Monday, February 22, 2016

Brilliant at One Specific Task

Road and Track Magazine has put together a list of Nine Cars That Are Brilliant At One Specific Task, and as predicted the Jeep Wrangler is included.  From the article,
The Jeep Wrangler is one of those vehicles that even non-car people love. It makes you feel cooler no matter who you are, even if you never take it off-road. Especially in Rubicon form, driving a Wrangler around when you don't intend to off-road it makes no sense. It's not built for pavement, no way. But when it's in its element, far off the beaten path, it's amazing.

1921 Plane Crash on the Rubicon Trail

We all know that the Rubicon Trail has quite a history.  A new page in its history recently hit the news.

The Placerville Newswire is reporting that local area historian Guy Nixon found the above USFS picture of an airplane that crashed at Loon Lake on the Rubicon Trail in 1921.  It is reported that after the crash, he followed the Rubicon Trail by foot to Lake Tahoe to rest and eat some food before continuing on to his home to Reno.  He then returned to Loon Lake by horse with parts to repair the plane.

Miraculously, he managed to find enough of a runway to take off again, presumably on the granite slabs at the shallow end of Loon Lake when the water level was below today's level.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Jeep's Next-Gen JL Wrangler's Diesel and Hybrid Powertrains

Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) just released its business plan update and confirmed the rumors about which we’ve been speculating.  The diagram above shows Fiat-Chrysler's Jeep, pickup, and minivan plans.

In addition to adopting aluminum and other weight-saving materials and design, Jeep has big plans to improve the next-generation Wrangler JL's fuel economy.  Even though gasoline is cheap and fuel economy is near the bottom of the list of priorities for most buyers, government mandates regarding fuel consumption and exhaust emissions mean that Fiat-Chrysler's engineers are forced to design around these regulations.  Note the statement below the diagram, which reads:
Next generation architectures become compliant with adaptation of advanced powertrain systems and reduced vehicle energy demand through:

- Significant weight reduction with extensive use of high strength steel and alternative materials
- Active aero systems to reduce drag
- Advanced electronic systems such as axle disconnect and electric steering systems

The buying public's ever-increasing purchases of larger crossovers, SUVs, and trucks are coming at the expense of more fuel-efficient cars.  To meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements, Fiat-Chrysler plans to add diesel, mild-hybrid, and full-hybrid powertrains to the new Wrangler in addition to the standard gasoline engine.

Undoubtedly, the alternative powertrains will add cost and complexity due to the additional electronics, batteries, and diesel aftertreatment hardware, but each powertrain will expand the vehicle's appeal and offset the fuel economy and emissions penalties garnered by the bulk sales of the standard gas model.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Jeep Officially Confirms Pickup

Rumors of a Jeep pickup have been circulating for years, but both Mike Manley (Jeep's global chief) and Sergio Marchionne (Fiat Chrysler's CEO) have now confirmed to The Detroit News that a Wrangler-based pickup will be introduced late in 2017.  This has set the enthusiast press on fire.

To make room for the new pickup to be built alongside the Wrangler at the Toledo, Ohio factory, production of the Cherokee will be moved to another facility (likely the Belvidere Assembly Plant where its platform-mate Dodge Dart is assembled).  This likely means that the pickup will share the majority of its components with the Wrangler, which is a very good thing.  From Quadratec's announcement:
Marchionne added that the pickup should launch late-2017 after the next generation Wrangler rolls out which, he said, is 'phenomenal'.

“The car [Wrangler] is done, the car [Wrangler] is designed and it’s been engineered, so we just need to get off our butts to start producing,” he said. "It's the best thing we've ever made. The design won’t see a drastic change, in order to keep the SUV [Wrangler] true to its historical DNA and instantly recognizable."

“It’s a phenomenal vehicle. It cures all the ills, whatever few ills the old Wrangler had. And I think we’ve updated design without hurting its history which is really, really important to us.”
With the incredible sales and profitability of the JK Wrangler, both Manley and Marchionne have the winning formula and want to continue offering what buyers clearly want - an unabashedly off-road-oriented platform that is proudly the opposite of the ever-more-street-oriented influx of emmasculated pickups and SUVs.

If the new Jeep pickup (not to mention the Wrangler) is equipped with a proper pair of solid axles, I am certain that many pickup owners will be trading in their IFS Toyota Tacomas, Nissan Frontiers, Chevrolet Colorados, and GMC Canyons for a new Jeep pickup truck - especially if rumors of a diesel engine prove to be true.  I will gladly trade-in my JK Rubicon for a Jeep pickup; I'll order mine with 4 doors, the heaviest-duty axles, the lowest available gearing, diff locks, a disconnecting sway bar, 4:1 transfer case gears, and of course the EcoDiesel!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jeeping and Snowboarding in NYC

While most people complain every winter about the annual snowstorms, and the sensationalist news media fills up air time by inflating run-of-the-mill snowstorms into horrific once-in-a-lifetime Snowpocalypse events, there are others who realize a little snow is a good thing.  Jeep owners, especially.

And while many Jeep owners live in rural areas and in mountains where a 4-foot blizzard is nothing to write home about since it happens a dozen or more times a year, you'll also find Jeep owners stuck in metropolitan cesspools of whiners where a few inches of snow is all it takes to shut down an entire city.  When Mother Nature does her thing, rather than complain about it a popular New York City YouTuber named Casey Neistat gathers his friends to go out and do a little Urban Snowboarding:

It seems that most people enjoy watching his harmless recreation while the city is "shut down" but as always, a few do-gooders have to call the cops to complain.  Watch to the end of the video to see the NYPD's coolest officer pull them over to say "Someone complained about you so we're just gonna act like we're talking to you . . ."

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tire Tech: Tire Puncture Resistance

There are numerous benefits to airing down your tires when driving off-road.  As I've written about before, the obvious improvements that every 4wheeler knows are ride quality and traction.  What fewer people realize is that tires are more resistant to punctures at lower pressures.

Cooper Tires teamed up with Australian 4WD Action Magazine to demonstrate the dramatic difference that tires of all types realize at various pressures.  To accompany the article, they produced a video that illustrates the testing procedure and its eye-opening results:

Obviously, a tire with heavy-duty construction will be more puncture resistant than a light-duty tire, but owners of all pneumatic tires benefit from proper inflation pressures.  I continue to be impressed with the ease (and more importantly, the accuracy) of the Staun Tyre Deflators I use.  I find that I'm much more likely to air down when it's so quick and convenient to use these deflators.  They have never failed to shut off at their exact pre-set pressure.

Just don't forget to air up again before hitting the highway!  There are countless compressors that are available for the offroader, from the inexpensive but decent MV-50 to converted York engine-driven compressors, but the best combination of cost, power, and simplicity is the Puma Compressor.  I've been using this for nearly a decade, and its combination of a fast compressor and a 1.5-gallon pressure tank allows me to very quickly inflate all four 35" tires (plus my two trailer tires!) faster than anyone else in my 4wheeling group can typically inflate two.  Additionally, the blast of air that's provided by the pressure tank is sufficient to reseat a blow bead.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Next Wrangler Will be Partially Aluminum

Automotive News and Car and Driver are reporting the latest update from FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne on the future of the Jeep Wrangler JK's replacement.  Regular readers will recall that I have discussed the construction material and assembly location quite a few times already.  Marchionne's comments indicate that the Wrangler's going exactly the direction for which everyone's hoping:
There will be a large portion of that vehicle that will be aluminum. It will not be all aluminum.  We've run the numbers and we've simulated mileage and the impact.  Because of the difference in cost -- not just of the material but the actual assembly process -- I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum.  I think we can get very close.
This likely means a steel ladder frame and body tub, while the fenders, hood, doors, tailgate, roll cage, windshield frame, and other add-on body parts will be made from aluminum.  Reading between the lines, Marchionne is stating that this combination of alloys will provide the best cost/benefit ratio, as the Wrangler is a low- to midrange vehicle that is both in dire need of improved fuel economy and the retention of its benchmark-setting offroad performance.  The definitive Jeep must meet certain government-mandated requirements without compromising its appeal to the core enthusiast market, or else the "Wrangler magic" will be lost and the vehicle's reputation and desirability will suffer tremendously.

Much to the relief of patriotic Jeep brand fans and the people of the Toledo Assembly Plant, this will also likely mean that Toledo, Ohio will continue to be the home of the Wrangler.

Jeep has been hinting at a "lightweighting" of the Wrangler for years, most conspicuously with the 2013 concept Wrangler Stitch that they exhibited at the Moab Easter Jeep Safari.  This was a follow-up and expansion to the 2011 concept Wrangler Pork Chop that was exhibited two years prior at the Jeep Safari.  These concepts prove that a lightweight Wrangler can certainly still meet the performance benchmarks of a proper Wrangler.

2013 Wrangler Stitch
2011 Wrangler Pork Chop

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jeep Wrangler Excels in Frontal Crash Tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) implements much tougher crash tests than the standards that the federal government requires automobiles to meet.  One of the toughest is the small-overlap frontal crash test, in which only 25% of the vehicle's front-end collides with an immovable barrier while moving at 40mph.  In a recent test of medium-size SUVs, the IIHS found that the Wrangler Unlimited is among the top-performing midsize SUVs:

The IIHS describes this crash test as follows:
The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The test is more difficult than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the longstanding IIHS moderate overlap test. That's because, in a small overlap test, the main structures of the vehicle's front-end crush zone are bypassed, making it hard for the vehicle to manage crash energy. The occupant compartment can collapse as a result.
Although the Wrangler's removable doors and roof are frowned upon by the IIHS for limiting occupant protection in side-impact and rollover accidents versus thick, fixed alternatives, this did not affect the vehicle's ability to excel in this common collision:

The strength of the Wrangler's chassis plays a key role in its ability to limit structure deformation and intrusion into the occupant area.  The wide, overbuilt frame rails deflect the Jeep away from the object and slows the rate at which energy is dissipated, which in turn lessens the impact on the occupants and lessens the severity of the vehicle's deformation.  The Wrangler performs better than most vehicles in spite of its lack of side-curtain airbags.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hendrick Commando: Military Wrangler JK

The United States military has a long history of utilizing proven civilian vehicle designs and upfitting them for military use.  While the original CJ (Civilian Jeep) was based on a military vehicle, and today's Wrangler is little more than an evolution of those first Jeeps.  All has come full circle, it seems, with the Hendrick Dynamics Commando returning the civilian Jeep to military duty. has published an interesting and in-depth article on the development of the Hendrick Commando.  The vehicle has a lot of unique features designed to let the Jeep fit the big empty slot between the HMMWV (Humvee) and the militarized UTV (side-by-side) in terms of both size and capability.  From utilizing a 2.8-liter CRD diesel for foreign-market JKs (modified to run standard JP8 military jet fuel) to upfitting with lift/tie-down points, a stout roll cage, a winch, and gun mounts, Jeep was a big help in making this COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) vehicle a military reality:
First off, Jeep was a big partner in it with us; they really do take their support of the military and their heritage seriously, so when we reached out to them that we needed diesel-engine Jeeps here in the US they made that possible out of Toledo, Ohio.  It’s kind of wild – it’s the same factory that was building military Jeeps starting back in 1941, that same place is putting out military Jeeps for that program, which is pretty neat, so Jeep was a big help.  -Marshall Carlson, GM of Hendrick Dynamics
For more pictures of the Hendricks Commando exhibition at the 2015 Moab Easter Jeep Safari, head on over to's story.
It’s a really great success story, the vehicle has performed flawlessly with no issues at all.  Really good feedback. It started with [the military] really reaching out to industry to solve a problem that traditional defense contractors weren’t able to figure out.  -Marshall Carlson, GM of Hendrick Dynamics

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jeep Beach 2015 and a New World Record

Jeep Beach 2015 landed in the record books (quite literally - it set a new Guiness Record for the Largest Parade of Jeeps, totaling 1,846) as thousands of Jeep owners decended on Daytona Beach, Florida for the annual event.  A video showing the impressive number of Jeeps can be viewed below:

A parade won't draw this many people from every corner of our country, however.  The rest of the event included mingling with other Jeep owners, meeting representatives from dozens upon dozens of Jeep aftermarket parts companies, and driving on man-made obstacles inside the Daytona International Speedway.

Even the easier non-rockcrawling obstacles resulted in some scrapes and bruises.  The following videos show the importance of knowing your vehicle's breakover and departure angles:

And of course Jeep Beach would be incomplete without getting some sand on the tires during the obligatory drive down Daytona Beach itself:

Jeep Beach is a lot different than the typical Jamboree-, Trek-, or Safari-style offroading event we're used to out West, but the Mid Florida Jeep Club has developed this unique and fun event to rival any others in popularity.  Even 4wheelers who never attend Jeep Beach benefit from this event, as the Club makes huge donations to the BlueRibbon Coalition for use in the fight to keep public lands open to the public.