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Spetember 2011 Drivelines - News and Rumors

Jeep Wrangler Mojave
Drew Hardin
| Contributor
Posted September 1, 2011

Wrangler Mojave, Harbor Freight, and More!

Mojave Joins Wrangler Lineup
Jeep has introduced a special edition Wrangler named for the 138-mile Mojave Trail. The Wrangler Mojave is essentially an appearance package with a body-color hardtop and fender flares, special decals on the hood, and dark saddle leather upholstery that’s embossed with the same lizard logo found on the hood.

Mechanically the model is based on the Wrangler Sport, though it wears the sidesteps from the Sahara and the Rubicon’s 17-inch wheels and LT255/75R17 BFG Mud Terrain tires. The Mojave is available in two- and four-door body styles and in three colors: Sahara Tan, Bright White, and black.

How Do They Do It?
You’ve seen the ads: heavy-duty floor jacks for $69, a tool rollaway for $360, open-end wrench sets for less than $20, even a click torque wrench for $9! How is it possible that Harbor Freight Tools can live up to its motto of “Quality Tools at Ridiculously Low Prices”? The stuff has to be import junk, right?

Import, yes. Junk, no. We recently toured Harbor Freight’s Southern California headquarters and its new in-house quality assurance lab and learned how Harbor maintains that price/quality balancing act. Yes, Harbor sources products from offshore companies, many of which are in China. But in dealing directly with the toolmaking factories, Harbor Freight can keep costs low while setting manufacturing standards for those factories. The new quality assurance lab is used to rigorously test tools and other products—some to complete failure—to ensure that the pieces are built to those standards. (Oh, and doing quality testing in-house is another way Harbor Freight saves money.)

The company also has an effective process to develop new products: Hire engineers and turn them loose with “money is no object” guidelines to design products that meet or exceed the quality and features of competitive products while retailing for a fraction of the cost. One result of that thinking is Harbor Freight’s new line of Badland winches, designed by a former Mile Marker engineer. Badland’s 9,000-pound winch, comparable to Warn’s XD9000 model, retails for $299, a fraction of the other’s $1,200 sticker.

But does the stuff work? All signs point to “yes.” Harbor Freight’s customer base and sales are climbing despite the rocky economy. We have buddies who have used Harbor Freight products and swear by them. And we plan to add a few to our own arsenal and see if they truly measure up. We’ll keep you posted.

Go Long
Need towing capabilities beyond a 1-ton pickup? Check out what Ram engineers did to create the Long Hauler concept truck. Their starting point was a Class 5 Ram 5500 crew cab with a Cummins high-output turbodiesel, Aisin AS68RC automatic transmission, and a 4WD transfer case coupled to a 4.88 Dana 110 dualie rear axle. They swapped the crew cab body for a Mega Cab, added an 8-foot box, and increased the truck’s cruising range by adding two auxiliary fuel tanks to carry a total of 170 gallons of diesel. The truck rides on a Kelderman air suspension, weighs in at 9,300 pounds, and has a 37,500-pound GCWR.

To keep passengers entertained, the Long Hauler is equipped with interior Wi-Fi, a DVD player, power-adjustable footrests for rear-seat passengers, and a rear center console that includes a refrigerator, cup holders, and tray tables.

The truck will be on display at various events around the country, where Ram will gauge the public’s reaction and the potential market for such a vehicle.

This Just In
• Don’t hold your breath for a revamped GM pickup. GM CEO Dan Akerson told the press at the New York Auto Show that it doesn’t make sense to speed up development of GM’s fullsize pickups with fuel prices on the rise. “Trucks would not be a program that we’d move up in a mileage-sensitive market,” he told Automotive News.

• There may be a baby Wrangler on the drawing boards. A small, Fiat-based Jeep that could go on sale in 2013 is among three new, fuel-efficient Jeeps in the works for Europe—and possibly North America—according to Jeep CEO Mike Manley. The other two vehicles Manley discussed in an Automotive News interview were a replacement for the Liberty, which would go on sale in Europe in 2013 (no word of U.S. sale), and a single Jeep to replace the Compass and Patriot. This AWD vehicle would share underpinnings with the Alfa Romeo C-SUV scheduled to begin production in 2012 and be sold in the U.S.

• Leave it to a group called the Mother Nature Network to name Ford’s Excursion SUV and Lincoln Blackwood pickup truck as among the “greatest automotive flops” of the past 15 years. Why pick on the trucks? There have been plenty of automotive goofs too: Pontiac’s too-ugly-for-words Aztek, Volkswagen’s high-dollar Phaeton, any Oldsmobile diesel … Need we go on?

• William C. “Billy” Durant, who cofounded Chevrolet with Louis Chevrolet in 1911, is widely credited for coming up with Chevy’s iconic bowtie logo. Legend has it that he spotted the design in some wallpaper in Paris, but a story in Automotive News has quashed that myth. According to Durant’s widow, he saw the tie-shaped logo in a newspaper ad while the couple was vacationing in Virginia. A Chevrolet historian did some digging and found the bowtie insignia in an ad for small pieces of coal.

Earth Watch
• 62 mpg. That could be the fuel efficiency target required of automakers by 2025 depending on the result of negotiations going on in Washington, D.C. Current law calls for vehicles to average 35.5 mpg by 2016, but President Obama is seeking an efficiency range of 47 to 62 mpg for the decade to follow. Automakers, the EPA, NHTSA, and CARB are among those debating the feasibility of that goal. The makers fear that the cost to attain that level of efficiency will add thousands of dollars to the price of a vehicle and force much of the new vehicle fleet to become electrified in some way (whether they’re pure electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, or some other form of hybrid). That could result in a slowdown in new-vehicle sales—which would defeat the purpose of the new fuel-efficiency rule.

• Tread Lightly! has announced a new small grant program to help individuals and clubs organize cleanups, trail maintenance workdays, and other small stewardship projects. The maximum grant amount is $500, which can be used to purchase supplies like seedlings, tools, garbage bags, and water for volunteers, or to rent equipment. Applicants must be either a club member or an individual three-year member of Tread Lightly!. Visit www.treadlightly.org for more information.

• SEMA reports that legislation to exempt all ’74-and-earlier vehicles from Arizona’s mandatory biennial emissions inspection program was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Under previous law, only ’66-and-earlier vehicles and “collectibles” were exempt.

• A coalition of recreational access groups recently filed papers to join a lawsuit challenging motorized vehicle access to the Pike and San Isabel National Forests in south-central Colorado. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), and BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) moved to intervene as parties in the case, which was brought by preservationist interests led by The Wilderness Society. The suit claims that the Forest Service illegally authorized motorized travel to at least some trails in the Colorado forests when it launched a nationwide rule requiring designation of roads, trails, and areas for motorized access in 2005. The resulting agency decisions have spawned lawsuits in Montana, California, Idaho, Oregon, North Carolina, and elsewhere.

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