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May 2018 Letters to Four Wheeler Editor

Posted in Features on January 31, 2018
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Shop Bronco
While looking at the article “1967 Bronco Sport/Utility Service Truck” [Jan. ’18] all I could think about was our shop truck back in the day. My brother David drove this while in high school for our family garage “Auto Barn.” We did 4x4, tractor, and auto repairs. I included the only picture I can find.

I have been reading Four Wheeler for about 50 years now (is that even possible?) so thanks for the great magazine.
Norm Sharpe
Via email

Thank you for the note, Norm. We’re happy we could spur some old shop truck memories. And thanks for the very cool photo of your old Bronco!

Beginnin’ Wheelin’
Just received my November 2017 issue where you reprinted several long stories of folks getting their start in the 4x4 hobby. It inspired me to tell you my story, which is probably a little different than most you've heard.

I have read Four Wheeler off-and-on since I was a teenager, often buying single issues at the drugstore. I have always been a gearhead, but my interests were primarily limited to cars until 1991. That's the year the Navy transferred me to Japan.

We moved to Misawa, Japan, in the far northern reaches of the main island. Average snowfall: 150 inches per year. We bought two used cars when we arrived, a sporty Honda turbo for me and a Honda Civic Shuttle (i.e., the “Wagovan” in the U.S.) with “Real-Time” 4WD for my wife. What a great little off-road machine that turned out to be. If you are not familiar, in addition to the single-speed transfer case that could move power between axles based on slippage, it has a six-speed manual transmission. In addition to the normal five forward speeds it also had a granny First gear that almost made up for lack of a two-speed transfer case.

One of my friends on base bought a 4WD Datsun pickup. He ordered some mud-terrains and I went to the base garage and ordered the gnarliest set of snow tires I could find for my wife’s Honda Shuttle.

The way Japanese society works in rural northern Japan is that very few places are off-limits for wheeling. Even many private farmland trails are accessible as long as you stay out of the owner’s way and do not damage his property or crops. In addition, vast tracts of government land are full of maintenance trails and are mostly unsigned and open. Together with my friend and a couple of come-along hand winches, we explored hundreds of miles of dirt, mud, and snow trails all over northern Japan. I was very surprised how well the Honda kept up with the pickup. As long as I had enough clearance, I could go anywhere he could go. I remember once climbing a steep, leaf-covered mountain trail well beyond the point where the pickup had to give up. He was open on both ends and my traction-distributing transfer case made the difference.

We forded small rivers, climbed small mountains, and went until we couldn't go any farther. We often took non-four-wheeling friends along for the fun. In the wintertime it was sometimes all we could do to make it in to work during the heaviest snowfalls, but I never failed to arrive.

In 1994 I returned to the States for a new assignment in San Diego. I immediately began scanning the Truck Trader magazines (pre-Internet) and soon found a ’72 International 1210 Travelall. We wheeled all over SoCal and Mexico with the Tierra del Sol 4WD Club. In 1996 we moved back to Washington, D.C. for good and although my wheeling opportunities are now rare, the Travelall still sits in my garage, awaiting trailer towing duties or the rare snow day.

So there you have it. Although I had always had a passing interest in wheeling, it took a move to Japan to get me into the game.
Paul Schuh
Via email

How You Camp Part 3
In response to your “How Do You Camp?” Firing Order [Nov. ’17]…I average about 50 nights a year camping out of my ’06 LJ, and have spent decades exploring Utah and surrounding states by 4x4 camping out there often. Since I’m exploring, or hunting (hunting is a good excuse to go exploring), I rarely stay two nights in the same spot. Breaking camp every morning and then pitching it again wherever I end up that night is the routine. Covering 200 to 300 miles off-road, camping two or three nights is something I do often, year-round, with some trips stretching to 400 or 500 miles of dirt and five or six nights camping.

So keeping things simple, fast and easy to deploy, fast and easy to pack up, is how I roll. However, I don’t believe in suffering. Comfort comes first! Happily, I don’t find it necessary to give up any comfort for the sake of making camp fast and easy to set up and take down.

My kit consists of cot, sleeping bag, Coleman stove w/stand, small folding table, folding chair, tent, ARB fridge, and waterproof and dustproof welded aluminum “river box” for my grub box. That’s basically it.

In fair weather, I simply set out a cot with my sleeping bag under the stars. In less fair weather I use a ground tent. The cot, with a thick foam pad, keeps me off the ground, offers excellent insulation and comfort, and makes it easy for my old bones to sit up and pull on my boots in the morning. My Springbar tent has enough headroom to stand up in too, another not so small comfort for old bones getting dressed on a frosty morning. The ARB fridge makes good grub on the trail easy too. Typically eat ribeyes every night .

I lead a couple of group trips each year and have seen quite a few rooftop tents in action. Way too much PITA for me! A good ground tent sets up faster, takes down faster, offers better weatherproofing, room to stand up in, is quieter in the wind, you don't have to take them down to leave camp, etc. To each his own, but after being around rooftop tents in use, I'm glad I don't have to use one. They do free up cargo space though, which is reason enough to have one for many people. But I have seen several guys buy rooftop tents thinking they looked so easy, only to abandon the idea after a bit of real-world use and get a good ground tent instead.

Oh, almost forgot, few details of my Jeep:
’06 LJ, 3-inch suspension lift, Currie arms and steering with Johnny Joints on all 16 ends, ORO dual-rate SwayLOC, AEV progressive 3-inch springs, Bilstein 5100s, AEV Highline, 31-gallon GenRight tank, 35-inch KM2s on AEV wheels.

Keep up the good work!
Dave Affleck
Via email

Dave, thanks for taking the time to write to share your camping stories, and a big thumbs-up for your all-weather camping and wheeling!

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