AGR Wheelin' RanchSteering 4x4 enthusiasts straight for 10 years, AGR Performance is now steering them in a second direction: right over to the newly opened AGR Wheelin' Ranch. Located 90 minutes northwest of Dallas, the AGR Ranch is a welcome sight to Texas 'wheelers. With only three other legal areas open to 4x4 use in the vicinity, the AGR Wheelin' Ranch offers a number of extreme 4x4 trails, most with moderate bypasses, all situated upon private land. The 4x4 park is operated by AGR Performance Inc. and Tim McGill, and it's open to the public on weekends. Groups of 10 or more vehicles are required for the ranch to be opened, and reservations are required. Day passes cost $20 per vehicle. There's also lodging, camping, and restaurants for those who wish to stay longer. The AGR Wheelin' Ranch has already attracted a good deal of attention among local 4WD clubs. The cowtownjeeps.com 4x4 club and The River Rock Runners club held a grudge match competition at the park, using the Ranch's rockcrawl course to determine a winner. For more information, contact: AGR Wheelin' Ranch, Tim McGill, www.agrwheelinranch.com.
GM Wins Hummer Grille Rights, Files Suit Over Studebaker XUVThe U.S. District Court of Northern Indiana ruled that General Motors owns the rights to the design of the Hummer H2's front grille. GM had been in a dispute with DaimlerChrysler, which claimed it owned the vertically slotted grille design used on the Hummer H2 and many popular Jeep models. DaimlerChrysler contended that a 1983 agreement left it the rights to the grille design, but the court ruled that the Chrysler Corporation relinquished its rights to the design in an agreement between Hummer's former owner American Motors and Chrysler.Ironically, around the same time GM filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit of its own against independent carmaker Avanti Motor Corporation. The lawsuit was aimed at preventing the company from producing a knock-off of GM's Hummer H2 sport utility vehicle. Avanti President Kevin Hines claims that its mammoth Studebaker Xtreme Utility Vehicle (XUV) has "substantial styling differences," including sliding rear doors and a sliding rear roof. With the lawsuit, GM hopes to prevent Avanti from manufacturing, advertising, and selling the Studebaker, which is named for the original Studebaker brand.
The '04 Avanti Studebaker XUV measures 80 inches wide, 79.6 inches tall, and 215.5 inches long. It offers a 134-inch wheelbase and a curb weight of 5,900 pounds. The vehicle is offered with either a 6.8L V-10 from Ford Motor Co. or a 6.0L V-8 turbodiesel, with a starting price of $75,000. For more information, contact: Avanti Motor Corporation, www.avantimotors.com.
Suv SpotlightHonda ElementTranscending its initial market demographic of 20-something Generation Y car buyers, the Honda Element has rapidly developed a dedicated fan club of owners and enthusiasts. Designated as a so-called crossover vehicle, which means it isn't a minivan or an SUV but rather a concept-inspired utility-type vehicle, the Honda Element has a bit of something to offer most anyone, even four-wheel-drive enthusiasts.
At first glance, we knew right away the Element wasn't going to be any sort of awesome trail machine. But after driving it around for a few days, hauling parts and storming dirt roads to reach photo shoots, we were certain it could exist in our stable of rigs as a multi-function vehicle. The rear seats are easily removed and can be flipped out of the way to create a spacious interior. The rear cab is even tall enough and wide enough to stack a set of 37x12.50R17 tires. With suicide-style side cargo doors, items can easily be stowed without having to pop the rear hatch, though you may want to just so you get a chance to fold down the tailgate. The flooring is coated with a durable, scratch-resistant urethane, and the front and multi-position rear seats are covered with waterproof fabric.
Though you certainly wouldn't tackle an extreme trail with the Element, we did get it in the dirt and snow with great results. Upon negotiating a rutted, snow-patched road, the toe-control MacPherson Strut front suspension and the compact double wishbone rear suspension easily flexed its way through. Plenty of power is transferred to the primary front wheel-drive system from the 160hp, 2.4L dual-overhead cam i-VTEC four-cylinder engine. When the front-wheel-drive system experienced slippage, however, the Real Time 4WD kicked in and automatically distributed torque to the rear wheels. The 4WD system, which is intended for lighter-duty use, consists of a power take off (PTO) from the four-speed automatic transmission that distributes torque to a propeller shaft that runs to the rear differential. Two hydraulic pumps circulate fluid through a multi-plate clutch system, which is activated when the flow rate of the fluid is increased upon detected wheel slippage. The system transfers 70 percent of the torque to the rear wheels in slick conditions and 30 percent in dry conditions. At time of publication, the Real Time 4WD system was only offered with the automatic transmission, but buzz among enthusiast Web sites indicate a 4WD five-speed manual transmission version of the Element is on its way.
As we mentioned, the Honda Element isn't going to be your next rockcrawler, but it can efficiently serve as a multi-purpose vehicle. It not only provides a great highway ride but can handle light off-road use as well. And when you're done hauling parts around for your other 4x4, the Element makes for a great around town or long haul cruiser. For more information, contact: American Honda Motor Co. Inc., www.honda.com.
Cooper Tire Buys Mickey ThompsonCooper Tire increased its market share in the tire industry with the recent acquisition of Max Trac Tire Company Inc., better known as Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels. The company and designs, develops, and distributes specialty tires for the street, strip, track, and off-road racing. The purchase included two well-known brands, Mickey Thompson and Dick Cepek, both of which are named after men considered legends in the off-road industry. Lee McMannis, owner of Mickey Thompson, said, "Cooper brings enormous opportunity and resources to our rich racing heritage, so the prospects are unlimited for Mickey Thompson employees and further penetration of our various markets." Mark F. Armstrong, president of Cooper's North American Tire Division, stated, "We will immediately start to identify areas in which we can take advantage of Mickey Thompson's expertise and name recognition to help promote Cooper's image in racing, performance, and off-road tire arenas." Armstrong concluded, "This Mickey Thompson deal, with its racing and off-road connections, will help us in these efforts."
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, and specializes in the manufacture and marketing of automotive products, including auto, motorcycle, and truck tires, inner tubes, tread rubber, and equipment.