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April 2012 Drivelines Off-Road Truck News

Posted in Features on April 1, 2012
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TDS Celebrates Five Decades of Fun
In 1963, a year-old 4WD club out of San Diego called Tierra Del Sol (TDS) put on its first Four Wheel Drive Safari. Five decades later, TDS will hold its 50th Desert Safari March 2-4 in the Truckhaven Hills area of the North Ocotillo Wells SVRA. The busy weekend will feature trail rides for all four-wheeling skill levels, vendor displays, and a huge raffle offering more than $150,000 in prizes. Visit for all the details.

The earliest members of TDS were wheeling in the Anza-Borrego area even before the club formed. According to 93-year-old Doris Wynne, who provided us with a detailed history of TDS and the Borrego Valley in general, after World War II “adventurous souls became enamored with using the military Jeep in our mountainous backcountry and desert.” Early on the Jeepers traveled trails used by the Indians and early European explorers as search-and-rescue teams, “but some decided to concentrate on adventure and exploration” instead, said Wynne. They eventually banded together to form TDS in 1962.

What’s cooler, the daylight under the back tire or the whitewalls?

“Off-roading was different then,” remembers Wynne. “Big sand tires were the vogue, and the vehicles were largely Toyota Land Cruisers, Nissan Patrols, military Jeeps, and Jeep station wagons. For emergency repairs, baling wire, duct tape, even a wad of chewing gum were considered basic necessities along with spare axles, chains, shovels, and axes. It was a far cry from those early four-bangers to the current powerful computerized engines.”

The Truckhaven Hills were a challenge in 1972 and still are today.

Wynne recalls, “Camping was mostly with tents, though one early member had an old Greyhound bus converted into a motor home, and its amenities were greatly admired by the tenters.” She also notes that “politics were not a part of the four-wheeling agenda in the ’60s, but the hints of governmental trail closure and restrictions were beginning to grow.”

Desert Safari action circa 1965. Human traction aids haven’t changed much.

Then, as now, TDS actively works to keep its beloved part of the Southwestern desert open for all to enjoy.

Jeeps Set Guinness Record
This summer’s Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival in Butler, Pennsylvania, was one for the record books, literally. When event organizers gathered 1,106 Jeeps to drive the 3 miles between Butler County Community College and Butler’s Main Street, they set a Guinness World Record for the largest parade of Jeeps.

Butler was the home of the American Bantam Car Company, and Festival organizers are working to preserve Bantam’s local heritage and establish the town as the Birthplace of the Jeep. Last year’s Festival raised $20,000 for their efforts. Another Jeep Heritage Festival is planned for August 10-12 in Butler, which will include another parade, plus trail rides, a road rally, a WWII encampment, a swap meet, and more special events. Drop by for more information.

McMillins Win Baja 1000
For the second time in three years, the Southern California father-son race team of Scott and Andy McMillin took the overall four-wheel and Trophy Truck victories at the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. The McMillins covered the 705-mile loop course in 14 hours 51 minutes 36 seconds, averaging 47.12 mph. Well, technically that time is for 700 miles of racing. Five miles past the start in Ensenada, a big-rig accident blocked the course. SCORE officials decided to restart the Trophy Trucks at race mile 5, and they awarded the McMillins the overall four-wheel victory based on their having the highest average speed among all car and truck finishers.

We were glad to see Rod Hall’s name among the entrants this year. Hall, who turned 74 recently, is the only person to have competed in every Baja 1000 since its inception in 1967. He was listed as a driver in two trucks—with his sons Chad and Josh in their Trophy Truck and as a driver in the Stock Full class with Sam Edgar. Unfortunately, neither truck finished the race, dashing Hall’s hopes of adding to his 21 career class wins at the 1000.

This Just In
• Danny Thompson, son of racing legend Mickey, is planning to follow in his father’s footsteps with an attempt at the land-speed record for piston-engine, wheel-driven vehicles. He’ll pilot the Challenger 2.5, a streamliner that Mickey initially constructed in the late ’60s and Danny has restored and updated. The current mark is a tad above 417 mph; Danny is shooting for 420 or beyond. Why do we care? Because the twin 500hp engines aboard the streamliner are powering the front and rear wheels, Danny’s Challenger will become the fastest 4x4 in the world should he be successful. At the SEMA Show, Mickey Thompson Tires announced it will kick in $300,000 in sponsorship to aid Danny’s attempt.

• Every year after SCORE’s racing season ends, Toyota sponsors the Milestone Awards, given to those drivers who finished every required mile in the year’s series. In 2011, 21 drivers crossed all 1,762.02 miles of SCORE racing and earned Milestone awards, including six Trophy Truck pilots: Bryce Menzies, Rob MacCachren, Gary Weyhrich, Adam Householder, Jesse Ashcraft, and Ken Losch. This makes a record fifth Milestone award for MacCachren.

• The earthquake and tsunami that pummeled Japan have made a huge impact on the country’s automakers. The latest we heard is that the disasters have delayed the launch of the next-generation Nissan Titan pickup. Once planned for 2013, it’ll now be 2014 at least before we see the new truck. We also learned through Automotive News that Nissan plans to make the truck more attractive to contractors and other tradesmen by offering V-6 and single-cab models, which presumably would be less expensive than the King Cab V-8s currently available.

Dusy-Ershim Is Outstanding
When BFGoodrich Tires honored the Dusy-Ershim OHV Trail in Sanger, California, as one of its Outstanding Trails for 2011, our man Fred Williams was on hand to take part in the festivities. BFG gave members of the Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno a $4,000 grant to be used to maintain and preserve the trail. Founded in 1954, the club has built 10 trails and currently maintains six of them. It also coordinates with the Forest Service to perform various work projects that maintain and preserve the trails throughout the year.

New TrailBlazer Unveiled
We got word of Chevy’s new TrailBlazer just in time to get it into last month’s “This Just In” section, but now we can show you the SUV Chevrolet debuted at the Dubai International Motor Show. Since it shares a platform with the new Colorado pickup, the TrailBlazer will be a body-on-frame vehicle “with a chassis tuned to combine heavy-duty off-road capability with refined city driving,” says Chevy. The show vehicle was equipped with GM’s new 2.8L Duramax turbodiesel and AWD.

Earth Watch
• SEMA reports the EPA and NHTSA issued draft regulations to set fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions limits for ’17-’25 vehicles. The fleet-wide average will rise from 35.5 mpg for ’17 models to 54.5 mpg for ’25 models, a nearly five percent annual increase, with slightly lower standards for light-duty trucks. The government estimates the rules would add $2,000 to the price of a new passenger car in 2025 but save more than $6,000 in fuel costs over the vehicle’s lifetime.

• SEMA also alerted us to an oversight hearing held by a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on the U.S. Forest Service’s draft rule for managing the country’s 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. Among the organizations invited to testify at the hearing was the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC). SEMA has partnered with BRC in opposition to the proposed rule on grounds that it does not adequately protect access for motorized recreation and will be a source of ongoing litigation. The Congressional panel urged the Forest Service to revise the rule so as to provide a clearer explanation of guidelines and to ensure a “full mix of recreational opportunities.”

Like the Colorado, the TrailBlazer is intended for international sale, launching first in Thailand. And as happened with the Colorado, GM is not saying whether the TrailBlazer will be sold in the U.S. We’ve since learned that we are getting the pickup; we’ll wait and see about the SUV.

JeepSpeed & McMillin Headed South
JeepSpeed’s Clive Skilton sent us word that five-time Baja 1000 winner and Trophy Truck driver Mark McMillin is participating with Darren Skilton and navigator Gary Arnold in the 2012 Dakar Rally. The team will campaign the Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee that won the 2007 Australian Safari Rally Stock Class. They’re running in Dakar Open Production 2 Class, which includes Toyota Tundras and Ford Raptors.

You’ll recall that unrest in Africa forced the rally to move to South America. This year the route covers some 9,000 kilometers (about 5,600 miles) through Argentina, Chile, and Peru.

Clive Skilton grabbed this photo of the Jeep just before it went into the container bound for South America. We’ll keep you posted on the team’s progress.

Mopar V-10 Wins at Baja
In more Baja 1000 news, an off-road-race version of Mopar’s new V-10 crate race engine powered Kent Kroeker and Alan Roach to victory in Class 8. The team covered the 705-mile course in a little more than 20 hours and called the performance from the 800hp mill “superb.” Kroeker and his KORE race team put the Ram 1500 race truck together in just six weeks, and Kroeker pointed out that his truck was the only Baja 1000 entry using Mopar power.

The Great Outdoors
The outdoors are in, apparently. At least that’s the impression we got after receiving news about two special outdoors-themed pickups.

Chevrolet teamed with outfitter Realtree to build the Silverado Realtree concept pickup (below) for the SEMA Show. Based on a Duramax-powered 2500 HD, the pickup features custom Champagne Silver Metallic paint with Realtree graphics. Inside you’ll find Dark Cocoa leather upholstery with camouflage piping and blaze-orange stitching, plus Realtree AP pattern accents.

While the Chevy is a concept, Ram will sell a limited number of ’12 1500 4x4 crew cabs in a special Mossy Oak Edition (left). The Mossy Oak Ram’s bed caps and tailgate are covered in Breakup Infinity camouflage, while inside there’s more Breakup Infinity camo on the instrument panel and door inserts. Buyers also can opt for leather seats with Mossy Oak seatback embroidery.

• Mar. 2-4: 50th annual Desert Safari, Truckhaven Hills area of the North Ocotillo Wells SVRA, Borrego Springs, CA, by Tierra Del Sol. Info:

• Mar. 9-11: Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 desert race, San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico. Info:

• Mar. 10: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Mar. 11: Advanced Beginner 4WD Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Mar. 16: Death Valley Adventure, Death Valley, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Mar. 17: Balls Out 250 desert race, Barstow, CA, by Mojave Off Road Racing Enthusiast. Info:

• Mar. 17: Dog Party 2, Twisted Trails Off Road Park, Copemish, MI. Info:

• Mar. 24: Mojave Road Adventure, near Needles, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Mar. 29-31: Texas Spur Jeep Jamboree, Llano, TX. Info:

• Mar. 29-31: Pine Barrens Jeep Jamboree, Hammonton, NJ. Info:

• Mar. 31–Apr. 1: Schuss Mtn. Snow Challenge, Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek Resort, Bellaire, MI. 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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