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Letters To Four Wheeler Editor

Posted in Features on April 24, 2018
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V-Drive Is Alive

I’m calling you out on this. This has to be an April Fool’s joke, but I like the way you guys think.
Pete Faucher
Via email

I got to the last page in my latest mag, and to my surprise, I see this article. I took these pictures of this van in Nampa, Idaho, to prove that these did in fact exist. The guy says he still uses it to pull his boat with. The other cool thing (unproven by me) is he told me that this van was once owned by a casino mogul from Reno, and he would use it for hunting trips.
Dave Hagey
Via email

The response to the April 2018 Trail’s End column about the unique V-Drive 4WD system was varied. Responses ranged from skepticism to excitement. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write us with comments. One of our freelancers thinks he may have access to a surviving V-Drive–equipped rig, so stay tuned for more info in an upcoming issue.

First Truck

I always wanted a truck as a teenager, but I commuted enough to make it out of the question with a round-trip ranging from 20-50 miles per day, which caused the need for a fullsize pickup to fade out. My first car ended up being a ’00 Volkswagen Passat Wagon, with a 2.8L V-6 and full-time all-wheel drive. The car was bulletproof and survived being thrown around every corner on the snowy roads of southwest Michigan. Fast-forwarding a year and a half, I found myself building a ’97 Jeep Wrangler that needed a lot of rust repair and a transmission, but it was cool, and it was only $3,000. Ultimately, I didn't need two cars as a junior in high school, and my younger brother who helped build (and pay for) the Jeep was in need of a car and he ended up buying me out of the Jeep. Now, at this point of my life I wanted something different—a stick shift. Upon receiving the cash from my brother for the Jeep I hopped onto the local Craigslist and found a ’02 Audi A4 wagon with a 1.8L turbo and a manual transmission. The car always gave me various issues, but I loved it because a previous owner had lowered it and I could speed around corners and drive it like I stole it. After finding someone local to tune the ECU for $200, an extra 40 hp and anti-lag caused me to blow up the turbo a week later. I changed out the turbo in my driveway in almost 100-degree heat. After fighting with the electronics and various maintenance, I sold the car three years later after buying what I had always wanted—a truck.

The truck happened to be for sale at the right time for the right price. A ’03 Toyota Tacoma SR5 for $1,000. It had 168,000 miles on it when I bought it, it had been rolled at one point and then repaired by a body shop to make it “good enough to drive.” In other words, it’s good from afar, but far from good. It won’t fit a tailgate, but I may rework the bed to be able to fit one. Until then a tailgate net will be in use instead of the bungee cords that are currently in use. The 4x4 and E-Locker work really well. It already has Firestone Destination 265s all the way around. Despite one check engine light (likely for an O2 sensor) the 3.4L V-6 runs really well, the ECT transmission shifts smoothly, and the truck has a brand-new muffler. Shortly after purchasing it, I drove it on a 120-mile trip with no issues; even the cruise control works. It does have a few rust holes in the frame (standard for an older truck in Michigan and first-gen Tacomas in general), but I plan to build it as a mild trail rig as well as retain its driveability, as it will be my daily driver. Immediately after purchase I built a custom rear bumper for nearly free (about $30), and I am currently still driving it daily. I still eventually want a fullsize pickup, but until a college student can afford a Duramax, I guess the Taco will happily do for me.
Sam Dronen
Via email

Old 4x4

I thought I'd share my story. I’m 31 years old. I drive a ’15 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen. Nice little turbo with a stick. Back in college, I drove a ’96 Cherokee, white, Country edition, with the grey tweed seats and fake wood interior accents. Bought it from a mechanic for $4,000 after my ’88 Camry’s head gasket blew. Loved that Jeep. Drove it all over. It was with me for five summers while I was working as a cook and a lifeguard on Martha’s Vineyard. Most of the time the tires were left at 14 psi so I could throw it in 4-Lo and turn onto the beach. Lots of great memories. Lots of memories working on it too. Being of simple means, I had to figure out how to fix it myself most of the time. Really easy car to learn to work on. Big engine bay, cheap parts, and no lift necessary for oil changes. I ended up selling it to a friend after the radiator basically blew up. I still wish I had bucked up and replaced it.

Fast-forward almost a decade and I am two weeks into ownership of another Jeep. This time, it’s a second car, a weekend wagon. It’s a ’99 Wrangler TJ with a five-speed and 110,000 miles. Same 4.0L engine and same leaky radiator. I bought it off a young kid I work with for $500. Immediately dropped $2,000 on it to have a mechanic fix the intake and exhaust manifolds, radiator, leaky tire, and so on. Plus additional spend for jobs that I’m doing myself: fluids, serpentine belt, plugs, hoses, and so on. Everything that goes in there is Mopar or better. I am really polishing this old turd back to glory. It’s pretty exciting. Working on it and driving it takes me out of the cubicle and puts me back on the beach, so to speak. The Jeep had been neglected, so every time I change something out, there is a significant improvement to the way it runs and drives. With a new transfer case and diff fluid it rolls like a hot knife on butter. New plugs and it’s purring like a tiger. I can almost hear it thanking me implicitly after each job is completed.

I’m going to take a breather on spend for now and simply enjoy it. I’ve been driving it to work daily. Leaving the shiny, smooth-shifting German gentleman at home. I plan to take it out to the far corners of the beaches of the Cape and islands, do a little fishing and surfing with friends. Might end up keeping it through the summer and sell it for a small profit.

Anyway, I share your excitement about having an old 4x4 to mess around with! I say keep scratching that itch!
Thomas Jenkins
Via email

Oil Pan Update

I saw your article from 2014 on the Moroso oil pan and gasket. I'll be doing an oil pan fairly soon on my ’00 F-250 and I was curious how the gasket has held up over time? The Moroso gasket looks like less hassle than the OEM goo, but I am somewhat concerned with reliability. I'd love to hear how it held up! Thanks for your time.
Sean Hyland
Via email

We love it when readers follow up on past projects and installs! The truck is still based in northern Illinois, still sees plenty of road salt in winter, and is still abused daily on- and off-road as part of a fleet of excavating company trucks. We’re happy to report that the Moroso oil pan and gasket are holding up fine on our Power Stroke. No rust holes in the pan and no leaks at the gasket.

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