Off-Roading

Diverse and inspiring Rebelle Rally participants take on 2,300 km wilderness challenge

Team Record the Journey is taking on the 2,000-mile Rebelle Rally route in a CUV that has been adapted with hand controls.

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc.

The 2019 Rebelle Rally, an all-female off-roading competitive adventure kicked off this week in Squaw Valley, California. Among the 38 teams are a number that stand out for their beefy builds and courageous drivers.

Team #176: Escape the Paved

This team met under less than ideal circumstances. Rebelle Rally participants Sarah Homer and Lindsey Hunterwere first introduced when they were mucking out their houses after Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017 and they have become fast friends. Homer is a Houston, Texas resident and Director of Surgical Acute Care at Houston Methodist while Hunter is an engineer who now lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

They'll be piloting a 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor during the expedition and are sponsored by Ford Motor Company, Roush Performance, BuiltRight Industries, and Homer IP LLC Innovation Design and Graphics.

Team #106: Team Wild Grace

Driven and navigated by Sedona Blinson and Lyn Woodward, the team will be driving a 2019 Nissan Armada. Both previously competed in the 2017 Rebelle Rally and, like many other teams, has come back for another go.

Rebelle Rally Team Wild Grace Team Wild Grace will be driving the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol across California.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Armada they're driving is the specially modified Armada Mountain Patrol. The rig is a world traveler, having traversed the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert and rock crawled in Moab, Utah. The SUV is outfitted with Nitto Trail Grappler tires; Icon Bronze rebound wheels; Rhino Rack Backbone System and shovel; Hi-Lift jack; Baja Designs XL80 lights, LP9 lights and light bar; Calmini bumpers, rock sliders, and a 6-inch lift; Icon coilovers; Warn Zeon Platinum 12S winch; Factor55 closeloop winch; and an ARB fridge, drawers, and twin screw air compressor.

Team #207: Record the Journey

The Rebelle Rally is all about overcoming obstacles and it's obvious even to the casual observer that Team Record the Journey will have to overcome more than most. Three-time Rebelle and Team Spirit Award winner and 31-year U.S. Army veteran Rachael Ridenour has partnered with Karah Behrend, a Houston, Texas-based U.S. Air Force veteran who is an adaptive athlete who uses a wheelchair.

Behrend is the first adaptive athlete to compete in the Rally. Mitsubishi Motors has specially equipped the 2018 Eclipse Cross the two will be adventuring in with hand controls and designated storage space for Behrend's wheelchair.

The partnership is the first step in Mitsubishi's new "Small Batch – Big Investment" corporate social responsibility initiative which allows a number of Mitsubishi vehicle loans to small nonprofits and start-up social benefit corporations to help support their local communities. Record the Journey, a non-profit run by Ridenour, will keep the vehicle after the Rally and use it for various charitable programming.

Team #124: Fueled by Chocolate

It's clear from their team name that teammates Kristian Rene and Chelsea Vachon love chocolate. So does their 1992 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, which has been re-engineered to run on a biofuel made from waste chocolate. Additionally, eighty percent of the vehicle is made from remanufactured or recycled parts.

View this post on Instagram
This is Rebelle We launch tomorrow October 11, 2019 There is no reality except in action. -Jean Paul Sartre LIVE TRACKING Make sure to follow us, Team #124 (#FueledbyChocolove), and the other Colorado teams--#105 Mile High Spirit Rebelles - Team #105 (Red FJ Cruiser), #154 Team Roads Less Traveled (White FJ Cruiser with orange and blue coloring), #130 Front Range Rebelles (Maroon FJ Cruiser) and #164 Team Anam Cara (Bright blue Land Rover Discovery) https://www.rebellerally.com/live-tracking/ YOU CAN GO HERE TOO: https://www.rebellerally.com/live/ REBELLE RALLY WEBSITE: https://www.rebellerally.com/ DAILY UPDATES https://www.rebellerally.com/daily-updates/ You can also follow Rebelle Rally on Facebook and Instagram at @rebellerally for updates too! You can attend the public awards ceremony and/or gala on the pier in San Diego! (Tickets for the gala must be purchased by October 11). The public ceremony is free and a great way to see the amazing women and the amazing vehicles they competed in! A great way to experience the spirit of the Rebelle Rally! https://www.rebellerally.com/product/2019-rebellation-awards-gala-ticket/ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thank you again, from the bottom of our hearts, for all the incredible support from our family, friends, coworkers, and amazing sponsors and partners! ❤️❤️❤️ SPONSORS Chocolove Always Be Rolling PARTNER Rainforest Alliance And extra special thanks for Timmy, Chocolove, @waltconway, G Box, @karsbykevin @samcofab @rebellerally @live2ridegr8snow @connortieulie @sethbeckton @sumprods @emily_offroad
A post shared by Kristian (@kristian__rene) on Oct 10, 2019 at 1:40pm PDT

This team originally hails from Boulder, Colorado, where Rene still lives, but Vachon is coming to the U.S. for the event from her home in Noosa Heads, Queensland, Australia. They are sponsored by Chocolove, Rainforest Alliance, and Always Be Rollling.

Team #200: Team Jeeves

Using #PardonMe to promote their drive is appropriate for CNET automotive journalist Emme Hall and her co-driver Rebecca Donaghe, a producer originally from Houston, Texas who lives in Marina del Ray, California. They're piloting a specially equipped Rolls-Royce Cullinan from Lake Tahoe to San Diego- easily the plushest and most expensive ride on the journey.

The teammates have been competing together since 2016 and are the 2019 co-champion Rebelle Rally team. Hall and Donaghe are no stranger to adventure. The CNET host is an avid off-road racer and recently went to Monster Jam University to learn how to drive a 12,000-pound monster truck. Following the Rally, Dongahe is planning to cross Morocco over seven days riding a 50cc motorbike.

Team #130: Front Range Rebelles

Team member Kathy Locke is originally from Okinawa, Japan but family camping trips in California, Nevada, and across the Rocky Mountains as a teen in a 1978 Ford Bronco that most shaped her adventurous spirit. Locke is the Creative Director for Toyota Cruisers & Trucks magazine. Locke first attended the Rebelle Rally in 2018 as a journalist and is returning in 2019 as a participant.

Littleton, Colorado resident Stacey May is a self-employed designer and Locke's co-driver. She too has an adventurous spirit. A dozen years ago she traded in her Manhattan high-rise lifestyle to travel the U.S. in an 18' travel trailer with her husband. That lasted three years before they once again put down roots, this time in Colorado.

They're driving a 20118 Toyota FJ Cruiser that has a long list of sponsors: Toytec Lifts, ActionTrax, Colorado FJ Cruisers, Refined Cycle and Offroad, and Blue Crush Auto Glass The Art Consultant, LLC.

The Rebelle Rally runs through Oct. 19. You can follow the journey online at www.RebelleRally.com.

Trending News

Nuts & Bolts

 
 

This 1973 Volkswagen Thing has spent a great deal of its life in Wisconsin but is only allowed out when the sun shines.

Photo by Harvey Briggs

In the spring of 1971, Larry Nutson, then a young product planner for Volkswagen of America, walked into the meeting. He wasn't sure what to expect, but he certainly didn't suspect a Thing.

Director of Market and Product planning, Dr. Henry Braner had just returned from a vacation in Acapulco and was enamored with the VW Safaris he saw at the resorts and on the beaches. Dr. Braner was convinced Southern California's surfers and other adventurous individuals, who were drawn to the VW powered, Meyers Manx dune buggies of the era, would see the charm of what is officially called the Type 181, but became known in The States as the VW Thing.

1973 Volkswagen Thing The exterior of the model looks primed for wood paneling.Photo by Harvey Briggs

"I was fairly new at the company and couldn't have picked a better first project," said Nutson.

As part of the homologation team, Nutson was responsible for making sure the soon-to-be imported vehicle met not just the desires of the potential owners, but also the regulatory requirements in place at the time. That meant swapping out the taillights and turn signals with those from the contemporary Beetle, adding windshield wipers, and an approved steering column and steering wheel among other things. Emissions weren't an issue, because the Type 181 would use the currently approved Beetle engine and four-speed manual transmission. But it was pretty clear it wouldn't meet crash worthiness standards for passenger vehicles at the time.

Then someone had the brilliant idea to classify it as a "multi-purpose vehicle" like a Jeep. To do that they had to improve its off-road worthiness, so a 4.125:1 transaxle, 100-mm axles, heavy-duty CV joints, and knobbier tires were added to the mix.

At an approval meeting for the Thing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), regulators expressed doubt about the vehicle's all-terrain capabilities since only the rear wheels were driven. Nutson, together with VW's lawyers by his side, remembers firing back, "Who says an off-road vehicle has to have four-wheel drive?" Without a good answer, NHTSA agreed with VW and the Thing was released to U.S. dealers in August of 1972 as a 1973 model.

1973 Volkswagen Thing Many do a double-take when they see a Thing coming down the road wondering what it is.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Interestingly, the Thing might not have happened at all had NATO completed a project they started about a decade earlier to create a "European Jeep". Pooling their resources, the NATO countries including Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and France were trying to design and build a light-duty patrol vehicle that could be used by various armies throughout the continent. The project stalled in the mid-'60s, so the West German Army turned to Volkswagen to quickly fill the void. In 1968 the 181 was commissioned into service. Eventually VW provided over 50,000 Type 181s to NATO from 1968 – 1983.

The fast-track nature of the project meant the Type 181 was quickly assembled out of parts from a variety of existing Volkswagen vehicles, taking its inspiration from the Kübelwagen (Bucket Car) used by the German military in World War II. The foundation of the Type 181 was the floor pan from a Karmann Ghia convertible with added reinforcement for off-road use. This gave it the interior proportions necessary to hold four people and the strength to support the wide-open top. Early 181s had a rear-swing axel suspension was from from the T1 Type 2 Transporter van, and the manual transmission and iconic air-cooled, flat-four engine came from the Type 1 Beetle.

It wasn't long before the Type 181 (and it's right-hand drive twin the Type 182) were adapted for civilian use and in 1971 sales began in continental Europe as the Kurierwagen and the Safari in Mexico, where drivers were looking for something a little more rugged than their beloved Beetles. Originally produced in Wolfsburg, VW added capacity in Puebla, Mexico to fill demand for the Americas – making the Thing the first vehicle ever imported from Mexico to the United States.

1973 Volkswagen Thing Though small, the car is spacious.Photo by Harvey Briggs

The Thing was as basic as basic gets. It was only available in three colors, Blizzard White, Sunshine Yellow, and Pumpkin Orange. It featured bolt-on fenders, doors that were interchangeable from front to rear, side curtains instead of windows, and a soft top designed to keep the rain out. Smart owners always kept a towel handy to dry up the inevitable leaks.

It didn't really matter, however, because most people saw it as a vehicle to be driven in the sunshine. This ethos was also reflected in the original heating system for the Thing.

Mounted just in front of the driver under the Thing's hood was a gasoline heater produced by Eberspächer. Working independently of the engine, this heater had its own small tank you filled and then fired up when you wanted to warm up the cabin. It mustn't have been a very popular feature, because in 1974 the system was replaced by the fresh-air heater used in the Super Beetle.

The 1974 model year also saw the introduction of a new color, Avocado Green, and the Acapulco Edition, with it's special blue and white paint scheme, striped seats, and a Surrey top. In 1975, its final full year on sale in the United States, you could add air conditioning, a radio and even a winch to your Thing.

1973 Volkswagen Thing The Thing keeps its engine in the back.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Comfort wasn't the Thing's strong suit. Neither was performance. Powered by a 46-horsepower, 1,584 cc engine, and only available with a four-speed manual transmission, 0-60 mph times were better measured by calendar than stopwatch. The top speed of 68 miles per hour meant it was freeway capable, but owners tended to eschew the interstates whenever possible.

Drum brakes at all four wheels provided adequate stopping power. And even though the swing axle had been replaced by Porsche double-jointed rear axles with the independent trailing arm rear suspension from the Beetle, handling wasn't its strong suit either.

So if comfort, performance, and handling were all – let's be generous and say – marginal, what was the point of the Thing? In order to find out, I used the magic of social media to contact several owners and even found a young woman who was brave enough to let me drive her unrestored 1973 Thing for a first-hand demonstration of its charm.

1973 Volkswagen Thing This vintage model wears its 1973 Volkswagen license plate frame with pride.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Jason Fogelson purchased his 1974 Thing in the early 1980s when he was working at Michael's Volkswagen in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Canoga Park, California as a salesman to earn money to pay for college. His love affair with the model began one day when Edd Byrns (Kookie in "77 Sunset Strip") drove onto the lot in a blue and white Acapulco Thing to look for a new car. He had a Siberian husky in the passenger seat and from that moment on Jason knew he had to own one.

A few months later, a customer came in to buy a new car and wanted to trade in his orange Thing. The dealership didn't want it so Fogelson arranged to buy it from him for $2,000. He cleaned it up and thoroughly enjoyed driving it around town for the summer.

But when school started in the fall, he quickly discovered the Thing was a lousy car to serve for his 20-mile commute each way. The heater was terrible, the top leaked, it couldn't keep up with traffic, and it was so loud he couldn't hear the transistor radio he brought with him to listen to the morning news. "I couldn't get rid of it fast enough," Fogelson said, but then followed up, "And if I could find another one today, I'd buy it in a heartbeat."

1973 Volkswagen Thing The Thing rides on 14-inch wheels.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Jeff Zurschmeide, an AutomotiveMap writer and known quirky, old car enthusiast – his current collection includes a classic MINI, a dune buggy, and a 1955 M38A1 Jeep – bought his 1973 Thing in the late 1980s for $1,500 when he was living in Santa Cruz. "The car played a pivotal role in my life," said Zurschmeide, "I took the woman who was to become my wife on our first date in the Thing. I stuck my copy of Endless Summer in the tape deck, pulled off the doors, flipped down the windshield and we cruised through town. She loved it, so I knew the relationship had a chance."

When the Loma Prieta earthquake struck in 1989, Zurschmeide discovered the utility and capability of the Thing. "It's a creditable off-road vehicle. I lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains very close to the epicenter of the quake. You'd drive along and there would be places where streams had changed course through a road or the ground had just sheared away and there was a six-inch step you had to climb up. The Thing just went everywhere."

Like Fogelson, he ended the interview by saying, "If an opportunity came up to get one in good shape for a good price, I would own another thing in a cold second."

Wanting to see and drive a Thing before writing this article, I had arranged to meet Wisconsinite Jennifer Mandich at the parking lot for our local baseball team, on a brisk but clear Wednesday morning.

1973 Volkswagen Thing The interior of the model is rather spartan.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Her 1973 Thing still wears its original and slightly faded orange paint. Her brother bought the car in Arizona and brought it to Wisconsin when he returned home. She'd been eyeing it for a few years while it sat in his garage undriven, and eventually convinced him to sell it to her. She drives the car only on sunny days and rarely puts up the top or takes the side curtains out from where they're stored, under the hood. The car itself is a survivor, with a few scratches, pits in the paint, and dents, but no rust thanks to her care.

The top has been replaced – something that almost all Things have in common – and the engine was rebuilt a few years ago. The interior is spartan, with the metal dashboard and simple seats with no headrest nor any side support. Legroom was adequate for my 6'3" frame, and as I started the car, all my VW memories came rushing back.

I've owned two Beetles, a Karmann Ghia, and a Type 3 Wagon, so everything about the Thing was familiar – the light clutch, the slightly rubbery shift feel, and the unassisted steering. There's a reason so many people of my generation learned to drive stick shifts in VWs, they are simple and forgiving with long clutch travel and an engine that's slow to stall. I took a quick spin around the empty parking lot to get a feel for the Thing and was completely unsurprised by any of its driving characteristics. And yet it was different from any VW I've driven in the way people reacted to it. It's a car that makes people smile, whether they're in the driver's seat, passenger seats, or on the sidewalk watching one trundle past.

1973 Volkswagen Thing This Thing, like so many others, has had its roof replaced.Photo by Harvey Briggs

Like my time behind the wheel, the Thing's availability in America was too short. 1975 saw the introduction of new safety regulations that made it illegal to sell regardless of its classification. In the three years it was on sale in the United States, 25,794 Things were sold. Many are still on the road today and they come up for sale regularly on sites like BringATrailer.com where prices range from a low of $6,300 to a high of $36,250 with most selling between $15,000 and $20,000 over the past three years.

If you're looking for an affordable classic that's loud, slow, uncomfortable and will make you grin from ear to ear every time you get behind the wheel, the VW Thing might just be your thing.

Trending News

 
 

Nissan is introducing a long list of new models in the coming year.

Photo courtesy of Nissan Motors

As part of its plan to grow business, on Thursday Nissan (the global overlord that has Nissan, Infiniti, and Datsun as its brands) released information regarding its business objectives. While there is plenty notable in the release, one particular item stands out: 12 new products will be released in the coming 18 months.

Though lips are sealed at the Japan-based automaker, there are a few clues as to what is coming for the U.S. market, including a video released today by the company. Scroll down to see AutomotiveMap's thoughts on each teased model and be sure to check out the insight into the Infiniti models shown in the video at the end of the article.

NISSAN NEXT: From A to Z www.youtube.com

2021 Nissan Rogue

We know that a redesigned Nissan Rogue was supposed to debut at the New York International Auto Show (originally slated for April, then pushed to August, then cancelled). Now, it's set to likely have a virtual reveal this summer.

Leaked photos of the SUV reveal a model that is thoroughly updated from top to bottom but still recognizable for Rogue enthusiasts. Reporting by CarsDirect tells that the Rogue will get a power bump for 2021 achieving 180 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque (current numbers are 170 and 175, respectively). Fuel economy numbers also go up. That brings the SUV more in line with its competition.

Additional photos show that the SUV has wireless charging, a new shifter, all-digital instrument cluster, and a variety of available drive modes (all-wheel drive is a likely option). Expect a library-level quiet cabin filled with near-premium materials as those traits have become Nissan hallmarks as of late.

2021 Nissan Frontier

Nissan has not played coy about the 2021 Frontier making its debut later this year. The automaker officially spilled the beans when they told the world that the 2020 Frontier was going to have a new V6 engine, which will power the new Frontier next year.

What can you expect? The new Frontier is likely to be a bigger, more commanding version of the current model that takes much of its design cues from Titan. It has undergone a top to bottom redesign for the first time in over a decade so it will likely have all the latest technology and design language that can be found in Nissan vehicles. Some of the tech that's currently exclusive to Titan, like accelerometer technology, which replaces the truck's gyroscope for what the company says are more accurate degree of pitch and roll angles.

There's also been a series of leaked photos featuring what insiders are calling the Frontier NISMO for the last year. The real question isn't what it will look like - think 2021 Frontier with more accentuated features, but instead what it will be capable of. Will the Frontier NISMO be a Ford Ranger Raptor fighter or just be faster with a stronger face? Many are hoping that Nissan goes the route of the former.

2021 Nissan Ariya

The teaser video showed what is likely a version of what publicly started as the Nissan Ariya Concept. The model, an all-electric crossover designed to have over 300 miles of range, shows off fresh design language and powertrain possibilities. Since its debut, Nissan has made no secret of the fact that plans for an electrified SUV are in the making and we may finally see those go into production.

2021 Nissan Navara

Like the Frontier, the Nissan Navara is also set for a redesign. However, it looks like they won't be the same truck, nor will they be produced on the same platform. it will have familiar characteristics including roof rails and a beefy exterior. The midsize truck, which has nearly the same dimensions as the Frontier is sold in Asia, Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.

2022 Nissan 400Z

Passionate brand followers likely file this one under, "It's about damn time." A redesigned Nissan Z is on its way, and confirmed in a new video released by the company that shows its retro-inspired styling. The car is slated to have a twin-turbo V6 under its hood (that's what powers the Infiniti Q50 and Q6 400 Red Sport today. In those cars it gets 400 horsepower and that's a figure that likely plays into the car's fresh name. Look for a NISMO-tuned edition of the model to push 500 horsepower.

2021 Nissan Pathfinder

From the looks of the teaser video, the Nissan Pathfinder is getting a nose that looks like the one on the Ariya Concept and will retain its three-row seating configuration. While the Pathfinder sells well in the U.S. as a lifestyle-focused SUV, many enthusiasts were hoping to see it return to its roots with a more rugged body style as part of a redesign. That does not look like it will be so.

However, Nissan could be building in more off-roading capability with the new Pathfinder. It will likely have a variety of drive modes (if the Rogue redesign is a clue) and could prove to be at least as capable as the Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent when equipped with all-wheel drive.

Look for the Pathfinder to debut later this year.

2021 Nissan Kicks

2021 Nissan Kicks

Photo courtesy of Nissan Motors

A refreshed Kicks has already debuted in Thailand and its fresh face is likely to make its way to the U.S. soon. Does its product run seem quick? Remember, the model went on sale globally years before it ever came to North America.

The 2021 model sports a new grille design, slimmed headlights, more exaggerated rooflines, and fresh front and rear bumpers. Nissan has also given the car a new available powertrain variant that utilizes the company's e-Power technology to combine a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine, a 1.57 kilowatt-hour battery, and an electric motor. However, experts believe that this version of the SUV isn't expected to make it stateside.

2022 Nissan Armada

Will it be a Patrol? Armada? The jury may still be deciding. Either way, Nissan is well down the path of a redesign of the three-row SUV. The model could get the twin-turbo V6 that is poised to go in the 400Z, which could make it more fuel efficient and lighter, while also being just as capable. Expect a new Armada/Patrol to be off-road ready, just as it currently is.

2021 Nissan Micra

The Micra isn't sold in the U.S. but those living abroad in need of a small car should get ready to check out the forthcoming version of the small hatchback. The model is due for a sold refresh rather than a complete makeover, with its last version arriving for the 2017 model year.

2021 Nissan Qashqai

The Nissan Qashqai is sold in the U.S. as the Rogue Sport. Like with the Kicks, the U.S. was late to the ballgame so the Qashqai is already up for a redesign. The Qasqai is built on the same platform as the Nissan Rogue so it makes sense that it would be getting a redo around the same time as the Rogue. Look for the two models to share similar interior and exterior features though the Qashqai is likely to have a less powerful engine.

2021 Nissan Terra

North America doesn't have the Terra and it's likely that it won't in the refreshed version of the SUV either. It is designed and marketed for Asia as an off-road capable near-premium SUV. Think of it as a hardier version of the Murano that is based on the Navara.

2022 Nissan Note

This model is the wildcard in Nissan's promo video. Some speculation by experts says that the automaker is bringing back the Note name not as a Versa hatchback but as its own Honda Fit competitor.

If you closely watch the video at the top of this article, you'll see the 2020 Infiniti QX55 and the 2021 Infiniti QX60 break cover. We've already seen both (one up close) despite the fact they haven't officially been revealed. Learn more about the QX55 here and the QX60 here.

Trending News