Monthly Archives: August 2013


Now hands up those of you that used to have a Meccano set. Some of us can well remember those fiddly little brass nuts and bolts (that always seemed to come undone) and the bendy red metal body panels and long green struts. How many cranes did you build? It was always a crane… Things have changed somewhat and the latest from the company is the ‘monster Evolution 4×4 sports utility vehicle’. Chunky off-road tyres, working steering, ‘activated by crank and gears’, plus a realistic working front winch. You can get a 4×4 and an all-terrain truck for £34.99. There’s also an ATV quad bike for £29.99. It says that it’s suitable for those aged 8 and over. That’ll do us then.

Website: www.meccano.com



Land Rover in the Garden of EdenResearch by Land Rover into the electric vehicle market has led to the Electric Defender vehicle going on trial at the Eden Project, in St Austell, Cornwall. The Eden Project itself is a serious environmental sustainability project and so the exposure of the Land Rover Electric Defender will be great marketing for the company. Anyone who has visited the Eden Project will know that it is built in an old quarry, which means from the public car park there’s a long walk down, which you then have to walk back up! The Electric Defender will now tow the four-carriage 12 tonne road train, carrying some 60 passengers on the six per cent incline to and from the entrance. The vehicle’s Hill Descent Control is linked to an energy regenerative braking system allowing for a lot of the whole rig’s kinetic energy to be recovered. It is claimed therefore that the Electric Defender can work for a full eight-hour day, and then be plugged in at night for a recharge that is claimed to cost only £2.00. As Jeremy Greenwood, Principal Engineer on the Electric Defender project, explained: “The Defender has been modified so it now includes a second battery. This will allow it to work a full day at the Eden Project, but also improves weight distribution and stability. In addition, we’ve linked the land train’s air brakes to the foot pedal of the Land Rover, enhancing safety.”

Guest blog by car enthusiast Aurora Johnson on behalf of www.centralcontracts.com – a specialist car leasing company.


Nissan’s QashqaiNissan has been on a roll recently. The Nissan Juke, Leaf, GT-R and 370Z have all been extremely popular, but there’s one other car that’s been particularly amazing – the Nissan Qashqai

It may have a slightly strange name, but the Qashqai is without a doubt one of the best cars to be produced by Nissan in recent years.

ultimate SUVWe first saw the Bentley SUV at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show (4×4, May 2102 and pictured above). Then code-named the EXP 9 F, this huge beast was powered by the 6.0-litre W12 twin turbo engine, coupled to an eight-speed gearbox. Besides all the leather and rare wood trim luxury, it also sported a ‘sump cam’ so you could see what was under the car when negotiating that arduous gravel drive to your country pile. Opinions on its looks varied, but one thing was obvious, this was more than just the design studio producing a futuristic ‘concept’ vehicle; this was a pre-production model, ready to go if the decision was made.

Well now that decision has been made, and Bentley has announced a massive £800m investment for the Crewe production plant. Over 1000 UK jobs will be created, and the first Bentley SUV will roll off the line some time in 2016. Whether it will actually look like the EXP 9 F concept has not been confirmed. Indeed, the ‘teaser’ drawing released with the announcement, shown here below left, would indicate a rather lower, more ‘sporting’ body style. Bentley has said that the response to the Geneva Show car was ‘extremely positive’.

ARB Air Locker

The original ARB air locker diff seems to have been around for ever, and in fact, it goes back to the 1980s. It is a phenomenal product, endorsed by off-roaders all over the globe. It seems, however, that the guys at ARB are not prepared to become complacent and have completely redesigned the product. The redesign was undertaken by Daniel Bongard at ARB, and he went right back to basics, as he explains: “We put aside the existing air locker design and started from scratch. Six months of computer-generated concepts involving an original two-piece design, new components and a ‘timed’ gear set.” The result is an astonishing 40 per cent improvement in static torque strength when compared to the original three-piece design. In a market where there are now a number of ‘bargain’ Chinese and Indian air lockers on the market, some of which it seems even claim to be ARB products, it seems obvious to us that cheap is not the answer and if you are in the market for a seriously tough air-locker for your off-roader, then it makes sense to speak to the guys at Arbil, who are the official ARB importers in the UK.

Website: www.arbil.co.uk


Land Rovers and rhinos!The Land Rovers at the West Midland Safari Park are more than just transport. At times, they need to intervene between a charging rhino and its intended target! In charge of both machines and the wild animals is a man once told he might never walk again…

Words and photography: Nigel Fryatt

For such a big off-roader, it was surprisingly nimble, and moved effortlessly across the wet grass. Grip and directional ability were precise and the target destination would be achieved without any need to select low range. It was then that the Land Rover intervened, gently encouraging the massive two tonne rhino to slow down and alter course, the big off-roader slamming on its inbuilt brakes while giving out something of a disgruntled ‘huff’…

We were sitting watching this from the safety of Bob Lawrence’s battered and bruised Land Rover Discovery. The rhino in question had been ambling, with surprising agility, towards a young giraffe that had lolloped away rather quickly. The ranger in the Land Rover Defender 90 had seen the potential problem and ‘encouraged’ the massive horned beast to change its mind, and direction. Just in case, the Land Rover had a substantial bull bar (‘rhino bar?’) at the front, but somehow, if it ever came to it, you knew who would come off best. Indeed, one camel-coloured Discovery also had a mismatched black door: ‘Rhino damage’, explained Bob. The 4x4s at the West Midland Safari and Leisure Park have a tough life, and are worked hard; much like every one of the rangers driving them. Experienced campaigners, all of them, none more so than Director of Wildlife, Bob Lawrence.

New venue for LRE ScotlandThe wonderfully named Butterstone Loch is the new venue for Land Rover Experience Scotland. Based in the Perthshire Highlands, the new centre is more spacious and offers highly scenic driving routes across the nearby private estates. That means that beside the specially built obstacle course, swamp and rock crawl area, drivers will be able to experience some wonderful scenic drives across land that you could not otherwise visit. LRE’s new lodge in Scotland is based in an area of Special Scientific Interest, and rich in wildlife. The lodge has conference facilities for up to 50 people. Despite being wonderfully remote, the lodge is only 15 minutes from Dunkeld village and the main A9 north-south route, making it just over an hour from Edinburgh airport. The new director and lead instructor is Will Cox, joining Beverley Lodge and Graham Clark. Well worth a visit.

Hils BlogOur columnist has been away enjoying the delights  of Corsica – following the Tour de France, and marvelling at the variety of 4x4s…

I’ve been rather fixated with two–wheel drives lately. Before you gasp in horror and mutter: ‘What on earth are you thinking, Hils?’ I mean those of the purely manpower variety.
Professional cycling has gripped me in the last year or so: the amazing Mark Cavendish winning the road race World

Champion’s jersey in 2011; Bradley Wiggins triumphing in the 2012 Tour de France, and then the subsequent Olympic UK masterclass on the track and Sir Brad once again on the road in the time trial. I was gutted that ‘Cav’ missed out on the Olympic road race and failed to secure the green jersey in last year’s TdF.

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