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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: Hey guys, great coverage of Top Truck Challenge this year (Dec. '06). I also attended your Real Truck Club Challenge last summer, and it was really great to watch those contestants and rigs give it their best.
But one thing has been baffling me for years now, and after seeing so many guys have trouble, I'd really like to know what the reasoning is. I'm just now in the process of building up my own 'wheeling rig, a '92 Jeep YJ. I'm not to the "advanced level" of building yet, but I'd just like to know why these guys keep using carbureted engines? Just look at Gilpin and his Chevy K-3500. That thing is rolling on 56-inch agricultural tires. He should have scored First Place easily in the Mud Pit, and he should have performed very well in the Hill Climb and the Mini-Rubicon. But he didn't finish any of those events because he couldn't keep the engine running.
Let's face it: It doesn't matter how strong your axles are, how tall your tires are, how many lockers you have, or how much lift you've got, if you don't have an engine that will keep it all spinning. It seems to me that if you're going to sink money into a project rig to use specifically off-pavement, the first thing you should do is eliminate the carburetor, or at least install one specifically for trail use. It's not just the Chevy from Top Truck that's had trouble. I can't count how many rigs I've seen at off-road parks that die halfway up a hill, or halfway through an off-camber mud hole. Don't these guys get tired of this? Anyway, I thought I'd ask you guys: What's the reasoning behind running old-school carbureted engines in high-dollar rigs?
Editor: Good question. For what it's worth, you're preaching to the choir here-to us, fuel injection is better than any carb, particularly for the kind of off-camber 'wheeling you find at the Tank Trap, the Mini-'Con and the Hill Climb. On the other hand, carburetors are far less expensive and much easier to tune, troubleshoot, take apart, and rebuild compared to the cost and expertise required to perform and properly dial in an EFI conversion on an older engine. In the end, it all depends on the make and model of your engine and how much time and money you want to invest in your truck's induction system.
Reader: I am a longtime fan of Top Truck. I've bought all of the videos and have seen how they progress. I must say that after watching the TTC 2005 video, I and other members of the local 4x4 club were disappointed. Not by the event itself or its operation-hats off to that. Instead, we noticed how the tech inspection portion was basically deleted and replaced with lots of promotion and talking (OK, that's not too bad).
Then, during the events, there seemed to be much less coverage of each rig going through. My biggest complaint here is the sound. It seemed at multiple times-with the Willys truck, I think-that a revving sound was played on the soundtrack that didn't correspond at all to the driving at that instant. It seems that the track was played randomly throughout the video, and it really didn't fit.
Another thing was the massive amount of commercials. I understand that your sponsors need coverage, but I got the feeling that I was watching TV with the usual commercial breaks. It's a DVD! There shouldn't be commercial breaks!
Also, the commentary made it seem like the person watching has absolutely no clue what a lug nut is. I know some explanation is needed-and it was done well in the past-but now it's just too much, and more important things are being neglected so that we can all hear about things like "He's hooking his winch up so that he can draw himself out of the hole." I guess I'm just hoping things get better-otherwise, I'm just not going to buy any more videos.
Watch the 2003 and 2004 videos and then the 2005 TTC. You'll see what I mean.
Editor: Points well taken. The only thing we'd say in our defense is, we didn't simply "delete" the tech inspection from the video as you described-we deleted it from the entire event as we no longer require TTC rigs to be street-legal. Otherwise, we heard other readers express similar complaints about the '05 video, so we readjusted our production values accordingly for 2006-or at least, we tried.
Anyway, check out our newest TTC video-it's on sale now-and tell us if we haven't gotten back on track, at least a little.
Reader: Regarding your Hummer H3 long-term test (Dec. '06): My H3 has 54,000 miles now and I'm happy to say that it still performs like new. For the last 13,000 miles, I've towed a 3,000-pound trailer through 16 states for work. OK, the painfully slow acceleration kind of got to me at times, but with the manual transmission and a little bit of an arm workout, it did just fine. I don't have the Adventure or Luxury package, but that may be why my mileage is better (average of 17.25 mpg with towing included); the best I've gotten was 23 mpg through the mountains, of all things (lots of coasting), and if you keep your foot in check, 15 mpg is a good number with a trailer. I'm an absolute car junkie and have owned 33 vehicles in my time (I'm 35), but this was a good replacement for my Jeep Cherokee.
Round Lake Beach, IL
Reader: I've been a reader for about 20 years. In the last year, I have watched your magazine go downhill. Last year's coverage of TTC was terrible. This year there was to be an improvement. I don't know if you guys are just trying to get your readers to buy the video, but I have one of those and the coverage on it sucks as well. Why can't you just go back to the way things used to be? All of this wasted space about how to submit to the magazine is space where an article could be. Sure, change is good, but why not change for the better instead of the worse? Your technical articles are getting better, but if I see one more Jeep suspension install on a TJ, I'm going to puke on your rag and mail it back to you. I know that you guys know there are more out there than just Jeeps.
Also, why do all of the Primedia magazines run the same articles? Why not just combine them all into one magazine? I first saw the "JKs in Africa" story in two other rags before yours. Why do the stories have to be repeated?
OK, now on to the good. The first section I go to every time I open a magazine is "Techline" in the back. How about a bi-monthly publication with nothing but tech letters? I know I would subscribe.
Anyway, I do appreciate you, and know you can do better.
Editor: Your suggestion for yet another 4x4 magazine sounds terrific. Problem is, we don't have any more editors to handle the assignment. Want to be considered for the job? Send us your resume-then be careful what you wish for.
Regarding our Top Truck exposure: Yes, we received lots of complaints about our 2005 coverage, so for 2006 we increased the number of pages dramatically. In fact, we devoted 24 pages to the competitors' rigs (Nov. '06) and another 12 pages to the event itself (Dec. '06), which is exactly the number of pages we used to devote to the event ... back in the good ol' days.
About our Africa test of the JK Wrangler: Are you saying we shouldn't cover this event because 4-Wheel & Off-Road (or, for that matter, Motor Trend) is doing it too? Well shucks, guess that means we'll have to assign the pages to another TJ lift-kit story instead.
OK, we'll admit we've been somewhat Jeep-heavy on tech stories of late, particularly suspension installs. On the other hand, the aftermarket has seen an explosion in recent months of new long-arm and coilover conversion kits for TJs, and our overall tech coverage is going to reflect that trend to some degree. And believe it or not, there is yet another TJ suspension story in this month's issue. Now how much do you love us?
Thanks for writing all the same. We're always appreciative of folks like you who take the time to do so.
Reader: I recently picked up a copy of your December '06 issue at a local newsstand, and while flipping through it, I noticed the article on powdercoating ("Home Cookin'"). One thing that sticks out in my mind is, while doing research online, I kept coming across material saying it's not a good idea to use the kitchen oven as a cure oven. While a kitchen oven would work, it was not recommended to use one as a dual-purpose (cooking and powdercoating) appliance. Most articles I've read suggest buying a used kitchen oven as a dedicated cure oven. Just thought I should bring this up.
Editor: Good catch. After further research, we discovered that Craftsman indeed recommends using a non-cooking oven for this procedure, as well as rubber gloves, goggles, and a dust mask. We happily stand corrected.
Reader: In response to a letter in your December issue about "4x2s on the Trail," I have to say every one of us should Tread Lightly, regardless of how many driven wheels we have. I've seen quite passable trails for stock 4x4s destroyed because of 'wheelers with attitudes of going as fast as you can and flinging as much mud as you can is the way to go. Now, those trails are the exclusive property of tall rigs with huge tires, not to mention how the trail has gotten wider in places over the years. I have seen the same thing happen where ATV riders go. Instead of turning around or finding a better way across, ignorant people power through or go around the obstacle, ruining nature and the trails for everyone else. It's not a type of vehicle or a particular group that's responsible, it's ignorance and attitude.
And in response to "Tips & Tricks to Better Fuel Economy" in the same issue, one other thing should be added: synthetic fluids. I used to run an '83 Toyota pickup, and I put synthetics in the transmission, transfer case, and both differentials to get another couple mpg.
Sorry about the rant, but it needs to be said!
Editor: Always feel free to rant around here when it comes to Treading Lightly.
About synthetic lubes: After all these years, we thought their friction-reducing and mileage-enhancing abilities were pretty much self-evident to everyone but for those who haven't heard the news yet, yep, synthetics can definitely get you a few more miles out of each tank. Thanks for the reminder.
Reader: First of all, thanks for having the coolest magazine ever. If it wasn't for you guys, I would probably be driving a Honda Civic.
What I do have is an '82 Chevy 11/42-ton 4x4. The biggest problem is its way-underpowered 6.2L diesel. I also have a '90 Chevy 1-ton dualie with a 454 and a 465 four-speed, but it's a two-wheel drive. I want to either swap the drivetrain out of the '90 and drop it into the '82, or turn the '90 into a 4x4. How hard would it be to drop the 454 into the '82, and how hard would it be to make the 1-ton a 4x4?
Editor: If we were you, we'd sell the '82 and use the money to buy the parts to turn your dualie into a four-wheel drive. Since that truck also came in a 4x4 version, all the parts you'd need for the conversion-front drive components, transfer case, driveshafts, and so on-should all be more or less direct bolt-ins. We recently converted a '92 Chevy 11/42-ton C-truck to four-wheel drive in a two-part series. Check out "The Lowdown on Four-Wheel-Drive Conversions" (May and June '06) to find examples of what you'll need, what it'll cost, and how much work it will entail.
Reader: Whatever happened to your Project "Superburb" Suburban? The last I remember, there was an article on the transfer case, and then I'm pretty sure nothing else happened. Did it get finished? Am I just a moron that missed the finished article?
Clint T. Bishop
Editor: Project Superburb was a personal project rig that belonged to an editor who left Four Wheeler a couple of years ago to work for a competing publication. The last we heard, it was still sitting in his garage awaiting some new seats and interior trim. So no, you didn't miss anything-and sorry to say, the 'Burb is likely gone for good, at least from our pages.
Reader: In your December '06 "Readers' Rigs," you say that Wayne Quinnell owns a Chevy Silverado, yet his "33-inch Yokohama Geolandar A/Ts help Wayne pilot the Ford to just about anywhere." I thought he owned a Chevy!
Editor: Yeah, guess we kinda missed that one. Thanks to all of you who caught the error-as penance, the offending party was forced to spend a night sleeping in our new Dodge Tundra. Or was it a Nissan Super-Duty?