The "Letter of the Month" author will be sent one of Four Wheeler's highly prized license plates. So be sure to include your full name and address when you write Four Wheeler at:
Four Wheeler Magazine
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 9004
Reader: What are all these lift laws ("Lift Laws Revealed," Nov. '04.)? I'll bet 85 percent of all four wheelers don't even know about these. And how many cops do you think are gonna get so technical that they'll get out their tape measure and measure every aspect of the vehicle? I understand safety, but some of those laws are kinda harsh. I'd love to see the cop that pulls over 10 of us going in a group to the mud to have a little fun. You can't have wide tires. You can't be so high. What's next?
Thank you for letting most of us who didn't know in on this. And for those states that don't have laws (yet): Mud on!
Editor: A little knowledge, as they say, can be a dangerous thing, but no knowledge at all is almost always worse. We can't say what your local law enforcement will do, but the folks at your local DMV will almost surely have tape measures at the ready when you pull in to register your lifted truck. Either way, the subject of lift laws is one we think deserves reviewing every now and then, just to keep folks informed of legal changes that may have transpired in the interim.
Reader: In his "From the Back 40" (Aug. '04), Ken Brubaker complains about environmentalists who want to exclude OHVs from public lands. You mention that one of their goals is to "eliminate damaging motorized recreation from the National Park System." Well, what's wrong with that? You notice they used the word "damaging."
I love to go out there, too, in my '01 Tacoma, but I also stay on existing roads. Nature doesn't need to be conquered anymore. It needs to be protected from people who don't want to pay attention to the destruction their "recreation" is having on the world around them. As an example, all you have to do is flip the page of that same issue, and there is another column ("Bed Toys") with a picture of a guy on an OHV driving through a creek. That's the problem. If you don't know what that can do to the creatures and plant life that live in and around a creek, inform yourself. Ignorance is no excuse. And when other OHVers go out and see that a vehicle has previously gone through there, they're likely to follow suit. Why is recreation at the expense of other living things OK?
If you want to drive out and enjoy nature too, killing or disturbing it as you go is not a good plan. It isn't fair either to nonhuman life, or to other people who also want to go out and enjoy it. I agree it would be a shame to have to limit motorized access to our public lands and parks, but if recreationalists can't demonstrate a respect for the natural settings they're in, then access to these settings, which are getting fewer each year, should and must be limited.
Editor: First, we should mention that all our own testing is done solely on designated trails, roads and byways. We obtain all necessary permits, permissions and insurance before we depart for any 'wheeling excursion, and we urge all our readers to do the same. And yes, we do drive through water sometimes, but always at legally designated stream crossings.
We think you might be overstating your case just a bit. As an example, the act of spinning a tire inadvertently on a muddy trail could theoretically disturb the habitat of worms and grubs. Does that mean vehicular access should be curtailed, even if the trail's a government service road? That said, we do understand the gist of your argument, and agree that we can and must do a better job of promoting environmental awareness and responsible four wheeling. We don't think they're mutually exclusive concepts at all.
Unfortunately, we still have a ways to go to educate people, and not just about public lands. See the next letter.
Reader: Dennis Pierce's "Low Rage" column in the October '04 issue ("What Part of 'No' Don't You Understand?") sure sounded familiar. I have more than 6 acres of family property to look out for. Add a 200-year-old abandoned house to the equation, and that means quite a bit of trouble. Everybody around here seems to think that "No Trespassing" means "House for Sale" because everyone I catch trespassing on my property tells me they are "looking" to buy the house. As for trash...well, people seem to think my property is their own personal dump! I've found truckloads of garbage bags, tires, air conditioners, old carpeting and just about anything that can be tossed out of a car window. I've had an ATV rider purposefully try to run me down, and even had a hunter asking me why I was trespassing on his property!
Anyway, to the point: I'm 20 years old and an avid off-road enthusiast. I have put up with just as much insolence, and I hold the same values and respect for property rights as any decent person should from any generation or involved in any hobby.
Robert E. Stroupe
Editor: The Greek philosopher Aristotle once wrote that the noblest virtue that a man could cultivate in a democratic society was the virtue of self-restraint. Too bad that seems to have gone out of fashion in too many places these days. We post your letter here as a reminder to all concerned wheelers to respect all property-public or private-and to heed all posted signs you see along the way. And yep, 'No Trespassing' indeed means 'No'.
Reader: A word to those in violation of PETW (Pea-Too): People for the Ethical Treatment of Willys. I found a need for this fledgling organization when I continuously saw these harmless Jeeps rotting away in fields, backyards and garages. Someone needs to protect them. My dad received a verbal warning for letting his '46 CJ-2A sit for countless years in a dark garage. Next time, I might have to confiscate it. Community members, beware: PETW will strike with the rampant rage of a PETA member in a butcher shop. All Jeeps were created with the simple and inalienable rights of freedom, four wheeling and the unexplained breaking of parts. PETW is here to protect those rights.
Though no Jeeps have been confiscated yet, I blame that on a lack of funds. My husband Aaron and I share the same passion, but our garage is filled and our bank account is empty ... and interestingly enough, we don't own a single Jeep anymore. Why then would I start PETW? To fill a garage with Jeeps at someone else's expense. Isn't this the basis of all politics?
Oh well. Those who share my passion can enlist in my future psychiatric class as well: "Junk as Gold." You probably should be a member if you exhibit any of the following symptoms:
1. You love junkyards. I'm talking about that strange passion of actually wanting to crawl through briars, hornets and snakes to find a gem that everyone for the past five years has overlooked. This is your candy store.
2. It is impossible for you to actually see a vehicle beyond repair. Nothing is truly dead unless it has been crushed, burned and buried. Otherwise, "it's all good" and will just take a little more time. You are beyond any kind of help if you use the phrase "It's a classic!" to describe a mound of parts.
3. You actually get excited about these aforementioned vehicles. Never mind the missing engine, holes of rust you can walk through, and the fact that wild animals have taken refuge inside. You see a show-and-shine beauty.
4. You name your vehicles. Bonus points if you give them personalities and have an occasional, albeit one-sided, conversation with them.
5. You have never, ever, let anyone touch a single mechanical component on your vehicle without your direct supervision. Registered mechanics are evils of the state who only want to steal your money. You are the reason why shops post signs on their doors stating, "Absolutely No Customers Within Shop Bays!"
Well, sorry to everyone we socialize with, but these conditions are incurable. There's always another junkyard we haven't been to, and we just know there's a prize waiting there just for our eyes. PETW to the rescue ... but don't limit yourself just to Jeeps-this organization accepts just about any vehicle, even your "classic" pile of rust. As always, any funding is appreciated.
Editor: We sincerely hope our readers will lavish you with funds. We're a little short this month, so we're sending you a Four Wheeler license plate instead. By the way, you didn't say you had a distant ancestor named Granville, did you?
Reader: Where are the Toyotas? I wrote you a year ago asking the same question, and you said you'd be featuring some ... uh, never happened. None of the 4x4-oriented mags present layouts of all the cleanly built, daily-driven 4x4 Toyotas out there.
Also, I would like to see you present "Readers' Rigs" with bigger photos and not cram them into as little space as you are doing now.
San Quentin, CA
Editor: We try to feature a variety of good-looking trucks each month, but sometimes we just run out of space. If it's any consolation, check out the cool diesel FJ-45 that competed in last year's Top Truck Challenge (Oct. '04). We'll be featuring more Toyotas in the future-and if you're looking for Toyota tech, turn to page 56 for an IFS-to-solid-axle conversion we performed on a 4Runner.
Readers' Rigs? We're here to please. We've got a bunch of 'em this month, starting on page 64.
Reader: In the August '04 issue, a Mr. Brett Kodt suggested a Cheap Trick involving heating tires with exhausts to melt snow. I think he was also breathing that exhaust. Warm tires offer less traction on ice and snow. Real mountain men know to stop for a long cup of coffee before tackling a steep pass in slippery conditions. Wheels spin on the thin film of water between the tire and the ice. That's why 32 degrees is the greasiest, and why traction improves as the temperature drops.
Editor: So, you're saying that it probably isn't a great idea to burn your way through snow by laying a trail of gas, or maybe gunpowder?
Reader: I've had it with this manufacturer bias crap. In Four Wheeler (Aug. '04), it seems everyone came together for one foul [sic] swoop of knocking anything that's not "Made in America." Do none of these people have an understanding of how the economics of the world work? When Dodge sends its plans over to Mexico to have its vehicles made, it is not only saving money so those savings can be passed on to us, but it is also helping Mexico's economy flourish. We may lose jobs here in the U.S., but those jobs will be picked up doing something that we are better at doing, like creating new ways to fight cancer or alleviate the progression of old age.
As far as pride goes, pride of country or pride of American products, pride of manufacturing their cars in the U.S. is no longer a good investment for the car manufacturers. If I could buy an engine from Mexico for $2,000 or buy the exact same engine from the U.S. for $5,000, I would be completely retarded not to buy from Mexico. That's the way the car manufacturers see it. Pride in our country is for us to take advantage of every opportunity we are blessed to have to increase our standard of living. If that means we make our cars in different countries or we drive better cars built in other countries, then we do it, and in doing so we raise our standard of living by having a multitude of awesome vehicles to choose from. Today it is impossible to buy any product in the U.S. that does not contain components made in some other country-either across one of the ponds, or to the north or south. From your Craftsman tool made with metal recycled from Japanese cars to your Levis made with cotton from Mexico, all the way to your oranges from Florida sprayed with chemicals from Europe. No matter where we turn, the world is going to work together to make living in this world a better place.
St. George, Utah
Editor: Actually, the saying goes, "one fell swoop," and no, we don't exactly know what that means, either. We do suspect, though, that knowledge of how the world works is less impressive than having a job to go to every day, so we can understand folks' sensitivity on this topic. Fight cancer? Alleviate the progression of old age? We're all for those goals, and would love to see jobs developed that take aim at those problems. And we're also real curious to see what responses your letter generates.
Reader: I read with great interest "Weak Links, Strong Fixes" (May '04) on Chevy/GMC pickups. I'm in the process of renovating a '73 Chevy 1/2-ton shortbox that had a rear shock absorber problem. One shock on the passenger side had even torn out a jagged hole in the frame, and the bolt hole on the driver side was egg-shaped, indicating a loose shock bolt problem.
On '73-'87 Chevy/GMC pickups, the rear shock has a semi-molded in-cone area for clearance, and the frame is 3/16-inch thick in this area. My fix: I went to the salvage yard and located an '85 GMC longbox 4WD frame that was damaged, and had the salvage yard cut out the section about 6 inches fore and aft of the shock bolt area. I got both driver- and passenger-side sections for $50. Then I re-cut, using a plasma cutter, the shock area just inside the indented cone edge, allowing about 1/2-inch of the frame-edge right angle, just above the shock absorber bolt hole. I then overlaid my frame section, made sure it fit, then re-welded it in place, making the frame 3/8-inch thick in the shock bolt area. The shocks still cleared just like it was stock.
I did discover after removal from the donor vehicle that the driver-side bolt hole was also egg-shaped, or enlarged, so I had a machine shop re-weld and drill a new hole. This indicates that one should check the donor vehicle before cutting the frame, and perhaps even unbolt the old shock bolt to critique the bolt hole.
Wayne A. Adams
Reader: I am shocked by how people are so blinded by labels after reading the Import vs. Domestic dispute amongst your readers. Is your truck made in America? Are you a traitor because you buy a foreign vehicle? I personally feel that a vehicle should be bought based on performance, fit and finish, fuel economy and price, regardless of the country it came from. Some manufacturers just keep on producing the same boring products year after year, hoping that these brand loyalists keep buying into them just because of the emblem on the grille. The other manufacturers are the ones willing to change the market up a little bit and take a chance, with such things as introduction of new diesel engines in smaller trucks (Jeep), hybrid powerplants in fullsize SUVs (Toyota) and new types of suspension components that enhance the four-wheeling experience (Lexus). I will gladly spend my American dollar for one of these vehicles knowing that the manufacturer will only attempt to make a better product for the future.
Regardless of where it comes from, I will be the first in line to buy a diesel Jeep or an electric Tacoma. This way I can laugh as I pass up all of the H2s at the gas station. Just my opinion.
Reader: All of this fighting over whether a company is American or not bugs me. My opinion is that it doesn't matter where a vehicle is made. A truck is a truck and it doesn't matter where the money goes. I grew up a big fan of Dodge vehicles and was really upset when they were bought out. What matters though is the quality of vehicles that they produce. My father still drives a Dodge. So do I, because they are still good, quality vehicles. That company was founded and built in America, so as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter who owns them now. What about certain things in America that are well known, like the Sears Tower in Chicago, that have been owned by foreign countries? Is it wrong to still consider that building an American icon? So it doesn't matter. It just boils down to quality and history.