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: In "Project TraiLex" (Mar. '05), Ned Bacon says the GX470's front skidplate is made from plastic "cutting board" material. I wanted to know where he found such a large sheet. Could I also ask how much it cost?
Editor: Ned Bacon replies: Here is all I know about the skidplate material. It is polyethylene (or poly) cutting board, the same stuff that kitchen cutting boards are made of. I cut the 'plate for the Lexus with a saber saw from a 1/2-inch-thick, 4x8 sheet of the stuff. A cabinetmaker friend of mind got it from a cabinet-supply company in Reno. His cost for one sheet was around $100. Retail would probably be more.
Reader: I wanted to express my appreciation for "Weak Links, Strong Fixes" (Apr. '05) about Dodge and Plymouth 4x4s. I have a '78 Ramcharger that I've owned since new.
In past years, I pulled the 360 and put in a built 440 to give the old girl lots more low-end torque for the Colorado mountains. I set up my own 3-inch suspension lift, without an expensive kit, merely adding leaves and double Rancho 9000s. I've been in some really hairy places back in the Colorado mining and timber harvesting trails. Now it's a great old truck, but in need of restoring.
Your article not only hooked me up with Internet sources for repairs and improvements, but also specific problems to look for and to fix. I plan on doing most of this work myself, even changing the cam and lifters. I'll even paint the body. Your article is why I subscribe to your magazine. Keep the aged-truck articles coming-don't forget those old Dodges!
Reader: I just got the Apr. '05 issue. I was very impressed. I am a member of Ramchargercentral.com, and I even saw the article I wrote up in the "Weak Links, Strong Fixes." You even used a couple of pictures that I took. I had to laugh. Parts of my truck were in a magazine! Come on up to Reno and take pics of the rest of it if you want.
I really do want to say you guys had a great idea-letting the owners of the trucks help you with these. It was like we all had a spotlight on our brand for that month!
Thanks for mentioning our Web site, too. All of our members pulled together to scrape up all the knowledge we have on these old goats. We have just about everyone you can think of there willing to help out to get your rig running down the road. Thank you guys, for publishing our work. Y'all keep up the good work you do.
SSG Donald W Fleming
Editor: You like Old Dodges, eh? Stay tuned-we've got some stories in the works that'll warm the cockles of your flathead six. Keep an eye on issues later in the year.
Reader: I must be the zillionth reader to mention this, but it appears that the folks fixing the airbag on page 75 of "Project TraiLex" (Apr. '05) are really setting a poor example of "safe trailing." Nowhere do I see a jackstand. If that rig decides to fall off the jack, you'll be looking for a new writer.
Also, the "Boonie Bag" article in the same issue fails to mention jackstands. I realize that it may be difficult to find a good perch for a stand on the trail, but at least one should be carried, with a piece of plywood and maybe a few metal tent pegs.
My grandson looks at the pictures-I want him to learn the right way to work on a car or truck.
Editor: Believe it or not, you were the only person who caught this-or at least cared enough to write in about it. What's worse, we always take a jackstand whenever we go four-wheeling-it's a must-have if you 'wheel in mud or sand. So shame on us for not catching this obvious gaffe. As penance, we'll strap Ned Bacon to the back of a Harley, and send you some Four Wheeler license plates-one for you, and one for your grandson. Thanks for keeping us-and our readers-on our toes.
Reader: Your listing for the '96-'04 Tacoma in "What Fits, What Hits" (Apr. '05) is incorrect-again. In a previous letter, I told you the Tacoma's stock tire size is 31x10.50. Toyota may say 30x9.50, but is that for the 4WD or 2WD version?
Johnson City, TN
Reader: Your "What Hits, What Fits" guide has been bothering me. When you last published this article, I chuckled because I knew full well that my '03 H2 has had 37-inch BFG tires on it, with no lift, almost all its life. It has managed trails including Holy Cross in Colorado to Hell's Revenge and Poison Spyder in Moab. I now have MTs instead of the ATs, but I removed the stock tires for the 37-inchers some time ago. I have now also added Rock Crawler Series 97 wheels and Rancho 9000 shocks, and I assure you, with better shocks and offset wheels, nothing hits. Just a little FYI.
Adam P. Smith
Reader: I just picked up the latest issue and I have a question. In the "What Hits, What Fits" guide, it shows that the stock tire size for a '95 Chevy S-10 is 30x9.50. I took a tape measure and checked my tire size-it came out to 27 inches. I know that isn't the way to do it, but could I be off that much? The tire size is P235/75R15 but I do not know how to convert it.
Editor: Well, a 235/75R15 works out to a 29-inch tire, so it looks like we may both be a bit off. (In your case, you might want to check your inflation pressure.) When stating stock tire sizes for this article, we generally rely on information provided by the vehicle manufacturers, who tend, for obvious reasons, to be a bit conservative in their estimates. We don't intend for the information we include in this guide to be taken as carved-in-stone gospel-think of our numbers as rough estimates based on info we receive from the OEMs as well as from the various aftermarket suspension companies. Like the old saying goes, your mileage may vary.
To translate metric tire sizes, first calculate, using the case above, [(section height = 235) x (aspect ratio, expressed as a fraction = .75)] ? 25.4 (the number of millimeters in an inch). Multiply that number by two, then add on the diameter of the wheel, in inches, and you've got your tire diameter.
Reader: In your Apr. '05 issue, you featured an '04 Cadillac Escalade. At first I had to make sure I was still reading the same magazine I started with. I know that you have to probably keep up with the times, but come on! Let's not forget why people buy this magazine-not to see a "fly" ride with dubs (as I learned from your Hip-Hop Glossary). I am really disappointed by this low stoop-I hope in the future that you will make better decisions than this.
Reader: It's bad enough having to listen to a rap artist or some young people butcher the English language, but to have it in a Four Wheeler article is incomprehensible. I started reading, thinking it would be an informative article about the Cadillac Escalade. After the first couple of paragraphs, I didn't even bother to continue. I bet your journalism teachers would be proud.
West Monroe, LA
Reader: A Cadillac Escalade in Four Wheeler? Single-speed transfer case-need I say more? Ken, don't sell out for a flashy ride! I am surprised Cadillac doesn't put spinner rims on them from the factory. Lame! Also, if Ken Brubaker is going to wear muscle shirts, he might want to order some muscles to go along with them. I've seen bratwurst with more definition. Anyway, I love Project TraiLex, so keep up the good work.
Editor: Bratwurst?!? Yo, brother, that's two shots and the ball out of bounds for that line! Seriously, we thought it might be fun to inject a little humor into our April issue. Back in the day, we used to do it every year-albeit in a more transparent fashion-and the readers seemed to enjoy it. Since reader response to this story was not exactly encouraging, perhaps we'll try a different tack next year. So if you see a lawnmower in "Readers' Rigs" next April, don't say we didn't warn you.
At least our boy Brubaker got plenty of mad props-and well deserved-for another story in April. See the next letter ...
Reader: I am a huge fan of your magazine, getting ready for a 454-powered '74 Chevy K5, and the biggest help on this project is your magazine. But given my location-Lebanon, in the Middle East-it is getting harder and harder to get ahold of a copy of Four Wheeler. Librarians say they sometimes get one copy per month, so I have to run around to different libraries, and still not sure if I'll be getting the latest issue.
I know this is not exactly an Editor's issue, but since yours is just about the only magazine I can get that talks about something other than the Renault Scenic 4x4 or Lada as an excellent choice of a "truck," even for 'wheeling, it's very important for me to get me a piece of the real deal ... you guys.
Right now I've got a stock '92 S-10 (262ci) Chevy. What do I have in mind? The engine and trans from the '74 truck, then a pair of Rockwells with Detroits inside, a four-link suspension setup, and 52-inch Michelins with 20-inch rims. Another engine option available is what should be a GM 502 in a pretty banged-up Army bus.
But the question resides between the axles and transmission, especially concerning the existing NP203. Now I know the twin-stick 205 is the best thing around, but what about the REO? What does it use? I think it should be even stronger than the 205. If so, is there any chance of it fitting in a K5? And while you're at it, why not check to see if the REO's transmission can also join this party?
If all those things can dance together, then no mudhole-not even hardened cement-should be able to stand in this truck's way. Then, one should only be saying: "May the gas be with you."
Editor: Well, if you're dead-set on Rockwells and you want mil-spec REO gearboxes, why not try finding an REO Army 2 1/2-ton 6x6? A lot of these came with heavy-duty transfer cases and Rockwell axles already mated together. The basic truck, known as the M-series, was in service from 1950 through the 1980s. A number of manufacturers-Kaiser, Studebaker, and AM General among them-built variants of it, and quite a few saw use with NATO forces in Europe. Check some military-surplus Web sites-you never know what you might find. There might even be some floating around your neck of the woods.
As to your Chevy, we're sure somebody out there has done a swap such as this, but we're at a loss to tell you definitively what you'd need to do to make it work. Our best guess is, assuming you can locate somebody who makes an adapter, the military transfer case will be too big/heavy/long (take your pick) to fit without fabricating, gusseting, or relocating crossmembers and/or having new driveshafts made, at the very least. We'd stick with the 203 or 205 'cases-they're a lot easier to work with, and should be plenty stout under V-8 power.