Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thrillcraft: Junk Science and Elitist Propaganda

As a nature-lover who enjoys backcountry exploration primarily in a Jeep, I'm far more concerned than most people with the health and protection of the environment.  Most OHV users, whether they drive 4x4s, ride motorcycles, ATVs, mountain bikes, kayaks, hang gliders, JetSkis, snowmobiles, or simply drive their Prius down a dirt road to a picnic area, are also true environmentalists.  The following video, produced by elitist anti-access faux-environmentalists, is a shameful propaganda piece that shows the true colors of the extremist "environmental" organizations.

Exaggerated claims, out-of-context references, junk science, and outright lies make up the bulk of the video and the book they are trying to sell: Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation.  While fully exploiting their fabricated stereotype of the hillbilly OHV land abuser to make their point, the editor and publishers of the book just so happen to perfectly fit the "armchair environmentalist" stereotype: rich liberal San Francisco elitist urbanites.  The quotes from the front page of their website summarizes their despicable claims:  "Thrillcraft threaten our national heritage" and "It's time to take back our lands!"

The Jeeping Experience

Jeep produced a great video shot at the 2015 Easter Jeep Safari at Moab, Utah explaining the Jeeping Experience.  The video illustrates the comeraderie of Jeepers; how this vehicle brings together people of all different backgrounds from all across America (and the world!) into an immediate friendship that comes from a shared love of our vehicles and of Mother Nature.  Anti-OHV organizations may paint an ugly picture of Jeepers, but this video shows who we really are:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Jeep Reveals Another Round of Awesome Concepts at Easter Jeep Safari

Every year, Jeep and Mopar unveil a collection of concept vehicles at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah.  The offroad community and media anxious await the reveal of these vehicles, with some years showcasing more exciting vehicles than others.  After last year's uninspired offerings (so bland that I didn't even bother to cover the story) the team at FCA really upped the ante for 2015 - the best collection since 2012.  You can find my coverage of the concepts for 2013, and 2012 by following the links.

Jeep loves retro, and this year's Jeep Chief modernizes their 1970's heritage.  Built on a 4-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited platform, the Chief is a reinterpretation of the classic Cherokee Chief with a focus on the laid-back Hawaiian beach vibe., Jalopnik, and Car and Driver published their own reviews of the Chief, and judging by the world's response, Jeep has created a real hit.

Even more retro is the Jeep Staff Car, which pays homage to the original World War 2 Willys Jeeps.  The open-air top, minimalist interior, blackout lights, tools, and NDT military tires all show the modern-day Jeep's direct link to its military ancestors. and Car and Driver gave it a very favorable review.

The Jeep Wrangler Red Rock Responder is clearly inspired by Discount Tire Direct's famous RESQ1 backcountry support vehicle.  The extended wheelbase and service bed carry tools and parts for remote vehicular rescue.  37-inch tires make up for the long wheelbase's breakover angle, while Dana 60 axles provide an appreciable increase in strength to stand up to the weight and leverage.

My favorite of the bunch, however, is the Jeep Wrangler Africa.  The closest to production of all the concepts, the Africa expands on the Wrangler's capabilities by pushing it into a niche occupied in other parts of the world by the Land Rover Defender 110/130 and 70-series Toyota Land Cruiser.  With a 12-inch stretch to the body, a raised roof, and a fixed hardtop, the Africa is the perfect expedition vehicle.  A 2.8-liter turbodiesel engine is the icing on the cake. and Jalopnik give it rave reviews.

Jeep produced three other concept vehicles based on the Grand Cherokee, the Renegade, and the Cherokee.  These were all upfitted stock vehicles rather than true "concept vehicles" and are outside the scope of this Wrangler-centric blog.  You can read about these and the above-pictured Jeeps at Expedition Portal, Autoblog, Four Wheeler, and  For more information on the Mopar Performance Parts exhibited on these vehicles, visit's article.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Environmentalists at Moab's Easter Jeep Safari

Self-proclaimed "environmentalists" such as the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance enjoy demonizing OHV users at every opportunity, but at the 2015 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah a large group of real environmentalists took time out of their vacations to pour some hard manual labor into a trail restoration project.  Four Wheeler Magazine covered the Tread Lightly! Restoration For Recreation project with a thorough background and several photos of the project.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

UAW Confident Jeep Wrangler will Remain in Toledo

The Detroit News is reporting that United Auto Workers Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower is expecting that Toledo, Ohio will retain production of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler.  I've reported several times before on Toledo's fight to remain the home of the Wrangler, and it sounds like the community's efforts will pay off.  From the article,
Baumhower, whose local represents workers at Toledo Assembly Complex, home of the Wrangler, said Toledo and Ohio officials have presented “a very attractive package that answers all of (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne’s) concerns.” He believes that will lead the company to keep production of the Wrangler in Toledo.

“I think the proactive approach that we’ve taken over on the shop floor and in our local government, I think it’s going to work out for us,” he told reporters Wednesday on the sidelines of the UAW Special Convention in Detroit.
Why does it matter to Jeep owners or the factory workers whether the Toledo Assembly Complex is the site of the Wrangler's production?
“It’s a certain pride,” said UAW Local 12 delegate Samantha Price, who works on Wrangler assembly. “We tell people we work at Jeep, we don’t say we work for Fiat or Chrysler. Everybody knows Jeep in Toledo, and all around the world, really.”
America is proud of its Jeeps, and the people of Toledo are honored to assemble this most patriotic of brands.  Read the article for more details on this latest development.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Next-Gen Jeep Wrangler to Offer EcoDiesel and 8-Speed

An anonymous source from within FCA has reported to Autoblog that the next-generation Jeep Wrangler will answer the Jeep community's prayers by offering the same 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 that is found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500.

Additionally, the source is also claiming that the Wrangler will receive the 8-speed automatic that is making its way behind most of FCA's large rear-wheel-drive vehicles.  While I will always prefer a 3-pedal manual transmission, the jump in performance that was seen from the early JK's 4-speed auto to the current 5-speed auto should be repeated with the upgrade to the 8-speed.

As we get closer to the next-generation Wrangler's reveal, it's becoming increasingly apparent that Jeep's engineers and bean counters are not content with emasculating the Wrangler.  Upgrades to every aspect of the vehicle, along with retention of its iconic pair of heavy-duty solid axles, will ensure that the Wrangler continues to be the pinnacle of off-road performance and capability.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Consumer Reports Continues Disparaging the Jeep Wrangler

AutoGuide is reporting that Consumer Reports magazine's latest auto issue is continuing its annual tradition of disparaging the Jeep Wrangler.  In their list of the Five Worst New Cars for 2015, they rank the Wrangler JK at the top (or would that be the bottom?)

I've addressed their unfounded claims in depth twice before, but it's worth revisiting as a reminder that automotive and 4x4 experts are much better sources of vehicular information than an appliance magazine.  When I need to know how well toasters rate, I might check out CR.  But I'm certainly not going to consider the opinion of such a consistently uninformed source - and especially not one that seems to have a personal vendetta against such an incredibly popular vehicle.

After all, if the Wrangler really is as awful as Consumer Reports claims it is, why would it be so revered?  I'll never understand why so many people consider CR's word to be gospel.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Yahoo Travel Disparages Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park, photo courtesy of Yahoo Travel

Death Valley is apparently a "love it or hate it" National Park, because Yahoo Travel has ranked it as one of America's Five Worst National Parks.  From the article:

Death Valley, California and Nevada

Here’s an idea: heat a pan full of sand to about 200 degrees, then pour it on your head. Congratulations, you’ve just simulated a visit to Death Valley National Park.

This is a place that actually boasts about once having 43 consecutive days of temperatures above 120 degrees. One Yahoo editor visited, and became so delusional from the heat that he imagined he enjoyed the trip. When it’s not hot, it’s bitterly cold in Death Valley, so at least you can get some variety in your misery. “Oh, it has pretty rocks and mountains,” say some. You where else has colorful rocks? Literally every single other national park, and you might actually enjoy visiting them.

Online Review: “I have to say this is the ugliest place I have ever seen…I paid $20 for nothing but rock and salt.”

Fun fact: Everyone who visits the park dies.

It almost sounds as though the author has never actually visted Death Valley, or else his visit was limited to the paved roads in the valleys during the heat of the summer.  As I illustrated in my own trip report from Death Valley, there is much to love in the desert that you can't experience anywhere else.  Death Valley expert "Death Valley Jim" expressed his sentiments on his Facebook page; the comments from his followers are an entertaining read.  Suffice it to say, the information provided by Yahoo Travel is poor advice.

Death Valley National Park, February 2014

Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but if Yahoo Travel's editors are this narrow-minded and research-limited, I can't recommend them as a reliable source of travel information for the outdoors enthusiast.  Even if Yahoo's article is merely tongue-in-cheek humor, the implication that tax dollars should not be funding this park because the editor didn't enjoy his visit is deplorable.  As one of the only National Parks that permits backcountry vehicular recreation, Death Valley is a most treasured natural resource.

When first researching Death Valley before my own trip, I studied these offroad guidebooks: Guide to Southern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails and California Desert Byways: 68 of California's Best Backcountry Drives and California Trails Desert Region.  I own all of them and can attest to how much information they contain, which really helped enhanced our enjoyment of the area.  Plus, as an added benefit, each of these books also covers numerous other trails outside of Death Valley and can help you enjoy years of backcountry exploration:

Eagle Scout Demonstrates True Environmentalism

Boy Scout volunteers preserve public land

Land-Use champion Don Amador (Western Representative for BlueRibbon Coalition) published a report on Boy Scout Sean Griffith's inspiring Eagle Project.  The Scout planned, directed, and led 21 Scouts, adults, family members and friends in a project to protect an archeological site in the Mi-Wok Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest; the Camp Clavey Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) area was burnt in 2013's Rim Fire and the Forest Service's resources are spread too thin to properly address every needy area.

All too often, we see instances of the USFS and BLM mismanaging our public lands.  Sean's Eagle Project has done more than simply preserve and protect a highly-valued multiple-use area of a National Forest; it serves as a shining example of how our public land management agencies should continue moving toward partnerships with outdoor recreation clubs and individuals who have offered to donate their time and efforts for the health of our natural resources.  In contrast to the efforts of the anti-access "environmentalist" organizations, the simplification of the government's bureaucratic obstacles that stand in the way of pro-access volunteers benefits all land users and our natural resources.  Public lands should be preserved for the public, rather than from the public:

Sean's completed Eagle Project

Why Jeep is the Most Relevant Brand

Yahoo Autos has an interesting take on the Jeep brand after their recent on/off-road introduction to the new Renegade.  The author reflects on the Jeep brand as a whole, and how it stands apart from every other auto manufacturer in terms of overall vehicular capability and the public's perception of the Jeep brand lifestyle.  While praising all of Jeep's top offerings, he particularly likes the "awesome and totally covetable Wrangler."  The final verdict?  That Jeep is the most relevant brand in the automotive industry.  From the article:
If you really want something to shout "surf’s up, man," then choose the real sweetheart of the Jeep lineup, the Wrangler. If you want four-door sunshine, select the Wrangler Unlimited. To us, nothing screams outdoors like a Jeep with a soft top, so throw the surfboard in the back, and away you go...all the way up to the 'Bu to catch some cool waves, brah. We’d also opt for the top of the range Rubicon version, in a black on black configuration with a hard shell top.
Seriously though, the Wrangler Unlimited gives you Mercedes Benz G63 looks at less than a quarter of the price. Imagine having surf, sun, sand, and looking good in the outdoors on a major budget. Who could ask for anything more?
Most of the public's perception of any given brand is established by its users' core enthusiast base.  Jeep represents many things to many people, but the benchmark of adventurous outdoor spirit that is set by the Wrangler carries over into Jeep's other offerings more than any other competitor's 4x4s.  Jeep's long history of ruggedness symbolizes the American spirit more than any other vehicle.  This is a key reason why it's imperative that the next-generation Wrangler carry on its fundamental off-road capabilities at all costs.