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May 1998 RPM - Off-Road Truck News

Posted in News on May 1, 1998
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4x4 High-Technology Update
Last month, we gave a little information about the vehicles and their technology coming later this year and next ("Previews for 1998, '99 and Beyond"). Since then, we've learned a few more details.

The word is the '99 Land Rover Discovery will offer a longer wheelbase and include an electronic Hill Descent Control (HDC), now offered on the (Europe- and Australia-only) Land Rover Freelander. The system can be activated by pulling a collar on a gear knob to enlist electronically controlled braking pressure to keep speeds down on steep descents. In addition, a driver-operated, variable-rate swaybar control will allow the axles and suspension to loosen up when entering a trail-by flipping a switch-then tighten back up for cornering on pavement. Thus far, it has not been described as a mechanical "disconnect," a'la the new (non-U.S.) Nissan Patrol.

Also worthy of attention, the new Isuzu Trooper (and its upscale twin Acura SLX) has a completely new transfer case, called Torque On Demand (TOD). The Borg-Warner 44-22 transfer case has its own separate computer to take inputs from each wheel, transmission, and engine, as well as the center differential. All this information allows the transfer case to virtually eliminate under- and oversteer conditions by precisely distributing torque through the front and rear driveshafts. And it can take readings (and adjust!) thousands of times a second. The system allows for a part-time (two-wheel drive) mode, a full-time (TOD) mode, and a locked-center-differential low-range (4-Lo). Shift-on-the-fly capability is provided by an electromagnetic clutch plate in the front axle (very similar to the Mitsubishi Montero) that will match the spinning axle's speed when shifted into TOD.

1998 Four Wheeler Of The Year
Newly appointed President of Chrysler Corporation, Tom Stalkamp, gets more good news as John Stewart, Vice President and Editorial Director of Four Wheeler, presents the 1998 Four Wheeler of the Year Award to the Dodge Durango. The presentation was made at an informal ceremony during the 1998 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. The 5.9-liter Dodge Durango narrowly edged out the strong-running Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited and five other new-for-'98 trucks. See last February's issue of Four Wheeler for more details.

Shooting Aros At The Bull's-Eye
"This is the most rugged and dependable small four-wheel drive sold," says Catalin Tutunaru, Chief Engineer at ARO. Born in the same small town at the base of the Carpathian Mountains where ARO 24s are built, Catalin knows the newly imported compact 4x4 in every detail. And although he knows he has an uphill battle to wage, he's confident its military lineage (along with over 170 dealers around the country) will help it do battle with the competition.

For those looking for more information, here's what we have: the front independent suspension uses a coilover, MacPherson strut-type setup, while the rear has a five-leaf spring pack mounted on top of the live axle. The part-time Borg-Warner transfer case offers a 2.48:1 low-range, employing a Ford Explorer-type dash-mounted dial rotary switch, which includes "4x2," "4x4 High," and "4x4 Low" settings (no Neutral). As one might expect, the ARO is ready to be towed, with the factory recommending hubs unlocked, a 4x2 setting, key on, and transmission (auto or manual) in Neutral.

The engine will be a 3.0-liter (3.50-inch bore, 3.14 stroke) overhead-valve V-6, reaching 145 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 162 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500. Ground clearance at the rear differential is reported to be 9.5 inches on 245/70R15 tires, with plenty of room, we're told, for larger 265s in the fenderwells. In addition, ARO will offer a Safari Package, including a roof rack, lightbar, hard exterior spare tire cover, side steps, bigger tires, and lens guards. Base-model ARO 24s (all are four-wheel drive) list for $12,997, while Safari-equipped AROs will run under $17,000. For information concerning a dealer near you, contact 888/ARO-4BY4 or find them at

Win A Jeep At Gravelrama
Yet again, the fun-loving Mid-Western I.O.K. Four Wheelers are giving away a Jeep at the 28th Annual Gravelrama in Cleves, Ohio. The Jeep in question (pictured) is a stock '89 YJ-Straight Six, five-speed manual-just begging for some mods. The drawing will take place on the final day of Gravelrama (August 30, 1998), and the lucky ticket holder need not be present to win. Tickets are $1 each, seven for $5, and fifteen for $10. To request your chance to win, contact the I.O.K. 4-Wheelers, Jeep Raffle, Dept. FW, P.O. Box 36, Cleves, OH 45002. The winner will be responsible for all taxes, fees, and license.

129 9805 May 1998 Rpm aura Genrator Photo 32681185

Underhood Mobile Generator
Aura Systems of El Segundo, California, recently unveiled the AuraGen G5000 mobile generator to the commercial world late last year. Designed to fit into the engine compartment of any full-size truck, and running off the vehicle's engine, the AuraGen is an electromagnetic device capable of providing continuous power for tools, extra lighting, and even an entire house, once the appropriate circuit breaker and power outlets are installed. Weighing a scant 68 pounds, the G5000 will produce as much as 5,000 watts of regulated 60Hz 120/240 volts of power at any engine speed. By comparison, the same power output from a Honda, Onan, or Kohler stand-along generator would weigh three or four times as much, need to idle at (sometimes much) higher rpm, take up between five and ten times more space, and cost significantly more. And with a little help from an electrician and your local utility, a truck-installed AuraGen can supply a house with electricity, just in case there happens to be an extended power outage. The G2500 and G5000 range in price from $1,500 to $2,500, respectively, with more personal and commercial applications coming down the road. For more information, contact Aura Systems, Inc., Dept. FW, 2335 Alaska Ave., El Segundo, CA 90245, 310/643-5300.

4x4 Motorhomes On A Comeback
It wasn't too many years ago that 4x4 van and motorhome conversions were the popular choice of the day. With RV rentals and sales at an all-time high, manufacturers are looking for new and innovative ways (once again) to get people to the outdoors. Fleetwood, with the introduction of its new four-wheel-drive 23-foot Tioga Class C motorhome, is looking to provide RV'ers the flexibility of taking their "home" to places previously inaccessible. The heavy-duty Ford E40 van chassis runs a solid Dana 60 front axle on leaves with manual-locking front hubs. The 4x4 Tioga rides about four inches higher off the ground than two-wheel-drive version, and will offer the 6.8-liter Triton V-10 with an E4OD. It's reported the four-wheel-drive system can also be applied to Fleetwood's other Jamboree mini-motorhomes and Class A vehicles. For more information, contact Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc., Dept. FW, P.O. Box 7638, Riverside, CA 92513-7638, or call 800/444-4905,

Extreme Action In New Mexico
From Rick Russell's perspective, there's no reason California, Utah or Colorado should get all the radical 'wheeling attention. Number 9 in his video series of Off Highway Adventures centers on Chokecherry Canyon, New Mexico. This new video highlights the ledges, switchbacks, and extreme off-camber sections of Waterfall Trail, RJ's, and the Intimidator. Videos sell for $19.95. For more information about Chokecherry Canyon or Rick's other selections, contact Sidekick Off Road, Dept. FW, 12188 Central Ave. #352, Chino, CA 91710, or call 909/628-7227.

• In a stunning surprise, Ford announced its Lincoln-Mercury division will move out of Detroit and relocate to Southern California. This marks the first time a Big Three manufacturer has headquartered one of its divisions outside the state of Michigan.
• There's a new four-wheel driving school in Southern California. Western Adventures 4x4 Driving School is run by the renowned Frenchie La Chance and can be found
• More than 60 percent of the 1.23 million cars and trucks sold by Toyota (and Lexus) are built in North America. The total number amounted to 838,069, with 432,146 built in Kentucky, 296,971 built in California, and 108,952 built in Canada.
• When Petersen Publishing Company decided to split off a section of its Hot Rod readers and create 4-Wheel & Off Road twenty years ago, we were skeptical. After all, Four Wheeler had been around for over 15 years at the time when these new kids on the block were born. However, we'll be the first to admit it looks like they might do all right. We'd like to congratulate those staffers, past and present, at 4-Wheel & Off Road for making it to the big 2-0. We'll see ya' at 40.
• If you have access to the Internet and you'd like to know what, if any, recalls or service bulletins have been issued by the maker of your truck, check out AllData Corporation's Website, You can even take the information with your VIN number to the nearest dealer to find out if the recall work has been performed.
• Predicted by some to be the next big wave of the auto industry, diesel engines and technology are bound to work their way into more full-size cars and trucks. No wonder Denver Automotive and Diesel College, and its state-of-the-art, hands-on education school is growing. For information, call them at 800/347-3232 or find them on the Web at

Club News
The Bronco Registry of Northern Colorado (Dept. FW, 4505-D South Cimarron Circle, Aurora, CO 80015) started just one year ago, but now stands at 50 members. The club accommodates a wide range of abilities and activities, offering numerous weekend trail rides.

The 4xFords Bronco Club (Dept. FW, 1797 Sunvale Dr. S.W., Wyoming, MI 49509) has a membership of more than 70 classic Bronco owners, who together own, we're told, 290.5 Broncos in various states of recondition. And they tell us their always looking for new paying members.

The Erie Shore Jeepers (Dept. FW, 367 Westwoods, Amherst, OH 44001, 440/984-2546) are looking for other outdoor-oriented four wheelers looking to swap stories and good excuses to get muddy.

The Mud Runners 4x4 Club (Dept. FW, 13692 S. 287th E. Ave., Coweta, OK 74429) is another new association open to anyone wanting family-oriented four-wheel fun in or around the Broken Arrow area. Write for more information.

The Off-Road Extremes Alabama Trailmasters (Dept. FW, 1107 Sangster Road, Gadsden, AL) are open to all makes of 4x4s and looking for people interested in backcountry adventure.

The Trick-N-Traction 4Wheelers of Long Island (Dept. FW, 84-38 90th St., Woodhaven, NY 11421) like to camp, hit the trails, attend truck shows, and even watch the monster trucks. And they extend an invitation to anyone who might be interested.

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