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October 2007 4x4 News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on October 1, 2007
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Feeling lucky? The Colorado Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs is holding its annual vehicle raffle, and for the first time the prize is a Land Cruiser. The '89 FJ62, built by the Rising Sun Four Wheel Drive Club, has been fitted with a shaved head, a 3 1/2-inch lift, 315/75R16 Xterrains, an air tank, a spill kit, a first aid kit, a winch kit, and off-road books. The Toy is locked and geared and has a long-range tank to get to those far-out travel spots and a winch to get you out of those same spots. Companies who contributed products to the good cause include Warn, Slee Off Road, Solid Rock Off Road, Southwest 4x4, 4Crawler Off Road, Alcan Spring, Boulder Toyota, Stevinson Toyota, Specter Off Road, Man-A-Fre, Rocky Mountain Land Cruisers, 4Wheel Parts Wholesale, Advance Air, Yota Yard, and FunTreks. Tickets are available for $3 each or 10 for $25. For more information, log on to

"Ride Hard, Tread Lightly" is the theme of the land-use organization's latest public awareness campaign. A series of ads, targeted at each niche of the off-road hobby, concentrates on changing the perception that environmentally sensitive recreation isn't fun. The campaign was conceived after surveys reported that one of the top reasons people drive off of established trails is because they think it will be more challenging and fun. "Being responsible doesn't mean being boring," says Tread Lightly! We agree.

First came the announcement that Volkswagen signed a multiyear partnership with SCORE International to become the "official vehicle" of SCORE and the six-race SCORE Desert series. Then, the German auto and truck maker entered two of its turbodiesel-powered, Dakar Rally-veteran Touareg race trucks in this year's Baja 500. The trucks didn't win their class-that would have been a miracle showing, even for experienced Dakar teams-but they did post top-20 results after the 424.22-mile race (in which just over half of the starters crossed the finish line within the 20-hour limit). American driver Mark Miller scored the highest, with an 11th Place in the International Truck class. His South African teammate, Giniel de Villers, took 18th Place in the same division.

"We achieved this success with a diesel engine that is relatively quiet but develops incredible torque," said Miller about the Touareg's 2.5L, inline-five TDI diesel. "We participated not having to refuel even once, while the U.S. vehicles had to stop for fuel two or even three times. This is a testament to how advanced and fuel efficient the TDI technology truly is."

Unfortunately, that engine-even in non-race tune-isn't currently available in the U.S., though VW's torquey 5.0L V-10 diesel is. Industry sources say the smaller diesel, or some variant of it, should become available in VW products over the next few years.

Baby steps, baby steps. According to information from a recent Hummer press event for the V-8-powered H3 Alpha (reported in Automotive News), GM is taking the brawny brand down a greener path. For the '09 model year, H2s will be E85 capable, and H3s can drink the ethanol blend in '10. The division is rumored to have a "compact" H4 in the works; and by 2011, look for diesel power in the Hummer lineup. Which is sort of ironic, given the fact that the first civilian diesel-powered H1s were roundly criticized for their lack of power. To be fair, the current Duramax is a far cry from the 6.2L and 6.5L diesels found in those old H1s and should work really well in a Hummer. GM will have to do something if the fuel economy regulations tighten up. (See more in our "Environmental & Political Watch" below.)

That fancy new Apple iPhone won't be as much use to you on the trail as Garmin's new Rino two-way radios integrated with GPS technology. The latest Rinos come with high-sensitivity GPS receivers (the better to pull in those satellites in tree cover or deep canyons) and a microSD card slot to let you load your own topo, road, or trail maps. Garmin's new five-watt Rinos boast up to a 14-mile communication range, mini-USB interface, and built-in auto-routing basemap. One model even has a seven-channel weather receiver (with automatic weather alert capabilities), an electronic compass, and a barometric altimeter. Need it? Check out

At least, that's the finding of a recent study done by (and reported by SEMA), which tracked value retention over a five-year/65,000-mile period. The Jeep Wrangler topped the list, retaining more than 73 percent of its value. At the bottom: Lincoln Town Car, which kept less than a third. Other SUVs in the top 10: Chevrolet Suburban (64 percent), Toyota Sequoia (58 percent), and BMW X5 (also 58 percent). One SUV landed in the bottom 10: Ford Explorer (36 percent). Ouch!

We're not sure when it'll happen, but sources within Nissan have told Automotive News that the fullsize Titan pickup may receive a V-8 diesel (possibly sourced from International) and also a gas V-6-powered model. Titan, never a huge seller, is getting pounded further by new competition from Toyota as well as the domestic pickups. So product planners are looking for new ways to appeal to American truck buyers. One avenue is to go heavy-duty with a diesel; the other is to go downmarket with a low-priced, low-content, six-cylinder-powered truck to compete with the stripped models from Detroit.

We know Pw favors the open-toed look off-road, but for those of us who like a real shoe for the outback, check out these MXV4 shoes from Michelin. Developed with the new Michelin tire of the same name, the shoes feature two outsole designs (inspired by the tire's tread), full leather uppers, a "rear suspension" cushion for your heel, and an antimicrobial forefoot liner for "effective odor control and resistance to fungal-related foot disorders," says Michelin. Rick, you listening?

PhotosView Slideshow

The Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, located in the National Automobile Museum (also known as the Harrah Collection) in Reno, recently named eight new inductees. They include:

Mickey Thompson, in a front-engine dragster, circa 1963. Photo courtesy Hot Rod magazine

Mickey Thompson (seen here in a dragster in the early '60s) a true motorsports pioneer who founded SCORE International, the tire company that still bears his name, and popularized stadium off-road racing.

Frank "Scoop" Vessels a longtime desert race competitor whose American Thunder sponsorship program partnered Chevrolet, BFGoodrich, and Mobil Oil in a model of today's contemporary sponsorship/marketing programs.

Walt Lott a founding father of off-road racing who was instrumental in the forming of both SNORE and the HDRA.

Sue Mead a freelance off-roading journalist who's not afraid to get "up close and personal" with some of the world's most grueling events, including the Baja 1000, Camel Trophy, and Dakar Rally.

Dick Landfield an off-road racer-turned-team-owner (Enduro Racing) who developed the idea for the sport's first multitruck team, the Ford Rough Riders.

Gil George a tube-frame chassis builder who formed Funco and is responsible for many buggy design innovations, including long-travel rear suspensions, independent rear suspensions, and disc-brake systems.

Bill Bryan a pioneering off-roader (dating back to the late '50s) who formed several 4WD clubs and was a founding member of the California Association of 4WD Clubs.

Edo Ansaloni one of the first Italian off-roaders who developed a love and appreciation for military Jeeps and gathered like-minded countrymen to form Italy's first national off-road club.

* Bosch has developed a new solenoid-valve diesel fuel injector that can handle high fuel-pressure levels (more than 29,000 psi, according to Automotive News) but will cost less to make than the company's Piezo injectors, currently found in the Grand Cherokee and Ford Super Duty trucks.
* A recent Consumer Reports "Auto Pulse" survey found that, while Americans talk about wanting fuel-efficient vehicles, when it comes down to it, fewer than half would be willing to give up vehicle size, capacity, performance, or range. Some 60 percent of the nearly 2,000 people polled said they were "concerned" or "very concerned" about the environment, but most said gas prices would have to near $4 per gallon before they'd "drastically" curtail their driving. That poll must not have been taken in Southern California, where gas prices are near $4 per gallon and the traffic is as much of a nightmare as ever.
* Bye-bye Ranger? Automotive News reports that product planners at Ford may kill their compact truck due to low demand. The entire small-truck segment has been waning lately (the exception: Toyota's Tacoma), and the long-in-the-tooth Ranger is suffering.
* On the other hand, sales of Ford's '08 Super Duty pickups are "exceeding sales projections," says the industry journal. While the F-250 is the volume leader among Ford's HD trucks, demand has been surprisingly robust for fully optioned F-350s and the new F-450.
* Now, are you sitting down? Ford's profit on highly optioned Super Dutys could reach as high as $17,000, said Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Oregon, quoted in the same AN article. Isn't that about what a Ranger costs?

* It's looking more and more like the government will mandate higher fuel-economy standards as a means to combat climate change and tamp down our never-abating thirst for foreign oil. The automakers don't like it and are seeking a fuel-economy bill of their own. According to trade journal Automotive News and other sources, the U.S. Senate is considering a bill that raises Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 35 mpg fleetwide by 2020, about 40 percent higher than the current regulations, which stand at 27.5 mpg for cars, 22.2 for light-duty trucks. That's not the end of it: After 2020, the fuel-economy numbers grow an additional 4 percent per year until 2030. Lobbyists for the automakers understand that the hot topic won't just go away, but they consider this bill too extreme to implement. So they're talking up an alternative, drafted by a Michigan senator, that proposes to raise fuel-economy standards to 36 mpg for cars by 2022 and 30 mpg for trucks by 2025. No matter how the details shake out, be prepared for significant changes to our powertrains over the next decade.

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