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July 2002 Letters To The Editor - Letters

Posted in Project Vehicles on July 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.

Rockcrawl Concern
Reader: I really enjoyed reading the articles in the March 2002 issue about the ARCA Rockcrawling Championships, both the Men's and the Women's. That is, until I took a closer look at the photos of the event. To me, the whole event looks like a fatality just waiting to happen.

First of all, the spotters. Almost all the photos show them perilously perched on rocks with a death grip on a strap attached to a vehicle which would appear to be right on the edge of rolling back down the rock face.

Second, driver safety. Of all the photos of the drivers, I only saw one driver with a real, live racing helmet. A few others seemed to be wearing either some cheesy bicycle or equestrian helmet. These pitiful things just barely cover the top of the head, much less protect the side, neck, and jaw. Worst of all, most didn't seem to be wearing any helmets at all.

Last of all, the photo of the rolled crawler with the smoke from spilled fluids on the hot engine probably has the worst potential. It looked like most drivers were wearing tank tops or plain old T-shirts. So, if that was gasoline pouring onto a hot engine, the flashover would give a person second- and third-degree burns over half his or her body before anybody could do anything about it.

Before anybody thinks I'm trying to tear down the sport, I'm not. Rockcrawling is gaining in popularity for some very good reasons. I'd just hate to see rockcrawling highlights on the newest Faces of Death tape. It's time for the sanctioning bodies to step up to the next level and make some safety rules and make them stick. All it would take is one televised incident, and the sport could be badly damaged before it reached its true potential. Worse, if the sanctioning bodies are slow to act, the government is always ready to make a few more laws and regulations. Considering the raw deal four-wheeling has sometimes gotten in the past from government regulators, this is not a happy prospect.
Bill Springer
Lee, Illinois

Editor: As it happens, Bill, we pretty much agree with you on at least some of the points you've mentioned, and we have expressed our concerns to the folks at the various sanctioning bodies. We do believe that safety regulations could be tightened up a bit, and your suggestion that retaining nets be applied to rollcages to keep arms and legs inside is one that we support. We also cringe at the thought of folks participating in any kind of motoring competition without proper headgear. We should note however that while we suggest its use, we so far have not required such headgear in our own event, Top Truck Challenge.

We feel compelled to point out that any form of motorsports is inherently dangerous. Anybody who participates had best recognize that fact, and take appropriate steps to preserve life and limb

But about that smoking, upside-down rig you saw in those photos: Our guess is that the smoke came not from a fire, but from oil in the upside-down engine leaking past the piston rings and into the combustion chambers of the still-running engine. The smoke you saw likely was smoke from oil being burned during internal combustion, not smoke from an actual fire

A Recruit
Reader: I'm new to the four-wheeling scene. Actually, I'm new to the automotive hobby. Prior to this week, I couldn't tell you the difference between an intake valve and a water balloon. I've been doing some hardcore reading on different aspects of the average vehicle (engine, drivetrain, transmission-haven't gotten to suspension yet). I've been searching the Web, but I'm coming up empty as to what other stuff I should look into before I throw money and time into four-wheeling. If you could point me toward resources that will further my automotive knowledge, I'd really appreciate it. In the meantime, I'll be reading Four Wheeler and taking my SUV out for some light four-wheeling.
Dan Balaban
New Jersey

Editor: Welcome aboard, Dan. Fooling with, and then driving, motor vehicles is a lot of fun, as you will find. Perhaps we are biased, but we believe that Four Wheeler, the original magazine about this activity, remains the best resource you can find for information about how to build, and how to use and enjoy, your four-wheel-drive rig. You'll also want to check out our Web, and the discussion groups there. Finally, you might want to think about finding a club in your area and joining up.

Which is Which?
Reader: I am 17 years old, and have been into four-wheelin' before I could even drive. A friend of mine has a '93 Jeep Wrangler YJ and another has a '47 CJ-2A (restored very nicely, I might add). The question I have concerns my knowledge of Jeeps. All Jeeps have a model name such as a Cherokee or a Wrangler, but they also have initials such as the CJ, YJ, TJ, XJ, KJ, WJ, MB and I think there may even be a DJ and BJ, but I'm not sure. I was wondering what all the first initials stood for. I know the CJ stands for Civilian Jeep, but that's as much as I know. I would really appreciate it if you could fill me in.
Ryan Pennick
Sandpoint, Idaho

Editor: Right, CJ did mean civilian Jeep. The rest are mostly internal model codes that people at Jeep-or worse, the military-dreamed up. Hardcore Jeep insiders would tell you, however, that YJ stands for Yesterday's Jeep or Yuppie's Jeep, and that TJ stands for Today's Jeep. And we'd guess that XJ stands for Xcellent Jeep, KJ stands for (Swiss Army) Knife Jeep, and WJ for Woman's Jeep. Or maybe not.

J' Accuse!
Reader: I know you try to cover every aspect of four-wheeling, and I do appreciate it. But I have a problem with the article "Mud Monsters of Florida" (March '02). Why were those Jeeps and that show-truck Toyota in the article? Obviously the Dodge should have been there, but that's it. Your bias toward Jeeps insulted a lot of serious mudboggers in Florida. If you had looked at the 4x4 scene in Florida you would have seen mostly big, gnarly fullsize Boggers, not the street machines you chose to show. I'm not even a Floridian and I know this is a horrible injustice to my fellow mud monsters. When you do an article on my home state of Missouri please don't show a bunch of Jeeps unless they have 1-ton axles and 44s.
Jim Mace
Ft. Sill, Oklahoma

Editor: The vehicles featured in "Mud Monsters of Florida" were there because they represent, as nearly as we can tell, a cross-section of the types of vehicles you'd be likely to see in that state. Are there lots of fullsize trucks there? Of course, there are. But there are lots of other kinds of vehicles as well, as that story amply illustrated. As you point out, we try to cover every aspect of four-wheeling, and if true, that would seem to rule out any possibility of bias toward one vehicle or another. Right?

Word Play
Reader: Just finished the April issue. Loved it. Especially loved the article "Ultimate Axles." But with all the recent political chat about various terrorist nations from G. W. Bush, a better title for that story might have been "Axles of Evil!"
James Murphy
Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts

Editor: Oh, James? Go to your room.

Bashing Ted
Reader: In the Jan '02 issue of Four Wheeler Ted Reese was bashing sand. And now in the April '02 issue he's complaining about my favorite art: rockcrawling. It's all well and good that Ted went across the Rubicon in a stock YJ, but the people that have those fancy rigs probably don't mind putting the cash into their trucks.
John Maranda
Farmington, New Hampshire

Not Bashing Ted
Reader: After reading the Low Rage column in the April issue concerning the current state of rockcrawling, I was just wondering, when does Ted Reese start his new job as editor? With the current jump-on-the-bandwagon attitude the editors of other magazines seem to have these days-i.e., "You can't go trail riding without Dana 60s," I think Ted's attitude is a breath of fresh air.
Chad Christopher
Tuscumbia, Alabama

Editor: Ted as editor of Four Wheeler? No-noo-noooo. Ted in the office every day? Ted interacting with staffers and freelancers and art directors? We'd pay to see that, but from a distance; it would not be pretty.

Reader: I thought that the trucks in your Top Truck Challenge had to be street-legal. I'm looking at this year's entries and lots of them are not street-legal. I'm not talking about mud flaps and small stuff like that. I'm talking about no fenders, no head or taillights or windshields. Don't get me wrong. I like these trucks just as much as any one else but I think having some of these trucks in Top Truck Challenge takes some of the fun out of it. I like to see the trucks that are driven to work five days a week, then driven to the rocks, mud, and trails on the weekends. I can't stand to see a 4x4 on a trailer. I have a 1987 Dodge Charger with a 360, 5-inch lift, and 35s, and it will pass anything but a gas station. I guess all I'm really trying to get at is, did you change the rules about being street-legal?
Officer Paul Twidt
Kellogg, Idaho

Editor: No, actually Paul, seeing as how Top Truck Challenge competitors come from all over the U.S. and Canada, and this year from Israel, and seeing as how what's legal in California probably is different from what's legal in Ohio or Idaho or Israel, what we require is that our competitor's trucks be street-licensed and insured. We did have some CHP chappies roll into the TTC one time a couple of years ago for a mock inspection, however-and we didn't tell anyone that we were kidding. Let us tell you, that was some good fun, ho, ho, ho.... Took a while to get peoples' blood pressure calmed back down

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.

In Praise of Willie
Reader: After reading "Before You Swap," a piece by Willie Worthy in the October, 2000 issue of Four Wheeler, I was put to the test of my life. I purchased a '75 Ford 11/42-ton longbed 4x4. It was powered by a 360ci V-8, a C6 transmission, and an NP203 transfer case. It cost me $1,200. As I tried to drive it, I found I had no oil pressure. You know what happened next: total meltdown. And that's when my project began.

I ordered a new 302ci engine, and I bought a parts truck for $200. It had an NP435 and a Dana 21 T-case. I used those, plus parts from two other Ford trucks. I just wanted to tell you guys at Four Wheeler how grateful I am for the information on engine sizes and weights provided in Willie's article. It helped me greatly. After all the hard work, I now have a real working 4x4. It's not pretty, but it will get the job done, and total cost is about $3,064, a lot less than those new $35,000 rigs.
John C. Jungroth
Edmond, Oklahoma

Editor: You're very welcome, John. Thanks to you for recognizing the value of Willie, one of Four Wheeler's long-standing unsung heros. Oh, and, uh, welcome to the hobby of four-wheeling.

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