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4 Wheel Off Road News - Drivelines

Posted in News on December 1, 2003
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Photographers: AP Photo/U.S. Coast GuardFireman Gregory Wald

Minnesota Team Wins Land Rover's TReK 2003A three-man team from Land Rover Eden Prairie in Minnesota won the 2003 edition of the Land Rover TReK competition. Wayne Pisinski (shown in the photo), Ross Corey, and Ryan Krause scored 630 out of a possible 700 points in events that included an off-road obstacle course, kayaking, orienteering, autocross, running, and biking.

This was the fifth TReK event held since the competition began in 1996. Developed by Land Rover University, Land Rover North America's training unit, TReK was designed as a means to keep Land Rover's retail employees up to date on product and brand knowledge as well as four-wheeling expertise. The competition borrows some of its technical challenges from the Camel Trophy, but stages them in a shorter form.

The teams participating in this year's TReK drove '04 Discoveries, which are fitted with a new 4.6L engine and a manually locking center differential. The event took place on the Forbes Trinchera Ranch near Ft. Garland, Colorado, located in the state's southeast corner.

Military Vehicles At ShowIf you're looking for an excuse to leave the dreary winter weather behind for a visit to sunny Arizona, it doesn't get much better than this: The 13th annual Papago Military Vehicle Show will take place January 17-18 at the Arizona National Guard facility in Phoenix. Hosted by the Guard and the Arizona Military Vehicle Collectors Club, the show will feature fully restored vehicles dating back to World War II. There will also be a swap meet both days, and an auction of donated surplus gear will start the afternoon of the 17th. For more information, go to or call 602/840-5019.

Old- And New-Style F-150s To Be Sold In 2004Are you one of those who have trouble with change? Ford understands. Alongside the all-new '04 F-150, the Blue Oval folks will offer the previous-generation truck, now called the Heritage model, in XL and XLT versions. The Heritage trucks will have V-6 engines and manual transmissions only; the new F-150s will come with V-8s and in five different trim levels.

Prices for the Heritage models start where they did last year, with the base XL starting at $19,125. The new F-150 trucks will cost between $245 and $635 more than comparable '03 models. For example, an '04 XLT SuperCab 4x4 with a 4.6L V-8 engine and automatic transmission will have a base price of $29,550, an increase of $535 over a similarly equipped '03 pickup.

This Just In*At a recent press event for the new Titan and Pathfinder Armada fullsize trucks, Nissan execs were asked if they were planning other variations on the Titan, such as a 31/44- or 1-ton model, or one with a diesel engine. The answer: "Consider this Titan as planting the roots and trunk of the tree." Or, in other words, yes.

*At that same event, the same execs revealed that there will be an Infiniti version of the Pathfinder Armada, which will debut at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show.

*And one more Nissan tidbit: Execs also swore that they were not dropping the compact Pathfinder SUV and that a revised version would be out in a year or so. Our hunch: At about that same time the Pathfinder part of the fullsize SUV's name will go away.

*The New York Times is reporting that Honda will produce a pickup truck based on the same platform that carries the Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs. Anonymous sources within Honda say the truck will be introduced in 2005 and will be aimed at the "personal use" market.

*The Sierra Club is attacking SUVs again, this time through a parody Web site ( that skewers the Hummer H2 with cartoons, fake news stories, and the club's typical thinly veiled propaganda.

*In reaction to the club's Web site and its message that Hummers "threaten the planet in a whole new way," Hummer spokesman Pete Ternes told the New York Times, "If you look at what Hummer is, in terms of its impact on the fuel emissions that vehicles put out, its sales are 0.5 of 1 percent of the U.S. vehicle market. So if you consider that little factoid, what they're trying to do is use the popular image of Hummer to promote their cause, which is a P.R. tactic. There are much bigger fish to fry."

*In a more positive vein, the Mars Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the future exploration of the red planet, has outfitted a Hummer H1 ambulance with tanklike tracks and is testing the vehicle in the Canadian High Arctic. The terrain there gives the researchers Marslike conditions so they can determine how to design a vehicle for extraterrestrial exploration.

*A report we saw from SEMA said Ford is planning to replace most of its automatic transmissions by 2008-including the brand-new TorqShift-with continuously variable trannies (CVTs). Front- and rear-drive versions will be made, and Ford hopes that using the new gearboxes will improve fuel economy while providing better launch performance.

Fast Trucks On Pavement, Part 1SVT Lightning Makes the Guinness Book of RecordsThe Guinness World Records folks-the same people who keep records on everything from the largest object removed from a human skull (an 8-inch survival knife) to the loudest burp (118.1 decibels)-recently certified Ford's SVT Lightning the "World's Fastest Production Pickup Truck."

During tests on a 5-mile, high-banked oval track at Ford's Michigan Proving Grounds, a stock '03 Lightning (with its mirrors folded back and the radio antenna removed) reached 147.974 mph going clockwise on the track, and 147.454 mph running counter-clockwise. The two fastest laps were averaged for the record speed of 147.714 mph.

"This may seem like fun and games, but high-speed stability is critical for a performance vehicle, even a pickup truck," said Tom Chapman, Ford SVT chassis systems supervisor and driver for the record-setting run. "The Lightning is just as stable and planted at 147 mph as it is at 55 mph; only the scenery's going by faster."

Bestop's 50th Anniversary CelebrationColorado-based Bestop turns 50 in 2004, and the top maker will celebrate the anniversary with a year-long series of special events. A new Web site will launch in January, where visitors can register to win a CJ-7 that's been upfitted with a bunch of Bestop products as well as other accessories. There's also a road-going party called the Bestop-alooza Tour that will travel to a number of off-roading events, including the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, and the Southern California Off-Road Expo. The company also plans to release some special Limited Edition products to commemorate the golden anniversary. For more information, visit

Fast Trucks On Pavement, Part 2GM Develops Gas/Electric HybridOK, usually news about hybrid vehicles is a total snooze. So is anything on pavement, right? Well, check this out: At a recent demonstration of a new kind of GM gas/hybrid drivetrain that was mounted in a Chevy S-10, the pickup spanked a Camaro on the dragstrip.

What's its secret? Electric motors in the wheel hubs. By putting the motor directly in the hub, no torque is lost through the powertrain. So power is available immediately. That's why the S-10 hole-shot the Camaro coming out of the lights at Southern California's Irwindale Dragstrip, where the demonstration took place.

GM Vice President for Research and Development Larry Burns said GM plans to produce all-wheel-drive gasoline-electric hybrid pickups-with the gas engine powering the rear wheels and electric hub motors in the fronts-by 2010.

Avanti Settles With GM Over StudebakerThe Associated Press is reporting that GM and Avanti have reached an out-of-court settlement regarding Avanti's Studebaker XUV. The General, you'll recall, was miffed at Avanti because the small-volume automaker's Super-Duty-based SUV looked too much like the Hummer H2, and asked Avanti to cease production of the vehicle.

Under the terms of the settlement, Avanti will revamp the Studebaker's looks by increasing the rake of the windshield, removing the hood latches and vents, and making the side windows larger. The new-look Studebaker is scheduled to debut next spring at the New York Auto Show.

DrivelinesCoolest Reading Places SpecialThe Middle East is still a dangerous place for the men and women of our armed forces, yet those brave and selfless 4-Wheel & Off-Road fans keep sending us cool reading submissions. Here are a few more of their words and pictures from the world's hot spots.

RecallsIf 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-'03 Suzuki Grand Vitara and Grand Vitara XL-7: Certain vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard regarding windshield mounting. The windshield may not be properly secured to the vehicle body due to insufficient adhesion between the paint applied during the second-stage painting process and the paint applied during final-stage painting. If the windshield is not properly secured, it may separate from the vehicle during a crash, which could result in the ejection of unbelted occupants, increasing the risk of severe injury or death. Vehicles that are found to have insufficient paint adhesion will either be repainted, replaced, or purchased and destroyed. Owners may contact Suzuki at 800/934-0934.

*'03 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500: On certain heavy-duty pickup trucks, the aluminum wheels may have excessive porosity in the center hub, which can cause a wheel to crack. This could cause a loss of vehicle control and result in a crash without warning. Dealers will inspect the wheels and replace them if necessary. Owners may contact DaimlerChrysler at 800/992-1997.

Ford Unveils Techno-ExplorerIt sees in the dark, will help its driver avoid accidents, and has an interior that its owner can configure any number of ways. From the outside it may look like just another Ford Explorer, but this is the Smart, Safe Research Vehicle, or S2RV. Ford engineers fitted it with the latest in electronics gear, including Active Night Vision, Adaptive (steerable) Headlights, a Wireless Proximity Warning System, an Accident Avoidance Camera System, and a Rear Collision Warning System. (Maybe blind people will be able to drive after all.)

Interior appointments include wireless Bluetooth connectivity for cellular phones, a SmartNav navigation system, and reconfigurable displays and switches. How does that work? There are a number of docking stations inside the SUV into which a driver can plug what are known as smart switches. So if you like your window buttons on the console rather than the door panel, you can plug them in there.

Is this Ford in our future? "You can bet that many of these features will be seen in Ford vehicles of the future," said Dr. Ron Miller, S2RV's project leader.

Pickup Trucks The Best-Selling Vehicles Of 2003The news agency Reuters is reporting that, through July 2003, the three best-selling vehicles in the U.S. are all fullsize pickup trucks. Ford's F-150 is again the number-one seller with 471,884 units sold. Trailing behind it is Chevy's Silverado with 394,108 units sold, while Third Place goes to the Dodge Ram at 258,656 units. Ford may not want to spend a lot of time cheering, though, as its numbers represent a 1.6-percent downturn from sales in the same period last year. On the other hand, the Silverado's numbers are up 3.6 percent, while the Ram's have climbed 13 percent.

More trucks make an appearance on Reuters' top-20-bestsellers list: At number six is the Ford Explorer, number 12 is Chevy's TrailBlazer, the Ford Ranger is at 15, and the GMC Sierra pickup, Chevrolet Tahoe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Ford Expedition take numbers 17 through 20, respectively.

CalendarAttention promoters, club officers, racing sanctioning bodies, and anyone else planning a 4x4 event: Please send us your calendar of 2004 listings. Because of press lead times, we need your info at least three months in advance of the event. Don't miss out on free national publicity for your special happening! Send all events listings to: Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048; or e-mail them to

Nov. 22 Stoddard 250 desert race, Barstow, CA. Information: Mojave Desert Racing, 626/442-9320,

Nov. 29 Patriot Jeepers Post Turkey Day Jeep Run, Massachusetts. Information: Patriot Jeepers, 508/757-3134,

Dec. 5-7 Las Vegas 200 off-road race, Las Vegas, NV. Information: Best in the Desert, 702/457-5775,

Dec. 6 1st Annual Redline Wheelin Toy Run, Elbe Hills ORV, near Elbe, WA. Information: 360/432-9059, e-mail

Dec. 14 5th Annual Toys for Tots Parade and Christmas Party, Chicago, IL. Information, Great Lakes Jeep Thing,

Dec. 20 4x4 Safety Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA. Information: 818/370-3582,

Political & Environmental Watch*The Bureau of Land Management has handed down a decision banning cross-country travel on BLM lands in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Vehicles must stay on the roads and trails. There are exceptions: You can drive to a campsite within 300 feet of existing roads and trails, provided you located the site in a "non-motorized fashion." And emergency vehicles-fire, law enforcement, search and rescue and military-can travel cross-country when necessary. The decision does not affect travel on roads or trails.

*Our friends at the SEMA Action Network (SAN) have reported that Representative Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) plans to introduce legislation to designate 250,000 acres of Idaho's Boulder White-Cloud Mountain Range as wilderness. At present time, the scope of the bill would be limited to the single mountain range. Although Idaho has nearly 12 million acres of land eligible for wilderness designation, there has been little action to formalize the status.

*San also reports that the National Park Service (NPS) has proposed closing the Salt Creek Canyon trail in Utah's Canyonlands National Park to motorized vehicles due to the large number of vehicles that break down or become stuck (thus requiring NPS assistance), and to protect a significant number of nearby archeological sites. Access to the off-road trail has been the subject of a lawsuit and previous NPS management plans.

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