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November 2011 RPM Off-Road Truck News

Posted in News on November 1, 2011
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Air Cargo
If what we hear is true, the highly anticipated Jeep pickup is coming, but it might not arrive until the next-generation Wrangler, due as early as the 2014 model year. In the meantime, Mopar has a solution for those of you who just can’t wait. The JK-8 kit, now available from Mopar, turns any 4-door Wrangler Unlimited in to an open-air cargo hauler with a 44-inch by 50-inch bed. Why don’t we consider this conversion a true pickup? Because it lacks a separate bed, but this is as close as JK owners can get for the time being. The major components include a steel bed, inner and outer bedsides, sport bar extensions, Freedom panel assemblies, removable fiberglass hardtop and bulkhead. It can be bolted together or welded together and is available for a reasonable $5,499; it comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty. Bonus points to the first person who builds one with half-doors and a full-length soft top.

Minitruck Revival?
Remember Suzuki’s 2007 X-Head concept? We sure do. It was one of our favorite vehicles at the Detroit Auto Show that year. Apparently Suzuki hasn’t forgotten the positive feedback it received, because rumor has it that they are considering a return to the U.S. pickup truck market. If approved, Suzuki could jumpstart the revival of the small truck in America with a version of the next-generation Jimny, which was previously known in America as the Samurai, from ’85-’95. Bring it on Suzuki, we’ll be waiting.

Displacement Downsizing
Our friends at have reported that Ford is currently working to reduce weight without removing capability from its next-generation F-150 pickups in order to meet future fuel economy goals. One facet of the plan includes super lightweight magnesium alloy frames. Another aspect of the plan is a new range of small displacement V-6 engines under the codename “Nano.” The Nano engines range in sizes from 2.6L to 3.0L and are said to have a single turbo to boost power. With the success of Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost V-6, GM is said to be answering with a turbocharged DI V-6 of its own that is currently in development.

Quick Hits Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says that despite international growth, Jeep will remain an American-built brand.
We hear that future Ram Heavy-Duty pickups will benefit from major suspension improvements, such as air springs.
It’s unofficially official, the next generation GM half-tons are due in 2013.

Tacoma Refresh
Toyota’s popular Tacoma, which was last redesigned in 2005, is overdue for a freshening. It appears that Toyota may introduce a redesigned Tacoma this fall as a ’12 model. While the underpinnings, including the frame and familiar 4.0L V-6, are said to remain unchanged, the pickup should sport a new body and upgraded interior. Technophiles will be happy to know that Toyota also plans to offer the Entune Infotainment system along with expanded vehicle features.

Legislative Notes
Hearings Held on SEMA-Supported Legislation to Open Lands Without “Wilderness” Characteristics
A U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on the SEMA-supported “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011.” The legislation would release 42 million acres of land from “wilderness” designations that have already been set aside as “wilderness study areas” (WSAs) or “inventoried roadless areas.” WSAs are lands that have been identified as having wilderness potential. The bill would also officially terminate the “Wild Lands” order, which the Interior Department recently abandoned, that directed the Bureau of Land Management to recommend lands for wilderness designations and manage them accordingly. Wilderness designations are consequential to SEMA members since no mechanized equipment (off-road vehicles, etc.) is permitted within these lands. At the hearing, supporters of the bill argued that it would immediately increase opportunities for multiple-use management—including motorized recreation, hunting and fishing. SEMA and other supporters contend that these lands are being unnecessarily restrictive of responsible recreation and that the legislation will allow greater public access to millions of acres of public lands. Opponents claim the bill would limit the government’s ability to preserve wildlife and other recreational opportunities while creating new land-management disagreements. The bill will remain under consideration by the House Natural Resources Committee.

House Panel Considers the Benefits of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation
A House Natural Resources Subcommittee recently held a hearing entitled, “Opportunities for Outdoor Recreation on Public Lands.” The main topics of discussion were protecting recreational access to federal lands and recognizing the economic benefits derived from such activities. Witnesses included representatives from the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition and other OHV organizations. The hearing included testimony in support of multiple-use federal lands and responsible OHV recreation.Don Amador, western representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, spoke on the need to reopen the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) in California. Currently closed due to an “emergency closure” in 2008, the CCMA contains more than 75,000 acres of land containing off-road trails. Amador testified that the decision was based on inaccurate data and false assumptions and that the land should be designated as a National Recreation Area with prescribed OHV uses. SEMA promotes the responsible use of federal lands for recreation and continues to oppose land use policies that are unnecessarily restrictive. “Wilderness designations” are of particular concern since no motorized activity is permitted on such land. In 2009, lawmakers passed 160 separate measures as one omnibus bill, thereby designating 2.2 million acres of new wilderness in nine states. Lawmakers are now discussing the possibility of designating millions more acres in the same fashion.

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