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April 2009 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on April 1, 2009
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Where To Write
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.

When Is a Continent Not?
Reader: I would like to point out a correction on a sidebar of your article "Land Rover G4 Challenge" (Feb. '09). It mentions an expedition to the "Darien Gap swamplands that divide North America and South America." However, that's unlikely since North and South America don't touch each other. Darien Gap divides Central and South America.
Eddy Sicalo
Columbia, MD

Editor: Errrr, yes and no. Geographers do not generally consider Central America to be a "continent" in its own right, but rather a region within the continent of North America. Some schools of geography, in fact, only count "America" as a single continent since the only real "divide" between its northern and southern land masses is a manmade (Panama) canal.

Looking to Plow With His JK
Reader: I have an '08 two-door Jeep Wrangler JK (stock, except the tires). I was thinking of putting a plow on it-nothing heavy-duty, just for the driveway. The problem is I can't find anything online about this. I found a few people asking about it, but the only people that actually have a plow on their Jeeps are people with late-model beaters which they took off the road. This was my first brand-new 4x4 ever, and I don't want to mess it up. Just wondering what your opinion is on the subject. Where can I get a good hydraulic system? I imagine I would need something a little smaller; the plows that the big boys use aren't going to cut it for my Jeep. I'm sure there are other Jeep owners out there who would love to hear more info on this subject.
Jimmy McGuinness
Worcester, MA

Editor: If you're looking for a good all-around plow for everyday chores, check out the SnowSport by Agricover (866/414-5412, It uses no hydraulics (so there's no plumbing, pump, or vacuum issues to deal with), it costs about half as much as a conventional hydraulic plow, and it can be set up to fit just about any light truck or SUV. Our own Senior Editor Brubaker uses one for clearing the parking lot of our expansive Midwest Bureau complex each winter, and he swears by it.

What Hits, What Fits, When's It Comin'?
Reader: When are you guys going to run the "What Hits, What Fits" tire guide for 4x4s? I am currently looking for tires for my '06 Nissan Frontier and would like to know how big of a tire will fit without a lift kit versus a minor lift. The truck is a Crew Cab 4x4, non-Nismo.
Ben Oakes
Wellsburg, NY

Editor: You're right, we've been a little remiss with our Tire Fitment chart-in fact, it's been more than two years since we've visited the subject. So, we'll be publishing an updated version of it in just a couple of months. Stick around.

Wants a Rolltop and Softcage
Reader: I rolled my '95 Tacoma, but the beast still runs like a champ. I want to build a rollcage and make it a soft top, but the local off-road shops want, like, $1,500 to make a custom one. Are there any pre-fab models available on the web?
Jeff Enockson
Lolo, MT

Editor: We're not sure if you're looking for a soft top or a rollcage, but we'll guess it's a top to fit a full cage after you've chopped off the roof of your cab. If that's the case, nobody we know of makes an off-the-shelf soft top for your application, though it's possible you could cobble up some sort of hybrid-top from a conventional "bedcover" top such as what you'd find from Bestop, Can-Back, and others, along with some bikini tops such as the ones Bestop sells for FJ40s. But either way, you'll need to rely on a little ingenuity and some custom work to pull it off-and frankly, the price you were quoted didn't sound that bad to us.

Needs Some Love for IFS Wheelers
Reader: I drive an '01 Chevy 2500HD with a leveling kit and 305s, and love wheeling in it, but I've noticed that almost every magazine is pretty harsh on IFS rigs because they are weaker and allow less suspension travel and so forth. I know that the pros and cons have been listed of wheeling an IFS rig, but in the end it still makes it out to be the bad guy. I know that there is the option of a solid-axle swap, but many people don't want to tear apart the most expensive thing they've ever owned. I suppose what I'm getting at is: I'd like to know if at some point you guys could put an article in your mag about wheeling in an IFS vehicle, with a lot of pics of people using them, so that the people that are stuck with IFS still feel like we are welcome and can wheel with the best of them.
Cody Tigges
Grimes, IA

Editor: Hey, you've come to the right place. We wheel a bunch of bone-stock rigs-nearly all of 'em with IFS these days-every year in our Four Wheeler and Pickup Truck of the Year tests, and most issues of the magazine feature some suspension tech and tips for lifting or modifying later-model 4x4s with independent suspensions. Heck, we even built an IFS Lexus for Moab a few years back, and showed it could rockcrawl with the best of them without needing to swap out the front drive components. Of course, nothing beats a solid axle for the really difficult stuff, and solid axles usually make future suspension modifications (like lifting your truck) easier too. But for the vast majority of wheelers in the vast majority of conditions, a sensibly built and smartly driven IFS truck will go nearly every place a similarly equipped solid-axle rig will. Was that enough love for now?

Wants All-Wheel-Drive Z-Car
Reader: I drive an '03 Nissan 350Z. And my wish is to make the car all-wheel drive. Is that possible?
Matt Piczura
Schiller Park, IL

Editor: Sure, anything is possible...but why would you want to? Such a conversion has been done before-primarily by professional tuners and race teams-and you will likely need a race-team budget to make it all happen, what with the new transmission, AWD transfer case, complete front drivetrain, axles and subframe, and new suspension arms all around that you'd need at the very minimum. The fuel tank and exhaust would probably have to be relocated and/or rerouted, front brakes and steering knuckles would need upgrading...and we haven't even mentioned the ECU and electronics. Some of our sister magazines, such as Super Street and Import Tuner, have covered this subject in the past. Take a gander at their websites, see what you can find, then decide whether or not it will really be worth the effort. On the other hand, the Infiniti is based on the same platform and available in AWD. Maybe a trade-in would be the way to go.

Do You Need a Premium Suspension Kit?
Reader: My name is Sfc. Albert D. Alvarez. I am currently deployed to the Middle East. I have a fairly stock '07 Dodge Ram Mega Cab 1500 4x4 with the 5.7L Hemi. My only mods thus far have been an aFe Hi-Breather intake and a Gibson exhaust. I am due to be coming home in the next five to six months.

I have been looking at lift kits from two separate companies: KORE (Recon Series) and Carli (Starter System with possible steering stabilizer). I live in El Paso, Texas, and like to take the family out to have a fun time in the sand. I do a majority of pavement driving, but I like to get dirty when I go back home to central Texas (where there is mud!). I don't want a "Road Queen," and don't want to go over board with a "Dirt King," either. I'm looking for something in between. Can you tell me which of these two systems would be the better choice for me? Or perhaps some other system?
SFC Albert Alvarez
In the Middle East

Editor: Both the Carli and KORE suspension systems you mention are high-quality, race-tested pieces of engineering. They are also both at the upper end of the spectrum, price wise, and while you'll certainly get what you pay for with either kit, we're not sure you really need the equivalent of a full-on "Dirt King" race suspension for the kind of wheeling you describe here. We think your best bet would be to contact reps of both companies when you get back to the States, check out some catalogs, and do a little comparison shopping.

Air Intakes: Which Makes More Power?
Reader: I just recently bought an '06 Nissan Titan and I wanted to somehow add some power to it. I like the exhaust note on it, so I'd probably leave that alone for awhile. Adding an air intake sounds like the way I want to go, but there are so many to choose from. The Volant intakes seem to be really good, but there is also a new Fram intake out, along with a K&N. I am just not sure which one to purchase. Since the engine will be taking in more air, will it make the engine any louder? Thanks.

Editor: Good questions all. We'll be comparison testing some leading air intakes in an upcoming issue. Stay tuned.

Wants to Know: Army Jeep or Postal Jeep?
Reader: I recently purchased a DJ-5D Jeep with left-hand drive. I was going to restore it but decided to sell it on eBay. It is painted black, but you can see the U.S. Army 720 CE decals on the side doors. The doors are hinged and not sliding although they might have been at one time. I assumed it was authentic Army, but a number of e-mails insist it is a Postal Jeep that had the decals added later. It is Army green inside and under the carpet. If I can prove it really is an Army Jeep, it would be worth much more than the Postal Jeep. Any idea whether this really was an Army Jeep?
Larry Wilhelm
Wichita Falls, TX

Editor: We asked our longtime colleague, Jim Allen, who's as knowledgeable as anyone on the planet about Jeep history, and he answered back with this:

"Larry, what you have is not precisely a Jeep. In fact, anybody from Jeep-either today or back when yours was built-would vehemently deny it was a 'Jeep.' It was built by AM General, which was a division of American Motors that produced commercial and military products including the DJ ('Dispatcher Jeep,' a legacy from when it was built by Jeep). AM General separated from AMC in 1983 but continued to have close ties for a number of years afterward. There were many versions of the DJ, from the first DJ-3A that appeared in 1955, to the last, the DJ-5M built in 1984. Many were used for the Postal Service, most often in right-hand-drive configuration, but they were also common in government service as utility or delivery vehicles. That's likely how yours was used. All DJs were two-wheel drive. You don't see many that were built as left-hand drive, though they were easy enough to convert.

"As far as its value goes, I honestly doubt it's worth more having been an Army vehicle than if it had been a Postal DJ. In general, old postal DJs are not particularly collectable or valuable, but some people still find them useful in a variety of commercial or utility roles. If yours has any special value, it's in the relatively easy use it had (compared to a postal) and the fact that it's already left-hand drive. Beyond that, I wouldn't expect to see any premiums over what any other similar DJ would bring."

Wants Onboard Air for Hemi P/W
Reader: I am looking for an air compressor for my truck. I have an '06 Dodge 2500 Power Wagon (5.7 Hemi with the six-speed). I would like to have an onboard air system on the truck (air tank, fittings to the front and rear, and so on). I thought I read about a compressor on your Teal Brute project with a compressor that runs off the motor. I cannot seem to find the article on the Web. Any help would be great. Thanks.
Tom McCarthy

Editor: At present, there are no engine-driven options available for your truck, though we've been told that Kilby Enterprises is working on one and may have it ready for sale later in the year. For now, check out Voltair ( or Oasis Off Road ( for non-engine-driven high-output compressor options. Thanks for writing in.

Too-Wide Tires for Jeeps?
Reader: How wide is too wide on a JK? For years, I've been an avid reader of Four Wheeler and have wondered why more people don't opt to run wider tires to increase surface area on trail rigs? It increases lateral stability, and when aired down, you actually get more rubber on the contact patch (per inch) from width than height.

Considering the light weight of the JK and Unlimited, is there a disadvantage with going to a 15.5-inch-wide tire? There are only a few that offer these that I know of (e.g., Cepek, Mickey Thompson, Interco). The only downside I can think of is hydroplaning at highway speeds.
Joe Miller
West Chester, PA

Editor: Actually, we can think of a few others. For starters, if you mount those wider tires on your stock rims, you are going to run into some nasty inner fender-rub issues at full steering-and actually, we'd guess you won't even have full steering with a tire that wide. (For those of you who remember our Project Xterra from a few years ago, we're speaking from experience here.) Sure, you can move the tires outward to clear the fender and/or frame via wider aftermarket wheels with reduced backspacing and/or wheel spacers (ugh), but the "farther out" you go, the greater the amounts of stress you'll place on the stock wheel bearings and suspension components.

Also, by moving the center of the contact patch farther away from the vehicle's steering axis, you'll have changes in your Jeep's "scrub radius" to contend with, which can affect either your ability to steer, brake, or both. (Not good!) And obviously, you'd need to ditch the factory fender flares for fatter aftermarket pieces to stay street-legal in most states.

Now, we're not saying you can't have a fat-tired Jeep-plenty of folks have 'em. There are simply a number of issues pertaining to clearances, steering, and suspension geometry that you need to work out before you slap on those wider meats. One more thing: Wider tires = more aerodynamic drag, which in turn = crummier mileage. Just a reminder.

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