Last month we brought you a spy photo of the upcoming Ford F-150 Raptor, and shortly after we broke the news, our spy photographers got busy snapping up a few more. This is the best shot of the development mule we have gotten to date, and it gives us a better picture of some of the things we were speculating about, such as being wider than an F-150, sporting fender bulges to cover the wider track, and the use of 35-inch tires, which on this mule turn out to be the LT metric-equivalent 325/70R17s. Also, our man behind the lens confirmed these are gasoline-powered trucks, which are betrayed by the tailpipe design and "Premium Fuel Only" seen on the dash, once again playing in to our speculation of a high-performance engine.
If You Have To Ask How Much
It is quite possible that Europe's Unicat Expedition Vehicles make the coolest expedition 4x4s on earth. Unfortunately, due to import regulations, these rigs have not been available for U.S. consumption. After a partnership between Unicat and Unicat Americas was formed in 2005, work began on a product for the Americas. With the introduction of the Amerigo line of expedition vehicles, it is now possible to have your own U.S.-spec rig worthy of chasing your dreams in the African Kalahari or driving from Alaska to Chile. The Amerigo is built on either a Freightliner Unimog or International 7400 chassis, available in 4x4 or 6x6 drivetrain, and with 193- to 250-inch wheelbases. Options include motorcycle or boat racks, Self Extraction kit, and a BGAN voice and data global communications system. These vehicles feature all of the amenities of a luxury RV and don't require specialized licenses to operate. Unicat Americas also specializes in trip preparation and outfitting, shipping to far-off places on the globe, and provides global logistics and support services. To check out some awesome photography and endless build configurations, point your browser to www.unicatamericas.com. We are working on a testdrive and hope to have more information in a future issue of Four Wheeler.
Jeep ORT Rumors
Back at SEMA, Jeep launched something called Off Road Technology, or ORT, an off-road counterpart to the SRT division, which has created some well-known, factory-tuned hot rods. What does this mean for us? Well, we have been hearing rumors of factory-tuned wheelers by ORT, beginning with the Jeep Wrangler and utilizing some recently announced products, such as Mopar/Jeep Performance Part's 4.5-inch Long Arm kit, based on the very same setup we have on our Project 'Con Artist. No word from the reps at Chrysler, but with Easter Jeep Safari in Moab just around the corner, wouldn't that be a great place to make an official announcement?
Super Duty To Get Spray-In Liner
According to pickuptruck.com, Ford will become the second OE manufacturer to offer a spray-in bedliner from the factory. The Ford version, co-developed with PPG and dubbed Tough Bed, will first be offered on Ford's 2009 Super Duty pickup trucks. The Tough Bed liner will be applied robotically, will be covered by Ford's standard 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, is said to resist UV fading, and is strong enough for military-grade use. It will only be offered in black.
Not For U.S.
Have any of you Nissan fans ever longed for the rugged simplicity of a regular-cab Nissan Frontier-with a diesel? Well, it turns out such a truck exists in the form of Nissan's Frontier Navara, which is only available overseas. Siam Nissan Automobile Co., Ltd, announced that its Frontier Navara would be available in a single-cab configuration, powered by its YD25DDTi 16-valve 2.5L turbodiesel four-cylinder. This engine puts out 172 hp and 297 lb-ft of torque, backed by a five-speed manual transmission, which sounds just right to us. The Nissan Frontier Navara is built in Thailand.
Mopar Performance Rolls Out Dana 60 For Wrangler JK
Over the past few years new vehicle manufacturers have started offering upgrades that had previously only been available through the aftermarket. Well, Mopar Performance is taking this trend to the next level. They're rolling out a bolt-in Dana 60 rear axle for the Jeep Wrangler JK. Mopar Performance revealed this axle at the '08 Easter Jeep Safari, but we had a chance to inspect it a month prior to its unveiling while we were visiting Burnsville Off Road in Burnsville, Minnesota. Dan McKeag and the team at Burnsville Off Road had the inside line because they performed the setup for Mopar's All Access JK, which was the first vehicle displayed with the axle installed. The accompanying photo shows the Dana 60 under the All Access JK.
The axle borrows componentry from the J8 export-only diesel JK lineup. It has 35-spline axles and uses larger DR-Series Dodge truck disc brakes. The beauty of this axle is that it is set up with JK bracketry and pinion flanges so it'll bolt right in. It uses a wheel bolt pattern of 5 on 51/2. To complement the Dana 60 rear axle, Mopar Performance will also offer a larger front brake setup using 1500-Series brake components and a new hub and bearing assembly in the 5-on-51/2 bolt pattern.
Buyers will have the option of purchasing the axle and installing it themselves or it can be installed by the dealer. The axle will be available by mid-summer. No pricing has been announced at press time.
Land Use Notes
Off-Roaders Gain More Access To California Dunes
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) ruled that 12,000 acres of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area in California must be closed to the public so as to protect the Peirson's milk-vetch plant. The agency excluded 10,000 acres of dunes where most off-road activities take place. The plant was placed on the endangered species list in 1998 and the FWS was required to designate critical habitat to protect the plant on land, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Also known as the Algodones Dunes, the recreation area is a favorite destination for wheelers using desert dune buggies and other all-terrain vehicles. The off-road community demonstrated that there would be disproportionate economic harm if the critical habitat designation included the Gecko and Glamis Management Areas encompassing the 10,000 acres.
SEMA is reviewing the rule. The association generally supports a balanced approach between land access and conservation, which includes advice from the local community.
Hawaii Targets Vehicle Engine Size For Additional Fee
Legislation has been introduced in the Hawaii House of Representatives to establish a progressive fee for state motor vehicles based on engine size. These fees would be collected by the state at the time of initial vehicle registration and at subsequent renewals of registration. These fees would be in addition to fees and taxes normally required for registration or renewal. The measure would tax vehicle owners with an engine size greater than 200 cubic centimeters, and the fee would increase depending on engine displacement.
* There are reports that Dodge is planning to hold the pricing at or near 2008 levels on the all-new 2009 Ram 1500.
* Navistar has sued Ford again over diesel engine disagreements after failing to reach a settlement in mediation.
* Porsche is said to be eyeing a Volkswagen diesel for the next-generation Porsche Cayenne.