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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 www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.
Reader: I just received my April 2006 issue in the mail. All I have to say is, this is the Four Wheeler magazine that I originally fell in love with. Where have you been for the past few months? Lately I have skimmed through them once or twice, and then donated them to the library in town. This one I will definitely keep and reread. I loved the pictures of the Top Truck hopefuls and the Real Truck action. And then the tech articles with the exploded ARB parts diagrams and Jim Allen's "Gear Swaps" article. I think I would have the confidence to tackle a gear swap after reading this article and being able to refer back to it. Even Sean Holman's little blurb about "Choosing the Right Gears" hit the nail on the head.
Reader: Today I received the April issue of your magazine with the 50 Top Truck Challenge entries. I sent you details and photos of my Jeep to enter it in TTC, but it was not among the 50 entries you published. Why didn't you put it in the magazine? Was I not TTC-worthy? My Jeep is a '74 CJ-5 with a 4.2L six, an SM420, a Dana 300, and 37-inch Boggers.
Edwin van der Maas
Editor: This is a question we often get from readers whose rigs weren't selected, so here's the deal: In a typical year, we receive mountains of entries for Top Truck Challenge-far more than we could ever publish in the magazine-so we sift through all of them and winnow them down to a final cut of 50 to 60 vehicles using the following criteria: (1) What's the most representative sampling of TTC worthy rigs that we've received this year? (2) Which rigs stand the best chance of surviving an event such as the Tank Trap without disintegrating into thousands of pieces? And (3) which entrants can realistically be expected to show up if they're invited? No offense is meant here, but your 110hp motor and 37-inch tires are pretty marginal stuff by TTC standards, and the fact that you're on the other side of The Pond doesn't make it any easier for you to crash the party with a rig like that. But it sounds like your Jeep might be right at home at our Real Truck Club Challenge-heck, it's 2,000 miles closer to you, too-so we'd welcome you to consider entering for next year's event.
Reader: Please-details for this year's 2006 Real Truck Club Challenge. Where? Date? My family is very interested in attending this summer, and we're anxious to make travel plans.
Editor: Where? Badlands Off Road Park in Attica, Indiana, about 80 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Dates? Saturday and Sunday, August 12-13, 2006. You can find out more about RTCC by logging onto www.fourwheeler.com, and check out www.badlandsoffroad.com for complete info on the Badlands. If you're in the Upper Midwest, it's a great place to go four-wheeling.
Reader: How do we apply for Top Truck Challenge? Or Real Club Truck Challenge?
Editor: Entry forms for Top Truck appear in the November and December issues each year; for Real Truck, every March and April. Then just fill 'em out and mail 'em in by the specified deadlines.
Reader: I have to disagree with something I read in Jimmy Nylund's story about his trip to the Gulf Coast ("Long Haul in Short Supply," Feb. '05). I've been reading Four Wheeler since the late '70s when my uncle Randy got my brother and I hooked on four-wheeling when we lived with his family in Washington for a year when we were kids. Like so many of the readers do, we got a kick out of the stories and (mis)adventures in your pages, identifying with the writers like Mr. Nylund, and looking forward to the day we would be able to put together a trail rig of our own. My brother and I put in our time on the junk, doing a little here and there, breaking down before reaching the trail, and yes, having to stay out a night sometimes or walking out. Now we run TJs and like them a lot.
The part I disagree with is when Mr. Nylund says he would never make it as an owner/operator. I've been an owner/operator for 13 years, and from what I gather about Nylund's ability to patch 'em up and drive on, I think he would do fine. Being an owner/operator is more a mindset than being able to drive until you're exhausted, and I would run with Mr. Nylund anytime. I run mostly in the Southwest and I see a lot of four wheelers on their way to here or there, and I'm not as envious anymore because now we go 'wheeling ourselves.
Editor: Jimmy Nylund replies: Well, where I would flunk miserably (and it was mentioned in the story) is with time-to make deliveries on time while keeping the logbook straight. I don't understand how truckers do it and still make a living. I'd probably make more money sitting by the side of a highway and fixing trucks as they broke down in front of me.
Reader: In the 2005 Dodge Power Wagon review (March '05), Sean P. Holman states, "The [Dodge's] braking system, which worked well in emergency braking, has enough braking reserve to tow 7,000 pounds without trailer brakes." He implies that trailer brakes are not needed.
Some time ago I was driving north on the Highway 101 Petaluma grade. A small single-axle trailer that had jumped its ball hitch was ejected from the southbound traffic; it disintegrated while colliding with the car in front of my Dodge W250. I braked to avoid a collision. At the time I was hauling an empty horse trailer, without brakes, which weighed about half the weight of my vehicle. The trailer tried to overtake the Dodge, causing me to jackknife with clouds of tire smoke towards a head-on collision with oncoming traffic. While applying full power to overcome the trailer's force, I drifted across the dirt meridian and onto the dirt shoulder of the oncoming traffic at 75 mph before I regained control.
After my stupidity, I have never hauled another trailer without brakes on all axles. I also only use electric brakes, which allow for adjustment and independent control of the trailer brakes.
I think Sean is being irresponsible, and readers need to know they need trailer brakes to safely stop.
via the Internet
Editor: Power Wagoneer Sean P. Holman replies: When we test long-term vehicles, we do not add any aftermarket equipment and test the vehicles as delivered, which means no aftermarket trailer-brake controllers, and so on. We try to test each vehicle in a variety of situations, from hauling to wheeling to towing, and report to the readers our experience and findings on the bone-stock vehicle. I believe you are reading deeper into my sentence than was intended, as at no time do I say that you should tow without trailer brakes. I simply meant to imply that if you should ever find yourself in that situation, you will be able to stop safely in the Power Wagon. However, I do appreciate you bringing to our attention that some people might interpret the sentence that way. It sounds like you had quite an experience, and we're glad you're around to share it with those who need to be educated. Thanks again for your response.
Reader: Do you guys know of anyone that makes a front winch mount for the current generation of Ford Ranger? I just bought an '06 Ranger FX4 and figure it's a pretty decent little truck other than it has IFS, but so far have hit nothing but dead ends with my search. I know that I could use a rear receiver mount, but I want a permanent mount on the front of my truck. Oh, and while I'm at it, I have also been unable to dig up any information on what the front pumpkin is or what transfer case I have. Did I just waste my money?
Editor: Ranger wizard Sean P. Holman replies: I believe that Warn Industries makes the Trans4mer winch mount for the front of your truck. As for the diffs, you have a 27-spline Dana 35 hybrid front and if your is a Level 2, an awesome 31-spline Ford 8.8-inch in the rear (same as the 1-ton South American Rangers) with a special preloaded Torsen T2 differential. Otherwise, you have the 28-spline 8.8. Your transfer case is an electric Borg-Warner 13-54 with a 2.48:1 low range. It's the same truck that our Project RangeRunner started out as and is a great wheeler out of the box.
Reader: Any lifts out there for the new Toyota FJ Cruiser? I would like to get one and put a 6 1/2-inch lift on it. Any ideas?
Editor: So far, we know of a coilover kit for the FJ from Donahoe Racing, but it's only going to get you some 3 inches of lift. But rest assured, there are other aftermarket suspension companies presently working on kits for the FJ, and in the coming year, we imagine you'll have plenty of lift options to choose from.
Reader: Did I miss the Chevy edition of "Weak Links, Strong Fixes"? The other articles in this series have been excellent! I've looked on your Web site but am unable to find anything. Help! I have a '73 K-5, so keep the tech articles coming.
Editor: The first installment of "Weak Links" ran in the May 2004 issue-and wouldn't ya know, it was all about Chevy trucks like yours. If you want to purchase a back issue, try calling 866/601-5199 or log onto Shop.TruckWeb.com; there may still be some copies around. If not, call Wright's Reprints at 877/652-5295 for a reprint of the story; be sure to specify the article and the issue you're looking for, and they should be able to take care of you.
Reader: I've been looking at a straight-axle conversion from Fabritech, and was hoping to contact them to get further information. Problem is, their Website is bare and has no contact information. Would you have a phone number to call them at, or another way to get some more information from this company?
via the Internet
Editor: You can find Fabritech Motorsports at 540/825-1544, www.setstr8.com.
Reader: This is an open observation to all manufacturers of so-called "off-road" vehicles: If I need a floor jack and jackstands to get under your stock "trail" vehicle to inspect it ... you blew it. You missed the ideal target owner who will keep your vehicle for more than five years and improve on its factory capabilities to the point of insanity. Customer brand loyalty? Ever heard of such a concept? God forbid in this day and age.
Of course, your research departments can't be that stupid. Once your seemingly ideal 21st-century owners break their toys by being stupid on the trail, they will just go out and buy the next over-hyped wonder truck from whomever has the glossiest ad, or whichever one is declared "4x4 of All Time." (Take that last comment with a grain of salt, Four Wheeler. It's not like you have any real good choices, but you do try your best.) Good for you, manufacturers ... but bad for us genuine enthusiasts who have to share the trail with these idiots.
So I can only surmise that I am a dying breed taught by the finest of the Old Guard, and the state of the sport is doomed to fresh-blood wannabes who will overwhelm the trails with clean-shaven, deer-in-headlights newbies who will require the proven time-honored ancient skills of an old-school 'wheeler to get their worthless asses back home. With these empty-headed morons leading the pack, evil liberal land-grabbers will have no problem swaying public opinion to shut it all down. Goodbye, dirt.
Perhaps I should grab my tow strap and go into business excavating idiots from obstacles (such as prairie dog mounds) that are much too extreme for today's crop of soft and cheesy factory crossbreed, hybrid market douchemobiles. I bet I could make a fortune. Nah ... I'll just drive over them and extend a finger as I continue up the mountain. That is, unless the old school is willing to educate the new school properly-but please remember to ruthlessly kick the new school out of school if they refuse to learn the real school.
I really like you guys. I grew up with you. I just don't like that the industry is leading us away from the true essence of four-wheeling just to extend the reach of their markets. I am getting sick and tired of pulling out idiots without skills (who go exploring on a whim) off of high-centers and out of bog-downs. I remember a time when you ran into someone "out there" and you could just assume they knew a little something about it. That's what the friendly "trail wave" meant. Never more . . . damn.
P.S. Print my e-mail address and I'll burn your Primedia offices to the ground with a bazooka-wielding team of lawyers. Thanks for the courtesy.
Editor: Hey, no problem. Anything we can do to help. You just earned yourself a box of Four Wheeler swag-license plates, bumper stickers, and so on. Perhaps you could hand out some of them to the unfortunate souls you extract on the trails-then maybe they'll be tempted to pick up this magazine, where they can learn how to do it right. Thanks for weighing in.