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Confused? E-mail your questions about trucks, 4x4s, and off-roading tech using "Nuts, I'm confused" as the subject and include a picture (if it's applicable). 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. Also, I'll be checking the forums on our Web site (www.4wheeloffroad.com), and if I see a question that I think more of you might want to have answered, I'll print that as well. Otherwise drop it old-school style with the envelope addressed to the address below. 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.
Nuts & Bolts
4-Wheel & Off-Road
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515
Question: I have a military 1 1/4-ton Chevy pickup, sporting a 6.2L rattler and backed by a 400 turbo. I want a beefy automatic with overdrive but I am not sure what options are available. I know the ol' 700R4 would work with the correct converter, but I am looking to explore the 4L60 and 4L80 candidates. Will they work and how do I go about getting one to work with my non-ECM-controlled truck? I surmise I'll need an adapter from the trans to my original transfer case. I contacted Advance Adapters and they gave me generalities, but couldn't give me an answer on which one would work. I have no problem with changing the crossmember and driveshafts. I would like to slow the rpm down a little so I can achieve 65 mph without having the motor scream. I do want to keep the 4.56 gears, so I think the best option is the overdrive.
Answer: What you want is a 4L80E, the electronic overdrive automatic with strength comparable to the TH400. Advance Adapters (800.350.2223, www.advanceadapters.com) sells these transmissions and can offer you a Compushift controller from HGM Electronics (877.744.3887, www.compushift.com). I have one in my Red Sled project truck and it works great, plus it has a stand-alone computer that only requires a throttle position sensor that can be added since your truck doesn't come with one. Tell them you want the torque converter built for a diesel and that you have an NP208 transfer case with a 32-spline input and they will take care of the rest.
Question: I like listening to music when I go wheeling, but half the time I can't get good reception out in the hills. Plus my CDs get all scratched up when I bounce around. Do you have any ideas for better radio reception?
Answer: Though I rarely listen to music when I'm wheeling, I do travel a lot and have found that satellite radio is where it's at. I have a Sirius satellite receiver (www.sirius.com) that I can put in any vehicle I drive as long as it has a normal radio, and it picks up the broadcast of the same channels over the whole nation and way out in the boonies. I usually hit channel 28 Faction for my current rock music, Channel 14 Classic Vinyl for my classic rock fix, Channel 63 Outlaw Country for my country tunes, and channel 103 for Blue Collar Comedy. It's not cheap, about $12 per month, but if you're a fan of music, this is the way to go for back-hill travel. Of course do your fellow wheelers a favor and keep the volume to a level that only you and your passengers can hear, cause though I like just about any type of music, I'd rather listen to engines revving than somebody else's favorite song when in the dirt.
Question: I am doing an 8.1L GM big-block swap and read the articles on Project Excursion Killer (May, June, and July '02) and you said you used a "trick new EFI controller." Could you tell me what brand or where to get this?
Answer: The Excursion Killer had a controller from Technical Services (574.457.4004, www.technicalservicesin.com).
Question: I'm a second-year college student on a general education program and want to transfer and get my degree in mechanical engineering. I want to apply that degree towards something in the truck/4x4/off-road industry but don't know where to start. I was hoping one day to do R&D for a suspension lift company or something like that, but I am completely lost on how to go about even finding out what kind of training and education is needed for that line of work. I've been reading for years and you guys seem to be the gurus on everything off-road, so I figured you might be able to help a little bit. How do I go about putting me to work in the off-road world?
Answer: First do some research. Call and talk to engineers at companies that make parts you like, find out how they got there, what they studied, what their background is. Maybe it's your favorite suspension, favorite truck, or favorite widget. Also talk to the company owners or human resources person and ask what they are looking for. And start with part-time jobs or internships at local 4x4 manufacturers, suppliers, or shops to gain practical experience.