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December 2002 Letters to the Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on December 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.

We Love New York! Really!
Reader: As much as I have enjoyed your magazine over the years, and as much as I have enjoyed Thompson's editorials, his little "heaven forbid, New York City" remark in the Limited Articulation (Aug. '02) sent me right to the keyboard. Why some people feel the need to take shots at NYC still baffles me. NYC was built long before there were trucks and never pretended to be anything other than what it is, the cultural and financial center of the world. To include it in the context of Limited Articulation because it didn't once have deserts or rocks to drive on is a tad out of line. NYC was never a paradise lost. If four-wheeling is your one-and-only interest in life, then I agree, California wins. But if you like other things as well, then NYC deserves a fair shake. Even though you may think that I'm overreacting to that comment, I still think that occasionally you guys need to be reminded that we are all brothers and sisters in this sport.
Richard Brandt

Editor: New York City the business center of the world? Maybe, though the City of London, a very active financial center, might argue that. So might Tokyo. So might Hong Kong. The cultural center of the world? Don't tell that to Paris, London, Vienna, Berlin, or Rome-all cities in which one can experience museums, art and music. Mr. Editor Thompson, that rascal, included the phrase, "heaven forbid, New York City," because westerner that he is, he's not pleased with New York City's enclosed spaces; he doesn't even much care for downtown Los Angeles. Or downtown Hollister, for that matter. But he also included that phrase because in New York City it seems that one is expected to not drive, whereas in Los Angeles, clearly, one is expected to drive. Driving is a good thing. Not driving is a bad thing. Living or working in a place where one is expected to not drive-and worse, expects to not drive-well, heaven forbid. But aside from that, we love New York. And Jeeps, we love those too. And Chevys, and Fords, and Toyotas, and Scouts, and yep, even Nissan Patrols. We love everybody. Well, almost everybody.

We Love Jeeps?
Reader: It seems to me that you people are very biased toward Jeeps. What do you see in them? I only see headaches, from what my experience has been. I have counted more than 50 Jeeps in one copy of Four Wheeler, and usually the ratio is three to one over Chevy, Ford and Toyota. I just wonder why you like them and why are there so many in your magazine. I don't get it. Personally, I think they're ugly and when you drive them, you can't see your nose. Thanks for putting out a magazine that is consistently better than Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road.
Eric Winscher

Editor: Regarding Four Wheeler's quality, you're welcome! But it really isn't very hard to produce a magazine that's consistently better than Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road. And about Jeeps-we feel about them the same way that we feel about New York, because we love everybody! Oh, and one more thing: If you could see your nose-no matter what you're driving-you'd have a very long nose.

Love That Nissan Patrol!
Reader: I read about the Nissan Patrol on your Web site. Specifically, it was on your 40 Favorite 4x4s article. I wholly agree about your thoughts on the Nissan Patrol. It's really a great 4x4. Back in the Philippines, and in many countries around the world, it's one of few remaining SUVs to still have a solid front axle and coil springs all around. From 1990-'99, Philippine-spec units were even equipped with a rear locker as standard equipment. However, this was dropped and eventually replaced with a limited-slip. Still not bad compared to what we get here in the U.S. Too bad that it's not available in the U.S. market. If it were made available, it may not succeed because Beverly Hills soccer moms may not be very forgiving of the noise, vibration and harshness from a $40K-plus solid-axled Patrol.
J. Paolo San Mateo
Glendale, Arizona

Editor: Are you kidding? In Beverly Hills, they don't mess with anything as middle-class as soccer. For them, it's strictly polo. Oh, and bashing New York.

Wade Lightly
Reader: The cover of the Sept. '02 issue of Four Wheeler is very irresponsible. Splashing through water is the only image that non-wheelers have of us. You are not the lone wolf in perpetuating the bad name 'wheelers get. Manufacturers' ads and commercials are the worst. Well, truth be told, it's probably some of us wheelers that do this crap a lot that actually are the worst offenders. I know your caption "...wade lightly..." was meant in fun and the splash may very well be in a little mudhole on someone's private property. But the general public won't get that far into it. They just see another big noisy truck tearing up the ecosystem. Keep this up and we'll all be driving chrome-clad mall runners that only leave the pavement for a photo shoot because the public outcry will close down all our 'wheeling spots.
Alan Hatcher
Dallas, Texas

Editor: What big noisy truck tearing up the environment? That photo clearly shows a truck wading lightly across a water obstacle, its driver carefully observing where he's going. We take seriously our responsibility to portray the environment being used responsibly, so you have it right-it is indeed a little mudhole on private property. Sorry, it's the best we can do, other than pose the vehicles at rest, which would be really dull. Easy, but dull. We can't speak for anyone else, but you'll just have to trust us to do the right thing.

We Love Jeeps, Part II
Reader: I just want to say, "Thank you very much" to Jeep for its high-quality products. I'm the owner of a '91 Jeep Cherokee Limited. I bought this SUV in Toronto, Canada in 1996 with 175,000 kms showing on its odometer, and in pretty good condition. After six years and 600,000 kms of driving in severe climate and road conditions in Russia, I replaced the original engine with a used one that had been driven for 60,000 kms. It still runs great. Nobody, certainly not the technicians at Jeep service centers in Moscow, can believe that. Normally the engine life is a maximum of 450,000-500,000 kms. I love my Jeep and will never sell it.
Pavel Markissian

We Love Canadians!
Reader: As much as I enjoy reading your magazine, I do have a little problem. Reading the last issue I got totally exited when I read about Four Wheeler's 40th Anniversary Sweepstake Toyota Tacoma, because you are giving away MY DREAM TRUCK! And that is exactly the problem, since I live in Canada, and I can't even have a chance of winning this amazing truck. What are you going to do for all your Canadian readers and 4x4 enthusiasts that are excluded from almost every chance of winning something cool?
Martijn Duijts

Editor: We were gonna let you guys enter, but then thought better of it, since anything you won, figuring the current rate of exchange, would have to be about six-tenths the size of its U.S. counterpart.

We Love Chrome Tow Hooks, Too
Reader: Regarding Ken Brubaker's "Towhook Truths," (Aug. '02), Ken is correct, the question of Grade 5 versus Grade 8 fasteners comes up often. While tensile strength is the Grade 8 forte (think head bolts), the shearloading (parts trying to slide across each other) application is not so clear. One downside of higher grade bolts (and they run up into Grade 12 or so) is the more exotic alloys unfortunately have more corrosion problems, although that is often offset with better protective coatings (cadmium, for example, works great, but is expensive).

Regarding chrome-plating of hooks, it's fine if done right. The chroming process causes embrittlement from hydrogen inclusion in the base metal. That can, and should, be alleviated by baking the finished product in a well-established procedure. There are lots of examples out there of chromed high-stress parts working fine: think unlimited hydroplane prop shafts and CART/INDY Racing League/Formula One suspension members. Chromed wheels are all over the racing and off-road scenes.
R. Wallace

Editor: For the record, we don't know about unlimited-hydroplane prop shafts, but the suspension members used on Championship and Formula 1 cars have for years been carbon-fiber, not chromed anything. You don't see chromed wheels, either, not anywhere in racing except maybe the slower street classes of drag racing. Racing wheels almost always are high-strength alloy. We do like chrome wheels for four-wheeling, though, on account of when we bend one on a rock, we can bash that rascal back into shape-in fact, we learned this from Granville King-with the big ol' hammer we carry in our toolbox for exactly that reason. Can't do that with an alloy wheel.

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
We Love IFS. Or May Be Not.
Reader: I read with interest your response to Joe Bender's Letter of the Month (Four Wheeler, Sept. '02), where Mr. Bender gave a very nice description of solid axles versus independent suspension. But in looking at the photos of Project SuperBurb on the Four Wheeler 20-degree ramp on page 94 of that same issue, I noticed that while the vehicle articulated well, it's left-front tire had contact with the driving surface only on the edge of the tire. Because this vehicle uses a solid axle, I assume that the right-front tire only had contact on its edge, as well. So here's my question: Of what value is four-wheel drive if both tires don't have a full footprint on the driving surface? Wouldn't an IFS system, while perhaps not articulating as much, provide for a bigger contact patch, thus providing better traction?
Ken Maddox
Gaylord, Michigan

Editor: Well, this is a two-part answer. First, theoretically, you're right, Ken, but only up to a point. Because of the constraints of packing an IFS system in a chassis that also has to make room for that bulky lump of an engine, the suspension system has to be compact-so control arms are short. Short control arms mean very limited suspension travel-almost always over a shorter range than is possible with a solid axle. Limited travel means limited articulation, and limited articulation means that during difficult times, a wheel is likely in the air. Wheels not in contact with the driving surface have no traction. Second, because an IFS system is just that-independent-what one wheel does has no effect on what the other wheel does. For instance, when an IFS front suspension encounters a large rock with one wheel, it's likely to lift the entire front of the vehicle, thus minimizing the traction of its corresponding wheel. With a solid axle, when one wheel is pushed up-by that rock, for instance-the other wheel is fulcrumed (didn't know that was a verb, didja?) down into the driving surface, thus enhancing traction. Sure, the tire might not be square with the driving surface, but it's likely that in such situations, the tire would be aired down, so the sidewalls would flex enough to provide a decent footprint. And in the case of a radial tire, the sidewalls are sufficiently flexible so that even when not aired down, the tread likely would keep decent contact with the driving surface. This is a rough and simplistic explanation, but basically it's why we like solid axles for four-wheeling.

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