I must first point out that this vehicle is not Jim Marsden's current truck, as this is one of my old articles published some time ago in Land Rover Monthly magazine. Nevertheless I hope you enjoy it.
It's a basic human condition that we all like to be happy, and I am never more content than when I am either grinning, guffawing, chuckling or even giggleing like a schoolgirl, which is exactly just what me and CJ were doing as we split our sides laughing all the way to Hildenborough in Kent when we called in to see Jim Marsden at his Gigglepin Land Rover based business at the Gaza Business Centre in Weald Village in Kent. Gigglepin as a company are probably best known for their extremely fast Warn winch conversions they carry out to the excellent Warn 8274 series, and Jim is equally well known for being at the top of his game in the extreme challenge field where he is rarely out of the running when the trophies are being dished out. He is a country boy at heart and he left school and did a degree in cabinet making whilst also doing a bit of casual game-keeping at a local estate in his spare time. When Jim was 18 he got his first Land Rover which was a Series 2a 2 ¼ which he drove for 2½ years before selling it, and replacing it with a 1989 Land Rover 90. Five years later he bought the 2¼ back again as a non runner for £400 and he still has it, and it's on his list to be rebuilt one day. He used the 90 for a bit of trialing and green laning and in 1991 he was working as a technician in a local general garage.
Jim told me “ the boss sold up and moved the business to Wales and I went with him, but after 4 months I came back to Kent. I was 23 at the time back in 1997 and at a bit of a loose end, and my Dad suggested that I went out on my own so I started in an old barn over Shipbourne way. I stayed there for the next 2½ years and you could say I was cutting me teeth and learning my trade Charlie before I came here to Gaza in 2000 and started doing general Land Rover repairs and servicing which we still do here to this day”. Jim went on to tell me “ like you and CJ Charlie I have always had an off-road and Land Rover background to my life, and I started to compete in a 5 year old TdI 90 I had and in 2000 I did an aid convoy in it to Bosnia and when we got there it was like being in a time warp, and it had a profound effect on me. It wasn't just the devastation and the humanitarian side of it all, it was also the fact that for the first time I had actually driven a long way abroad in a Land Rover”. As soon as Jim got back to the UK he went to the Hunt Grange local dealership and bought a 300 TDI County 90, and within 2 weeks he was off once more to Sweden with his pal Ben Sugden to do a Swedish off-road tour. Jim told me “we “modified it” for the trip by drilling 2 holes in the mud flaps to tie them up, and we put 2 Jate rings on it and most importantly 6 slabs of Stella to weigh it down on the back floor as a mate had told us how expensive beer was in Sweden”.
A Bit of an Eye Opener
Jim went on “I met up with two amazing guys out there Rob Gosemiejer and Andras Gerios and they were both big on the European mainland off -road scene. Andras from Hungary had a highly modified 90 TDI Defender and watching them drive off-road was like an epiphany to me and it really opened my eyes and excited me”. So Jim went home and further modified his Land Rover and the guys agreed to meet up at the 2001 Belgium Nationals and they formed a team and entered the extreme challenge event. Jim told me “we formed a team of 5 Land Rovers 2 of us from the UK, 1 Dutch guy, and 2 from Hungary. The Dutchman and the Hungarians were in really tooled up TD5s and we came to the bottom of a really long steep hill about a mile long that looked impossible to climb. We sat there waiting our turn to try it for over 6 hours, whilst we watched all the other teams struggling to get to the top. When it was our turn we strapped all 5 Land Rovers together with kinetic energy recovery ropes, and then just let loose all hell and drove straight up it in a few minutes to massive applause. The Land Rover at the back was a Series 2a 88 and it was smothered in mud and we had to shovel it off the front of it before we could see the driver inside. We won that event and after that I really got into extreme challenges in a big way and I sold my 300 TDI County and bought a 200 TDI SV and started to trick it out. It was an amazing Land Rover and I still have it and it's another one I will restore one day”.
In the SV Jim started using Warn 8274 winches, and he bought from David Bowyer at Goodwinch some Bowmotor 2s which were bigger and more powerful and very reliable. Really this was the bedrock which enabled Jim and his company Gigglepin to be more successful, and as the results improved in the challenges he entered owing to him being able to winch himself in the timed sections with more speed, he was becoming the man to beat in this field of our sport. In 2004 Jim was defending his title in the Tuf Trucks Trophy challenge (sadly this great event is no longer in the calender) and he broke the main shaft on his beloved Warn 8274 and it dropped him down to third place. Jim went on to tell me “ I came back home gutted, and I decided that I did not want this to happen ever again, so I sat down and designed my first batch of ten 8274 uprated main shafts. I sold 8 of them to pals straight off and the orders started to come in. In 2006 I designed the Gigglepin gearbox for myself which enabled me to run with 2 Bowmotors, and they were very successful and we sold a few of them. But soon I found we had problems with reliability with the Warn gears, so I bit the bullet and designed my own top housing and gears and in 2008 I uprated the design once more to a free spooling housing”. “ They are very successful and I am proud of the fact that that there are now over 750 top housings out there worldwide and over 1500 main shaft kits. I am amazed where our winches turn up. Literally I know they are in use from Finland to South America and Australia and I find it staggering. We recently opened our new shop here and I will continue to try to work at the forefront of winching technology. We have new winches under development all the time and another prototype has just been finished. I will try to remain at the top of my game and of the 750 top housings I have supplied worldwide I have yet to see a failure come back to me”.
Jim actually builds all of the Gigglepin winches himself whilst JJ man's the shop and on line sales, and the technicians beaver away in the garage nearby. Whilst we were there we took a peak into Jim's winch room and there was one going to Romania and another to Croatia and 6 more under construction to waiting clients. One thing I do know is that if you want to be competitive in these extreme challenge events, if you have 15 minutes to get into a section and winch yourself up a sheer rock face or a slimy mud filled slope and be able to get out again in the allotted time, the best way to cut down the minutes is to have an ultra fast winch, and I would put my money on the Gigglepin one being the fastest, most powerful, and reliable.
Time to Play
It was time now to see the Gigglepin tray back which is probably the current most successful one competing in action. So we went down the lane to a friends field Jim uses to shake down the motor to see it in action. Jim has painstakingly built this current tray back (there is another one being built soon) using the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid. The 2 Odyssey batteries and the fuel tank of the TD5 engine that drives through an Ashcroft Transmissions 4 speed ZF auto box are in the back tray, so the spaces under the seats have quick release lockers built into them each side. The drivers side holds spare electrical and mechanical parts, and the passenger side locker has tools and more parts. There is a quick release wood saw strapped to the inside of the passenger door to sever the odd tree branch that might snag you up, and all the switches are the same and in full view, so you don't have to fiddle about looking for a replacement. If one lets go the first one to hand will fit all. All the springs are the same as well so 2 sets don't have to be lugged around. The Land Rover sits on a Jim Marsden designed Richards Chassis and rides on Old Man Emu springs and King Off-Road 14 inch travel remote reservoir shocks and hydraulic bump stops. It sits on 35/11.5/15 Simex Extreme Trekker tyres with Rok-A Thon bead lockers. OK fair enough the ultra fast Gigglepin winches are a great help but his tray back and the way he built it, as well as he's obvious talent as a driver make the combination of all three an ideal partnership. Since 2001 Jim has been in the top four places of every event he has finished with 13 individual firsts, many Spirit of the Event awards, (which I consider are the best ones to win) as well as team wins and he has competed all over mainland Europe as far away as Croatia and Hungary where he was in the highest placed foreign team in a 48 hour challenge event in 2001.
Last Word to CJ
After Charlie had finished fannying about with his cameras, I got to drive Jim's motor. First thing that struck me was how smooth it drove. I floored it across a heavily rutted field and I thought it would shake the fillings out of my teeth. But as the auto box switched up through the gears and we gathered speed it rode dead flat. The King Off-Road suspension is the best I have ever experienced. Next I attempted a climb up a steep bank, but I never quite made it, so Jim sat beside me said “ there's no need to drop down to the bottom and take a run at it just go back 2 feet and floor it”. I suppose as it wasn't my car I was being a bit too careful, but sure enough with a shower of crud flying out the back I found grip and we tooled on up over the crest. We whizzed the front winch out and I sat in Charlie's Range Rover with my foot on the brakes as Jim winched himself up to me, but really no pictures could ever give credit to the sheer speed of the Gigglepin winch, only a movie would do it justice. It really was an experience to get to drive it, and something to aim for in anything me and Charlie might build together in the future.