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The Battle of the Off-Road Beaters:

Discussion in 'Auto, Tractor, Motorcycles, Racing, and Mechanics' started by Scorpio, Dec 28, 2016.



  1. Scorpio

    Scorpio Скорпион Founding Member Board Elder Site Mgr Site Supporter ++

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    Ford F-150 Custom vs. Geo Tracker, Jeep Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery
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    Car and Driver

    JARED GALL 11/23/2016


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    1/65 SLIDES © Car and Driver
    1990 Geo Tracker, 1979 Ford F-150 Custom, 2004 Land Rover Discovery, and 1988 Jeep Cherokee
    From the December 2016 issue

    Until you’ve realized that the phone in your pocket is still connected via Bluetooth to the car your co-worker just started outside your office window, which means he is now listening to Shakira’s Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, and the infotainment display is outing the music as yours, well, you can’t know the struggles we endure here at 1585 Eisenhower Place. It’s hard driving new cars all the time; sometimes you just gotta go for a run in a turd.

    Research





    That’s more or less how we decided the time had come for another beater challenge. Past such budget-burners have featured ice racing, a sort of street-car Olympics, and a cross-country scavenger hunt. For this installment, we decided to buy old 4x4s and fix them up so we could break them again. Pairs of editors were given $1500 budgets, which they promptly blew, and we devised a series of off-road abuses. The scoring was, to put it mildly, improvised.

    Reviews editor Josh Jacquot and your author immediately dismissed rationality. “We could buy a pretty nice Cherokee for $1500,” Jacquot observed, “but that’d be like buying a Camry.”

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    © JARED GALL The Battle of the Off-Road Beaters: Ford F-150 Custom vs. Geo Tracker, Jeep Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery

    Agreeing that insanity was the surest path to victory, we found a ’79 Ford F-150 missing the bed, fenders, and hood. The hood was not actually missing, but the seller wanted to keep it because he was using it as a sled to pull his kids around behind a snowmobile. Our test drive suggested that gravity and friction were standing in for threaded fasteners, as no part of the truck seemed to be securely attached to any other. But it rode on 44-inch tires and looked like a Mad Max prop, so we towed it home $1500 poorer and fully agreed that we had already won.

    Triumphantly, we parked it in front of the office. As our co-workers debated how comfortable they were even standing near it, deputy editor Daniel Pund and I climbed aboard for a joyride. The Ford stalled 12 feet later, refused to restart, and wouldn’t take a jump. As we pushed it back into its parking space, the power-steering pump puked its fluid. Lucky for us, our landlord likes oil stains. At least, we hope he does, because he now has a panoply.

    With more rock-crawling and dune-running experience than the rest of us combined, road-test editor Chris Benn and senior online editor Mike Sutton were early favorites, especially when they announced their intention to buy said “Camry.” They reasoned that when it comes to Jeep Cherokees, a late ’90s vintage would make the most sense, as it would be fitted with sturdier axles, plus airbags they could sell to pad the budget. But as Benn glanced over a Craigslist ad for an ’88 XJ, his seasoned eye caught something: lockable hubs on the front axle, not factory Cherokee equipment. The seller had neglected to mention in the ad that the Jeep sat on the burlier running gear from a ’79 Bronco, complete with shorter gears and locked front and rear differentials. In the cons column: The fuel tank had been relocated to the cargo area and fixed in place with fabric ratchet straps, the windshield was spider-webbed, and there was a distinct lack of doors. They snatched up their backwoods mash-up for $800.

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    © Car and Driver 1979 Ford F-150 Custom

    Looking to maximize agility and minimize parts cost, Pund and assistant tech editor David Beard set their hearts on a Suzuki Samurai. They found one with an external roll cage that the seller told them “doesn’t look pretty, but that’s because I know it works.” That pitch apparently worked for other potential buyers, because it was sold out from under them. They found another that the seller said didn’t run so well because “it got stolen for a year and they didn’t take very good care of it.” Ultimately, the Pund/Beard team laid out $1200 for a 1990 Geo Tracker with a three-inch lift and an odo showing 130,000 miles. After a quick vacuuming, some Meguiar’s on the dash, and a loving exterior wash, it looked like an honest $3000 car—right up until your humble narrator did a cannonball onto the Tracker’s hood, because who needs a hood?

    Our leaking liabilities successfully registered and insured, we set our schedule: We’d trundle 60 miles west to Bundy Hill, a 350-acre gravel-pit-cum-off-road-park in Jerome, Michigan. After a few days for recuperation and repairs, we’d long-haul 220 miles northwest to the dunes at Silver Lake State Park along Lake Michigan.

    And then one morning we arrived at the office to find an old Land Rover, sans front bumper. Wanting in on the fun, creative director Darin Johnson had emailed a Craigslist link to editor-in-chief Alterman asking if he could dark-horse a Discovery into the competition. In retrospect, the one-word reply, “Boom,” might not have been permission so much as a prediction for the outcome. Rather than seek clarification from the boss, Johnson found and purchased a 2004 Disco near Chicago. While the rest of us worried about how many more heartbeats our rigs might have left, Johnson drove it the 300 miles home, then another 200 miles the following weekend visiting family in northern Michigan. It was there that it developed an ominous knock, requiring photo assistant Charley Ladd to rescue his teammate and tow the WasteLand Rover back to the office. And so began Car and Driver’s fourth quasi-periodic beater challenge.

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    © Car and Driver 1990 Geo Tracker

    Formidable as Benn and Sutton’s Jeep might have been, it also seemed to have been parked in a bog at some point in its life and then disassembled and put back together while fully submerged. In rebuilding both axles, the team had to fabricate a tool to reach into the housings to scrape out all the mud. To check the fluid in their transfer case, they had to punch a screwdriver through a thick crust of Mother Earth inside the drain plug. But if any vehicle can run on equal parts oil and soil, it’s a Jeep.

    And if any team was going to resurrect a fossil, it would be Benn and Sutton. They rebuilt their front suspension, made a variety of components for the rear, modified the steering linkage, fabricated brackets to mount new seats to their rusty floor, and built a frame to attach belts to. In any contest of speed, knowledge and talent can sometimes offset a bigger budget.

    The Jeep started off the cheapest but ended up costing the most: $2930, all in. (Features editor Jeff Sabatini, arbitrator for the contest, had initially decreed that wear and safety items wouldn’t be counted, but then changed his mind. We changed his title to “arbitrarian.”) At least they had a few freebies: A call to BFGoodrich turned up a set of All-Terrain KO2 tires for each vehicle, and Optima donated Red Top batteries for every competitor.

    It came as little surprise that the Jeep was the most miserable to drive on the street, with its occupants donning rain suits, earplugs, and goggles on the damp drive to Bundy as if riding topside on an Alaskan pollock trawler. All were awed when shortly after their arrival, Benn crawled beneath the Cherokee with a hammer to shift the transfer case into low range, having run out of time to repair its damaged linkage.

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    © Car and Driver 1988 Jeep Cherokee

    We started with dirt drags on a strip that had been reduced by an overnight downpour to more of a mud lake. Here, the Jeep finished last, its locked differentials clawing at the muck but its 4.0-liter straight-six reduced from its original 177 horsepower to the approximate output of a Lawnboy by the long-term ingestion of several cubic yards of dirt, possibly including the partial jawbone of a yet-undiscovered sauropod. At our next stop, a timed obstacle course, the John Deere Jeep missed a turn and plunged into a hood-deep water hazard that Bundy Hill’s owner had cautioned us about, predicting that none of our trucks could cross it. Not only did Benn and Sutton make it through, they somehow did so without getting soaked despite being in a vehicle with no doors. Fluid dynamics had finally turned in their favor.

    On the second run, the welded front diff forced them to make a three-point turn on the course’s tightest corner, costing time. But upon completion, they scrambled with ease over a pile of concrete construction debris that we’d identified as a bonus obstacle.

    Unfortunately for the Jeep team, the light faded and the park closed before we hit any trails on which Toledo’s Thunder surely would have left at least a couple of its competitors behind. And their transfer case ground its internals back into raw material en route to Silver Lake, leaving them with a DNF and a front-wheel-drive rig that Sabatini gleefully christened the “Two-by-Four.” A Cherokee, even one less crazy than this, might have won this contest based on potential, but, as Sutton noted, “Maybe that ‘Open 24 Hours’ sign on the hood was an omen we shouldn’t have ignored.”

    As Jacquot steered our truck around a deer carcass in the seller’s yard on the test drive, the dude pointed out a pair of sandhill cranes on a nearby hilltop, noting, “They call them the sirloin of the sky.” Shazam! Our truck had a name. “Sirloin of the Sky” got shortened to “Sirloin,” and then road warrior Max Mortimer inserted a space, making it “Sir Loin.” We traced Sir Loin’s various electrical problems to crusty connections and a bunch of wiring that led nowhere. We improved a stalling issue by advancing the timing to an indicated 40 degrees before top dead center—a guess, actually, due to a spun crank damper, a loose timing chain, or both.

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    © Car and Driver 2004 Land Rover Discovery

    Sir Loin’s 44s were not only dry-rotted—a lookup of their DOT number revealed that they popped from their molds in 1994—but, at 18 inches, they were so wide that the inside-shoulder tread blocks grabbed the frame and shook the whole truck at anything more than half steering lock. The largest KO2 is just 35 inches, and so Interco, manufacturer of the original Super Swamper, provided a fresh set of 39.5x13.5s. Jacquot hoped that these lighter, smaller tires would give our axles and driveshafts a better chance at survival. Each wheel and tire still weighed 125 pounds, though, giving us well in excess of a quarter-ton of unsprung weight.

    Generous spacing of the Super Swampers’ gnarly tread blocks gave us unmatched traction off-road. In the drags, Sir Loin finished just 0.1 second behind the Land Rover in spite of eventually logging an on-road zero-to-60-mph time 8.2 seconds slower.

    The springs that lofted the truck so high had the compressibility of tungsten. We drove more slowly over the office speed bumps than we normally do in Dodge Vipers and Ferraris, lest we shatter a spinal disc. Hammering over logs and rocks in the obstacle course, the front and rear axles took turns trying to send us into an endo tumble. At any moment the front axle threatened to fold under and send our chins into the dirt, but it held up and instead we won that test handily.

    Amped up on adrenaline and shocked to still have 33 distinct, intact vertebrae, we easily clambered over the construction debris at an entirely unreasonable pace. But our win cost us a body-mount bushing, which we replaced the next day with a few scraps of plywood plus some hockey pucks stolen from Beard’s office cubicle. On the other hand, the axle we sheared on an aggressive hill-climb required actual truck parts to fix.

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    © Car and Driver 1979 Ford F-150 Custom, 2004 Land Rover Discovery, and 1990 Geo Tracker

    The F-150’s punishing ride made the dunes feel like an all-day car accident. We staged a three-way drag race that climbed and descended five towering dunes over nearly a mile. Sir Loin’s tracks through the whoop-de-dos in each trough were notable for the large gaps where the truck had been airborne. In between momentary blackouts and involuntary grunts, though, we never realized the truck had left the ground. Every bump felt like the Stockholm hitting the Andrea Doria. After a brief ride, Sabatini tumbled out of the truck and, rubbing his back, remarked: “Wow. There’s only one word for that: violent.”

    But he jumped at the chance to climb back in to experience Sir’s unmatched water-fording capability. We eventually stopped testing water holes, instead simply charging in without worrying about the consequences. An air intake nearly six feet off the ground is empowering like that. But in our final scoring, water fording didn’t matter as much as having body panels or air conditioning. Seems arbitrary, no?

    Beard and Pund initially thought their trucklet just needed a tuneup. But when tests showed rampant leaking in all four cylinders and only 30 psi of compression in number three, the tuneup snowballed into an engine rebuild that consumed most of Beard’s downtime for two weeks. Its proud owners noted one important thing about Trackers: Parts are cheap. Exhaust valves for just $6. A muffler for $25. The engine-rebuild kit—including pistons, rings, bearings, oil pump, and timing belt—was $245. Crewman Beard noted that, at 70 mph, the 1.6-liter turns at 4100 rpm, surely making it the winner of the “lifetime engine revolutions” category.

    With just 80 horsepower, more or less, after the rebuild, Pund and Beard were happy simply not to be in last place for Bundy’s mud drags. But then the Geo took second in the obstacle course, before any points were awarded for the extreme rock-crawling bonus pile. So Beard carefully picked his way over the mound, only scraping at the same point Sutton and Benn’s extreme Cherokee had. We had already noted the Geo’s impressive approach, departure, and breakover angles, but watching it creep up and over the jumbled concrete was a sight. This Japanese jeeplet is just a little under 12 feet long, and when rolling on 30-inch tires, much of its belly is rubber contact patch, giving it the approximate footprint of a leopard slug and the corresponding ability to ooze over nearly anything. And, with its short 87.0-inch wheelbase, the Geo was astoundingly maneuverable, a proper mountain mollusk. As Beard put it, “What the Miata is to the sports-car world, the Tracker is to the off-road world.” We agreed it was equivalently adorable, with the butched-up, lifted Geo winning the appearance vote.

    In the vein of Sir Loin, Benn and Sutton had named the Jeep “Spare Rib.” After wowing everyone on the obstacle course, Beard christened his Geo the “Deathstalker Scorpion.” He was the only one who knew, without consulting Wiki, that the Deathstalker is in fact a really dangerous bug from the deserts of the Middle East.

    Likewise, the Geo held the potential to kill or maim. Even as Beard spun celebratory donuts in the mud next to the rock pile, the Tracker was starting to sag on its rusty body mounts. Over the course of two days at the Silver Lake sand dunes, whomping and slamming over crests and bumps, it ultimately settled so low that the tailgate wouldn’t open, as it had sunk below the top of the bumper. Recall, though, that Tracker parts are cheap. Beard has already located a whole new body for just $175.

    Like the Geo, the Rover looked relatively tame, but it was not to be underestimated, especially if you happened to be cocooned in its leather-lined seven-seat interior. While the Jeep and Ford were missing a significant number of body panels, the daggy Disco still had frosty A/C, a power driver’s seat (plus frozen motors beneath the passenger’s seat), and wood dash trim. The only wood in any other competitor was clamped between hockey pucks in Sir Loin’s makeshift body mount.

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    © Car and Driver 1979 Ford F-150 Custom

    The ticking that sounded so much like rod-knock turned out to be a new power-steering pump, which was replaced after being identified as defective. Johnson and Ladd also replaced an ignition coil and the plug wires, along with multiple oxygen sensors. In a demonstration of the team’s priorities, they allocated $150 for a new stereo. Another ticking noise believed to be a damaged pushrod endured throughout the test, though, earning the Land Rover the nickname “Timex.” The main thing these utes are really good at is inspiring nicknames.

    The metronomic soundtrack didn’t slow Timex much. Its 10.9-second zero- to-60 time is just 0.8 slower than what we originally recorded in 2001. Both at Bundy Hill and at the dunes, on hills where the Arabian Insect struggled with power and Sir Loin struggled with power and occupant self-preservation, the Rover’s only concern was clearance. But it had enough grunt that, were it snagged on a crest or submerged rock, it would simply power through.

    It was easily the fastest, topping out at 99 mph where the Deathstalker Geo hit only 78 and Sir Loin wobbled to a terrifying 71 (terrifying because the F-150’s first stop from 70 mph took 450 feet). Spare Rib, the junker Jeep, tentatively wandered up to an observed 65 mph while it was dining on its transfer case, but certain life-insurance stipulations prevented us from taking the front-drive Cherokee to the track for official verification.

    Johnson and Ladd won the drive to Silver Lake by more than a half-hour, cool and comfortable, texting out a gloating pic of a sweaty beer pitcher while the rest of the field plodded across the state in sweltering August heat. When Sabatini suggested they use their time to do some reconnaissance (expecting the art boss to be concerned with photos), Johnson replied, “Find beer: Check.” Awhile later came another picture of him golfing. “Find golf course: Check. Fore!” Deep karmic thunderclouds were building, we were certain.

    Looking to create an off-road analogue to Lightning Lap, we mapped out a three-mile course around the perimeter of the Silver Lake dunes. The trucks set off at one-minute intervals to avoid the temptation to swap paint, but the field immediately bunched up when all three failed to crest the first dune, backing down and charging back up past one another. Sir Loin left first, thrashing its occupants around like salt in a shaker for a 7-minute, 37-second lap. One minute later, the Geo hadn’t materialized, giving the towering Ford the lead and presumed victory. Another 40 seconds later, the Tracker still missing, the Disco nosed over the last crest, pushrod clacking furiously, and ripped down the final dune for the win with a 7:34. Karma had failed to avenge us. Its power and speed also made the Rover our overall winner, even as its relatively low ride height likely would have hindered it in a competition more biased toward serious rock crawling.

    But just as Beard lined up a new Tracker body, Rovernaut Johnson has already purchased a lift kit. Jacquot and I have stolen more hockey pucks from Beard for our Sir Loin, and Benn is stockpiling parts for his munched transfer case. Our flotilla of off-road beaters delivered so much fun for the buck that all four have been purchased back from the company by staffers eager for more wheelin’. God willing.

    http://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/enth...jeep-cherokee-land-rover-discovery/ar-AAkG7fQ
     
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  2. Irons

    Irons Deep Sixed Site Supporter Mother Lode

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    I thought their surroundings looked familiar.

    ..............................:2 thumbs up:
     

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