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Drivelines - March 2014

Posted in News on January 3, 2014 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Staff

Old-school Cool at SEMA
With Fred Williams and Harry Wagner doing the heavy lifting of finding the best new products at SEMA (the annual Las Vegas gathering of the latest aftermarket parts) my job was a little, well, unformed. As I walked the halls, though, I realized the 4x4s that caught my eye had a common thread: Old guys rule.(We’ll have more SEMA vehicles to show you in next month’s Drivelines too.)

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This Just In
• We are not sure whether Automotive News got this right, but one of its reporters, after interviewing Jeep Chief Mike Manley, thought Manley was hinting that the next generation Wrangler would have (are you sitting down?) IFS. The change would be done in the name of fuel economy; IFS is lighter than a solid axle. “We’re already in an environment where it’s a challenge to produce a vehicle in that way, and it’s going to get harder,” Manley said of the solid-axle Wrangler. “What I can tell you is that the vehicle is absolutely fundamental to our DNA, and it’s going to become progressively harder to make sure that the vehicle meets all of the standards that are required for it.” AN says the change, if it happens, will come when the Wrangler is revised for 2016. However, we have more background information than our colleagues at AN, and we bet it won’t be as bad as what they inferred.

• Automotive News also reports that an axle shortage has slowed production of regular- and double-cab versions of the ’14 Silverado and Sierra pickups. There are plenty of crew cabs on dealer lots, says the trade paper, but dealers are having to wait for the other versions. GM says production will ramp up and that there will be no loss of overall pickup production.

• Quantum Automotive has acquired Superlift Suspension and Superlift Manufacturing. The new owners are “committed to building on Superlift’s 35 year history and recognition by off road enthusiasts,” and will offer Superlift’s suspension products to customers factory-direct as well as through installers and dealers.

• The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has named the ’14 Jeep Grand Cherokee a Top Safety Pick after the SUV got the highest possible score in the organization’s collision and rollover tests.

• Remember the “Farmer” Super Bowl ad that Ram ran earlier this year? The company pledged to donate up to $1 million to the Future Farmers of America (FFA) based on the number of views the ad tallied on YouTube. Turns out the ad got 10 million views in less than a week, and Ram made good on the pledge, handing a $1 million check to Clay Sapp, the 2012-2013 national FFA president, at the 2013 National FFA Convention & Expo in Louisville, Kentucky.

Earth Watch
• The North American XJ Association (NAXJA), an internet-based XJ/MJ club, has donated $5,000 to the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) to support the BRC’s ongoing work with land-use issues. “This is a continued storyline for NAXJA in supporting land use over the course of our history,” noted the club’s President Matt Rowland. NAXJA was incorporated 15 years ago and just held its third national event in Moab.

• Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recently signed several bills that should open more access for off-road recreational vehicles (ORVs) in the state. The new laws enable local governments to request permission of the state’s Department of Transportation to allow ORVs to operate on the shoulders of state roads where the roads connect ORV areas; allow all of Michigan’s counties to request ORV road access; and expand the list of activities where an ORV license is not required.

• CORVA reports that the Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation department is planning an OHV Park in the Littlerock area of Los Angeles County (near Palmdale). Visit the association’s website, www.corva.org, for more information on how you can support this effort.

The Rage Foundation
This past summer’s Jeeper’s Jamboree was marred by a horrific accident. A Jeep rolled off Cadillac Hill and caught fire, gravely injuring a young woman, Rachel Anne Gray. First responders put the fire out quickly, but Gray suffered second- and third-degree burns over 75 percent of her body. A CalStar medical flight team was dispatched to the scene, was there within minutes, and transported her to the burn unit at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. She put up a valiant fight but succumbed to her injuries a month after the accident.

Buggy racer Matt Hall was among the first on the scene and helped carry Gray to the CalStar helicopter. After the incident, Hall’s wife Cathi launched the Rachel Anne Gray Foundation—or the Rage Foundation, after Gray’s nickname—to raise funds towards her medical bills. Since her passing, the Rage Foundation continues and has made donations to the UC Davis Medical Center, Shriner’s Hospital, and “to promote off-road safety and awareness,” says Cathi Hall. To find out more about the Rage Foundation and contribute to this good cause, visit the foundation’s Facebook page, facebook.com/RAGEFoundation.

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Going the Distance
We tested a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited in a different way recently when we used it as a chase/support vehicle for ultramarathon runner Maggie Beach. She was competing in the inaugural Stagecoach Line 100, a 100-mile footrace along trails that once comprised the stagecoach route between Flagstaff, Arizona, and the rim of the Grand Canyon. The Jeep carried Beach’s food, hydration, and medical supplies, plus her crew and pacers.

Getting to the race’s checkpoints and aid stations meant travel on dirt Forest Service roads, which ranged from nicely graded to deeply rutted. The Jeep handled every bump, rut, and loose surface without breaking a sweat, leaving other crew vehicles in a cloud of dust—literally. The Pentastar V-6 was perfect for this kind of use: powerful enough for high-speed blasts between checkpoints and frugal enough to return high 20-mpg fuel economy on the highway. When nighttime temperatures dipped into the low 20s, we truly appreciated the Jeep’s heated seats and steering wheel.

The Jeep did great, and so did Beach: Fifth Place overall, Second Place female, and a personal best time for a trail 100-miler: 21 hours 45 minutes.

DED This Month
Every two weeks Dirt Every Day airs on the Motor Trend Channel on YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/motortrend). The show features 4WOR Tech Editor Fred Williams in some variety of off-road adventure or project build. Check out recent episodes in which he compares a 4x4 van to a fullsize motorhome off-road, or a shootout between a stock Willys Jeep and a John Deere Gator UTV. Be sure to subscribe and follow DED on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DirtEveryDay.

New Start for NORRA 1000
Organizers of the General Tire NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally, a gathering south of the border of (mostly) vintage desert racing trucks, buggies, and motorcycles, have announced some changes for the 2014 race. The event will take place later than previous races, on May 10-14, and it will start in Ensenada. The finish line will be at the other end of the Baja peninsula, in San Jose Del Cabo. Event organizers also announced that the two- and four-wheeled entries will be split, with motorcycles leaving Ensenada on Saturday May 10, while four-wheeled racers will depart Sunday May 11. More information on the rally is available at www.norra.com.

Happy Trails, FJ!
The ’14 model year brings an end to production of Toyota’s FJ Cruiser. At the SEMA Show, Toyota displayed an example of the last of the Trail Teams Ultimate Edition Cruisers. Finished in Heritage Blue, the special FJ is fitted with a number of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) pieces, including an upgraded suspension with Bilstein shocks, beadlock wheels with BFGoodrich AT/KO tires, and a new front skidplate. Just 2,500 of these final Trail Teams FJs will be built.

Ironman’s Race Truck on the Block
The recent RK Motors Auction in Charlotte, North Carolina, had among its consignments the Toyota Class 1 race truck built by PPI and raced by Ivan “Ironman” Stewart in the ’90s. It had been meticulously restored and painted in the livery it wore when Stewart and Larry Roeseler drove it in the Baja 2000. Offered with a truckload of spare parts and its original chassis blueprints, the truck brought a high bid of $200,000 but did not sell.

Calendar
• Jan. 31–Feb. 2:
Bluewater Resort Parker 425 desert race by Best in the Desert, Parker, AZ.
Info: www.bitd.com

• Feb. 1: Tire Repair and Hi-Lift Jack Mini Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Hawthorne, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Feb. 8: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Feb. 9: Winch Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Mojave, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Feb. 15: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Borrego Springs, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Feb. 16: Tire Repair and Hi-Lift Jack Mini Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Borrego Springs, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Feb. 27–Mar. 2: Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 desert race, San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico.
Info: SCORE, www.score-international.com

• Feb. 28: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Borrego Springs, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Feb. 28–Mar. 2: Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari, Ocotillo Wells SVRA, near Borrego Springs, CA.
Info: www.tds4x4.com

• Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, a description of the event, and contact info—phone numbers and/or email/website address—to Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 818.566.8501; email 4wheeloffroad@sorc.com. Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

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