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Reader: I just got the Oct. '07 issue and, like usual, I stopped what I was doing to sit down and read it. I have to say I love your mag, but when I got to your "Best Buys in Used 4x4s," I was very disappointed. I don't agree with your fullsize SUV choices at all. First of all, the Bronco should have been ahead of the Blazer, but that's just personal preference. (I have two Broncos-a '79 and a '92.) But my main complaint is that you picked the '80-'96 Broncos. The '78 and '79 are indestructible. Now granted, the 351M and 400 aren't the best engines Ford ever made, but look at the whole driveline. With the C6 or the T-18 trannies, NP205 transfer case, and a solid Dana 44 up front and a 9-inch rear, it is much more capable than the E4OD, IFS Dana 44, and 8.8 rear. I have 33-inch tires on my '79 (stock) and could put 35s on with a tiny lift or trimming; by contrast, 32s are the biggest tire you could put on a stock '92-'96. Also, lifting the second-generation Bronco is a lot easier and cheaper, all because of the solid front axle. Other than that, your mag is awesome. I can never wait for the next issue.
Reader: In your "Best Buys in Used 4x4s," the fullsize Chevy specs are wrong for the '91-'98 C/K vintage. They were IFS trucks and never came from the factory with solid-axle fronts. Also in '91, GM discontinued the 700R4 four-speed tranny and started using the NV4500 five-speed manual and 4L80-E four-speed automatic. It sounds like your tech junky got this info from '73-'87 K-trucks. Just wanted to pass this along and love the mag.
Editor: One of the criteria we took into account when picking our Best Used Buys was availability, and while we'd agree that the older fullsize Bronco is easier to modify in a number of ways, they're also somewhat scarce compared to the later TTB versions. And we really should have caught that Chevy error. Thanks for the catch.
Reader: In your recent tire tests (Sept. '07), the weight spec on the General Grabber AT2 reads 22.8 pounds. I have been considering these tires for my FZJ 80, but am reluctant because the spun weight for the size I need is just over 61 pounds per tire. The article also states the weight for the General Altimax Arctic in the size tested to be 22.5 pounds ... but I kind of doubt that. As weight is related to acceleration and deceleration rates-as well as mpg-it is an important consideration when choosing a tire. I enjoy reading and subscribing to your publication. Please correct these specs, and keep up the good work!
Editor: Well shucks, if we'd only said 22.8 kilos, we'd have been pretty darn close. The Grabber AT2 we tested actually weighs 49 pounds. On the other hand, according to our sources at General Tire, the stated weight for the Altimax Arctic is indeed correct.
Reader: Regarding the article "Case Closed" (Oct. '07), Ken Brubaker mentions that the B-W 13-56 transfer case is an aluminum case. It's not. From the Ford service disk: "The Borg-Warner 13-56 manual-shift transfer case is a three-piece transfer case. The case (PN 7005) is magnesium, except for F-350 applications which have an aluminum front case half and an opening for a power takeoff (PTO)." I also noticed that some transfer-case sections included the weight, but the 13-56 section lacked that info: it's 88 pounds for the non-PTO mechanically shifted version full of ATF. (There was also an electronically shifted version called ESOF.) Considering that it can stand up to a Power Stroke turbodiesel, it probably has the best torque-to-weight ratio of any stock transfer case-and it's cheap and easy to find.
Reader: Come on, fellas. The Dodge Power Wagon has been out for almost three years now, and you have yet to do anything with it other than the long-term test. The truck is amazing and has so much potential with just minor tweaking. There are at least two different suspension companies making Power Wagon-specific lifts, and millions of possibilities for making this truck even better. I believe in an issue earlier this year, you even told readers that you would be doing something with this truck. You've called it the perfect pickup in the past. Seems like a hell of a platform to work off of, doesn't it?
By the way, people actually own Power Wagons and want to modify them, unlike Nissan Titan owners who probably won't be stuffing a full 'cage and 46-inch Claws under their trucks any time soon.
Editor: Ouch! OK, we guess we earned that last jibe. And actually, they were 54-inch Boggers. But rest assured, we do in fact have a Power Wagon in our permanent stable of project rigs, and we do plan to build it up over time in these pages. It's just taking a little longer than we'd like for us to get it together. Be patient and stay tuned.
Reader: In your Moab coverage (Aug. '07), you mentioned that a stock Lexus GX had to be strapped to finish Kane Creek. You also showed a stock Tundra double-cab. Did it make it without help? I have a stock Tacoma double-cab (4x4 TRD) and wanted to know if I could make it without assistance. Of course, I would go with buddies.
In your September issue, a writer mentioned he uses his 4x4 truck for work ("No More 'Retarded' 20s"). I think that the experiences of people who use their 4x4s for work would be an interesting subject for a story. These people most likely will have great ideas about rigs, tips, and tricks that will help us all. After all, their jobs are on the line if they break down, get stuck, and so on.
Ever think about doing one more common trail ride each month? You do some exotic rides, but not much like "Tents & Trails." More U.S. stuff that the everyday person can do would be great.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Editor: With an experienced driver at the helm, our stock Tundra got through Kane Creek without needing a strap. We'd still guess your TRD Tacoma will make it over Kane in stock condition. It'll definitely be a challenge in spots, but it's well worth the effort.
About "Wheelers Who Work," we have some plans in the works for a series about folks who, as you said, make their livings behind the wheel of a 4x4. We should be kicking off the series in three or four months.
About our trail coverage, yep, we've "Gone Exotic" a bit more than usual over the last year. We've had the opportunity to do a little 'wheeling abroad, and we've also met some talented freelancers who cover overseas events. We also like to share off-pavement experiences in this magazine that you won't readily find in the other 4x4x mags, or on the Internet. But we do have coverage of some good domestic trail events that the everyday person could attend; in fact, that thousands of everyday people did attend this past year, on page 74 of this issue.
Reader: I am looking at buying a '70 IH Scout 800A, and the dealer doesn't know what engine and tranny it has. Can you help me find information on options and technical data on the Scout?
Editor: Tell the dealer to pop the hood and start counting plug wires. Your Scout came with one of three engines: the 196ci I-4, the 232ci "Power Thrift" straight-six, or (less likely) the AMC-sourced 304ci V-8. The transmission is a Warner Gear T-90, and the transfer case is a Dana 20 with 2.00:1 low-range. Axles are a Dana 27 front (most likely running a bigger and stronger Dana 30 centersection with D27 outers) and a semifloating Dana 44 rear. Ring-and-pinion ratios ranged from 3.31:1 to 4.27:1, depending on engine. Available options included a Powr-Lok rear limited-slip, Warner T-18 HD four-speed, a PTO off the transfer case, and a front-mounted winch. Under normal use, these components were (and are) fairly stout pieces, though the front drive becomes the weak link under V-8 power and bigger tires.
Wanna learn more? One of the better online resources for all things Harvester that we've found is the Binder Bulletin (www.binderbulletin.org).
Reader: Something I wanted to bring to your attention. Many of your European/Australian articles have rigs that run Simex tires, and through all my searches, I have never been able to find them in the U.S. I was wondering if you could elaborate on this and if you have any further research about the non-availability and any reasons why?
Walla Walla, WA
Editor: Based in Malaysia and a joint venture of Continental AG, Simex is a leading manufacturer of tractor and heavy-equipment tires for the Asian and European markets. They do produce some aggressive light-truck tires which are quite popular among 'wheelers in the UK and Australia, but to the best of our knowledge, those treads aren't DOT-approved for sale here. Why not? Well, getting a tire approved by the Feds is a costly and time-consuming procedure. The latest NHTSA tire-approval regulations we've seen run 75 pages and require literally dozens of tests before approval can be granted. Given the added costs of shipping and distribution-not to mention organizing a dealer network in the States-it's likely the folks at Simex have concluded that it doesn't make good business sense to export these tires to the U.S. at this time, given the likely demand. But we'll keep you posted if we hear of anything.
Reader: In "Letters" (Oct. '07), there was a letter about a "wandering" '03 Ford Super Duty. My buddy's '03 Super Duty started doing this at around 40,000 miles, and when he took it to the local dealer, they said that they had a bunch of trucks with this problem and it was the ball joints. They replaced them under warranty and the problem was solved. Hope this helps!
My '04 Crew Cab Super Duty shortbed had the same wandering problem since it was new, even though the dealer said there was nothing wrong with it. I replaced the springs with Deavers and the shocks with Bilsteins, hoping to improve the handling, but the new suspension had no effect on the wandering. At 35,000 miles, I took it to another dealer, who replaced all the steering parts including the steering box. The parts were all worn out due to constant correction input to combat the wandering. After replacing all the steering parts, the dealership did a four-wheel alignment and found the thrust angle to be out by 3/4 inch on the passenger side. (Of course, the dealer blamed this on the aftermarket springs.) I did extensive measuring and mapping of the chassis and axles, and found the rear axle to be out of square to the frame and front axle. To correct the problem, the axle needed to be moved forward about 1/4 inch at the passenger-side spring centerpin. This measurement is difficult to figure because a small movement at the spring centerpin will increase further out on the axle and wheel. Also, moving one side forward will move the other side back! I made this modification by tack-welding a drilling jig onto the axle spring perch, drilling a new hole 1/4 inch back, and filling the forward part of the original hole with weld. The truck now drives straight and does not wander. The key thing is to have the dealer do a four-wheel alignment.
Editor: We searched in vain for any Ford Technical Service Bulletins regarding steering problems with '03 Super Dutys, so we're passing along both of your experiences as a service to our readers. Thanks for writing in with your tips.
Reader: I have an '06 F-150 SuperCab. I want to put a 4-inch lift kit on it. I also want between 30- and 33-inch tires, approximately 10 inches wide, with 20-inch rims. I would like a performance exhaust and intake system installed also. I also know that larger brakes should be used to cover the changes. I have approximately $10,000 to play with, including installations. I have heard horror stories about incomplete installs, including parts that have been left out and should have been changed. With my budget, what would be the best options for my plans, knowing that the correct parts are being used and installed?
Mt. Vernon, IN
Editor: Sounds to us like you've got plenty of money for your project. The upgrades you listed shouldn't set you back more than five or six grand at the most, and that's assuming you opt for premium parts. For installing the suspension kit and hop-ups, well, any reputable 4x4 shop should be able to handle it. Ask some of your 'wheeling buddies for advice on shops in your area. Once you've got a list of shops you'd like to consult, check to see if the wrenches there have any experience working on your type of vehicle. If they don't, it might be best to keep looking.
The only other thing we'd advise you is to be sure and visit a good alignment shop after your tires and wheels have been installed. Misaligned tire-and-wheel assemblies can cause a myriad of problems down the road if uncorrected.