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January 2013 In Box

Posted in Features on January 1, 2013
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Reader Rant
Why No XJs?
I was just wondering, after looking through your project builds, why don’t you have any of the most popular, most commonly used off-road vehicles? I just got back into the off-road scene and subscribed, and I looked at your site. No XJs? It is the most commonly used and upgraded 4x4 out there. I am so hooked; I bought my first one three weeks ago instead of buying a side-by-side. In the last three weeks I bought two more. My wife has her own now and loves it. I was disappointed to see you don’t have any XJ projects.
Superior, WY

We have had plenty of XJ projects in the past, and will have more of them in the future. The idea isn’t to build a killer ride the first time out, but to do it like most of our readers and gradually improve upon the base vehicle. Here is a shot of our next XJ project (we hope). It’s a ’90 and bone stock, with about 150K on her. It needs a fuel sending unit and a rear main, and then it can hit the dirt.

Readers, how about an idea list of sensible upgrades so we can get it going?

Beach Cruising
Hey guys, love the magazine. I just wanted to comment on Fred Williams’ cross-country trip in the CJ-5 (Apr. and May ’12 ). Great article, and it sounds like a lot of fun traveling across the country in an old open-top Jeep. Awesome adventure. But I was disappointed to see that Fred didn’t get to make it onto the beach in his Jeep. He was just at the wrong beach!

About 25 miles north of Long Beach Island is another barrier island where you can drive on the beach. Just south of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, New Jersey, is a great state park where you can drive onto the beach. Island Beach State Park is a wonderful park full of great scenery and history, definitely worth the trip if you happen to be in the area again. Most locals have a pass that needs to be renewed once a year, but visitors can be issued a single day or weekend pass to the park.

There are some requirements if you wish to be issued a pass. Four-wheel drive is a must (obviously), but vehicles must also be equipped with a fire extinguisher and recovery equipment such as towstraps and chains, shovels, and at least a 1-foot by 1-foot by 1-inch piece of plywood with a bottle jack so that you have a sturdy place for the base of the jack so that it does not sink in the sand, as well as a first aid kit.

Once in the park and on the beach you can drive all the way to the Barnegat Inlet, which separates Island Beach State Park from Long Beach Island. On the other side of the inlet is the old Barnegat Light House, which is cool to see. If parked for an extended period of time, you are supposed to have fishing poles in the ocean and in pole holders in the sand. You can go surfing if you like to, or camp overnight on the beach. It is a great place to have fun with the whole family. 

I live in the very small town of Beachwood, very close to the beach. So here in Ocean County I think we have a lot to offer. The beach is about 15 minutes east of where I live, and then we have tons of woods and great places to go wheeling in the Pine Barrens 10 minutes west and southwest. So if you happen to be traveling back this way anytime, there is a lot more to see, and Island Beach State Park is a must.

I also included a picture of my Jeep, a ’90 XJ two-door, about 11-inch custom lift, Rusty’s long arms with 9-inch coils, and adjustable spacers in the front, 61⁄2-inch leaf springs with 13⁄4-inch shackles and 2-inch blocks (a little bit hack, I know) in the rear, Dana 44 high-pinion with 5.38s and welded diff (not for much longer) and Warn premium hubs and hydro-assist and high steer in the front, Ford 9-inch with 5.38s and welded diff not for much longer) and disc brakes in the rear, 38x16.5x15 TSLs, and a 4.0 H.O. from a ’95 Grand Cherokee with an AX-15 tranny with a Centerforce Dual Friction Stage 3. She’s almost done—just gotta do brake lines and fab up some shock mounts. Keep up the great work, guys!
Patrick McMahon
Beachwood, NJ

That sounds like a killer trip. Driving on the beach is something every wheeler should do at least once. Thanks for the update on coastal cruising!

Ultimate Adventure Orange JK
I’m asking about that new orange Jeep of yours. It seems everything you did to it has turned it yellow. At least that’s how it appears in your Nov. ’12 issue. I know you do some weird and cool vehicles for the Ultimate Adventure, but that is the first one I’ve seen so scared that it turned another color! Seriously, there was no mention in the continuing article about the new paint. Perhaps it is in the last installment?

I wish you would have covered a little history of rear steer with this Jeep. A lot of people will think this is really something new. In jeep-type vehicles, both the Bantam BRC and the Ford GP were made, albeit in limited numbers, with rear-wheel steer. However, the intended user didn’t want it for two reasons. One, it was more complicated, adding to supply headaches; and two, they were very unstable at anything other than low speed.

Also, in the mid 1930s, Daimler Benz made a little convertible that the German Military purchased called the 170 V and the 170 VL. The VL was all-wheel drive, and some had rear-wheel steer. The all-wheel steers were found to be unstable deathtraps. Mind you, this was a small four-door vehicle with as much horsepower as an early VW Bug. So how do you keep from killing yourselves with the new UA vehicle? I guess I’ll have to stay tuned, eh?

And Rick, welding in sandals is really cool. Who needs toes or feet anyway? Great magazine y’all have!
Jake Hice
Spokane, WA

Actually, Jake, the color is orange, and so is the wrap! The color differences you see are from the printing inks and the lights in your home, even the light on the day the photo was taken—everything affects the color reproduction. When the DVD comes out you will see the same thing.

As for rear steer, yes, I have investigated the old jeeps with that feature, and they are cool but indeed complicated. For us, a simple lockout mechanism for the rear-steer feature is engaged so our UAJK tracks straight and true at highway speeds.

Cheap Truck Challenge Winner?
I’m a longtime reader, first time writing in. I just wanted to make a comment about the Cheap Truck Challenge (Sept. ’12). Yes, I’m a Toyota guy—you got me—but I think Péwé’s pickup won. This whole challenge demonstrates why we drive and wheel in Toyotas. If you wheel responsibly, “calm, collected, and methodical,” you can wheel the shit out of them for years. I believe both the Bronco and the Suburban had to be trailered home and the Toyota was the only one that survived the testing. For that reason I think the Toyota came in first.

When I was 17 I couldn’t spend that much money to wheel once then have to spend more money fixing bent axle tubes and oil pan damage. I guess the Bronco’s tire is not a huge fix, but still, leaf-sprung Toyotas take a licking and keep on ticking. I’m glad I got to my 4Runner before one of you guys did. I think it would have beat Péwé’s pickup with the 61⁄2-inch All-Pro leaves, 5.29s and ARB, and 35-inch MTRs. Even though mine needed a new engine it would have left a little for other upgrades.

Thanks for the great magazine, and keep up the good work. I have nothing against Jeeps, but it was nice to see a challenge without a Jeep contestant. Also, the 4Runner needs new tires, so if you come across a gift card or something send it my way please.
Matt Saladino

I personally thought my Toyota won as well, but hey, I have a vested interest in the whole deal. It’s not whether you win or lose but whether you had fun four-wheelering. I did!

Fred Williams replies: The Suburban didn’t need to be trailered home, but actually the Bronco was trailered and the Toyota was towed behind Rick’s motorhome, so my Suburban won!

Cheap? Truck Challenge?
I am a teenager living in San Luis Obispo, California, a town right near where you did your Cheap Truck Challenge. I am an avid off-roader and spend much of my free time hitting the same dunes you did and exploring the surrounding countryside. I want to say that I didn’t feel the off-roaders you guys put together were that cheap. The kids I know who have $4,000 cars got them from their parents. No kid working a job for two summers is going to be able to afford a $4,000 car; kids are just too lazy. They also spend their money on other things: food, movies, gas, and girls.

I liked reading about the cars you boys put together. However, next year I’d like to see you guys working on a bit of a cheaper budget. Say, $2,500 for everything? I know you guys are probably experts on everything 4WD and off-road, but I like to think I know a bit about how much your average kid can afford. I have a cheap truck, and I have maybe $1,000 in it, total. My friend has a cheap SUV, and he has about $2,300 in it, total. Another friend has an expensive truck, and he only has $3,500 in it. I know $4,000 is cheap to the guys who put a Viper engine in a Tahoe (that was you guys, right? [It was a Dodge Durango. —Ed.]), but to me and the rest of America’s teens, $4,000 is a lot of money. Still love the magazine, though.
San Luis Obispo, CA

Fred Williams replies: Luke, I am not your father and can’t afford to give you a $4,000 truck. With that said, you are not alone in your thoughts, but we had to start somewhere for our budget builds. And remember, the $4,000 budget was the max you could spend (even though Péwé broke that rule), not the required amount to spend. That budget was the most we decided a guy could afford over two summers of minimum wage work ($2K per summer). We don’t doubt you could do it cheaper—we could as well—but we opted for $4K to showcase a variety of build options.

A Really Cheap Truck Challenge
I recently saw a video for the Cheap Truck Challenge on YouTube [] and noticed that the cost for the competition was $2,000 for the truck and a max of $2,000 in repairs and modifications. Recently I drove a ’93 Toyota pickup from England to Mongolia literally within that price range ($3,980 on truck and repairs total, not including kitchen plumbing fuel lines in Kazakhstan). In summary, the trip was madness but extremely fun. I thought you might find my adventure interesting.

To give some background on why I would have done this trip, here are some details. Have you ever heard of anyone competing in the geographical race England to Mongolia? My teammate (Will) and I did so by navigating one of the arduous 11,000-mile routes from South Hampton, England, to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in the 2012 Mongol Rally. We are one of the few American teams that made the run across Eurasia, and once we reached the capital we gave our truck away to a local tribesman as charity. Man, that guy was happy. We thought you might find the adventure interesting. Here is our Facebook with pictures (some 500 and we still have more to load): A good video about the rally is at
Team Quarter-Life Crisis

Thanks for the links and photos. That sounds like an awesome journey. It is like Cheap Truck Challenge meets the DED (Dirt Every Day) Tour. Wait, maybe we should do that!

Submission Information
4-Wheel & Off-Road welcomes letters to the editor. Letters must include an address or a telephone number so the sender can be verified. Once verified, your name may be withheld at your request. Letters published in this magazine reflect the opinions of the writers, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, brevity, or other purposes. Due to the large volume of mail we receive, we regret that we cannot reply to unpublished letters or return photos. Digital photos must measure no less than 1600 x 1200 pixels (or two megapixels) and be saved as a TIFF, an EPS, or a maximum-quality JPEG file. Write to: Editor, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 310.531.9368 Email to:

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