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OFF ROAD




This is Phil's weekend pride and joy off road machine.

Yellow Fever

Not everyone gets the time to tinker around with their Land Rover as much as they would like, as the countless half-finished projects in garages or under tarpaulins will attest. But it certainly helps if you work for a company who specialise in off-road vehicle preparation. Alan Davis has been with Chichester 4x4 in West Sussex for four years, and in his (admittedly few) quiet moments, has had the space, time and facilities to tinker with his pet project hybrid, not only keeping it running, but using it as a test bed for new ideas.

“We prefer the custom-build approach to vehicle preparation, rather than simply bolt on off-the-shelf accessories” he explains. “Of course there are some great parts available, but with vehicles like these, we find people like to have a touch of individuality, uniqueness.” While company proprietor Phil Haynes’ forté is to get the best out of the engine department and other mechanical wonders, Alan concentrates on the design and fabrication work, and as his own vehicle illustrates, he has quite an imagination. Bought four years ago, the basic vehicle was a 1964 Series II pick-up, which had already been fitted with a 3.5-litre V8 and a roll cage. Initially, Alan was content simply to wheel it out at weekends and use it as a basic fun-day off-roader, that is until a significant error at one particular event saw the front end of the original vehicle somewhat skewed.

chop chop Once back in the workshop Alan felt that, as part of the re-build, now would also be the time to convert to coils. However, since the roll cage was welded to the chassis at numerous points and that the rear of the chassis was still perfectly straight and sound, then rather than start from scratch with a shortened Range Rover (typically) chassis and construct a whole new cage, it was decided they would simply replace the twisted front section of the chassis with the corresponding section from a Range Rover instead.

With some careful measuring, Alan found that, at approximately 2.5 feet from the front edge of the chassis, the Range Rover and Land Rover profiles become identical, and so the ideal point to make the cut and join. In doing this, all the steering, suspension and engine mountings were already in the correct position although, because Alan wanted to keep the Series radiator grille, the engine was eventually moved back a few inches. The saddles to locate the radius arms were then positioned on the chassis, and the whole front end reconstructed with minimal disruption to the body and roll cage assembly.

Of course, the leaf-springs on the rear would have to go too. Again Alan chose a Range Rover axle, modified to accept twin shocks (although currently only sporting a single pair), and which is located by significantly strengthened rear trailing arms which have been sleeved with heavy gauge tubing and corresponding mountings fabricated at the chassis end. However, rather than utilise the Range Rover A-frame assembly, Alan has constructed his own I-frame – which is essentially a single bar, and this is supplemented by a custom panhard rod for lateral location/stability of the axle (the task which is usually handled by the A-frame, of course).

This I-frame link was designed primarily as there was nowhere to locate the propriety A-frame on the Series chassis without removing the existing and replacing/fabricating a new chassis cross-member in the correct position. In addition, Alan also feels that the rear suspension travel has been improved using this geometry. The suspension components are reasonably straight-forward replacement items, rather than super-fancy trick bits, but the combination in this instance seems to work particularly well. The springs are plus one inch all-round, with standard dampers at the rear and plus two inch Monroe Gas Magnum shocks up front, while the suspension bushes are standard Land Rover (rubber) items too.

snip snip Due to the kind of twisty trials-type terrain Alan usually drives, he was particularly keen to minimise any increase in overall ride height of the vehicle. Therefore he chose to modify the bodywork to fit larger tyres, rather than raise the suspension (and thus the centre of gravity), in an effort to maintain stability – particularly on side-slopes. Of course, the extra track width of the Range Rover axles undoubtedly helps with lateral stability but the other side of the coin is that, as the wheels are now further outboard, they not only touch the wheelarches when articulating, but also need ‘eyebrow’ extensions to keep them legal. The solution was to trim a significant amount of the arch away, and finish off the aperture with a custom set of wheelarch extensions fabricated from a set of Ford Transit mud-guards. These have the advantage of being suitably robust and cheap to replace should you lose one in really arduous conditions.

In fact, the tyres themselves are not particularly oversized, rather it is the axle articulation and their position relative to the bodywork that meant the wheelarch modifications were required. The vehicle runs 750R16s on seven inch eight-spoke rims; however, the General SAG (super-all-grip) do look surprisingly huge, far larger than their nomenclature would suggest. These boots seemed particularly impressive in action, much like the fabled Firestone SAT of yore when off-road, but far more pleasant on-road due to their radial carcass. Alan thoroughly recommends them, a fact borne by a number of their customers now sporting them on their own machines.

vroom vroom The engine is a 3.5litre V8 with a pair of Stromburg carbs and K&N trumpet filters, and running the standard viscous fan. The front radiator is from an old 2-litre BMW, which fits neatly behind the Series grille panel. It is supplemented by a rear-mounted Range Rover rad in the tailgate position (similar to many comp-safari racers) which has a pair of electric fans that can each be engaged independently as required.

Because of the viscous fan, Alan has fabricated a plastic water shield for the distributor, which is particularly successful in keeping the beast running. “The rest of the electrics look after themselves, it’s only the distributor that used to cause a problem,” he says. The exhaust utilises performance manifolds (although Alan can’t remember who they came from) into a custom dual 4-into-1 system incorporating Ford XR4 silencers with each bank exiting either side just in front of the rear wheels – it roars.
The front end is still recognisably Series, although the roll-cage is extended forward to the brushguard assembly to protect the front wings – Australian ‘out-back’ style. The front bumper and crossmember have been replaced with a tubular bumper, cut down at the ends to afford maximum clearance when approaching a bank at 45 degrees for example, and features a centrally mounted T-bar welded to the top for quick recovery rope connection.

The rear of the vehicle, too, is particularly distinctive and features a number of well thought-out modifications. The rear cross-member has again been replaced with a tubular bumper, mounted much higher than the original bottom edge of the chassis and dramatically increasing the departure angle with around 2.5 feet of clearance between it and the ground. The bumper also incorporates a pair of slots to accept a special Hi-lift jack adapter, a pair of rings to locate shackles and, once again, a centrally mounted T-bar for quick recovery rope connection. However, closer inspection reveals that the aperture above the bumper also features rollers on the uprights and crossmembers and this effectively provides a huge fairlead for the rear-mounted winch.

on the pull Alan has mounted a Superwinch X6 far back against the seat bulkhead between the chassis rails in the rear loadbed, this position chosen not only because of the rear mounted radiator, but also to improve weight distribution and to keep it out of harm’s way. “For solo off-roading particularly, a rear winch is usually more useful,” explains Alan. “After all, if you’re stuck, you don’t really want to get further into a mess do you?” A fair point, although it does mean that the winch is really limited to recovery purposes, rather than to aid you to negotiate an undrivable section (such as a overly steep climb for example). Of course, in an ideal world you’d have two winches, front and rear, but the cost and additional weight are two major constraints.

Alan has also fitted a floodlight next to the winch and a particular characteristic of this vehicle means night-time off-roading and recovery is greatly enhanced. Although the loadbed is full of ancillaries and equipment, load ‘bed’ is really a misnomer as there is no deck. Rather the items such as the Series III fuel tank (on a custom framework above the winch), spare wheel and battery are mounted to the cage or the bare chassis rails. This leaves an open space between the fuel tank and radiator/rear crossmember bumper, directly above the rear axle, and affords the driver an excellent (and illuminated) view of the ground immediately between and behind the rear wheels, with the light spreading further beyond too.

The cab is a spartan affair as is typical of a Series vehicle, although Alan has fabricated a new centre dash panel which houses a series of fuse holders, warning lights and gauges for volts, fuel, oil pressure and water temperature, while the speedo sits in a second panel above the driver’s left knee. The rev counter is fitted in line of sight above the steering column. The seats are tractor items in black vinyl and very comfortable, although Alan has found a company who can make him a new pair in bright yellow to match the bodywork. Between the seats is a custom (padded) cubbybox, which contains the radio/cassette unit, and above the cubby is a box which houses a pair of 16cm speakers.

get the gear More recently, Alan has replaced the original Series 4-speed manual gearbox with a 3-speed Borg Warner 65 automatic (with its own oil cooler) from a Rover SD1. “The gearbox bolted straight on to the engine, but you need an Ashcroft Conversions adapter plate to connect the autobox to the Series transfer box,” he explains. This, of course, means that while the 4WD system is still part-time, and for many that’s preferable anyway, as a rear driven V8 on the road it’s always a hoot. The gear selector will be recognisable to many classic car buffs as being from an old Jaguar XJ series, and is cable operated back to the gearbox below. Alan has fabricated a simple locking bar that can be flipped over in front of the lever when the vehicle is in use to stop you selecting ‘park’ rather than reverse at an inopportune moment (such as shuttling backwards and forwards in mud for example).

Off-road, the interior is dominated by a pair of fiddle brake handles between the gear selector and the dash. Using a second pair of Range Rover callipers on custom mountings for each rear wheel, the fiddle brakes allow the driver to lock either (or both, technically) rear wheels independently, allowing an open differential to direct drive to the opposing wheel and slew the vehicle around, essentially pirouetting on the locked wheel. Those familiar with modified trialers will know just how effective this system can be when negotiating impossibly tight sections and, in addition, they can also be used to simulate the act (far more effectively with practice) of left foot braking to ‘fool’ the differential when trying to maintain traction if one wheel is spinning. However, fiddle brakes can only work with open differentials, which is fine as Alan’s vehicle currently sports a Quaife front diff and a four pinion rear. Eventually, when the pennies allow, he does intend to fit ARB lockers – which, of course, can be either open or locked as required, giving him the widest possible range of options.

Test bed It might not be too pretty to look at, but that’s not really the point. “It’s my toy,” says Alan “and I want to be able to play as hard as I like in it, and not worry.” It is not intended as an advertisement for their business, rather it can be used as a continually evolving test bed for equipment and ideas. “With this I can experiment, and if I don’t like a certain modification, I am fortunate to have the facilities to simply change it back as required,” he explains. What he has done is taken some key elements of modified trials vehicles, comp-safari racers and extreme ‘winch-event’ machines, and created a hybrid vehicle in the truest sense of the word – one that could fulfil any of those briefs, and that makes for one fun off-roader.

TELEPHONE: 01243 788805

MOBILE: 07774 782139

Ask for Phil Haines or Alan Davis


CHICHESTER 4X4

Lagness Road, Runcton, Chichester, West Sussex,PO20 ILJ.

www.chichester4x4.co.uk


E-MAIL phil@chichester4x4.co.uk
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