That Sinking Feeling
During our second-annual Ultimate 4x4 Challenge (September/October 2005) in the deserts outside Los Angeles, our crew of intrepid four-wheelers followed their leader, editor Mark Williams, as he navigated up and down the rocky slopes. But when the rocks ended, the trail turned to soft dirt, and our only path of escape was up a ridge route. Experienced drivers of the area know that you have to stay in the center of the trail, otherwise the loose rocks will pull you in the direction of the fall line--fast. That's what Williams learned, as the Grand Cherokee slid into the crevasse. Our editor will tell you it could've been worse. He's right. And we're all thankful it ditched the Jeep with the tow hooks pointed toward the winch-equipped Dodge Ram Power Wagon.
Wind-driven Trailer Concept Proves Unfeasible
During one of our famous diesel torque wars (September/October 2003), we pitted the current Chevy Duramax 3/4-ton Crew Cab against a Ford Power Stroke one-ton SuperCab. The Ford, although the heavier of the two, spanked the GM in loaded and unloaded testing. In fact, during one section of our tow testing with a pair of Fleetwood Prowlers, the Ford seemed to be pulling so hard that the crank-up awning puffed out like a parachute as we merged onto the freeway. After noticeable drag and violent hand gestures from passers-by, we managed to pull over and restrap the drag 'chute back down. Admittedly, strong mountain-pass winds were blowing that day, so we can't give all the credit to the 6.0-liter turbodiesel.
1-ton Dualie D'oh!
After slogging through the deserts of Death Valley in our "48 Hours in Hell" adventure in Motor Trend, young car wrangler and editorial assistant Colin Matthews pumped the Chevy Heavy Duty Duramax full of gas. This prompted him to call TT editor Mark Williams, asking, "What happens if you put gas in a diesel?" Doh! The $40,000 one-ton was picked up by GM and retired immediately.
Sport/Utility of the Year outtakes
• 2000 - Prototype Yukon Denali suffers significant damage during Sport/Utility of the Year filming only days before its debut at the New York Auto Show.
• 2002 - During a photo session for Sport/Utility of the Year, Truck Trend editor Mark Williams drove the Envoy through 32 inches of water. Unfortunately, the air intake was located at 30 inches. You do the math.
• 2002 - Motor Trend Editor C. Van Tune quits during Sport/Utility of the Year winner announcement.
Man Loses Pole in Desert Accident
Even photographers can have a bad day. After several days of high heat and trying to photograph the six competitors in our Ultimate 4x4 Challenge (September/October 2005) in some of the most inhospitable places on earth, Brian Vance, associate editor and photographer for Motor Trend and Truck Trend, lost his ultraexpensive high-tech carbon-fiber camera pole. He'd bought the rigging specifically to create killer camera-mount photography to highlight the extreme abilities of the vehicles we were driving through sand washes, over rocky trails, and into dangerous sidehill situations. At some point, after he'd released the driving crew at the end of a sunset photo shoot, Brian noticed his pole was gone (never a good thing). Near as he could tell, it had bounced out of the Chevy Silverado Hybrid he was driving somewhere in the last few hundred miles of off-roading. It wasn't until the following day that he could search the area, but his search came up empty. What made it worse was the flat tire the truck had gotten while he searched for the pole. In his own words, "It was high noon, 110 degrees out, and there I was changing the tire, cursing my lost pole, and sweating like a stuck pig."
But Where Are Her Clothes?
We weren't the only people shooting at these remote radio towers in Northern California. We arrived after a trio of twenty-somethings. The two men and one blonde woman wandered off to find more privacy while we set up our shot on the road below the towers. While we didn't see them again, we did find some apparently unneeded apparel in the bushes.