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Rough Country News

  • Toyota Dream Build Challenge announces teams

    Customizing a vehicle with truck mods and accessories is just one of the many ways drivers immerse themselves in the auto experience. Toyota is making sure it is a memorable one, however - especially for those teams who participate in the manufacturer's upcoming Dream Build Challenge. This competition aims to put modifications at the forefront and show off all of the different ways drivers can customize their Toyota vehicles. 

    About the challenge
    The Toyota Dream Build Challenge allows teams to create one-of-a-kind automobiles that will then go head to head to compete for public adoration. With an end goal of making the most extreme Toyotas possible, the four teams competing in the challenge have seven weeks to make their dream vehicles using Toyota vehicles and its brand partners. Custom-build shops will help the teams bring their visions to life, and each stage of the process will be documented to show auto enthusiasts just how the changes are made. 

    "For everyone who has ever imagined designing the perfect vehicle for a favorite hobby or sport, the Toyota Dream Build Challenge makes that dream a reality," said Ed Laukes, vice president of marketing communications and motorsports for Toyota. "What better place than SEMA to push the limits of the imagination and inspire creativity?"

    This year's competition
    There are four teams competing in the upcoming challenge, and each has a special tie to the world of motorsports and off-roading. That is especially evident in some of the plans for vehicles, which include two options that may be well suited for off-road driving.

    The first team, Joe Gibbs Racing MX, is made up of professional motocross riders Justin Brayton and Josh Grant. They will redo a 2014 Toyota Tundra to make it a "Let's Go Moto Tundra." While the team hasn't revealed any details about what exactly they will do to upgrade the automobile, fans can expect to see some alterations that cater the truck to the rugged conditions of the wilderness. 

    Another vehicle off-roaders may want to keep an eye on is the brainchild of Simon Dumont, a freestyle skier, and his Oakley team. Together, they will be altering a Toyota 4Runner to become the "Ultimate Dream Ski 4Runner," which will likely be a machine capable of handling cold, inclement weather and snowy conditions. 

    The remaining teams are made up of NASCAR driver Parker Kligerman and Kyle Busch Motorsports, who will work to turn a 2013 Toyota Camry into a rally car known as the "CamRally," and BMX rider Drew Bezanson, who is working with Skullcandy to incorporate musical themes into a Toyota Corolla. 

    At the SEMA Show
    Rutledge Wood, the television racing commentator and host of "Top Gear USA," is returning to announce the winning design at this year's SEMA show. The winner will be revealed at the show Nov. 5 in Las Vegas.

    "I'm a big car guy, and that's why I'm so excited about the Dream Build Challenge," Wood said after the 2012 competition. "What's so cool ... is that Toyota is taking their drivers, letting them build something crazy and then they're going to raise money for their charities. I mean, that's an amazing thing. It's going to be huge, and I'm so glad to be a part of it with all my friends at Toyota."

    Videos detailing the process of the customization and the various car and truck modifications made are slated to become public Sept. 26. Fans can then begin voting on their favorite rides Oct. 31, and the polls will remain open for the next five days leading up to the big reveal.

  • Ram embraces diesel engines in light pickups

    Diesel-power vehicles have been making waves recently. With a lot of hype surrounded this fuel, which is more environmentally friendly than traditional gas, many manufacturers are considering the possibility of entering - or re-entering - the market.

    Although diesel pickup trucks were once a popular option, their availability has waned in recent years. That is expected to change with one introduction from a major manufacturer, which could kick-start a renaissance of these light-duty machines.

    Ram introduces a light diesel
    Ram is looking to bring diesel back to light-duty trucks, and it will begin with an upgraded Ram 1500 pickup featuring the diesel engine. This six-cylinder motor will be more fuel efficient for drivers, even with the more expensive cost of diesel taken into account, and machines with these engines generally offer better low-end torque and towing power than their competitors, USA Today reported.

    "The name of the game is making larger vehicles more relevant," Ram President Reid Bigland told the news source. "You make them more relevant by making them more fuel efficient."

    Ram isn't the only brand embracing diesel technologies. Nissan has already announced plans to offer a full-size Titan pickup truck with a Cummins diesel engine. This motor was originally supposed to be included in a Ram truck but expanded to the Japanese automaker when a special partnership was formed, Automobile magazine reported. Nissan is scheduled to release this model and its V-8 engine sometime in early 2014.

    Buyers beware
    Just because diesel engines present a solid option for some drivers doesn't mean they are a good selection for all motorists. They can be more expensive to maintain, and the sticker prices on trucks with these motors are often higher than traditional vehicles, which can put certain models out of the price range of some. In fact, those drivers who are planning on making several rounds of truck modifications or invest in other upgrades may find that it is not within their budget to purchase these vehicles.

    However, drivers looking for longevity should certainly take a look at diesel engines, as these motors may be better long-term investments.

    "The high compression ratio of diesel engines allows for better efficiency compared to gasoline engines," Robert Angner, department manager of advanced product planning for Mercedes-Benz, told Digital Trends. "But this high compression ratio also requires more robust parts, which in general are considered to add longevity to the life span of the engine."

    Off-roading advantages
    In addition to the improved torque and towing capacity - both of which are extremely important qualities for off-road driving - diesel engines offer a few other advantages that adventurers may appreciate. For example, saving money on long-term maintenance or replacement parts can leave more funds for truck mods and similar upgrades - something almost any driver can appreciate. 

    While some drivers may be hesitant about the noise or pollution stemming from a diesel engine, this concern is one that can be shrugged off. Over the years, these motors have evolved into fine-tuned systems that provide a driving experience that is almost identical to traditional gas-powered vehicles. That means motorists don't have to worry about harming the wilderness they are driving through in an off-road vehicle, and they won't scare too many critters with overbearing trucks. 

    "The stigma from diesels of the past being smelly or smoky is still a perception that needs to be overcome, but positive changes have been seen in consumer sentiment that will only continue to improve," Angner told Digital Trends. 

  • Looking ahead to the State Fair of Texas

    One of the most anticipated days on the automotive calendar is just around the corner. As automakers begin showcasing their 2014 models and slowly start revealing up-and-coming options, drivers are getting ready to take in these creations, and many of these products will be on display at the State Fair of Texas. 

    State Fair of Texas Auto Show
    Set against the backdrop of bustling Dallas, the State Fair of Texas is a throwback to all of the things that the state prizes: creativity, farming, larger-than-life entertainment and, of course, cars. In fact, a large portion of the fair revolves around an Auto Show, which features everything from a special Truck Zone, where big-name manufacturers show off their latest creations, to the Chevrolet Ride & Drive, where visitors can test drive one of seven new vehicles at high speeds on a specially designed track. 

    At the main stage of the State Fair Auto Show, visitors will be able to get an up-close look at concept vehicles, new models, vintage cars and much more. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as the fair packs in many other displays and activities for auto enthusiasts, following in a tradition set more than 100 years ago. 

    The State Fair of Texas has been debuting new vehicles since 1904, but the format that visitors have come to know and love has been set in stone since the early 1950s. Today, the Auto Show at the State Fair of Texas is spread out over 300,000 square feet - more than triple of what it was less than 25 years ago. It also features multiple buildings, an outdoor showroom and live entertainment. 

    This year, the Auto Show is scheduled to run from Friday, Sept. 27, to Sunday, Oct. 20. The facilities will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 

    What to expect
    There are a number of big events happening as part of the fair's Auto Show, and several of the biggest truck makers in the world are expected to make reveals. No official confirmation has been released, but there has been a lot of talk about major news coming from General Motors. This may be anything from significant off-roading upgrades to its heavy-duty trucks to new trim packages for its existing models, but drivers won't know for sure until the fair sets up shop. reported that there were rumors about a large Toyota display, which would tie into a major announcement from the brand. Although the news is being kept hush-hush, many are speculating that it could be an extreme-sports upgrade for some Toyota truck models that would prime the vehicle for off-road driving. Others think it could be improvements to the Baja Toyota. No matter what, the display is sure to be a must-see for motorists. 

    Ford is also expected to unveil updates for its 6.7-liter Power Stroke. A refreshed version of this super-duty truck may even be a preview of the much-anticipated 2015 model, Left Lane News reported. 

    The best of the rest
    Automobiles are only part of the exciting events on tap for the State Fair of Texas. Since 1886, the fair has been delighting visitors with college football games, concerts, livestock shows, agriculture competitions and much more. While the Auto Show is extremely popular, it is only one slice of the action, and guests who want to check out the car displays or truck announcement can fill their time with plenty of other fun activities.

  • Avoid common mistakes when buying an off-road vehicle

    There comes a time when many drivers begin to consider the idea of purchasing a new or used vehicle to add to their garage. Getting this shopping process off the ground can be difficult, and it's easy for many motorists to fall into common traps that can end up costing them time, money and sanity. 

    "Buying a car is something people usually do at most every few years, so naturally the right way to go about it isn't always top of mind," said Brian Moody, the site editor of "But a misstep during the shopping process could turn a great deal into a money pit in the long run." 

    Instead of becoming a victim of one of these blunders, drivers should brush up on their knowledge and be prepared for what lies ahead. Here are some of the most common mistakes you should do your best to avoid as you hunt for your next purchase: 

    Getting sucked into extra features
    Even if you go to a dealership with a simple list of must-haves in mind, those needs can quickly snowball to an expensive array of amenities. Before you head to a location to scout out a potential purchase, outline a clear list of features that are must-haves, as well as some that would be an added bonus.

    It is easy to get caught up in the exciting possibility of choosing a car with an impressive selection of features, but this is also one of the quickest ways to spend more money than you intend to. Stick to the list you have created and try to avoid being swayed by a salesperson. Remember, you can always make truck or Jeep modifications later on that will enhance the vehicle and cater it to your needs. 

    Not taking the vehicle for a proper test drive
    Nearly all drivers know they have to take a prospective vehicle for a test drive before signing on the dotted line. However, these motorists don't always take the automobile through a comprehensive drive. explained that a proper test drive should last for about 45 minutes in length and needs to take place on a variety of road types. 

    If you're looking to go off-roading in a vehicle, you may want to consider test driving a machine in these conditions. Clear this undertaking with the seller before setting out, and be sure you understand the expectations that go along with it - for example, if you're contemplating purchasing a vehicle from an individual seller, take care to lay down the guidelines and restrictions about off-road driving. You may have to wash off some dirt or debris and give the parts of the vehicle a once over before returning it to its original owner. 

    Ignoring the need for an auto inspection
    The work doesn't stop after you get the keys. One of the first things that needs to be done after purchasing a car, new or used, is to take the vehicle in for an inspection. 

    "Just because a car sounds and runs fine during the test drive doesn't necessarily mean everything is in top working order," Moody said. "Cars are complex machines, and nothing is worse than an expensive repair shortly after you drive the vehicle home."

    These are only a few of the tips buyers should keep in mind as they search for their next vehicle. Whether you're planning to buy a new truck for off-roading or a used automobile to upgrade with various truck mods, you can zero in on great opportunities with just a bit of helpful advice. 

  • Toyota reaches milestone as it churns out trucks

    Toyota trucks recently celebrated a major milestone in Texas. Toyota Texas, the brand's division in the Lone Star State, marked the production of its 1 millionth truck at the San Antonio plant - a major accomplishment for the automaker. 

    The millionth model was a 2014 Tundra 1794 Edition - a special model created in honor of the ranch that once stood where the Texas plant currently resides. That ranch was founded in 1794, and another homage to the area is present in the Sunset Bronze Mica paint, which was designed to mimic the sky at twilight in the location. 

    Toyota will soon be celebrating another milestone at the Texas plant. This fall marks the plant's 10th anniversary, and almost its entire decade of existence has been spent creating the light- and heavy-duty trucks for American consumers. 

    "We are grateful for our loyal customers across North America who tell us they love driving Texas-built Tacomas and Tundras," said Chris Nielsen, president of Toyota Texas. "It makes me incredibly proud of our team members and 21 on-site suppliers every time I see one of our trucks on the road knowing that safety and quality are built into every one of them." 

    Although brands like Ford, Ram and Chevrolet regularly produce thousands and even millions of pickups, slower demand has left Toyota a bit behind. As new redesigns and truck mods continue to make the Japanese automaker's vehicles better suited for off-road driving, however, the market for these automobiles could continue to grow. According to Bloomberg, the brand is content to slowly but surely grow its reputation and product offerings within the pickup truck segment as it moves from a provider of niche trucks to a more universally embraced option. 

  • Ram Rumble Bee truck may head to showrooms

    Ram made headlines at the 2013 Woodward Dream Cruise in suburban Detroit thanks to an eye-catching reveal. The automaker unveiled a bright yellow concept truck called the Ram 1500 Rumble Bee, and after the color and features of the pickup got people talking, Ram began to consider the feasibility of sending the automobile to showrooms around the U.S. 

    Although there are still many steps to be cleared before the truck can take its place on showroom floors, fans of unique truck modifications and attention-grabbing details will definitely be keeping an eye on the Rumble Bee. 

    Heading to showrooms? 
    Before the final decision is made on whether or not the Ram 1500 Rumble Bee will hit the open market, versions of the vehicle will head to dealer shows to gauge interest in the truck. If the feedback continues to be positive, Ram could begin taking steps to produce the truck on a wider level. 

    "We will take it to some dealer shows and talk to dealers," Dave Sowers, head of light- and heavy-duty marketing for Ram Truck, told "We try to listen to the dealers. They know their marketplace." 

    The truck mods that would be needed to turn the Rumble Bee into a prime on- or off-road vehicle are still unknown, but the possibilities for a one-of-a-kind automobile are endless. 

    Changes to the Rumble Bee
    The original version of the Ram 1500 Rumble Bee had a number of special features that make it attractive to drivers. With 24-inch black wheels, a two-inch suspension drop and matte yellow paint, it is hard to miss the truck, but these are only a few of the exterior details that may have to change for the Rumble Bee to be a viable option for the public. AutoBlog reported that the paint job would likely be altered to include a glossier, more subdued color, while the amber-encased bee on the shifter is likely to be left out of a mass-produced vehicle. 

    "Some of the things that we put on the truck weren't volume-production possible for us," Sowers told "That flat yellow paint would be a little bit of a challenge in the plant, and the actual bee in the shifter would be tough to execute."

    Despite these changes, all signs point to the final product including the eight-speed transmission, 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine and show-stopping details that drew so much attention in the first place. 

  • GM ready to build off-road SUV

    Savvy drivers know they can make truck and Jeep modifications to almost any vehicle that will cater the machine to off-roading. However, some motorists want to be able to buy automobiles that come equipped with features and design characteristics that are ideal for off-highway driving. This can be difficult, but a recent announcement from General Motors could change the way drivers go about looking for their next off-roading machine. 

    Rumblings of an off-road vehicle
    GM unveiled several redesigned models at the Frankfurt Auto Show early in September, and there are rumors that the manufacturer is already considering revamping these options to include an off-road model. The speculation reached a fever pitch when one GM executive confirmed that the automaker was looking into the possibilities, although no timeline or details have been confirmed. 

    "We are looking at, for this generation, a more off-road variant," Jeff Luke, the executive chief engineer for GM trucks, told Automotive News. "Owners just love off-roading with these vehicles. They look at this vehicle as more off-road capable." 

    Some of the potential improvements could include enhancing the range of GM's body-on-frame SUVs as well as a more powerful engine and rugged style. 

    GM's plans
    While much of the attention from fans of off-roading will likely be focused on the potential for specially designed off-road vehicles, any final plans are still far in the future. In the meantime, many drivers will have their eyes on some of the creations GM has in the pipeline. The 2015 versions of the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon are all slated to offer drivers a solid option in the near future, and they boast a few special features that may make off-roading easier. 

    In the past, GM has offered an off-road package known as the Z71 for these large SUVs. Although this option includes upgraded shocks, bigger wheels and wheel flares, all of which are designed to improve the off-road experience, it has not caught on with drivers. The manufacturer hopes that making a few key changes and enhancements will create a unique off-road vehicle that will attract more fans of the pastime. 

    "In the life cycle of this product, we're going to continually upgrade and add technologies, including in the powertrain area," Luke told the news source. "... Stay tuned." 

  • Fall maintenance can make a big difference

    Winter is only a glimmer on the horizon, but many drivers are taking steps to get their vehicles ready for the seasons ahead. In fact, fall is one of the best times to perform tune ups and get problem areas checked out. With summer's heavy off-roading season in the rear-view mirror, now is the time to look over an automobile and evaluate what work needs to be done to prepare it for the inclement weather ahead. 

    Here are some aspects of a vehicle that you should be checking on as fall begins: 

    Air filter
    An air filter protects the engine from debris or other airborne contaminants, and if it gets clogged, it can seriously hamper the performance of your engine. Replacing the filter outright should boost power almost immediately, and it is among the easiest ways to upgrade the performance of an off-road vehicle. You never know what could have gotten into your automobile's system after some off-road adventures in the wilderness, so cleaning it out prior to new fall or winter rides is a wise choice. 

    Excessive heat can be harmful to a battery. High temperatures may be one of the main causes of battery failure, but drivers who take precautions to have it checked out can avoid breakdowns. Assessing the battery for any type of corrosion or damage is a must, and it is also a good idea to run separate battery testing and replace it if necessary. 

    You should be checking the brakes for wear and tear consistently throughout the year. It is particularly important to examine them in the fall because of the excess of driving that took place in the summer coupled with the need for strong brakes on slick fall roads. Look for pads that need to be replaced and conduct some test drives to verify that every aspect of the brakes is functioning as it is supposed to. 

    Fluid levels
    Owners need to examine the fluid levels on their vehicles at regular intervals, but it is particularly important to give them a second look in the fall. Hardcore off-roading in the summer may have contributed to additional wear or build up in engine oil as well as other vehicle fluids. As the temperature changes throughout the coming months, and you face a variety of different obstacles, continue to check fluids like engine oil, antifreeze and transmission and brake fluid. 

    Wiper blades
    Once your vehicle is stocked with wiper fluid and antifreeze, you should turn your attention to the wipers themselves. The blades are an essential tool for all automobiles, and you should never underestimate the need for fresh wipers. Heavy rains, layers of ice and debris from off-road driving are all common sights on a windshield throughout the fall and winter, and the only way to properly cut through all of these distractions is with heavy-duty wiper blades. 

    Emergency kit
    The changing of the seasons means you will also need different items stocked in an emergency kit. Consider adding a blanket in case you have a breakdown in the middle of some cold weather as well as packets of road salt or sand that can help you get out of slippery situations. Examining recovery straps or jumper cables for any excess wear and tear is also a good idea that could save time and aggravation in the long run. If any of this equipment isn't up to par, the fall is a good time to replace them and test out new options to get ready for winter. 

  • Ram Truck to update garages for 3 lucky fans

    The Ram Truck brand is offering a special opportunity for three lucky fans. Drivers of Ram vehicles are used to making their own truck modifications to create an off-road vehicle that perfectly meets their needs, but soon the automaker could be helping these drivers customize their garages to provide the perfect "Ram Cave." 

    Willing participants can apply to have their garages redone by the automaker. All they have to do is submit a photograph of their current workspace and explain why they deserve to have it redone and outfitted with everything they need to have a haven for their truck. In total, the renovation will be worth approximately $25,000.

    Home improvement guru Bob Vila, do-it-yourself advisor Timothy Dahl and Brett and Kate McKay of The Art of Manliness will serve as the judges. Fans don't even need to own a Ram to enter - they simply need to appreciate the heavy-duty, off-roading culture that goes along with the brand. 

    "Ram Truck is proud to partner with Bob Vila, Brett McKay and Timothy Dahl to offer our fans a unique opportunity to bring the style and design of Ram Trucks to their home garages," said Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Ram. "The Ram Caves contest was built to engage fans and to celebrate the spaces where owners come together to spend time with their vehicles." 

    Fans can enter the contest though Oct. 9, and the submissions will be open to public voting during that time. After that, the judging panel will select the three grand prize winners based on personal scores, public votes and cause for renovation. Barring any issues, construction on the Ram Caves will go underway by mid-November. 

  • Get your off-road vehicle ready for winter

    Just because summer has come to an end doesn't mean your off-roading experiences have to. In fact, some of the most fun and thrilling adventures can take place in the fall and winter, but you have to be prepared to handle the challenges that go along with cold, inclement weather. With heavy snows, slick fallen leaves and ice covering all types of surfaces, it is extremely important that all drivers take steps so they are ready to drive in any scenario. 

    While advanced drivers likely have a winter driving routine down pat, those who are in the beginning stages of off-roading may need a little guidance. Here are a few of the most important tips to keep in mind: 

    Tires are important
    The tires and tire pressure are two of the most vital aspects of handling an off-road vehicle in rough conditions. Snow tires are a common addition to many vehicles, while other drivers may want to stick with constantly examining tire tread to confirm they are able to grip any surface. Paying attention to the wear and alignment of the tires and rotating them as you see fit can improve the performance of a vehicle in fall or winter. 

    Be conscious of four-wheel drive
    Many drivers will turn to four-wheel drive to expertly maneuver their truck or SUV around on snow or ice. This can be a major boon in difficult driving conditions, but all motorists should keep in mind that having four-wheel drive does not aid in braking. Leave plenty of room to brake on and off pavement. You may also want to consider reverting back to two-wheel drive when going downhill. This will allow the rear wheels to slow the vehicle as the front wheels propel it forward, striking a nice balance that can enhance stability. 

    Better headlights could make a difference
    Another area you may want to upgrade before winter arrives is your vehicle's headlights. Being able to make your way through difficult conditions is of paramount importance, and having the right equipment can be a huge help in these situations. 

    An intriguing option for many drivers is LED headlights. This gear is generally brighter and more energy efficient, allowing you to accurately see the obstacles that lay before you, regardless of the weather. LED lights boast a unique light pattern and a bright white color, and these two qualities work together to offer superior visibility. Making truck mods or alterations to an SUV to add these lights is relatively easy as well, as many kits come with all of the materials you need to upgrade your lights. 

    Check the ventilation
    Before the weather gets too cold, you should examine the HVAC system to ensure the heating and ventilation are functioning at a high level. Not only are you going to want the heat for the vehicle's cabin to be able to foster a comfortable driving environment, but you should also be checking to make sure the vehicle is cycling out potentially harmful exhaust. More than likely, all windows will be closed during the winter, and knowing the HVAC system is working properly can prevent dangerous or uncomfortable situations. 

    Stay on the lookout for black ice
    You know black ice can be a dangerous thing to encounter on the roads, but it can be just as harmful off-roading as well. In areas where the sun is blocked and the temperature can drop, such as spaces you will find in the wilderness or near nature trails, black ice is more common. So when you're taking part in off-road driving, you should make a conscious effort to slow down and pay attention to the area in front of you to locate black ice. 

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