Ford '04 Ranger Follows '04 F-150 Styling Lead
The '04 Ranger features design cues of the all-new '04 F-150. The Ranger receives an all-new front fascia with what Ford calls a "power dome hood and nostril grille." Ford is also touting Ranger's three new clearcoat metallic colors: Dark Shadow Gray, Dark Green Satin, and Silver.

Inside, the Ranger boasts all-new seats with optional leather-trimmed seating surfaces; there's late availability in both split bench and sport bucket seat configurations. Rally-style gauge clusters are added for 2004. The FX4 model offers black-face clusters and brushed aluminum gauges, while the Edge and Tremor models sport a white-faced display. The Tremor features an audio system from Pioneer with a built-in subwoofer delivering 510 watts of power through a new in-dash CD/MP3 player. For 2004, a 4x4 drivetrain is now available with a Tremor in addition to the 4x2 offered in previous years.

Speaking of 4x4s, new for 2004 on FX4 packages is an optional manual transmission, though you'll have to wait for this package later in the year.

Under the hood, the '04 Ranger offers three engines, including a recently introduced 2.3L I-4 and two V-6 engines. The 2.3L I-4 produces 143 hp at 5,250 rpm and 154 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 rpm, thanks to new intake and exhaust camshafts, throttle body, exhaust manifold, and engine calibration.

The Ranger's 3.0L V-6 engine produces 154 hp at 5,200 rpm and 180 lb-ft of torque at 3,900 rpm; it's standard on all 4x2 SuperCab models equipped with the five-speed automatic transmission. Ranger's 4.0L SOHC V-6 produces 207 hp at 5,250 rpm and 238 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm. All three engines are available with a five-speed automatic transmission or a heavy-duty, five-speed manual transmission.

Saturn Sport Trucks?
Saturn says its new series of sport-tuned vehicles will be dubbed Red Line models. The first truck in the series will be the '04 VUE Red Line, a sport version of Saturn's unibody compact SUV. Saturn says Red Line vehicles will be marked by a combination of increased horsepower, a performance-tuned suspension, and styling cues. For example, the VUE Red Line will include a lowered suspension, ground effects, 18-inch wheels, and a 3.5L, 250hp V-6 that will be available on the VUE for 2004.

K&N Engineering Shows Off Its New Tech Center
K&N Engineering, maker of the ubiquitous K&N Filter, threw one heck of a house-warming party for its new digs. In addition to a cool new office building and state-of-the-art shipping and receiving facilities, K&N invested a significant amount of money in a new tech centers as well. The crown jewel is the firm's all-wheel-drive dyno and R&D facility. The company also showed us its on-site, cutting-edge composite manufacturing system. And just to highlight that K&N Engineering is all about speed and power, it took us out to one of the country's oldest Kart tracks, Adams, in Riverside, California, for a little wheel-to-wheel action courtesy of the Adams Kart school. For more information on the full line of K&N Engineering filters and accessories, contact:

K&N Engineering, P.O. Box 1329, 1455 Citrus Ave., Riverside, CA 92502, (800) 858-3333, (909) 826-4000, www.knfilters.com.

Mercury To Bring Escape-based Mariner To Market In '05
The new Mercury Mariner, based on the Ford Escape, is scheduled to debut sometime in the 2005 model year. It features a stacked element theme at the front of the vehicle, with distinctive headlamps over integrated foglamps, and vertical, satin aluminum-finished grille elements. It also adds a satin aluminum bumper insert to tie in with the grille design as well as some interior elements.

The interior is punctuated with wood grain, satin aluminum, and chrome accents. A new floor-mounted shifter accented with a chrome surround and a satin aluminum shift knob adds a little sport to the mix. The instruments in the cluster have bright bezels and dark-gray faces. Satin aluminum and wood grain bezels on the unique center console and center stack further contribute to the rich interior theme.

The Mariner, as does its Escape sibling, features unibody construction, a four-wheel independent suspension, and a 2.3L 16-valve I-4 or a 3.0L 24-valve V-6 Duratec engine. Both engines come with a standard four-speed automatic transaxle.

Ford Motor Company's 100-Millionth V-8 Engine Powers '03 F-150
With fewer than 50 days before its 100th birthday, Ford Motor Company's 100-millionth V-8 engine rolled off the Essex Engine Plant's (EEP) manufacturing line on April 29, 2003. The event marks a milestone more than 70 years after Ford's first mass-produced V-8 was built in 1932. That week also marked the beginning of production of Ford's new 5.4L, three-valve Triton, a V-8 that will power the all-new '04 Ford F-150 pickup when it starts production this summer. The milestone 100-millionth V-8 engine will be installed in the first Ford F-150 built this year at Ford's Norfolk (Virginia) Assembly Plant.

Parnelli Jones Exhibit At The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum

The Parks Museum, located in Pomona, California, announced that it will produce a new exhibit saluting the racing career of Rufus "Parnelli" Jones, featuring a number of historic vehicles from the Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing collection. The exhibit will run from Apr. 26 through Aug. 31, 2003. Greg Sharp, curator of the Parks Motorsports Museum, said the tentative list of landmark Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing vehicles for the exhibit includes:


* 1963 "Old Calhoun" Indy winner replica
* 1969 Big Oly Bronco
* 1971 Johnny Lightning Indy winner
* 1968 "Infamous" Lotus Granatelli turbine
* 1964 Lotus Ford Indy car
* 1969 Four-Cam Ford Champ Dirt car
* 1976 Mustang Funny car

Other artifacts and personal memorabilia from Parnelli's career will also be on display, including photos, helmets, driving suits, posters, mementos, letters, and trophies.

The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST, with extended hours during NHRA national events. Current NHRA members are admitted free. Admission for non-members is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors 60 and older, $3 for juniors 6 through 15, and free for children under the age of five. The Museum is also available for private parties, meetings, corporate events, weddings, and special group tours. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave. in Pomona. For further information on special exhibits, museum events, or directions, call (909) 622-2133, or visit www.nhra.com/museum.

Chevy And GMC Offer 1/2-Ton Crew Cab Pickups In 2004
GM is finally offering 1/2-ton Crew Cabs for Chevy Silverados and GMC Sierras. These new models combine the driver- and passenger-friendly features of light-duty trucks with the roomiest cab on a wheelbase length that gives owners more maneuverability as well as the potential to fit the vehicles in a garage. The '04 Silverado and Sierra Crew Cab's 5-foot 8-inch pickup beds allow the shorter wheelbase.

All have a standard Z85 handling and trailering package, and their performance, trailering, and hauling capabilities seem to be very competitive. The new models come with the potent Vortec 5300 V-8, with 285 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, backed by the Hydra-Matic 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission as the standard powertrain. GVWRs are 6,800 pounds for 2WD and 7,000 pounds for 4WD, and the base payloads are rated at 1,934 pounds for 2WD and 1,825 pounds for 4WD. Trailer ratings as heavy as 8,500 pounds for 4WD models and 7,800 pounds for the 2WD models are available. The 1500 Series Crew Cabs are available as Silverado Fleetside LS and LT and Sierra Wideside SLE and SLT models. All come with a choice of two- or four-wheel-drive configurations.

Night Vision For The Masses ... Well, At Least The Upper Middle Class Masses
Civilian Hummer H1 owners can now buy a night vision system very close to the system used on military Humvees.

Raytheon Commercial Infared offers a $5,000 system, dubbed Nightdriver, that some Hummer dealerships offer as a dealer-installed option. General Motors already uses a Raytheon night vision system in the Cadillac DeVille. That unit sells for $2,750, so presumably it's not quite as effective as the one offered for the H1, and certainly not as good as the military-spec unit. You'll have to check French, Russian, or German sources for a gray market military-spec thermal imaging system.

GM Recalls
'97 Blazer, Jimmy, And Bravada Suvs To
Replace Seatbelt Buckle Assembly

General Motors says it is recalling about 341,000 '97 Chevrolet Blazer, GMC Jimmy, and Oldsmobile Bravada midsize SUVs in order to replace a driver seatbelt buckle assembly with a new buckle assembly. GM will notify owners of the affected vehicles beginning in July. Owners will be instructed to bring their vehicles to their Chevrolet, GMC, and Oldsmobile dealers to retrofit a new seatbelt buckle assembly that does not contain an energy-absorbing loop. GM says the repairs will be made at no cost to the owner.

The driver-side seatbelt design used in the '97 midsize SUVs used an energy-absorbing system that relied on stitching and belt webbing that extends in response to a frontal impact. This energy-absorbing feature enabled the occupant restraint system for the driver to meet or exceed GM and federal head injury criteria (HIC) values measured in lab testing.

GM is recalling these vehicles because there may be reduced driver restraint if the energy-absorbing loop fully deploys during severe rollover conditions. Rollovers comprise a small percentage of the total crash events that occur in the field; however, GM says it is taking this action in the interest of safety of their customers. Overall, the driver's seatbelt is a safe belt and helps provide protection in many types of crash events. Additionally, says the statement from GM, "energy absorbing loops are widely used in the industry and help provide effective restraint."

GM claims the Blazer, Jimmy, and Bravada models can meet GM and federal government standards with new seatbelt buckle assembly that does not contain an energy-absorbing loop. For more information, log on to www.gm.com.

General Motors Relaunches Goodwrench.com
GM Goodwrench has relaunched its goodwrench.com Web site. The consumer-focused site is designed to enhance the GM vehicle ownership experience by enabling customers to learn about GM's offerings and provide access to the expert on GM products, Mr. Goodwrench. Goodwrench.com integrates the entire GM business-parts, service, and more than 7,000 dealers-in one easy-to-use Web site.

The site features the GM Owner's Center, which ties the branding image of GM into an interactive center of GM vehicle maintenance information. The Owner's Center offers useful organizational tools such as maintenance reminders and service tracking, recall and safety information, and the option for consumers to purchase service and owner's manuals online. Additionally, customers can sign up for a quarterly newsletter.

The site also offers tips and advice, a dealer finder with maps and service menus, as well as coupons and special offers. For more information, visit the GM Goodwrench Web site at goodwrench.com.

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