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August 2006 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on August 1, 2006
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Address your correspondence to: Four Wheeler
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048.

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 Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

Reader: In your editorial, "On the Verge of the Diesel Decade" ("Limited Articulation," May '06), you mention "Humble scribes such as ourselves can walk up to corporate honchos ... and ask, point blank, when they're actually going to build the Gladiator pickup." I want to ask you the same thing. Just that little mention of the Gladiator has whetted my appetite once again. I have been searching the Web constantly looking for a projected release date, to no avail. All I am asking you is to cough up any information you may have uncovered at the auto show. I doubt you would have made the mention if the question wasn't really asked.

Now I love you guys and your magazine, but if you are going to hoard information on such a wonderful vehicle, I am going to have to get ugly. Please share whatever tidbits of information you may have on the Gladiator and its future.
Kenneth Van Wie

Reader: Just read your write-up on the "Diesel Decade." I hope you are correct! I love diesel power, but am not happy with the emphasis on power. I've driven the old Ford 6.9s and my dad's old GM 6.2. The 6.2 got 25 mpg and made enough power to chirp the tires pulling out in a hurry. The 6.9 always started and ran fine, going lots of miles, and got roughly 18 mpg even pulling a heavy load (slowly up hills). My dream engine is a 6.2 with a Banks turbo and shipped to Banks to have it set up for max mileage. This is the motor I plan on putting in my '80 Scout II at some point. With a 700R4 tranny, I expect to get between 25 and 28 mpg. It would have plenty of power to motivate the Scout and make that beautiful exhaust music.

I look forward to my copy of Four Wheeler coming every month. Keep up the good work!
Tom Confer
Salem, OH

Editor: And thanks for the kind words. Funny thing, there's actually been talk in these parts of a certain Four Wheeler editor possibly undertaking a diesel-powered Scout project. It's still in the planning stages at present, but in the next few months, the odds are fair that you'll see this project-or something very much like it-in the pages of this magazine. Stay tuned.

We're glad you brought up the mileage benefit of diesels, which we neglected to mention in our May editorial. Until very recently, we didn't hear many concerns over fuel mileage from our readers, but over the last few months, we've seen a big increase in letters from folks who are looking for gains at the pump as well as on the dyno. We discuss it in this month's editorial.

About the Gladiator, yep, we've approached the bigwigs at Jeep-numerous times-and asked them point-blank about it. The only answer we've been able to elicit thus far has been, "It's still under discussion," which is usually accompanied by a Cheshire Cat grin. We're no expert on reading tea leaves, but we'd say it's a safe bet that Jeep will produce the Gladiator pickup-probably based on the new Wrangler JK chassis, and yes, probably with a CRD diesel option-somewhere down the road, but exactly when? We honestly have no idea-2008, perhaps? But we'll let you know as soon as the news leaks out.

Reader: I bought an '05 Frontier King Cab 4x4 last year. It's an awesome truck. I've never read a negative review about it anywhere. I got the six-speed manual transmission, which took two days for them to find and get to me. It's the best truck I've ever had, and I've had a few. What concerns me is the complete lack of aftermarket suspension parts available for it, with the exception of the coil-spring spacers. Calmini has had a 5-inch lift kit "in development" for almost eight months. I've spent the last 5 1/2 months looking for parts to buy for this truck, and I can't find anything. What really irks me is that there are already a ton of parts for the Jeep Commander, which you guys pretty much said is a mall-cruiser. The Toyota FJ Cruiser just became available, and All-Pro Off-Road already has a lift kit ready to go for it. Is my truck already as awesome as it's going to get? I'd like a little more ground clearance out of it, and maybe a winch-mount bumper. Do you have any ideas?
Tim Williams

Editor: Frontier mastermind Robin Stover replies: You're right about the limited options regarding aftermarket suspension components for the '05 Frontier. Another option to consider is a 5-inch kit from the Nissan specialists at Spencer Low Racing (951/688-2025, Be warned, however, that the system is on the very high end of the price spectrum, and if you don't actually 'wheel your truck regularly, you might not be able to justify the large price tag. Otherwise, the Calmini 5-inch kit should be going into production about the time you read this.

Reader: "The H3 is the best 4x4 on earth." Yeah, right-what world are you on? How many H3s are actually taken on dirt roads, let alone four-wheeling? Maybe one in 100, if that. The H3 is nothing but an expensive S-10, plain and simple. The sight of a H3 at the local trail head gives images of the Sierra Club wanting to close down the trails. H3s are nothing but niche vehicles for yuppies.
Tim Hunter
Laramie, WY

Editor: Guess that makes us a bunch of yuppies. Maybe worse than yuppies, as we have plans to acquire a long-term H3 for testing in the future. Do you still love us now?

Reader: Hey, I heard somewhere that in one of your back issues you had an article about converting a Postal Jeep to four-wheel drive, or somethin' like that. Which issue? And how do I get it?
Brandon Briskin

Editor: "Jeep for Cheap Revisited" appeared in the May '06 issue. Take a look at our masthead on page 8 for information on back issues.

Reader: I own an '04 Hummer H2 and would like to know if there are any aftermarket goodies to get better mileage. According to information I've read, the factory clutch fan can be replaced with an electric fan and about a 2-mpg increase can be achieved. I've also read that a spacer at the intake can be installed and more mileage can be gained.
Out of Gas
Black Creek, NC

Editor: We hate to break the news, but the H2 is a major-league gas hog. Yes, you will derive some mileage benefit from an electric fan, but how much, we couldn't say-given the H2's bulk, we'd guess not much. If you're looking for truly substantial gains in mileage, you've basically got two choices: either consider a Duramax diesel conversion, which can get you 20-plus mpg but which will also require you to swap transmissions (and spend a small fortune); or trade in your H2 for a more mileage-conscious fullsize SUV like the new Tahoe/Yukon.

Reader: I'm a 17-year-old looking to buy a four-wheel drive. Do not mistake me for the typical dumbass teen who writes in about such things-I'm highly versed in the subject and all its aspects (lockers, EFI, axles, transfer cases, and so on) and techniques, among others (but being an avid reader since 1999, why wouldn't I be?). So down to the point. I'm considering either a Land Rover Disco Series 1, a '93-'97 Jeep Grand Cherokee, or a '91-'95 Toyota 4Runner as these are the three most adhering to my guidelines. I plan on slight modifications in every case-more aggressive tires (roughly the same size as stock), a rear locker, and some fender trimming/bumper alterations, along with the assorted recovery gear. What I'd like to know is, which of these will be the most capable on the trail in stock form, and with the modifications mentioned? Being so young, things such as "interior amenities," "rough ride," and similar things are of almost no concern. All I care about is capability in the rough stuff, so just give it to me straight.
Jarred Crowe

Editor: Sounds like you've done your homework. For basic trail duties, it would be hard to go wrong with any of the midsize SUVs you're considering-they're all quite capable in stock trim, and all lend themselves well to minor modifications. Our opinion? If you're looking for economy and great daily-driver manners as well as trailablity, go with the Toyota. If you want solid axles and V-8 power, take the Jeep with the 5.2. If you want the best pure mountain goat of the lot, we'd likely opt for the Land Rover, with one caveat: Be prepared to pay considerably more for a used Discovery in good condition-and for Land Rover replacement parts-than you would for the other rigs of like vintage.

Reader: I'm buying a truck to be the tow rig for my '78 Blazer, which has the standard Dana 60, 14-bolt, NP203/205, and big-tire setup. The tow rig will also have to be a vehicle that can fill the in-town commuter role for me. I'm leaning heavily toward the Nissan Titan with the big tow package. However, I've read about the rear axle being a little iffy and the brakes shuddering badly. Would you recommend the Titan as a regular 9,000-pound hauler?

Also, how would someone go about submitting an article?
R. Gregg Contreras
Konowa, OK

Editor: Truth to tell, we'd probably recommend using your Blazer to tow the Titan instead. Don't get us wrong, we absolutely love the Nissan-we've built two of 'em as projects in the past year-but in our experience, the Titan's Dana 44-spec rear axle is its weakest link for seriously heavy-duty towing chores. For your kind of towing, we'd recommend a plain old 3/4-ton Dodge, Ford, or GM pickup with 1-ton running gear and an HD towing package-and if you can afford to pony up the extra cash for a Cummins/Duramax/Powerstroke diesel option, do it. Nothing beats a diesel for flat-out haulability.

Wanna submit an article? We're always on the lookout for good tech, tests, and travel. The best way to start would be to contact us with a story proposal at Briefly describe what you'd like to submit, and explain why you think it would be of interest to our readers. If we like your idea, we'll give you the green light.

Reader: The vehicle pictured in "Wicked Wheeling at Work" ("Readers' Rigs," Apr. '06) is not a 637 Caterpillar! Cat 637s have a front and a rear motor (four-wheel drive) and do not have an auger. The scraper pictured is a 625 Caterpillar Auger (two-wheel drive). You can clearly see the auger in the picture. I have run both machines, and I just think someone didn't know what they were talking about when they gave you the info on the machine. Oh, and the tires on a 637 are in the neighborhood of 6 1/2 feet tall. Still love your articles, and keep up the great work!!
Mark Woolard

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