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June 2009 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 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.

Looking For TTC Rules And Videos
Reader: I am currently building a vehicle for Top Truck Challenge. Is there a link or any info on what the rules and regulations are for TTC?
Brett Bertacchi
Mooresville, NC

Reader: I would like to order the Top Truck Challenge video from 2008 and cannot find out how. Can you point me in the right direction?"
Joel Rice
Meridian, ID

Editor: Top Truck videos are all available via mail order from 4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers. Log onto and you'll find 'em there.

The rules for Top Truck Challenge are posted online at Log onto our site, run a search for "Top Truck rules," and you'll find them.

Jonesing For Rocks In B.C.
Reader: I've been rock crawling for about three years now and I love it. Recently I got married and moved from Arizona to northern British Columbia, and I don't see any rocks here. Do you know of places to go rock crawling in central or northern B.C., or any clubs that might help?

Also, they do a lot of mud bogging here, and I don't know anything about mud bogging. I bought a '91 Toyota 4Runner in Arizona and was planning on doing a solid axle swap and other mods to get it ready for the rocks. That's what I know how to do, but is mud much different? What kind of things should I do to my 4Runner? I was going to keep my 22R-E motor--should I put a bigger motor in? I don't see too many 4Runners in the mud.
Christopher Goss
Burns Lake, B.C., Canada

Editor: How to build for mud? Well, yeah, mud and rocks are two totally different creatures, and each one demands a distinctly different setup for optimal use. Fortunately, you're in luck this month, as we're discussing the very questions you've asked, starting on page 30.

To the best of our knowledge, your rockcrawling options in northern B.C. are probably going to be limited. We did find a club in your general vicinity, the North Caribou Offroad Adventurers Society in Prince George ( According to the website, their members "venture into some very rugged terrain," so if there's any good rockcrawling in your `hood, they'll probably know about it.

Where To Go Wheeling In Xanadu?
Reader: I would like to respond to a letter in the March '09 issue about places to wheel in the Northeast. If you don't mind traveling to Saugus, Massachusetts, there is a place called "The Farm." It's power-line roads--good wheeling in there, and the cops don't care. All Wheels Offroad Park in Lewiston, Maine, has good four-wheeling too. Check out their website--good stuff!
Mike Bakeman
Medford, MA

Editor: The cops don't care? Heck, we've been looking for that piece of Shangri-La real estate forever!

We make no guarantees as to the accuracy of any reader claims of legal wheeling spots. As always, it's a good idea to do a little research on the Web to find public or private OHV areas, and to contact local organizations or 4x4 clubs to find out information about hours of operations, access fees or permits required, and seasonal closures due to weather and the like.

Solution For Cranked Xterra Torsion Bars?
Reader: First, I just wanna say the mag and website are awesome. Second, a question: I have a '99 Nissan Frontier with 33s on it, and the ride is extremely stiff because the torsion bars are cranked to fit the tires. I wanna keep the tires but hate the stiffness, whether I'm on the dirt or on the road. Can I do anything to damp the ride, or is my truck going to have to wait for a straight front axle?
Nik Suda
Kihei, HI

Editor: Some premium aftermarket shock absorbers will help with damping somewhat, but for the most part, you're going to be stuck with a relatively harsh ride for as long as you've got the torsion bars cranked up.

If you're looking for a little inspiration, though, we've got a story this month on a solid axle/leaf spring swap being performed on a 2002 Xterra. There's no "kit" for this swap--the parts came from a variety of aftermarket and junkyard sources--but it can be done by the home wrench with a little ingenuity and sweat equity, and we show you how starting on page 40.

The Lowdown On Long Arms
Reader: What are long-arm suspensions? How do they work? Are they available for many vehicles? Why are they so expensive?
Dallas Center, Utah

Editor: A so-called "long arm" suspension is essentially a multilink setup which uses lateral control arms and/or radius arms to locate the axle during its range of travel. They have an advantage over so-called "short arms" because they operate at relatively lower angles, resulting in reduced squat and a smoother pavement ride, and with the lift being entirely provided by longer-than-stock coil springs, the long arms can operate at near-stock geometry under normal operations. The benefits are clearance for larger tires and wheels and tremendous amounts of articulation on the trail while retaining near-factory ride quality on pavement and keeping your vehicle's center of gravity manageable.

At present, most applications for long-arm suspensions are for various models of Jeeps, though the aftermarket is producing more kits for more vehicles with each passing year. Their expense is due to a number of factors: First, there's the intense degree of engineering R&D that goes into these systems; the arms themselves are usually made of ultra stout, thick-wall DOM chromoly tubing or a non-cheapy equivalent; they're not a high-volume item for most suspension manufacturers; and you also need specially tuned shocks to complement the system. You also typically need new CV driveshafts and/or a slip-yoke eliminator kit; all of these factors will add to the cost. But based on our own experiences with them, if you can spare the coin, these systems are worth every penny, especially if your trail ride also sees a lot of pavement.

Owns Rare Toyota For The Magazine
Reader: Hey, I have a 1986 Toyota Sunrader 4x4 RV. I have been told that only 26 of these were made, and every time I go out, I get people coming over to look at it. I am looking for a sponsor to help me "mint" it out. I believe that this is a great advertising opportunity for a company such as yours.
Ken James
Bakersfield, CA

Editor: We always welcome photos of readers' rigs. Send high-resolution jpegs and a description of your ride to, and we'll give 'em a good looking-at.

How Old Are We, Anyway?
Reader: When was the first issue of Four Wheeler published? I think I was in high school at the time of the first publication.
Ed Helmick
Provo, UT

Editor: We've been in business since February 1962. And how old are you, gramps?

Disgusting & Shameful Ads?
Reader: I am a subscriber of 25-plus years and love this magazine, reading it from cover to cover. Lately I have seen some disturbing advertising for "Male Enhancement Pills" and "Size Does Matter." This is disgusting and shameful. I'm a Vietnam-era Marine and have seen it all, but never expected you folks to stoop this low--a magazine of great "integrity" since 1962. I read where another subscriber complained a few months ago, but you are not getting it! I want your magazine to survive this recession, but this is wrong and we deserve better. If these ads continue, then I will never support your great magazine again. I am sure others feel the same way and will end their support. Wake up, please!
Wayne Delgado
Eagle Creek, OR

Editor: For what it's worth, we're not big on these ads, either, but strictly a business decision. We do appreciate your input on this subject, and your concerns have been communicated to the folks on our sales staff. Our apologies for any offense, and thanks for writing in.

Public Land Sales: Pro Or Con?
Reader: Recently I ran across an online article about 110,000 acres the government was going to auction off for oil and gas exploration in or near The Canyonlands of Utah. I did a search on the Internet and could not find any information about this, and the online article I read was a bit one-sided, making it sound as though former President Bush was handing the land straight over to his oil and gas buddies. I know from reading you and your sister publications that these land auctions can be a double-edged sword for four-wheeling enthusiasts, as evidenced by what happened with the Golden Spike. When that land went to auction, it was divided into parcels and a fellow 'wheeler purchased a section, leaving it open to the public, and a couple who planned to build a house bought the adjoining parcel, which (the last I heard) resulted in part of the trail being closed since it is now on private property. I have a two-part question regarding these auctions.

First, as avid four-wheeling fans and readers of your magazine, should we as a group be opposed to these auctions, or in favor of them? Is there somewhere we can visit to stay informed about future auctions or ways to get involved?
James Belcher
Pineville, NC

P.S. I would just like to add that to many people, it seems that one cannot simultaneously be an avid wheeler and want to protect these lands. If you enjoy four-wheeling, you need to be actively involved in preserving the land you use, and respectful of it! Too many trails are being shut down because of people going off trail or polluting. Every time I go wheeling--every time--I find more garbage than I can carry out. There are a lot of people these days who feel we are ruining the land we enjoy, and leaving trash is just giving them the ammunition they need to shut us down. I also believe a little education is in order for these people (those who would shut us down) since most of the time, the trails we wheel on are former mining or logging trails. If we stay on the trails, we are not disturbing nature anymore than it already has been.

Editor: As a general matter of principle, we favor keeping public lands open to the public. That includes 'wheelers, ATV riders, mountain bikers, horseback riders, hikers and rock climbers, geologists and fossil-diggers, hunters and fishermen, and yes, even the 'huggers who'd like to shut out most of us. We do understand the need to balance the public's desire for open spaces on which to recreate with the need to intelligently manage--and carefully exploit, when necessary--our country's natural resources, but by and large, we take a "hands off" approach when it comes to existing BLM and Forest Service lands. It's not that we're opposed to oil extraction, timber harvesting, or any other commercial use. And we're not opposed in principle to designating parcels of land for wildlife habitat, either--we just think that closing off huge chunks of public lands in one fell swoop, for any single reason, sets a bad precedent for future land-use restrictions. At the very least, we should always insist that all existing roads and trail systems that are currently designated as such by the BLM or USFS (which includes most of our favorite public wheeling spots out West) be kept open as public rights-of-way, regardless of how the adjoining lands are to be used. Given the increasing demands--both commercial and environmental--that are being placed on our public lands nowadays, this seems like a fair compromise to us.

In the case of the Canyonlands, the proposed auctions you mentioned became a moot point when the incoming Obama administration withdrew the leases on the parcels in question. However, it's always a good idea to stay "plugged in" to land-use issues, and the Blue Ribbon Coalition is one of the best and most active online resources; SEMA is another good source of information, as are CORVA and United Four-Wheel Drive Associations. And your advice about staying on the trail and Treading Lightly is always good to follow. Thanks for expressing your concerns.

Wants To Make Old Toyota More Wheelable
Reader: I have an '82 Toyota pickup and I'm trying to find any info on more off-roadability than it already has. I'm running 33x12.50 tires right now, but I am on an extreme budget due to the economy. Any info on more flex, or anything that will help me turn it into a rock buggy would be helpful.
Brian Brunet
Cullman, AL

Editor: In general, the words "budget" and "rock buggy" don't usually go hand in hand. However, your truck is a great platform for a budget buildup. Since you say you're running 33-inch tires, we'll assume you've installed some sort of lift kit, so we'll ignore suspension for now. If we were building your truck--particularly with rocks in mind--we'd start with a locker for the rear axle, and (possibly) some sort of limited-slip for the front. Then we'd look to swap out your front-axle Birfield joints (a perennial weak link for Toyotas of this vintage) for some stouter Longfield pieces. Then we'd look at "gearing down," perhaps with a lower gear set for the transfer case or (if you have more money) a dual-case conversion setup such as those made by Marlin Crawler or Advance Adapters. Bottom line? For a rear mechanically-actuated locker, Longfield front axles, and a 4.7:1 gear seat for your t-case, plan on spending somewhere around $1,500 for parts. Did we come in under your budget?

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