Spetember 2011 Drivelines - News and Rumors

    Wrangler Mojave, Harbor Freight, and More!

    Mojave Joins Wrangler Lineup
    Jeep has introduced a special edition Wrangler named for the 138-mile Mojave Trail. The Wrangler Mojave is essentially an appearance package with a body-color hardtop and fender flares, special decals on the hood, and dark saddle leather upholstery that’s embossed with the same lizard logo found on the hood.

    Mechanically the model is based on the Wrangler Sport, though it wears the sidesteps from the Sahara and the Rubicon’s 17-inch wheels and LT255/75R17 BFG Mud Terrain tires. The Mojave is available in two- and four-door body styles and in three colors: Sahara Tan, Bright White, and black.

    How Do They Do It?
    You’ve seen the ads: heavy-duty floor jacks for $69, a tool rollaway for $360, open-end wrench sets for less than $20, even a click torque wrench for $9! How is it possible that Harbor Freight Tools can live up to its motto of “Quality Tools at Ridiculously Low Prices”? The stuff has to be import junk, right?

    Import, yes. Junk, no. We recently toured Harbor Freight’s Southern California headquarters and its new in-house quality assurance lab and learned how Harbor maintains that price/quality balancing act. Yes, Harbor sources products from offshore companies, many of which are in China. But in dealing directly with the toolmaking factories, Harbor Freight can keep costs low while setting manufacturing standards for those factories. The new quality assurance lab is used to rigorously test tools and other products—some to complete failure—to ensure that the pieces are built to those standards. (Oh, and doing quality testing in-house is another way Harbor Freight saves money.)

    The company also has an effective process to develop new products: Hire engineers and turn them loose with “money is no object” guidelines to design products that meet or exceed the quality and features of competitive products while retailing for a fraction of the cost. One result of that thinking is Harbor Freight’s new line of Badland winches, designed by a former Mile Marker engineer. Badland’s 9,000-pound winch, comparable to Warn’s XD9000 model, retails for $299, a fraction of the other’s $1,200 sticker.

    But does the stuff work? All signs point to “yes.” Harbor Freight’s customer base and sales are climbing despite the rocky economy. We have buddies who have used Harbor Freight products and swear by them. And we plan to add a few to our own arsenal and see if they truly measure up. We’ll keep you posted.

    Go Long
    Need towing capabilities beyond a 1-ton pickup? Check out what Ram engineers did to create the Long Hauler concept truck. Their starting point was a Class 5 Ram 5500 crew cab with a Cummins high-output turbodiesel, Aisin AS68RC automatic transmission, and a 4WD transfer case coupled to a 4.88 Dana 110 dualie rear axle. They swapped the crew cab body for a Mega Cab, added an 8-foot box, and increased the truck’s cruising range by adding two auxiliary fuel tanks to carry a total of 170 gallons of diesel. The truck rides on a Kelderman air suspension, weighs in at 9,300 pounds, and has a 37,500-pound GCWR.

    To keep passengers entertained, the Long Hauler is equipped with interior Wi-Fi, a DVD player, power-adjustable footrests for rear-seat passengers, and a rear center console that includes a refrigerator, cup holders, and tray tables.

    The truck will be on display at various events around the country, where Ram will gauge the public’s reaction and the potential market for such a vehicle.

    This Just In
    • Don’t hold your breath for a revamped GM pickup. GM CEO Dan Akerson told the press at the New York Auto Show that it doesn’t make sense to speed up development of GM’s fullsize pickups with fuel prices on the rise. “Trucks would not be a program that we’d move up in a mileage-sensitive market,” he told Automotive News.

    • There may be a baby Wrangler on the drawing boards. A small, Fiat-based Jeep that could go on sale in 2013 is among three new, fuel-efficient Jeeps in the works for Europe—and possibly North America—according to Jeep CEO Mike Manley. The other two vehicles Manley discussed in an Automotive News interview were a replacement for the Liberty, which would go on sale in Europe in 2013 (no word of U.S. sale), and a single Jeep to replace the Compass and Patriot. This AWD vehicle would share underpinnings with the Alfa Romeo C-SUV scheduled to begin production in 2012 and be sold in the U.S.

    • Leave it to a group called the Mother Nature Network to name Ford’s Excursion SUV and Lincoln Blackwood pickup truck as among the “greatest automotive flops” of the past 15 years. Why pick on the trucks? There have been plenty of automotive goofs too: Pontiac’s too-ugly-for-words Aztek, Volkswagen’s high-dollar Phaeton, any Oldsmobile diesel … Need we go on?

    • William C. “Billy” Durant, who cofounded Chevrolet with Louis Chevrolet in 1911, is widely credited for coming up with Chevy’s iconic bowtie logo. Legend has it that he spotted the design in some wallpaper in Paris, but a story in Automotive News has quashed that myth. According to Durant’s widow, he saw the tie-shaped logo in a newspaper ad while the couple was vacationing in Virginia. A Chevrolet historian did some digging and found the bowtie insignia in an ad for small pieces of coal.

    Earth Watch
    • 62 mpg. That could be the fuel efficiency target required of automakers by 2025 depending on the result of negotiations going on in Washington, D.C. Current law calls for vehicles to average 35.5 mpg by 2016, but President Obama is seeking an efficiency range of 47 to 62 mpg for the decade to follow. Automakers, the EPA, NHTSA, and CARB are among those debating the feasibility of that goal. The makers fear that the cost to attain that level of efficiency will add thousands of dollars to the price of a vehicle and force much of the new vehicle fleet to become electrified in some way (whether they’re pure electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, or some other form of hybrid). That could result in a slowdown in new-vehicle sales—which would defeat the purpose of the new fuel-efficiency rule.

    • Tread Lightly! has announced a new small grant program to help individuals and clubs organize cleanups, trail maintenance workdays, and other small stewardship projects. The maximum grant amount is $500, which can be used to purchase supplies like seedlings, tools, garbage bags, and water for volunteers, or to rent equipment. Applicants must be either a club member or an individual three-year member of Tread Lightly!. Visit www.treadlightly.org for more information.

    • SEMA reports that legislation to exempt all ’74-and-earlier vehicles from Arizona’s mandatory biennial emissions inspection program was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Under previous law, only ’66-and-earlier vehicles and “collectibles” were exempt.

    • A coalition of recreational access groups recently filed papers to join a lawsuit challenging motorized vehicle access to the Pike and San Isabel National Forests in south-central Colorado. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), and BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) moved to intervene as parties in the case, which was brought by preservationist interests led by The Wilderness Society. The suit claims that the Forest Service illegally authorized motorized travel to at least some trails in the Colorado forests when it launched a nationwide rule requiring designation of roads, trails, and areas for motorized access in 2005. The resulting agency decisions have spawned lawsuits in Montana, California, Idaho, Oregon, North Carolina, and elsewhere.

    F-150 Investigation Grows
    NHTSA has expanded its investigation of rusted fuel tank straps to include some 2.7 million ’97-’01 Ford F-150 pickup trucks. The agency has reviewed about 300 complaints about the rusted straps, which, if they fail, could cause the fuel tank to tip or even fall out of the truck, potentially causing a fuel leak or fire. Two fires have been reported; one resulted in the loss of the truck. No injuries have been reported.

    The investigation upgrade could lead to the agency asking Ford for a vehicle recall. Ford is working with NHTSA “and will continue to cooperate,” said a spokesman, quoted in a Detroit News story.

    Is There a Ute in Your Future?
    Government plans for ever-higher fuel economy standards (see “Earth Watch”) mean new challenges—or headaches—for the vehicle makers as they try to meet those numbers. One idea that GM President Mark Reuss floated to members of the press at the New York Auto Show is to bring lighter-duty trucks to market. GM already makes such a vehicle, the Holden Commodore Ute currently for sale in Australia. It’s a car-based truck, like the old Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero. Reuss formerly worked for GM Holden in Australia, “where fuel prices are $5 a gallon,” he said. “Lots of tradesmen will use a ute with a tray on the back to do lots of different things. They don’t need the bandwidth of a big pickup truck.”

    We understand the concept. But unless that Ute can sit a lot higher off the ground, we will need the “bandwidth” of a big truck.

    1 Million & Counting
    Why is Gary Mueller smiling? He has managed to log some 1,020,000 miles on his ’02 F-350 Super Duty, and he has no intention of parking. To the contrary, he plans to put even more miles on the Power Stroke–powered pickup. After retiring, Gary found a new calling: delivering RVs to buyers across the country. He bought the F-350 new in 2002 and has been hauling with it ever since, putting in anywhere from 600 to 800 miles a day. So far he has been to 48 states and seven Canadian provinces. He has lost count of the total number of trailers he has delivered, but he figures that he hauled about 40 just in the first four months of 2011.

    Adam Householder Wins Silver State 300
    Despite qualifying in 28th position, Adam Householder drove his Dethrone Royalty-sponsored Chevrolet to win the Trick Truck class (the equivalent to SCORE’s Trophy Truck) at the Best in the Desert Bilek Silver State 300.

    “Qualifying was really tight,” Householder said. “We were only 18 seconds back, but that was enough to push us back to 28th. We ran conservative in qualifying and saved our best for the race.”

    Householder had “zero issues” with the truck, pitted just for fuel, and beat the favored BJ Baldwin by less than a minute.

    • Aug. 4-6: 4x4 Blast by the Two Rivers Jeep Club, Pittsfield, IL. Info: www.trjc.com
    • Aug. 6: Getting Started Off-Road 4x4 Skills Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
    • Aug. 6-7: JeepSkool, NE Ohio. Info: www.jeepskool.com
    • Aug. 6-7: East Coast Race (sand drags, obstacle course, eliminator hill) by the Tri County Four Wheelers, Elkton, OH (near Lisbon). Info: 740.491.0571, 724.898.1236, 330.530.2461
    • Aug. 7: Advanced Beginner Off-Road Driving Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
    • Aug. 11-14: Sierra Trek, near Truckee, CA, by the California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs. Info: www.cal4wheel.com
    • Aug. 11-14: Rubicon Trail Jeep Jamboree, near Lake Tahoe, California. Info: www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
    • Aug. 12-14: Bantam Jeep Festival, Butler, PA. Info: www.bantamjeepfestival.com
    • Aug. 12-14: Great Lakes Jeep Thing Summer Bash, Badlands Off-Road Park, Attica, IN. Info: www.gljt.org
    • Aug. 15: Rubicon Trail, near Lake Tahoe, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
    • Aug. 18-20: TSCO Vegas to Reno off-road race, by Best in the Desert. Info: www.bitd.com
    • Aug. 19-20: Great Northern Trail Ride, Mole Lake, WI, by the Wisconsin Off-Highway Vehicle Association. Info: www.wohva.com
    • Aug. 20: Fall Crawl Competition held at Kansas Rocks Recreation Park, Mapleton, KS. Info: www.ksrockspark.com
    • Aug. 20: Trail Master Challenge, Twisted Trails Off-Road Park, Copemish, MI. Info: 231. 651.9548, www.twistedtrailsoffroadpark.com
    • Aug. 20: Lucas Oil Regional Off Road Series, Glen Helen Regional Park, San Bernardino, CA. Info: www.lucasoilregional.com
    • Aug. 20-21: Iron Range Offroad driving school, Iron Range OHV Park north of Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Info: www.ironrangeoffroad.com
    • Aug. 21: Mud bogs by the Tri County Four Wheelers, Elkton, OH (near Lisbon). Info: 330.501.7316, 330.386.3264, 330.692.0948
    • Aug. 24: Gravelrama, Cleves, OH, by the IOK Four Wheelers. Info: www.gravelrama.com, www.iokrock.com
    • Aug. 25-27: Big Horn Mountains Jeep Jamboree, Dayton, WY. Info: www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
    • Aug. 26-28: SCORE Las Vegas Terrible’s Primm 300, Primm, NV. Info: 818.225.8402, www.score-international.com
    • Aug. 27: Battle of the Boulders rock competition, Gravelrama site, Cleves, OH, by the IOK Four Wheelers. Info: www.gravelrama.com, www.iokrock.com
    • Aug. 27: Virginia 4x4 Expo, Richmond International Raceway, Richmond, VA. Info: www.va4x4expo.com
    • Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, a description of the event, and contact info—phone numbers and/or email/website address—to Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 310.531.9368; email 4wheeloff road@sorc.com. Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.