marty ended his e-mail with, "I would like to know whatever happened to all the Freaky 4x4s!" We're not sure we share his enthusiasm, but if any of you out there still have your classic freaks, or are currently building or 'wheeling one, let us know. You may be on to something here...




Owners of the '07 Wrangler JK can now accessorize their 4x4s with "authentic" parts from Mopar, DaimlerChrysler's accessory arm. The catalog of Wrangler parts runs the gamut from floor mats and seat covers to navigation systems and iPod integration kits. Shown here are Mopar's off-road front bumper with an integrated Warn winch, and the Freedom Top Panel Carrier and Hard Top Storage Dolly, which mounts to the Wrangler's spare tire and holds the Jeep's roof panels. Also available are rock rails, wheels, auxiliary lights, towbars, and more.

What's special about the Mopar parts? For one thing, your dealer can install them (and probably incorporate them into your low, low monthly payment if you have them put on at time of purchase). They're also covered by DaimlerChrysler's three-year/36,000-mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty or Mopar's 12-month/12,000-mile Limited Warranty, "whichever is more favorable to the customer," says DCX. Not every parts maker can make that claim.

Fans of short-course off-road racing are probably already aware that Championship Off-Road Racing (CORR) has relocated from Midwestern dirt tracks to West Coast venues in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, plus Dallas and Las Vegas. Filling the void in the Midwest, longtime home to this type of rock-'em, sock-'em racing, is the World Series of Off-Road Racing (WSORR), which recently opened its headquarters in Crandon, Wisconsin.

The six-race '07 WSORR season features two races at Crandon International Off-Road Raceway, including the granddaddy event on Labor Day. In the West, CORR is holding seven races this year. Lucas Oil and Toyo Tires are major sponsors of both series. For more information on CORR events, visit www.corracing.com; for the new WSORR, go to www.wsorr.com.

With just about everybody posting clips on YouTube and other online video sites, isn't it time you recorded some of your own 'wheeling adventures to show your buddies? It gets easier every day as cameras get lighter and more rugged. Case in point: The Viosport Adventure Cam 3. Weighing just 4 ounces, it's small enough to mount on a helmet or a hat (for those awesome in-cab shots) but sturdy enough to withstand harsh weather. "Broadcast-quality video at a consumer price," is what the company tells us. Check it out at www.viosport.com

Viewers of the Discovery Channel know him as the guy who tackles "Dirty Jobs," like roof retarring and artificially inseminating livestock. (I kid you not.) But Mike Rowe's newest job as spokesman for the F-150 is a little less grimy. Rowe is part of a "Dream Team" Ford has assembled to pitch the pickup, a team that includes country singer Toby Keith, plus members of NASCAR, Harley-Davidson, and Home Depot. TV ads with Rowe began airing in March.

That would have to be the Toyo Girls poster session, in which (from left) Jessica Hall, Mercedes Terrell, Christina Hall, Jessica Barrett, and Arianny Celeste couldn't quite keep their outfits buttoned. The Toyo Girls will be making appearances at racing and automotive lifestyle events around the country. They'll even sign a poster for you.


At the recent Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in Arizona, CNN auctioned Warrior One, a special H1 modified on the Overhaulin' TV show and used by the news agency in Iraq. The $1 million winning bid came from Dave Liniger, chairman of the board and co-founder of Re/Max International Inc. Proceeds went to the Fisher House Foundation, an organization that builds comfort homes for families of hospitalized military personnel.

Hey guys, I don't know if you remember me. My name is Scott Popelka and I met you when you came to Gilbert, Minnesota, to scout for Ultimate Adventure 2004. I helped organize things in the park the day of the event, and I am also one of the park employees. I am currently doing a one-year deployment with the Minnesota National Guard. I have all my 'wheeling friends sending me your magazines, since if I wait for them to come to the BX they are a month behind. This picture is of me at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, next to a 120mm mortar that belongs to my platoon.
Sfc. Scott Popelka, HHC 2/136 CAB
Camp Fallujah, Iraq

* SEMA recently published a profile of truck owners and their ages. We found it interesting that the average (mean) age of fullsize truck owners, at 47.06, is two years younger than midsize pickup owners, at 49.37. (SEMA's "midsize" category includes compacts like the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, and Ford Ranger.) Among the fullsizes, Nissan Titan owners skewed oldest at 48.96; Chevy Avalanche owners the youngest at 43.95. In the compact category, Dodge owned both ends of the spectrum, with Dakota owners oldest, at 53.73; Raider owners youngest, at 43.87.

* Recalls reported by Automotive News: Chrysler is recalling nearly a half-million '04-'06 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Libertys due to problems with the circuitry in their instrument clusters. Toyota is also launching a voluntary recall of '04-'07 Sequoia SUVs and Tundra pickups (but not the all-new Tundra) for front suspension ball-joint-assembly problems.

The governmental watchdogs at SEMA's Washington, D.C., office have alerted us to legislation that could affect our vehicles. If any of these new or pending laws affects you, write your representatives and make your voice heard. If you don't know whom to contact, the SEMA Action Network (SAN) can help: www.semasan.com.

* Bills recently introduced in Illinois and Kentucky would restrict the ability of hobbyists to keep inoperable vehicles-in other words, that project truck torn apart in your yard-on private property.

* Iowa has introduced a bill banning the use of high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights. Under the proposed rule, even HIDs offered as factory equipment would have to be removed.

* Minnesota has introduced two bills that would limit a 4x4 vehicle's access to minimally maintained roads and prohibit them from operating on certain trails.

* Massachusetts has reintroduced a bill banning the use of aftermarket exhaust systems "that amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust" without giving law enforcement a set enforcement standard.

SEMA isn't the only organization keeping tabs on government interference with our hobby. ORBA, the Off-Road Business Association, alerted us to legislation proposed by California Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Hilda Solis that would turn 2.4 million acres of public lands into protected wilderness areas. The California Wild Heritage Act of 2007 (S.493) is a continuation of efforts Boxer has conducted over the years to "protect" public land by designating it as "wilderness," therefore prohibiting mechanized use in the areas. As best as we can tell by wading through the text of the actual bill (damn, we're glad we're not politicians), the areas affected are contained in a number of national forest areas, from the Angeles National Forest all the way up through the Klamath and Lassen National Forests. Contact your local representatives (again, SAN can help you locate their info) to voice your opposition to this bill.

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