February 2010 Letters to the Editor

    Where To Write
    Address your correspondence to: Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245. All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department can also be reached through the website at www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

    Axle Strength, Front vs. Rear
    In Willie Worthy's "Tech Letter of the Month" (Oct. '09), he addresses several reasons why rear axle strengths usually exceed front axle strengths in four-wheel-drive vehicles. There is another reason that he did not include. Most 4x4 trucks have the engine in the front and are designed to accommodate most of the load variation on the rear axle. Consequently, the rear axle load capacity usually exceeds the load capacity of the front axle. At maximum GVWR, the rear axle carries more weight than the front. The most extreme example I could easily find is for a 1980 Jeep J-20 Pickup Truck. That vehicle has a GVWR of 8,400 pounds, with a maximum front axle load of 3,500 pounds and a maximum rear axle load of 5,500 pounds. Clearly the designers were expecting the rear to carry more weight than the front. A less extreme example is a 2004 Dodge Durango 4x4: 6,600 pounds GVWR, 3,600 pounds front axle maximum, and 3,900 pounds rear axle maximum.

    The heavy engine in the front creates a more constant load for the front axle. Because most of the passenger and cargo load is added closer to the rear axle than the front axle (or even behind the rear axle), the rear axle picks up a bigger share of that additional load. This is why the rear seems awfully light at minimum load, but becomes much more inert at maximum load.
    Dale Gedcke, Ph. D
    Oak Ridge, TN

    Wants Best and Cheapest Suspension Lift
    I have a brand new set of 35/15.5-16.5 Super Swampers with rims that I've had for years. I also have a '92 F-250 that I want to put them on, but as you probably know, they're not going to slide right on. I've been looking at some lift kits, but I'm not sure what's the best and cheapest. I have a really low budget, but would like to put a 6-inch suspension lift on it. Can you please point me in the right direction so I can get the best bang for my buck?
    Jodie Wells
    Via the Internet

    Generally speaking, when it comes to suspension lifts, the words "best" and "cheapest" are mutually exclusive. The best suspension kits out there are typically subjected to rigorous testing by the manufacturers, and are only released to the public after extensive amounts of research and development (not to mention the battery of lawyers who need to give the kit their legal thumbs-up, too). All of which, of course, you end up paying for in the purchase price of the kit. In addition, your particular truck poses certain challenges, not so much for the availability of kits-there are some 6-inch suspension systems available for the F-250, and they typically run around $2,000-but for the labor-intensity of the work. A number of stock components in the Ford TTB frontend are both bolted and riveted in place, and each individual rivet needs to be punched out before the components can be removed. There are literally dozens of them on your truck, so if you're going to pay someone to help you install the new kit, figure on slightly higher labor costs. If it were up to us, we'd budget at least $3,000 for a quality kit and for any and all ancillaries that you may need later, such as bigger shocks, longer driveshafts, and extended brake lines.

    Explorer V-8 Swap Options
    I have a '98 Ford Explorer with the SOHC V-6. Now I want to upgrade to a V-8. I know I can get a V-8 from another Explorer, and bam-done. But that's not what I want. I was wondering if you could give me some tips on engines because whatever engine I get, I want to supercharge it. I'd like to stay with Ford engines, but I want something that will give me power and look good at shows.
    Rellion Clark
    Columbia, VA

    First question: Why not simply swap in a 4.6L V-8? It's more or less a drop-and-drive job (relatively speaking), and used Explorer donor vehicles are plentiful. And because your vehicle came from the factory with that engine as an option, you shouldn't have to worry about grenading lots of drivetrain parts since your transmission, axles, and transfer case were all engineered at the factory to stand up to the extra power. You won't have to relocate any gearboxes or have new driveshafts made, and you probably won't have any serious clearance issues involving the exhaust, oil pan, crossmembers, etc.

    Beyond that, if you've got to have a V-8, your swap choices are going to be limited. For emissions reasons, you're pretty much limited to '98-and-newer engines, so that excludes the older big-blocks like the 429 and 460 V-8s. A later-model ('98-2000) 351 Windsor/Boss 302 or even the new 5.4L truck engine could probably be made to fit, but in any case you'd need to swap out the rest of your drivetrain as well (not to mention your cooling system), and you'd need to fab up all your own motor mounts, brackets, crossmembers, etc., since nobody we know of makes a conversion kit for this kind of swap. If it were up to us, we'd probably sell the Explorer and use the money to buy an older F-series or Bronco, both of which offer a greater number of buildup options via the aftermarket.

    Clarion Call for the New H4
    Do you know how I would go about petitioning Hummer's new (China) owner to make the H4/HX? I fell in love with it when I saw the first picture of it online a long time ago. I printed the grainy picture and hung it on my toolbox.

    I want to urge them to put it into production. But I also want to try to push them into making it a real four-wheeler-not the fluffy bells-and-whistles crap that's being sold today. Do we really need a Swiss Army vehicle? Nope. What we do need is a task-designed, "get me there" 4x4. Give us a tough-as-nails drivetrain, narrowed Dana 60s (for Pete's sake, put one in the front), Atlas transfer case, NV4500 trans, and V-8 motor. Put in the right electronics, real GPS with Topo feature, nice tunes, 15-amp/115-volt outlets, and places to put our gear. If you build it, they will come to your dealerships. (Front and rear winches would be a nice option, too.)
    John Gormley
    Northridge, CA

    Narrowed Dana 60s and an Atlas transfer case from the factory? Well hey, like we've always said, if you're gonna dream, dream big.

    Seriously, we'd love to see a Wrangler-fighter H4 in the future, too, and we suspect that in the future, it will happen. It's going to take some time-as of press time, the Hummer acquisition still had yet to be officially approved by the Chinese government, so it's going to take awhile longer-a year or two, perhaps-for Hummer to reorganize and re-tool before setting out to launch another new vehicle out of the box. But rest assured, we know quite a few of the folks at Hummer, and they take a great deal of pride in manufacturing the kinds of "get you there" vehicles (e.g., the H3 Alpha) you mention, and if they get half a chance, they'll keep on doing it.

    The Lowdown on Ford F-150s
    I'm new to the wheelin' world, hence I don't know much about how to set up a truck for four-wheeling. I would like some advice on how to set up an old Ford F-150 Custom because my area has few wheelers. It has everything stock on it. Any advice on how to do this? Any price info would much appreciated.
    Lane Erwin
    Minor Hill, TN

    You live in Tennessee and you can't find any wheelers? Sounds to us like you need to get out more often, son.

    When it comes to answering all your questions on how to build an F-150, we'd need a magazine that was the size of a shop manual. Fortunately, some good books on the F-150 are available. One of the most comprehensive volumes we can recommend is the Ford F-Series Owner's Bible by Moses Ludel. It's published by Robert Bentley and available online from Amazon and other e-tailers.

    As an alternative for now, log onto fourwheeler.com and read all about our "Fiery Redhead" project, a '92 F-150 that we modified a few years ago for all-around wheeling on a reasonable budget. It was a multi-part series that covered virtually every aspect of the vehicle-from suspension, to wheels and tires, to lockers and gears, to exterior and interior items; we've posted all of the episodes online, and it should at least give you some good ideas about where to start in your own buildup.

    All About Old-School J-Trucks
    I'm writing to find some info on the 1972 Jeep J-4000 4x4 pickup. Like how many were made? What kind of axles?
    Ray Lopez
    Auberry, CA

    The J-4000 came in both "townside" pickup and chassis/cab models, in both 1/2- and 3/4-ton ratings. All pickups came with an 8-foot bed, and GVWRs ranged from 5,000 to 8,000 pounds. All J-4000s came with a Dana 44-1F solid axle up front, and a Dana 60-2 axle in the rear; 3/4-ton versions got a full-floating version of the D60. The standard engine for the 1/2-ton models was the 258ci straight-six, while 3/4-ton models came standard with the 360ci V-8. Production numbers for pre-1974 versions aren't available anymore, but Jeep sold between 15,000 and 20,000 J-trucks a year from '74 to '79. A great resource for all things Jeep Truck that you might want to check out is the International Full Size Jeep Association (www.ifsja.org).

    Looking for Ultra-Seal U-Joints In your article, "Great Gift Ideas For Under $100" (Dec. '08), you included the Ultra Seal U-Joint. The only problem seems to be that it is not available in the U.S. Can you tell me my options for purchasing this product? Why advertise it in the U.S. if it is not available? Jeff Mangum Miami, AZ

    Contact Quality Gear (888/452-7979. www.qualitygear.com). They're a Canadian company, but they should be able to ship you the parts you need via UPS through one of their distributors, such as Pat's Driveline or Gear Centre Group.

    How to Enter Top Truck Challenge
    My son is 12 years old, has his own truck, and wants to compete at Top Truck Challenge this year. I know that if y'all choose him for the magazine, the readers choose the competitors. So I'm hoping that if he makes the magazine and if we can convince the readers he's actually 12, they will vote him in just to see what he can do. I'm not asking for a handout or anything like that-I'm just curious about the age info; we'll send in photos and application just like everyone else. Be sure to look for his '95 Ford Ranger on 38s. If nothing else, it could be a "Readers' Rigs" photo-he would love being in a magazine anyway he can.
    Shawn Cross
    Overton, TX

    Sorry to say, your son will have to wait a few more years. We require all competitors at TTC to have a valid driver's license and to be at least 18 years of age. But send us a photo of his truck anyway-we'd love to have a look at it.

    Leveling Kits for '04 Super-Duty
    I have a 2004 Ford F-250 V-10 Super-Duty Super Crew FX4 and am looking for a lift/leveling kit for my truck. I would like to get 35s under it without compromising the towing ability of the truck. Any suggestions?
    Lance Burkholder
    Mt. Pleasant, PA

    Sure. Poly Performance, Tuff Country, Rough Country, and Daystar all have versions of what you're looking for. Most of them don't recommend a tire bigger than a 33x12.50, but if you don't plan on any serious wheeling (i.e., mostly towing on pavement) with your truck, and/or you don't mind trimming a little sheetmetal off the leading edge of your front fenders, you will probably be fine with 35s.

    Bigger Tires for Isuzu Rodeo?
    I was reading your "What Hits, What Fits" article (Aug. '09) and noticed there is no information for Isuzus. I currently own a 2001 Rodeo LS. I do not have the budget to lift it right now, so I am wondering what's the biggest tire I can run with no lift? Any information you could give me would be very helpful.
    Ian Smith
    Via the Internet

    Over the years, for reasons of space we've had to "edit out" some vehicle models from our chart-and later-model Isuzus, not being big-volume sellers or very popular trail machines, have been among the casualties. According to our information, you should be able to fit a 29x9.50 under your Rodeo, but anything bigger will require some suspension mods, a body lift, and/or fender trimming.

    Tribute to the Turtles
    It is great to see the Turtle Expedition in the pages of Four Wheeler again. Years ago I used to subscribe to your magazine just to read about their adventures. I was sad to see them go. At the time I didn't renew my subscription. From what I see online, they seem to have many more followers than just me. Please continue to have them in your magazine. If they look to become a regular part of Four Wheeler again, it looks like I'll have to subscribe. Thanks again for bringing them back!
    Lompoc, CA

    You're very welcome. We hope you saw the Jan. '10 issue, where they explored the backroads of Baja.

    24 Volts to Light Up the World
    This is in regard to your "Letter of the Month" from Spc. Powell (Nov. '09), who was seeking a 24-volt light upgrade for his Army MRAP.

    Forty years ago, when I was a crew chief on a C-130 in the Vietnam War, the aircraft lights were 24-volt.

    The same cargo plane is still used today. A landing light would light up the world. Maybe Spc. Powell can make contact with a crew chief at a supply base. We did a lot of horse-trading in Vietnam.
    Richard J. Comer
    Pittsview, AL

    Dept. of Corrections
    In our recent Top Truck Challenge Prize Guide (Dec. '09), we neglected to include Lightforce (714/460-4247, www lightforce.com), who generously donated a set of off-road lights to all of our competitors and co-drivers. Our apologies for the omission.