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Rough Country News

  • Mike Bishop named Off-Road Magazine's Person of the Year

    Off-roading is more than just a pastime: It is a global community of Jeep and truck enthusiasts who love conquering nature in one of the coolest ways possible. However, it takes the extreme efforts of many individuals to allow that to happen on a daily basis. Many of these people do not get the credit they deserve, which is why a few organizations within the world of off-road driving take it upon themselves to hand out accolades. 

    Person of the Year
    Each year, Off-road Magazine selects one individual from the off-roading community to be its Person of the Year. The honoree for 2013 is Mike Bishop, president of the Azusa Canyon Off-Road Association. 

    Bishop was selected as this year's winner because of his contributions to off-road drivers in and around the Azusa Canyon. He spent more than a decade formulating a plan for the creation of a rock crawling space and putting it into action, dealing with governmental restrictions, environmental regulations and other road blocks along the way. In the end, not only did he gain the ability to use off-road vehicles within a certain area, but he also set up one of the most challenging and alluring off-road obstacle courses in the U.S. 

    To top it all off, the course at Azusa Canyon benefits the environment. Prior to its construction, many regional drivers were off-roading near the San Gabriel River, which is home to an endangered species of fish. Bishop decided to undertake this massive project in an attempt to protect the precious environment in California while also providing drivers with a spot where they can indulge in their favorite pastime. 

    Off-roading at Azusa Canyon
    The result of all of Bishop's efforts is the Azusa Canyon OHV area, which officially opened to the public in July 2012. Located in the Angeles National Forest, this course is a sprawling site that features plenty of natural and manmade obstacles that can pose a welcome challenge for even the most experienced drivers. 

    All fans of off-roading can enjoy the three-acre course at Azusa Canyon. This region offers all kinds of terrain waiting to be driven. Whether you swear by rock crawling, love to go mudding or want to drive up sand dunes, you can find the perfect environment on this site. Mud pits and steep rock-covered inclines allow drivers to test out their skills and their truck mods in a safe, controlled space. 

  • Trucks on display at vintage car auction

    Many drivers are familiar with the process of buying a used car, but not everyone is used to searching for their next ride at a one-of-a-kind vintage car auction. At the Lambrecht Chevrolet Auction, which just took place in Nebraska, that is exactly what happens, as the sale features some rarely seen versions of classic vehicles. 

    This auction began when the family of one Chevrolet dealer in Nebraska decided to sell some of the vehicles the dealership had accumulated over the years. What they found was more than 430 Chevy models stored in the surrounding woods - many of which had never been driven or purchased. While they may be covered in dirt or rust, they are in otherwise strong condition and could prove to be a solid investment for many lovers of classic cars. 

    "These are cars that were basically taken from the dealer and shoved out back and have been sitting ever since they were brand new," Jim Pickering, editor of American Car Collector, told NPR. "That just flat out doesn't happen. This is kind of urban legend material."

    Many of the top vehicles on display at the vintage auction are classic pickup trucks, including one 1958 Chevrolet Cameo with only 1.3 miles on it. That truck sold for $140,000 and brought in the biggest haul at the auction. Another top seller was a 1958 Chevrolet Apache 31 Series Pickup, which had clocked only 5 miles and sold for $80,000. 

    While those pickups were among the biggest prizes of the day, there were many other Chevy trucks that drivers were able to purchase for a low cost. Although they will likely need their fair share of maintenance and truck mods, it will be a small price to pay for the unique driving experience. 

  • GM recalls thousands of pickup trucks

    Owners of pickup trucks from General Motors may want to double check some features of the ride before getting behind the wheel. GM was recently forced to recall almost 22,000 pickup trucks due to a malfunction with the seats found in a few models. 

    The affected models are all the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or the 2014 GMC Sierra. In each of these trucks, the front seats can move beyond an acceptable range of motion if the vehicle is struck from behind, causing harm to the driver or passenger, or even interfering with other safety features like the seatbelt. Because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been closed as part of the government shutdown, there are few additional details known about this recall, but more information could be released in the future. 

    This is the second recall issued for the 2014 Silverado and Sierra. Previously, GM was forced to deal with a problem with the airbags in the trucks. That threat, although serious, only affected about 843 vehicles. Owners concerned about their seats or airbags can take the trucks to a dealer for a quick fix, free of charge. 

    Drivers who have made truck mods to the Silverado or the Sierra will still want to give their vehicles a once-over. While there have been no reports of injuries due to the issue, that doesn't mean it couldn't pose a problem in the future, especially if you are off-roading. Unknown terrain around an off-road vehicle could lead to accidents if drivers are not paying attention to their surroundings, and even special harnesses or armor attached to a truck may not be enough to prevent the seats from being affected in a collision. 

  • Off-road drivers must be aware of deer collisions

    Fans of off-road driving know they need to be constantly on the lookout for certain obstacles. Some of these can be particularly difficult to plan for, especially if they are wild animals with a mind of their own. One of the biggest threats is deer, which frequently are seen near paved roads and off-road trails and can pose a danger to those drivers not paying close attention. 

    Deer collisions on the decline
    According to a recent study from State Farm, in the past year, approximately 1.22 million accidents were caused by the presence of a deer. This is a 3.5 percent decrease from the year before. 

    The odds of a motorist striking a deer in the next 12 months are 1 in 174, which is down from 1 in 167 last year. The largest declines are expect to be in North Dakota and Nebraska, where the odds are dropping by 24.8 and 22 percent, respectively. Motorists in West Virginia are more likely to have a problem with a deer collision than any other state. 

    Despite the decline in the number of collisions, those who find themselves involved in accidents with deer often face costly repairs. In fact, damage from these crashes can cost several thousands of dollars, with most destruction centered on the outside frame and truck modifications. 

    "The cars look worse because they're absorbing the impact rather than passing it on to the passengers," Dave Huskey, manager of an auto repair business, told Bloomberg. "It takes a lot of damage to get inside the frame."

    What to watch out for
    While the number of collisions has gone down, the potential for accidents remains high, especially for those who frequently go off-roading. This means drivers must stay focused at all times and should know how to react in the event of an emergency. 

    "To avoid hitting a deer, drivers must slow down whenever they see deer in the area. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby that could dash in front of your vehicle," David Pabst, director of the Bureau of Transportation Safety for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, told the Sheboygan Daily.

    "If you can't avoid a deer, it's safer to hit the brakes and hit the deer than to swerve suddenly and try to miss it," he continued. "If you swerve, you risk losing control of your vehicle and rolling over or hitting another car or stationary object, like a tree."

  • 'Truck of the Year' short list announced

    A short list of finalists for the 2014 North American Car & Truck of the Year (NACTOY) has been announced, and the list contains some of the most sought after vehicles of the past year. 

    The NACTOY short list is split into two parts, with 12 cars and 12 trucks or utility vehicles making the cut in their respective segments. The only stipulation is that the finalists have to be vehicles that can drive on North American roads, and they had to have gone through a significant redesign for the 2014 model year. All automobiles will be judged based on their performance in a variety of different scenarios as well as their special features. 

    General Motors emerged as one of the biggest winners early in the voting. The manufacturer had three vehicles up for consideration in each of the two categories, which was the best showing from any automaker. 

    The final short list for the 2014 North American Truck/Utility of the Year consists of 12 vehicles: the Acura MDX, the BMW X5, the Buick Encore, the Chevrolet Silverado, the GMC Sierra, the Hyundai Santa Fe LWB, the Jeep Cherokee, the Kia Sorento, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, the Nissan Rogue, the Subaru Forester and the Toyota Tundra. 

    Last year's winner of Truck of the Year, the Ram 1500, wasn't eligible for the 2014 list. It will be interesting to see which of the pickups or utility vehicles stands apart from the crowd, as well as which are designated as the best options for off-road driving. 

    Jurors will evaluate these models before narrowing the list down to three finalists in each category. Then there's more testing and voting in store before the winners are announced during the Detroit Auto Show in January. 

  • Celebrate Fall Car Care Month with proper maintenance

    The arrival of October brings about the start of Fall Car Care Month. Although drivers should be paying attention to the upkeep of their vehicles at all times of the year, focusing on maintenance just as the temperatures start to drop can pay off in the long run. 

    "Getting your vehicle ready for winter while temperatures are still mild is a proactive approach to preventative maintenance that helps ensure safety, reliability and fewer unexpected car repairs when severe winter weather strikes," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. 

    Some motorists may have a general idea of areas that need some extra attention as winter approaches, such as the brakes or tires, but there are a few other aspects that should not be overlooked. Here are three ways you can prep an off-road vehicle or everyday ride for the upcoming months: 

    Rebuild the engine
    One of the most thorough ways to improve the performance of a vehicle in the fall and winter is to rebuild the engine. This involves disassembling the motor and cleaning all of the individual parts, while also replacing any pieces that may be worn or broken. Then drivers will put it all back together, making sure all parts are tight and secure as they do so. 

    Not only can this process allow you to get a better idea of how your automobile is holding up, but it will also improve the general performance and power output of the vehicle. When done properly, rebuilding the engine can eliminate worries about ending up stranded during off-road driving adventures in tough conditions. 

    "Before severe winter weather arrives, it is a good idea to make sure your vehicle's engine is running effectively and efficiently," said Rick Simko, chairman of the Engine Rebuilders Council. "If you find that your car or truck is experiencing major engine damage, but is in relatively good shape otherwise, considering repowering it with a rebuilt engine so you can count on it when temperatures drop." 

    Wash your car regularly
    It may seem strange to wash your car despite heavy snows or low temperatures, but in reality, it is one of the most important things you can do to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. Waxing regularly to seal the paint against moisture is a must, as is washing the road salt off the underside and bottom of a vehicle. Too much of the salt and moisture can facilitate rust, which is detrimental to your automobile's value and can impact its performance. 

    You should make it a point to wash your vehicle after off-roading adventures, which could have left dirt and debris in hidden parts of a car. 

    Check the HVAC system
    Having a high-functioning heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system goes far beyond comfort. This system is essential for keeping everything under the hood operating as it should. Cold weather may cause a windshield or other glass surface to become brittle, and even the lowest of temperatures won't stop an engine from overheating should the ventilation under the hood go awry.  

    To prevent these problems, carefully evaluate all aspects of the HVAC system. It is also important to make sure the defroster is working well and is able to keep visibility high. As you evaluate this aspect of your vehicle, be sure to give the wipers and antifreeze a second look. Wiper blades need to be replaced every six months and should have no visible cracks or tears. The antifreeze should be replenished and at the proper level to keep the car functioning no matter what the weather is like. 

  • Off-roading gets elemental at the Bonneville Salt Flats

    Fans of off-road driving on the hunt for a completely unique experience need look no farther than Utah. The state is home to one of the most remarkable environments in the U.S. - and it doesn't even consist of some of the towering mountains the Beehive State is known for. Instead, the region that attracts so many adventurous off-roaders is entirely flat. 

    About the Bonneville Salt Flats
    Located in northwestern Utah, the Bonneville Salt Flats are a large expanse of land nestled on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake. It formed when the ancient Lake Bonneville dried up at the end of the Ice Age and left salt deposits behind. Over time, this salty terrain halted almost all growth of vegetation in the area and condensed to form a hard crust. This layer can be as thick as 5 feet or as thin as an inch, depending on the location, creating a one-of-a-kind spot for driving. 

    Part of the allure of the Bonneville Salt Flats is what is known as "Bonneville Speedway." Unlike other circuits, this track is naturally flat and is made up of the salty soil, creating a slick and fast-paced environment that has been the cause of a number of land speed records. 

    The Utah Salt Flats Racing Association regularly hosts events throughout the year, and some motorists make it a point to visit the area during one of these festivities to experience the events. There are five major contests held throughout the year, including Speed Week, World of Speed, the World Finals, the Bub Motorcycle Speed Trials and the Mike Cook ShootOut. 

    What to expect
    Off-roading is one of the biggest draws at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The area is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks due to its contributions to land speed racing, and as such it attracts many fans of motorsports and off-road driving. It is free and open to the public for most of the year, with the only scheduling difficulties arising when organizations are filming on the site. 

    Drivers should also be prepared to deal with other travelers checking out the salt flats. The natural phenomenon attracts a number of traditional tourists in addition to off-roaders, so you have to be aware of everyday visitors as you drive around. The last thing you want is to encounter a potentially dangerous situation, so be on the lookout for wanderers in the area as you zip around the salt flats. 

    Although the majority of the Bonneville Salt Flats are perfectly level, there are a few sections where hills and even low mountains are present. These geographic landmarks provide a welcome challenge for many drivers, especially with the slick surface, and you will be able to test your skills and truck modifications on these difficult passes. While the Bureau of Land Management asks that visitors stick to established trails, there is still plenty of opportunity to explore the region. 

    The necessary truck mods
    Navigating over flat areas may sound easy, but handling the Bonneville Salt Flats is harder than you may expect. To successfully get around the land, you have to make sure your off-road vehicle can handle the unique nature of the salt. Tires suited for slick surfaces are a must, and drivers will also want to have recovery straps and towing tools on hand. Mud is common within 100 yards of the edge of the crust, and those who drive too close may find themselves stuck if they are not paying attention. 

    Water occasionally floods the area, especially in the winter and early spring, so you may want to be prepared to deal with wet conditions depending on when you visit. Heavy winds and rainstorms are also common, and these elements may change the driving conditions. 

  • NHTSA to close amid government shutdown

    The government shutdown has dominated the headlines, with many people around the country concerned as to how the massive closures will affect their daily lives. What some residents may not have realized is that the U.S. Department of Transportation had to stop many of its operations, including the running of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and this change could pose some major problems to drivers around the country. 

    What the shutdown means
    When it is functioning at full strength, the NHTSA is typically in charge of investigating the state of vehicles, whether it is testing new auto products, investigating driver complaints or issuing recall notices. Many drivers rely on this organization to provide insight and information as to the performance and safety of automobiles. 

    Automakers are not currently required to announce recalls to the general public, and many choose not to in an attempt to avoid negative publicity. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center For Auto Safety, told AOL Autos that 25 to 40 percent of all recalls stem from government investigations, and the NHTSA is responsible for raising most of the awareness around these issues. Without the NHTSA alerting the public or spurring on evaluations, there could be a lapse in quality or repairs offered to the public. 

    "If an automaker does a recall, it might be because they know government investigators are on the trail," Ditlow told the news source. "Without those investigations ... in the long term, it could significantly endanger consumer safety."

    What drivers can do
    The absence of the NHTSA and other DOT efforts for the foreseeable future means that motorists will have to be proactive when it comes to vehicle maintenance and research. If they don't, they could encounter issues that affect the performance of the car. 

    "For a consumer who goes and buys a car today, then finds out a month from now it was a poor performer on a test, they're not going to be able to get their money back," Ditlow explained to the news source. "So it's a raw deal."

    Those drivers who are on the lookout for a new off-road vehicle should be sure to conduct thorough research before making a final decision. Extensive test drives and maintenance checks are just the beginning. Prospective buyers should also be looking for ways to see what current drivers have to say about the quality and performance of the automobile. Motorists will also have to pay close attention to vehicle recalls or news that comes straight from the manufacturer. 

  • Range Rover makes waves with latest ad

    Range Rover has come under fire for its latest ad. The commercial for the 2014 Range Rover Sport features the vehicle conquering some intense terrain on its way up Pike's Peak, which is part of the U.S.'s National Forest System (NFS). Unfortunately, that qualifies the area as federal land, and off-roading on these lands is prohibited. 

    Some viewers were concerned that this commercial would encourage drivers to disrupt federal land with off-road driving. This isn't the first time the NFS has been upset about how certain environmental activities were portrayed in a commercial, but it is one of the first involving Range Rover and an off-road vehicle.

    "It clearly goes against the basic philosophy of ethical attitudes and proper driver behavior for using OHV's anywhere, let alone on NFS lands," wrote Jack Gregory, a retired Forest Service officer, according to The Washington Post.

    Despite the controversy, Range Rover stands by the ad, claiming that the commercial is standard fare and was not intended to inspire illegal activity. The vehicle did not actually drive off-road on Pike's Peak for the filming of the ad, so there was no harm done to the environment. 

    "As is typical in much of advertising, there are scenes that are realistic but not meant to be taken literally, including both racing up the mountain, as well as driving off-road back down, though the vehicle is more than capable of both," Range Rover said in a statement, as quoted by the news source. 

    Although the pastime is allowed in certain government-controlled areas, it is banned in most, and any plans need to be carefully researched and approached before you get behind the wheel. Most drivers who make sure they are driving lawfully won't encounter any type of trouble in their adventures. 

  • Romania unveils off-road fire and rescue truck

    Most truck mods are completed with efficiency and practicality in mind. When you're trying to conquer difficult terrain and get the most out of a vehicle, it's natural to want to push the automobile to its limits. However, a recent redesign of a vehicle in Romania has created an off-road machine that was made for a higher purpose. Called the Ghe-O Rescue, this vehicle was created to be an off-road fire and rescue truck, and it certainly sets the bar high for safety vehicles.  

    About the vehicle
    Unveiled at the Bucharest Auto Show, the Ghe-O Rescue looks like a hybrid between a Jeep Wrangler and a Hummer. However, it's almost 3 feet longer and 2 feet wider than a typical Hummer H1, yet at the same time it weighs about 500 pounds less, AutoBlog reported. 

    The unique design needs a special engine and frame for support. It's got lockable axles, excellent ground clearance and even additional layers of protection that guard what's under the hood from electromagnetic or water damage. On top of all that, the Ghe-O Rescue boasts inflatable tire-mounted pillows that will allow it to float as well as water pumps that are designed to put out fires. Investors can also choose between a gas engine that produces between 340 and 500 horsepower and a diesel engine with an output of 218 to 204 horsepower, the news source reported. 

    With the ability to carry 11 passengers plus safety equipment and cargo, the Ghe-O Rescue is more than capable of serving as an emergency response vehicle. 

    The need for safety
    While the off-road vehicle is undoubtedly a cool creation, perhaps the most important aspect of it is that it is designed with safety in mind. You can make all of the intense truck modifications you want, but if trouble arises, you may find yourself in need of help. It takes intense machines to serve the public in these situations, which makes vehicles like the Ghe-O Rescue a necessary investment. 

    An off-roading tradition
    When you think of off-road driving, Romania may not be the first place that springs to mind. However, the country is home to miles and miles of open space that is ideal for exploring with an off-road vehicle. The land is subject to many different kinds of inclement weather and rough conditions - hence all of the special features on the Ghe-O Rescue. 

    While there's no off-road vehicle quite like the Ghe-O Rescue yet in the U.S., this could be the beginning of high-performing safety automobiles. 

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