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 90048
Reader: I enjoyed your Four Wheeler of the Year article (Feb. '05), but I must point out a mistake you made regarding the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. In the article you state the Wrangler had "surprisingly, the tallest crawl ratio." In the specifications you state that the transfer case has a 2.72:1 low-range ratio. In fact, the Wrangler should have the lowest crawl ratio because it has a 4:1 low-range.
In all, it was a good article, but the Volkswagen is also $34,540 more than the Wrangler, so I could buy two Wranglers and still have money left over for winches for both vehicles, plus a lift and bigger tires for both. If money were no object, I would have to agree with you on the VW, though. As you probably guessed, I own an '04 Jeep Wrangler TJ. Keep up the good work.
West Monroe, LA
Reader: In the February '05 issue, your pictures show a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, but your specs are wrong. The Unlimited Rubicon has the same transfer case as the regular Rubicon-the NV241-but the low range is not 2.72:1, it's 4.0:1. It also comes standard with the new six-speed transmission with a 4.54:1 First gear, giving it a 73.4:1 crawl ratio, not 28.8:1. Standard axle ratio is 4.10:1, not 3.73:1 (3.73s are standard on the normal Unlimited). The six-speed and 4.10s would have improved performance on steep grades, helped a lot in the sand, and in my opinion would have ranked it higher than fifth place.
Reader: Three years. Three stinkin' years! That's how many years running you've completely lost your minds on Four Wheeler of the Year. Two overpriced Lexus station wagons the previous two years, and now another $60K+ luxo-ute grocery-chaser is FWOTY? What world are you guys living in? You guys call yourselves Four Wheeler, yet you managed to pick the vehicle with the highest price tag, a unibody, all-season street tires, IFS, "parking assistance," navigation system, and four-wheel ABS? You ladies need to put a dress on and start writing evals for Consumer Reports or Ladies Home Journal.
Editor: Ouch! Boy, did we hear from lots of you over this! Yep, we certainly botched a couple of specs, and obviously that remark about the crawl ratio. For the record, we tested a Wrangler Unlimited in Rubicon trim with 4.11 axles, Rock-Trac 4.0:1 transfer case, and front and rear locking differentials. However, our tester came with the optional four-speed automatic, not the six-speed manual. The lower gear reduction afforded by the six-speed might have helped the Wrangler's performance in certain sections of our test, but the componentry and trim levels of the vehicles we test are left to the discretion of the participating OEMs.
While we're flagellating ourselves over our goofs (and thanks for keeping us on our toes), we have no qualms about having picked the Volkswagen Touareg TDI, which, in our opinion, is one of the most remarkable factory 4x4s ever made. And yes, it comes with a price tag to match its performance parameters, but we don't factor pricing into our scoring criteria. Perhaps we should. (Readers?) Perhaps we should also hand out a "Best Bargain" award at the same time to the 4x4 we feel represents the best overall buy for the money-but truth to tell, the winner with our current staff might well have been the Nissan Pathfinder.
Reader: My name is Teresa Stokes and I would like to share the story of our '52 Dodge with you. My boyfriend Bruce Kirouac and his friend Jeff Atkins built this truck in the backyard with parts we had, and some donated parts from friends.
It all started with an ad in the Tampa Tribune that went something like this: "1952 Dodge 4WD, 3/4-ton Ford frame, two 440s, auto trans, you finish, $1,300 OBO." It was way out in Booneyville, and when we found the right mailbox, we turned into a circular dirt driveway and saw a barn/garage. And there it sat-the "Beast." Sweet! Soon a deal was struck, and the Beast was trailered to its new home.
Now we're not rich. This truck was built with parts on hand (we have lots of '69 Mustang parts, but that's another story), swap-meet finds, junkyard treasures, and some custom work from all of the above. All the work was done part-time, after work, when we had money or could barter goods. It took around 18 months to finish-except for upgrades, which you never finish.
We just wanted to show you and your readers that a really great truck can be built with some hard work and not a lot of money.
Editor: We receive quite a few letters like this each month-and normally, we simply forward them to our "Readers' Rigs" editor. But your letter (which we edited for length) stood out by its attention to detail, photos of the buildup as it progressed, and your willingness to share your enthusiasm, so we decided to print it here. We think the Beast would look rather nice with a Four Wheeler license plate, so we're sending one out to you. Thanks again for providing a great example of what legions of resourceful 'wheelers all over the country are doing in their garages, in their spare time.