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March 2012 RPM Off-Road Truck News

Posted in News on March 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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Spied! Refreshed F-150
In the latest picture sent in from our spies, we can clearly see a lightly camouflaged ’13 F-150. This configuration is built for work with an 8-foot bed and the Heavy-Duty Payload package that comes with seven-lug wheels. The mirrors also indicate it is equipped with Ford’s Max Trailer Tow package, which already puts the current 1⁄2-ton F-150 in 3⁄4-ton territory, but with better fuel economy. This preproduction example is sporting a new headlight treatment and a grille that more closely matches the current Super Duty and redesigned Ford Flex. On the side, this test mule appears to be wearing an EcoBoost badge and the exhaust looks to be standard fare, so we can’t speculate on any drivetrain changes at this point, but it wouldn’t surprise us if something interesting were lurking under the hood. With an all-new, and significantly lighter, F-150 due by 2016, this will be the last refresh of the current generation truck.

Baja Fresh Taco
After a successful showing at SEMA, Toyota has announced that a limited number of production Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X (Tacoma Extreme) Baja Series pickup trucks will make it to dealers. The T|X Baja Series will be available on both the Tacoma Access and Double Cab 4x4 models equipped with the TRD Off-Road Package. The Tacoma T|X Baja Series is equipped with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. In addition to an electronically-controlled locking rear differential, Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) currently equipped on the TRD Off-Road package, the limited edition T|X Baja Series adds LT265/70R16 BFGoodrich T/A KO tires and beadlock-style off-road wheels with an exclusive Gun-Metal Gray finish, TRD exhaust, increased front ride height of nearly two inches and unique Baja Series graphics. The front suspension has been upgraded to include 60mm Bilstein race shocks with TRD coil springs that feature a protective zinc-plated body and a one-inch increase in wheel travel. The rear suspension is equipped with 50mm Bilstein race shocks with remote reservoirs to increase shock oil capacity for greater heat dissipation and damping sensitivity. The rear shocks also include a zinc-plated body and a 1.5-inch increase in wheel travel. Additional information about the Baja Series, including pricing and ordering information, will be available in early 2012.

It’s a Dusy
BFGoodrich Tires recently honored the Dusy-Ershim OHV Trail in Sanger, California, as one of the 2011 Outstanding Trails. For the first time ever, fans in the wheeling community were given the power to vote for their favorite trail and Dusy-Ershim came out on top. Enthusiasts and members of the Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno, California, were in attendance as BFGoodrich Tires presented a grant of $4,000 to the club. The grant will be used to preserve the scenic trail and continue conservation efforts for one of America’s most beautiful areas. The Dusy-Ershim OHV Trail in the Sierra National Forest offers 33 miles of high mountain meadows, creeks, six natural lakes, unique granite mountains, cliffs and panoramic views from 10,200 feet. The trail, often considered one of California’s best-kept secrets, is a major challenge for drivers, and having advanced driving skills is highly recommended. Dusy-Ershim offers the perfect escape, because it does not cross any roads or other OHV trails. It also has many foot trails, lakes, and creeks that are accessible to hikers. The Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno was founded in 1954 and has built 10 trails, six of which the club currently maintains. The club coordinates with the Forest Service to perform various work projects that maintain and preserve the trails throughout the year. Some of the work projects include building and maintaining toilets, maintaining campgrounds, trail cleanups, and upkeep of trail signage.

Questioning The Top:
In a periodic series, we’ll be interviewing automotive executives and asking questions you care about most. First in our installment is this recent interview with Fred Diaz, President and CEO of the Ram Truck brand.

FW: With Chevy recently confirming the next-generation Colorado for the U.S. market, does it open the possibility of Ram re-entering the midsize segment with a proper body-on-frame truck?

Diaz: The brand is exploring a lot of options for that particular segment. So many that they would be literally impossible for me to talk about, if I could talk about them. But we’ve got so many things in the hopper now that we are looking at and making serious considerations for what we want to do in that segment and what our next version, if you want to call it that, of a Dakota replacement would be—if it were to happen.

FW: With Ram being the truck brand in North America, would Ram ever consider sharing a platform with Jeep to reduce costs, something that might be beneficial to both brands in order to bring something to that segment?

Diaz: As a company we are open-minded to any and all things. The great thing about our company is that we are not the type of company that is into turf protectionism. We are all on the team together; we all want to do what’s best for the company, whether it is sharing something like that, or not. Those are discussions that we have as well, but there are no definitive answers or direction as to what could or could not come from that, but we do talk about it.

FW: What technologies and features do you see as important to the Ram brand’s success moving forward?

Diaz: Unique selling propositions, such as the fact that we have the only link-coil suspension system on the market. Coming up with other unique selling propositions like the RamBox, which we’ve now expanded from (the) 5 feet 7 inches (bed) to (the) 6 feet 4 inches (bed), so that’s huge and we’ve been incredibly successful with that. Going forward, the corporation is not resting on its laurels. We know that we have some good things … we are going to be bringing the Pentastar engine to the Ram. That, along with the emphasis and investment we are putting into the Ram Truck brand, is going to bring some USPs to the market that you’ll be happy with.

FW: Will we ever see the light-duty diesel engine, such as the stillborn 5.0L Cummins V-8, come to the Ram?

Diaz: All I am going to say is that we are exploring, many, many things for the future of the Ram Truck brand. I can’t comment specifically on that. Wish I could.

FW: With the niche success of Raptor, and Mopar now offering the RamRunner kit, is there still space for a production version of the truck from Ram to go head-to-head with Ford?

Diaz: I’m not going to say that there is or is not an opportunity for us to make that a production vehicle, although I really like the space we are playing in right now with that Mopar kit. Would we consider it as a production vehicle? Who knows?

FW: With tougher regulations looming do you foresee a time when Ram, or the truck industry as a whole, will have to shrink size and potentially lose capability in order to meet the new standards?

Diaz: I think companies and corporations now have many ways to meet the regulations (without losing capability). No doubt, I think what the cafe fed regs are doing to us is going to make us look at what we are doing, what we are bringing to market, and be a lot smarter about it going forward. And of course, mpg is always at the top of our minds at the Ram Brand.

FW: Will Power Wagon always be a Heavy-Duty-based truck, or is it possible that it could become a sub-brand that would also include a 1⁄2-ton Power Wagon for an enthusiast who wants it all in an off-road package, but doesn’t need the ¾-ton capability?

Diaz: Interesting idea.

Black and White Wheeler
Time to familiarize yourself with yet another set of headlights in your rearview mirror as Ram Truck has announced a Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4x4 Special Service package for law enforcement and other emergency agencies. The newest Ram model features a selection of severe-duty-adapted equipment available on the ’12 Ram 1500 and several unique features. The Special Service Ram 1500 includes 100,000-mile sparkplugs and a larger oil cooler to protect the engine. To handle the high electric loads, the Ram 1500 Special Service Truck includes a 220-amp alternator and a unique wire harness is capable of providing power, ground, and fusing for a variety of law enforcement lighting, siren, computer, modem, radar, or camera systems. The unique instrument panel houses a certified speedometer with engine hour and idle hour meter and a 110-volt inverter. The Ram 1500 Special Service truck is offered exclusively in a Crew Cab configuration and additional welds in the front door structures handle the weight of ballistic material used by law enforcement vehicle upfitters. Powering the new package is the 5.7L Hemi V-8 with a column-shifted six-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. Other features include steel wheels wrapped with LT265/70R17 Goodyear tires, a 3.92 axle ratio, a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds, and a payload rating of 1,455 pounds.

Email Trail
It’s a little known fact that Four Wheeler’s Senior Editor Ken Brubaker is perhaps the least vocal, yet most fanatical Chevy S-10 addict and supporter on the planet. His devotion is often prodded and mocked by the rest of the staff. Here is the latest of what surfaced during an entertaining volley of staff emails.

Holman: I think we should run a cover with an S-10 on fire.

Cappa: That shouldn’t be hard to find. Although what’s the appeal? I’d rather just walk out of the store to the parking lot and see one burning in person (there is bound to be one) than buy a magazine with a pic of one burning.

Holman: I’d rather just light one on fire myself, post it to YouTube, and get rich off the viral hits.

Brubaker: Note to self: Scan Craigslist. Find S-10 four-door. Purchase. Drive for several years with no problems. Possibly drive around the world.

Cappa: ... leaving behind a trail of rusty metal bits, random loosened fasteners, and oil stains, like breadcrumbs, so you can make it home again.

Holman: … then wake up from nightmare to realize that this is not possible and you wouldn’t really want to anyway. In Ken’s defense, we tested the ’89 Chevy S-10 Baja in Four Wheeler of the Year. It lost.

Brubaker: Not so fast, pal. The ZR2 won in ’94.

Cappa: Against what? Maybe that was one of those years where there was only one entry.

Mickey Thompson Is Excellent
Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels is a 2011 Ford Product Excellence Award winner for the ’11 Ford F250 4x4 Project “Big Rig” featured at the 2011 SEMA Show. The award was created to recognize excellence in project vehicle execution. Following Ford’s assessment of all the Ford project vehicles featured at the SEMA Show this year, the Mickey Thompson project truck was selected based upon the following criteria: new product development, vehicle appearance, marketability/fit with the brand, use of automotive aftermarket parts, and vehicle display. FW

Legislative Notes
SEMA Action Network Streamlines Website To Help Protect Your Passion
In 1997, the SEMA Action Network (SAN) was created with the goal of protecting every niche of the automotive hobby against unfair laws and regulations. Since its inception, SAN has seen the coming of a new digital era in which SAN members rely heavily on email, social networking, and the World Wide Web to access information. To keep pace with these changes, SAN has streamlined its website, www.semasan.com, to make it easier than ever for SAN members to find the information they need to help protect their passion.

As you know, SAN is a nationwide partnership between enthusiasts, vehicle clubs and members of the specialty automotive parts industry who have joined forces to promote hobby-friendly legislation and oppose unfair laws. With over 60,000 North American members, SAN is the premier organization defending the rights of vehicle enthusiasts. SAN is free to join with no obligations or commitments.

Resources featured on the streamlined www.semasan.com include:

• Up-to-the minute action alerts with bill information, speaking points, and legislator contact information

• Archived breaking news items for a comprehensive overview of SAN efforts

• Digital copies of the SAN’s award winning monthly legislative newsletter, Driving Force

• State-by-state tracked legislation

• Guidance on federal and state issues, including land use, warranty denial, emissions inspections, ethanol, scrappage, and much more

•“Tag & Title Toolbox” – a one-stop shop for state resources listing each state’s specialty vehicle definitions, registration and titling provisions, forms, inspection criteria and other requirements and exemptions

• Printable pro-hobby model legislation crafted by SAN staff

• Information on legislators who support the automotive hobby through the Congressional Motorsports Caucus and the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus

• An automated tool for identifying and contacting your federal, state, and local representatives

• A guide to lobbying your elected officials

In its 15-year history, the effect of the SAN on shaping government policy has been enormous. Thanks to you, the SAN has successfully enacted street rod and custom vehicle (including kit cars and replicas) registration and titling laws in 22 states; protected classic vehicles waiting to be restored on private property from confiscation; defended enthusiast’s right to use more durable aftermarket exhaust systems; junked state level “Cash for Clunkers” legislation; advocated to ensure public lands remain open to responsible off-road recreation and enacted legislation to lower taxes and fees for hobbyist vehicles, among many other things.

The current economic and legislative environment is emboldening governments to become more aggressive with their anti-auto hobby legislation. States are seeking new avenues for generating revenue and new ways of dictating what you can and cannot do with your vehicles. The message government is sending is clear—the hobby needs the SEMA Action Network now more than ever.

If you aren’t already a member, enlist now in this fellowship of auto enthusiasts. Join the SAN at www.semasan.com.

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