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March 2011 Drivelines Sema Edition

Posted in Features on March 1, 2011
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New Broncos Coming
We weren't sure why this Stroppe Baja Bronco and a second early Bronco-owned by Edsel Ford II and his sons-were parked on the edge of the Ford display until we noticed a sign announcing the spring 2011 arrival of reproduction early Bronco body shells from Dynacorn Classic Bodies. Dynacorn has reproduced a number of muscle cars and early Chevy pickups to help restorers get a head start on their projects, but this will be the company's first SUV.

Seen at Sema
On page 58 Fred Williams brings you the hot new products from the annual SEMA extravaganza in Las Vegas. We spent our time there shooting the most outrageous and interesting vehicles on display.

Superlift 4xAdventure Jeep
What's that they say about men, boys, and the size of their toys? Superlift was handing out Matchbox toy cars in front of its 1:1-scale Jeep. Along with Axletech/Dynatrac portal axles and 42-inch Super Swamper Irok tires, the project truck boasted Smittybilt body panels, a custom roof rack and bumpers by Off-Camber Fabrication, and much, much more. The reptile hue is from House of Kolor.

Xplore Adventure Series FJ
This modified FJ Cruiser is the first to come from a new specialty vehicle program from Venchures Incorporated. The Xplore Adventure Series vehicles will be "ultimate off-road adventure vehicles with the best parts available through the aftermarket," says the company. The vehicles will be offered in four stages, using parts from such companies as ARB, Magnaflow, BFGoodrich, and Warn. This particular FJ will be auctioned in the spring, with proceeds benefitting the National Parks Foundation.

Camo Taco
This wild Tacoma in the Warn booth was grabbing a lot of attention. Covered in a custom camo pattern that resembled Pacific Northwest ferns, the radically modified Toyota is powered by a 6.0L V-8 out of a Suburban mated to twin transfer cases (203 and 205). It gets even more gear reduction from portal axles. As you would imagine, it fairly bristles with winches: an M12,000 in front, an M15,000 in back, and a PullzAll on top. The meats are massive 21/49-16.5 Super Swamper Iroks hung on custom trailing arms and damped with King shocks.

HD Hauler
Trucks at this year's SEMA Show were anything but subtle, as if a fullsize truck standing on a tall lift weren't enough to grab your attention. Case in point: Skyjacker's HD Hauler, a Chevy HD2500 pickup riding on a 7-inch lift and 37-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers. To make sure this big truck stood out in a crowd, the suspension company painted it with wild graphics and then topped it with a Polaris ATV.

VW Turbodiesel Jeep
Canadian company HPA Motorsports has developed a conversion kit that drops a 1.9L Volkswagen turbodiesel into a Jeep YJ. (A TJ kit is in the works.) After tuning the ECU with a Power Flash, HPA claims the diesel will put out 190 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque and will get 40-47 mpg. Backing the engine is a rebuilt Jeep AX-5 transmission, while the Dana 30 and 35 axles house 4.10s from Precision Gear.

Wrangler is "Hottest"
SEMA recognized three vehicles as the hottest of the show in a new award this year. The Jeep Wrangler came out on top of the Hottest 4x4-SUV category. Several modified Wranglers were featured in the Mopar booth, including the Hemi-powered imMortal we first saw in Moab. Signage that accompanied the Jeep noted that its front and rear eight-lug portal axles now have Mopar part numbers.

F-Series is "Hottest" Too
While Wrangler took the SEMA award for the hottest 4x4 of the show, Ford's fullsize pickup was named Hottest Truck. The pickups in Ford's booth were split between street and 4x4 versions. This F-150 SuperCrew was modified by Mickey Thompson Tires and X-Treme Toyz with a Fabtech 6-inch suspension system, LT315/70R17 Mickey T Baja Claw TTC tires, Fab Four bumpers carrying Warn winches front and rear, and custom paint from MM Auto Art.

This Just In
•Mr. Goodwrench, RIP.
"As part of the initiative to better connect General Motors' brands with customers, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac will each receive its own Certified Service brand." So reads the official press release/obituary announcing the death of Mr. Goodwrench. GM has used the fictitious mechanic as a symbol for its dealer service for nearly 40 years, and he will be missed. Mr. Chevrolet Certified Service just doesn't have the same ring.

•Driver Travis Carpenter and the Ultra4 4405 Land Use rig have been awarded by Hammerking Productions a Merit Entry into the 2011 Griffin King of the Hammers race in February. The merit entry is based on the team's ongoing efforts to promote responsible land use, raise awareness of land use issues, and to generate funds, volunteers, and memberships for various land use organizations. In last year's King of the Hammers, the 4405 team raised nearly $20,000 for land use organizations despite only completing 98 miles of the race. Three months after the 2010 race, 4405 burned in a structure fire. Since then, many companies, along with members of, have donated parts and cash to rebuild the vehicle so it can continue its mission.

Safety Simulator
It wasn't the sexiest booth in the show, but one of the most important. Grad students from Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research demonstrated a hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) computer simulation using a truck modified with Superlift suspension components. HIL technology allows computers to tie into a vehicle's electronic stability controls (ESC) and then "run" the truck through various tests to see how the ESC systems will work-or not-with the suspension mods. Why should we care? A new federal motor vehicle safety standard will require that all OE vehicles have ESC systems by 2011 and that by 2012 those ESC systems would not be compromised by vehicle modifications. Computer simulation is effective and less costly than the old-fashioned way of testing an actual truck at a proving ground, and HIL simulation allows testers to tie into the vehicle's actual ESC parameters.

Earth Watch
•The Western Slope Coalition has put an interactive map on its website ( listing Forest Service and BLM lands in the U.S. where access fees are charged for undeveloped backcountry, as well as where these fees are being proposed. The Coalition invites wheelers and other backcountry visitors to submit photos of signs documenting required fees for driving, hiking, parking, camping, and other areas.

•The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2004 Revised Superior National Forest Plan following a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and other preservation interests. Recreation advocacy groups, the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota, and the BlueRibbon Coalition intervened in the case on the side of the Forest Service. The suit contended that the Forest Service failed to sufficiently analyze potential impacts to the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area in Minnesota. Those claims were first rejected but then appealed in early 2010, and in October the Circuit Court affirmed the first decision.

Grand Cherokee Off-Road Edition
This lightly modified '11 Grand was in the Mopar booth. The subtle paint with red accents is nice, but we like the 33-inch BFGs and Mopar skidplates and rock rails even better.

One trend that seems to be growing is the use of flat paint (matte, suede, or like primer). The F-Series pickup in the Rolling Big Power booth was just one of many trucks sporting a nonglossy finish. We wonder if car polish companies will offer flat finish in a can next year?

Two-Buck Jeep
There's still time to win the Jeep that's being raffled by the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs. A $2 donation buys you a chance to bring home this '10 Rubicon complete with TeraFlex Suspension, BFGoodrich tires, ProComp wheels, and a Warn 9.5ti which with Master Pull line on a Body Armor bumper. The Rubicon also sports GenRight fenders, a Tuffy Security console, PIAA lights, a Hi-Lift Jack, ARB recovery gear, and Staun deflators. The winning ticket will be drawn February 26, 2011, at the Cal 4 Wheel convention, and you need not be present to win. Net proceeds go directly to the fight to keep our public lands open. Be part of the 2-Buck Jeep Rubicon Stimulus Package by visiting

Tundra Sportsman
Topping them all in terms of sheer altitude was this Tundra-based hunting rig in the Toyota booth. To build the Sportsman, Toyota lifted the Tundra 3 inches and then mounted an 86-square-foot platform on the roof that can be used as sleeping quarters or as a hunting blind. Toyota calls the truck's bed "the ultimate sportsman's fantasy transport and base camp," with custom cabinets for firearm storage and hunting and camping gear.

On the driver side of the truck, the entire bed side swings out to provide access to equipment. Behind the tailgate is a mobile kitchen complete with sink and stove.

Shooting Platform
Max and Ryan Duncan turned a '10 Wrangler Unlimited Sport into a different kind of hunting rig with platform seats front and rear (complete with gun racks) and Mossy Oak camo just about everywhere. A 31/2-inch Rough Country lift makes room for the 33-inch Toyo Open Country tires.

Smittybilt Wrangler
This black-on-black JK stood out among the garish trucks on display. Smittybilt dressed it in XRC bumpers, fenders, and tube doors. The front XRC M.O.D. bumper houses a new X2O 10,000-pound winch. Underneath is a Pro Comp 6-inch long-arm suspension system and 37-inch Pro Comp Xtreme MT tires.

Black Ops Jeep
One of the most highly anticipated video games of late 2010, Call of Duty: Black Ops, got a marketing boost from Chrysler with the introduction of this special edition Wrangler. Based on the Rubicon and available in two- and four-door versions, the Black Ops Edition features special graphics, Mineral Gray Rubicon wheels, and a number of Mopar accessories. Be prepared to pay more than $30,000 for the limited-edition Jeep.

New Ranger Not for U.S.
Like the other domestic manufacturers, Ford will stop offering a compact pickup within the next model year or so, at least at home. Overseas is another matter. An all-new Ranger pickup made its debut at the Australian International Motor Show and will be sold in 180 markets around the world. It will be fitted with three new engines-including two diesels-and built in three cab body styles. Four-wheel-drive versions will offer up to 9 inches of ground clearance and can be equipped with electric-locking or limited-slip differentials. We think Ford's missing an opportunity for U.S. sales, don't you?

Virtual Rally Truck
Lincoln Electric has partnered with Trophylite and 2XL Games to take part in a Trophylite Rally app for the Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. If you choose to race a Lincoln-sponsored truck and hit a specific goal-the longest jump of the day, for example-you can win prizes, including T-shirts. Drop by to learn more about the game, see a list of points leaders, and sign up to win a game download.

California 200 Accident Memorial
This 8-foot-tall memorial to the victims of the California 200 desert race accident was unveiled at the recent Off-Road Expo in Southern California. During the ceremony, eight candles were lit in memory of those who were killed, and FAST-Aid President Jared Tetzlaff spoke of the donations his organization has received and disbursed to help the victims' families. The memorial was originated by Dana Dague, designed by Scott Freeman, built by Craig Hall of R&I Industries, and will be mounted by Ted Cordts. It will visit different events and locations until a permanent home can be found in the desert.

Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé graciously let me put in this shameless plug for something totally not related to 4x4s. Hot Rod Magazine: All the Covers, by yours truly and the editors of Hot Rod magazine, chronicles the history of Petersen Publishing's founding magazine through every one of its covers from 1948 to 2009. Along with the cover images are layouts, never-before-seen archival photos, and insider stories of the magazine's memorable moments. It's available at major online book retailers and

•Feb. 4-6: Bluewater Resort & Casino Parker 425 desert race, Parker, AZ. Info: Best in the Desert, 702.457.5775,

•Feb. 5: Rock Skills Driving Clinic, Johnson Valley, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

•Feb. 6-12: Griffin King of the Hammers, Johnson Valley OHVA near Lucerne Valley, CA. Info:

•Feb. 12: Getting Started Off-Road 4x4 Skills Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

•Feb. 13: Advanced Beginner Off-Road Driving Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

•Feb. 19: Sand Driving Clinic, Oceano Dunes near Pismo, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

•Feb. 23-26: Chile Challenge rockcrawling event, Las Cruces, NM. Info: 575.642.7770,

•Feb. 25-27: California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs Convention, Visalia, CA. Info:

•Feb. 26: Winch & Recovery Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

•Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, 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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