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Stormtrooper 4Runner: First off-road trip report

Photo credit: Steve Schultz

Off-roading isn’t anything that’s new to me. I’ve been around the hobby my entire life, having grown up with my dad’s lifted YJ Wrangler taking us on weekend excursions to local wheeling spots. I came home from the hospital in a Jeep, spent most of my childhood and young adulthood dreaming of off-roading something of my own. Then my dad sold the YJ and we got into ATVs, engrossing ourselves in a completely different side of the four-wheel-drive world. Over a decade passed between our last trip in the YJ and the events told herein, which marked my first off-road adventure as the driver in a street-legal 4×4.

But things didn’t go just as smoothly as I had hoped. And yet, the day still panned out into a fantastic experience and an afternoon spent happily in the woods at Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area. Read on for the story of my first off-road experience in the Stormtrooper 4Runner.

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2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited: Near-Production Images

Ross Ballot March 30, 2017 All Things Hoon

Source: JLWranglerForums

After months of waiting, speculating, and hoping that the design lives up to those of yore, we may finally know what the upcoming JL Wrangler Unlimited looks like. Two photos were posted yesterday on JLWranglerForums, a site for which you can probably guess the purpose, showing us what very much look like legitimate images of the next-gen Jeep.

I wrote at length about what I/we would like to see from the 2018+ model year redesign of the iconic vehicle, and finally we may have put some nails in the coffin as to what the design entails. It seems likely that the JL will remain visually similar to the JK it replaces because, after all, why mess with a winning formula? Or as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…right? Turns out that very well might be the case. Hit the jump to see what JL looks like sans-roof, and what we can deduce from the images.

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“There’s no bad new cars anymore”

We’ve all heard it before, and with increasing regularity: “Twenty-thousand miles? That’s just getting broken it! It’s practically new!” In the times of once unimaginable engineering and manufacturing processes, 20k truly is nothing these days. But where twenty-thousand miles isn’t “new” though is with the machines that so regularly get treated with reckless abandon, the vehicles that take a licking and (usually) keep on kicking: rental cars.

A twenty-thousand-mile rental is one that usually shows signs that it’s at, or nearing, the point of hating its own existence. Dying seats, a tired engine, interior and exterior panels that look like they were subject to a demolition derby, and invariably a smell you can’t place coming from a location you’d rather not examine. Twenty-thousand rental miles are tough on a car unlike any other because, after all, most people treat a rental like the damage-waiver-bearing piece of machinery it is, not the personal possession of your own that you love and care for.

Recently I spent a day in the Hyundai Accent pictured above and came away with some thoughts on the car itself and on cars as a whole. The little sedan had more of an impression on me than I anticipated, so read on to see what came of my time with the “Nissan Versa or similar”, as Enterprise calls it. 

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Friday Fun: $100K on/off-road dilemma

Ross Ballot March 17, 2017 All Things Hoon

And we’re back, another Friday Fun here to clear your mind at the end of what was a very snowy week for many. Last time we had some fun pretending our bank account had limit and yet there were only five garage spaces worth of real estate to fill, so this time we’re on to something entirely different.

Here’s this week’s situation: you have all-inclusive access to a race track, a course you can use at your disposal any time you want, that just so happens to have an optional dirt, rallycross-style section. Thing is, there’s five miles of dirt, ruts, and rocks separating the nearest paved roadway and the park entrance. And, for whatever reason it may be, you can’t store your track car at the facility. You have a cool $100K to burn on either one vehicle to do it all, or a two-piece combo to better suit your wants. So what would you buy? A dirt-capable truck, and a track car you pull on a trailer? Or one vehicle to make the best of both worlds?

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Five-car free-for-all

Matt Farah has a saying that goes something like this: “the number of cars an enthusiast owns is only limited by two things: money and space.” As in, if it weren’t for a finite amount of money to spend on vehicles, and a finite amount of space to store said vehicles, an enthusiast would be perpetually buying and collecting cars as they go, always building up their collection. Truer words may have never been spoken.

Today in our Friday Fun mind-cleanse, we’re going with half of that perfect scenario. Let’s say you have all the money you could possibly imagine, but your garage is limited to room for five vehicles and, for whatever reason it may be, you absolutely do not want to store cars off-premises. We’ll call it the Five-Car Free-For-All. Five cars, no financial constraints. What would you buy?

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Stormtrooper 4Runner: Odds and ends, fixes and updates


What’s the purpose of a project vehicle?

Each enthusiast may have their own interpretation of the actual reason for said secondary (or even further-down-the-ladder) means of transportation in one’s fleet, but to me that purpose is to put a smile on my face. If absolutely nothing else, a project vehicle needs to make me smile. Simple as that. Happily, I can say that the Stormtrooper 4Runner is doing so – it induces a big ‘ol grin not just when walking up to or away from it, but when driving it as well.

All that fluffy lovey-dovey nonsense aside, the truck isn’t perfect by any means, which is something I’ve found out by spending time in and doing some basic work on it. It’s not the major stuff that needs attention but more the minor nit-picky things, those which you only notice by getting more comfortable and familiar with a vehicle you’ve just recently purchased. Not that I was surprised by the need to invest additional time and money, being that it comes with the territory of buying any used vehicle (and especially a modified one at that), but I’m doing what I can to be pro-active and to get the Stormtrooper 4Runner into as good shape as I deem appropriate for its intended duty. So, what’s been done in the time since I bought it?

Read on to find out.

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Review: Meguiar’s Whole Car Air Re-Fresher Odor Eliminator

Ross Ballot February 27, 2017 Featured, Reviews

We’ve all found ourselves there, riding in a car reeking of a smell that tickles your nose in not-so-pleasant ways. Or worse, we’ve found ourselves as the owners of said car, looking for a cure to what we hope isn’t a permanent scent. Take for example my new-to-me Stormtrooper 4Runner, which upon purchase had some kind smell that was seemingly soaked into the leather, carpet, and plastic that makes up the interior; while it wasn’t bad enough to qualify as painful, the smell was certainly irksome and in need of attention before I truly started to spend road-trip levels of time in the vehicle.

Luckily, Meguiar’s has a remedy with their Whole Car Air Re-Fresher Odor Eliminator. The product claims to remove odors and unwanted scents from tough-to-reach spots and the more open areas alike, in turn leaving the interior of your car smelling fresh and free of that unwanted funk. Does it function as intended and advertised? Read on to see if the product’s claim are supported by its functionality.

Full disclosure: Meguiar’s wanted me to test their Whole Car Air Re-Fresher so badly that they sent me a sample can for use on the the Stormtrooper 4Runner. Happily, I gave it a shot to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

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Friday Fun: $30k Challenge

Ross Ballot February 24, 2017 All Things Hoon

Welcome back to Friday Fun, the game in which you spend theoretical money in as logical or illogical manner as you desire. Consider it a way to let one’s automotive imagination run as wild as it would like, or to remind it of how great a reality can actually come to fruition with real money.

This week, we’re a little more grounded than last week’s $100k, three-car parameters. In fact, this Friday’s “game”– let’s call it the $30k two-car challenge, for reasons that escape me– are very doable for many people out there. It involves an imaginary thirty-grand finding its way into your checking account for use on two cars, and an expiration date looming in the near future for when said money evaporates along with your hopes and dreams of using it to create a fleet of machines you might or might not otherwise drool over. So click past the jump and play along, and be sure to let us know what you would do with your money.

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Friday Fun: $100k Challenge

Ross Ballot February 17, 2017 All Things Hoon

It’s a theoretical that, as an enthusiast, is among the most fun things to ponder: one-hundred thousand dollars magically appear in your bank account, and the car fairy says you have to spend it all on cars and car-related activities. Pretty freakin’ ideal, right? That hundred-k goes a long way though, longer than you think, leaving you with a dilemma: do you spend it on one massively depreciated supercar and two beaters, or divvy up your funds and spread them out in order to achieve maximum bang and excitement for your buck?

Let’s go with the latter rather than the former: three cars, regardless of how questionable they are, are almost always better than one…and especially so when you have an imaginary $100k to spend on them. So let’s pretend that the fantasy has come true, that one’s bank account is suddenly a hundred-thousand fuller, and it has to be spent on cars. The dream, though it is very much so, has come true. What would you spend it on? I know what I would do with mine…in this moment, at least.

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Stormtrooper 4Runner: Modifications Explanations

Ross Ballot February 14, 2017 Project Cars

Off-road, the difference between a properly-outfitted rig and one lacking the equivalent modifications can be the difference between arriving at your destination in one piece and not getting there at all. And while every trail and every wheeling trip is different, it goes without saying that some adventures require a higher level of build than others, and the value of one’s equipment is only truly appreciated once it’s needed. Be it armor, recovery points, locking differentials, or even just the appropriate tires, every piece of hardware has a purpose and can contribute to making one’s trip not only successful, but worth remembering.

Now that we’re familiar with Project Stormtrooper 4Runner, let’s delve into the existing modifications, what makes it such a great platform for off-road adventures, and where the build will go in the future.

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