This month's Nuts & Bolts is a bit different. Starting now and for the next few months, we'll be gathering up your tech questions and taking them to the people building the new 4x4s. We're starting with the Dodge, but send us your questions for GM, Toyota, Ford, Jeep, and other automakers because we'll be knocking on their doors next.
Since this first batch of questions was a little difficult to round up, we asked the Dodge/Mopar representatives a few of our own questions. Next month we need your questions, so send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We thank all the Doge personnel for making great vehicles and taking the time to answer our questions.
Q - Why isn't the Power Wagon offered with a diesel?
A - Dodge responds: There is a number of reasons, but packaging was the most significant. The shear size and weight of the Cummins 6.7L diesel engine is just too much for what we wanted to accomplish with the Power Wagon application. It would have affected the capability.
4WOR responds: But we still want a diesel Power Wagon! And if we don't get it we'll kick and scream and make a terrible scene!
Q - What is involved in designing a new vehicle? For example, I always thought Dodge should offer a Cummins diesel-powered SUV, but something must have stood it the way. Was it buyer demand, or cost?
A - Dodge: In every case, the consumer dictates our future product. We collect mass amounts of data in an effort to create the "next big thing" or a vehicle that competes in a select segment. The Chrysler Pacifica (first crossover), the Dodge Grand Caravan (first minivan), the Chrysler 300C, and the Chrysler PT Cruiser are all examples of new ideas that came to market.
In recent years Jeep has built a couple diesel powered SUVs (the Jeep Liberty diesel and the Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel). As fuel economy becomes more of an issue, we look to technologies such as diesel-so keep your eye on us.
4WOR: Keep asking and demanding the type of trucks and 4x4s you want. They're listening.
Not my fault?
Q - If I buy a new Dodge Power Wagon, install a lift kit, and have problems with ball joints, steering joints, and front unit bearings, is it my fault for putting larger tires on the truck, or are these parts covered for this type of extreme use?
A - Dodge: The owner's manual is very specific when it comes to modifying your Chrysler, Jeep, or Dodge. Engineers spend countless hours developing a vehicle to operate in a certain manner with parts that are designed for that vehicle. If you make modifications, you change the way some parts function, which leaves you with the responsibility for any damage and a voided warranty.
4WOR: Trespass at your own risk!
Tough Trucks for Tough times
Q - If in today's economic times of fuel economy, emissions, and renewable energy sources, why not continue the small diesel program and offer the small Cummins motor in a 1/2-ton Ram with optional provisions on running the motor on veggie oil? Would it not be socially responsible to inform the general public of the true advantages of diesel engines that the rest of the world already seems to know about?
A - Dodge: We continue to explore all types of propulsion options for not only the Dodge Ram 1500 but all our vehicles. Given the current economic climate, we continue to evaluate the light-duty diesel engine program. And now with our relationship with Fiat, there are may other propulsion options we may be able to utilize in the future.
4WOR: More good hints, and hopefully Dodge doesn't lose any of its 4x4 capability in this Fiat relationship.
Q - I like flat paint colors. Is there a reason why every new car has glossy paint? Also, is it possible to order a truck in a custom color, or do I have to get that done after I buy it? I know it may cost extra, but I wonder if I can have it painted a special color from the factory.
A - Dodge: It would be too expensive to design, test, and process a one-off paint job for a single vehicle. Our manufacturing facilities are set up for economies of scale; they are designed to assemble and paint hundreds of vehicles per day, not a single-run order. That simply wouldn't be economical. I bet your local dealer, for a price, could have your truck custom-painted. As for flat paint, if enough customers demanded it we would make it available.
4WOR: There's still a chance for the Olive Drab Power Wagon we've always wanted!
Q - Mopar sells crate engines, but how about a crate diesel like the Cummins or Jeep Liberty diesel?
A Dodge: You can by the Cummins 6.7L from Mopar. If you're looking for a turnkey engine, there's a lot happening with the Mopar gang and the performance parts division. Look for more information coming your way soon.
4WOR: Hmm, more Cummins swap project trucks? We're ready when you are!
IFS ver$u$ Solid Axle Q - Is it cheaper to build an IFS 4x4 truck or a solid-axle 4x4 truck?
A Dodge: In general, it's more expensive to build an IFS system. The counterpoint is that IFS is the dominant direction of the industry, and more volume equals lower costs. At this point it's a negligible difference. The motivation for IFS versus a live axle is consumer demand, not cost. The ride quality, stability characteristics, and integration of new technologies all play a role, but the consumer must enjoy the feel of the vehicle
4WOR: Keep asking for solid-axle trucks if you want automakers to keep making them!
Trivia questions Q - Where are the following trucks built: Ram, Ram HD, Durango, Dakota?
A Dodge: The Ram HD is built in Saltillo, Mexico while the Ram 1500 is built in both Saltillo, Mexico and Warren, Michigan. The Durango was sourced from Newark, Delaware but is now out of production. The Dakota is produced in Warren.
Q - What Dodge 4x4 vehicles are available with a manual transmission?
A Dodge: Ram Heavy Duty
4WOR: Ugh! Why is our country getting so soft! We could eliminate the problem of texting and cell phone use while driving if vehicles were required to have a manual transmission! Off the soapbox.
Coulda had a V-10
Q - What happened to the V-10 that used to be an option in the HD trucks? For those who needed a little more than the 5.7L Hemi but not quite the power of a Cummins, it was a cool option. Where did it go?
A Dodge: When the 5.7L Hemi became an option in the Ram Heavy Duty lineup in 2003, it had 345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. The 8.0L V-10 at that time had 305 hp and 440 lb-ft. The Hemi was more fuel-efficient and lighter. The take rate on the V-10 plummeted that year. Due to a lack of consumer demand the V-10 was dropped as an option in the Ram Heavy Duty in 2004.
Mopars Missing from Action
Q - What happens to all the old concept vehicles? Is there a museum where they all go?
A Dodge: If a concept vehicle is well received by the public and media, it is destined for a long, busy life. Many concepts spend years on the auto show circuit, visiting various smaller auto shows around the world. After that, they end up in storage at Chrysler while making periodic appearances at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum and various enthusiast events. Unfortunately, some concept vehicles do get recycled or crushed altogether after not making the cut in popularity or for legal/insurance reasons.
I Need More!
Q - My '09 Dodge Ram 1500 rides awesome! But what can I do to help it haul more weight?
A Dodge: Nothing. We recommend that if you need to haul more weight, step up to a Heavy-Duty Dodge truck.
However, for 2010 the Ram 1500 has been recertified, up to 10,450 pounds in towing capacity.
4WOR: '10 HD Mega Cab. Nuff said.
Confused? Email 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 website (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. Write to: Nuts & Bolts, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515, fax 323.782.2704. Email to: email@example.com