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Performance 4 Wheel Drive - 4x Forum

Posted in How To on January 1, 2007
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Send Questions, Comments, And Suggestions To: 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility Magazine, Attn: Christian Lee, 2400 E. Katella Ave., 7th Floor, Anaheim, CA 92806, Or

Approval for Project X-Blade
I just wanted to drop you a quick note to give you a thumbs up on choosing the Xterra as your next project vehicle. As a Nissan Xterra owner who takes his truck off-road on a regular basis, I think it is great to see the vehicle get some exposure in a magazine like yours. I look forward to seeing what direction you take it in. Thanks again.Micah MellanderPresident, Upstate NY Xterra ClubEndicott, NY

Micah, thanks for the feedback on Project X-Blade. We're looking forward to exploring some of the different upgrade options available for the Nissan Xterra and will likely even get into some custom fabrication as we tailor the X-Blade project to fit our needs and desires. Another step we'll take during the procession of this buildup will be to get out and actually use it as a 4WD rig on our local trails for single- to multiple-day adventures. Feature Editor Jordan May is at the helm of Project X-Blade and has quite a few ideas for its construction, including engine performance, suspension lift, gear and axle upgrades, bumpers and skidplates, and a good deal of recovery gear, navigation equipment, and gear storage. You can look forward to reading many articles on the new Project X-Blade in upcoming issues, and also check out for extended coverage of this vehicle buildup.

Seeking a true budget buildup, Josh Cook equipped his '03 Jeep Wrangler with a 3.5-inch lift and 33-inch tires for less than $1,000.

Budget Jeep Lift
I've been a reader for a long time and I love your magazine. I always see people asking questions on money-saving lifts and wheel-and-tire packages. You guys had a budget lift feature several issues back, and I had a couple of questions myself. You did a lift on a Jeep TJ to fit 33s, but do you guys think that money grows on trees? How do you consider it to be a cheap operation when you're spending $3,000 to $4,000 on lift, wheels, and tires?! I thought I'd send you a couple of pictures of a TRUE budget lift that I installed on my '03 Jeep Wrangler Sport with an LSD in the rear. I knew I wanted a serious look and a semicapable trail machine. The thing is, how can you afford these things on a college kid's budget? Well, here's your answer. I was browsing the Internet for several months, and I found several off-road companies with low price ranges. You can purchase a 1-inch body lift for about $120 and 2.5-inch coil spacers at $150 for a set of four. Finally, you can buy a brand-new wheel-and-tire package, which includes 15x10 Pro Comp Rockcrawler rims, 33x13.50x15 LTB Super Swamper tires, lug nuts, center caps, mounting and balancing, and shipping for $715. So, in short, I created a nice TJ with a 3.5-inch lift and 33-inch tires and it only cost me $985, including shipping to my front door. I enclosed some pictures as proof that it not only looks super-sweet, it's pretty dang capable as well. Sweet victory! Thanks for your time.Josh CookVidor, TX

Josh, nice work. That is a sweet victory. It's always cool to see a vehicle owner obtain the necessary gear for their rig without having to spend an arm and a leg. You've wisely pointed out how easy it is to create a somewhat trail-capable 4x4 without laying out a ton of cash. One thing to note, however, is that even though you did in fact create ample clearance for the desired tire size, you're still lacking a few basic "nonessential" lift items that can not only enhance the on-road ride quality and improve off-road flexibility, but also aid in cutting down on unnecessary trail breakage. Items such as a slip-yoke eliminator kit for the NP231 transfer case in your TJ will cost you in the now but could save you many more dollars in the long run when you eventually push the rear driveshaft beyond its maximum operating angle. If the end result is no more than a blown driveshaft then you got off lucky, and even then you'll be spending about the same for a replacement as you would had you simply opted to install an SYE kit in the first place. This is just one example, but I could easily point out a few more potential horror stories of things that can and do go wrong should you cut too many corners to save money.

I'm not trying to diminish your victory of getting the most bang for your buck in lifting your TJ, Josh; I just don't want you to stop there. If you're truly using your rig to explore trails on a regular basis then you'll likely discover its deficiencies fairly quickly and seek out available improvements. Adjustable control arms will probably be on the list, as will sway-bar disconnects, new coil springs, extended brake lines, and the list goes on, often reaching the $3,000-$4,000 range you mentioned by the time you're finished.

No, we do not think money grows on trees, Josh. But if something is worthwhile enough to devote time to as a hobby, then quite often it is worthwhile enough to invest a few dollars in it to make sure that both of you arrive home in one piece. Thanks for reading. Wheel on.

Searching Old Issues
Q: What issue was it that you guys put Toyota axles and YJ springs in a stock red Samurai? I want the back issue but can't remember what month it was. Any help would be great.Jason Coicvia e-mail

A: Jason, you have a good memory. That article appeared in the Dec. '03 issue. More recently, we performed a very similar conversion that was detailed in the Nov. '06 issue. Both issues should be available through Primedia Back Issues (2900 Amber Ln., Corona, CA 92882, The cost is $6 per issue, plus $3 for shipping and handling. The magazine title and desired issue date should be noted in your order. Thanks for writing.

What Tires for Mud?
Q: I have a Chevy Tahoe that I take camping in the mountains of New Mexico where the clay trails collect 6 to 8 inches of water when it rains. I have used BFG All-Terrains and Pro Comp Xterrains, but the BFGs don't work and the Pro Comps are still limited. Boggers won't work for me because they're too loud and rough. What tires would you recommend?Jeff Leitervia e-mail

Jeff, the best tires for mud are usually those that are specifically designed to contend with it. That said, most available mud-terrain-type tires are good bets. Both BFGoodrich and Pro Comp offer capable mud-terrain tires, as do Nitto, Toyo, Mickey Thompson, Dick Cepek, Goodyear, and many other manufacturers. Of those mentioned above, I've most recently tested the Nitto and BFGoodrich offerings with excellent results. Basically, you want to look for a deep-lug tread design that has self-cleaning ability so that the tread can continue to provide traction even in the muddiest of situations. While Super Swamper TSL/Boggers are one of the premier tires for tackling mud, they do tend to emit more road noise due their bias-ply construction. If you desire a multifunction tire, then look to any of the radial mud-terrain styles.

McNulty's Jeepster prompted Mike Herman of Petaluma, California, to send us this picture of his '67 Jeepster that he's currently restoring.

More Jeepster Love
Comment: It was nice to see a Jeepster in 4WD&SU. I hope you keep it as original as possible, since there are not many old Jeepsters still around. I included a picture of my '67 Jeepster that I picked up in Idaho in August '05 from the original owner. It was last used in 1999 but is now back on the road. It is nearly all original, including the top, auto transmission, and original Jeep AC (not yet working). I look forward to seeing the progress on yours.Mike HermanPetaluma, CA

A: Mike, you're not the only one to express interest in Kevin McNulty's new ride. Of course, McNulty is still the biggest fan - thoroughly evidenced by his recent explosion of articles detailing this vehicle's progression from abandoned farm implement to weekend wheeler. He's having fun with it, and it sounds like you're in for a bit of the same with your '67. Thanks for writing, Mike. We'll look for you on the trail.

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