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4 Wheel Off Road News - Drivelines

Posted in News on April 1, 2003
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Photographers: Courtesy of Jeep

The Trucks Of SEMAThe Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show has become much more than a gathering of the latest aftermarket performance parts. It's also a place where manufacturers-both OE and aftermarket-show off their latest concept vehicles. Here are a few of the highlights.

New Crate Motors From GM and FordEngine choices just keep growing. At the recent SEMA show, GM and Ford displayed new crate motor additions to their performance-parts lineups.

The General announced it would make an automotive variant of its high-output HP3 Vortec 8100 marine V-8. Based on the 8100 truck engine, the 496ci HP3 will have a cast-iron block and heads; hypereutectic cast-aluminum pistons; a high-lift, high-duration hydraulic roller cam; and port fuel injection fed by a 75mm throttle body and a new fuel rail, a combo that increases fuel pressure by 30 percent over the stock Vortec 8100. The 9.1:1 motor will produce 525 hp at 5,400 rpm and 560 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm on 87-octane unleaded fuel. An electronic control module, throttle-control hardware, and accessory drive components will be available in kit form. This motor will be available for sale through the GM Performance Parts catalog "late in 2003," says GM.

From the Blue Oval folks comes a 5.0L Cammer crate motor, also available in late 2003. The all-aluminum, overhead-cam, four-valve-per-cylinder engine is based on the 4.6L modular V-8 used in SVT Cobra Mustangs, though it has been bored to hit the 5.0 displacement number. Other revisions include forged pistons, reinforcement webbing in the crankcase area, higher-lift cams, ported heads with an 11.0:1 compression ratio, higher-flow fuel injectors, and a cast-magnesium, variable-geometry intake manifold. The motor will produce 425-430 hp at 6,700 rpm, and 370 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.

This Just In...*Kia's Sorento won two awards at the annual Northwest Automotive Press Association MudFest. The MudFest is an event in which Pacific Northwest auto journos flog an assortment of SUVs through on- and off-road courses, and the Sorento came away with prizes for the "Best SUV under $25,000" and "Best Overall SUV Value."

*One other Kia newsbit: Our favorite concept vehicle name at this year's SEMA show was the "Cinco Swim," given to a Rio Cinco station wagon modified to be the "ultimate car for the ultimate surfer."

*With tire underinflation such a hot issue in the wake of the Firestone/Explorer mess, the NHTSA will require automakers (as of Sept. 2003) to put brightly colored stickers with tire inflation information on the driver-side door pillar or on the edge of the door. More tire safety information will also be printed in the vehicle's owner's manual. Tire companies, too, will have to make some changes, as the agency wants them to more clearly label tires with bigger identification numbers on both sides of the tire, making it easier for consumers to i.d. tires that are subject to recall.

*We liked the Quadrasteer option in the GM trucks we drove on 4x4 of the Year, but the General is having a hard time moving the spendy ($4,495) option, says Automotive News. So it's going to increase its advertising and offer a rebate on Q-steer-fitted trucks.

*We hinted at it in a previous issue, and now it's official: Jeep will offer a diesel-powered Liberty in 2004. The engine-a 2.8L turbodiesel-is expected to provide 30 percent better fuel economy than a comparable gasoline engine. DC is offering the mill in hopes of improving Americans' acceptance of diesel engines, since the U.S. could reduce its oil use by 800 million gallons and carbon dioxide emissions by 8 million tons annually if we bought diesels at the same rate as Europeans, said Dieter Zetsche, DC's president and CEO.

*New Venture Gear, the powertrain joint venture formed by General Motors and DaimlerChrysler in 1990, will be restructured in 2003. DC will come to own 100 percent of NVG, though it will remain a separate company and will still do business with GM and other firms. NVG will keep its plants in Syracuse, New York, and Germany. The NVG facility in Muncie, Indiana, will be owned by GM through a wholly owned subsidiary called Manual Transmissions of Muncie that will report to GM's Powertrain organization.

*Further proof that the truck world is getting wackier by the day: The Texas Auto Writers Association has named Volvo's XC90 as the 2003 Truck of Texas. The Lone State scribes arrived at that conclusion by flogging vehicles from 20 manufacturers through an off-road course called the Texas Truck Rodeo. They found that the Swedish station wagon "best suited the needs of Texas." We'd bet there are a few (thousand) Suburban owners out there who might not agree...

*Chevrolet is sponsoring an 18-month nationwide traveling exhibit of rock and roll memorabilia called the Chevrolet Rock & Roll Tour. It's part of Chevy's newest marketing campaign linking the brand with rock music. (You've no doubt seen the TV ads, right?) Among the items on display are one of Elvis' jumpsuits and a guitar owned by Prince.

*On that note (ha!) the Bow-Tie guys said at a recent press conference that they figure more than 200 rock songs have been written with Chevys in them. We can think of a few, but 200? Let's see the list, guys.

Truck Fuel Economy to Go HigherThe White House has approved a measure to increase the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard for light trucks under 8,600 pounds GVW beginning with the 2005 model year. If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) enacts the ruling, this will mark the first CAFE change for light trucks since the current 20.7-mpg standard was established in 1996. The measure calls for automakers to improve the fuel economy achieved by their light-truck fleets by about a half-gallon per year for three years, so that by 2007 the truck CAFE will be 22.2 mpg.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, quoted in the Detroit Free Press, said the new requirements will "save 2.5 billion gallons of gasoline and improve the environment." Wouldn't you know, though, that environmentalists were disappointed in the ruling? In the same Free Press article, Gary Skulnik, a Sierra Club global warming "expert," complained, "It doesn't seem like a heck of a lot."

Tell that to GM. Its own projections put its truck fleet average further away from the new standards than Ford or DaimlerChrysler, and the NHTSA estimates the General will have to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $678 million to achieve the new goals. One way GM could reach the new target, said the NHTSA, would be to eliminate all engines over 6 liters in displacement. Uh oh.

By comparison, the NHTSA figures Ford would have to spend $50 million to hit the new CAFE numbers, and DaimlerChrysler $11 million. Ford's costs are less than GM's because they have been better at rolling out new fuel-efficient technology, like engines with variable valvetrains and advanced transmissions, the agency said. Both Ford and DC also have gas/electric hybrid trucks in their product plans, which will bring them closer to the CAFE goal.

The White House approved the CAFE increase in December, but the NHTSA won't make it official until after a 60-day period, during which the automakers can lobby the agency to make changes to the rule. We'll keep you posted.

Camp Jeep 2003 Open to the PublicBig news for Camp Jeep fans. There will be two Camp Jeep events in 2003, and both will be open to the public-meaning non-Jeep owners will be able to attend the events.

The first Camp will be held June 26-28 at the Oak Ridge Estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Nelson County, Virginia. The second will be in California, at the Gardner Ranch near Santa Barbara, August 14-16.

Why throw the doors open to just anybody? "People really have to see Camp Jeep and experience it for themselves to believe it," explained Jeff Bell, vice president of Jeep Division. "We want to show non-Jeepers what the fuss is all about!" They'll have a day to soak it all in, as the general public can attend only on the Saturday of each show.

This year's Camp Jeep events will include the popular Jeep 101 off-road driving courses, lifestyle and family activities, and live music. Jeep owners will also be able to visit an Engineering Village and speak with Jeep engineers during roundtable discussions.

For more information about Camp Jeep 2003, call 800/789-JEEP (5337), or go to and type in "campjeep" in the keyword section.

Smith and Ashley Set Records in BajaLet's see if we can put this accomplishment in perspective: Dan Smith and Dave Ashley's Optima/Ford F-150 Trophy Truck was first overall among four-wheeled entries at the 35th Tecate/SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race. This was the third consecutive Baja 1000 victory for the team, the ninth overall for Ford, and the 17th for BFGoodrich.

What makes the win spectacular is that Smith and Ashley finished within 1 minute and 35 seconds of the First-place motorcycle team (Steve Hengeveld, Johnny Campbell, and Andy Grider each astride a Honda XR650R), a nearly unheard-of feat in Baja that happened last in 1993. Smith and Ashley covered the 1,017-mile course down the Baja peninsula in 16 hours, 19 minutes, and 3 seconds, setting a record average speed of 62.34 mph.

Here's another bit of perspective: Off-road racer Rod Hall celebrated his 65th (!) birthday co-driving his AM General Hummer XLCZ with sons Chad and Josh to victory in the Stock Full class. This was Hall's 17th class win at Baja, and he is the only driver to have competed in a four-wheel class in every one of the 35 Baja 1000s. Rodney, you da man!

New Cadillac SUVsIt seems hard to believe, but Cadillac (yes, Cadillac) will have no fewer than four distinct '03 sport/utility vehicles to sell. Joining the Tahoe-based Escalade and Avalanche-like Escalade EXT is the Suburban-esque Escalade ESV, a $56,000 "large luxury SUV" with amenities that include eight-passenger seating on Nuance leather surfaces, a premium Bose audio system, StabiliTrak, a "road-sensing" suspension, and the high-output Vortec 6000 V-8 powering an all-wheel-drive system. Escalade ESVs roll onto showroom floors late in 2002.

The newest Caddy SUV, which debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is the '04 SRX you see here. The SRX is a crossover sport/utility that sits on GM's Sigma platform, which is also under the Cadillac CTS sport sedan. Cadillac considers the SRX a "medium luxury utility" that will compete against the likes of the BMW X5, Acura MDX, Lexus RX300, and Mercedes M-class. It will seat five (or seven with the optional third-row seat) and will be powered by either the new-generation, 315hp Northstar 4.6L V-8 or an all-new, 3.6L, 260hp V-6. A choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive powertrains will be offered, and the SRX will sit on a fully independent suspension fitted with GM's new Magnetic Ride Control shocks.

Political & Environmental WatchOur friends at SEMA have been busy watching over-and fighting-proposed legislation that could negatively affect what we drive and how we use our vehicles. Among the battles won recently:

*A Georgia bill threatening to include trucks in a law that bans altered suspensions more than 2 inches above or below the factory recommendation has died in the state legislature. SEMA thanks the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association and the Georgia Bounty Runners Four Wheel Drive Club for their efforts in defeating this legislation.

*Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate to designate another 2.5 million acres of public land in California "wilderness areas." The bill is a threat to off-highway vehicle enthusiasts and the related business communities since motorized vehicles are denied access to lands designated as wilderness. Fourteen million acres of land in California already have the wilderness designation. SEMA has initiated a grassroots effort urging its membership to oppose the measure.

*In more California news, SEMA's anti-scrappage work with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has begun to pay off. CARB has set up a system to notify hobbyists of vehicles destined for scrappage so that parts can be obtained prior to crushing. Those interested in scrapping their vehicles will contact an authorized dismantler and bring the vehicle in for inspection. A list of the scheduled appointments will be compiled daily by the dismantler and e-mailed to members of the public who sign up to receive it.

You, too, can take part in this sort of activity. Visit SEMA's enthusiast Web site,, and click on the "Your Car and the Law" link for more legislative goings-on, as well as information on how to become a part of the SEMA Action Network and help protect our hobby.

Quote/Unquote"It's like anything else with fuel economy: We build it, but if people don't buy it, the numbers don't go up."

-Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spokesman Eron Shosteck, quoted in the Detroit Free Press. Shosteck's complaint is a common one among auto and truck makers regarding CAFE standards: They're based on vehicles sold, not vehicles made. So it won't do the OEs any good to build 30-mpg compacts if the American public buys only 15-mpg trucks and SUVs.

Low-Buck Contest WinnerWondering which loser-er, clever soul-won our low-buck contest? Only at will you be able to delight in your fellow enthusiasts' clever and cheap fixes, mods, and upgrades, plus you can check out a few photos that will either inspire you or make you shake your head in disgust. And wait until you read the tale that won! Pathetic!

Jeep Goes Postal-AgainJeep announced that it is once again building right-hand-drive vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service. The '03 Wrangler Postal Units are built with hardtops, full metal doors with roll-up windows, and removable rear seats to make room for bulky packages. The Postal Jeeps are powered by 4.0L I-6s mated to automatic transmissions and have heavy-duty Dana 44 rear axles with Trac-Lok differentials. MSRP on these Jeeps is $20,253, and Jeep says they're available in "all 10 colors." We're not sure why. Don't all USPS vehicles use that stylish white-with-red-and-blue-stripes paint scheme?

Calendar of EventsMar. 28-30 3rd Appalachian Spring Jeep Jamboree, Murphy, NC. Information: 530/333-4777,

Apr. 5 Mojave 250, Barstow, CA, (includes JeepSpeed race). Information: Mojave Desert Racing, 626/442-9320,

Apr. 5-6 Colorado Off-Highway Expo, National Western Complex, Denver, CO. Information: 800/457-2434,

Apr. 10-12 Goodyear/Skyjacker Extreme Rockcrawling Nationals, Reno, NV. Information: Rock Crawlers Association of America, 801/288-2574,

Apr. 11-13 6th Land Between the Lakes Jeep Jamboree, Marshall County, KY. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777,

Apr. 12-13 Fourth annual Arizona IH Rendezvous, Prescott Valley, AZ. Information: Sonora Desert Scouts, 480/451-5331,

Apr. 18-20 International Harvester Western Region Nationals, Tulare, CA. Information: Scouts West,

Apr. 19 California 4x4/Sport Utility Drivers Education & Training, Hungry Valley SRVA, Gorman, CA. Information: 818/370-3582,

Apr. 25-27 4th Oak Ridge Jeep Jamboree, Charlottesville, VA. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777,

Apr. 25-27 10th Cajun Jeep Jamboree, St. Francisville, LA. Information: Jeep Jamboree USA, 530/333-4777,

Apr. 25-27 Terrible's Town 250, Pahrump, NV. Information: Best in the Desert, 792/457-5775,

Apr. 26-27 Eastern Rock Crawling Championship Kick-off, Jellico, TN. Information: 513/469-2412,

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