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April 2002 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on April 1, 2002
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Where To Write
Address your correspondence to:
Four Wheeler
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515.

All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department also can be reached through the Web site at Due to the volume of mail, electronic or otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

What, No Snow?
Reader: Your tire tests and most of your magazine do not address snow. For example, in the tire tests published in your January 2002 issue you rate tires on mud, rocks, sand, and street. Why not snow?

I live in Wyoming and require a vehicle much like those you have in your magazine. However, I drive little in mud, not at all on sand and rocks, but a lot of time on snow. Snow may be harder to test on, since it is only around for part of the year. However, I expect a large number of Four Wheeler readers drive on snow and would like to read more testing of vehicles and equipment for snow usage.
Robert P. Giese
Via the Internet

Editor: Yep, that's been a problem, one exacerbated by our location in Los Angeles where it rarely snows. We've solved that problem by opening a bureau in the Midwest. We're informed by new Features Editor (and by default, Midwest bureau chief) Ken Brubaker that there actually is snow on the roads around the Four Wheeler Midwest bureau. By supplying this information to us, Mr. Brubaker automatically and unwittingly elects himself Four Wheeler's official winter tire tester. So you will be seeing at least some tires tested in snow.

Planning Is Everything
Reader: Let me start by saying I have enjoyed your magazine and by no means am I going to bitch about it. What I am going to bitch about is the Warn Rock Crawling Championship event in Las Cruces, New Mexico, that was scheduled for November 11. My daughter and I were very excited about going. We planned a weekend of Jeeps and being together doing what we both love. I really want to support this sport, but when I called for information, I was able to develop very little. After a four-hour round-trip I found no Jeeps. I was not alone, as there were several hundred people there, some from farther away than us, looking for this event. I am not looking for anything special, just some information on how we can enjoy this sport.
Darren Stevenson
Silver City, New Mexico

Editor: The key to enjoying this and other events probably is planning. Not knowing how far in advance you did yours, it's difficult for us to comment. Rockcrawling is a wonderful family sport, however, so we would suggest that in the future you make your plans well in advance, and be sure to check in with the event organizers by telephone, using the numbers you'll find listed in Four Wheeler's Calendar section, at least a week before the event to make sure you obtain all the information you'll require to make your trip a success. Also, be sure to check the appropriate Web sites for the 2002 schedules so you can make your plans well in advance.

How To Improve Top Truck Challenge
Reader: I have a few suggestions about how to improve the Top Truck Challenge. First, why don't you guys enter some of your former project vehicles into the voting? Second, why don't you try to expand on the event? How about a Top Truck Challenge between you guys and other magazines? You guys all have built some very nice and obviously very capable 4x4s. Why not put them to good use? I'm sure I'm not the only one who would like to see this. Or have some of your editors enter their own personal rides. Imagine how happy it would make you guys if you were to put all the other major publications to shame.
Marco Sierra
Via the Internet

Editor: Please keep in mind that the Top Truck Challenge-the first was in 1993, making the upcoming event the ninth annual TTC-is driven by you readers. It is for readers and about readers, and its contestants are chosen by reader-vote from a field of reader entrants. The purpose is, as always, to learn the state of the 4x4 art, as defined by the equipment built by readers. It also is to witness the ongoing, if unspoken, competition between Jeep-like rigs and fullsize trucks. Altering the format in the ways you suggest might seem interesting, but would not fulfill the Top Truck Challenge's mission. We already put all the other publications to shame, so there's nothing to be gained there. Interestingly, a competitor in that first event now is editor of one of those other magazines. This driver/editor did not win. He came close, but close doesn't count. Which reminds us, be sure to check next month's issue for this year's crop of candidates.

A Believer Speaks
Reader: First off, I'd like to acknowledge that you produce the best four-wheeling magazine on the planet. I look forward to it every month. However, I have a few suggestions:

1. Could you possibly produce a special-edition magazine that covers and explains the general aspects of four-wheeling? I was bogged down when I first started reading because I couldn't understand the terms. For example, what's the difference between a locker and a limited slip? I know now, but it took me some researching.

2.How about a competition that revealed the best brands in four-wheeling? You could have the best four-wheeling vehicles, winches, lockers, lift kits, tires, etc.

3. After the Wrangler's embarrassing loss to the Tacoma TRD in your "Ultimate 4x4," I was wondering if you would do a re-test. There have been rumors that Jeep is offering a Wrangler in 2003 that will be equipped with front and rear lockers, rocker panels, 4.0:1 low-range, etc. Will you do a re-test of the same vehicles when this optional TJ is introduced? I just want to see Jeep redeem itself.

4. This last proposal is something that I am in dire need of-a list of off-road trails for each state. Even a possible "Best Trails in all 50 States" would be extremely useful. I am fairly new to the world of off-roading, and haven't found many trails within reasonable driving distance.

Anyway, I just wanted to say again that I love your magazine.
Lawrence Mower
Las Vegas, Nevada

Editor: You raise some interesting points, Lawrence, which we'll take one by one:

1. We do make an effort to address the concerns of folks new to the sport of four-wheeling. If, for instance, you had caught our February 2001 issue, which contained a section called "Ultimate Traction Explained," you would have learned all you needed to know about lockers and limited-slip differentials. Likewise, there are components in that issue-portions of our section "Strength through Steering," for example-that are aimed at improving the understanding of folks who are new to the sport. The conundrum we face, however, is that far and away the majority of our readers are fairly knowledgeable. So while we attempt to supply information that will be meaningful to newcomers to the wonderful pastime of four-wheeling, we also need to make sure we present plenty of material that will keep those legions of more experienced people happy and interested. So we try to be a little bit of all things to all people.

2.Best brands in four-wheeling? In part, our road tests, and especially our comparison tests, attempt to do that. Additionally, there often is no simple best because products that work well in one situation or on one application may not perform so well in another situation or on another application.

3.You're right-Jeep will introduce the Wrangler Rubicon this summer, a news story that Four Wheeler broke in its last issue. As you suggest, and as we reported, this vehicle will be equipped with Dana 44 axles at both ends. Gearing will be 4:10:1. The transfer case will contain a 4:1 low-range ratio. Tires will be 31-inch Goodyear MT/Rs. We might not do a complete reprise of "Ultimate 4x4" immediately, but a comparison of the Rubicon and the TRD is in the cards.

4. A guide to the best trails in the country? Great idea. Even better if those trails are submitted by you readers. Indeed, we're working on something like this, as we're presently compiling a guide to all public four-wheeling areas in every state. So stay tuned as we attempt to answer your questions and concerns.

Ted And Sand
Reader: I just read "I Can't Stand Sand," Ted Reese's latest rant (Low Rage, Jan. '02). Ted, you make 'wheeling in sand sound like a job, rather than an outrageous adventure. You haven't lived until you've been on the Glamis Dunes in California on Thanksgiving Day.
Jack Nottingham
Banning, California

Editor: To each his own, Jack. It's OK if Ted doesn't much care for sand. But he'd better not knock mud. Or rockcrawling.

A GM Pickup Missing In Action?
Reader: I'm a little aggravated with Four Wheeler's Pickup Truck of the Year comparison test (Jan., '02). It didn't seem fair. Where was the General Motors pickup? The Avalanche was there, but that's not a pickup, it's more like a big plastic SUV. Second, why didn't you use an actual four-door Ford F-150, instead of the Super Cab version? And last, why two Toyotas? Why not just one of each make, or two, if necessary? I like the Top Truck Challenge, though. How about doing two of them next year?
Joshua Lawson
Indianapolis, Indiana

Editor: Well, we deviated a little from our usual Pickup Truck of the Year formula this last time, and it's not something we'll do again. Usually we insist that only those vehicles that are new or substantially changed be admitted to this comparison. This year we invited every manufacturer to submit two pickups each-a fullsize and a compact. Toyota was the only manufacturer that did that. We got the Ford you saw in this story because that's what Ford sent. The Avalanche was in this story because it's got a pickup bed. We know it's not exactly a pickup, but we also know that it's not exactly not a pickup, either, if you see what we mean. Trust us, next year it'll be back to our old tried-and-true format. Two Top Truck Challenge events? Arrrggghh! One of them is sufficiently complicated, thanks very much. We have discussed this idea, however, and it nearly came to pass. Who knows, it still could. Not this year, though.

The Question
Reader: When does my subscription expire?
Donnie Coxsey
Alpena, Arkansas

Editor: Look, we're editorial wonks, not subscription wonks. We know from words and pictures. We do not know from subscription information. It's not that we don't care. We do care, and deeply. It's that we don't know, because that part of the overall function of this magazine is handled by a group of specialists located in Florida. When you need information about your subscription, and you need to know who to contact, here's what you do. Turn to the page containing the editor's column, Limited Articulation. Ignore that. Everyone does. Instead, look at the very bottom at the adjacent staff box. There you'll find a paragraph that begins, "Send address changes to...." Those are the folks who know from subscriptions. We do believe, however, that the address information printed in the address box on the cover of subscription issues contains the information you are looking for. Looks to us like your sub is good until November, 2003. But we could be wrong, because we're editorial wonks, and not subscription wonks.

Women Up In Arms
Reader: I read with interest the story in your January 2002 issue, "What Your Wife Should Buy You for Christmas." Why don't you do a story titled, "What Your Husband Should Buy You for Christmas?" It just makes me upset when you tell men how to get their wives to buy them some useful part for their 4x4s. Just do some articles from the women's point of view and it'll be OK.
Becky Jo Olson
Badger, Minnesota

Editor: We figure that with the multitude of ironing boards, vacuum cleaners, and other such ideal gift items out there, men don't need all that much help, right? (Hoo-boy, Mr. Editor Thompson, where will you live after I forward this to your wife? -Julie Greene, Managing Editor).

New Blood
Reader: I recently began subscribing to your magazine after visiting Colorado and seeing first-hand how great four-wheeling is. My problem is I'm only 17 and hardly know anything about truck tech and what I really need to go off-road. I hardly know anything about great stuff like differentials and what gears I need, and what kind of truck is necessary. I think it would be good if you had a beginner's section in each issue, or a guide on the pros and cons of older trucks. Sometimes I read Four Wheeler's articles and just become lost in the tech, but I can usually read the article over enough to get a small grasp on things. Anyway, Four Wheeler is a great mag. Keep up the good work, and I'll keep subscribing.
Via the Internet

Editor: Well, this is what we'd call a wake-up call. We have in past months been applying additional emphasis to entry-level material, but apparently we're not supplying enough of that. So we'll try to do better. As a starting point, however, here's a suggestion: Go to your local library and pull out back issues of Four Wheeler. Check out "13 Essential Upgrades," (April '01), "What Works Where," (May '01), "Getting the Best Used Truck for Your Buck," (June '01), "Drive Like the Heroes," (Oct. '01), and most especially, if you want to understand traction and lockers, "Ultimate Traction Explained," (Feb. '01). The material in these stories should go at least part of the way toward answering your questions.

What's Better?
Reader: First, you guys do a solid mag every month. Definitely better than the other guys. My question is this: I'm going to buy an early '80s CJ-7. Do you have any recommendations for me-i.e., fuel injection or carbs, automatic trans or manual?
Via the Internet

Editor: Our preference always would be for fuel injection over carburetion. As to automatic versus manual, this: The stock manual transmissions were the Tremec T-4 or T-5. The automatics in these Jeeps were fairly reliable Chrysler Torqueflite transmissions. We'd stick with the automatic, unless you're compelled to be shifty.

Four Wheeler's "Letter of the Month" is the most interesting or informative letter we receive each month. The letter's author will be sent one of Four Wheeler's highly prized Four Wheeler license plates. So be sure to include your full name and address when you write Four Wheeler.

Letter Of The Month
Hear Her Roar
Reader: I warn you, this letter will take some shortening, as I have much to say. I am the only female mechanic here at Lakenheath, England, in the U.S. Air Force. Originally from Sublimity, Oregon, I was thrilled that Four Wheeler would reach me here.

I noticed that recently there was an Oregon truck represented in Readers' Rigs, and that's good, but hey, there are tons of awesome places to go muddin' in Oregon, and aside from that Readers' Rigs piece, rarely do you guys cover anything to do with Oregon.

Next, the letters from women that were published in the December issue of Four Wheeler: There are many of us females who have a greater knowledge of and passion for trucks than many men. The only reason we don't write in is because we already know the answers! (And here the writer draws us a smiley-face so that we can know she's saying this all in good humor. -Ed.)

But my big question is, what do you do when you're stationed in a country where muddin' is virtually nonexistent, and even if it weren't, your '78 Chevy is lifted too high, and even if it wasn't, is too big to fit on any road or in any parking space without getting a ticket?

Do what you'd like with this letter, but just remember, there's a little Oregon cowgirl somewhere in England loving Four Wheeler and dyin' to get home to her truck and Oregon mud.
Casi Jo
Lakenheath, England

Editor: Well, Casi Jo, what we're going to do with this letter is publish it and send you a Four Wheeler license plate. As for that Chevy 4x4 of yours, sounds to us like you're pretty much stuck, since England is so densely settled, with (as far as we know, at least,) virtually no serious 'wheeling opportunities. But we'll bet there are four-wheeling clubs there nevertheless. These might be composed of guys smoking pipes and wearing wellies and tweed jackets, driving Land Rovers. Or maybe not. Perhaps it would be worth your while to explore that possibility as a stopgap until you can get home.

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