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March 2009 Letters To The Editor - In Box

Posted in Features on March 1, 2009
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Submission Information
4-Wheel & Off-Road welcomes letters to the editor. Letters must include an address or a telephone number so the sender can be verified. Once verified, your name may be withheld at your request. Letters published in this magazine reflect the opinions of the writers, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, brevity, or other purposes. Due to the large volume of mail we receive, we regret that we cannot reply to unpublished letters or return photos. Digital photos must measure no less than 1600 x 1200 pixels (or two megapixels) and be saved as a TIFF, an EPS, or a maximum-quality JPEG file.

Write to:
4-Wheel & Off-Road
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515
fax 323.782.2704.
Email to:

Our Own Whoops!
Reader: First off, I want to say how much I enjoy your magazine. It got me through quite a few long days in Iraq and gave me ideas of what to do when I got back here stateside. I noticed an oops in your Nov. '08 issue on page 81. On Mark Brancieri's Tracker the suspension looks like a spring-under, not a spring-over (picky, picky, I know). I think your rag is awesome and I hope one day to join you guys on the trail. Keep up the good work!
Spc. Josh Barlow
Ft. Bragg, NCv

Red Sled Reaction
Reader: Wow! I am sensing so much anger from Matt in regard to the Red Sled's death (Point Taken, In Box, Dec. '08). Perhaps he should consider that his driving skills may not be as advanced as those of the people who run a national magazine. By the way, Matt, having stock IFS and a 4-inch lift are not the same thing; that is called a contradiction. "Stock" would mean that you have no lift or modifications of any kind. Also, for comparison's sake, Matt should have included the tire size that he runs as well as any sort of gears for the transfer case or axles, engine mods, and any other sort of modification that could affect the torque placed on the CV axle.

On the other hand, the Red Sled had a much longer wheelbase, being a longbed 3/4-ton truck, a transfer case with a 5:1 crawl ratio, a new big-block 454, and a much heavier GVWR. The Red Sled was built up, rather than just lifted up. Your '93 Blazer is a 1/2-ton-rated truck with a much shorter wheelbase, possible stock gears, and a 350 engine (probably tired out), and was a much lighter factory weight in comparison. So, IFS may work for your little Blazer, but not for a truck that could tow your Blazer to any wheeling spot in the country and back again. You are comparing apples and oranges, my friend.
Charles Rich

Editor: Good letter. Thanks for pointing out a few of the important variables in such a comparison.

Capable Counts!
Reader: You guys are doing it right with regard to the 4x4 of the Year competition (Feb. '09). It's fun to see what the manufacturers are throwing into the ring from year to year. Let's be honest with each other and all who read this magazine: Not everyone can afford to build ground-up rock buggies and desert racers to let sit in their driveways for 11 months a year. I do believe that in real everyday use, IFS is just as capable as the tried-and-true solid front axle. I own an '00 Dodge Sport with 33s and no lift. My mother-in-law owns an '02 Kia Sportage (it does have a selectable transfer case with low range) and it has the dreaded IFS. I have to admit that it is a lot of fun to drive and is a very capable little 4x.

So come on, people. Not all four-wheel-drives have to be Jeeps, H1 Hummers, or Unimogs. They just have to be capable for what that person wants. Thanks, and keep up the good work.
Cory Turpin

Editor: We agree. You should see some of the "unworthy rigs" we wheel all the time!

Ultimate Adventure Sidekicks
Reader: I believe that Mark Brancieri's Geo Tracker and John Lambert's Suzuki Sidekick of the Ultimate Adventure ( Nov. and Dec. '08) are proof enough that Trackers/Sidekicks are great build platforms. I own a '90 Tracker and I am begging you to do a buildup of one! I believe there is a market for these rigs that many manufacturers haven't realized. I think you are the folks that can help change that.
Erik Charle

Editor: We have enough projects as it is, so we'll leave it to those guys to keep building their rigs. From what we hear, they are both making even more mods!

Readers' Goof-Ups?
Reader: I just got the Jan. '09 issue in the mail and noticed something in the Readers' Rides section. There is a Wagoneer (a pretty cool one at that) on page 22 that is labeled an '87 Wrangler. Very cool issue though. You guys have helped me a ton in building my '96 XJ. Keep up the awesome work!
Bentonville, AR

Editor: Yeah, we looked back at the tech sheet and it said "Wagoneer" plain as day. We don't know how the goof-up got through. Thanks for the sharp eye!

Jeepsters And Suzukis
Reader: I really enjoy your mag. You guys do a great job. I wanted some clarification on the article "Low-Buck Trail Rig: Tips for the First-Time Jalopy Buyer" (Jan. '09). It describes the purchase and repair of a '67 Jeep Commando. You can see a DMV smog sticker on the windshield of the vehicle, but shouldn't it be smog-exempt due to the year? I know how tough California smog regulations are. Our 4Runner got smacked with the same sticker when it failed the mandatory smog test one year. I also noticed a sticker on the Unimog in the same issue. If you could clear this up, it would be much appreciated. Oh yeah, is it just me or does the new Equator look more like a Tacoma than a Frontier?
Aaron Sheikewitz

Editor: The smog rules have changed since that Commando was smogged. Originally a '67 needed to be checked. Nowadays only models '76 and after need to be smogged. Earlier rigs are exempt. And yes, the Suzuki resembles a Toyota more than a Frontier, but ultimately we think Suzuki got what it wanted: a look that is still its own. Remember, we all look a bit talike!

We Are Relevant!
Reader: I just wanted to say thanks for the Oct. '08 "Toyota issue." This is quite possibly the first time I've read every article in an issue. Even the K5 article held my interest. I was starting to question the relevance of my subscription since the house and family have drawn my energies away from my FJ-40. The monthly issues help to keep the dream from fading away.
Jim Brontrager

Editor: Thanks. Now if we can just convince the rest of our 4x4 nation that we rock, we'll have it made!

I'm Not A Lowrider
Reader: Hi! Just got done with the Jan '09 issue. I saw the Carlisle truck show photos and loved the captions for photos 4 and 5. This is something I've been saying for years! I own an S-10 mini-truck that will drag the rocker panels right on the ground with an airbag suspension, but I also own a '78 F-150 on 1-ton axles and very shortly 42-inch Swampers. My car is a '76 Lincoln I lowered 5 inches, and my (co-owned with a buddy) trail-only rig is a '87 XJ. I love both worlds, and yes, I love going to the Carlisle truck show every year.

I seem to learn something every time I pick up a Petersen's issue (love the frequency of tech articles), but no one I know in the 4x4 world wants to learn anything out of a mini, sport, or street truck magazine. There are a lot of very innovative things going on down here closer to the pavement. I've seen some crazy engineered mini-truck suspensions that will put the craziest rock buggies to shame, both in engineering and in strength. Think about it: When you're throwin' sparks at 70 mph and you contact a manhole cover, you want your chassis to hold up.

Mini-truckers seem to always be building insane full custom tube frames to one-up each other. I've taken ideas from the 4x4 world such as sway-bar disconnects-so I can hit the side-to-side moves-Heim joints, and Pro Comp shocks. I think the mainstream 4x4 guys could learn a lot and save some coin if they would just pay attention...even if they pretend not too. If you look into mini-truck companies such as or, you will find any kind of tank, compressors, line fittings, and so on to fit your needs. And higher performing stuff for cheaper than what you will find at your local 4x4 shop. Air up your tires a lot quicker than with that dinky ARB compressor.

Thanks for doing what you do. You'll either see me on the rocks or rippin' up the road reflectors.

And mini-truck guys hate being called lowriders. There is a big difference, believe it or not. Keep up the good work, guys.
Brian Markline
Glen Rock, PA

Editor: Thanks. We think that there are resources in almost any industry for us to share from, and we applaud your efforts.

Down-Under Jealousy
Reader: I read with interest the comments in In Box (Nov. '08) regarding fullsize Toyotas and the demise of the solid front axle option. Well, I don't want to make you too jealous, but here in the great land down-under we can still order a factory V-8 diesel with a solid front axle and four doors from Toyota. Actually, that's the only way they come-with a V-8, a manual five-speed, and a solid front axle as standard (

The two-door troopy and ute has been the iconic 4x down here for some time, and the four-door is just more of a great thing. I love my K20 and K5, but I drool quite seriously every time I get close to one of these off-road weapons.
Jason Bell
via 4wheeloffroad.comv

Editor: Fine. Send one over here!

Lincoln Locker Tech
Reader: I read your informative article on welding the spiders in a diff. Yes, it is an easy, practical, and cheap solution for lost traction. You left one piece of info out that a rookie may not know. Do not weld the center pin or lock pin/bolt. If that were welded, it would require an appropriate "Gas Axe" or "Smoke Wrench" to remove. Other than that, great articles! Keep up the good work.
Easley, SC

Editor: Thanks for the input. We hope that readers think ahead on this one, as it's not easy going back to square one once the welder has been wielded.

License Plate Request
Reader: I have a subscription to Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, and I often see vehicles with a 4 Wheel & Off-Road license plate. I was wondering how I could get one.

I want to thank you for your Oct. '09 issue. I know you try and show all sides of our motorsport. I appreciate that you dedicated most of the issue to Toyota owners like me. Thank you for taking care of the first-time 4x4 owner (also like me) as well as the seasoned wheeler by providing interesting articles for all of us. That gets our imaginations stirring and our wheels rolling down more trails. Keep up the good work. See you on the trails.
Nick Dayak

Editor: Thanks for liking us-not everyone does. We hand out our plates at events and on the trail, so try and catch up with us in the back country so you can get one too!

Question Of The Month
Question: Do you like to buy our mag on the newsstand or subscribe, and why?

Here's a new section where we ask you a pointed question, and we want as many responses as possible so we know what you think. We'll be asking questions ranging from budget wheeling to best trails to hottest product and everything in between. We'll even ask the old tried-and-true questions such as whether a manual or an automatic tranny is better, or if you like mud better than rocks. To make it simple, just go to our website, find the email link on the Contact Us page, and drop us a message with "Answer" as the subject line. We'll sort and separate the various answers and present the most popular ones right here in these pages. If this proves to be popular, we'll include it on the website as well. Worst-case scenario, write us directly at We hope this works well for you and for us, and each month we'll answer a question and pose a new one.

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