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Letters to Four Wheeler Editor

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on June 14, 2018
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Curtis’ Jeep

We bought this Jeep over two years ago. It is a ’89 YJ with a 350ci motor, Turbo 350 transmission, NP205 and 203 T-cases, high-pinion front axle, and a Ford rear axle. My husband has been working hard to get it built the way he wants it. The Jeep started out with leaf springs and now after working a lot of hours on it for the past two years it is four-linked and has ORI struts. Curtis Smith is a hardworking man at work and home. He takes pride in everything he does. He likes to challenge himself in his projects and when he is wheeling. He loves to be with his family and friends. He likes to wheel at Disney, Oklahoma, SMORR in Missouri, and Byrd’s in Arkansas.

Audrey Smith
Via email

Good 4x4

I really enjoyed your column (Firing Order) in the June issue and it inspired me to share the story of my father-in-law’s ’13 Toyota Tundra. Gerald Haynes was a longtime gearhead and all-around truck guy. He owned many trucks and 4x4s over the years including an old Power Wagon, a Bronco that he put tons of miles on, a ’57 Chevy truck, a 4Runner, and he even restored a ’67 GTO in his younger days.

Jerry was a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, and he was proud of serving his country. In his professional career Jerry was a Master Grader Operator and worked diligently on most of the roads throughout his home state of Michigan for more than 30 years. He made many friends over the years from working on the roads to the car shows that he would attend. Jerry was willing to sit down and talk with anyone.

Unfortunately, Jerry passed over a year ago now. He was very happy under the palliative care of our local VA hospital, and he comfortably enjoyed his last days with us. Before his passing Jerry informed us that he put a life insurance policy on his very beloved Tundra. The policy stated that my wife was to inherit the truck and that the policy would pay the outstanding balance on the loan.

Jerry loved his Tundra and he was proud of the fact that he “picked it right off the showroom floor.” It’s a ’13 TRD SR5 with the 5.7L and tow package including 4.30 gears. Jerry used and enjoyed the truck’s ability to tow his large (36-foot) camper trailer, and he made multiple trips from Michigan to Arizona and Florida. The truck always performed great for Jerry, but he did eventually install a Firestone Ride-Rite load leveling kit in the rear and a drop-in K&N air filter element.

Since Jerry’s passing we have worked hard to honor him through his truck that he loved so much. We now use only Amsoil Signature Series oil and TRD filters. We’ve also replaced the factory tires with BFG A-Ts in the stock size and load range E. Jerry had his End-of-the-Trail front license plate on all of his trucks over the years, so we felt it appropriate to install it on the Tundra as well.

The TRD package gives this truck an auto limited-slip differential in the rear axle and A-Trac to control the front diff. With the addition of the A-Ts this truck has plenty of off-road ability for taking Jerry’s granddaughter two-trackin’. The factory Bilstein shocks and skidplates help with the peace of mind to push the stock suspension through some nice terrain around Michigan.

Jerry chose this truck for the uses that were important to him at that point in his life. Those uses were centered around being able to travel the country and see distant family members that had been difficult to spend time with during his working days. He towed his home with him and got to spend some very quality time with the people that were held dearest to him.

After reading your column about the different ways we can consider a 4x4 “good” I instantly thought of my beloved father-in-law and friend. He certainly thought that his Tundra was a good 4x4.

Benjamin Swinson
Via email

Farm 4x4s

I read your editorial and loved it as I do all of the ones you write because they always seem to strike home with me, an 18-year-old Illinois farm boy strapped for cash just like you. Me and my dad farm around 1,000 acres in central Illinois, and I enjoy wrenching in our shop on my 4x4 and all of our farm equipment. The ’96 Dodge Cummins 4x4 pictured is my daily driver and our workhorse farm truck. We often use it to pull loads and haul all sorts of farm materials. It’s a pretty much stock rig equipped with Mastercraft Courser CXTs. I would say it’s a good 4x4 with plenty of power. My trail rig is a ’74 CJ-5 and what I toy around with off-road and also use on the farm. It is mostly stock with a few homemade upgrades and a winch. I would consider them both good 4x4s and enjoy driving them and they always seem to get me through in a pinch.

Adam Emery
Via email

Clyde’s Power Wagon

I got this truck in 1993. It was originally used by the National Forest Service in the Steamboat Springs, Colorado, area. It has a 318 Poly engine, solid lifters, oil bath air cleaner, and double pulleys/fan belts. It has a Hydro-Vac power brake system (with 12-inch drums) but no power steering. Since I got it I have rebuilt the motor and driveline, rebuilt the entire brake system, and replaced needed seals and gaskets. It has a heater, but has never had a radio. The transmission is a four-speed manual with creeper gear and a NP241 cast-iron transfer case. After one of the original Selectro hubs failed, I installed Warn manual hubs. During the motor rebuild, hardened valve seats were installed so it can burn unleaded fuel.

Recent improvements include sandblasting and painting the wheels; installing new Goodyear G-171 LT 12-ply (load range F) tires, size 8x19.5; painting the inside of the box; replacing the wood floor in the box; and installing a remanufactured steering gearbox. The cab-mounted gas tank was in good shape but was cleaned internally and coated to seal surface rust, and the sending unit and fuel pickup were remanufactured and plated.

The interesting thing about this truck is that it was originally a government order vehicle. Although it says “200” on the fenders denoting a 3/4-ton truck, the driveline components are 1-ton parts. I’m told that the government specified heavy-duty items like the 1-ton U-joints, double fan belts, oil bath air cleaner, etc., for improved reliability. I assume is has a special order oil pan too, as it takes 8 quarts with a filter change, which is not specified in the original owner’s manual that came with the truck. The rear axle is a Dana 60, the front is a Dana 44, with 4.88 gears. The 19.5-inch wheels are factory installed; the owner’s manual indicates that this tire size was a factory option in 1966.

The odometer reads 62,000 miles, which I believe to be original. The condition of the truck does not support that the odometer has rolled over. There is no evidence that it has ever been painted or wrecked. I recently had to remove the factory-installed windshield to replace it. The seat has been reupholstered. Everything on this truck works as it should, including the factory cigarette lighter. The only item that is not stock is I installed a fuel tank from a small engine under the hood and built an electric windshield washer system.

A photo of the truck was published in 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine (ugly truck of the month submission) in July of 1996.

Everywhere I go with this truck, someone comes up to me to ask questions. I’ve never seen a Power Wagon exactly like this one in all the years I have owned it. It is truly an oldie but a goodie.

Clyde Anderson
Via email

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