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February 2007 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 2007 Comment (0)
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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 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 own an '02 Ford Ranger and am interested in customizing it. I think your "Project RangeRunner" is totally awesome! I was wondering if you could provide me with some info on the make of the pushbar and front-end setup on the FX4. Any additional info on the project would be great too. I would dream to have a Ranger that was anything like the one you guys built.
Dirt Racer Mike
via fourwheeler.com

Reader: Hi, I was reading an article on the RangeRunner, and I was wondering about the tube bumper guard that was originally on it before the build. I have looked all over for one like it, but cannot find it. I'd like something similar with the Baja/prerunner look to it, but which can still be bolted on with the stock bumper. Thanks in advance!
Nick Byrd
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: Tech Editor Holman says: The original lightbar is available from RCD Suspension (www.racecardynamics.com) and is designed to mount on the factory bumper. The new lightbar was fabricated by Aaron Dixon (www.dixonbrosracing.com) for the project. Past stories on the buildup can be found at www.fourwheeler.com.

Reader: I have an '86 Jeep Wagoneer and I need a good mechanic to work on the transmission and four-wheel-drive system. I will travel wherever I can to get this done.
John Thompson
Inglewood, CA

Editor: We're a little leery about recommending a specific mechanic as different wrenches at different shops will have differing levels of expertise with your particular vehicle. But at least you're in a good location-there is no shortage of competent 4x4 shops in the SoCal area. We'd recommend you ask some other Jeep owners in your neighborhood (or workplace, or on the trail, or wherever else you run into them), check out the Yellow Pages for Jeep-specific 4x4 shops, and you'll likely find a capable wrench who can help.

Reader: How come no articles on Samurais? There are a lot of them out there. Guess Suzuki doesn't buy ads, huh?
P. J. Shufeldt, Sr.
Louisville, KY

Editor: Actually, Suzuki does advertise in this magazine on occasion, and a recent installment of our "Weak Links, Strong Fixes" series (Feb. '06) focused specifically on ways to build up Samurais.

Reader: Hey editors, it's been exactly 10 years since the first Top Truck Challenge, and I was curious if you guys have any plans to hold a special version of TTC where you'd invite each winner from the past to come and compete against each other.
Mike Forbes
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: Actually, it's been 14 years since the first TTC, and yes, we have discussed a Top Truck Champions' Challenge, or something similar. The only thing that has held us back has been a lack of time and resources to pull it off, but it's still something we'd like to do in the future, and we're certainly not ruling it out.

Reader: I was wondering if I could get a copy of the March '06 issue with your "Weak Links" article on Suzuki Samurais. Do you know where I could get it? It would be very helpful because I'm currently building a Sami.
Matt
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: You can get back issues by either logging on to www.primediabackissues.com, or by writing to Primedia Back Issues, 2900 Amber Lane, Corona, CA 92882. Cost for each issue is $6 plus $3 shipping (ouch! Hey, we don't set the rates). Be sure to specify which magazine you're looking for, and the specific issue you want.

Reader: I'm a Marine mom, and my son Jason has been home in Illinois for two weeks before he heads out to Iraq. He mentioned that one of your editors had been on his LAV (or Light Armor Vehicle) and took several pics for an upcoming feature. He thought it would be appearing soon. I don't want to miss the issue, and I was wondering if you could tell me when it will be running-if I haven't missed it already?
Valerie Gerringer
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: Not to worry-our story about a "trail ride" at Camp Lejeune with some of Uncle Sam's 'Wheelers will appear soon in an upcoming issue. Thanks for writing.

Reader: I had a question about your magazine's coverage of the 2007 Jeep Compass (Nov. '06). A few years ago, when the Ford Escape was relatively new to the market, it seems I recall a discussion about the Ford Escape not having a two-speed transfer case. I also seem to recall that this was the reasoning behind the magazine's lack of coverage for this and other vehicles without a two-speed transfer case. As I looked at the November issue, I was surprised to see a two-page article titled "Jeep Builds Its First Car." My question for your magazine is: Where do you draw the line? If you are going to cover the Jeep Compass, why not cover the Ford Escape, Subaru station wagons, Honda CR-V, and so on?
Chad Skinner
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: As a rule, we don't provide coverage of vehicles that lack a two-speed transfer case. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and certainly Jeep-which, to our minds, is still the flagship brand for all of four-wheeling-would qualify. At Four Wheeler, we've always prided ourselves as being on the leading edge when it comes to covering the latest 4x4 design and engineering trends-and like it or not, the proliferation of crossover cute-utes such as the Compass are indicative of where the 4x4 consumer market seems to be gradually trending. More relevantly, perhaps, we'd also guess that you can expect to see some of the new Jeeps' engineering tricks-such as the Patriot's use of CVT transmission gearing in lieu of a transfer-case low range-to find their way onto other Jeep vehicles in the future, which to our minds would make them of interest to our readers.

Reader: Is it just me, or are the Baja Claws on Brad Pellett's Ram ("Top Truck Challengers," Nov. '06) mounted backwards? I looked at some Baja Claws on a vehicle in another magazine, and they are running the other way. Would you please tell us the secret of running directional tires in the right direction so that we can avoid making ourselves look stupid in a cool magazine?

Also, what is with the stacked lift blocks on Terry Gilpin's Crew Cab in the same issue? I guess that is just the way you build things when you are from Texas. They both look like something Ken Brubaker would do (just kidding). I can't wait to see the video, though. So much rubber! Tire manufacturers are not going to go out of business anytime soon. Thanks for the cool magazine.
Justin Robinson
Rifle, CO

Editor: Yep, the directional-tread Baja Claws you saw in November are indeed mounted "backwards." Based on our experience, this isn't as unusual as you might think. We've met a number of folks who think that these tires actually perform better-particularly on rocks-when mounted in this fashion, and run them on the trail that way. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes, but there was a method to the madness here.

About Terry's big blue Chevy: Well, a lot of our readers wanted to see him compete-in fact, he was the leading vote-getter for last year's event.

Also, the "blocks" were welded to the axle not merely stacked-something we preach against.

Reader: I just subscribed to your magazine and I was hoping for a little help. I have inherited an '88 Ford Bronco II with everything bone-stock, and I was wondering what modifications, if any, that I should start with, e.g., weak links, and so on. Should I start throwing Dana 60s at it, ditch the IFS, and replace the transfer case? If I can upgrade some of the components, what donor vehicles should I look for? The vehicle would be used primarily for four-wheeling, but it must travel freeway to get there. My tech level is Master-certified but this will be my first four-wheel-drive buildup. Thanks for any help.
Greg
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: Fear not-we will be covering Bronco IIs and Rangers in an upcoming "Weak Links" article. Stay tuned.

Reader: I love watching your Top Truck videos. I've probably watched them at least 50 times, but I would like a favor. Would it be possible for you to put closed-captioning or subtitles on the DVDs? I miss out on a lot of the information and what the people are saying because I am deaf. I've got a couple of deaf friends who like to watch the DVDs with me-they would love to have closed captions, too, and I'm sure there are a lot of other deaf people who love to wheel and watch your DVDs.

By the way, I wheel a '94 Jeep YJ with a Dana 60 front, 14-bolt rear, stretched-out wheelbase to 102 inches, an LT1 V-8, and 42-inch IROKs.
Kris
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: This is a great idea, and we're forwarding your request to our video production team.

Reader: I've been reading rumors online that Toyota may make a pickup that's smaller than the Tacoma. Is this true? If so, when? The new Tacomas are just too big and gawky-looking for my taste.

Also, is there any truth to Hyundai or Kia making a small pickup?
Kent Taylor
Coos Bay, OR
(home of best sand dunes in the free world)

Editor: Sorry to say, we haven't heard anything about a new Toyota mini. We'd love to see one (and drive it, too), and we'll definitely let you know if we hear any news about this.

Kia broke ground on a new $1.2 billion assembly plant in Georgia last October. It's not scheduled to go fully online until 2009, but our sources tell us that there may well be a pickup truck produced there. No word, however, on whether this would be a "real truck" or an SUT based off an existing SUV or minivan chassis like the Honda Ridgeline.

Reader: I am currently looking to buy an '85 Chevy K-30 with a 6.2L in it, with all the other good stuff: Turbo 400, NP205, Dana 60 front, and the GM 10.5-inch full-floater rear. The truck is located in northern Indiana, the body is not in the best shape at 160,000 miles, and it's got a cracked windshield and ratty interior. It seems to run well, though. If you can give me an idea of its worth (ballpark) when you have time, that would be great. The kid is asking for big dollars, considering the shape of the truck. He has come down some, but is still at $4,000.

Love to read the articles you guys put together.
Steve Hollett
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: Yeah, we'd agree with you-the price seems a bit high for a 20-year-old truck with a woofer engine and a body and chassis that are likely riddled with rust. And while those drivetrain parts are indeed quite stout, there's a good chance that at least a few (if not all) of them will be ripe for rebuilds and/or replacement internals fairly soon due to advanced age. And if the body's not in such great shape, what do those leaf springs look like? And what about the tires? Are the wheels rusting too? Out here in car-crazy California, we probably wouldn't pay more than a couple grand for a truck like this, knowing that we'd probably need to dump another several thousand into it just to get it clean, rust-free, smog-legal, registered, and daily-driveable. Does this help?

Reader: How hard would it be to turn a two-wheel dualie into a 4x4? How much would something like this cost? Would it be cheaper just to go ahead and buy a 4x4 dualie? I own an '03 six-speed Cummins diesel dualie, and I love it, but in the mud it is difficult to get out. If the conversion is too costly, are there other options to consider?
Jordan Gray
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: Hmmm. You've already discovered that a 4x2 diesel dualie is not a killer mud machine. Guess what? Two more driven wheels won't make much difference for you. For mud, nothing beats a free-revving engine that makes big horsepower at higher rev levels, and that ain't exactly the Cummins' fort. If you're pulling stuck Jeeps out of the mud ... well, now you're talking.

However, such a conversion is entirely possible, and in your particular case, it can likely be done for less than the cost of purchasing a 4x4 Cummins of like vintage. Of course, you will need a front drive axle and all its related components (steering, brakes, and so on). The axle will need to have the same ring-and-pinion ratio as your rear axle, otherwise you'll need to regear it. You'll also need a transfer case, new driveshafts and front springs, but as Dodge offered a 4x4 version of your truck, most of these components should be direct bolt-ins. Still, you can count on spending several thousand dollars (at the very least) and many hours of time installing everything, not to mention many more hours troubleshooting problems (e.g., electronic gremlins and error codes) as they develop down the road. We recently converted an older Chevy C-series 1/2-ton to four-wheel drive: check out "The Lowdown on Four-Wheel Drive Conversions" in our May and June '06 issues to see what we learned about the conversion process and how much it cost us.

Reader: Here's an idea for your magazine. You should write an article about lifting and 'wheeling a Land Rover Discovery Series 1. It would be something new and you haven't done it before, plus you have already given us a taste of what is to come with such a vehicle in your May '06 issue ("Rock Ready Rover"). There are plenty of parts for these trucks, and you can buy one in good condition for around $5,000, so you wouldn't be spending a lot of money up front.

Also, you will be reaching out to the Land Rover community because you hardly ever see any Range Rovers in your magazine or your sister magazine 4-Wheel & Off-Road. Love your magazine, and I always look forward to reading it.
Gabe Padberg
Tucson, AZ

Editor: It's not quite the same as what you've mentioned, but one of our regular contributors is in fact working on an upcoming episode of our "Weak Links, Strong Fixes" series, which will focus exclusively on LR Discoverys and Disco IIs. We'll publish it later this spring, so stay tuned.

Reader: I own an '04 Tacoma TRD XtraCab 4x4 with a 3.4L V-6. My question is about getting tires for it. I know I definitely want to go with a 6-inch Fabtech lift, but I was hoping that you could tell me what the biggest size tire I could install without having to shave or trim anything on the vehicle. (Actually, is it even a hassle to get that accomplished?) I also want the tires to pop out on the sides some. Please let me know if you can help me out.
Staff Sgt. Jose Aguilar
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: Depending on which system you go with-Fabtech offers more than one 6-inch kit for your truck-you can fit up to a 35x12.50, but you'll need to live with some minor trimming either way, according to Fabtech. We wouldn't recommend going any wider-for starters, you will surely encounter some nasty firewall rub at full steer, assuming you can even turn the wheel lock-to-lock anymore. In addition, tires that protrude outside the 'wells are illegal almost everywhere, unless you're running aftermarket flares, and the added weight of a wider tire and its accompanying wheel may just be placing a little too much outboard torsional load on your stock front drive components.

I am very interested in modifying my Wrangler TJ to run on E85 ethanol instead of gasoline. I've been researching this for a while, and I've found www.e85fuel.com to be a good source of information. But, it says that the aftermarket parts for converting any vehicle are not out yet, and thus far the only E85-compatible Jeeps are the Commander and Grand Cherokee coming out in 2007. Have you heard anything about the aftermarket parts coming out for converting other Jeeps? Will Four Wheeler cover such a project in the future? I know that I'm not the only Jeeper who is interested in this and we are all looking forward to a cleaner and hopefully cheaper fuel.

Also, I have a question regarding putting a Hemi in a TJ. I have found Robin Stover's articles about your Teal-J project to be a wealth of information, but one thing isn't clear. Every Jeep that I've found with a Hemi placed in it has been changed to an automatic transmission. Is this necessary? I really love driving my manual transmission and I would prefer to keep it like that.
James Koby
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: Sorry to say, your TJ's stock grindbox won't live long behind that kind of power, hence the need for a tranny swap. It's possible that the G56 six-speed manual (the standard transmission with Hemi-powered Dodge Rams) could be made to fit, but at present, we don't know of anyone who makes an adapter to mate it to a Jeep transfer case.

About E85-compatible Wranglers, nope, we haven't heard anything from DaimlerChrysler about this, but we wouldn't be surprised to see a flexfuel powerplant-likely a V-6-show up in the JK within the next couple of years, along with a 3.0L Bluetec diesel option. And not to worry-when these engines become available, we'll be all over them with in-depth coverage and testing.

Reader: I have been subscribing to this mag for decades, and lately all your articles have been about 4x4 cars. Not once have you had an article about trucks. Instead, it's all about this car and that car-hey, if you cannot have a truck in an article, call it a "rig" or something, but don't use the word truck instead. My dictionary's definition of "truck" is:

Truck: A motor vehicle used to haul cargo instead of passengers.

Those shortbed four-door cars are not trucks. Trucks are used to haul cargo-not one's overnight luggage. A truck may be used to haul one's plaything, and one can play with one's 4x4 truck, but it still must be used for hauling cargo most of the time instead of being a buggy itself.

Why not write an article on those 4x4 Japanese mini-trucks that they're selling to farmers now with the cab-forward setup and the 6-foot dump bed? How about one of those Paris-Dakar race trucks? Are there any articles on converting a tilt-cab/forward-control truck to four-wheel drive?

I have a '95 GMC 4x4 extended-cab, an '82 Chevy lifted 4x4 with 300,000,000-plus miles, a '72 Kaiser M35A2C turbodiesel 21/2-ton 6x6, and a 5-ton GMC M135 chassis-cab 6x6 that is a ongoing project. I'd also like to know if you know of any modern tilt-cab/forward-control 1-ton 4x4 dump trucks. Dualies are too wide to fit on my tractor trails, and my extended-cab is too long to make the turns.
William E. Kahl
St. Louis, MO

Editor: Three hundred million miles? Wow, that's a lot of driving, even for a 25-year-old truck! Seriously, though, we've dabbled with medium- and heavy-duty rigs in the past in our pages, with mixed results. A 4x4 conversion for a two-wheel-drive forward-control truck? We've never heard of one, and we'd think it would probably be easier to hunt down an old Jeep FC pickup or Land Rover FC that already came with four-wheel drive.

We also don't know of any 1-ton dump trucks that you can get off the shelf. On the other hand, there are dump-bed conversion kits available for all kinds of pickups. Pierce Sales, Hefty Products, and Dump-Pro all offer such kits, and later this year, we'll be showcasing a dump-bed conversion on a Chevy military CUCV truck. Until then, though, enjoy the box of Four Wheeler goodies that we'll be sending your way. And why not send us some photos of your vehicles? We're always on the lookout for unique Readers' Rigs-even ones with 300 million miles on 'em. Thanks for writing in.

Reader: Can you tell me where I can get a high-output alternator-around 150 amps, preferably, either 12- or 24-volt?
Peter Fox
via fourwheeler.com

Editor: Nowadays, the question is, where can't you get one? Premier Power Welder, Wrangler Northwest Power Products, Performance Distributors, Powermaster, Mechman, and many others offer high-output alternators for many different applications. Check out some of the companies' Web sites, or some mail-order sources online, and you're sure to find something that's right for you.

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