August 2002 4x4 Truck & Automotive News - RPMPosted in Project Vehicles on August 1, 2002
Hello Hummer, Bye Bye Bummer
In December 1999 GM licensed the Hummer name from AM General. Soon after, the company bought the popular underground Hummer knock-off, the Bummer kit, from Tatonka Industries of Salt Lake City, Utah, and "retired" it.
Clearly, the Hummer is a top priority for GM, as plans are in the works to roll out the formidable '03 H2 by year's end. In fact, our First Drive of this vehicle can be found in next month's issue. The company is selling the top-shelf vehicle in one-of-a-kind dealerships, many of which will contain a test track designed to highlight the Hummer's off-road capabilities. Plans for the Bummer, however, are quite different. That brand, according to its creator Richard Tolbert, was considered bad for business at GM, which saw the Bummer as just the kind of competition it didn't need. GM offered Tolbert an undisclosed sum for the Bummer line, and he sold.
Tolbert's plans? He says Tatonka is working on three new kit project vehicles to be sold through the Tatonka shop in Salt Lake City. Tolbert says he'll be working on "brand new knock-off vehicles that are a parody of anything." In the works are a '39 Ford woodie kit for a Blazer K-5 chassis. Another, called The Bone, is a "super ATV," according to its creator, and the Grunt is a 4-door, 8-passenger 4x4 with 40-inch tires that Tolbert calls "very radical."
A new book, titled GMC: The First 100 Years, by John Gunnell, celebrates a century of truck-building. The entertaining and informative book, which can be used for reference, takes readers through a century of GMC trucks, giving fans an in-depth understanding of the company's history, going back to the marque's days as the Rapid Motor Company. The hardback volume includes photos of the company's earliest creations such as the 1904 Rapid 1-ton Model D-21 and the 1909 Rapid, which was the first truck to climb Pike's Peak. With decade-by-decade chapters, GMC: The First 100 Years highlights the company's forays into pickups, buses and even concept vehicles in an organized, easy-to-read style. Established by brothers Max and Morris Grabowsky, GMC has focused on trucks since its earliest days and this new book should give truck devotees an exceptional understanding of one of the world's most respected truck builders.
BFGoodrich Goes Crawlin'
As the sport of rockcrawling grew over the past decade, one major tire company was conspicuously absent from the arena. Not anymore. Last May, BFGoodrich revealed that it was indeed hub-deep into R&D on a new tire geared toward rockcrawling. Dubbed the Krawler, the new tire will be available as a 37/12.50R17. Another size, 35/12.50R15, will likely be produced, as well. The Krawler, once available, will boast the deepest tread depth of any tire on the market. Currently, BFG is testing several prototypes at rockcrawling competitions across the country. Promised one BFG exec, "The Krawler literally will defy the laws of gravity in a rockcrawling situation." Look for the Krawler sometime in 2003.
F Series Gets Pinched
Ford engineers are scrambling to get the popular F-150 pickups manufactured at lower cost. According to Jim Padilla, group vice president of Ford North America, the company plans to examine every facet of the vehicle in order to cut manufacturing costs by about $700 per unit. The first Ford to feel the pinch will be the 2004 F-150, which is part of a line developed in an era of economic prosperity. Consequently, these models are full of content and assembly complexity that the automaker can no longer afford. The shift comes as a result of Ford's North American operations' poor sales figures for the first quarter of 2002. In 2001, F-series truck sales totaled 911,597 units, representing 23 percent of the company's U.S. sales.
M80 Plans On Hold
Plans to mass-produce the new Dodge M80 pickup are on hold, no matter how popular the concept vehicle was at the Detroit Auto Show. Why? A company mandate stipulating that all Dodge production vehicles deliver 100,000 units in annual sales puts the M80 in peril. The lone exception is the Dodge Viper, which sold 1,388 units last year. In its concept-vehicle state, the M80 used a modified Dakota platform. Dodge says it needs to bring in the M80 at the $16-$20K range, a level preferred by Dodge's target market of auto buyers that will turn 20 during this decade. For now, says James Julow, vice president of Dodge Division, "we are trying to make a commercial case [for the M80], and at the lower end of the market it's harder to do."
New Division At Toyota
* In an effort to target what it calls "consumers who actively seek out the newest trends in style and motion," Toyota will introduce a new division called SCION (pronounced SY-en) aimed at younger buyers. The new line will launch in June 2003 with two initial vehicles, including a boxy sport-ute called the SCION BBX.
* Tired of watching customers snatch up light four-door pickups from other manufacturers, Chevrolet is hitting back with a new ZR5 option package for its S-10 Crew Cab. The $1,500 package will include a roof rack, wheel flares, black anodized bed rails, side steps and 15x7 aluminum five-spoke wheels.
* DaimlerChrysler is recalling 102,000 Jeep Liberty SUVs manufactured from January through November 2001. Why? In the event of a frontal offset collision, the sharp edges of the power-steering pressure hose bracket could cut the front impact sensor wiring insulation. This could cause a short circuit in the wiring, which could delay the deployment of the airbag system. Dealers will make the repairs at no cost. Owners should contact DaimlerChrysler at 800/853-1403.
* According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Ford's popular F-150 pickup with the 4.6L V-6 automatic is the most environmentally friendly pickup out there. When equipped with the 4.6L engine, the F-150 is certified as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle.