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A couple of years back, an “upscale” North Texas community’s HOA published a list of proscribed doings which included–and I’m not kidding here–parking a pickup truck on the street or in a driveway visible from the street. No, really. Luxury trucks, however, like the Lincoln Mark LT don’t count. “It doesn’t look like a pickup,” the HOA chairman told local media; “It’s fancier.”

I don’t point this out to make fun of the HOA (which others have already done in spades), but rather as a great example of just how crazy the excess of 2007-8 got in terms of trucks. The luxotruck market started with the Lincoln Blackwood, essentially an F-150 crew cab with a few slightly different body parts, a fancy leather interior, and a bed turned into a large, square, crappy trunk via a permanently-fixed electric bed cover. For these bonuses, buyers shelled out just over $50k–almost $20k more than the most expensive F-150 of the time. GM followed with the Escalade EXT, a similarly-dolled-up version of the Chevy Avalanche. To cut a long history short, the Blackwood became the Mark LT in 2005, and bit the dust in 2008 after the economy took a big bite out of the more-money-than-brains market. The Mark LT lives on, though, in a more work-friendly format: the F-150 Platinum, which (what a concept!) has a functional bed. 

Bottom line: trucks without beds aren’t trucks. They’re crappy cars, and they’re the epitome of the wannabe culture. It seems even the GQ crowd agrees, naming the Mark LT one of its “Douchiest Cars of All Time,” awarding the EXT honorable mention.

Just to be clear, we have zero issue with the idea of decking out your truck. Though we tend to prefer trucks that get the job done for less, we certainly don’t believe that hauling stuff means you should be stuck with no amenities. We just can’t get behind the idea of a truck without a bed, or a truck that carries a price large enough to buy another truck–and doesn’t offer any functionally superior capability.

That said, we do take issue with a few of GQ’s other “douchiest cars.” They hate the Trans Am, for example, citing the bird’s giant hood decal, “steamship levels of understeer,” and poor performance as douche-factors. We humbly suggest that they missed the point. Sure, the stock small-block won’t get out of its own way, but a number of GM crate motors make for an easy swap, delivering more power than anyone really needs. And who buys a Trans Am for the handling?

GQ also dumps on the Dodge Viper, correctly pointing out that it’s difficult to drive and pretty low on creature comforts. It’s just that “hot, smelly,” and loud functionality that we like–because it pisses them off.

Anyway, let us know (as always) what you think. Is the LT really a great deal? Did we miss something?

 

The Make blog reports on Steve Roberts’ outfitting of a 24′ utility trailer as a mobile electronics lab and workshop. Steve’s the guy who has spent the last three decades exploring high-tech bike projects (e.g., Winnebiko and BEHEMOTH; a total of 17,000 miles biking around the U.S.), and a variety of high-tech amphibious and watercraft vehicles.

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Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. It’s just a bunch of dummies on Segway RMP 200/ATV platforms being developed by Marathon Robotics for live-fire training. The RMP 200/ATV is one of several two- and four-wheel Segway Robotic Mobility Platforms designed for use in a variety of applications including exploration, mapping, surveillance, mobile manipulation, and more. They even have models with Mecanum wheels (and neat animation on the website showing the sideways and rotating movements possible with these wheels).

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You may have seen one of these neat forklifts on Mythbusters — the Airtrax Sidewinder ATX-3000, now being built and marketed by Vetex, uses Mecanum wheels to give omni-directional mobility in a lift truck. The Mecanum wheels, invented by Bengt Ilon when he was an engineer working for Mecanum AB, have a series of tilted elliptical rollers around the circumference. This allows normal forward and backward motion like a conventional wheel, but also provides sideways motion (by rotating the wheels on the front and rear axles in opposite directions).

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It’s simple, really: You just buy a junked Lockheed F-104 Starfighter (without wings), put in a new turbojet engine, add custom solid billet aluminum wheels designed for 900 mph, throw in some magnetic brakes and a parachute, and you’re good to go. Really, really go: to a new land speed record in excess of 770 mph (the current record, held by the ThrustSSC — now morphed into the BloodhoundSSC (see TM 10/2009), and looking at going as fast as 1,000 mph — and set in 1997, is 763.1 mph; new records have to be ≥ 1% better).

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As a volunteer with the local county’s CERT*, I’m always on the lookout for safety items and search-and-rescue tools that can help in emergencies — plus it gives me an excuse to look at and buy stuff for my truck. This Rugged Ridge kit is aimed at the 4×4 crowd, but it could also be useful to the less off-road user. The kit contains a 2″×30′ 20,000 lb. recovery strap, a 3″×6′ 30,000 lb. tree trunk protector strap, a 20,000 lb. snatch block pulley, two heavy-duty 9,500 lb. D-rings, a winch line damper, a pair of leather gloves, and a storage bag. It’s available online for as low as $70.

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Gizmodo reports that CRKT® has a new tool for getting out of your car in emergencies. The ExiTool™ combines a seatbelt cutter, a window breaker, and an LED flashlight in one unit that clips onto any standard seatbelt. It’s like a ResQMe (see TM 9/29/07 and 9/28/08) with an LED, but may be more convenient because it’s right there on the seatbelt.

This tool’s seatbelt cutter is designed so that “it’s virtually impossible for even the smallest fingers to accidentally reach the blade,” which is razor-sharp high-carbon stainless steel able to cut seatbelts with a quick pull. The tungsten carbide breaker point is designed to shatter tempered glass side windows, and the LED is powered by a single CR2032 lithium battery.

The ExiTool™ is expected to retail for $26.99, and will be “Coming Soon in 2010.”

What do you think? Would you pick one up for each of your vehicles?

ExiTool™ [Manufacturer's Site]

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The Windshear 180-MPH Rolling-Road Wind Tunnel in North Carolina can handle full-sized vehicles and test them with wind speeds up to 180 mph in an environment temperature controlled to ± 1°F. The vehicles sit on a 10.5′ wide × 29.5′ long rolling “road” that is a one-millimeter thick continuous stainless steel belt. This “road” also sits on a turn table with a yaw range of ± 8°, and its belt can accelerate from 0 to 180 mph in less than 60 seconds.

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The Michelin Smart Jumper Cables™ seem to be a great step up from ordinary jumper cables. These 12′ long cables are 8-gauge copper-clad aluminum wires with a control box that automatically adjusts the polarity when the clamps are connected, and prevents sparking or shorting. Basic jumper-cable connection rules still apply: from one side of the control box, connect one clamp to the boosting vehicle’s positive battery terminal and the other to its negative terminal. Then, from the other side of the control box, connect one clamp to the disabled vehicle’s positive battery terminal, and the other to exposed metal on the engine block or vehicle frame. If the control box’s green indicator lights are on, you’re ready to try a jump start. The control box also has built-in surge protection for the vehicles’ computers and electronics. A set of these smart jumper cables costs $34.99.

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I don’t know if this is the same contest that TM noted in 2008 (TM 10/27/08), another episode because they made three of these trucks for a national tour, or some glitch due to the economy — if it’s a continuation of the earlier one, they’re taking forever to pick a winner, or maybe this is turning into a perpetual contest.

In any case, if you’re “a professional contractor or skilled trade worker in construction and currently employed in the construction industry,” you can enter the Lenox Site Commander Sweepstakes before 5/1/2010, and you could win a pimped-out work truck. The basic truck is a 2008 Dodge Ram quad-cab, four-wheel-drive 5500 HD with a 6.7L Cummins turbo diesel engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a Reading Spacemaster Classic II service body.

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