Whilst I was up at Whitbread 4X4 in Llandysul in Ceridigion Wales earlier this year (see issue 145 August 2010) having a roll cage fitted to my 90 Defender king cab, I spied a new Whitbread chassis under construction in the corner and I thought it looked a bit different. So I asked Malcolm Whitbread what it was all about and he told me it was his latest project, an extreme challenge truck that when it was perfected would be added to the Whitbread 4X4 product range for his customers to order. When at last between other work Malcolm got the new truck up and running and christened it The Thug, he tried it out at a local club extreme challenge to shake it down, but its first real test was when he took it along to do the tough De-Cider challenge at Saltash on the Devon Cornwall border, which is where I got to take another look at it. Before the kick off all the trucks were lined up for a photo shoot, and there was a crowd all round The Thug and Malcolm's winch man Darren McGuiness was busy showing all the admirers the spec. At first glance The Thug looks a bit aggressive and it gives the impression that its squat and wide, and it would be more like a comp safari motor if it wasn’t for the three on board winches and the ground anchor strapped onto it which gives it away.
Back to Llandysul
In its first real test at the 2010 De-Cider which is a real tough event run by Chris Pedlar and the excellent Challenge South West team, Malcolm and Darren (who was winching The Thug for the first time) managed to come home after 2 days and a Saturday night challenge in a creditable third place. So as me and Mrs Thorn fancied a few autumn days away we took ourselves up to stay with friends Katie and Andy Clamp at Happy Donkey Hill in Llandysul and called in on Malcolm and his wife Jo and daughter Hannah. We put The Thug onto a trailer and took it up to Chris Bowlers place at the Cambrian 4X4 Farm to have a Whitbread staff fun day out and to give The Thug a bit of a seeing to.
Malcolm told me that it was built to get the centre of gravity as low as possible, and to get the rare powerful 4.2 Serpentine V8 which is rammed full of fuel via a full Megasquirt system, as far back into the chassis as possible. The other thing he aimed for was to keep the weight down and as you will see on the spec sheet he has been well able to do so. My wife Hazel had a spin round the field in it and this thing flies as it growls its way past you flat out, and I reckon that if a customer bought one of these and used it as a comp safari motor with the same spec as Malcolm's it would be hard to beat. The power is awesome and I noticed at the De-Cider whenever I caught up with the lads that where other trucks were getting stuck and having to winch themselves out Malcolm was able to hit the go pedal and use all that power to drive himself out with clag flying every which way around him. Even if one of Malcolm's customers bought a Thug chassis and frame and dropped a TDI into it, it would still be an awesome motor to drive and it would take a lot to beat it I reckon.
So What Makes the Thug Fly?
The donor chassis came from a Discovery as did the axles which have Ashcroft CVs and halfshafts, with standard ratio diffs and ARB air lockers. Propshafts are a standard rear on the front with a 40° wide angle Bailey Morris special on the back. It goes where its pointed through a standard 4 bolt Discovery box with Sumo bars and a Hydro Assist steering ram. The rear drag link is protected by a Gwyn Lewis galvanised box. The suspension is by 4 Fox air shocks set at 325lbs psi. It sits on 37inch X 12.50 Maxis Creepy Crawlers on Disco 2 modular rims with Whitbread beadlocks. The Serpentine 4.2 V8 came out of an LSE Range Rover soft dash model and it's fitted with a 24 volt second alternator from a 7.5 ton truck and there is no distributor as Malcolm runs it on the full Megasquirt management system. The gearbox has the new short bell housing with an R380 5 speed manual box with 130 clutch plate all supplied by Ashcroft Engineering. Transfer box is standard Disco LT230. Radiator is from a Disco V8 with a pair of electric fans off a Mondeo switches by X Eng, who also supplied the X Eng handbrake kit. The fuel tank is custom made and sits in the wheel arch space on the front near side. Underneath The Thug is fully protected by a custom 8mm thick alloy bash plate. Two Oddesy PC1500 gel batteries look after all the leccy and the three winches, which are a Gigglepin GP84 twin motor with +60 gearing on the front with 12 volt Bowmotor 2s running through 12 volt and 24 volt wide drum with air free spool. The one in the middle is a Goldfish 9.500lbs TDS with Bowmotor 2 and air free spool, and at the back there is another Gigglepin GP84 with + 25 gearing with the same spec as the front one. Malcolm and Darren sit on Whitbread Off-Road bucket seats which have waterproof seat pads and quick release subframes that weigh just 7kilos, and they are held in by TRS 4 point V 3inch harnesses. Total weight fuelled and kitted out ready to compete is 1840 kilos. No wonder it's powerful.