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    • Jeep emphasizes freedom with new ad campaign

      Off-road driving takes drivers to the far reaches of the world. With the ability to explore all kinds of land and terrain, off-roading is a favorite pastime of those who enjoy indulging their sense of freedom. That is exactly the emotion that Jeep tapped into with its latest campaign, which targets those who want to be free when behind the wheel. 

      A new ad campaign
      Titled "Built Free," the new ad campaign from Jeep focuses on welcoming the Cherokee back into its lineup. The commercials are meant to explore a driver's sense of adventure, showing all of the places in the world that an off-road vehicle like the Jeep can take you. 

      "The Jeep brand has a rich history steeped in the unrelenting pursuit of freedom," said Olivier Francois, the chief marketing officer of Chrysler Group LLC. "The return of Jeep Cherokee and the 'Built Free' campaign serves as a reminder that we can fulfill our daily responsibilities and still follow our innate desire to explore new and different experiences."

      Bob Dylan music acts as the soundtrack, with the iconic artist singing "Motherless Children," which was written in 1962, reported. While this represents a slightly darker tone for an automobile commercial than what some may be used to, it's a refreshing spin on a special pastime.

      This ad campaign kicked off Oct. 28 and should continue airing for several months after Nov. 11. You should see the campaign on television as well as in print, digital and social formats. 

      Highlighting the all-new Cherokee
      Of course, the whole purpose of this new ad campaign is to showcase the new Jeep Cherokee as it replaces the Liberty. It is returning for the 2014 model year and features a wide range of amenities and features that could prove to be great for off-roaders. As more information comes out about the Cherokee and motorists start taking it to the trails, fans of off-roading may pay attention to this model. 

      "The return of the Cherokee nameplate to the Jeep brand brings with it the opportunity for consumers to experience an exciting vehicle that move the midsize SUV segment forward," said Jeep CEO Mike Manley. "Whatever path consumers choose to follow, they can be assured that the all-new Jeep Cherokee will provide them with the craftsmanship, technology, safety, ride, and handling and efficiency that modern living requires."

    • Jeep Wrangler Polar to head to American showrooms

      When Jeep first debuted the Wrangler Polar Edition at the Frankfurt Auto Show, it appeared that the model was going to be the latest in a long line of impressive limited editions from the manufacturer. However, recent news points to the fact that the Polar Edition may be getting a wider rollout than previously anticipated.

      Coming to America
      The brand revealed that it will be bringing the Polar Edition to the U.S., sending it to showrooms across the country. That move should please many fans of extreme off-roading, as this limited automobile is packed with features and characteristics that make it a truly one-of-a-kind off-road vehicle.

      Made for some serious adventures, the Polar Edition boasts Trac-Lok anti-spin wheels, impressive heating and climate control, and a 3.6-liter engine that delivers 285 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque. 

      Even its style is special. With an electric blue paint job, black glossy wheels and a new front grille, the Polar Edition looks just as impressive as it drives. It's also available in a silver metallic color or bright white. It is definitely a more distinct appearance than some Jeep drivers may be used to, but the unique design meshes well with the intended icy setting and will certainly look flashy against a snowy white backdrop. 

      "Jeep Wrangler is known for its 4x4 capability on any road or trail and in any weather condition," said Mike Manley, president of Jeep. "The new Jeep Wrangler Polar Edition represents a tip of the hat to our loyal Jeep enthusiasts who are also lovers of outdoor winter activities and adventures. This new winter-themed Jeep will get them where they want to go in a fun, new, unique - and very capable - special-edition package."

      Kick it up a notch
      Although there are a few off-roaders throughout the U.S. who may not be able to take full advantage of the features included in the Polar Edition, plenty of drivers in colder parts of the country will appreciate the amenities.

      Despite all of the included extras, there is still a lot of room to make Jeep modifications. The Polar Edition may be primed for the cold, but there are opportunities to make a few upgrades that will have it operating in top shape in all conditions. Whether you're installing a lift kit or adding armor, you can outfit the Polar with the features it will need to be successful at rock crawling or typical recreational off-roading. 

    • Compromise reached in Utah off-roading case

      Most fans of off-road driving have a tremendous respect for the environment they use as a setting for their pastime. Drivers go above and beyond to make sure their truck mods are not harming the wilderness, preserving the open space for many other motorists to enjoy. However, there are occasions when the actions of off-roaders impact the environment, causing some issues in the sport. 

      Off-roading threatens wildlife
      Utah's Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is a popular spot for off-roading in the western U.S. The public lands are excellent for dune bashing and other adventurous forms of off-road driving, and as such they have become a major draw for recreational drivers. 

      However, drivers who frequent those lands faced some unwanted obstacles when the space was found to be the home of the tiger beetle. The species lives primarily in the sand dunes habitat and relies heavily on the land for survival, as it is not capable of thriving in other environments. Unfortunately, the prevalence of off-roading within the park has drastically affected the beetle's environment, threatening the species with possible extinction. 

      Organizations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Utah Department of Natural Resources teamed up to do something to save this species. At the same time, the surrounding community and off-roading groups from the area wanted to maintain the draw of the dunes for both financial and recreational purposes. 

      A compromise is found
      Luckily, all of the groups involved were able to reach a compromise that will protect the habitat of the tiger beetle while also preserving the land for off-road use. The final deal designates two-thirds of the park, or about 2,276 acres, as a critical habitat that is off limits to off-road vehicles, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. That accounts for about 88 percent of Coral Pink Sand Dunes, with the remaining space available for off-road use. 

      "We are committed to managing public lands to conserve the tiger beetle while supporting the recreation and outdoor activities that boost local economies in Southern Utah," Juan Palma, Utah state director for the Bureau of Land Management, told the news source. 

      Situations like these are rare but unavoidable. As more information comes out about the environmental effects of off-road driving, there could be several changes in the recreational driving landscape, but motorists who do their part could help lighten the impact of off-roading on the environment. 

    • 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. 

    • 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."

    • 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. 

    • 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. 

    • Land Rover team attempts to set off-roading record

      Off-roading may take you to some unique places, but rarely does it lead you across multiple continents. Yet that's exactly what two off-road aficionados will be doing from Oct. 4 to 14, when a driving duo will attempt to make their way from England to South Africa in record time. 

      The challenge
      The latest off-road driving challenge involves two British drivers trekking from London, England, all the way down to Cape Town, South Africa. That's a total of 10,000 miles - and the team wants to finish the trip in 10 days. 

      To achieve that goal, the endurance rally drivers, Robert Belcher and Stephen Cooper, will be getting behind the wheel of a 2005 Land Rover LR3. Some many be surprised by their choice of off-road vehicle, as the LR3 doesn't have a strong history of reliability. However, the duo believe it is the right automobile to handle all of the unknowns they will face as they make their way through 13 different countries. 

      "Despite continuing improvements in Africa's transport infrastructure, there are still countless issues that could arise on this journey," said Belcher. "... Not to mention if we have car problems then our attempt could be quickly scuppered. Having said that, we're full of the spirit of adventure, we're well prepared and are both very much looking forward to the challenge. This is an ambitious record to aim for, but we have every reason to believe we can achieve it." 

      The pair are taking on the challenge for a good cause: They are raising money and awareness for Farm Africa, an organization that fights poverty and hunger across the continent. 

      The history 
      This isn't the first time someone has attempted to drive from London to Cape Town. In fact, the history of the route can be traced back to the early 1900s. In 1907, the first over-land attempt to cross Africa was conducted, but the first completed ride across the Sahara was not successfully done until 1924. 

      Then things started picking up. In 1933, a Morris Eight Convertible drove from London to Cape Town - in five months. That vehicle needed 15 gallons of oil to make it to the finish line. Journeys got a bit faster by 1963, when the British Army completed the drive in just under 14 days with the help of a four-wheel drive Range Rover. Similar time was made in 1983 by another Range Rover V8 during a reverse trip from Cape Town to London. 

      A new record was set in 2011, when two drivers in a Land Rover Discovery completed the trip in 11 days. Even more history was made earlier this year. Tony Fawkes Automobiles used a Fiat Panda and managed to complete the drive in 10 days, 13 hours and 28 minutes. Now, the British duo of Belcher and Cooper will try to outdo them all. 

      London to Cape Town
      Driving from London to Cape Town presents a unique set of challenges. As such, the pair of drivers had to outfit the 2005 Land Rover LR3 with a few modifications to make it better suited for off-road driving. It received armor for the undercarriage to protect the weak points, as well as off-road tires and extra fuel tanks. Those will help make the most of the 2.7-liter, turbodiesel V-6 engine. Boasting a 1,200-mile range, the motor is more than capable of reaching the finish line - provided everything else functions as it is supposed to. To ensure the drivers do their part and stay awake, the top of the Land Rover has four high-intensity auxiliary lamps to light the way. 

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