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Drivelines - March 2015

The Latest News From The Automotive Industry

Mopar Concept Trucks at SEMA
The annual new parts frenzy that is the SEMA Show in Las Vegas has become a showcase not only for aftermarket companies to show off their latest innovations but also for vehicle makers to trot out modified versions of their enthusiast-oriented trucks and cars. In our next issue we’ll have a report from the show floor, but here is a preview of some of the Jeep and Ram concept trucks that appeared in the 15,000-square-foot Mopar display.

Win This Jeep!
Got five bucks? Want to win a Jeep? For about the cost of a fancy coffee drink you could buy a raffle ticket and potentially be the proud owner of this customized ’14 Wrangler, which is being raffled to help the California Association of 4WD Clubs keep the state’s trails open for 4-wheeling.

MetalCloak Industries modified the JK, which is fitted with MetalCloak’s high-clearance fenders and Game Changer suspension. Other equipment on the Jeep includes Eaton electric lockers at both ends, BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains on Raceline wheels, a Warn Zeon 8000 winch, an AEV snorkel, and a Simpson III rooftop tent.

That’s just a partial list of the mods made to the Jeep. You can enter to win the Jeep through the Association’s website, cal4wheel.com. The winning ticket will be drawn February 21, 2015, at the CA4WDC convention in Visalia, California. You need not be present to win.

This Just In
Decades-old rivalry renewed: If you were there during the heyday of monster truck racing, you no doubt remember the clashes between Bigfoot and USA 1. Now comes news from the Bigfoot camp that the rivalry has been taken up again. The current Bigfoot will race a new version of USA 1 during the 2015 Monster X Tour. Check out monsterxtour.com for race dates. And may the best monster win.

The two-day Best in the Desert Bluewater Challenge in Parker, Arizona, saw some intense racing in October. John Daniel’s new twin-turbo Trophy Truck dominated the field during Saturday’s racing. Even though Rob MacCachren got by him at the end of Sunday’s race, Daniel still won overall with nearly a four-minute margin.

Jeepspeed racers also turned out in Parker. Bob Mamer in his turbocharged Comanche pickup won the Jeepspeed Cup, while Dustin Hoffman (a commercial fisherman, not the actor) and his XJ picked their way through the carnage of broken Jeeps to win the Jeepspeed Challenge.

Air Bag Recall: Is Your Truck Affected?
Nearly eight million vehicles are being recalled due to defective airbags that can potentially spray deadly shrapnel into the passenger compartment following a crash. The defective bags have been blamed for four fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging consumers with affected vehicles to get their airbags fixed immediately, especially people in hot and humid climates, as that seems to affect airbag performance.

Most of the vehicles named in the recall are cars, though there is a significant number of trucks on the list too. Those trucks (per Automotive News) include: ’03-’08 Dodge Ram 1500, ’05-’08 Dodge Ram 2500, ’06-’08 Dodge Ram 3500, ’05-’08 Dodge Durango, ’06-’07 Dodge Raider, ’04 Ford Ranger, ’04 Mazda B-series truck, and ’03-’05 Toyota Tundra.

If you are uncertain whether your truck is included in the recall, visit safercar.gov/vinlookup and enter your truck’s VIN to see if it’s included in this or any other NHTSA recall.

Earth Watch
Daystar Products and 4Wheel Parts Wholesalers have joined to make a $20,000 contribution to the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) to assist in efforts to keep roads and trails open around Moab. Nearly 1.4 million acres of southern Utah land surrounding Canyonlands National Park could be designated a National Monument by President Obama. About 1,050 miles of off-highway vehicle routes would be closed and another 1,450 miles placed at future risk. ORBA supports an effort by the Utah delegation led by Representative Rob Bishop to bring the public, stakeholders, and other interested parties together to reach consensus on how public lands in southern and eastern Utah should be managed. The Public Lands Initiative has included numerous open meetings, forums, and hearings in Utah and Washington, D.C. At issue is an effort to collaborate and resolve longstanding disputes on how to balance conservation, economic development, and land access.

President Obama recent-ly conferred National Monument status on some 346,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. The land is located within the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests. While the action does not immediately close any roads, reports the Washington, D.C., office of SEMA, it prohibits new roads or trails for motorized vehicles and will require drafting of a new land management plan.

Andrew Hoit, vice president of sales at Falken Tire Corporation, and Mark MacGuinness, vice president at Discount Tire Direct, have been named to the Tread Lightly! board of directors. The rest of the board’s makeup includes representatives of vehicle manufacturers, aftermarket parts manufacturers, outdoor recreation organizations, and media companies, including our own Jeff Nasi, former publisher of this magazine and now the company’s senior director of digital media sales and marketing.

Ford Wins Big in Texas
At the recent Texas Auto Writers Association Truck Rodeo, the journalists awarded the all-new ’15 Ford F-150 their most prestigious award, the Truck of Texas. The F-150 Platinum also grabbed the Luxury Pickup Truck of Texas award, while the King Ranch F-150 won Full-Size Pickup Truck of Texas.

Jeep, Ram Also Win in Texas
In addition to the accolades heaped on new Ford trucks, the Texas Auto Writers spread their love to Jeep and Ram vehicles. Jeep’s Grand Cherokee was named the SUV of Texas and the Mid-Size SUV of Texas, while the Summit edition of the Grand earned the Luxury Mid-Size SUV of Texas award. The Cherokee took Compact SUV of Texas honors. On the pickup side, the Ram Power Wagon was voted Off-Road Truck of Texas, while the Ram 2500 was named Heavy Duty Truck of Texas.

Those Texas writers know how to divvy up the truck pie. For the scoop on our own 4x4 of the Year award—just one, simple, straightforward award, the single best 4x4 of the ’15 model year—turn to page 24.

No Unibody Wrangler
Despite comments seemingly to the contrary by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne made at the Paris Auto Show, the Wrangler will not switch from a body-on-frame design to unibody when it is redesigned in 2017, nor will Wrangler manufacturing leave the longstanding assembly plant in Toledo. According to Automotive News, “sources inside and outside of Chrysler with direct knowledge of Chrysler’s evolving plans say the off-roader will remain a body-on-frame SUV.”

The trade publication went back and parsed Marchionne’s comments at Paris and determined that he “implied” the switch when talking about assembly plants in the U.S. with available capacity for Wrangler production—plants where unibody vehicles are built. Implication or no, his comments were alarming enough that they prompted “urgent discussions” between him, the Mayor of Toledo, and representatives for Ohio’s governor.

It is possible that the new Wrangler body will make extensive use of aluminum as a means to drop weight and improve fuel economy. But that would require major tooling and equipment changes at Toledo, an expensive proposition in terms of capital costs and lost manufacturing capacity. It was those concerns Marchionne was addressing in Paris when the whole issue arose of where and how the next Wrangler would be built.

Maybe Marchionne is trying to send false messages and scare tactics to help sales of JK Wranglers stay on track right up until they reveal the true recipe for the next Wrangler. Well played, Mr. Marchionne, well played. —Ed.

Feb. 5-7: Bluewater Resort Parker 425 desert race by Best in the Desert, Parker, AZ.
Info: bitd.com

Feb. 7: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, 4x4training.com

Feb. 8: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Mojave, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, 4x4training.com

Feb. 16-17: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Borrego Springs, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, 4x4training.com

Feb. 18: Sand Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Pismo Beach, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, 4x4training.com

Feb. 20-22: California Association of 4WD Clubs Convention, Visalia, CA.
Info: cal4wheel.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 818.566.8501; email 4wheeloffroad@enthusiastnetwork.com. Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.