We have been hearing chatter and rumors from various sources that Ford is working on a long-travel version of the all-new '09 F-150, codenamed "Raptor." The on-again, off-again program appears to be on again and is far along in its development. From what we have gathered, the truck is probably a year and a half away from production. Sources tell us that the truck is lower and wider than a standard F-150 and uses reservoir shocks that are being codeveloped with Fox Racing. Tires are said to be in the 33- to 35-inch range, and a selectable locker, first unveiled on the new F-150 is thought to be part of the package. We also hear from sources that the truck (which probably won't be called Raptor when it goes in to production) will feature unique styling with bulged fenders to accommodate the increased tire size and suspension travel. Engine output is thought to be high and will probably use the upcoming Boss V-8, possibly an EcoBoost turbocharged variant. In fact, the Raptor has been mistaken for the next Lightning in F-150 enthusiast circles, based on the rumored engine. This appears to be an exciting time for the enthusiasts who work on the F-150 team.
We told you earlier that Suzuki was teaming up with Nissan to produce a midsized pickup based on the capable, and built on the same line as, the Nissan Frontier. The Suzuki Equator, as it will be named, will debut at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show and will resemble the official rendering below. We'll have more information in next month's issue.
After years of declining sales (15,751 in 2006 and 7,906 in 2007) and a weak product portfolio that was down to only the Chevy Colorado-based i-series and Trailblazer-based Ascender, Isuzu has decided to call it quits in the US. Once the manufacturer of fine and rugged off-road machines, such as the Trooper, VehiCross, and Rodeo, Isuzu was unable to rediscover itself using rebadged GM products. Honestly, we wondered how they hung in so long.
Specialist Michael Gallagher from Fort Lewis, Washington, was recently surprised when he found keys to a brand-new '08 Jeep Liberty inside an Operation Gratitude care package delivered on January 22, 2008, to the Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Iraq. His package was the 300,000th CARE package delivered to troops overseas through the non-profit Operation Gratitude's CARE package program. Gallagher is a vehicle commander from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis. His name was randomly placed on the 300,000th package. Thanks to the generous donation from the folks at Jeep, Gallagher will receive his new Liberty upon returning to the U.S.
Announced in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show, The Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams edition will hit the showroom in limited numbers: 3,200, to be exact. The Trail Teams FJ will carry a $4,755 premium over the $23,725 base price of the FJ Cruiser with a six-speed, and $5,110 over the $24,135 base price of the automatic, but will include a monotone white paint job with black trim, Bilstein shocks, BFGoodrich tires on black TRD rims, Cyclone air cleaner, rear locker, Active-TRAC four-wheel drive system, TRD exhaust, rock rails, all-weather floor mats, front bumper-mounted auxiliary lights, and skidplates. Inside the TT FJ are special trim and a nine-speaker audio system. Trail Teams badging is also part of the package. These FJs should be arriving at your dealership as you read this.
Editor Douglas McColloch (the guy in the photo who looks like a filthy hippie), seen here with Martin Walsh, General Manager of Hummer, presented Hummer with the 2008 Four Wheeler of the Year award for the 2008 Hummer H3 Alpha at the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Hummer placed the award proudly on display in its booth, as did Ford with its 2008 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year award for the Super Duty FX4.
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Congress Approves OHV-Friendly California Wilderness Bill
Congress approved and sent to President Bush compromise legislation that would designate 300,000 acres in Northern California's Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa counties as wilderness. Although off-highway vehicle (OHV) use is traditionally restricted in wilderness areas, the SAN-supported compromise provided for approximately 79,000 acres to be set aside as recreation management areas for off-highway vehicles. The measure also provided for the use of "cherry-stem" roads within the wilderness areas to allow continued motorized access to existing roads and trails. Wilderness legislation is consequential to SAN members since it potentially denies access to off-road trails and riding areas. The SAN continues to support land-use decisions that allow local stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law in the near future.
SAN Stands By Oregon 'Wheelers
Responding to a U.S. Senate bill that would designate an additional 125,000 acres of wilderness around Mount Hood, the SAN sent a letter to key Congressional members stating that additional public involvement was needed before proceeding with the wilderness proposal. The SAN also commented that the U.S. House of Representatives has already approved a measure, which would increase the Mount Hood Wilderness Area by 77,000 acres. Included in the SAN-supported House bill were provisions for the conversion of old forest roads into new recreational trails and to provide for a revenue sharing system for the fees collected from recreation and land use. While off-highway vehicle (OHV) use is traditionally restricted in wilderness areas, the inclusion of these provisions was due to ongoing involvement and input from the local and OHV community.