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April 2007 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on April 1, 2007
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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: First, let me say that Four Wheeler is a top-notch rag. You guys are great! Your content is always a step above the rest, and the mag is always a truly enjoyable read. To that end, I know you guys always have someone writing in to bitch about something or another, so I'm not going to take that approach. I wanted to write in about the 383 top-end kit ("What's New," Jan. '07), or rather, its description.

Your description of this particular assembly reads: "This kit comes with all the vital components you need to turn your short-block into a bad-to-the-bone, stroked 383." While I completely agree that this kit is indeed an awesome kit, there is nothing there that is going to help with the "383" part of the equation because there is no crankshaft present. While I agree that this is nitpicking to the utmost degree, I'm sure that more than a few of your readers are just starting out with their own buildups, and I wouldn't want them to think that merely swapping intakes, heads, a cam, and a timing chain set onto your standard short-block assembly would give them the 383 that they were looking for.

In closing, whether this letter gets printed or not, you guys still have the best 4x4 rag around, and I will continue to look for mods and parts for my '90 XJ in your pages. Thanks, guys, and keep up the great work!
Mike Bronenkamp

Editor: Your nits have been properly picked with us. Sometimes, it's the most obvious detail that gets overlooked, and in this case ... well, you are right on the money. Thanks for the catch.

Reader: Just noticed your remarks in "RPM" (Jan. '07) about the new '07 Cummins diesel. You listed it as a 6.7L V-8 when it is actually still an inline six-cylinder. According to my Chrysler rep, it is actually a bored-out 5.9L.
Josh Martin

Editor: Yep, you're right, and quite a lot of you readers caught this obvious goof. Guess we have to chalk it up to holiday brain fade, but thanks to all who wrote in to point it out.

Reader: I was wondering how someone could get their new invention in your magazine.
Name unavailable

Editor: Simple. Send us a press release, along with a photo of your handiwork and contact information, to "What's New," Four Wheeler, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048.

Reader: I bought a subscription to Four Wheeler several months ago. I received a DVD called Extreme Four Wheeling: Top Truck Challenge, and was under the impression it was a free gift for buying the subscription. I also received a gold coin. However, I do not want the DVD and would like to return it, but I don't have the box it came in. How do you want me to return it? I have the Postage Paid return label that I received in a letter from the company. Thank you for your time.
Nobie Violante
Snow Hill, MD

Editor: According to U.S. Postal Code (Title 39, Sec. 3009), if you don't have the box that the video originally came in, you can either throw the DVD away, or simply keep it at no charge. Sure, you could always box it up, stick the return label on it and send it back, but why bother? Whatever you choose to do, always remember that any unsolicited gifts that you receive in the mail are yours to keep, free of charge. It's the law.

Reader: I was wondering what issue you ran the "Weak Links, Strong Fixes" on the Cherokee XJ? I had it, but lost it. Also, have you run any tech articles on installing a suspension lift on XJs? If so, what issue?
James Jackson

Editor: We haven't covered any Cherokee XJ suspension tech lately, though we did mention the subject in brief in our "Weak Links" article, which appeared in the June '06 issue. Back issues can be obtained by writing to Primedia Back Issues, 2900 Amber Lane, Corona, CA 92882, or by logging onto Total cost is $9 per magazine, and be sure to specify the exact month and year of the issue you're looking for.

Reader: I sent some pics to you in reference to doing an article in your magazine on my truck. I hadn't heard anything and was wondering what you thought.
Chuck Overby

Editor: We receive hundreds of reader submissions every month, and it may take us several weeks to get around to any given letter or submission. If your truck is truly feature-worthy, don't worry-we'll get in touch with you eventually. Otherwise, we'll try to fit it in our "Readers' Rigs" column whenever space permitsbut be patient either way.

Reader: I was just wondering if you know of a "Baja" or "off-road" race in which there exists a completely stock class? That is to say, everything is stock aside from the rollbar and other driver safety equipment?

Editor: Not exactly, but SCORE International-the sanctioning body for the big-daddy Baja 1000-already has something that's pretty close. The Stock Full class-for fullsize trucks-only mandates a rollcage, fuel cell, and some basic safety equipment such as helmets, safety harnesses, and fire extinguishers. Of course, your cage has got to be built to certain specs (e.g., 4340 chromoly), but all in all, it's a great way to get into racing without having to spend a small fortune building a custom rig from the ground up. See "How to Race at Baja, and Win" on page 64 for more details.

Reader: I own an '84 Ford Ranger with the 2.8L V-6 and five-speed tranny. The shifter is quite sloppy, and I was wondering if you guys had any suggestions on how to solve this problem.
Rick Mueller

Editor: Hmmm, you're driving a 22-year-old truck with the original powertrain .... This is just a wild guess, but could it be time to replace some shift components, or have the entire tranny rebuilt?

Reader: My husband is a loyal Four Wheeler reader as well as a huge off-road guru. We have every Top Truck Challenge DVD you have put out, but he is always a bit disappointed in the fact that a lot of the good parts of the Challenge are left out of the DVD. We understand that only so much can fit onto a DVD.

During a recent discussion, I asked him if he would like to go to Top Truck Challenge in person and watch the events. He loved this idea, so I have begun the necessary research to see what needs to be done. We are not thinking that we would go this year but perhaps next year is a definite contender. We live in Southern California and would most likely drive to the event. If possible, I would like to receive information on the location and any relevant info on the 2007 or 2008 Top Truck Challenge. I would love to surprise my husband. Can you help?
Lisa Marie Smith

Editor: Sorry to disappoint, but Top Truck Challenge is not open to the public. The only way to score an invite is to gain the approval of our faithful readers-and if you want to see this year's roster of hopefuls, turn to page 46.

Reader: The four-wheel drive quit workin' on my '89 GMC Sierra 1/2-ton with a 3-inch body lift and 33x12.50 M/Ts on it. We just got 15 inches of snow, and snow removal here is a joke, so I need to get this fixed ASAP. I replaced the actuator, and that seemed to do nothing at all-and I had to drive 2 1/2 hours to get that part. So now I am stumped. When I engage four-wheel drive, it sounds and feels like it is engaging but the front wheels do nothing. Any and all ideas would be helpful.
N. Smith

P.S. The guy down the street in his lifted Dodge keeps goin' up and down playin' in it. You guys gotta help me here.

Editor: Your problem is a common one on GMs equipped with the Insta-Trac four-wheel-drive system. The earliest version of this system used a heating element to expand air and thus create vacuum in the actuator to engage four-wheel drive on the fly. In very cold weather, the actuator could be slow to heat up, or it might not heat up at all, which resulted in no drive power to the front wheels. After 1998, GM replaced the thermal actuator with a worm-drive version. Your local GM dealer should be able to order it for you, and it will come with a new harness to make it work. Did you swap in the later version of this part? If so, and you're still having problems, then check to make sure it's wired up properly and/or that no crud got into the actuator or any connections when you re-installed it. After that, we're stumped. Readers?

Reader: Hey guys! I just wanted to write you and thank you for the great magazine. While I can't claim to have been a longtime subscriber, I've been reading your magazine since before I bought my rig and continue to read them over and over again, cover to cover. It's a great remedy for an exchange student who's Cruiser-sick (kinda like being homesick, but I miss my Land Cruiser more than I miss home)

The September '06 issue is great-it's really nice to see a good long article about Cruisers, that and the note at the bottom of page 56 is hilarious, probably because its true: "Toyota Land Cruiser owners are some of the most faithful and fanatical we have ever encountered. In an effort to minimize letter bombs being sent to Four Wheeler headquarters, we have refrained from recommending any engine or axle swaps in this article." If you guys want to get inside the mind of a Cruiserhead, checking out would be a good start. Thanks again for the awesome magazine!
Guy Lamontagne (yotawheeler)
Exchange student in Finland

Editor: Hey, when it comes to Cruiserheads, we're no fools! Thanks for the kind words, and for the Web link-we'll be checking it out.

Reader: I want to build a prerunner truck-the only problem is that I was born in Wisconsin so I know nothing about long-travel suspensions. All that I ever dealt with was mud bogging. I have read your articles about building them, but I have no idea where to begin. Is it better to go with a Ford, Toyota, Chevy, or Dodge? I would much rather stay with a Ford or Chevy. Is there an entire package that you can buy? Is it better to go with two-wheel or four-wheel drive? I think that I would like to keep four-wheel in case I get in a soft spot. It does not have to be street-legal, either-I have a truck to pull it, and a trailer.

You built a Ranger that looked like the Dukes of Hazard's car. I really liked that-how much did it cost to do? Is it necessary to do all the welding and frame work? Whom should I contact? Where is the best and cheapest? Can you buy already set-up prerunners? If so, what price ranges?
Cpl. Michael Homola

Editor: Whoa dude, that's a lot of questions, and if we tried to answer them all in detail, our reply would fill up the next several pages. But here are some answers, in brief:

Make and model? Take some time to troll around the Internet, and see who makes the most parts for which trucks. Long story short: Midsize Toyotas and Fords are your likely best bets here, and our own Sean "Boss Hawg" Holman will vouch for the Ranger as a nonpareil prerunner platform.

An entire package? Yes, for suspensions, and you can find good stuff from Dixon Brothers, Camburg, Donahoe Racing, and Fabtech, among others. Two-wheel drive versus four-wheel drive? Looks like you've answered that one yourself.

Cost? It all depends on how wild and radical you want your ride. If you want a truck like our "RangeRunner" project, plan on spending several thousand dollars on suspension parts alone, and that's even if you're doing all the wrenchwork.

Can you get one already set up? Well, sure, you could probably get Rod Hall to build one for you. Got a couple hundred grand or so? Otherwise, your best bet would be to check your local classifieds, an online auction house such as eBay Motors, or perhaps set your sights a bit lower on a two-wheel drive running a moderate lift, a rear locker or limited-slip, and some 33-inch all-terrains. You'd be amazed how far (or fast) you can go in the desert with a mildly built rig-or even, for that matter, a bone-stock truck like a Nissan Frontier Nismo.

One thing we'd recommend, whichever way you go: Regardless of your choice of suspension, don't skimp on shock absorbers if you want a truly capable prerunner.

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