For those of you that can remember it, at the beginning of every Monty Pythons Flying Circus TV show, Terry Jones was sat at an organ in the surf with his bottom exposed looking over his shoulder, and after the Dah Dah Dah, Bing Bong, Dah Dah he spoke those immortal words “and now for something completely different”. Well I don't play the organ, and I am definitely not going to drop my cecks for anyone. But I do believe that I have found “something completely different”, and when I went up to March in Cambridgeshire to see it, this Land Rover (yes its more Land Rover than not) is as mad as the proverbial March Hare for sure. This thing is bordering on mental and it was just too much for me and my pal Simon who drove me up to March to see it. When you first catch site of it trundling towards you sideways like some sort of demented crab, as you slap your hand across your forehead the words “Oh My God, and what the hell is this” enter your mind followed a few seconds later when you have taken a breath by the words leaving your lips. A friend Robert Gent had told me “Charlie you ought to get up to March and take a look at this blokes challenge truck, it's got rear wheel steer and 4 winches on it and a lot more, and until you see it you will not believe it”. Having heard all that from Robert it didn't take me long to fire up the Sat Nav, and that's how we got to meet up with Chris Cater the owner at his yard where he runs his Land Rover based business Fen Land Rover in Wimblington near March. On arrival at Fen Land Rover I was immediately jealous, as it is just the sort of unit and yard I have forever it seems dreamed of. With nearly every one of Land Rovers product range lying in the yard in various states of either being broken down for spares, or awaiting rebuilding or repair it was for me and Simon like turning up in some sort of Land Rover heaven. Within the massive workshop the side walls are all shelved, and stacked floor to ceiling with new and second hand Land Rover parts. Chris left school and went straight to work at a breakers yard where they also specialised in parts off the shelf. He then went into skip and digger hire for a while and he got an old D reg 2.5 NA 90 which he did a few pay and play days with and he soon got the bug. So he packed up and sold the plant business and turned his hobby into a business breaking, repairing, servicing and doing MOT prep work on Land Rovers.
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”.
ENTER THE HARE
Chris captured on ebay an abandoned Range Rover project which had Unimog portal axles which became the base vehicle for the Hare. I suspect it wasn't the Range Rover but the portal axles which was the incentive for him to put in the winning bid. He told me that it was just as well it was abandoned, and that he bought it, as he felt that if it had been used in anger it would have been very dangerous, as all the tubing was much too thin for a start. So Chris worked on it with the help of his winch man John Harpham and got it ready for that 2009 Phoenix. Since the end of the 2009 season it's had another rebuild and the lads have had a lot of late nights and weekends beavering away in the Fen Land Rover workshop and Chris told me “I owe my partner lots of Brownie points and a wedding, and we are actually getting married in two weeks time”. A 200 TDI engine was dropped in and to get a power increase Chris saw a propane injection kit for sale for £350 which was the cheapest way to achieve it. A gas bottle sits in the back and at the flick of a switch an immediate 30% increase is unleashed across the power band and there is no lag. The propane booster built into the Hare is what is known as a Liquid Petroleum Gas Fumigation system. A while back these systems were very popular for those that wanted a cheap option to get more speed from their diesel Land Rovers and the kits were readily available. However I do not know if they are still on sale anywhere as I haven't seen one for ages. The basic idea is that when gaseous propane is introduced into the air intake of a turbo diesel engine, it acts as an accelerant. It will give more even burning, fewer smoke particles, and will even make the smell from your exhaust more acceptable. The ratio of combustion of a diesel fuel on a well tuned engine, will be raised from a typical 75% to around 85-90% with the addition of of this LPG booster. Thus this better complete combustion will not only give an instant boost in power, it will also increase your fuel economy and reduce pollutants. s a good cheap way to get an increase similar to nitros oxide, but it's not so aggressive, and Chris did it as he feels that some of the challenges are starting to “become a little more speed orientated”. The chassis was modified front and back and the front spring mounts were moved forward 4inches and all this has had the effect of improving stability and gives a much better approach angle. All 4 winch trays are custom Fen LR built with a Gigglepin twin motor winch with free air spool in the front, two Superwinch X9s in each side, and an 8274 Warn in the back. All winches have Allbright solenoids and are run using Dyneema Bowrope . The Mitas 42 inch tyres Chris got from a local farm sale and he is on the lookout for another set should they become available. The suspension is Pro Comp 36inch travel shocks all round with standard Discovery progressive springs which give him a good ride. The strengthened trailing and radius arms were also made in house, and it was achieved by inserting Land Rover half shafts into them which fitted a treat into the tubing and Chris says “they are really strong and we can't break them”.
LET'S GO CRABBING
But what really sets this double wicked truck apart is the rear steer. Chris told me “ I was looking at the Unimog portal axles one day which give better ground clearance and don't get hung up so much when you are in ruts, and I sussed that the front and back axle casings were identical. So I worked out that if I could get a pair of front steering hubs, I could bolt them to the rear casing by simply removing the collars and spacers. Then I had to figure out a way to get it to steer, and I came across a truck rear tail lift pump which we rigged to pump left and right through 2 Discovery window switches and believe me Charlie it works a treat as you saw today, and it means that I can easily crab steer sideways up to any awkward punch points”. It really was a pleasure to meet up with Chris and John and to see this complete one off truck being put through its paces on the Fen Land Rover private off-road track. Oh! And by the way. Whilst I was there I bought a set of standard Defender springs, and a pair of front Discovery complete hubs I needed off the shelf. So all in all another cracking day out Grommit. This article was in LRM in 2008 I think. Charlie