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  • Letters To The Editor - Mail Truck - March 2009

Letters To The Editor - Mail Truck - March 2009

Bruce Caldwell
Mar 1, 2009
Contributors: Mike Finnegan
Photographers: Charlie Hayward
Photo 2/2   |   letters To The Editor March 2009 truck
I'm bored with current super-low and super-high truck trends. I'd like to see something that puts more sport in sport truck, and I think I might have a pretty good solution. What I'm contemplating is building what I'd call a World Rally Cup street truck. I'd like to build a small, import-based pickup that looks like those crazy jumping European WRC rally cars and actually handles well. I'd also like to get better than fullsize truck fuel economy.
The vintage mini-truck that I think has excellent potential is the 1980's Subaru BRAT. I think a BRAT would be a great basis for a rally sport truck, because of its compact size, four-wheel-drive, and relationship to contemporary Subaru WRX STI sedans that really are champion rally cars.
The reasons I'm writing you are first to float this idea and see if anyone else picks up on it and, second, to get some practical advice about how easy or hard it might be to build an old Brat with modern WRX running gear. Maybe you could do some styling concept drawings along this line.
Dion Hendricks
via email
We're all for something new, different, and exciting. As far as daring to be different, you're hung out about as far as a World Rally Cup racer on a cliff-side mountain road. The compact size (while still having a marginally useful bed), good gas mileage (if you stick with the original running gear you can expect fuel economy in the 27-36 mpg range), and four-wheel-drive handling are all appealing elements of your plan.
You might have a little trouble finding a good BRAT (sounds like an oxymoron). Even though the odd little trucklets were sold here from 1978 to 1987, we can't remember the last one we saw on the road.
The difficult and expensive part of the project would be adapting modern Subaru running gear. This is not a weekend driveway project. Unless you have unlimited resources you could end up with a unique truck that you're totally upside down in financially.
We think the safer way to be different (dare to be capriciously cautious?) is to make the visual changes first. If you're still crazy about the project, then look into making the performance upgrades. Take care of the "show" before you try for the "go."
We don't know of any companies specializing in BRAT accessories, so you'll have to fabricate everything or adapt newer WRX parts. Check out some of the online Subaru parts sources such as Renick Motorsports ( They sell a variety of spoilers, scoops, side skirts, graphics, and wheels along with engine parts.
We'd ditch the bed-mounted rearward-facing seats (unless you'd like to test the bladder control and underwear absorbency of your friends). Some BRATS had a factory roll bar. We're ambivalent about the rollbar. It could work as a good mounting bar for some of those retina-searing driving lights that some rally cars use for night racing. You could also mount some of those giant lights on the front bumper. Some type of monster rear wing should be added. Hood and roof scoops can be purchased and modified to fit your truck.
Check out the bold colors and graphics used by the Subaru factory teams. Their signature color, WR Blue Mica, is almost mandatory. Add some white or lime green factory-style graphics and you'll have BRAT that's hard to miss. Gold wheels would be a nice touch, too.
Bad Vibes
I recently bought a 1990 Ford Ranger (it has the little 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission) to use for commuting instead of my thirstier 2002 Ford Lightning. I never expected the performance and luxury of the Lightning, but the Ranger isn't smooth at all.
There's a rumbling-type vibration that increases with speed. I first noticed the problem around 25 mph. It increases to about 50 mph and then lessens at higher speeds. The tires are new and dynamically balanced. I replaced the shocks and had the truck aligned, but that didn't fix it. Is there some other part or area of the truck I should check?
David Perkins
via email
There are three things you should check: Many Ford Rangers circa 1987-1990 have experienced bad vibration problems. The source was traced to a bad driveshaft. Ford came out with an improved driveshaft (PN FOTZ-4R602-F). Before springing for a new driveshaft, we'd have the U-joints inspected. Another relatively easy item to fix that can cause symptoms such as you describe is a loose or broken motor mount. Check them carefully after you've cleaned them. Another expensive possibility is a bad torque converter, although you probably would have noticed other transmission problems such as slippage. Check out these possibilities from least expensive to most expensive, i.e. motor mounts first and torque converter last.
I drive a 1995 Dodge Ram 1500 Club Cab. It has the 5.9-liter V-8 and automatic transmission. I haven't altered the suspension height or modified the engine/trans. I keep hearing an annoying "ringing" noise. It sounds like it's right underneath me. I'm most aware of the noise when accelerating from a stop. The truck runs great and I've checked for loose fasteners and not found anything. Can you suggest anything else I can do to stop the ringing?
Larry Howard
via email
The noise source is likely the driveshaft. This has been a problem with mid '90s Dodge Ram pickups. A newer-design driveshaft is available. Have your truck checked for this problem at a driveshaft specialty shop or a Dodge dealership.
Cold Shoulder
My 1990 Nissan Pathfinder always started right away when I lived in Los Angeles. Since I've moved to Denver it's become much harder to start. Prior to my move, the vehicle had spent all its life in Southern California. I returned to L.A. for a visit and the Pathfinder started like it used to. Is there something about the temperature difference that's causing the hard starting?
Ryan Brown
via email
It's more likely the high altitude that's causing starting woes. You probably have a low altitude coolant temperature sensor. Your Nissan parts department can supply a high altitude coolant sensor that should solve the problem.
Grille Of My Dreams
I'm building a '67 Chevy C10 Stepside pickup. I have the base truck with painted bumpers and the small rear window. This is my first attempt at building a custom truck. I've gotten a lot of great ideas from your how-to articles and event coverage.
I'd like to make the nose of my truck smoother and a little different from other trucks. I'm trying to keep costs as low as possible. Can you offer any suggestions?
Ken Twethewey
via email
A relatively easy and not too costly way to smooth the nose of a classic C10 is to remove as much factory gingerbread as possible and mold whatever remains. Start by shaving the Chevrolet hood letters. Ditch the central grille Bow Tie. If you've got painted bumpers you probably have the painted grille moldings. Weld them to the grille shell and use body filler to mold the gap between the moldings and the shell. Replace the factory turn-signal lamps with smaller aftermarket rectangular units, or mold some small thin lamps into the bumper.
Removing and filling the stock bolts will improve the bumper's appearance. Weld the mounting bolts to the backside of the bumper. These C10 bumpers don't protrude too far beyond the front fenders, but they can be improved by narrowing them for a tight-to-the-body fit. If you're going to all the trouble to narrow the bumper, take a little extra effort and tighten the radius of the outer ends. If you really wanted to get crazy with cutting and welding on the bumper, you could section it a couple of inches, so the bumper is thinner and more car-like.
Another possible bumper treatment is to eliminate the factory bumper and install an aftermarket roll pan. Then adapt a pair of reproduction '70 Camaro Rally Sport split bumpers to the outer edges of the rolled pan.
The Wheel Deal
I am an ST subscriber because of my 2001 Chevy fullsize. In the interest of preserving it a bit, I recently purchased a '98 z28 with 58k on the odometer as more of a budget daily driver, so I don't want to put much money into it. It has nice-looking wheels with the stock gray alloy finish. I want the blackout-wheel look bad, but I just don't want to invest much money into wheels for this vehicle. I've read budget articles in ST where people spray-painted the wheels. With a few good coats of paint and clear, how well will the paint hold up to road debris and/or brake heat? I just don't want to ruin these wheels painting them if a lot of the paint is going to flake or chip off in a year. By the way, the car is white so I want to paint them either black or white. Great mag!
Adam Brannon
via email
I have painted steel wheels on many of my muscle cars with great results. I painted them just like anything else with a good coat of primer first, then color, and then clear. Since the wheels are aluminum, you will need to scuff them with red Scotch Brite to give the primer a good surface to stick. If properly done, the paint won't flake off on its own, but it still will be susceptible to chips especially if you take it off-road. One more thing to point out is that the paint on the wheels will get a major beating from the brake dust so clean them often and with normal car wash soap.
Got Something To Say?
E-mail your letters to, or send them to:Sport Truck Mail, 2400 E. Katella Ave, Suite 1100, Anaheim, CA 92806
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