Robert E. Petersen: 1926-2007
Nearly 60 years after pioneering one of the first automotive enthusiast publications in the country, and 30 years after launching the 4WD magazine that still carries his name, Robert E. Petersen died of a rare form of stomach cancer in March. He was 80 years old.
Petersen Publishing Company, which eventually grew to encompass dozens of specialty-interest magazine titles, got a very humble start back in 1948. Petersen, then a Hollywood publicist, created a magazine called Hot Rod to promote one of Southern California's first custom car shows. Petersen wrote the magazine's copy, took the photos, sold the ads, and even traveled to speed shops and race tracks, selling the new magazine out of his car for 25 cents per copy. Soon Hot Rod was joined by Motor Trend, Honk! (which went on to become Car Craft), and other hands-on automotive magazines. Petersen's other passions-for the outdoors (he was an avid hunter), aviation, skin diving, photography, and other activities-were reflected in additions to the Petersen stable like Guns & Ammo, Skin Diver, and Petersen's Photographic.
Petersen's interests, business and otherwise, didn't stop at publishing. He had extensive real-estate holdings, owned and managed a fleet of corporate jets for hire, and gave generously to many Southern California charities. It was through several philanthropic gifts that the Petersen Automotive Museum got its start and remains one of the nation's premier collections of vehicular history.
On a more personal note, I consider myself fortunate to have worked for the company when Petersen was actively involved in its running, prior to his selling it to an investment group in 1996. Though he was certainly the richest man I've ever known (his real-estate wealth dwarfed that from the publishing company), he was still a regular guy you could talk to about cars, story ideas, and the like. It was always refreshing to have his input in magazine planning meetings instead of having to listen to just the bean-counter side of the table.
In the days since his death, many of my friends in the automotive publishing business, and the automotive industry in general, have echoed the same sentiment: We wouldn't be who or where we are today if it weren't for Mr. Petersen.
-Drew Hardin, former editor of Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road
Desert Safari Saved from the Radicals
The 45th Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari was successfully held the beginning of March, but not at the regular Truckhaven Hills location near the Salton Sea in SoCal. Due to interference and lawsuits filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (www.biologicaldiversity.org), the TDS club (www.tds4x4.org) decided to move the event at the last minute to Ocotillo Wells SVRA, about 30 miles away. While it was a completely new venue for many, much of the same type of terrain as Truckhaven was available for nacho driving, steep hill accents, and some new killer rock trails in addition to the famous Blowsand sand hill.
A record 75 vendors made the new area resemble a circus with all the semis and tents, while law enforcement had their hands full with non-participants who regularly use the area and whoop it up late into the night. Kudos to the Tierra Del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club of San Diego for pulling off the venue swaparoo under adverse conditions and making the 45th year a huge success. We'll be back to this event next year, regardless of the location!-Rick Pewe
Spied! New Power Stroke Exhaust
During a recent trip to MagnaFlow's Southern California headquarters, we spied a brand-new exhaust system under development for Ford's 6.4L Power Stroke diesel. The new diesels are bound by some pretty restrictive exhaust emissions laws, and so we wondered how long it would take the aftermarket to figure out how to work within those parameters and develop power-adding systems. Apparently, not long at all.
The trick? MagnaFlow took the tried-and-true after-cat approach that has worked for so long on gasoline engines and applied it to current diesel technology. The new exhaust pipes start just aft of the Power Stroke's particulate filter, so they have no effect on emissions. The effect on power is a different story: gains of up to 29 hp and 45 lb-ft of torque, depending on which system you choose.
MagnaFlow has developed a total of nine particulate-filter-back systems for the Ford diesel, all made from mandrel-bent stainless steel tubing. You can choose from different pipe diameters and finishes, as well as single- or dual-tip exits. Each system fits the single- or dual-rear-wheel F-250, F-350, and F-450 Super Dutys with the crew cab shortbed, crew cab longbed, or extended cab longbed configurations. For more info, contact MagnaFlow at 949.858.5900, www.magnaflow.com.
Two Rubicon versions of the new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited recently earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records by scaling the world's highest volcano. By climbing nearly 22,000 feet to the rim of the Ojos del Salado volcano in Chile, the Jeeps achieved the highest altitude ever reached by a 4WD vehicle.
During the five-day trip, the German team that took on the challenge endured hurricane-strength winds, temperatures that reached minus 22 degrees F, and the thin air of such high altitudes, as they maneuvered over icy glaciers, fissured rock cliffs, and volcanic sand. The Jeeps were standard-issue Rubicon models fitted with Goodyear MT/R tires, electronic altitude measuring technology, and winches.
This Just In
Seen the video of the "flame-throwing" Power Stroke Super Duty trucks on YouTube? The viral video created such a stir that Ford stopped selling the new trucks in order to change their engine control computers to prevent such a thing from happening in the future. Ford believes a small amount of unburned fuel from a clogged fuel injector leaked into the exhaust system and caused the fire. Their new computer program will keep closer tabs on the temperatures inside the diesel particulate filter and will alert the driver if the temps get too high. Some of our friends in the exhaust business who have seen the video believe the stock exhaust system was not to blame, and that the flames were the result of someone tampering with the filter system, which is designed to burn off soot at certain intervals.
The four-door Wrangler is a big hit, according to reports from SEMA and WardsAuto.com. Earlier this year, dealers were telling prospective customers of a month-long wait to get the new, roomier Jeep (now popular with families, apparently), and Wrangler sales were up 91 percent through February, compared to sales in the first two months of 2006.
Would you buy a Korean pickup truck? According to Automotive News, a proposed free-trade agreement with South Korea would eventually eliminate the 25 percent tariff we now impose on foreign-made pickups (which is why Toyota and Nissan build theirs here). That could potentially open the door for Korea to bring in inexpensive pickup trucks in five years or so. Neither of the major Korean manufacturers (Hyundai, Kia) currently has a pickup truck ready for the American market, but AN says their interest in our market is high.
Hummer: New H2 & H3 Alpha
The new year came early around the Hummer display in New York as the manufacturer debuted two '08 models: a revised H2 and an addition to the H3 lineup, the H3 Alpha.
Most of the H2's changes lie beneath the skin. The key improvement is in its powertrain; under the H2's squared-off hood is a 6.2L aluminum V-8 that produces 393 hp and 415 lb-ft of peak torque. Backing the new engine is a six-speed Hydramatic 6L80 RWD electronically controlled automatic transmission with "tap-up/tap-down" shift buttons on the column shifter. A lower first gear brings the H2's crawl ratio to about 39:1, a 20 percent improvement.
The SUV's interior also received a thorough freshening. The instrument panel, door panels, and seats have been redesigned, and there's now a third seating row for two passengers in back. All of these changes (except for extra rear passenger seating) will be available on the H2 SUT as well as the standard H2. Look for the new SUVs on sale later this year.
Also new in the Hummer stable is the H3 Alpha, distinguished from run-of-the-mill H3s by its 5.3L, 295hp V-8 engine. Other equipment on the top-line Alpha model includes Hummer's luxury equipment package, chrome package, chrome 16-inch wheels, and 4.10 gears. To support the V-8's torque output, the H3 Alpha's front differential case is made of cast iron, while other models come with an aluminum case. New engine mounts, higher torsion bar rates to support the engine's increased mass, and specific shock valving also are unique to the V-8-powered model. Look for the H3 Alpha on sale this summer.
Jeep: Grand Cherokee "Refreshed"
Though it makes the SUV sound like it just woke up from a nap, Jeep is calling the Grand Cherokee's new-for-'08 styling "refreshed." The changes are subtle and include a reworking of the grille and headlights, and a new, two-piece front fascia with a lower panel that can be removed before hitting hard-core trails.
The bigger news is under the hood: You will be able to choose from five engine options for the Grand, including an all-new 4.7L V-8 and a 3.0L common-rail diesel V-6 (in addition to the 3.7L V-6, 5.7L Hemi V-8, and SRT-only 6.1L Hemi). Thanks to two spark plugs per cylinder, a compression-ratio bump, ported cylinder heads, and other refinements, the new 4.7 produces 291 hp (a 24 percent increase over the previous 4.7) and 322 lb-ft of peak torque (up 6 percent).
Look for the new Grands on sale in the fall.
Jeep: Liberty Ragtop
Jeep's '08 Liberty is far more than "refreshed." It's all new "from the ground up." And they do mean "up": The Lib is now available with a Sky Slider canvas roof that opens fully to bring tons of fresh air into the SUV.
If you think the Liberty's new styling bears more than a passing resemblance to the Dodge Nitro, well, that's because the two share engineering features. The Liberty now sits on a new independent front suspension and five-link rear, and steering is done via a new rack-and-pinion system. Power comes from the familiar 3.7L V-6 (sorry, no diesel this year), and the SUV is available with either a full-time Selec-Trac II or part-time Command-Trac 4WD system.
The '08 Liberty is expected in Jeep showrooms by the third quarter of this year.
Lexus: New V-8 for LX 570
Lexus calls the third generation of its fullsize SUV "packed with the luxury appointments and seamless technology our buyers expect." As you probably guessed from its name, the big Lexus is now powered by the 380hp, 400 lb-ft, 5.7L V-8 engineered for the new Tundra. That much grunt under the hood should raise the behind-the-wheel excitement level; it certainly had a positive effect on the truck's towing capacity, which jumped 2,000 pounds to 8,500.
Not all the news is underhood. Lexus has engineered new chassis and driveline features to improve the SUV's on- and off-road abilities. Four-Wheel Electro-Hydraulic Suspension with Active Height Control (AHC) automatically raises the chassis height 3 inches when the transfer case is in low range and lowers it 2 inches when the vehicle is stopped to ease entry and exit. There's also a new Crawl Control feature that "helps maintain appropriate low speeds" when the LX is in low range, "allowing the driver to concentrate on steering the LX 570 on the desired path." (Does that mean it automatically turns off the driver's cell phone?) Crawl Control also "actuates a set of virtual locking differentials to minimize tire slippage and maximize chassis behavior." Can't wait to give those a try.
The new Lexus should hit dealer showrooms "early in 2008," says the maker.
Volkswagen: Touareg 2 Debuts
The "2" is the second generation of VW's midsize SUV, with a freshened exterior and revised powerplants. The base V-6 has grown from 3.2 to 3.6 liters and, with the addition of VW's FSI direct fuel injection, now develops 280 hp, up 40 from the previous engine. Output of the 4.2L V-8 with FSI also grows by 40 hp, to 350. The 5.0L V-10 turbodiesel still puts out a whompin' 553 lb-ft of torque and 310 hp.
VW says the '08 Touareg 2 will arrive in dealerships "this spring," which means they may be available as you read this.
Environmental & Political Watch
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency could and should regulate the automotive emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and others that are believed to contribute to global warming. This issue is way more complex than we have room to detail here; suffice it to say that in covering the story, Automotive News asked the question, "Did the U.S. Supreme Court kill the V-8 engine?" We hope that's not the case, but we'll try to keep tabs on all the political wrangling that's sure to ensue between environmentalists and the auto industry.
SEMA's Washington, D.C., office reports that the House Natural Resources Committee approved legislation (HR 886) to create a 106,000-acre wilderness area in Washington's Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. While the Senate has approved the measure three times in the last five years, this marks the first time in which the bill was approved by the House Committee. The SEMA-opposed bill would close existing roads and trails. Last year lawmakers failed to pass a SEMA-supported approach to set aside about 93,000 acres of the "Wild Sky Wilderness" in Washington and also create a 13,000-acre "backcountry wilderness management area" to maintain the previously developed lands and roads. No compromise to include the 13,000 acres is expected when the bill is scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives.