Following a career in 4×4 design is certainly an attractive job, however where do you start? Howard Sherren visits Harper Adams University to hear how they are one of only a few that offers a specific Off-Road Vehicle Design course, in addition to a flourishing 4×4 club
Words: Alan Coutts Photography: Alan Coutts and supplied
Off-Road Vehicle Design has proved to be very popular in recent years and still remains a key course at Harper Adams University. located just outside Newport, Shropshire. In addition, the university is the only higher education establishment in the UK where students can study the topic to honours degree level. The course is designed to help students develop technical and business skills so that they may pursue careers as design engineers, test and development specialists, technical advisors and engineering and dealership managers within the 4×4 sector.
The department boasts a number of specialist facilities including a purpose built soil hall, off-road track, tractor and telescopic handler training area, well-equipped workshops and the JCB Design Centre fitted with the latest CAE technology. They also maintain an extensive fleet of the latest off-road machines through a policy of purchase, loans and gifts, an attractive asset to most potential students!
Off-road motorsport is a highly competitive business – and that’s not just at the events. The world of the Challenge truck is one full of amazing products and accessories, many of which are suitable for your 4×4. We take a comprehensive stroll through who does what…
Words: Alan Coutts Photography: Alan Coutts and supplied
Factory fresh 4x4s are capable vehicles, but any owner can opt for a huge choice of extras and upgrades to give a more personal, customised, competition aware look. A truck designed for Challenge events can give an owner one of the most purposeful, versatile and best looking 4x4s out there. The prospective Challenge truck owner can happily outsource the work to a specialist to turn their dream into reality, whether that means supplying and fitting accessories, or completing turnkey Challenge builds ready to rock ‘n’ roll. Perhaps there’s a need to do it all yourself; many owners take a huge amount of satisfaction in doing the work themselves or with friends and fellow clubmates, and it’s a tribute to their individuality that no two Challenge 4x4s are ever the same.
The sky’s the limit when looking to take Challenge builds further, but there are basic questions to ask, such as – will the vehicle meet the regulations for the competition series it is intended to enter? Is it for off-road use only, or is it to be fully registered and taxable for on road use? How safe is it going to be? Will it have a co-driver? All these help to decide what truck is required, what level of Challenges it is to do, i.e. pay and play days, clubman events, International X-Trem Challenge Trophy cups, or all three? What modifications and build requirements will it need to meet, what extras will be fitted, and will your 4×4 be a work in progress, or built to a budget with the best materials and ancillaries that can be afforded at the time?
The race is on to create the most refined, road-friendly SUV. Fortunately off-road enthusiasts are still able to lay hands on the one car that holds true to the original concept of the recreational off-roader, the spiritual successor to the charismatic CJ-7
TARGET RANGE: £2000 – £10,000
Some 4×4 enthusiasts might be excused for thinking that most manufacturers of four-wheel drive cars have lost the plot, putting the emphasis on sleek style, comfort and refined road manners at the expense of off-road capability. The truth is they’ve written a new script in which the SU of SUV stands for Significantly Upperclass rather than Sports Utility, with very profitable results. Even Jeep, the company that set the whole recreational off-road ball rolling 60 years ago, has succumbed to the lure of the mainstream big buck by aiming their new Cherokee squarely at socialite suburbia with none of the genuine utility of the original Cherokee.
Jeep has at least clung to one small element of its iconic past, in the form of the Wrangler. The Wrangler had a tough act to follow – it was the replacement for the CJ-7, which back in the 1970s in Renegade form with punchy V8 power, launched the whole concept of the high-fun Recreational Activity Vehicle. In reality the first Wrangler, developed and produced under AMC ownership, was a bit of a cost-cutting compromise, basically fitting CJ-lookalike panels to a shortened Cherokee uni-body frame and hanging the axles on leaf springs, so although the stated aim was to make it a more refined, driver-friendly car, it actually had little more refinement than the CJ-7 and significantly less off-road ability in its standard road-safe low-riding form. Enthusiasts were therefore over the moon when in 1996 Chrysler upgraded the concept with the TJ Wrangler, reverting to a separate chassis, reinventing the iconic styling cues of the CJ-7 while also achieving the double-whammy of better on-road refinement and enhanced off-road performance by adopting long-travel coil springs all round. This car is, unquestionably, the true conceptual successor to the CJ-7.
If you’re really serious about losing weight, you want to do everything possible to shift a few extra pounds here and there. You might be surprised to realise that there are a few things you can do to help you lose weight while driving. The following tips aren’t going to get you to do exercise at the wheel or anything like that – they’re going to prevent you from eating while driving, which will in turn prevent you from putting on more weight. It’s very easy to eat while driving somewhere.
If you drive regularly, say a daily commute to and from work, for example, and you frequently eat when you drive, try to imagine how much food you’re consuming. You’ll be surprised how much it adds up to. It can be easy to fall into the trap of not realising how much food you’re eating while driving. If you can cut out eating while driving altogether, you’re going to put on less weight and this should contribute towards weight loss. You aren’t going to lose tons of weight by cutting out eating while driving, but it will certainly benefit you, especially if you practice it in the long run.
Tyres are a very important part of your 4×4 and your choices can affect running costs, longevity and performance. The 4×4 tyre market is gradually changing to meet new EU regulations. Read on to find out what’s going on in the market, glean some top advice from the experts and pick up essential maintenance tips
Words: Hils Everitt
Within the motoring world, it is generally agreed by the retail experts that 4×4 owners are far better informed, generally, when it comes to the rubber wear that holds up their vehicles compared to their mainstream peers.
It is also generally agreed that tyres are the most important choice a vehicle owner has in their lifetime of driving and should involve plenty of research and taking on aboard advice from the experts if knowledge is not as extensive as it should be. As the SUV market has exploded in the last decade, so has the availability of tyres suitable for this genre of vehicle and more sizes have become available in the once limited All Terrain and Mud Terrain sector over the years.
Bob Cooke – contributor
Had it been a rainy day we probably wouldn’t have got anywhere. At first glance, especially from the superbly scenic viewpoint of our picnic spot overlooking the green expanse of Bedfordshire extending to the horizon, it’s hard to understand why they call it Devil’s Pit because the first view of it is a broad field with a bit of a rise at the far end. There are, however, two factors that lift it above the seemingly mundane bit of field-crossing – one being the chalky surface of the tracks which turn treacherously greasy when wet, the other being the demanding selection of rutted, steep-sided hollows hidden away behind the trees in the north-west corner of the site. No wonder the site personnel are so keen to ensure that cars using the black-run section in this area are roll-caged and all occupants are harnessed in and protected by helmets.
As June and MOT time approached, the ominous bumping sounds from beneath the Freelander became louder. I’d say, ‘surely you can hear that now?’ as we’d encounter a minor road hump and looking round the delightful leather cabin. I’d think, ‘it’ll never pass its MOT and the costs will mean sayonara for our well travelled friend’. One day, taking my daughter, two grandsons and my mother-in-law around Southport, I realised that the familiar strange creaking from under the rear seat that accompanied every journey had stopped. Some weight on the rear seat was all that was needed to cure that noise! I felt sure the other rumblings were serious and was dumbstruck when my regular mechanic Phil emerged to say there was nothing wrong with the elderly Land Rover; not even the tiniest advisory.
Nigel Fryatt – editor
When Suzuki’s small, three-door Grand Vitara arrived at the magazine, I did wonder if it would actually impress. It was effectively replacing my tough, black Toyota Hilux – as ‘macho’ a truck as you can find on and off the road; the Vitara certainly had a softer appearance. Despite this, it fitted the bill, being one of the few remaining ‘soft-roaders’ that actually has a low range gearbox, which certainly increases its capabilities.
Ours was the three-door SZ4 model, powered by the 2.4-litre petrol engine. That makes a lot of engine in what is actually a small SUV. Interestingly, Suzuki sells equal quantities of three and five door Grand Vitaras here, and this despite the fact that the three door does not come to the UK with a diesel option. It has to be the largest engined small off-roader available and the high revving 164bhp unit certainly entertained. The 16v unit is not particularly well equipped in the torque department, but does offer 225Nm (166lb ft). The engine is a peach of a unit really, free revving and gives the Suzuki more of a ‘hot hatch’ than SUV on-road characteristics. Helped by the relatively short wheelbase of the three-door, the stubby Suzuki does not roll and wallow when driven quickly, and can be hustled along. The downside is, of course, that despite weighing only 1830kg the thing does drink fuel with equal enthusiasm; we struggled to average 30mph, and that’s emphasised by a surprisingly small 55-litre fuel tank (around 12 gallons). I suppose it does mean that as we never let the tank run ‘into the red’ for fear of running out, at least we could only get 50 quid’s worth of fuel in there at each top up! Indeed, the fuel economy confuses the vehicle’s computer, which estimates how many miles you have remaining – we ‘ran out’ on numerous occasions, once in a dreadful traffic jam on the M25 – yet always managed to drive when ‘the computer says empty’.
This was the car that dragged the Discovery from its cheekily chic origins into the world of true luxury SUVs. It was bigger, bolder and packed with new technology – and it was also more reliable
TARGET RANGE: £5000 – £18,000
The Range Stormer concept car that wowed visitors to the North American International Auto Show in 2004 was a clear indication of the way Land Rover was planning to distance their premium products from the company’s agricultural roots. That concept was eventually developed into the Range Rover Sport, but many of the design cues were used to hoist the already popular and stylish Discovery to new heights of elegance and road presence, with sharper styling and new technologies aimed at reasserting its 4×4 pre-eminence among the new generation of luxury 4x4s from other premium car-makers such as BMW, Lexus and Porsche.
The crisper frontal design of the new Discovery 3, with its designer headlamps, inset foglamps and the clamshell bonnet came straight from the Range Stormer, along with the newly patented Terrain Response system; so did the body-on-frame construction resulting in a stronger all-in-one bodyshell. The Discovery 3 was designed from the start as a seven-seater, the stepped-roof design allowing the three rows of seats to get progressively higher towards the rear, which combined with the large rear glass area makes for a light and airy atmosphere for all seven passengers, the seats being quite comfortable enough to accommodate seven adults.
Bob Cooke – contributor
There are places I wouldn’t take my Cherokee, and that includes some of the holes at John Morgan’s Slindon off-road site. I go there quite often because it’s not that far – I reckon just over half a tank’s drive there and back, and but for the price of petrol I’d go more often – and there’s such a good variety of off-road terrain that anything from standard 4x4s to heavily modified specials can find terrain that’s challenging enough to excite without damaging the vehicle. Of course if you don’t mind a bit of damage there’s plenty of suitable terrain for that as well, such as when a couple of over-excited lads sent their Discovery sideways down a serious slope or when an overconfident chap drove his Range Rover into a puddle without thinking to check how soft the bottom was…