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November 2009 4x4 Truck & Automotive News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on November 1, 2009
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Photographers: TracksideAdam Lavelle

JeepSpeed News
JeepSpeed's organizers are happy to report that despite tough economic times the Jeep racing class is going strong in 2009. New teams have joined the series during its first three races, and still more vehicles are under construction. Some of the new race Jeeps include six-cylinder models that compete in the JeepSpeed Challenge, which is open to any six-cylinder Jeep up to 4.0L in displacement. Chuck Harvey (in the No. 1753 Wrangler) is among the top 10 racers in the Challenge points battle.

Some JeepSpeed competitors are also running in other race series. Darren Skilton and Jon Krellwitz have notched back-to-back class wins in the Baja 1000 and Baja 500 in their Wrangler (here catching air wearing No. 348).

PhotosView Slideshow

Greasecar Takes On Baja
After we ran a short item in March about VW Touaregs being the first diesels to contest the Baja 1000 in the Trophy Truck class, we got an email. "There is another team running a VW TDI diesel motor in the SCORE races," wrote John Castillo. "The team name is Greasecar Motorsports. They are attempting to compete running used vegetable grease in the VW diesel. The car is a Class 5 open Baja Bug. The team had to petition and beg to get the car in the class. They are getting ready to run the Baja 500."

We, of course, had to know more. Turns out the team is a collaboration between some die-hard, San Diego-area Baja Bug racers (including Castillo) and an outfit called Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems, a Massachusetts-based maker of vegetable oil conversion kits for diesel engines. That they somehow came together across our continent to build a Class 5 Bug with a veggie-oil-fueled 1.9L TDI engine is remarkable. (To learn more about the deal, go to

Castillo told us, "We DNF'd the first SCORE race in Laughlin. We learned that diesel motors do not like the upside-down thing."

But they were "still dialing in the car," Castillo said, and dial it in they did. They placed Third in class in the San Felipe 250 in March. They finished a very respectable Second in class at the Baja 500, with a time of 16 hours 12 minutes. "We had some down time in the race but nothing to do with the car's drivetrain," Castillo said. "The car ran very well. We received a lot of attention in contingency since we were the only vegetable-grease-powered car."

Greasecar Motorsports has the SCORE Terrible's Primm 300 in its sights in September. We'll keep you posted.

Cracks In Your Valvestems?
While doing a routine vehicle check at one of his events, Tom Severin of Badlands Off-Road Adventures found that all four tires on one 4x4 had valvestems that were severely cracked near the rim hole. After some investigating, he found that 30 million defective Chinese valvestems were installed in U.S. tires from September 2006 through mid 2007. The valvestems were manufactured for Dill Air Control Products of Oxford, North Carolina, by Topseal Shanghai Auto-Parts Co. Ltd. in China.

To see if your tires were affected, dismount them and check the manufacturer's code on the valve from the inside. The bad codes are TR-413CH, TR-414, TR-415, TR-418, and TR-423. Or bend the stem and look for small cracks near the wheel rim hole. This is not a small problem; you risk a rollover if the valve lets go at highway speed.

Kodiak, Topkick Discontinued
It's not getting much press, but GM's medium-duty truck business was another casualty of the automaker's bankruptcy. Production of the Chevy Kodiak and GMC Topkick ended July 31, so if you want one, better act fast.

Hummer H4 Finally?
As details are being worked out to sell Hummer to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. Ltd., auto industry watchers are speculating that the long-rumored, Wrangler-size H4 may finally appear in the Hummer lineup. Like all other automakers, Hummer will have to meet the new fuel economy rules coming into effect later in the decade. The smaller H4, possibly hybrid-powered, would help meet those goals. Most experts believe the H4 would be patterned after the '08 Hummer HX concept shown here.

300,000-Mile Engine Guarantee
Use Valvoline products regularly? Register your vehicle at and you could qualify for a 300,000-mile engine guarantee. "We have the utmost confidence in our products, so we're excited to offer this best-in-class guarantee," said Sam Mitchell, president of Valvoline's parent company, Ashland Consumer Markets. You need to register before your truck passes the 75,000-mile mark. Then, depending on what kind of Valvoline oil you use, you could qualify for engine guarantees from 150,000 to 300,000 miles. Visit the website for details.

100 Wins And Counting
Jeff Mello celebrated his 100th competition win at the Reno Rocks WERock event this summer. Ironically, while 99 of those wins were in a Jeep, the 100th was in a Formula Toyota rock racer. Mello's career spans just about every form of on-dirt competition, from BMX to rocks, Baja, stadium racing, and a week of wheeling on our '08 Ultimate Adventure.

Hall, Hummer To Race Down Under
Four-time Baja 1000 winner Josh Hall is taking his Hummer H2 SUT race truck to Australia for the 3,600km (2,237-mile) Australasian Safari. Racing begins in the Western Australia capital of Perth, then travels through the Australian Outback for seven days. Unfortunately, the H2's 6.2L V-8 is bigger than the maximum engine size allowed in the event, but organizers have opened a special International Promotional Category for the truck. "Regulations limit the engine size to 6.0L, but next year's Hummer will be 5.7L, so the Americans plan for a real crack at the title in 2010," said Event Director Justin Hunt, giving us a future product tip we hadn't heard. Check here for news of Hall's performance next month.

Club Spotlight
Military Jeepers, Fort Leonard Wood, MO
The Fort Leonard Wood Military Jeepers Chapter held its first annual Show 'n' Shine in Saint Robert, Missouri. The event was an opportunity for our club to give back to the community with a day of food, fun, and Jeeps. All proceeds from the raffles and drawings support our effort in the Wheelers for the Wounded event at the Southern Missouri Off Road Ranch in Seymour, Missouri, later this summer. With the staff at SMORR, we will offer a weekend of fun and wheeling to local wounded warriors as a way of saying thanks for their service and sacrifices

Military Jeepers is a family-friendly Jeep Club specifically for Jeep owners who are serving or have served in the U.S. military. Through a network of more than 2,000 members, we are able to provide a support system for our members that extends around the world. Military Jeepers is a proud member of Tread Lightly! and BlueRibbon Coalition and also supports the Wounded Warrior Project. For more information visit
-Jacob Phillips

This Just In
* Trade journal Automotive News believes there's something "shaky" about the sale of Hummer to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery. The magazine said China's National Development and Reform Commission is balking at approving the deal, concerned over the Chinese company's ability to run the ex-GM division. A Hummer spokesman in the U.S. called the story "pure speculation and conjecture on the part of journalists. There are no sources cited in any of the stories other than third-party speculation."

* After Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, seven assembly plants went back to work producing Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler products. The productivity was short-lived, though. The plants closed soon after for their regularly scheduled summer break.

* Did you and most of your wheeling buddies buy your trucks used? Statistics from SEMA show that about two-thirds of truck enthusiasts polled in 2008 bought used trucks, up from 57 percent in 2007. We'd guess those percentages will grow even more as the economy stays sluggish.

* In a story about future vehicle products, Automotive News reports the diesel-powered, Indian-built Mahindra pickup will carry sticker prices ranging from $22,000 to $25,000 for the base truck, and from $24,000 to $27,000 for the upline four-door 4WD model. Plans still call for the trucks to go on sale later this year, but the actual on-sale date and the name for the trucks are yet to be determined.

Earth Watch
* SEMA reports that legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions has passed in the House of Representatives. The bill would require a 17 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, based on 2005 levels. The new law targets all carbon dioxide emissions sources, not just vehicular emissions. The automotive portion of the bill sets a carbon dioxide emissions standard of 250 grams per mile for vehicles sold in 2016, roughly equivalent to a 35.5-mpg CAFE rating. This law would dovetail with the new national fuel economy standards for 2012-2016 that also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by lowering fuel consumption.

* Ever the overachiever when it comes to pollution control, the state of California has been granted permission by the EPA to set its own carbon dioxide emission standards after 2016, when the implementation period ends for the new national fuel economy standards mentioned above.

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