Mickey and Danny Thompson at 400 MPH

Want to drive fast? Really fast?

My interest in Mickey Thompson Tires has always been related to off-road truck rubber. I’m not a racer or a car guy, I focus on four-wheel-drives and motos. However, I did speak briefly with Mr. Danny Thompson at the SEMA Show a couple years ago as he prepared for his attempt at the record, and just stumbled upon these two productions.

These excellent, short, professional videos tell an important story of triumph.



Gorilla Wheel Locks, The System


Gorilla Automotive Wheel Locks: The System 

October 17, 2016

I’ve never had a set of tires and wheels stolen, but plenty of folks have. External and easy to remove, thieves don’t need to enter your locked truck to take them. Acquaintances that frequent Baja Mexico, and points further south, can make strong arguments for locking tires and wheels. Though one friend who is an editor of a leading overland travel magazine and routinely ventures south-of-the-border had his tires and wheels stolen while staying in a hotel in Prescott, Arizona. Not Mexico. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” —Benjamin Franklin.

The depth and amount of engagement between a Gorilla key and lug look and feel superior to the McGard wheel locks I’ve also used. Not having a key for a lock is a problem, so I always buy spares. Two ride in different locations inside the truck, and a third lives in my shop toolbox and sees regular use.

The amount of engagement between a Gorilla key and locking-lug is impressive.

The amount of engagement between a Gorilla key and locking-lug is impressive.

A decade ago I started using Gorilla Automotive Products’ locks on my 4Runner, and this was about the time I started testing several light-truck traction tread designs. So the locks have been on, off, and torqued many times more than a typical user who rotates tires every 5,000 miles. Gorilla doesn’t recommend using an impact gun, but after manual loosening I’ve used an impact to spin them off, and have repeatedly run them on (gently) with an impact; they continue to function normally after a decade.

Since buying my first set of Gorilla Locks 10 years ago, I’ve been a fan.

Since buying my first set of Gorilla Locks 10 years ago, I’ve been a fan.

Years ago I bought a 20-lock kit, “The System”, and used a few of the extras on my off-highway trailer and swing-away tire carrier so one key would work on everything, but I have never used more than one lock per wheel. For my current Ram/Cummins project I decided to embrace The System from Gorilla fully, using a complete set of replacement lug nuts. Incorporating the key instead of only a regular hex socket adds a little time to my frequent wheel and tire R&R, but not too much. Few folks outside of tire shops dismount and mount sets of wheels as frequently as I do, so the extra work required to use The System is likely of little concern for enthusiasts. Again, I break the nuts loose with a breaker bar, and run them off with an impact; on too, but just snug. A torque wrench is always used for the tightening, and rechecked frequently.

Don’t leave home without Gorilla Locks—you won’t need your American Express for new tires and wheels.

Gorilla’s System looks great, better than the OEM hex nuts, though function was the reason I installed them. Shown here on a Ram Laramie (WBL) wheel.

Gorilla’s System looks great, better than the OEM hex nuts, though function was the reason I installed them. Shown here on a Ram Laramie (WBL) wheel.


Gorilla Automotive: gorilla-auto.com, 323-585-2852

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler.net

Cooper Discoverer A/T3


Testing & Talkin’ Tires

October 6, 2016

Even casual readers of this site will notice that I’m a light-truck tire aficionado; there are many posts about rubber for light-trucks. My personal obsession aside, there are powerful reasons tires are such a popular topic for both writers and enthusiasts nearly everywhere we gather. Mounting new meats is one of the easiest and most dramatic performance and/or appearance modifications owners can make to their trucks. Replacing worn rubber with new, even the same pattern, can greatly improve safety and traction. If you have any doubts, watch this Tire Rack video regarding tread depth and stopping distances on wet roads: tirerack.com/videos/index.jsp?video=5&tab=tires

Looking through a historical lens, modern tires are generally excellent, with unsurpassed designs and sizing options, and they are a good value. Yet value doesn’t mean inexpensive, and depending on the size and performance category, a new set of shoes for your truck can easily top $1000. This substantial outlay leads to questions and much research for many buyers.

Still Plays With TIRES means frequent trips to tire stores with a few shoes and insoles. This is a moderate load, sometimes I need a bigger trailer.

Still Plays With TIRES means frequent trips to tire stores with a few shoes and insoles. This is a moderate load, sometimes I need a bigger trailer.

Journalism’s Dirty Tire Secret

If you read truck tire reviews critically, you may realize that many involve very few miles of use before the evaluation is penned, often as little as a few hundred miles. Reasons for this include the long lead-time for print periodicals, editors’ desire to publish something as quickly as possible, and sometimes a little pressure from the manufacturer or advertising agency folks. Writers sometimes mount new tread and take them on a little excursion, writing much about the adventure and some about the tires, then use this one experience as the appetizer, main course, and dessert. Meh.

Another favorite is the manufacturer’s initial ride-and-drive test at a testing facility or track. When possible I happily attend and enjoy such events, but they are mostly a good introduction. If they’re not followed with a longer, personal-use test, they often don’t tell the complete story.

When one brand redesigned their super-popular all-terrain pattern two years ago, they hosted journalists in Baja where the test vehicles were race buggies and Ford Raptors. I have no doubt that the conditions and obstacles were gnarly, and I’m not saying the product isn’t good. But how does one test a tire’s performance on an unfamiliar chassis, particularly on a race buggy or (factory) desert-prerunner truck? Where is the baseline? Are the tires being tested, or is the complete chassis? Would these highly-capable vehicles perform impressively if another tire brand or design was mounted? Surely.

Hopefully readers can benefit from my continuous evaluations. Instead of buying a new set every few years like many consumers, some running the same or similar treads repeatedly, I typically test a few sets each year. My personal experience and database over the past two decades is quite large, and includes aggressive mud tires, tame all-terrains, and many in-between. Although I swap tread often, I dismount them from wheels infrequently. At any given time I have several sets of tires on OE wheels, currently six that fit my 2014 Ram 2500, and keep notes on the dates, miles, performance, and wear. Some I buy, and some are supplied by manufacturers for review. Just this week I sold two older sets, one Ram and one Toyota, and bought a new set for my 2500. Some get more miles than others, depending on my needs and preferences, the physical size or fit, and how well they mesh with current objectives, but all receive thousands not hundreds of miles. Several years ago a teasing friend dubbed me “the Imelda Marcos of tires.” What can I say, if the shoe fits….

Starting lineup. There are few truck parts (any?) I like more than a fresh set of rubber.

There are few truck parts (any?) I like more than a fresh set of rubber.

Cooper Discoverer A/T3

Over the past several years Cooper Tire and Rubber—which is still a U.S.-based company and manufacturer—revamped their light-truck line. The 5-rib all-terrain Cooper Discover A/T3 is a natural choice for someone wanting better traction in more varied conditions than a highway tire (HT) offers, but something quieter, smoother and softer than a commercial traction pattern like Cooper’s S/T MAXX (which I’ve run on my 4Runner for a few years). The performance improvement over an HT can be substantial in inclement weather, including something as common as a hard rain, but the differences can be even more dramatic with a little snow, slush, or ice covering the roadway.


Because the A/T3 is their flagship all-terrain tire there are an impressive 56 sizes. The outer rib’s open lugs allow liquid and debris to escape better than highway designs, as do the circumferential voids in the center. The silica-based compound improves wet traction and on-highway handling, provides cut and chip resistance on rough terrain, and reduces rolling resistance. Lateral groove protectors reduce stone retention and drilling, and the broken center rib is designed to improve soft surface traction. It is M+S rated, and has a 55,000 mile tread wear warranty.

There will always be a place in my heart and space in my garage for high-void traction tires, though maturing has made me increasingly less fond of louder designs when they are not necessary. The A/T3 is pleasant, barely audible to my ears, and notably quieter than the similar but slightly higher-void 5-rib Toyo A/T II tested on my Ram for 8,000 miles. (The Toyos averaged 1/32 of wear for every 2,100 miles, with frequent rotations, and were removed to mount the A/T3s.)

Comparing Cooper’s high-void, 295/70R18E STT PRO mudder to the the 285/75R18E A/T3. Both sizes support 4,080# each at 80 psi.

Comparing Cooper’s high-void, 295/70R18E STT PRO mudder to the the 285/75R18E A/T3. Both sizes support 4,080# each at 80 psi.

Again I chose the fantastic, niche, LT285/75R18 size. Cooper is one of a handful of companies making this approximately 35×11.50 inch size, tall but not overly wide. These Coopers are 34.84-inches tall, with 17/32 of tread depth measuring 8.9-inches wide, and weighing 58.4-pounds solo and 90 when mated to Ram Big Horn WBJ forged aluminum wheels. They fit perfectly on the stock 8-inch wheels, and like any pattern in this size, will support a massive 4,080 pounds at 80 psi. Loaded to the Ram’s GVWR, with 60 psi in front and 80 psi in back, the rear differential ground clearance is 8 3/4 inches.

Balancing Act 

Using my favorite local Discount Tire store the Coopers were dynamically (dual-plane) balanced. As always Centramatics balancers work in the background, adjusting to any irregularities on-the-fly. The A/T3s took very little wheel weight to balance, and they have remained smooth at all speeds, legal and above.

Inside              Outside

#1 3.00            0.25

#2 1.75            1.75

#3 1.50            3.00

#4 1.25             3.00

The LT285/75R18E Discoverer A/T3 starts with 17/32” of tread.

The LT285/75R18E Discoverer A/T3 starts with 17/32 of tread.

Ride quality is smooth and compliant; the traditional construction 2-ply sidewall is not stiff, and helps absorb impacts, even at full pressure under a maximum load. The generous and squiggly shape of the siping helps grip, and is surely behind some of the excellent winter traction endorsements I’ve read on snow plowing sites (my A/T3s have not seen much wet yet). Straight-line tracking is good as one would expect from a 5-rib all-terrain/all-season design, as is steering response. When conditions are right my truck will drive straight for 10 seconds or more with no input. It’s too early to report on wear, but after the first 2,500 miles, it looks mileage will be similar to the Toyo A/T II tires mentioned above.

The A/T3 doesn’t feature or need sidewall tread for its target market.

The A/T3 doesn’t feature or need sidewall tread for its target market.

Supporting Documentation

Confidence in my prose is important, but I enjoy sharing others’ views when it helps make a point. Before accepting the Senior Editor post at OutdoorX4 magazine, I was a technical editor at Overland Journal (OJ) for a few years. For the Summer 2014 issue, OJ conducted a comprehensive, seven tread, all-terrain comparison which was later published online, and can be read at: expeditionportal.com/where-the-rubber-meets-the-road. The article is a good read for traction tire enthusiasts. The short version is that the Cooper Discoverer A/T3 won both the prizes given after these tests are completed: the “Value Award” and “Editor’s Choice”.

For a less analytical but impressive amateur review, this YouTube link gives a snapshot of the A/T3’s winter performance potential. A competitor’s design with plenty of tread remaining cannot start up a snowy incline in 2WD, but with Cooper A/T3s mounted, the truck moves forward.


If you are in the market for a traditional 5-rib all-terrain, but with an updated design and reputation for superior traction, consider the Cooper Discoverer A/T3.


Cooper Tires: coopertire.com, 800-854-6288

A version of this article was published in Issue 93 of the Turbo Diesel Register magazinein my Still Plays With Trucks column.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler.net 

BOLT Locks

September 18, 2016


Many of the chores we use our trucks for involves working with toys, trailers, gear, and paraphernalia that we want to stay until we decide it’s time for removal. This means securing things, as unattended and unlocked stuff sometimes disappears, while secured items are removed with much less frequency. Locking is an obvious solution, but it’s doubtful many enjoy adding extra keys to their ring and pocket clutter.

2-inch chrome plated, 5/16-inch diameter hardened steel shackle padlocks

2-inch chrome plated, 5/16-inch diameter hardened steel shackle padlocks.

Occasionally products are introduced that help organize, improve, and simplify the gearhead experience. This was the case when I discovered and started using BOLT’s locks earlier this year (five years after their introduction). With the advent and popularity of automotive FOBs and keyless entry, traditional keys are increasingly less common for starting trucks. However, we still need them for many things, and the old-fashioned key is not leaving our world anytime soon. The primary test vehicle for BOLT’s products was a 2014 Ram Cummins 2500, but they make locks for several brands.

Any OE-style key will work, including the slide-out key from the end of a modern Ram FOB, or the larger spare door key I always carry.

Any OE-style key will work, including the slide-out key from the end of a modern Ram FOB, or the larger spare door key I always carry.

BOLT is a subsidiary of STRATTEC® Security Corporation, who has been making automotive locks, keys, and access-control products for OEMs for over 100 years. BOLT is an acronym for Breakthrough One-key Lock Technology. They have received numerous awards for their technology that mechanically reads, then sets the code to your OE ignition/door key the first time it’s inserted and turned. Brilliant. There is a detailed, short video on BOLT’s website that shows exactly how they do it: boltlock.com/how-it-works

Before discovering this alternative, a mishmash of systems were on my Ram. I was using four padlocks on my Hallmark camper, two on the front turnbuckles, and two for the AT Overland fuel can carriers on the back wall. The front and rear hitch receivers were both secured, and another padlock and cable held the heavy, portable, and expensive ARB suitcase compressor I carry behind the driver’s seat (to eliminate a potential projectile during a collision and to prevent theft). Discovering I could use one key for all these items sold me!

Towing is so popular these days, most could probably use receiver and coupler pin locks.

Towing is so popular these days, most could probably use receiver and coupler pin locks.

BOLT products in-use on my Ram include: two 5/8-inch receiver pins, one travel trailer coupler pin, a cable for my spare tire, and several 2-inch padlocks. What a time saver, convenience, and pleasure when working on my truck and needing to open something; I just reach into my pocket for the factory key I always have. I liked this system so much I ordered a few for my Toyota 4Runner, which also pulls trailers, has a gas can carrier, and other things that need securing.

Stainless steel key shutter prevents dirt and moisture entry.

Stainless steel key shutter prevents dirt and moisture entry.

The padlocks are weatherproof, have a plate tumbler sidebar to prevent picking and bumping, and a stainless steel key shutter to keep out dirt and moisture. The hitch and cable locks also have a tethered cap to protect the mechanisms further.

During a 2000-mile, two-week road trip in June, including 100 miles of off-pavement travel, we camped on dirt every night, and had windy and gritty southwest canyon conditions for several days. Then mountain puddles deposited a layer of mud, all of which took hours to remove once home. The locks continue to work perfectly.

One BOLT padlock took the place of two smaller locks on my AT can carriers. Fit is snug with no rattle.

One BOLT padlock took the place of two smaller locks on my AT Overland can carriers. Fit is snug with no rattle.

It is important to note that these don’t just use an automotive key. They exude quality, are smooth and precise, and have a limited lifetime warranty. The BOLT products are not inexpensive, the 2-inch padlock retails for $22. However, most truckers probably don’t want as many locks as me, and can spend less money. For about $100 you can lock your hitch receiver, trailer ball, and spare tire.

I like that BOLT’s cable lock will help keep the spare with the truck should the OE winch fail. I’ve read horror stories about heavy aftermarket tires/wheels falling.

BOLT’s cable lock will help keep the spare with the truck should the winch fail. I’ve read horror stories about heavy aftermarket tires/wheels falling.

© 2016 James Langan/RoadTraveler.net


BOLT: boltlock.com, 844-972-7547, info@boltlock.com

A version of this article was also published in the Turbo Diesel Register magazine.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler.net

Land Rover Series IIA restoration

August 5, 2016

Land Rovers are not my thing and probably never will be, Series IIA or otherwise. Sure, I lusted after the Defender 90 and 110 when they were officially imported to The States years ago, but I’ve never had a strong desire to own a Land Rover. And while I spend plenty of time in my garage modifying, servicing, and repairing (newer) vehicles, an automotive restorer I am not.

While surfing the web I stumbled upon North American Overland and their video documenting a complete restoration of a Series IIA Rover. The video is very well done, and I would be surprised if any gearhead, regardless of specialty or bias, was not impressed by the impeccable attentional to details. Impressive!

SEMA Show 2014

2014 SEMA Show feature in the Turbo Diesel Register Issue 87.

Includes: BD Diesel Performance manifolds, turbos, and differential cover. Legacy Classic Trucks Dodge Carryall and Jeep Scrambler with a 3.0-liter VM Motori turbo diesel. McLeod Workhorse clutch. Cooper Discoverer A/TW winter tire. Dick Cepek Extreme Country mud tire. AEV Ram regular cab flatbed.





Toyo M/T 255/85R16 Part 6

1996 F-350 7.3L Power Stroke/T444E with 255/85R16 Toyo M/T

1996 F-350 7.3L Power Stroke/T444E with 255/85R16 Toyo M/T

It’s time to finish this slow, drawn-out tire review. If you need some background read the previous related post here: Toyo M/T Part 5

After a mere 1,278 miles traveled over twelve days, the measured treadwear on this set of 255/85R16E Toyo M/T tires went from 19/32″ when new, to 18/32″ on the front axle and 17/32″ on the rears.

Front 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 1/32" on 1,278 miles

Front 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 1/32″ after 1,278 miles

Rear 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 2/32" after 1,278 miles

Rear 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 2/32″ after 1,278 miles

It’s well known that diesel torque, weight, towing, and high speeds all contribute to wear, and sometimes tires wear faster initially, then slow to a more palatable rate. However, after removing a set of Dick Cepek F-C II 285/75R16D tires that were hardly wearing, same as when they were mounted on a lighter rig, this Toyo M/T wear was unacceptable. While I’d run sets of Toyo M/Ts before, I’d put them on a lighter Toyota 4Runner and a 2005 Jeep TJ, and hadn’t experienced this kind of wear. The old F-350 T444E/7.3L Power Stroke was not a daily driver—logging few miles per year, though most were working—so the tires could have lasted years if I would have left them on the truck.

We can’t always have new tires, but I prefer deep rubber, tread that not only starts meaty but stays that way for a while. Depth and void are critical components of traction, so shallow tread not only means less longevity, but also potentially less grip, sooner, after fewer miles.

LT255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T

LT255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T

There was another niggle, the extremely common right-pull of the Toyo muds. I had resigned myself to living with this on the F-350, but combined with the fast wear it more than I cared to tolerate.

My solution was to return the tires for a “ride complaint”. Some manufacturers offer customers this resolution for certain issues, sometimes they even advertise this warranty for new patterns, or for lines that have proved exceptionally popular and/or reliable. However, even when this option is available it typically expires after more than 2/32″ of tread are consumed…which was going to occur in less than 2,000 miles! In this situation I’d more than earned this option with one of my local Les Schwab dealers, having purchased many sets of tires for several platforms in recent years. The truck had to wear shoes, but which ones? A few sets of 285/75R16 treads had been squeezed onto the factory 16 x 7-inch forged aluminum Alcoa wheels, though I much prefer the 255/85 size. Same height, look great, less filling. This quickly narrows the options and I needed to buy them from Les Schwab Tires.

Maxxis Bighorn LT255/85R16D

Maxxis Bighorn LT255/85R16D

Maxxis Bighorn MT-762

Les Schwab is not the least expensive tire dealer around; in fact they can be comparatively expensive these days since Discount Tire moved into the region.  Yet, through the years I’ve been mostly happy with the service from most dealers, and willing to pay a little extra depending on the products and services. The Toyo M/T has always been a relatively expensive tire, particularly from Les Schwab dealers, while Maxxis Bighorns have been a good value. When I purchased my first set of Bighorns from Les Schwab several years ago they were a deal, and the prices still seem relatively good in 2016. Then and now, similar dollars are needed to buy five LT255/85R16 Bighorns, or four Toyo Open Country muds, so I did.

Mounting Bighorn 255/85R16 on the stock 16 x 7 inch forged luminous OE F-350 wheel

Mounting Bighorn 255/85R16 on the stock 16 x 7 inch forged stock F-350 wheel

The Bighorns are not a zero compromise choice or design. They also wear fast, even on lighter platforms, and by modern standards they are loud. But if tolerating rapid wear was a necessity, I’d prefer a less expensive product. Plus, they have never caused any of my rigs to drift right (Toyota, Jeep, or Ford), have provided excellent traction in most terrain, and are more flexible at a given pressure while offering a more comfortable ride. All tires can be punctured, but I’ve yet to put a hole in a Maxxis tire; though I did have a sidewall split on my first set on the same F-350, which was replaced under (pro-rated) warranty.

Still A Toyo Fan

I’m compelled to share that while this set of Toyos were a disappointment at the time and I decided to dump them, I’m still a fan of the Toyo brand. Toyo makes high quality tires that typically require little weight to balance, and I’ve purchased another set of Toyo truck tires recently. Wear is not always the predominant factor when choosing new rubber, and all tire choices involve compromise.

As critical as I was of the wear at the time, over the past two years I’ve again been driving heavy diesel pickups regularly, have seen similar, rapid tire wear, and with more than one brand. Those details will have to wait….

© 2016 James Langan/RoadTraveler




VW 2.0L TDI Customer Goodwill

VW TDI Goodwill Package

VW TDI Goodwill Package

Recently we received VW’s TDI Customer Goodwill package in the mail.

-$500 Visa card

-$500 VW dealership card

-Roadside assistance for three years

To activate the cards the registered owner must take the package to a Volkswagen dealership, with proof of ownership, driver’s license, and the car. After the vehicle’s odometer is recorded and eligibility confirmed, the goodwill package is activated. Our loyalty cards are good through December 2016.

Because I perform the routine maintenance on our Jetta Sportwagen TDI, the $500 dealer monies will be used to purchase oil and filters, or maybe a set of tires. We will definitely spend it on wear items we can use beyond 2016.

Based on a few reports and commentaries I’ve read, some of the VW faithful are very angry about this diesel debacle. My wife and I are not pleased, but we’re also not worked-up about the situation. Resale value may have fallen—likely this will be temporary—but our car is the same, runs well and fits our needs, we still enjoy owning it, and have no plans for a replacement. Granted this is a long-range view, and if we were planning to sell or upgrade soon we’d be upset. Some think the $1,000 is far too little and should be thousands. Instead of three years of roadside assistance I’d rather have extra years of bumper-to-bumper warranty, which would cost Volkswagen more.

Is there a better, manual transmission economy car available in the USA that’s so fun to drive? Nope. A contrary view is that our car has become more valuable, and is essentially irreplaceable because these little diesel cars have not been sold for several months, and it will likely be many more before (if?) they are sold again. Barring any major reliability failures, we look forward to the next 10 years and 150,000 miles.

© 2016 J. Langan/RoadTraveler/PhotoWrite

Bosch Warned VW To Not Use Software

Maybe it’s in our nature, or possibly our cultures, to survive by winning at all cost, including cheating? Though most learn that dishonesty is not the way, in theory if not in practice.

As my friend Mike commented, the ethics of the VW emissions cheating situation aside, didn’t the perpetrators think they would  get caught someday? They should have…


This USA Today article indicates that the Bosch Corporation—you know, the important fuel-injection guys—warned VW not to use certain software during normal operation, in 2007. Then in 2011, a Volkswagen technician reportedly raised concerns about illegal practices and emissions levels.

Seems there was some (diesel) smoke early on, a warning about a smoldering fire.

©2015 James Langan/PhotoWrite/RoadTraveler

Are Diesel Cars Doomed In The USA?

Doomed in the USA?

Doomed in the USA?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe VW’s despicable deceit will hurt the future market for diesel cars in the USA, like GM’s pathetic first attempt to make light-duty automotive diesels decades ago? The action was very different, but could a generally negative public perception of diesel power return? This article argues yes. http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/why-volkswagens-diesel-betrayal-different

The author makes valid points about alternative technologies getting better, heck, even gasoline-powered cars  have become extremely efficient and economical (if we buy those models). My guess is that VW’s 2.0L TDI engines could have met the standards, still drive well, while obtaining slightly fewer miles-per-gallon. How much less is the question. Maybe two–three mpg on the highway? If that’s the number was it worth the trouble VW? Would people have avoided purchasing TDI cars because the EPA rating was lower and/or the cars obtained slightly less mpg?

Maybe we will find out if there is an ECM update recall that corrects the programming, making the cars meet standards. If so I’ll likely do a back-to-back freeway fuel-economy test to document the change. When the 2.0L TDI engines conform there might be consequences, like the particulate trap might fill sooner, and the car may not meet emissions system warranty standards set by the EPA.

As a former owner of the 1.9L TDI with its relatively modest 90 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque (2000 specs), and a current owner of a 2013, no-DEF injection, 2.0L TDI Jetta Sportwagen that makes an impressive 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft, the slight reduction in real-world fuel economy from the newer car remains impressive. Both were equipped with manual transmissions, which helps economy, performance, and driving pleasure. The ’13 2.0L has a 6-speed tranny with an extra cog on top, and the taller final-drive ratio lets the engine turn fewer rpm, which surely helps.

If diesel car sales are severely and permanently damaged in the USA  because of VW’s actions it will be unfortunate for enthusiasts, the engine design and technology has so much to offer, still. However, even if this does happen I’m confident it will not hurt the diesel truck market. The buyers are generally not the same folks, as the green diesel car market and the impressively powerful (and efficient) full-size light-truck diesels target different customers. Diesel-powered trucks and commercial equipment are going to continue doing work and moving freight for the foreseeable future. Decades.

©2015 James Langan/PhotoWrite/RoadTraveler

VW’s “Clean Diesel” Scam


As a longtime diesel aficionado, I have some thoughts about the recent revelation regarding Volkswagen’s intentional cheating on emissions tests, allowing vehicles to apparently meet standards when they actually did not while traveling on public roads.

2000 VW Golf TDI

2000 VW Golf TDI

Looking Back Before Looking Forward

We have already passed the crossroads for light-duty diesel acceptance in the USA. The overly belabored weaknesses of 1970s and 1980s G.M. diesel designs have finally faded in the press (which occurred long ago in the minds of most consumers).

Installing the naturally-aspirated International 6.9L V8 in 1983 Ford F-series pickups was a good, modest start. A positive diesel future was sealed when Chrysler and heavy-duty engine manufacturer Cummins installed the venerable 5.9L ISB turbodiesel in a mature Dodge pickup body. Light-duty diesel emission requirements were limited in those days, but have been updated several times since, becoming much more stringent. Yet manufacturers have developed technologies to meet the standards while simultaneously and dramatically improving performance. The massive toque and horsepower offered in newer diesel pickups from Ford, GM, and Ram were reserved for medium-duty and larger commercial trucks just a few years ago. Sometimes manufacturers even met future emissions requirements early, as Cummins did at one point with their 6.7L ISB.

More Diesel Cars Please

Smaller automotive diesel options (cars) have been few, with VW and Mercedes being the main players in the U.S. for decades, and BMW joining the fray more recently. VW has been the volume seller of diesel automobiles, which has much to do with the lower price of their vehicles and the miles-per-gallon they have been able to squeeze from a gallon of fuel.

1.9L VW TDI engine. Not the part of the current controversy.

1.9L VW TDI engine. Not the part of the current controversy.

The unfolding scandal interests me not only because of my enthusiasm for turbodiesel cars and light-trucks, but I also have a long standing connection to the VW brand. In my youth, my first two vehicles were 60s vintage VW Beetles. Before that, I literally learned to drive a manual transmission in my Papa’s 1978 VW Rabbit diesel 4-speed. Two decades later my wife and I owned a 2000 Golf TDI, putting 166,000 miles on the odometer before taking advantage of the excellent diesel resale value, and buying a new, 2013 Jetta Sportwagen “clean diesel”. Siblings and parents own VWs, and with my encouragement two cousins purchased late model VW TDIs.

Is this ridiculousness by VW going to hurt diesel sales from other manufacturers in the long run? I don’t think so. The emissions are extremely low (when  met) and the economy and performance advantages many.

© 2015 James Langan/PhotoWrite