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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 just received my Nov. '07 issue and cannot believe that you would allow participants at Top Truck Challenge 2007 (or any year, for that matter) to blast through an obstacle such as the Mud Pit without proper eye and head protection as shown on the cover. An extremely poor example for younger readers, in my opinion.
Editor: We received several letters on this subject this month-which surprised us, as we've featured numerous images, on many past covers, of Top Truck competitors with no helmets plowing through obstacles such as the Mud Pit or the Frame Twister, and up to now, we'd never heard a word of complaint.
For the record, the Mud Pit, like all TTC events, is held on a closed course, with two EMTs and a seven-man recovery crew at the ready to provide aid if needed. We do advise competitors to wear a helmet during the Hill Climb, and seatbelts and/or harnesses have always been mandatory throughout. We are always fine-tuning TTC to make it better, though, and we'll take your suggestion to heart as we plan for the '08 event. Thanks for writing.
Reader: Can you please tell me how and where I can get a copy of the 2007 Top Truck Challenge? I don't care if it's a DVD or VHS. Thanks for your help.
Editor: We sell Top Truck DVDs in cooperation with our friends at 4Wheel Parts Wholesalers. Log onto www.4wheelparts.com or hit up your nearest 4Wheel Parts outlet; they should be able to help you.
Reader: I have a difficult problem. I'm 14 years old and just bought my second truck, an '82 Dodge Power Ram 50 4x4 with the 2.6L four-cylinder engine. I have searched everywhere to try to find some upgrades for it, but can't seem to locate anybody that carries parts for this machine. I'm looking for a lift kit (4 to 6 inches) and wheels and tires. The wheels and tires aren't a problem, but the lift is a different story. I was wondering if you guys at Four Wheeler could locate one for me.
Editor: Wow! You're 14 years old, and already on your second truck? We're impressed!
We hate to break the news, but nobody we know of ever made a suspension lift for your Dodge. There are 2- and 3-inch body lifts available from Performance Accessories (www.performanceaccessories.com), but these are the only components we've ever heard about to lift your vehicle.
Reader: I purchased your magazine at my local gas station. I was wondering if there are any lifts for a '99 Nissan Pathfinder, or if you have any suggestions on how to go about lifting it or converting it to a solid axle in the front.
West Warren, MA
Editor: Sorry to say, there's not much available for your 'Finder. Old Man Emu makes a 2-inch coil/spacer lift that you can find via either Automotive Customizers (www.4x4parts.com) or Rocky Road Outfitters (www.rocky-road.com). Anything beyond that will require a fair amount of fabrication and custom work.
Reader: I was just recently reading your July '07 issue and I was looking at the "Top 10 Four-Wheeling Cities" article. I noticed that you guys didn't include Hollister, California, in your Top 10, and I was just wondering why you didn't include it. You should have included it because Hollister Hills is a pretty big four-wheel park. (And you have done Top Truck Challenge there quite a few times.) It has some pretty tough courses like the Tank Trap. Hollister also has the Frame Twister and the pretty awesome Mud Pit (my favorite spot there).
But I just have to say thanks for putting in Prairie City in the top 10. I love that place. Thanks for taking the time to sit there and read this letter.
Elk Grove, CA
Editor: Thanks for writing. And yes, we have held Top Truck at Hollister Hills a few times-every year, in fact, since 1993. For that article, though, we were only considering larger metropolitan-type areas that are in close proximity to many dozens of nearby four-wheeling opportunities. And in that sense, Hollister doesn't quite qualify. But it is, without doubt, one of our favorite 'wheeling spots in the U.S.
Reader: I was curious about how the Mega Titan is coming. I was expecting to see it compete at Top Truck Challenge this year. I thought that was the reason behind the build. Are you planning on going through the Tank Trap with the truck? I also noticed that the trucks are becoming so large that the obstacles are looking kind of small.
Fuquay Varina, NC
Editor: Mega Titan Pilot Robin Stover replies: The Mega Titan has actually been used to prerun events at Top Truck Challenge, as well as to aid our staff with extractions during the event. We never planned to actually compete in it because it wouldn't be fair to the other participants. Besides, who would shoot the photos? However, the idea did cross our minds early on.
You are correct about the rigs of TTC getting bigger with each year. We're all wondering if and when we're going to see Grave Digger enter.
Reader: I am retired, and my wife and I use 4x4s (currently, an Xterra and a Discovery) for excursions, not bogging or crawling. Trout fishing off of trails in the Smoky Mountains, a planned trip from Canada to Mexico (all off-pavement), and Alaska next year.
For my next rig, I am looking at the Dodge Durango. Although I would like something smaller, I want a full body on frame (trading in the Xterra). Is the drivetrain (axles, differentials, and so on) heavy-duty on the Durango? And, how is the four-wheel-drive system for serious 'wheeling (it has full-time, 4WD "Lock," and low-range)? I will be using 285/75/17 tires and would like to install a 3-inch block. The lifetime warranty is very attractive, but I can't find out if the drivetrain is basically that of a Ram 1500 pickup (i.e., with heavy-duty components). Any info and advice would be most appreciated.
Editor: Yes, the Durango drivetrain is essentially the same as what you'll find on a comparable Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, and for general-duty (non-Rubicon) 'wheeling in stock trim, its drivetrain components should be up to the task. To be honest, though, we'd recommend you hold onto your Xterra. Granted, it doesn't quite have as much horsepower, storage, or towing capacity as the Dodge, but in almost every other way: wheelbase, ground clearance, overhangs, gearing (with the manual transmission), aftermarket parts availability (i.e., for the Durango = none), factory options (rear locker, premium shocks, BFG tires) ... well, long story short, we think the Xterra has it all over the Durango-and the vast majority of SUVs, for that matter-when it comes to trailability. Hope this helped.
Reader: Though I'm not in the market for a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, I enjoyed the recent test of this '08 vehicle (May '07). Can you please test the new Mercedes-Benz GL450 SUV? It's available with a serious optional off-road package (two-speed transfer case, two locking diffs, 12-inch ride height capability), is not prohibitively expensive at $55,000, and amazingly, was top rated by Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and Consumer Reports). I am very curious about Four Wheeler's opinion of it when it is properly optioned. People love comparison tests in which rankings are generated. So, how about a test of (properly optioned) aspirational SUVs including the Mercedes GL450, Porsche Cayenne S, Range Rover Sport SC, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Hummer H2? Another vehicle could be the Mercedes G500, a Cadillac Escalade, or a VW Touareg V-8.
Editor: We like the way you think! Unfortunately, we don't have the abundant staffing that those other magazines have, so we really don't have the time or resources necessary to execute an exclusive luxo-class trail test. And the last time we featured an Escalade in these pages (April '05), our readers nearly skinned us alive.
But we have got some of the bases covered: The latest Hummer H2 and Toyota Land Cruiser, for instance, we're testing this month in our Four Wheeler of the Year test-see page 18 for all the details. The others, except for the GL450, we've tested by themselves in various issues over the last three years. We've put in an order for a 4x4 GL with the 3.2 Bluetec diesel, and as soon as one's available to us, we'll write up an evaluation in these pages.
Reader: I wheel a '77 GMC Jimmy fullsize, and I have a problem with my exhaust. When I have the back window down or the top off, the whole cab fills with exhaust fumes! Everyone I have talked to says it's just a design flaw. Are they right? Is there anything I can do about it? The truck has a 350 with headers going to dual 2.5-inch Magnaflow mufflers.
Editor: Yikes! With a vehicle of this vintage, a cracked exhaust manifold is the usual culprit, but as you're running aftermarket headers, that's less likely as they dissipate heat far better, and generally crack less often, than your typical OE single-pipe setup. Still, something's not right. Our guess is that wherever the leak is occurring-most likely, somewhere aft of the headers-the updraft that's created when you roll down your windows while you're driving down the road is causing the fumes to be drawn upward from underneath your vehicle, through the open windows and into the cab. Our advice? Check your muffler and tailpipe, as well as the headers, for any signs of cracking, pitting, corrosion, and/or loose fasteners. Whatever the cause is, just get it fixed!