New Trucks Unveiled In Chicago
While the Big Three automakers throw the biggest new-vehicle party at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, they always save a few new truck model introductions for the Chicago Auto Show. This year was no exception, although most of the new trucks unveiled were from import makers. Dodge chose Chicago to take the wraps off its new Dakota (which we showed you last month), but Nissan, Toyota, and Kia (yes, Kia) also stole some of the new-truck limelight.
Toyota Tacoma X-Runner
Look beneath the 2WD sport truck's body add-ons and you'll see the next-generation Tacoma 4x4 as well. The new Tacoma "will move well beyond its current compact truck dimensions," says Toyota, with a wheelbase that's 5 inches longer than the current truck and a track that's 4 inches wider. Power is provided by a 4.0L V-6 that puts out 240 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, mated to a close-ratio six-speed transmission. A TRD-developed supercharger boosts output to the 300hp range. A limited-slip rear diff will be standard on this X-Runner, and we expect to see one on 4WD models too.
The midsized KCV4 Mojave is the first pickup-concept or production-that Kia has shown in the U.S. The idea behind it was to "take advantage of Kia's research and development resources and create a concept vehicle that is closely aligned with Kia's positioning in North America," said Peter Butterfield, president and CEO of Kia Motors America. But Kia also admits it doesn't have the production facilities to build a truck for North America. Not yet, anyway. Among the Mojave's more interesting design features are the pillarless doors that allow unimpeded access to front and back seats; and a midgate-like cabin back wall that, when the rear seats are folded, can slide forward to extend the bed to carry that hauling standard, a 4x8 plywood sheet. Though it's based on a Sorento platform, its 130-inch wheelbase is nearly 2 feet longer than the SUV's. Its engine, a 3.8L V-6 producing some 280 hp, is also significantly stronger than the Sorento's 3.5L, 192hp six.
New Luxury Edition H2
There will be only 1,500 "Victory Red" Hummer H2s made this year, so be sure to get your order in early. In addition to the unique paint, the special-edition Hummer will also include a Victory Red, 27-speed Hummer tactical mountain bike. Tactical? It has a "military paratrooper" folding frame for easy in-vehicle storage. Now, are you sitting down? All this can be yours for just $59,840, not including tax, title, license, dealer fees, and other options, of course.
Wrangler Unlimited Pricing Announced
Jeep announced that the new, long-wheelbase Wrangler Unlimited will have a base MSRP of $24,995 (including $610 destination). Positioned between the Wrangler Sport and Sahara models, the Unlimited will be fitted with such standard equipment as the 4.0L PowerTech I-6 mated to the 42RLE four-speed automatic, a Dana 30 front axle and heavy-duty Dana 44 rear with 3.73 ratios, 30-inch-tall Goodyear Wrangler GSA tires on 15-inch aluminum wheels, the new Sunrider soft-top with its sunroof feature, foglamps, steel doors, a padded Sport Bar, AM/FM stereo with CD, power steering, and tow hooks.
According to a recent article in Automotive News, Jeep has an interesting sales target for the Unlimited: two-door Cherokee fans who just didn't "gravitate" to the Liberty. Jeep marketers think the Unlimited's extra length, seating, and cargo room will appeal to that market, which lost the two-door XJ after the 2001 model year.
We'd love to hear from you Cherokee lovers out there as to whether or not the Unlimited will fill the void. Our guess is "no."
Dodge Takes Truck Speed Record From Ford
We knew it was only a matter of time. Ford's new SVT Lightning pickup made it into the Guinness Book of World Records last summer as the "fastest production pickup" with a top speed of 147 mph. Yet as that record was being set, Dodge was on the verge of debuting its answer to the Lightning, the Viper-powered SRT-10 Ram. Just like it did back in the glory days of musclecars, Dodge went gunning for Ford. And nabbed the record, big time. Traveling over a "flying kilometer" at Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan, an unmodified SRT-10, with NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan behind the wheel, clocked a two-way average of 154.587 mph.
This Just In...
*The Name Game, Part 1: In a move that was obvious to all of us months ago, Nissan has decided to drop "Pathfinder" from the name of its Pathfinder Armada fullsize SUV. "We think the mid-year adjustment is a smart decision and hope that buyers will have a clearer understanding that our two newest SUVs come in two sizes-but now with two distinct names," said Fred Suckow, director, marketing, Nissan Division. No duh.
*The Name Game, Part 2: Land Rover will launch a revised version of the Discovery later this year, but it won't be called that here in the States, according to AutoWeek magazine. Instead, U.S. versions of the SUV will be called the Land Rover LR3.
*Mitsubishi is going to market a version of the new Dodge Dakota in coming months, but the products shared between it and DaimlerChrysler may not stop there, according to trade publication Automotive News. The two are also in talks to share minivans and the Durango. Does Mitsu really need another SUV?
*SEMA reports that Toyota and Honda are considering the use of composite materials in the construction of truck beds for their upcoming Tacoma and SUT models, respectively. According to the association, ThyssenKrupp Budd Co. will manufacture a short and long sheet-molding-composite box for the Tacoma at a new plant near Toyota's facility in Tijuana, Mexico. The automaker will finish the boxes in Mexico and ship them to its New United Motor Mfg. Inc. final-assembly plant in Fremont, California. At $5 million, the tooling costs for the composite box on the Tacoma are one-fifth of what it would be for a steel system, according to Budd. GM offered a similar type of bed on Silverado pickups in 2001, but few consumers chose the $1,000 Pro-Tec option and it was dropped. SEMA says the composite boxes will be standard equipment on the Toyota and Honda trucks.
Ford's New F-150 Makes More News
Ford continues to win accolades for its new F-150 pickup. Among the latest press clippings:
*Last month we told you how the F-150 earned a Best Pick for its crashworthiness by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Well, crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration brings more good news. The '04 SuperCab and SuperCrew earned the top safety score in the federal government's frontal impact crash test: five stars for the driver and five stars for the front-seat passenger.
*The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada named the '04 F-150 Canadian Truck of the Year at the recent Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. This trophy joins many others in Dearborn, including Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year and the North American Truck of the Year, which was awarded to Ford by a panel of automotive journalists.
*Look forward to more Harley-Davidson editions. Ford and the motorcycle maker just extended their agreement to co-brand special editions of the F-series through 2007.
*Ford would like to sell a million F-series trucks during a model year once its production facilities are up to full speed, and it's getting closer to that goal. Speaking at the recent National Automotive Dealers Association annual meeting, Ford Division President Steve Lyons said the company should sell at least 912,000 F-Series trucks this year, beating its own 911,597-unit record for fullsize pickups set in 2001. Last year, Ford sold 845,586 F-series trucks.
Coolest Reading Places
No, school does not mean you still do not have to read at home.
J. Craig Williams, Penn State Extension, Wellsboro, PA
[Editor's note: Before any of you call child protective services in Pennsylvania, you should know that the youngsters subjected to this "torture" are the niece and nephew of our own dairy farmer and resident jokester, Fred Williams. He assures us no children were harmed in the making of this photo. The magazine copies, however, were.]
JeepSpeed's Round 1 Goes to Thompson
Patience pays off, especially in desert racing. Barrie Thompson is experienced enough to know that, and he used it to full advantage to win the first event in JeepSpeed's 2004 racing season.
JeepSpeed is an organization dedicated to Cherokee desert race trucks, and it held its first race in conjunction with the Best in the Desert Blue Water Resort & Casino Parker 425 in Parker, Arizona. Some 15 JeepSpeed competitors turned out for the race, in Pro and Stock classes. From the start Thompson shadowed Casey Currie driving the lead Cherokee, waiting for an opportunity to get by. He got his chance when Currie bounced off a rock in the rough and broke a shock mount. From there Thompson cruised the last 40 miles to victory in the Pro class. Arizona rookie Tim Hayosh won the Stock class. For more information on JeepSpeed racing, visit www.jeepspeed.com.
If you own one of the following vehicles and haven't been notified by the maker that your vehicle is under recall, get yourself down to your local dealer to find out if the recall affects your 4x4.
*'02 Dodge Ram: On certain pickup trucks, the detent system on the exterior mirror housings may break, potentially affecting the rearward field of vision. Dealers will install a mirror detent retainer kit to correct this condition.
*'02 Dodge Ram: On certain pickup trucks, the electrical connector at the bottom of the steering column contains an undersized terminal for the HVAC blower motor circuit. Localized heating from current flow with the blower speed set on high may cause the terminal contacts to relax and lose electrical contact. This can cause the HVAC blower motor to become inoperative. This condition could cause poor defroster performance, increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will install a wiring harness overlay to correct this condition.
*'02 Isuzu Axiom: Information obtained from a NHTSA head impact test conducted to evaluate compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 201, "Occupant Protection in Interior Impact," indicates that there is a possibility of an increased risk of head injury in a crash. These vehicles will be modified to enhance the head impact crash protection for front seat occupants.
*'01-'03 Toyota Tacoma: On certain double-cab pickup trucks, during side-impact NCAP testing, a flange at the rear end of the body deformed and contacted the fuel inlet hose that connects the fuel filler pipe and fuel tank, resulting in damage to the fuel inlet hose. This damage could result in fuel leakage, which could result in a fire in the presence of an ignition source. Dealers will install a fuel hose protector on the body flange. Owners may contact Toyota at 800/331-4331.
May 23 The Spring Mud Fling at the Muddy Run Raceway, Smoke Run, PA. Information: 814/378-5723, www.muddyrunraceway.com.
May 28-30 Baltimore Four Wheelers 9th annual Off Highway Extravaganza, Paragon Adventure Park, Hazelton, PA. Information: www.baltimore4wheelers.com.
May 29-30 CORR Lucas Oil Championship Off Road Racing, Dresser, WI. Information: 317/272-2827, www.corracing.com.
May 29-31 Ludlow 15th Annual Memorial Weekend Trail Ride, Marietta, OH, hosted by Southeastern Buckeye 4 Wheelers. Information: 740/503-0650.
June 3-5 UROC Extreme Rockcrawling National Series, Southern California/Colorado location to be announced. Information: 801/932-0322, www.uroc.com.
June 4-6 13th Canyon de Chelly Jeep Jamboree, Chinle, AZ. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 4-6 14th Daniel Boone Jeep Jamboree, Slade, KY. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 4-6 4th annual Gonzookin Event for Samurai/Sidekick/Tracker, Paragon Adventure Park, Hazleton, PA. Information: www.gonzookin.net.
June 4-6 Razorback Ramble, Superlift Off-Road Vehicle Park, Hot Springs, AR. Information: Arkansas chapter of the Toyota Land Cruiser Association, 501/354-1193, www.razorbacklandcruisers.com.
June 4-6 Tecate/SCORE Baja 500, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Information: SCORE International, 818/225-8402, www.score-international.com.
June 4-7 Full Size Jeep Invasion, Uwharrie National Forest ORV area, Troy, NC. Information: International Full Size Jeep Association, www.ifsja.org.
June 5 JeepSpeed Baja Challenge, in association with SCORE/Tecate Baja 500, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Information: www.jeepspeed.com.
June 5 Off Road Driving Clinic, Hungry Valley State Vehicle Recreation Area near Gorman, CA. Information: 310/374-8047, www.4x4training.com.
June 5 Tuff Truck Competition & Campout, Melbourne, Ontario, Canada. Information: London & Area Jeep Owners Club, 519/666-0143 (prior to 9 p.m.), www.londonjeepclub.org.
June 5-6 4x4 Safety Clinic, Prairie City SVRA near Sacramento, CA. Information: Capital City Mountain Goats chapter of Cal4Wheel, 916/421-7219.
June 5-6 4Wheel Parts Truckfest, Ontario, CA. Information: 800/284-9840, www.4wheelparts.com/events.
June 5-6 Piute Passage Tour, Piute Mountains, Kern County, CA. Information: ECO 4WD, e-mail email@example.com.
June 6 Mid States Mud Racing Association mud race, Stapleton, NE. Information: www.msmra.com.
June 8 Arrowhead Adventure Tour, Lake Arrowhead, CA. Information: ECO 4WD, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 11-12 Summer at Tellico, Tellico, NC. Information: Rough Rangers Off-Road Club, www.rrorc.com.
June 11-13 12th Drummond Island Jeep Jamboree (first run), Drummond Island, MI. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 11-13 7th Penn's Woods Jeep Jamboree, Bradford, PA. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 11-13 Southern Four Wheel Drive Association 2004 Summer Convention, Mountain City, TN. Information: e-mail email@example.com.
June 12 "Trailriding Southern Style" by the OffRoad Sportsman Association, Ellijay, GA. Information: 770/478-2587, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 12-13 CORR Lucas Oil Series Championship Off-Road Racing, Antigo, WI. Information: 317/272-2827, www.corracing.com.
June 13 Mid States Mud Racing Association mud race, Merriman, NE. Information: www.msmra.com.
June 13 Mud Mushers Off-Road Rodeo, Erie, PA, by Erie County 4x4 Mud Mushers. Information: 814/868-5308.
June 18-20 Herring Creek 2004 for International Scouts, Stanislaus National Forest, near Sonoma, CA. Information: Black Dawg Scouts, 209/533-4776, e-mail email@example.com.
June 18-20 UROC Pro National Series and Extreme Rockcrawling National Series, Jellico, TN. Information: 801/932-0322, www.uroc.com.
June 18-21 CalROCS Northwest Regionals, Goldendale, WA. Information: 530/622-0370, www.calrocs.com.
June 18-20 12th Drummond Island Jeep Jamboree (second run), Drummond Island, MI. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 19-20 Hot Spring Mountain Tour, San Diego County, CA. Information: ECO 4WD, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 20 Father's Day Feature, Muddy Run Raceway, Smoke Run, PA. Information: 814/378-5723, www.MuddyRunRaceway.com.
June 20 Mid States Mud Racing Association mud race, Valentine, NE. Information: www.msmra.com.
June 24-27 Vegas to Reno off-road race. Information: Best in the Desert, 702/457-5775, www.bitd.com.
June 25-26 Dog Days of Summer Diesel Truck Event, Aberdeen, ID. Information: Bully Dog Technologies, 208/397-3200, e-mail email@example.com
June 25-27 3rd Poconos Big Boulder Jeep Jamboree, Blakeslee, PA. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com.
June 26 3rd Annual Central North Carolina 4x4 Truck Show and Swap Meet, North Carolina State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, NC. Information: www.CNC4x4.org, e-mail Craig Scibetta, firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 26 MDR 400 off-road race, Lucerne, CA. Information: Mojave Desert Racing, 626/442-0320, www.mdrracing.com.
June 26-27 CORR Lucas Oil Series Championship Off-Road Racing, Crandon, WI. Information: 317/272-2827, www.corracing.com.
June 26-27 2004 Rockport Off-Road Park's Rockcrawl Challenge, Rockport, IL. Information: 217/437-JEEP (5337).
June 26-27 8th Annual Southeastern 4Wheel Jamboree, Anderson, SC. Information: 317/236-6515, www.familyevents.com.
Political & Environmental Watch From SEMA's Washington, D.C., office:*The two government agencies that manage the bulk of federal lands, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, are reviewing their off-highway vehicle use policies. Concerns have been raised over the number of unplanned roads and trails, erosion, lack of quality off-road recreation opportunities, water degradation, and habitat destruction. The issue is consequential since the number of off-highway vehicles has increased from 5 million in 1972 to nearly 36 million in 2000. The USFS has established a task force to develop a cohesive policy on off-highway vehicle use beyond the current state-by-state, forest-by-forest approach. The USFS has formed two OHV working groups. The first team will consider what policies and regulations need to be revised to restrict OHVs to designated routes. The other team will focus on implementing the new policy, prohibiting cross-country travel off-road activity, and marking the designated routes. The USFS has pledged to work with OHV and environmental groups on the topic. A draft rule is expected this summer. Meanwhile, the BLM intends to review its OHV policies for the same reason and has also pledged to work with all the players in the debate.
*Off-highway-vehicle enthusiasts can celebrate the fact that three bills (HR 1662, S 369, S 2009) have been introduced in Congress to reform the Endangered Species Act. Since the law took effect in 1973, the ESA has denied OHV access to thousands of acres of land and spurred numerous lawsuits and endless debates over ESA designations. The reform legislation would establish minimum requirements for listing animals and plants on the ESA, including an appraisal of the species' status, its historical and current range, population trends, and threats. The bills would also require more field-tested, peer-reviewed scientific data to support listings. While there have been recent Committee hearings on the topic, passage of the legislation is unlikely in an election year since the issue is politically charged. Nevertheless, there is a growing consensus among government, environmental, and private sector interests that there needs to be more collaborative, incentive-based approaches toward protecting habitat and species. These could include more local input in decisions and "safe harbor" agreements that encourage private landowners to participate in land set-asides.
For more information on these and other legislative items that affect your hobby, visit the SEMA Action Network's Web site at www.semasan.com.