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October 2010 Drivelines

Posted in Features on October 1, 2010
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Andy McMillin is tearing things up in SCORE desert racing. He won last year's Baja 1000, emerged victorious at the Laughlin Desert Challenge, and has added an overall win at the Baja 500 to his list of accomplishments. Andy and his father, Scott, drove the McMillin Realty F-150 Trophy Truck through the race's 439 miles in 9 hours 15 minutes, for an average speed of 47.2 mph. "It was a smooth day, no problems," said Andy.

This win earned a milestone for tire maker BFGoodrich: its 50th overall victory in a SCORE Baja race. To date, racers on BFGs have won the Baja 500 27 times and the Baja 1000 23 times.

"This was a textbook way for BFGoodrich to kick off its 35th anniversary of racing with SCORE in Baja," said Robert Kukainis, BFG's motorsports manager. "We came down here at the invitation of SCORE's Sal Fish 35 years ago to prove the toughness of our tires in the most unforgiving terrain on earth. With 50 combined wins to date at SCORE's Baja 500 and Baja 1000, more than all other tire manufacturers combined, I think we've done that. And we will continue to return to Baja and support the SCORE series [and] our racers and enjoy the hospitality of the wonderful people of the Baja peninsula."

New Jeep Pickup?
This lightly camouflaged Jeep was spotted recently on a Southern California freeway. (Yeah, the photo sucks. It was taken with a phone.) The aftermarket wheels and tires make it look like any other Jeep on L.A.'s freeways, but the turret shape of the windows makes them look like they were taped off that way. We don't think this is just another Jeeper but rather a mule of the long-rumored Wrangler-based pickup truck.

It's no secret that Chrysler is desperate for new product these days, and since Wrangler sales have stayed strong despite the corporation's turmoil, variations on the Wrangler theme could move more units out the door. AEV is already converting Wranglers with its Brute kit, and Jeep tested interest in a Wrangler pickup with the Gladiator show truck (seen here) and later when it brought the JT concept to Moab. Maybe Fiat has decided the time is right to make this one a reality.

GM Diesel News
We just got back from spending some quality seat time in GM's new heavy-duty pickup trucks. Rain prevented us from getting great photos (as you can see), but we drove for hours, and even towed some, so we could bring you a detailed driving impression next month.

We did learn some interesting things while hanging with GM execs.

•Truck enthusiasts aren't the only ones who like the Ram's styling. So do GM designers, "and they're working on the next-generation Silverado right now. That's all I'm saying," said one insider.

•Don't look for the new Duramax in a SUV. That engine is tall (every truck we drove had either a taller hood or power bulge to clear the intake system), and the last thing any vehicle engineer wants to do is add height to an already big SUV. GM's marketers also don't believe the typical SUV buyer would be willing to pay the $8,400 premium that the Duramax/Allison option commands. Those serious towers who do buy diesel buy pickups.

•The light-duty diesel is still dead. Cost is a big factor; GM isn't convinced half-ton truck buyers would really pay $5,000 or more for a small diesel engine. Emissions are an issue too. Now that the government's fuel economy regulations are tied to carbon dioxide emissions, the benefits of the diesel's fuel economy are offset by its carbon dioxide output. "The light-duty diesel doesn't help me meet CAFE anymore," one insider put it.

New Grand is Top Pick
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded a Top Safety Pick award to the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Vehicles that earn this award "meet the highest standards for crash test performance," said IIHS president Adrian Lund. "This award means that buyers of the '11 Grand Cherokee are getting state-of-the-art safety for the best protection in the most common kinds of crashes, and electronic stability control, which our research shows can help prevent crashes altogether."

This Just In
•A couple of Chevrolet rocket scientists-I mean vice presidents-issued a memo in June decreeing that the term Chevy could no longer be used by employees to describe the division. Why? To maintain brand consistency. The memo, leaked to the New York Times, said, "When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding." Yeah, right. Tell that to the Coca Cola people. Chevy (that's right, you heard me) backpedaled a day later, saying the memo had been "poorly worded" and was meant to solidify the brand's identity as it grew internationally.

•Keep an eye out for MahiN-dra advertising. According to Automotive News, the Indian automaker will launch a campaign to "introduce the brand name to U.S. consumers" two to three months before the truck's U.S. launch. The trade journal reports the compact diesel trucks will go on sale "at the end of the year" through a network of some 300 Mahindra dealers.

• Toyota's unintended acceleration issues are no longer just Toyota's problem. New safety legislation is coming through Congress that could require all automakers to equip their vehicles with brake override equipment and "black box" data recorders. Most automakers already have the brake components on their vehicles or plan to add them soon. The data recorders are causing the most concern because of privacy issues and cost. One lobbyist, quoted in AN, said the recorders could add thousands of dollars to the cost of every vehicle. According to SEMA, if the legislation passes, the recorders could be required on all new vehicles starting in 2015.

Earth Watch
•Gale Banks has long been a proponent of diesel performance, but he also realized years ago that a loophole existed that threatened the diesel aftermarket: There was no emissions compliance test available to certify parts as smog-legal in California. Since 2002 Banks and SEMA have been working with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to produce a viable test, and the agency finally approved Banks' testing efforts earlier this year. "This test series marks a new era in performance diesel emissions compliance and sets the stage for our entire industry to now comply," said Banks. "To celebrate our recent success, I am pleased to announce that the Banks Six-Gun diesel tuner for the new 6.7L Dodge Cummins has passed utilizing the new testing format and will be the first diesel tuning product to be issued an [Executive Order] using this testing protocol."

•Now that mileage and emissions regulations have been set for the '12-'16 model years, the Obama administration is working on guidelines for '17-'25 vehicles. Automakers are actually happy with this ruling. It gives them one national standard to achieve (the CARB is working with the EPA so California's rules won't be tougher than the rest of the country) and ample lead time to implement the engineering necessary to hit the targets. No efficiency or emissions goals were announced, though they'll likely be higher than the '16 CAFE average of 35.5 mpg.

NORRA's Alternative Class
Last month we brought you the results of the NORRA Mexican 1000 rally, which saw vintage Baja racers-the people and the vehicles-once again tackling the Mexican desert. But not all rally competitors were historic vehicles. The sanctioning body opened the event to alternative-fuel race vehicles, and the Norman Motorsports' Ford won the Alt-Fuel class.

The team consisted of Trophy Truck drivers Roger Norman and Mark Post plus motorcycle racing legend Larry Roessler. They started the rally in 49th position, battled to first by the end of the first day, then suffered hours of downtime on the second day thanks to a flat tire-and a lost jack handle. That delay put them back to 17th position, but Roessler and Post fought back up to First despite a second flat just 20 miles from the finish line. Post, who drove the final leg, finished the race on the rim.

"This was a gentleman's race," said Norman. "Everyone at the start line wanted to race hard, but there was no nerfing and a lot more courtesy on the course than there is in a typical desert race. The whole thing was cool. My favorite part was drinking Tecate and eating the most amazing lobster I have ever tasted with the legends of the sport in the heart of Baja."

Yamaha Adds New ATVs
Yamaha's ATV lineup just grew by two. Seen here is the new Grizzly 450 4x4 utility ATV with Electric Power Steering (EPS). This 421cc machine puts several convenient big-bore traits, including the power steering, automatic transmission, and an On-Command drive system (with 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD diff-lock) in a midlevel, trail-friendly chassis. The four-stroke engine can handle up to 250 pounds on its racks and tow more than 1,300 pounds.

Also new is the Raptor 125 sport ATV. Yamaha is aiming this one at the entry level or step-up market, mating the suspension components and handling characteristics of its big brother, the Raptor 250, with a 124cc, two-valve, single overhead cam engine. Both new machines will be available over the summer; see for more info.

Club Spotlight
The Northeast Association of 4WD Clubs (NEA4WD), a group of 30 off-road and Jeep clubs from New England and New York state, was established in 2001 to promote and preserve environmentally responsible off-highway recreation in the Northeast. In May, 40 members from eight clubs combined their efforts to help maintain the property at one of the association's private trail networks in New Hampshire (the site of this year's Ultimate Adventure). Work included road clearing, bridge building, trail clearing, and trail rerouting. The association's goal is to make the best use of the property and trails it has access to while making minimal environmental impact. In an area of the country where public lands for 4x4 recreation are almost nonexistent, the proper use of the available private property is of the utmost importance. For more information about the NEA4WD, visit or email

New Infiniti SUV
Nissan's luxury division recently unveiled a new version of its QX56 fullsize SUV, "which is designed to offer a true five-star travel experience," according to Infiniti. The new QX can be ordered chock-full of premium equipment, including a power folding third seat, a power moon roof, a power rear hatch, a lane departure warning system, hydraulic body motion control (to reduce body lean during cornering), and a raft of electronics options ranging from a DVD player with dual monitors to a hard-drive nav system.

Underpinning all this luxury is Nissan's 5.6L V-8, now equipped with variable valve timing and direct injection. The refinements boost the engine's output by 25 percent, to 400 hp, while also improving its fuel economy by 10 percent. Behind it is a seven-speed automatic transmission and Nissan's All-Mode 4WD system with Auto, 4Hi, and 4Lo settings.

The '11 QX56 goes on sale this summer with no increase in price over '10 models, meaning 4WD models will start at $59,800.

Sept. 3-5: Inyo National Forest Expedition, by Off-Road Teach & Tour. Info:

Sept. 3-6: Superlift 4xAdventure Series, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR. Info: 501.625.3600,

Sept. 4: 4x4 & ATV mud races, Menahga, MN. Info: 218.255.2196, email

Sept. 4: Return 2 the Desert off-road race, Plaster City, CA, by Mojave Desert Racing. Info:

Sept. 4-6: VORRA desert race, Hawthorne, NV. Info:

Sept. 10-12: SCORE Terrible's Primm 300 desert race, Primm, NV. Info: SCORE Int'l, 818.225.8402,

Sept. 10-12: Blazer Bash, Moab, UT. Info:

Sept. 11: Free Rock Nationals, Gulches ORV Park, Laurens County, SC. Info:,

Sept. 11: Spotting Skills Clinic, Johnson Valley, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

Sept. 11: Mud drags, mud bogs, and sand drags by the Columbia River Mud Racing Association and Northwest Sand, Barlow Point Raceway, Longview, WA. Info:

Sept. 11: Chili Cook-Off 200 desert race (includes JeepSpeed race), Lucerne Valley, CA, by Mojave Off Road Racing Enthusiasts. Info:

Sept. 12: Fall Mud Bash, Muddy Run Raceway, Smoke Run, PA. Info:

Sept. 12: Rocks Skills Clinic, Johnson Valley, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

Sept. 16-18: Texas Spur Fall Jeep Jamboree, Llano, TX. Info:

Sept. 16-18: Ouray Jeep Jamboree, Ouray, CO. Info:

Sept. 17: Winching Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA near Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

Sept. 17-19: O'Reilly Auto Parts Fall 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis, IN. Info:

Sept. 18: KRRP Fall Rock Crawling Competition, Kansas Rocks Recreation Park near Fort Scott, KS. Info:

Sept. 18-19: Beginning Off-Road 4x4 Skills Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA near Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

Sept. 20-21: Getting Started Off-Road 4x4 Skills Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA near Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

Sept. 22-25: Oklahoma Classic Bronco Round-Up, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR. Info: 501.625.3600,

Sept. 23-25: Black Hills Jeep Jamboree, Deadwood, SD. Info:

Sept. 23-25: Catskill Mountains Jeep Jamboree, Monticello, NY. Info:

Sept. 24-25: Beginning 4x4 Training, Big Bear Lake, CA, by Off-Road Teach & Tour. Info:

Sept. 24-26: Fun in the Desert, Johnson Valley, CA, by the Victor Valley 4 Wheelers. Info: 760.948.1424,

Sept. 25: Lucerne 250 off-road race, Lucerne Valley, CA, by Mojave Desert Racing. Info:

Sept. 25: 4WD Sand Driving Clinic, Oceano Dunes near Pismo, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

Sept. 25-26: Iron Range off-road driving school, Iron Range OHV Park (north of Minneapolis, MN). Info:

Sept. 25-26: Michigan Rock Crawl Tour, Twisted Trails Off-Road Park, Copemish, MI. Info:

Sept. 30-Oct. 2: Maine Mountains Jeep Jamboree, Bethel, ME. Info:

Sept. 30-Oct. 3: Dixie Run, Golden Mountain OHV Park, Sparta, TN, by Southern Four Wheel Drive Assoc. Info:

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; fax 310.531.9368; email Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

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