Justin time the lads get off the Mark. Two lads set up a Land Rover based business just down the road from me at Bobbing in Kent about 8 months ago, so I was sent down to check them out a while back, where I met up with owners Justin Degan and Mark England. In their workshop were two black extreme challenge trucks that were under construction, and I could see straight away that they were both a bit special. The guys both run their own separate businesses, and Mudsport Automotive is a joint venture that has grown out of their involvement in the extreme challenges, which they have been taking part in for the last few years. Seven short months ago they both decided to build two extreme challenge trucks each, and to try to get them ready for the Three Peaks Challenge in Ireland by the weekend of the 24th October. I asked them to keep in touch and we agreed I would come back and do an article when they were finished, but as I left them I thought it was a tall order as there was a load of work for them both to get through to meet their deadline to sail to Ireland on the 22nd of October.
SUBLIME TO RIDICULOUS
Chris told me “I did a few stock car meets and I was doing pay and play days, but 4 years ago I started thinking that it was a bit tame, so I went straight into the extreme challenges. My first one was the Rutland which was held over 6 different sites, and I have been to the Manby challenge for the last 3 years. I also did the Phoenix last year in Scotland which was really tough, and came 5th which I was quite chuffed about, and this year we are doing the Mission series. When we did that Phoenix we didn't do any damage which pleased me as it was such an extremely challenging event to compete in such a long way from home. A lot of the teams in it were going into the first section and either dying or coming out of the section late in the afternoon. One guy drove into it and broke his steering drop arm and he didn't get out until after 7 at night when everyone else had packed up and gone off home”.This is Chris 3rd challenge truck. He started off with a 90 Station Wagon, and got a roll cage from Whitbread Off-Road, bunged a set of Simex tyres on it and fixed a Warn 8274 winch on the front and a Lowline in the back. The front and back were chopped to improve the approach and departure angles, and Chris went on to tell me “back then 4 years ago I was the first one to do that modification, but now they are all doing it and running without front bumpers as well to even further increase the approach angle”.
FROM CHASSIS UP
Justin told me that he was competing in a 52 plate XS Defender for 4 years in the standard class and his first event in it was the Tay Challenge in Scotland. It was a County Station Wagon with a cage and he found that the cage was sometimes a hindrance as he kept getting hung up on it. At one of the shows in 2008 Justin and Mark sat down with Al and Duncan from Richards Chassis and discussed some ideas they had of what they had in mind to build together. From day one they did not want a pair of out and out traybacks, and somehow they wanted them both to retain the timeless Land Rover profile and to have side panels. After a few phone calls to and fro Mark and Justin went up to Richards Chassis in Swinton near Rotherham for a couple of days, and Al and Duncan altered their jig and made a one off chassis to the design requirements for them. I contacted Al at Richards Chassis to get the full SP on this radical new design and he told me” we started with one of our race car chassis Charlie which has the spring seats lowered and Gigglepin radius arms, which gives a 100 inch wheel base. This chassis lowers the centre of gravity but does not reduce the ground clearance because there are no suspension parts which would normally hang below the rails. We then modified in conjunction with Mark and Justin to develop their ideas of a challenge Land Rover with a difference. Their first request was to move the whole body back by 50mm to allow them to fit 40inch tyres without them catching the bulkhead riggers. Because of this we had to design all new roll cage mounts. Then we modified the front bumper attachment points to enable them to fit a radical new style winch bumper they were having made by Dan Evans at Protection and Performance. To improve vehicle balance we also moved the engine and gearbox rear wards by 100mm, and lastly we designed and manufactured a rear winch tray to accept a Warn 8274”. Of course all of these alterations have had the effect of moving the wings bonnet and grille back 2 inches as well, which aids the approach angle, and to top it all off the roof lines have also been lowered 2 inches. Justin told me “all of our plans and ideas we have had Charlie for the trucks have come to us off the cuff as we have gone along and talked about them, and if we didn't like anything or we thought it looked wrong we altered it or junked it altogether”. The first 100 inch Richards Chassis was delivered to them in bare steel and the TD5 engine and gearbox and the running gear from Justin's Defender was put onto it until it was a rolling chassis. It then went up to Sean at North Off-Road where the roll cage and the front wing space frame was built onto it. Once that was all done that first truck was stripped and sent back up to Richards Chassis to be fully welded up and to be galvanised, and for the second one to be made using the first as a pattern. Mark told me “we had both chassis at last in March this year so from then on we could crack on. We had a lot of late nights ahead of us and long weekends, and we owe both of our families loads of brownie points now that the trucks are both finished for all the time we have spent away from them down here in the workshop beavering away”.
THE BUILD BEGINS
Justin already had his running gear and engine and box on the floor so his was made up first into a rolling chassis once more and it was taken up to his home out the way to make room to start on Marks and so they could get some of their customers work into the shop. Both engines they opted for are TD5s and they have switchable mapping installed by BAS Tuning. Both front winches have the Gigglepin upgrades, and Justin's has the very latest offering from them, the GP82 model with the air free spooling with plus 50 gearing running on two 24 volt Bowmotor 2s. Mark is having his Warn 8274 twin motor Gigglepin modified winch upgraded further as well later. The winch ropes are all Marlow 12mm with 38metres at the front and 30metres at the rear. The suspensions are Old Man Emu all round with Gwynne Lewis turrets and the tyres are Simex 35 inch Extreme Trecker 2s. There are ARB air lockers on all 4 axles with Ashcroft hardened shafts and CVs and welded on diff guards. The guys chose standard bushes all round with Gigglepin front cranked radius arms at the rear and Protection and Performance ones at the front which have been extended by 7 inches. Both trucks have Tough Dog return to centre steering dampers, and the rear storage lockers are from Storage Solutions and there is a custom Mudsport built full length storage locker behind the two seats on each truck. The seats are Clam Shell back Sports Seats which are available from Mudsport Automotive, and they are the best for the job I would think, as they are light but strong and can be easily cleaned after an event.
METALLIC WORK OF ART
These two trucks are the dogs business but the one thing that caught my eye straight off was the magic that Jon Morgan from Brunel Performance has worked on the trucks with his Brunel aluminium tanks, the intercoolers, and the really clever Brunel designed rear snorkels. The tubing passes through the cab from the turbo alongside the transmission tunnels but they are within the extended aluminium tunnel cover and out of sight and well away from big muddy boots, before the big ali tubes rise up behind the cabs on the nearside where it is topped off with a cunning filter housing which can be easily altered to suit different conditions such as a sandy environment. The tanks also are awesome where the thick aluminium has been bent and welded to start from underneath the seat boxes and then to turn upwards where the main part of the tank sits low down in between the chassis to keep the weight as low as possible, and the couplings are set down under the level of the tank tops to avoid damage. I think the welding and workmanship on these parts that Brunel have supplied is so good that I phoned Jon Morgan up from their workshop when I saw them and told him so.
LETS GET IT ON.Now that these two trucks have been built the lads want to concentrate their efforts on building a good Land Rover customer base around our way, and if the workmanship on their own motors is anything to go by I shouldn't think they have much to worry about there, providing they can offer the same high service to any new customers. On the day I called on them in the pouring rain all ready to go out with them to shoot their trucks on my friend Paul Laker's farm at Elham near Dover, these trucks had never been on tarmac let alone off-road and the next day they were due to sail across the sea to Ireland for that first event on the 3 Peaks Challenge. I called in all ready to go in the morning but they were still working away to get the trucks all ready for me. So I went back home and returned at 2pm and after a bit more fettleing we were at last all ready to go the 36 miles to Paul's farm. I must say Mark and Justin are brave as this was their first time out on the road and after the day's little off-road shake down they were in for a hard weekends extreme challenge in two days time after travelling to Ireland the next afternoon. The field I had arranged to use on the farm was ringing wet as the rain had been hammering down all night and day and as the lads drove around the off-road hazards set in the course, I was slipping and sliding all over the place trying to keep up with them and trying to keep the cameras dry as the rain continued to belt down on me. There were no problems with either motor and in the very worst of conditions with loads of water on slippery ringing wet steep grassy slopes the lads had a ball spinning around. I wished them luck as we left to go home and dry out, and they had one more late night left to get those last few jobs knocked off and to get their Land Rovers on their trailers to get the ferry from Holyhead mid day the following afternoon.
I spoke to Mark briefly just before I sent this in to LRM and he told me that both their trucks performed well on the Three Peaks Challenge, and that they were well pleased with them as they were even better than either of them had ever hoped for and they didn't miss a beat all weekend. Since I wrote this article in 2009 Mark is running the company on his own now with brother Dan England running the workshop. Mark and Justin are still friends and they compete regularly together in extreme challenges.