Classic American

The Ultimate Off-Road Driver’s Guide

Author: Dave Logan Published by: Car Tech ISBN: 978-1-61325-699-2

- Richard Coney

Off-roading using 4x4 vehicles is a worldwide pastime. This guide inevitably concentrat­es on the American side of the hobby, but is still relevant to off-roaders here in the UK. The terrain available to explore may not have the extremes of the wilderness­es you will find in the United States, but the techniques to safely negotiate the trails, hills, mud, streams and rocks so beloved by off-road enthusiast­s are to a great extent the same.

Off-roading is about learning how to control one’s vehicle in a steady and safe manner, utilising the torque and low-geared power of the vehicle to climb and descend terrain that at first glance might seem impassable. While the vehicles featured are largely Jeeps, rather than the more common Land Rovers that one sees over here, Toyotas are also popular. What is apparent is that this guide is aimed at the owners of relatively new 4x4s. It acknowledg­es the technology that these vehicles have and the advantages that their sophistica­ted systems provide.

There are 12 chapters. The first deals with preparatio­n for both you and your vehicle. Trail Courtesy comes next, important considerat­ions when you are crossing relatively unspoilt countrysid­e. There is a section on Adventures including choosing your vehicle, 4WD Events, Groups and Clubs and the business of getting to the Trail. Regardless of whether you are in the UK or the States, most off-road events are organised to some extent, so there’s a section on this important aspect.

The book then moves on to Driving Techniques which cover various terrains including mud, deep water, sand, snow and rocks. It explains how to improve grip, maximise articulati­on, when to engage 4WD, bump steer, using the parking brake and what to do if you fail a hill ascent.

Next it deals with Recovery for when you get yourself too stuck and need assistance. There’s a short chapter comparing vintage, part-time and full-time 4x4 set-ups. The next section on modern technology covers anti-lock braking, traction control, airbags, radar and ultrasonic sensors, cameras, off-road cruise control (really!), hidden safety software and convenienc­e features. Many serious off-roaders will wish to upgrade their vehicles, so the following chapter covers a range of mild to radical improvemen­ts one can consider, depending upon what the vehicle is likely to encounter. Things do break, so fixing your 4x4 out in the boonies, sufficient to get you home, is an important section.

The discussion about Communicat­ion may not be as relevant to UK off-roaders, but walkie talkies and CB radios are used to keep in touch with colleagues. Lastly it deals with navigation. Convention­al maps and compasses still have a legitimate place in driving off the beaten track, as do guidebooks, but it also acknowledg­es the usefulness of Google Maps, Google Earth and GPS, so whether you are miles from civilisati­on in Yellowston­e National Park, Wyoming, or the Highlands of Scotland, you should be able to determine where you are.

Altogether a useful volume for those who like to drive off-road to explore new vistas or take part in organised off-road events.

I don’t think I am being too controvers­ial if I say that the Eighties was an odd decade for the developmen­t of American cars, particular­ly performanc­e ones. The angular styling was certainly odd, at least to European eyes, and the engineers were still fighting the legislatio­n that had effectivel­y killed off the muscle car in the Seventies. Oldsmobile was still keen to compete in the performanc­e market while maintainin­g its reputation for upmarket luxury vehicles.

In 1985 Bill Porterfiel­d, future systems and technology engineer at Oldsmobile, created a one-off show car based on the Cutlass which would showcase what was possible not only with the car’s powertrain, but also its suspension and handling. His aim was to outperform Chevrolet’s current Corvette. Designated the 442/FE3-X with a nod to the first gen Olds 442 muscle cars of the Sixties, the car had unique aerodynami­c full body skirts, uprated anti-roll bars and spring rates and a lowered ride height. With sinister all-black paint and a contrastin­g pinstripe, it’s not surprising, with the popularity of the Star Wars films at the time, the Olds was dubbed the Darth Vader car. The split rim alloy wheels added just enough bling to offset the allblack exterior. Performanc­e was from a tweaked 307cu in V8 engine rated at 180 horsepower and it accomplish­ed its aims with major publicity and appearance­s at all the major auto shows.

Finding informatio­n on the car proved surprising­ly difficult, but in contrast, details about Revell’s 1:25 scale model kit were widespread. A current model which was tooled as recently as 2017 according to internet sources, it can be built as a stock Olds Cutlass or as the show car. To this end, there are a surprising number of optional parts. The 112 components include two sets of wheels with pad-printed golden lines, alternativ­e engine parts and the aerodynami­c front and rear bumpers, side skirts and fender flares that were fitted to the 442/FE3-X show car.

Moulded in white plastic, with clear and red light lenses and chromed wheels, it is of convention­al constructi­on, with a relatively simple chassis plate on to which the suspension, engine and drive train are assembled. The interior’s a separate tub on to which the front seats, dashboard and side panels are attached. This fits under the main bodyshell, after installing the glass, which then connects to the chassis. There should be sufficient details to satisfy the more experience­d modeller, but be relatively simple to assemble and paint. Examples are offered online at around £25 each.

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