- Reader Sound Off: Arctic Circle F-250 Towing, Inline-Six For The Win, Jeep J20 Memories, And More
Reader Sound Off: Arctic Circle F-250 Towing, Inline-Six For The Win, Jeep J20 Memories, And More
From Alaska to the San Juan Mountains in Colorado Four Wheeler readers weigh in.
Six in a Row
I am a big fan of inline-six engines. I had a '66 Dodge Dart with a Slant Six, and we ran it out of oil and water and beat the hell out of it, and it never skipped a beat. It was the most reliable engine I ever had. I have owned maybe 12 4x4s over the years, six of them Land Cruisers, and all but two have had an I-6 under the hood. One was a '73 Jeep J10 pickup with a 360-c.i. V-8 under the hood and an auto trans. It's more of a farm truck like your father-in-law's. We did off-road it but nothing severe. We drove it for a year before we realized the transfer case linkage was blocked by mud and it had low range.
I have actually had the smooth low-end torque of a straight-six in my FJ40 save my life. As I was driving up Cultus Mountain here in northwest Washington, the old logging trail got icy and leaned over a bit, which put me sliding to the edge of a steep drop-off into the trees. I didn't want to go over that because, roll bar or not, I don't think I would have lived through it. Every time I tried to move the truck, it would slide further off the edge. All I could do was let the clutch slip at idle and ease it out slowly once it got rolling. The FJ40 was idling off the cliff edge and up the steep, slanted road without slipping the tires, and I made it to my property in about two feet of snow. That straight-six idled up the mountain at about 400-600 rpm without skipping a beat. Try that with a V-8.
Another time, I was riding in my friend's FJ45 pickup, with a 292 straight-six Chevy engine, on a trail in Reiter Foothills State Forest. The trail went down through a small creek and up a clay bank covered with leaves on the other side. My friend pulled the choke out a little and put the SM425 in granny gear, low-range and let it idle up the hill. Halfway up the hill, the trail took a turn to the right and squeezed between two trees then turned left again to continue up the hill. That engine was chugging up the hill like an old tractor without a slip of the tire at easily 400 rpm. If I tried that with my Toyota pickup with its four-cylinder, I would have slid into the tree, as it wouldn't pull that truck up a hill at less than 2,000 rpm even with the dual transfer cases. Again, I would hate to try it with a V-8.
I also used to cruise a '74 Chevy pickup with a 292 straight-six under the hood and a granny gear four-speed with a posi rearend. The straight-six had an RV cam, dual exhaust, and a four-barrel carb. We used to let the air down on the tires and put some weight right up against the tailgate. When you put it in granny gear and dumped the clutch, it would just barely lift the front tires off the ground, but it wouldn't burn the tires because of the smooth low-end torque curve of those engines.
I am forever a straight-six fan and will not off-road without one. My current off-road rig is a Land Cruiser FJ80 with a dual overhead cam, four-valve-per-cylinder straight-six. It has almost as much torque as the Land Cruiser straight-six diesel, and it has smooth, safe, predictable torque. Granted, I'm not going to pull a loaded trailer up the pass at 60 mph, but that's not what it's for.
Arctic Circle Towing
I recently read an article of yours about towing trailers off road. I want to share this picture of my '11 F-350 6.7L towing my 32-foot gooseneck with a newer F-150 on it and a 20-foot shipping container with an estimated 5,000 pounds of materials inside. The container is connected to the trailer with a tow bar. Both my trailer and container have sleds underneath them, and the truck is on Mattracks, and we are over the Arctic Ocean between Utqia vik (formerly known as Barrow) and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
I own and operate a small freight transportation business primarily moving vehicles between the two locations. There isn't a road, but I make my own trail over the snow-covered ice following the coast for the majority of the way between the farthest north road on one end and oilfield roads at the other end. Often times I have to either cross or take a several-mile detour around cracks or pressure ridges. The roughly 240-mile run takes me anywhere between 10 hours on a good trail with great weather and four days with bad weather and trail conditions. This particular run was a family adventure over a weekend to take my girlfriend and two daughters on a round trip to show the girls what I do and where I go for work, along with seeing some of the sights I tell them about. My girlfriend has made the run a few times before, but our girls really wanted to go, and the weather forecast was good so we took them on a pretty good trip. We spent 2 1/2 days on the trip and brought back an F-250.
This is my '78 Jeep J20. The truck has the AMC 360 with a four-barrel and four-speed transmission. I remember when my dad purchased his brand-new '78 Jeep J20 with Mocha Brown and Sand Tan paint from a dealership in Boston. The years went by, and the memories were forgotten. My dad passed away eight years ago and I searched for five years until I found a truck identical to his. I have been restoring this truck with blood and sweat, and the memories keep coming back. Thank you for letting me share my little story and a piece of my childhood.
San Juan Stories
I know we've met on a trail likely in Moab somewhere and I really enjoyed Jp Magazine's 2017 Dirt 'N Drive, hanging out with lots of good people and awesome scenery and such. Anyways, I have to tell you that my favorite place to wheel is the San Juan Mountains! When I first discovered the area in 1974 on a (two-wheeled) Suzuki 550 heading north on 550 during a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, I was so awestruck that when I ended up in Ridgway and realized what I had just seen, I was compelled to turn around and head south over the same road. After many trips north and south over the seven miles from Ouray to the avalanche shed (shown in image)—about 100 miles of that north/south run—I got back to my original road trip but committed to a lifelong goal to be there "forever." From 1974 to 2013, my wife, and then later with our family, took trips on motorcycles, automobiles, and then finally Jeeps, (and snow skis as well) to vacation in the area a couple of times a year. Finally, in 2013, we retired and moved to Montrose, Colorado, and we continue to enjoy the most beautiful part of our nation.
So, I Bought A Samurai
In response to your question of "have you ever purchased an old 4x4 and taken it on a trip," I got an '87 Suzuki Samurai. I put a battery, water pump, tires, and brush guard (that came with it) on and took it to Uwharrie National Forest, North Carolina. It did every single trail at that park.