• The W.E. Rock Grand National Championships were held at the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, where East Coast competitors met West Coast competitors to determine the National Champion at the season finale. After the dust settled, the final scores crowned Brent Bradshaw the Unlimited Class National Champion, Troy Bailey the Pro Modified National Champion, and Duane Garretson the Stock Class Champion.
• Ram Truck drivers Ricky Johnson (in Pro 4), Bryce Menzies (in Pro 2), and RJ Anderson (in Pro Light) each won his main-event race at the Traxxas TORC Series at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois.
• SR5 and Limited versions of the ’12 Toyota 4Runner can be ordered with automatic running boards—something we could have used on many 4x4 of the Year tests, to get those suckers up and out of the way. Toyota is also offering a whole bunch of audio and connectivity options for the new 4Runner, including the Entune system, with mobile apps for Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, and Pandora, plus a fuel price guide, sports scores, stocks, traffic, and weather.
• Continental Tire will build an all-new tire plant in Sumter, South Carolina. The first phase of production capacity is expected to be nearly five million passenger and light truck tires when the plant reaches full production levels in 2017. A second phase is expected to bring the plant’s capacity to eight million units per year by 2021.
Heavy-Duty Half-Ton Ram
You read that right. Ram has introduced a heavy-duty version of its Ram 1500 Tradesman with payload and tow capacities more like a 3/4-ton truck. In fact, this Tradesman rides on Ram 2500 framerails, axles, and eight-lug wheel hubs. It is powered by a heavy-duty version of the 5.7L Hemi V-8 making 383 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, and the engine is backed by the HD six-speed automatic transmission. It even has the HD trucks’ brakes. All these features give the truck a 3,100-pound payload capacity and the ability to tow up to 11,500 pounds. The bummer? It’s 2WD only.
• So far GM is the only company selling trucks with gas/electric hybrid powertrains, but Chrysler is distributing some 140 plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) Ram 1500s in cities all over the U.S. over the next three years. The PHEV Rams will be used to evaluate customer usage, drive cycles, charging, thermal management, fuel economy, emissions, and impact on the region’s electric grid, says Chrysler. The company is careful to call this “strictly a demonstration program” and emphasizes that “there are no plans for a production version of the PHEV Ram 1500 truck at this time.” But where there’s smoke, or should we say that distinctive smell of electricity in the air…
• In other alt-fuel news, GM will sell a compressed natural gas bi-fuel commercial pickup truck in the fourth quarter of 2012. The General already offers CNG-powered Chevy Express and GMC Savana cargo vans to the commercial market. The addition of a bi-fuel CNG pickup “will help satisfy a broader range of needs for commercial customers looking for a one-stop alternative-fuel vehicle from the factory,” says GM. No word yet of the CNG truck being available to retail customers.
• With the recent introduction of its NextGen motor oil, which is made with 50 percent re-refined oil, Valvoline is stepping up its efforts to promote conservation and motor oil recycling. The Let’s Do MORE (Motor Oil Recycling Education) project invites consumers to visit nextgen.valvoline.com/nextgen_domore.html to learn more about what they can do to recycle oil and use recycled oil products. In addition, for every click on the website, Valvoline will donate $1 to Keep America Beautiful.
Mopar Outfits the Wrangler
With ’12 Wranglers now in showrooms, Chrysler’s Mopar division has developed some 250 accessories for the Jeep, “from $18 grab handles to a $12,000 off-road camper trailer,” says the company. Among the newest items is a winch-capable steel bumper (PN 82211715ac, $612) that has been engineered to be compatible with the Wrangler’s airbag. Mopar also offers a Jeep tent that attaches around the rear door, offering 10x10 feet of floor space and an additional 6x6-foot screen room (PN 82212604, $355). Seat covers, cab covers, floor mats, half-doors, and more can be found at www.mopar.com.