In this issue, you'll find a couple of projects we're wrapping up and the Great White, a Dodge Ram Cummins diesel pickup that's truly phenomenal off-road. With the completion of the Jeep projects, we've found some things that worked and some that didn't.
As you'll read, air shocks for heavier vehicles don't work well. When we were thinking about trying them out, we asked around and got glowing reports from everyone we asked. This goes to show that either misery loves company, or many don't know how a high-end suspension should work. You probably have a friend who has an acquaintance who knew someone who installed air shocks on their vehicle that worked great. We're here to save you some grief when you build your Jeep or heavier truck project and report that they don't. They're cheaper than coilovers and are easier to fit, but don't succumb to the temptation to use them. The pressure required in a heavier vehicle is over double what the shocks are designed to run, making their damping characteristics strange at best. If you're building a lightweight buggy, Samurai, etc., by all means try the air shocks. If you're building anything else, we suggest coilovers.
Another thing we didn't touch on much in any of the projects was mufflers. Performance exhaust systems certainly help our vehicles to run better, but noise doesn't equal performance, even though most of us seem to think so. The two Wranglers with their triangulated upper rear control arms dictated what size muffler was allowed, which didn't give us much room. On Flexible Flyer, we used a straight-through cherry-bomb-style muffler that was truly awful. After a few minutes of driving the Jeep, the blatty, loud exhaust note overwhelmed us. It was so loud that people would turn to see what was making that noise as we drove by. One other thing: In our opinion, six cylinders don't sound all that great unmuffled. We had the guys at our local muffler shop work on the exhaust from the cat back, and they were able to wedge in a MagnaFlow muffler that quieted things down immensely and made driving the Wrangler pleasant again. Rockworx had its muffler shop install a Flowmaster that was as large as would fit and sounded great. Of course, the Rockworx YJ has a V8 that sounds pretty good to us anyway. A 5-inch exhaust was installed on the Great White Dodge because it came from the factory with a 4-inch system and Diesel Dynamics, which supplied the parts, only offers a 5-inch performance exhaust for the '04.5-and-later Cummins. It has a muffler, but at some speeds, especially on the freeway, we could use a quieter muffler.
We know lots of diesel performance people who think it's cool to blast by someone with straight pipes, smoking like a destroyer laying a smoke screen. We also know many off-road aficionados who feel the same way about their vehicles - that is, the noisier the better. That attitude better change. John and Joan Q. Public don't like it and will legislate us off the road and out of the backcountry if we keep up that kind of thing. Modern performance exhaust systems work better than they ever did before and are quieter than they ever were before. Let's use them on our projects.
Our vehicles are fun to drive after the changes we've made and certainly perform the tasks asked of them. Every one of them was built to the hilt. We're thinking that the next projects we do might be milder, keeping the vehicles nearer to stock yet improving a few things to make them work better off-road. We'll keep you posted.