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 just picked up the latest issue, and couldn't believe that lifted H1 on page 45. ("Four-Wheel Wonders," Mar. '05.) Awesome! I tried to contact the guy who fabricated the lift, but the 411 in Phoenix didn't have a number for him. Any idea how I can find him?
Editor: We got quite a few letters about this rig, and the fellow who fabbed up the 6-inch lift for it. It took a bit of digging, but we managed to find him. His name is Jack Auston and his company is J. Auston Fabrication LLC, 1950 E. Janice Way, Phoenix, AZ 85022, 602/923-0012. If you want to e-mail him, try firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reader: I'm writing you with probably the biggest challenge you've ever had. Actually, it's a dare to see if your magazine has the proverbial guts to take on this project. I am proposing that you start off with a fairly incapable SUV and turn it into a capable trail ripper. Start off with an '03 Honda CR-V. It would be very cool to see such a radical transformation-and different from your typical projects.
Editor: A lot of folks thought we were crazy enough when we said we would transform a Lexus GX470 into a rock-ready Rubicon-slayer, but we did ("Project TraiLex," Apr. '05). And we have actually discussed doing something similar to what you're proposing-not necessarily with a CR-V, but with some other "unbuildable" vehicle. Keep an eye on future issues-we'll have some surprises in store.
Reader: I read an article somewhere about a couple that drove a new Wrangler from Canada to Mexico on dirt roads. I drive as much dirt as I can and can't get the idea of this drive out of my head. Are you familiar with the series of trails that would make this possible? I'd really appreciate your help in sending me in the right direction (so to speak).
Editor: Willie Worthy replies: I don't recall any article about a couple doing it in a Wrangler, but I did it in 1990 with a new Jeep Cherokee. I ran a total of 2,795 dirt road miles, and it took me 28 days, not including the trip up to Canada, along with about a year of planning. There was some pavement involved because one doesn't usually find gas stations and grocery stores on dirt roads. I started out by using a map of the western United States and laying out a tentative route. Then I contacted as many four-wheel-drive clubs and associations along the route as I could locate, and asked them for help in laying out the route. The trip started at the U.S. port of entry at Whitlash, Montana, and headed south into Idaho, near Craters of the Moon National Monument, past Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, across the Nevada Desert, into California, and ending at the little town of Algondones, Mexico. It was a real challenge and a true experience. Have a great trip.
Reader: I think Toyota and Nissan pushed it to new redlines when they equipped their new Tacoma and Frontier with 245- and 265hp engines. The only "American weapon" to take on those pickups is the all-new 230hp 4.7L V-8-equipped Dodge Dakota. The Chevy/GMC Colorado/Canyon is not powerful enough. Is Ford designing a new Ranger to take on those insanely powerful pickups? If so, are they planning to equip it with a V-8, or at least a 250hp V-6?
Editor: Unfortunately, the Ford Ranger program keeps getting pushed back and will not be ready until the 2008 model year at the earliest. We have no confirmation on what will power the next-generation Ranger, although a look at the new Sport Trac and the freshened Explorer might reveal some hints. If the next Ranger shows up on the Explorer platform, as expected, a refined version of the current 4.0L could certainly still be on the table, as well as an option box for the 4.6L SOHC Modular V-8.
Reader: What ever happened to your Project Xterra? You do know that the Xterra community is probably your fastest-growing new segment in four wheeling. Give us some attention and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Sure, they're not rockcrawling Superjeeps, but they will go anywhere a Cherokee or a 4Runner will go. While I'm at it, why is an Xterra with a new bumper, skidplates, and lockers at both ends always described as heavily modified, while a Jeep that has nothing stock remaining on it is just a good old Jeep? Keep up the good work!
Joseph P. Painter
Oklahoma City, OK
Editor: As a rule, project vehicles are loaned to us by the participating OEMs for a year, maybe two-after which, for liability reasons, they are returned to the manufacturer and typically crushed. So at this point, we regret to say, our poor Project X probably resembles a big yellow cube with a snorkel sticking out of it.
Seriously, though, we enjoyed building that project-it was a real looker on the street, and with front and rear lockers and aggressive tires, it did quite well at Moab and similar venues. And you're right-with a few minor mods, Xterras can be surprisingly capable vehicles.
Reader: I felt insulted by the article written by Dennis Pierce about ATV'ers ("Low Rage," Jan. '05). Not everyone is like the ATV'ers Dennis talks about in the article. I've been to Colorado three times for four-wheeling. The first time was in my '94 Wrangler, which had a 2 1/2-inch suspension lift. It was great being out there, but we were limited to moderate trails such as Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass.
That's the problem. The only way to do difficult trails is with a highly modified Jeep, spending thousands of dollars on lockers, tires, winches, gears, lifts, and miscellaneous drivetrain alterations in addition to the cost of the Jeep-not to mention any body damage and/or drivetrain failures from difficult trails. I cannot see spending that much money on a Jeep for off-road use and worrying about not being able to get it home if it breaks on the trail.
I spent around $7,000 on my new ATV. That's with four-wheel drive, a Warn winch, a locked rearend, and a selectable front locker. It's an '04 Yamaha Grizzly 660, it is set up for anything, and it's indestructible. The only things that need to be done to it are wear items (brakes, fluids, tires).
The next two times in Colorado-with my ATV-difficult trails were pretty much a walk in the park. We did Webster Pass, Red Cone, Holy Cross, and others with not one single mechanical failure or body damage. If I had taken my Wrangler, I am pretty sure it would have suffered some damage. That would be no good at all.
I really do not have any problem with Jeepers. I love watching Jeepers four-wheel, and I love four-wheeling a Jeep. I don't know why Jeepers have a problem with ATV'ers. Maybe they are upset because they spent thousands of dollars on lifts, tires, wheels, rock sliders, lockers, and so on, in addition to the cost of their vehicles. My ATV will go more places than their money-pit Jeeps will. I'm not trying to debate this issue-maybe we all just need to get together (Jeepers and ATV'ers) and talk this over a cup of coffee and doughnuts.
Editor: We had a feeling we'd get some angry letters about this column-though we must commend yours in particular for being so respectful. And you make some good points about the bang-for-the-buck value of your ATV. And sure, your quad can squeeze through a lot of tight spots that a 4x4 simply can't. On the other hand, one of the coolest challenges of four wheeling is trying to master the art of shepherding a heavy, V-8-powered truck over a trail that barely seems wide enough for a mountain goat. And nobody ever said that four-wheeling was an inexpensive pastime. That said, if we should happen to meet you on the trail sometime, the coffee and doughnuts are on us.
Reader: Can you help me? Would it still be possible to get a back issue from the mid-'80s? I was a subscriber then too. I remember getting an issue that did a full-spec layout on the "Fall Guy" TV truck.
Editor: We get a number of letters like this every month. We wish we could help, but back issues from Days of Olde are sadly long gone. Some articles from past issues are available for purchase as reprints. Contact Wrights Reprints (877/652-5295) for more info.
Reader: I've been watching Four Wheeler TV for a while now, and I saw your show on the "Ultimate Adventure," where you went to a few off-road parks in Illinois and Wisconsin. I'm from Wisconsin and I'm new to four-wheeling, so where can I find a list of nearby off-road parks and trails so my buddy and I can go 'wheeling?
Editor: You may have us confused with another 4x4 magazine-but you have definitely come to the right place. If you bought this month's issue on the newsstand, you already have our special 48-page "Where to Wheel" guide, with hundreds of listings of 4x4 parks and recreation areas across the U.S. If you didn't-well, head on down to your local newsstand and pick it up today!
Reader: OK, I read my Nov. '04 issue and it's time to talk about Top Truck 2005. As a participant in TTC 1994 (I had a fantastic time and won a great Ramsey winch), and as a 30-year Four Wheeler subscriber, I have some thoughts to share.
The event, along with a segment of the off-road community, has evolved to a highly modified extreme. While this is generally OK, it progressively leaves behind more and more four-wheel enthusiasts who more typically drive less radically modified and more streetable vehicles. They need a chance too.
With the robust growth and success of the TTC event, it is important to stay flexible and consider some future accommodations that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Now is the time to open an additional TTC class for potential competitors otherwise unable to participate. For the guy or gal who thinks they really know how to drive, create a class with some vehicle rules that will seriously challenge their off-road driving skills: A class to bring out the driver in the driver, like the olden days, before giraffe-sized articulation became the norm. NASCAR and Indy use vehicle limitations to bring out the driver's abilities. For starters, only truly street-legal rigs may apply. Limit the tire size to, say, 32 inches. Restrict the percent of tread that may extend beyond the fender. No fenderwell or wheelwell modifications. Factory engine required but could have bolt-on mods. Suspension and differential upgrades can be considered.
Have fun picking a name for the new class-Contemporary, Limited, Stock Plus?
Editor: A 32-inch maximum tire size? Yikes, we took enough flak for limiting competitors at Real Truck Club Challenge to 40s! Either way, we have discussed holding alternative Top Truck-type events in the future, perhaps including a Top Truck Champions' Challenge where all the past winners of TTC would be invited back to Hollister to compete against each other. (Readers, what do you think?) For now, though, our plates are pretty full with the two events we do hold each year ... but we're keeping our options open.
Reader: Back in 1987, I dated a guy for two months who had an '83 Chevy Blazer that had a suspension lift, big tires, and so on. I was in love (with the truck, not the guy). From then on, I wanted my own truck. I subscribed to your magazine for a couple of years and dreamed, as life went on. I finished college, got a teaching job, got married, and had three kids. Two years ago, it became apparent that I was finally going to get a truck. With the three kids, I needed a four-door. I wasn't sure what to get, but I needed a lot of room. I again subscribed to your magazine to dream some more, and to figure out what I needed and wanted to get.
My husband really has no interest in cars, trucks, or anything mechanical, so I got to pick the truck. Well, after 17 years of dreaming, I became the proud owner of an '04 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab. I'm in love again! I love the Hemi and the height. I wanted to thank you guys for helping me make my decision and keep me dreaming. Thanks to your magazine, I have a long list of mods and I can't wait to get started. Although my truck is still stock (it's only a month old), I have mudflaps and a satellite radio system to put in today. This will start the check-off of the long list. My dream now is to get it into "Readers' Rigs." Thanks again!
Editor: We'd be happy to consider your Dodge for "Readers' Rigs" when you've finally finished your labor of love. 'Til then, we'll make sure your truck is adorned with a Four Wheeler license plate. And thank you for writing!