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March 2010 Drivelines - Off-Road News

Posted in Features on March 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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March 2010 Drivelines - Off-Road News

In early November, Chrysler executives presented the framework for the company's plans over the next five years. Fiat's ownership will definitely make its mark in several vehicle categories, though our favorite 4x4s may be spared much Fiat-ization. Here are the highlights:

•The Jeep product timeline shows the Wrangler undergoing some freshening for 2010 and a "major modification" for 2011 to coincide with Jeep's 70th anniversary. That modification may well be the addition of a diesel engine with stop/start technology.

•The revised '11 Grand Cherokee is scheduled to debut in May. In the Jeep timeline, neither the Grand nor the Wrangler showed any crossover with Fiat products between now and the '14 model year.

•That's not the case with the smaller Jeeps. Patriot and Compass will be made until the '12 model year, when they will be replaced by a single, Fiat-sourced small SUV. The '13 Liberty will also be Fiat-based, and there are plans for a fourth SUV, smaller than Patriot/Compass, for that model year as well.

•Envi, Chrysler's engineering division for the development of electric vehicles, has been disbanded, ending plans for an electric Jeep.

•The Ram brand will further differentiate itself from the Dodge car brand to focus on truck and commercial customers. Ram trucks will still be sold at Dodge dealerships.

•All three Ram fullsize pickup platforms-1500, heavy-duty, and chassis-cab-are due for a redesign in the '12 model year.

•The Dakota midsize pickup will be discontinued in 2011. A unibody midsize truck is "under consideration" to replace the Dakota.

•The Ram brand will grow to include Fiat-based small and large commercial vans in 2012 and may eventually include heavy-duty-as in 18-wheeler-trucks as well.

•Fiat engineering will have a significant effect on powertrain development in the next five years. That influence, though, will be felt mostly on the car side with the introduction of fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines. Hemis are still in the product mix; in fact, it looks like the 6.1L Hemi may grow to 6.4L after the '10 model year.

•All V-6 engines, from 2.7L to 4.0L, will be replaced by the new Pentastar V-6 engine family. The first Pentastar engine, in the '11 Grand Cherokee, makes 280 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque from 3.6L.

•According to Chrysler CEO Robert Kidder, Chrysler's top priority "is to invest to create a compelling brand and product offering." Said Kidder, "There is no 'business as usual' at Chrysler. There is incredible commitment to and energy for change."

'New' Defender 90s
These photos show the kind of workmanship West Coast British Racing (WCBR) in Northern California puts into its Defender 90 Project. WCBR will restore and modify the popular Defender 90s to "give them a new lease on life" with new WCBR/Rover 4.6L V-8s, Old Man Emu suspension pieces, and a stem-to-stern stripping and repainting.

You can bring your 90 to WCBR for the work, or the company can find one to restore for you. The company says the refurbish will take about six months and cost about the same as a new LR3. For more info, visit www.offroadexperience.com/wcb.

This Just In
•Toyota's truck lineup could be changing. Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda is reviewing his company's business plan for the U.S.-including its full-frame truck products-in the wake of a year that saw the automaker swing from its largest profits to its deepest losses. Through September 2009, Toyota's sales were off 28 percent, worse than the auto market overall. According to Automotive News, Toyota's trucks are potential targets because of the shrinking market for large vehicles and Toyota's desire to produce more hybrids.

•The Associated Press has reviewed sales data from the recent Cash for Clunkers program and found that many of the trade-ins involved owners swapping an old pickup for a newer pickup, not some gas-sipping hybrid. Though the government reported big gains in fuel economy as a result of the program-the clunker fleet's average mpg was 15.8 versus 24.9 for the new vehicles sold-the AP turned up some $562,500 in rebates handed out for sales of vehicles that got the same, or worse, mileage than the clunker being traded in.

•Ivan Stewart hopes to bring off-road racing to China. During a recent trip there he drove one of his Baja Protrucks at a newly built racing facility in the city of Tieling, opening the door for others to follow. Says Stewart, "We can race these trucks anywhere, in any weather, and on any surface." According to statistics compiled by SEMA, China's growing economy puts the country on track to be the second-largest market in the world for vehicle sales by the end of the year, and possibly the largest market by 2015.

4Runner to Run Baja
Toyota will enter one of its fifth-generation 4Runners in this year's Baja 1000. The Stock Mini class contender will have a number of drivers shoe it through this year's 672-mile loop, including Toyota racing legend Ivan "Ironman" Stewart. The Toyota team will have its work cut out for it, as competitors in the class include Josh Hall's Hummer and Gavin Skilton's Ridgeline-last year's class winner.

Huseman Wins TORC
Rick Huseman and his Monster Energy/Traxxas/Toyota/Toyo Tires Tundra won the Pro 4x4 Truck class championship for The Off-Road Championship (TORC) series at Las Vegas Speedway. Kyle LeDuc and his Rockstar/Makita/Ford Trucks/Toyo Tires F-150 finished Second overall, giving Toyo Tires a 1-2 finish in the TORC class championship. Both drivers race on Toyo's 35x12.50R17 Open Country M/T-R tires.

Hotter Raptors Coming
Ford used the SEMA Show to make a couple of announcements about its Raptor SVT pickup. For starters, the company released power data for the 6.2L V-8 available as a midyear option. We'd heard the numbers would be in the 400 range, and that wasn't far off: 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque.

Ford also announced the introduction of the FR Raptor XT, an off-road-only Raptor variant that will be "nearly the same truck" that competed in last year's Baja 1000 "but with all the comfort and convenience you'd find in a production Raptor. Essentially, FR Raptor XT is a turnkey professional prerunner," says Ford. The XT's equipment list includes a 500hp version of the 6.2 V-8, six-speed automatic transmission, 4.56 gears, e-lockers, an A-arm front/four-link rear suspension with 15/18 inches of travel, a 4130 chromoly rollcage, and five-point harnesses at all seating positions. Just 50 XTs will be produced, and each will carry a $99,950 price tag. Production timing is to be determined.

SEMA Show Highlights
On page 78 of this issue Fred Williams will bring you the top products introduced at this year's SEMA parts extravaganza in Las Vegas. Our job at SEMA was to document the most interesting-and outrageous-trucks at the show.

Hot Trend: Articulation!
A couple years ago you couldn't swing a dead cat at SEMA without hitting dozens of highly modified Hummers. This year the only Hummers on display were in GM's booth. Taking their place was a large number of Jeep-based buggies parked on ramps to show off their long-travel suspensions.

These two represent the trend: The dark green JK was in the ProComp/Smittybilt booth, while Mickey Thompson displayed the orange Top Truck Challenge contestant to show off its new Baja Claw TTC tires. Those are 19.5/54-20s and they weigh 201 pounds apiece.

Toyota Craziness, Part 1: Tacoma All-Terrain Gamer
"Outrageous" doesn't usually apply to Toyota trucks, but how else do you describe this Taco? Its gull-wing doors open on four side-by-side seats faced by four 24-inch monitors and surrounded by a 2,150-watt sound system, all there for Xbox gameplay. A 66-inch monitor on the tailgate displays the gaming action. TRD mounted a supercharger on the Tacoma's 4.0L V-6, and you can see it through an acrylic window in the hood.

Calendar
•Feb. 5-7: Bluewater Resort & Casino Parker 425 desert race (includes JeepSpeed Challenge race), Parker, AZ. Information: Best in the Desert, 702.457.5775, www.bitd.com

•Feb. 6: Wild Wash 250 desert race, Barstow, CA. Information: Mojave Desert Racing, www.mdrracing.com

•Feb. 6: Rock Driving Clinic, Calico and Johnson Valley, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Information: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

•Feb. 19-21: California Association of 4WD Clubs annual convention, Sacramento, CA. Information: www.cal4wheel.com

•Feb. 20: Fud 200 desert race, Plaster City, CA. Information: Mojave Desert Racing, www.mdrracing.com

•Feb. 20: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic, Hollister Hills SVRA, Hollister, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Information: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

•Feb. 20: Dog Party, Twisted Trails Off-Road Park, Copemish, MI. Information: 231.651.9548, www.twistedtrailsoffroadpark.com

•Feb. 21: Sand Off-Road Driving Clinic, Oceano Dunes, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Information: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

•Feb. 24-27: Chile Challenge, Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds, Las Cruces, NM, by the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club. Information: www.lascrucesfourwheeldriveclub.com

•Feb. 26: Winch Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA near Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Information: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

•Feb. 27: Canadian River Mud Bogs, near Amarillo, TX, by the West Texas Outlaws 4x4 club. Information: 806.674.1136, www.west-texasoutlaws.com

•Feb. 27-28: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA near Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Information: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

•Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, a description of the event and contact info-phone numbers and/or email/website address-to Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245, or email 4wheeloffroad@sorc.com. Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

Toyota Craziness, Part 2: Tundra Midnight Rider Tailgater
This Tundra CrewMax is quite the party, thanks to a "Grill N Chill" cooking area-complete with a beer tap-that slides out of the bed, and a 42-inch flat-screen TV that pops up when the tonneau cover is raised. All this was done, says Toyota, in tribute to country music stars Brooks & Dunn. Western influences are everywhere on the truck, from B&D's trademark steer skull logos on the grille and tailgate to the tooled leather tonneau cover and engraved door handles.

Toyota Craziness, Part 3: Escalade-Powered FJ
Outside the SEMA halls was this sweet, resto-looking '67 FJ45 belonging to Richard Remington and built by BTB Products Inc. The resto vibe took a serious detour under the hood, however, with a transplanted Caddy Escalade V-8.

A 4L80 auto takes the 6.2's power and sends it to an Atlas II transfer case and Dana 44 and 60 axles. The suspension is a custom coilover setup with Fox shocks.


Teraflex Hemi Jeep
Consider this Teraflex's version of Jeep's Lower Forty concept truck. The company installed its 2.5-inch coil spring/long-arm suspension and mounted 40-inch MT/Rs on the Dana 60 axles. A Hemi conversion powers those todious meats, while Teraflex's new big-brake kit makes sure it'll all come to a stop.

Chevy ZR2 Concept
Thank you, Chevrolet, for bringing a good, old-fashioned muscle truck to SEMA. Under the ZR2 Silverado's carbon-fiber hood is a supercharged 6.2L LS engine pumping out some 550 hp. The truck sits on a 4-inch BDS lift, rolls on 35-inch Goodyear MT/R tires, and has a bunch of other carbon-fiber pieces, including the front fenders, rockers, and tailgate. Nice.

Hummer Concepts
At left is the H3T Sportsman, riding on 35-inch BFGs and 20-inch Hummer wheels, and covered with a distinctive matte Wildrye custom paint. Under the hood, Hummer engineers coaxed nearly 70 more hp out of the 5.3L V-8 by installing LS2 cylinder heads, a higher-lift camshaft, and a custom 3.5-inch exhaust system.

The gray Hummer at right is the H3 Moab, sitting on a Rancho 4-inch suspension system, a rear spring-over conversion, and 35-inch BFG Mud Terrains on 17-inch Allied wheels. The brush guard and lower grille-mounted lamps are from Hummer's accessory catalog; the roof basket is from Gobi and mounts six Delta xenon lights.

Earth Watch
•According to SEMA, The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will permanently close the Upper Tellico River OHV trail system in North Carolina due to erosion concerns. The decision follows a heated debate between the USFS, OHV groups, and environmentalists following the February release of the USFS environmental study on the area. The USFS contends that the OHV trail system contributes unacceptable levels of sediment to the Tellico River and its tributaries, causing water-quality concerns. SEMA and a number of OHV organizations and enthusiasts had urged the USFS to take a more measured response instead of simply closing the off-road recreation area.

•More than one-sixth of the state of Utah would be off-limits to any form of motorized recreation if Congress approves H.R. 1925, America's Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2009. SEMA submitted testimony to the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands in opposition to the bill, which would designate 9.4 million acres of land in Utah as "wilderness," a label that bans mechanized activities. According to SEMA, most of the 146 co-sponsors of the legislation represent areas east of the Rockies. At a recent House Subcommittee hearing, opposition to the bill was voiced from local residents and lawmakers representing the state.

Concerns were also raised by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Robert Abbey, who cautioned that current off-highway vehicle areas would be closed. The BLM manages all of the land subject to closure. Director Abbey also noted that the agency had not yet completed mapping or an analysis of each area to be designated as wilderness, which would allow the BLM to make informed recommendations on wilderness designations.

•SEMA also reports Congressman John Salazar (D-CO) has introduced the "San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act" in Congress. The bill would designate as wilderness 61,682 acres of public land in southwestern Colorado: in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, Gunnison and San Juan National Forests, and in the San Juan Bureau of Land Management Resource Area. Rep. Salazar claims the legislation has the support of local towns, such as Ouray and Telluride, and the County Commissions of San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan Counties. SEMA is in the process of reviewing the legislation to determine its potential impact on the local OHV community.

•The BlueRibbon Coalition has partnered with 4Wheel Parts to offer a unique deal: Join the BRC for $29, and you'll receive a $25 gift card from 4Wheel Parts. That makes your membership in the land-use advocacy group just $4. A steal!

•In conjunction with the introduction of the H3 Moab at the SEMA Show, Hummer will make a donation to Tread Lightly! for every photo of a Hummer at Moab posted to Hummer's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/hummer). The funds will be directed through the Tread Lightly! Restoration through Recreation grant program.

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