The Latest Truck Products - Insider - Truckin' News

Mark HalvorsenAug 1, 2005
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Those Wheels Keep On Turning
Bart Thompson laughed as he compared the visual appeal of Michelin's latest innovation to the woman in a red dress from the first Matrix movie. As the engineer who is leading the development of Michelin's radical, pinwheel-style tire concept, it's no surprise that this project would excite his imagination. Still, he was making a point: The Tweel looks like no tire you have seen before. The look of wheels and tires rolling down the road or tucked into a body that's been dropped is one of the defining qualities of a custom truck and is stamped into the brains of most enthusiasts. But, one glance at the Tweel and all your expectations of how rolling mass should look get tangled in the Tweel's polyurethane spokes. There's more to Michelin's invention than a bit of automotive T&A. As you can see from the pictures, the spokes and tread belt are designed to flex. Fortunately, the spokes have excellent flex fatigue in that they snap back after bending, and have good creep resistance so that the Tweel maintains its round after sitting stationary for a long time. Compare that to a shelf that acquires a permanent sag from the heavy weight of the books resting on it-an example of poor creep resistance. The tread is reinforced with a proprietary composite to help maintain its stiffness. That combination of flexibility and stiffness is what makes the whole thing work.
How does the Tweel perform? Michelin's Audi fitted with a prototype Tweel "handles like it's on rails," according to Thompson. He says that the tread pattern and rubber of the Tweel give it adhesion characteristics similar to a regular tire and wheel.
Also, a regular tire is connected to a wheel in two places, the left and right edges, but the Tweel makes contact all across the width of the wheel, and the spokes run across the full range of the structure, giving it great stiffness. The Tweel is five times stiffer, laterally, and just as stiff, vertically, as a regular tire. And the combined weight of the Tweel's "tire and wheel" is about the same as a traditional combo. As for fuel efficiency, the Audi version has about the same efficiency as the Audi's stock, high-performance tire. "The pneumatic tire is very good for low roll resistance," said Thompson. "It's going to be hard to beat, but I think we can approach it." Thompson mentioned that you can drill holes into the Tweel, and it still will work. Hinting at a possible military application, he said that it can roll over a land mine and still do its job. And the wear life of the Tweel is 2-1/2 times better than a regular tire.
Since its soft debut in the Paris Motor Show late last year, the Tweel has attracted significant attention from the automotive industry, the Department of Defense, and even NASA. But, when will you see it hit the open market? The Tweel will appear on Segway's quirky personal transporters and on the Caterpillar Bobcat. As for automobiles, that Audi testbed will be it for a little while. Thompson wants to learn more from these low-speed applications and to otherwise refine the product before releasing it for the higher-performance automotive world. For example, one problem that needs to be worked out is the noisy vibration made by the spokes when the Tweel spins at high speeds. That's nothing like the noise Michelin's likely to hear if it manages to create a Tweel we can put on cars, trucks, and SUVs.
Putting Our Backs Into It
We're revealing a little more backbone this issue, as we slowly but surely unveil the full splendor of our studio-shot beauty. For more information on AIM (our spinal image sponsor), point your browser to www.truckin.com.
VW's Newest SUV
It's a Golf Plus...but, wait, it has 4MOTION! Based on the Golf Plus, Volkswagen's newcomer will go head-to-head with the Volvo V50 AWD when it hits showrooms next year, and will be priced around $30,000. No word yet if the Golf SUV will reach the U.S.
The prototype-expected to be called the Cross Golf-has wider, beefier wheel arches, modified bumpers, and a revised front end. Changes to the nose are likely to include Passat-style headlamps, plus a chunky off-roader-style bumper complete with grilles over the foglights and a raised air intake.
The Cross Golf rides 60mm higher than the Plus. It's also likely to have underbody and sump guards for protection when off-roading, while the four-wheel-drive setup will be based on that of the Golf 4MOTION, which distributes power evenly between the front and rear. Engines should include 1.6 and 2.0L FSI petrol units and 1.9 and 2.0 TDI turbodiesels.
VW's excellent DSG gearbox is likely to be an option. A hot Cross Golf hasn't been ruled out; the 4WD system could be combined with either VW's proven 2.8L V-6 powerplant, or the 198-bhp 2.0 FSI turbo unit from the Golf GTI. Look for the Cross Golf at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show. - Brenda Priddy & Company
In our haste to prepare 13 issues a year, we sometimes do make mistakes. When we listed the contact information for Rize Industries in "Sky-High Four-By," Volume 31, No. 5, page 104, we inadvertently left our readers with no way of finding Rize correctly. To find some of the most innovative lift kits out right now, go to:
Rize Industries
Dept. TR
919 El Cajon Blvd.
El Cajon, CA 92020
(877) 740-3463
www.rizeind.com
Chevy HO!
Cubans have been keeping their Chevys, Fords, Studebakers, and Hudsons running with prayers, cafecito, and cannibalized Russian Ladas ever since the United States cut trade ties in 1961. The result is probably one of the greatest collections of classic American iron in the Western Hemisphere, two examples of which rest at the bottom of the Florida Straits.
This '51 Chevy pickup powered a homemade boat, as Luis Grass and his wife and son tried to illegally emigrate from Cuba to Florida-until the Coast Guard captured them, sank the classic truck-boat, and shipped the Grass family back to Cuba where they were paid a visit by the Cuban cops. Immigrants who try to enter the United States illegally by sea are allowed to stay if they manage to reach our beaches, but usually are sent back home if intercepted en route.
Of course, anyone with the pluck to drive a 50-year-old pickup across the ocean wasn't going to be discouraged by the Coasties' large-caliber guns or by Cuban law enforcement. So, they rigged up a floating Buick and tried again in 2004. Once again, they were captured by the Coast Guard, which sank the boat-Buick after shipping the Grass family to the American outpost in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where many would-be Cuban refugees are held in legal limbo as the U.S. government determines their immigration status. After the United States decided that the Grasses could reasonably expect to be persecuted by the Cuban government should they be repatriated again, they were released to Costa Rica, which agreed to take them in.
Not satisfied to live in Central America, the Grass family entered America the other way: across the border with Mexico, riding a bus and hitchhiking into Texas in March of this year. There, they were held by U.S. authorities until being released two weeks later. The Grasses then moved to Miami. They will be allowed to apply for permanent residence next year.
Diesel Power no.2 Hits the Stands!
Our youngest sib, Diesel Power magazine, is on its way to establishing itself as the authority for the diesel performance aftermarket. Check out the latest issue of DP if you want to stay on top of the latest OEM and aftermarket developments in the high-compression world of diesel trucks and SUVs.
The second issue of DP dominates the newsstands with two lifted F-650 and F-550 heavy-hitters on and between the covers. Additional features include SSB's diesel dualie, Kelderman's project pickups, and Axis' F-350 diesel. DP has tech on exhaust upgrades and powerplant pump-ups, and don't hit the road before reading DP's road tests of the '05 F-250 Power Stroke and the new diesel Hummer H1.
Spiking this punch is a high-octane mix of diesel-related regular departments that tackle diesel history, towing tech, travel, diesel basics, new products, and much, much more.
Don't miss the second issue of Diesel Power!
Best Rig
Brian Newton won Truckin's Best Rig at last year's Nordic Powerboats Jamboree.
We visited Lake Havasu City, Arizona, for the Nordic Powerboats Jamboree from July 9 to 11. Sleek boats and fast money highlighted this event as Nordic patrons zoomed across the lake during the poker run and reveled with fellow boat owners at an evening banquet.
We trolled the show for cool boating highlights and the best truck/boat combo. Brian's '00 Ford Excursion and 28-foot '02 Nordic boat stood out. Beneath the Excursion's KR500 Good Hood is a ten-cylinder powerplant manhandled by a Kenne Belle supercharger. A 6-inch Pro Comp lift elevates the Excursion above the hot Havasu pavement. Rancho long-travel canister shocks smooth Arizona's rougher roads. Rolling mass includes 17-inch Weld Ultra MTK wheels and 35x12.5-17LT Dick Cepek F-C II tires. APC projector headlights and park lamps and Lumi-Logo logos on the grille and tailgate light the way. Brian customized the taillights with a Nordic logo. PPG paint and clear dress up the SUV.
As for the boat, Brian's Livorsi boost and fuel pressure gauges, Gaffrig factory gauges from Nordic, 425hp 496 HO with a procharger, 28-pitch Bravo One Mercury Marine propeller, and Bravo One X-Drive I/O shower are what make Brian's 82-mph runs across the lake possible.
Brian did all the work at his shop in Colorado before moving to Arizona to open Havasu Customs, where he works on trucks and boats and sells other cool toys (like sandrails).
'07 Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon
Even though it was draped in camouflage, we were excited to get the first pictures of the upcoming Tahoe and Yukon SUVs from Chevrolet and GMC. And now, we're just as pleased to get the first unmasked pictures of the Tahoe. Granted, this is camera phone quality, and we've had to take out the background, but we were assured that these were shot in a publicly accessible area and that no one trespassed or did anything illegal to obtain this (grainy) photograph.
Not much is known about the major overall on the GMT800 platform SUVs, which, with the revamped models, will be known as the GMT 900 platform, but we are expecting a hybrid version to be added to the lineup. Watch for the new Tahoe to go on sale in the fall of 2006. - Brenda Priddy & Company
More Free Stuff
Hankook USA is giving away a set of Ventus V4es tires. Available in sizes from 16 to 22 inches, the Ventus V4es has a 420/A/A rating with a specially augmented tread pattern for exceptional all-season traction.
This contest is over, but keep an eye on Truckin' to meet the winners of the grand prize-a trip to a Four Seasons Hotel & Resort within the United States or Puerto Rico. Go to www.hankooktireusa.com for more details about all of the products Hankook has to offer.

Sources

AIM Ind.
Mesa, AZ
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