Every magazine editor claims to have the greatest job in the world, and for the most part we do. However, there are those days that try your patience and almost make you wish for a normal 9-to-5 job. Around the months of late September, and all of October, the bane of most editors' jobs is preparing for the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas, for the SEMA Show. This year was no exception. As you can see from the cover of this magazine, we teamed up with Street Scene Equipment (SSE) to build color-matched vehicles. Ours was an '06 Ford F-150, and SSE's was an '07 Ford Expedition. For the most part, both builds went exceptionally well. Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way: lost parts, parts sent out early in the build that never returned, or those that literally arrived as the vehicles were supposed to be loaded on the transport trailer to Vegas.
Still, both vehicles made it, but the stories we could tell. Mine is no exception. Early Friday morning, prior to leaving for the show, I went with my Silverado HD to pickup a car hauler as Primedia had decided to use my truck in the annual corporate Monday-night pre-SEMA launch party. The F-150 would reside the duration of the show in the SSE booth, so rather than get two drivers and two vehicles to the show, I simply towed the Ford, thus ensuring its safety and arrival in one piece.
However, the best-laid plans often do not work out. When I arrived at SSE's headquarters to load up the truck, I quickly discovered the truck's large track width with the Nitto Mud Grappler's were too massive to clear between the fenders of the borrowed trailer, and the other car hauler we had was too light-duty for a fullsize truck. Plus, that trailer and I do not get along too well, an entirely different story for another time.
No worries, I could drive the truck up and over the fenders. These appear structurally strong and should survive a quick roll-over. But wait, this wasn't my trailer, so another plan was formulated. I made a quick call to my neighbor, Paul, and begged him to follow me up to Vegas in the Chevy and later I would fly him home. No problem, he assured me. So, we headed out early Sunday morning as our move-in time wasn't scheduled until 1:30 p.m., but the main freeway artery that lead us into Vegas was closed until 7 a.m., as the entire interchange was being worked on during the weekend. No worries. We headed out and literally got a mile down the freeway and the F-150 kicked the check-engine light on and the temperature gauge all of sudden ran to full hot.
Now, being a project vehicle, I knew there were many glitches in the system. While everyone was in a mad rush to get things done, I pre-planned and actually knew about the run-hot situation. A computer glitch made this happen and it either fixes itself or a previously purchased code-reader box takes care of the problem by simply resetting all of the engine codes. However, the check-engine light was an entirely new and different story. Panic set in and questions raced through my mind. How could I get this truck there? It had to be there. Who else could I con into helping me?
With no answers to my questions, it became apparent to Paul and me that every time the check engine light came on, we would pull over and reset the codes. In the beginning, this seemed like every 5 minutes, but the intervals eventually grew to about every 20-60 minutes, so I settled down and actually enjoyed the ride. A quick refuel in Baker, California, about 90 miles outside of Las Vegas and we were off to our final destination spot.
We quickly hooked up with SSE president and owner, Mike Spagnola, and got in line to drive in the vehicles. Mike then informed me the Convention Center Union officials wouldn't let any vehicle into the exhibit halls unless the fuel tanks had less than a quarter tank, apparently the fumes could cause an explosion. But, being the inquisitive know-it-all that I am, I attempted to convince the Union official that a full tank of fuel actually posed less potential for fumes than a quarter tank. However, there was no reasoning with this individual. Also, for all of you '07 Expedition owners, be thankful that Ford Motor Company put an anti-siphon device in the fuel-filler neck. How could I know this? Well, we asked the local Pep Boys guys in the parking lot waiting for us to siphon off the gas and give it to them in exchange for their help. After learning this wouldn't work, our last option was to start pulling fuses to trick the instrument cluster and fool the door Nazi. Yeah, great idea, but the last and final fuses we pulled shut everything down. No power, no ignition, no nothing. Damn, now we had to drive.
So, picture this: Three idiots, Mike, my neighbor Paul, and myself driving back to the Nevada/California state border, about 75 miles one way and then turning around and driving back into Vegas. Did I mention we did this all in Second gear to keep the engine rpm up and burn fuel more quickly? Everyone on the road must have thought, "What a bunch of morons driving in matching vehicles, revving their engines, and practically drag racing across the freeways." Never in my life had I ever wanted a vehicle to get such poor fuel mileage. Also, the check-engine light came on about a dozen times. Remember, I was still in code-clearing mode. Anyway, I had Paul dropped off at the airport in the nick of time and headed back to the Convention Center. By this point, the F-150 was in its optimal, less-than-a-quarter-tank mode, but the SSE Expedition still needed about an eighth of a tank to go. Of course, the guy still wouldn't let us in. So, being the nice guy, and since both vehicles were destined for Mike's booth, I let him drive the F-150 in and offered to drive around to finish burning off the requisite eighth tank of fuel. Another hour later, I returned in perfect condition and eventually got in.
Later, upon further inspection of the F-150, we discovered when the air intake tubes were removed and painted, the hose clamps weren't properly secured, so the engine was sucking air around the mass air meter and kicking the check-engine light on. A couple of turns on the screwdriver-and a few swear words under my breath, about being an idiot and not checking out that hose at the get go- fixed the situation. The return trip proved uneventful, except...well, that's an entirely different story that I'll save for later.
After you have stopped laughing at me and not with me, please be sure to check out the two vehicles on the cover, as well as the highlights from this year's SEMA Show. Also, check out the latest and greatest 45 new products that promise to revolutionize the truck industry. Enjoy, and thanks for letting me relive the day.