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December 2011 Drivelines - Off-Road Truck News

Posted in Features on December 1, 2011
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The 2012 model year is proving to be fairly quiet in terms of new truck introductions, but really it’s the calm before the storm. Just about every automaker has fresh new 4x4s on the way for 2013 and 2014. Between what the factories have told us and what we’ve learned from industry insiders, here’s a look at what to expect over the next 24 months or so.

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This Just In
• Look for a redesigned Nissan Frontier pickup for the ’13 model year, followed a year later by a new Titan fullsize truck, says Automotive News. The Xterra will likely be phased out over the next year or so, as SUV buyer’s tastes move away from body-on-frame trucks to crossovers.

• A Land Rover just not posh enough for you? Word has it Bentley is considering adding an SUV to its line of premium automobiles. Bentley purists are probably tearing out what little hair they have left over the idea, but Porsche did the same thing not long ago, and the Cayenne now accounts for half of Porsche’s sales volume.

• Ford is having great success with the EcoBoost V-6 available in the F-150. According to the maker, it is outselling every other V-6 truck on the market combined. Ford actually has two V-6 options this year, the EcoBoost and a conventional 3.7L V-6. In combination, they’re outselling V-8s in the F-Series.

Return of the Scrambler?
Not quite. Mopar, Chrysler’s performance products division, has developed a kit that transforms a four-door Wrangler Unlimited into a two-door pickup. The $5,499 JK-8 kit includes a 44x50-inch steel bed, inner and outer bedsides constructed from stamped sheetmetal, sport bar extensions, a removable fiberglass hardtop with a sliding rear window, two fixed side windows, and a fiberglass bulkhead. The kit comes with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and can be installed at a Chrysler Group dealership or by the “skilled do-it-yourselfer,” says Mopar.

Steele Gets First LOORRS Victory
Longtime Yokohama-sponsored racer Cameron Steele earned his first Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series (LOORRS) win of the season by taking the Pro Lite Class at the August race at Glen Helen Raceway in Southern California. Steele, a veteran Trophy Truck racer who has won championships in SCORE and SNORE, rolled to victory on off-the-shelf Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S tires.

Readers’ Rides, Afghanistan Edition
Staff Sgt. William Glendenning sent us these pictures of mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles he and his team outfitted for hazardous duty in Afghanistan. Glendenning is in the middle of the group photo flanked by Sgt. Kowalkowski and Spc. Hall. We’re proud to know that 4WOR license plates will be among the gear mounted to their MRAPs. When we asked the sergeant about the tubular racks and other mods on the trucks, we got the “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you” answer.

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Earth Watch
• The Obama administration has proposed a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) target of 54.5 mpg for the ’25 model year, essentially doubling the fuel economy average today’s cars have to reach. Already CAFE figures are slated to rise to 35.5 mpg by 2016; this new plan calls for an annual 5 percent improvement in passenger car fuel economy from 2017 to 2025, but light trucks would have to improve just 3.5 percent per year from 2017 to 2021, then 5 percent after that. That’s a far higher rate of improvement than the automakers have hit to date, but they won a concession in the new bill that allows a midterm review of the goals, potentially to lower the target should it look to be unattainable. Also making the target easier to reach are federal incentives for fuel-efficient and low-emissions technologies, and for bringing those technologies to market as soon as possible, says Automotive News. The incentives would essentially lower the 2025 target from 54.5 to about 40 mpg, says AN.

• SEMA tells us a U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on the SEMA-supported Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011. The legislation would release 42 million acres of land from wilderness designations that have already been set aside as wilderness study areas (WSAs) or inventoried roadless areas. WSAs are lands that have been identified as having wilderness potential. The bill would also officially terminate the Wild Lands order, which the Interior Department recently abandoned, that directed the Bureau of Land Management to recommend lands for wilderness designations and manage them accordingly. At the hearing, supporters of the bill argued that it would immediately increase opportunities for multiple-use management—including motorized recreation, hunting, and fishing. Opponents claim the bill would limit the government’s ability to preserve wildlife and other recreational opportunities while creating new land-management disagreements. The bill will remain under consideration by the House Natural Resources Committee.

UA Benefits BRC
One man can make a difference. Clint Carter helped the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) net more than $1,000 for its trail saving efforts when he allowed the BRC to sell his 2009 Ultimate Adventure rig, Whopper Jr., via an online auction. The truck came with a copy of the ’09 UA DVD and a license plate signed by the magazine’s staff.

“It’s the simple things that we all can do to make a difference in saving trails and supporting BlueRibbon Coalition,” said Del Albright, BRC’s ambassador. “No matter how big or small, it all helps.”

• Nov. 3-5: Laughlin Jeep Jamboree, Laughlin, NV. Info:

• Nov. 4-5: Hump-N-Bump (trail rides, arena challenge, vendor fair, raffles, and more), based at Clark County Fairgrounds near Las Vegas, NV, by the Vegas Valley Four Wheelers. Info:

• Nov. 5-6: JeepSkool, NE Ohio. Info:

• Nov. 11-13: 45th Early Bronco Anniversary, Borrego Springs, CA, by the Early Bronco Registry. Info:

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

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

• Nov. 17-20: Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Info: 818.225.8402,

• Nov. 19: T&T Rail Road Adventure, near Lucerne Valley, 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, 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.

Touareg Sets Pan-Am Highway Record
A team of German drivers wheeled a diesel-powered VW Touareg the length of the Pan American Highway—nearly 16,000 miles from the southernmost tip of Argentina to Deadhorse, Alaska—in just a little more than 11 days, breaking the previous record by three days.

Local Motors & DARPA Team for Military Vehicle
How do you speed up the often long and drawn-out process of designing and building a new military vehicle? That’s what DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, sought to find out when it teamed with Local Motors in Arizona to hold the XC2V Design Challenge. The goal was to produce a vehicle body design that could be used for combat reconnaissance and combat delivery and evacuation. More than 150 different design sketches were submitted during the four-week contest. The winning design, Victor Garcia’s FlyPMode, was then turned into a working prototype by Local Motors in just 14 weeks.

The completed prototype was shown to President Obama at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center in Pittsburgh, where he praised the effort. “If we were able to collapse the pace at which manufacturing takes place, that could save taxpayers billions of dollars. But it also could get products out to theater faster, which could save lives more quickly.”

Ram Trucks Win at TORC Opener
Rob MacCachren and Sam Hübinette emerged victorious in the Pro 2 and Pro Light classes, respectively, at the Traxxas TORC Series season opener at Buchanan, Michigan. Rain delayed the Pro 2 competition until the event’s second day, but MacCachren (in the No. 21 truck) wasted no time once he got on the track and cruised to victory.

“This is the first time I’ve run this truck in the dirt,” said MacCachren. “The guys did an awesome job with the settings on the Mopar Ram.”

Hübinette, a drifting champion who’s running his rookie season in TORC, won his Pro Lite races on both Saturday and Sunday after spending just seven laps testing the truck.

The guy grabbing big air in the number 48 truck is Ricky Johnson, who competed in the weekend’s Pro 4 class but had to settle for Second Place behind Scott Douglas.

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